Medically Correct is building a global cannabis company that exceeds the sum of its parts.
DENVER-based incredibles sells a lot more products than just the Mile High Mint chocolate bar. Under parent Medically Correct LLC, product lines include gummies, mints, and tarts bearing the incredibles brand; cartridges, concentrates, and pens bearing the incredible Extracts brand; tinctures, bath salts, and CBD pens bearing the new incredible Wellness brand; and the incredible Extractor, a full-profile, closed-loop hydrocarbon cannabis-oil extraction system developed in-house by the incredibles team. And those are just a few.
Still, after eight successful years, with domestic and international expansion always in progress, the company proudly points to its original Mile High bar as one of its perpetual top-sellers. incredibles’s line of infused chocolate bars includes many other notable flavors, of course, including “chronic bestseller” Affogato and award-winning Black Cherry CBD, but executives are unsurprised by the popularity of the original recipe. They say the product has earned its devoted following thanks to the company’s original commitment to providing quality medicine, accurately dosed every time. Being able to accomplish that also was no accident. Like so many inspiring stories in the cannabis space, incredibles/Medically Correct’s begins with the kernel of an original idea: What would happen if you brought the discipline of the food industry into the cannabis industry?
The Powers That Be
Colorado-based cannabis companies still in operation are feeling their oats, and deservedly so. Surviving the rollout of a wholly new regulatory scheme is one of the most demanding and stressful experiences a business can endure. Add the copious restrictions placed on cannabis, and the chances of success plummet. So, those who make it through the gauntlet of regulation—a gauntlet that never ends, in fact—rightly feel empowered by the experience, eager to take what they’ve learned into new markets. That sense of opportunity is palpable among the four founders of incredibles—Chief Executive Officer Rick Scarpello, President Bob Eschino, Creative Director Derek Cumings, and National Executive Chef Josh Fink—even as their enthusiasm for the future is oh-so-slightly tempered by the reality that nothing stays the same for long in the cannabis fast lane.
“No matter what the rules are now, they’re changing,” said Eschino. Among many other things, he manages lobbying and compliance for the company, which is currently in eight or so states and counting. “People get all up in arms about regulations, but I tell them not to get attached to anything. Compliance changes every three to six months, so it’s a moving target just to keep your business open.
“I have four people whose job it is to keep me out of jail, and that’s just in Colorado,” he half-joked. “Our national compliance guy has to know the rules for every other state because, as much as we want to believe our partners are doing the right thing, we double-check everything.”
Eschino is about as far from a jailbird as one can get. A self-described “packaging guy” with years of experience in distribution and business development at scale, he’s singularly focused on building the best cannabis company in the world. He’s also moving into a new house with his fiancée, so he’s doubly determined to stay out of the slammer.
So is co-founder Scarpello, the “bakery guy” and serial entrepreneur who created the first gluten-free recipe in 2002 and now essentially oversees operations for the multimillion-dollar, multi-faceted, and mega-ambitious Medically Correct operation. A large team and strict systems are in place, of course, but Scarpello is unabashed about the possessive nature of his relationship with incredibles.
“Whenever I say ‘my’ or ‘my company,’ I mean ‘our,’” he explained. “Officially, Josh and Derek have sweat equity, Bob and I are invested in the company and own 80 percent of it, and there are other investors who have invested money. But I used to act like I owned things twenty years ago when I didn’t, and that’s why owners liked me, because I acted like I owned the place.”
Now he does own the place, but he wants everyone else to feel the way he used to feel. “If you’re running a department for me, run the department,” he said. “Make decisions as if you own the place. If you’re going to make me micromanage, you’re not going to last.”
To that end, he lets his managers manage. “I will never do your job,” he insisted. “I will never hire someone and say, ‘Here’s your new employee.’ I might suggest someone who’s good, but you interview and hire them. If you don’t hire them, okay.”
But someone always has a final say. “Bob and I are in charge,” clarified Scarpello, using Cumings to explain what he means. “Derek is the creative director and an owner, and when something is being created he doesn’t like, he speaks his mind strongly. But sometimes he doesn’t win those arguments, and he’ll ask, ‘Why don’t I win? I’m the creative director and an owner.’ In the end, it’s my decision and Bob’s.”
