By Kennedy Weible
The sweet smell of success may turn out to be non-odorous if Stink Sack has anything to say about it. The New York company has been producing its smell-proof bags since 2010 and came to the aid of many Colorado dispensaries and growers who were handed a short time frame in 2013 to acquire child-resistant “exit packages” for use in all legal sales set to begin January 1, 2014.
Stink Sack ramped up development and manufacturing in order to get its product to market in time, and on January 1st, 2014, at 3D Cannabis Center, its child-resistant, smell-proof bag was used in the first legal sale of cannabis.
Stink Sack president and founder, Ross Kirsh, intends to put his company at the forefront of safety standards and responsible business practices in the cannabis industry. It is the development and implementation of these standards that is attracting more investors to cannabis-based businesses and driving the professionalization of the entire, young, cannabis industry.
Personal Need, Public Solution
When Colorado’s packaging rules for its forthcoming legalization were implemented on October 15, 2013, many dispensaries and grow houses found themselves scrambling. They had just under three months to find packaging that satisfied the new regulations which, among other things, required an “exit package” to be opaque and child-resistant, conforming to federal consumer product safety regulations and an ASTM International standard.
That’s when Ross Kirsh, the president and founder of Stink Sack, got involved. “One of our good friends who owns a dispensary in Colorado came to us and said, ‘This new mandate just came out and I need to meet it to be able to make any sales as of January 1,’ and was there any way we could help him out?”
Child-resistant bottles have been around for years, of course, but as Kirsh puts it, “It’s not easy to fit a square brownie into a round bottle. There are unique needs for this industry. They were looking for something and we put our minds to it and came up with the best solution. We were the first ones to market and we did it by January 1.”
Right now, Stink Sack is spending the bulk of its time and money on R&D, addressing the industry’s current needs and trying to anticipate what may come in the future. As the child-resistant exit packages in Colorado have proved, many products needed to satisfy forthcoming legislation simply don’t exist yet. Through solid manufacturing practices and deep involvement with the process of legalization, Kirsh wants to help an industry clear regulatory hurdles as it moves toward professionalization.
Stink Sack came into being out of this same sudden-need experience. In March of 2009, Kirsh was diagnosed with epilepsy and with his doctor’s recommendation began trying cannabis to manage his symptoms. He had good results on the clinical side, less so on the domestic front. “The smell was penetrating any container I had, drawers, and my wife wasn’t happy with that. So that kicked off our approach to making something acceptable for people who are everyday people, people in successful positions, doctors, lawyers, people in leadership positions. There’s a stigma, unfortunately, attached to this, and this was a way to help approach that and conceal the smell.”
Regulations Drive Capital
Stink Sack has raised capital during several of its seed rounds and is currently in the process of raising additional capital. Kirsh, who has a background in manufacturing and finance, began Stink Sack as a side project along with a college friend who had recently graduated law school. Kirsh funded Stink Sack himself at first, but as the company gained momentum additional funding came along from The ArcView Group which allowed the growing company to ramp up their R&D. “They were definitely a big help,” Kirsh said. “And it’s not just the capital, it’s also the people we met.” Which brings us to Colorado’s opening day of legalization.
When the cannabis community needed a new product to meet new regulations Stink Sack was able to make something that met the needs of both lawmakers and businesses. Colorado’s regulations required exit packages to be child-resistant in accordance with ASTM standards. The American Society for Testing and Materials is an organization that develops and publishes technical standards for a variety of materials and products. The group was founded in 1898 to apply standardization and regulation to materials used in another industry growing lightning fast at that time: railroads. Stink Sack has their products certified at Perritt Laboratories in New Jersey, a cGMP that provides child-resistant package testing and microbial testing.
Stink Sack thrives on the regulatory component of the cannabis industry. With 23 states, plus Washington, D.C., having enacted laws for some form of legal medical marijuana use, four of them having legalized recreational use, and a growing acceptance of cannabis across the country, that’s a lot of dispensaries and grow houses that will need exit packages. “The needs [of the cannabis industry] are growing every year and more and more states are legalizing it,” Kirsh said. “Every single state with pending legislation right now has some sort of child-resistant aspect to their law. So it’s only going to become more and more critical as time moves on. Just like it is for any pharmaceutical medication.”
Regulation and standardization of the industry also make it a safer bet for investors. “People are looking to really professionalize this industry and that’s where we’re trying to be a leader,” Kirsh explained. “This is a very advocacy based business and these people are looking for the legitimate approach and really just trying to bring a professional aspect to the business. As the industry grows and it becomes more professional it’s definitely attracting a lot more investors and a lot higher class of investors. And something that’s attracting them to our business is our focus on being a safety-first company.”
Growth in Safety and Comfort
Stink Sack is currently in over 200 dispensaries in Colorado and is engaged in talks to distribute to over 100 dispensaries in Washington state and Oregon. The company’s smell-proof bags are available in over 600 stores across the U.S. including Spencer’s Gifts. The company is also in talks to supply the producers for Canada’s MMPR system, which requires child-resistant packaging under its federal guidelines.
Good regulations created by lawmakers working closely with industry leaders to put the safety and comfort of the customer at the forefront; that’s what Ross Kirsh sees as a recipe for success not just for his own business but for the entire cannabis industry. “Working together to form these standards and hold ourselves to a higher standard than the government itself is even mandating. That’s where we’re really heading as an industry. And the community aspect, that’s what’s causing it to grow so quickly.”