“At Artemis Link, our mission is to provide a service to the industry that’s rooted in craft, quality and integrity. Our motto is ‘Honest Distribution’ because we pride ourselves on the relationships we cultivate and the transparency we offer to our farm and processor partners,” says Whitney Hobbs, the owner of Artemis Link.
Oregon has a long history of cannabis cultivation. In 1998, Oregon was the second state, after California, to legalize medical use of cannabis. It was a long fought battle that involved navigating the resistance of people who feared the stigma of cannabis and who were fed negative rhetoric for decades during prohibition. There were concerns about the product being diverted to other states and becoming more readily available to the youth in the area. It took a long time to build the proper framework and support that allowed people to be at ease with the process and to craft a bill that was considerate of their fears surrounding cannabis legalization. Nearly two decades later, Oregon has moved from a state in which cannabis is legal for medical purposes to one in which it is also legal for adult recreational use.
Oregon Ballot Measure 91 legalized the recreational adult use of cannabis with certain regulations and taxations determined by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. It passed with fifty-six percent support in November of 2014. The measure outlined thorough and rigorous regulation surrounding the regulation and the taxation of recreational cannabis.
“There is a huge emphasis on public safety, preventing access to minors, seed-to-sale tracking to prevent diversion out of the system and allowing for local municipalities to opt in or out,” says Whitney. The opt-out option allows for cities or counties to have a choice about the selling of recreational cannabis in the area or to take more time to find the best distribution method beforehand. However, it does affect their ability to reap the benefits of taxes collected from it. Maintaining this choice is most likely a large part of what allowed the law to be changed finally.
Closely monitored seed-to-sale tracking was also an important aspect. The system called Metrc is used by everyone in the Oregon cannabis industry to monitor the plant from seed to the purchase at a licensed retailer.
When Measure 91 passed, Whitney realized her opportunity to become a licensed cannabis wholesaler of Oregon. She had four years of experience working in medical grade cannabis and started working towards finding a new warehouse and getting the space compliant for licensure. “Before my work with cannabis, I was involved in the craft beer industry which translates well into this space. I think we have a lot to learn by looking into our history of alcohol prohibition and the restoration of a very old industry,” explains Whitney.
The craft beer industry has grown over the last few decades, and consumers have developed a preference for crafted, local breweries. Whitney sees the cannabis industry as a craft-centric industry as well, especially in a state like Oregon. “Portland is a hub for design and innovation, and I see that playing a huge role in cannabis branding and development over the years.”
Artemis Link received its license in April of this year. Whitney’s brother Colin Hobbs had left the corporate world develop the sales team and statewide distribution of POP Naturals in California. He developed sales and distribution in California for six years before he decided to on the joint venture of co-founding Artemis Link. Whitney and Colin have about a decade of experience distributing and launching cannabis brands to the marketplace and are both very passionate about the plant. Artemis Link is unique because it is a family owned and operated company, and it exists purely to provide one service to the industry; it does not have vertical integration like some other wholesalers do and is not representing its own farms or processing company.
Whitney and Colin’s warehouse in the Portland area works with approximately sixteen farms. The cultivators Artemis Link partners with are primarily full-season sungrown farms as well as greenhouse operations. The company supports people who use regenerative and organic practices that foster a vital and healthy environment for the plants and people involved. It can be challenging for farmers to leave the production facility to distribute and manage the retail relationships. Most retailers are many hours away from the premier growing regions, which makes them perfect partners for Artemis.
“At Artemis Link, we provide a platform for the brands we’ve curated. We are a boutique distributor and our focus is on craft over commodity … We believe our brands need and deserve strong brand ambassadorship and attention as we enter this new and rapidly growing marketplace,” says Whitney. It is an interesting time for the recreational cannabis industry in Oregon as prohibition has lifted. There is much greater access to consumers and a more diverse range of product than had previously existed.
Artemis Link works with an infused beverage company called Level+ that produces flavored water and cold brew coffee, and this partnership has produced a microdose product that has five milligrams of cannabis per drink. Microdosed products are more approachable for novice users or for those that prefer a more mild experience. Artemis Link also works with the vegan chocolate company Crop Circle Chocolates and is excited to continue adding new and interesting ways to consume cannabis. The company puts much time and energy into providing its partners with efficient and effective sales in the field.
There are many challenges in the wholesale cannabis industry. The seed-to-sale tracking system can be difficult to work with, and the Internal Revenue Code Section 280E is the most burdensome challenge for Artemis Link as it continues to grow. This tax code is designed to prevent drug traffickers from receiving the benefit of normal business tax deductions, which affects the company’s decisions related to scaling and growth. Small businesses have many challenges, to begin with, and certain deductions are usually applied to help with those struggles. Artemis Link would like to fill more sales positions and grow the business. However, until the company is able to fully grasp its federal tax liability, its human resources remain its most valuable and costly business expense that unfortunately translates into a wage that cannot be deducted.
Another issue for cannabis wholesalers is the lack of accessible banking. Banks are federally insured, and there is only one credit union in Oregon that is openly working with cannabis businesses, but its services include substantial fees. Handling large quantities of cash and a valuable product creates more hurdles for Artemis Link and additional expenses for security and insurance.
Artemis Link believes in safe access and exists to ensure that all Oregonians and visitors to the state can access the highest quality cannabis, no matter where they reside or are traveling to. “We are doing what we can in our state to make sure that the general public has safe access to high-quality, fully-tested and appropriately-priced cannabis,” says Colin.
The name Artemis Link was chosen for the company because Whitney and Colin enjoy Greek mythology. Artemis is the Greek goddess of the hunt, and she is the protector of all wild things. The name translates into a metaphor for the morals they stand for and pays tribute to the female side of this dioecious plant.The company has done considerable searching for the best quality product, and serves as the link between its supply partners and Oregon retailers.
“We care about ethical and sustainable cannabis production. We want to be part of an industry that prioritizes fostering a good environment and the people involved,” says Whitney. Artemis Link has partnerships with many aspects of the cannabis industry including production, processing, packaging, testing, retail, advocacy and regulation. “We try to use our position to empower the people around us. We provide much more to our partners than a point A to point B distribution service.”
Artemis Link has a collective insurance program that offers access to competitive health insurance for its partners in production and processing, “We were able to do this through organizing the collective group we work with which gives us better access to great health coverage,” explains Whitney.
Artemis Link promotes sustainable and ethical businesses and enables dispensaries to carry a quality product for a reasonable price. The company advocates for its farmers and is very transparent about its services. Beyond that, it tries to provide more than a distribution service to the farms; it is also a problem-solving company that networks with every facet of the cannabis industry.
“I spend a lot of time with our partner companies talking about goals, scaling and problems they face. A lot of hurdles arise in new industries and especially cannabis. We do everything we can to provide solutions to problems and offer strategic feedback to keep our partners competitive in this space,” Whitney says.
The company has developed true partnerships, and views its success as indicative of its partners’ successes. It is focused on long-term sustainability and vitality by supporting the vision and mission of its partners. “Our passion and relationships fuel us, and they are what carry us forward through moments of success and challenge,” says Whitney.