North Macedonia is well poised to capitalize on its favorable cannabis regulation and geographical position in the EU to supply what is forecasted to be one of the most profitable cannabis markets in Europe. As a result, it is not surprising that companies have eyed this country to set up their cannabis cultivation facilities. At the same time, setting up a company, especially a cannabis company, can be particularly difficult, even more so when one has to navigate the regulatory framework of a foreign country. However, SiriiZ was able to overcome these hurdles as one of its founding partners is originally from North Macedonia. “I have already been active in the cannabis space for a handful of years through other investments,” says Tucker Jones, co-founder of SiriiZ.
“I knew that North Macedonia was progressive and supportive of foreign businesses within the regulated cannabis industry, and that it had many positive aspects that would allow a cannabis company to play an important role on the global stage. The cost of production and labor is low, you have access to a workforce that understands agriculture, and certain utility rates are less expensive than here in the US. On top of that, the geographical position of North Macedonia makes it a perfect hub to supply the EU market, especially the German one. Thus, the question we asked ourselves was: how should we build and structure our company in order to supply medical cannabis to Germany?” In order to answer that question, SiriiZ reached out to Sam Andras and MJ12 Design Studio. “MJ12 goes beyond traditional architectural design,” he continues. “Sam was able to tap into his knowledge within cannabis and connect us with a lot of real players; as a result we were able to use our experience within a relatively mature US market and apply it to the nascent North Macedonian industry. MJ12 was instrumental in connecting dots for us in the US, but also in helping us think big picture about the project as a whole.”
Respect the community
SiriiZ believes that respect towards the culture and the community of North Macedonia is of utmost importance and they have established their business with that core value in mind. “We are building a company that appreciates employees, understands the community, and the culture of North Macedonia, but that operates as a US company,” Tucker further explains. “Which means that we understand how to run a business locally, but will also operate with a US mindset which includes being very cost-conscious, understanding the fluid landscape, the economics, and the industry in general.”
Clearing the path
Indeed, before SiriiZ started to set things up, they did their homework. “We wanted to figure out the target market,” Tucker continues. “We want to go after Germany, just like everyone else here, but we realized that people were not following the EU-GMP strict standards, and were growing in greenhouses for example. However, in order to export flower to Germany when the law allows, we believe to be successful they must be grown indoors.” And that’s where Sam came into play. “The focus has been EU-GMP from the get-go,” Sam remarks. “If you look at the WHO guidelines about producing medicinal goods from agricultural products, you must be able to guarantee a certain level of consistency from crop to crop. This means that you are looking for the same cannabinoid profile all the way through. The ability to do that is far more achievable in an indoor setting than in a greenhouse. You need to control multiple environmental parameters; the amount of light, heat, humidity with a 100% accuracy and this is something you cannot do in a greenhouse.” As Tucker points out, going for the highest standards wasn’t even a decision: “We didn’t even consider the alternative. We knew what we wanted to do, and we knew how we could get there.” Many believe crop consistency is not a major concern, as current regulations do not allow for the sale of flower. However, being prepared for change is a critical key to success.
The best place
Finding the suitable location to set up the facility was difficult in and of itself. “One of the biggest challenges was indeed to find the perfect location,” Tucker remarks. “We were targeting this small town of Vinica where we could build the facility and support the local community.”
“SiriiZ wanted to build a world-class EU-GMP facility,” Sam explains. “To achieve that, you need to comply with specific standards. Problem was that most of the facilities we visited weren’t constructed with any of that in mind, and therefore setting up the facility they wanted would have proved to be way more difficult than necessary. So, with this in mind, we started looking for something else and shifted our focus to finding land. The goal was to find a plot of industrial zoned land large enough where we could build a cultivation, processing and manufacturing facility from the ground up, utilizing MJ12’s expertise.”
SiriiZ has identified a great opportunity in an emerging industry but they are quick to point out that what they are most excited about is to be in North Macedonia given the respect they have for the culture and people. “We have a US mentality,” Tucker says. “But this only works if you can navigate within the confines of North Macedonia; that is, respect the culture, and understand the people. Once you do that, you can see that people are very supportive and excited to work for a company like ours. Ultimately we will judge our success based on our ability to establish a strong company in North Macedonia, one that provides jobs and gives back to the local community, helps University students with opportunities to establish a career, and becomes a trusted partner inside Macedonia as well as throughout Europe.”
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