How is it that a man who knew little about marijuana ended up being the CEO of one of the largest privately held cannabis companies in the country?
Ralph Morgan is the current Chief Executive Officer of O.penVAPE, which is the largest branch of Organa Brands. He started his career in healthcare, but as he was climbing the corporate ladder he felt he was moving further away from healthcare.
“I started a dispensary in 2009 with my wife because I knew how to speak to people with ailments and basically that was it,” he said. “I had very little experience with cannabis.” His research into the product told him it was the perfect place for entrepreneurial opportunity. “It’s controversial, a little bit of David and Goliath, a little bit of right and wrong. Great opportunity on the upside for a social change.”
His experience as a dispensary owner, however, showed him that there was a gap in the market for products that were consistent, reliable and safe. This encouraged him and his wife to invest in a MIP or manufactured infused product facility and this was the birth of Organa Labs in 2010.
He invested in CO2 equipment. “It was avant-garde at the time,” said Morgan. Then e-cigarettes started taking off and he started playing around that concept. By 2012, Morgan and his partners had decided that vaporizers were the ideal way to consume cannabis. They felt it was going to be a disruptive technology for the cannabis market and they were right. O.penVAPE was born and the company has grown into a business that does over $100 million in sales each year.
The challenge the company faces now is scaling and growing. Morgan said that picking great partners comes from surviving bad partnerships. “At this size, the stakes are just that much higher. A new partnership means we have to get it right, if we get it wrong, can we recover?” he asked. “Each mistake gets more expensive. We made a lot early on, but the costs were low.”
Morgan’s time as CEO is about to shift. “I started as CEO of Organa Labs, but I don’t act in that capacity anymore and I’ll officially change that to President of Wellness and CBD products,” he said. The company is planning on expanding the leadership to people outside of the cannabis industry. Morgan said they are looking for folks that have the experience to grow a company that’s on track to be a billion company in a few short years. “I’ve never done that before,” he said. “Despite my tenacity, I’m not qualified. We need better help. We’ve got one chance to get this right.”
Now he is focusing on the medical vertical and wellness line as he gets back to his roots. “It’s something that is near and dear to my heart.” We should have a full launch by Christmas of this year. It will be called OBA, Organa Brands Alternatives.”
With Organa Brands, it will be healthier alternatives to conventional products. Instead of a 5-hour energy drink like a Red Bull, OBA will have an energy option with CBD in it. Some will have THC in them, but the products without THC will be sold everywhere.
The OBA will have several categories, but none including vapes since that’s already available. There will be pressed pills for energy, sleep, relax and rejuvenation. A gel cap product called “Daily Dose” with a small amount of THC or CBD. A point of purchase kiosk is designed to educate the customer. It has a simple decision tree to help drill down into the product. There will be hard copy, plus a tablet to give information.
Morgan said the culture of Organa is hiring someone with the right attitude, passion and moral compass. “We work way too hard for this to be just a job,” he pointed out. “If you’re just here to make a buck you’re in the wrong industry.” Some of Organa’s company perks include free rides on Uber, matching the 401k two to one and generous pay. Morgan said, “If you have the right attitude, there’s a seat on the bus for you.” He’ll be driving the bus.