Cumings and Fink are definitively “weed guys,” which partially explains their participation in the first place. From the start, Scarpello understood if you’re going to get into weed, you need people who understand weed, especially if you’re getting into weed and food.
In 2010, Fink happened to be in the right place at the right time and met the criteria. He was working as an assistant pastry manager at Udi’s bakery in Denver, where Scarpello was director of bakery operations and plant director. “One day, Rick came up to me and said, ‘You know anything about that?’” said Fink, who was momentarily taken aback by his boss’s casual reference to cannabis. “I was like, ‘Why are you asking me that in this corporate environment?’”
But the interest was sincere, and the challenge was real. “This was April of 2010, and by July you needed to have a separate cannabis kitchen,” explained Fink, who offered to come into Udi’s during off hours to create new artisan edibles products. “Rick was like, ‘No, we don’t do that.’”
They found their own kitchen instead, and incredibles officially launched in June, one month ahead of deadline. Fink, a former dancer and musical theater performer who had trained to become a pastry chef, used alcohol extraction to make infused candy. “Our advantage came from being food guys,” he said. “I’d gone to culinary school and knew what emulsion meant. If it’s a food oil, I’ve tried to infuse it.
“I’m a chemistry nerd,” he added, “but I never equated butane with safe cannabis extraction. I had no clue.”
Butane extraction was introduced to incredibles a few years later by Cumings during a fortuitous meeting arranged by industry veteran Adam Dunn. Cumings, whose severe injuries at a young age left him at the mercy of prescribed narcotics, later discovered the gentle embrace of cannabis-based therapies and became a self-taught master of BHO extraction and an experienced producer of quality edibles. Following the unfortunate end to his dream of opening a vertically integrated dispensary in his Colorado hometown, Cumings found himself at a meeting with Scarpello and Eschino.
“I go to a consulting gig to talk to Rick and Bob about a grow, and I’m looking around and listening to Rick tell his story about Udi’s Bakery, and I’m thinking, ‘Man, you guys are just fucking dumb. You’re making the wrong product,’” he said. “They had this caramel corn Josh said was a bad batch, but I’m eating this popcorn and it’s just not very good. On the other hand, I also ate their brownie and it was the best weed brownie I’ve ever had. But I’m thinking, ‘How long will this last? Three days?’ And I’ve already been making my products for three years now, with testimonials and proof.’”
Cumings said that’s when it occurred to him something unique was staring him in the face. “I’m supposed to be there talking about the grow, but I’m thinking, ‘Man, these guys understand scaling a recipe, sourcing ingredients, homogeneity, all the things I had struggled with being a small-timer trying to make candy bars for four or five stores. They were good businessmen. Bob was into packaging. Udi’s was the biggest name in Colorado. And I’m saying to myself, ‘Man, I’m just going to tell these guys what to do and see how it works out.’”
Cumings suggested they meet again the following week. “That gave me time to get some chocolate bars that I had made eighteen months before,” he said. “They’d been sitting since I had closed the [dispensary], and I remember dusting them off and thinking this is going to be easy with the Mile High bar.
“Rick and Bob were there,” he recalled. “I said, ‘What you guys need to do is fuck the brownies and the caramel corn. Now, try this.’ They ate the chocolate, and were, like, ‘This is amazing. What is it?’
“It’s just a candy bar,’ I told them. ‘The thing is, it was made over a year ago.’ They wanted to buy the recipes, but I was like, ‘Nah, it’s bigger than that. I’m about to change your everything. Let’s figure it out.’”
The opportunity was obvious to everyone. “Derek saw right away who we were and realized we were the people who could do what he wanted to do,” said Eschino. “He’d been making tinctures and oils for himself and came into our lives at the right time. He brought shelf stability and the chocolate recipes. But the first thing he said was, ‘You guys have to get a closed-loop system.’ A what? This was eight to nine years ago, and we had no idea what that was. So, we got a small system that nearly bankrupted the company: It was $4,000.”
It also was the beginning of a process that led to the creation of the incredible Extractor, of which about a hundred have been sold, the incredible Extracts line, which launched in 2014, and pretty much everything else the company manufactures.