Couple behind Mountaintop Extracts shifted the cannabis space in New Mexico. They aren’t done yet.

May 31, 2023 · Albuquerque Journal

Eric Merryman’s mother was diagnosed with stage 4 fallopian tube cancer several years ago. So he searched for non-traditional medicine that would help her through her battle. Through a little research, he discovered the benefits of cannabis and decided he would attain a license to grow his own — in part because he didn’t trust the plant material out in the market — to make the medicine for his mom. Eventually, Merryman’s interest in cannabis — along with that of his wife, Jennifer Merryman — only grew.

But it was an explosion at a medical cannabis facility in Santa Fe in 2015 that was caused by the extraction of THC through a butane process that led to the couple starting Mountaintop Extracts, a premier cannabis brand in New Mexico known for its cannabis-infused concentrates and edibles sold in about 70% to 80% of dispensaries across the state.

Jennifer and Eric Merryman later that year purchased a building near Downtown Albuquerque that now serves as their lab for creating concentrates. And in 2016, they got up and running. The goal, Eric Merryman said, was to create safety standards for cannabis extraction — and to offer up the highest-quality products possible for patients.

“I sat down with Jennifer and said, ‘Look, we have an opportunity here to come in and help set the safety standards in the state,’” Eric Merryman said. “And so I got to sit down to work with a New Mexico state department and the gas division (to) create the standards for safe, light hydrocarbon extraction in the state.”

Getting started

Receiving their manufacturing license to make cannabis concentrates — they were the first following the explosion — meant that cannabis now would become intertwined with their everyday lives. It wasn’t just making medicine for Eric Merryman’s mom anymore — the job was now to make it for patients across the state.

Jumping into the cannabis industry was a new world for the couple. As Eric Merryman would tell you, “I had no intention of getting to the cannabis market.”

He previously was a longtime general contractor; Jennifer Merryman was an air traffic controller.

As the couple began their foray into the industry, the two kept coming back to a simple question: How do we know the products on the market are safe?

It’s common for residual solvents — used to extract cannabinoids — to remain in a finished product. New Mexico, he said, allowed for 500 parts per million of light hydrocarbon residual solvents to remain. The amount is so minimal, he said, that it is “equal to or less than what we breathe in the environment.”

But the couple sought to create a cleaner product. Their standard? No trace of any residual solvents.

“So even though the state allowed 500 parts per million of residual solvents, at Mountaintop Extracts the standard is zero,” Eric Merryman said “Nothing leaves our facility that has any residual solvent in there. And that takes extra time and effort on our part, but it’s a commitment that we made when we opened the doors because we truly believe that … the last thing that someone needs is to be putting toxins into their body when they’re already possibly dealing with life-threatening conditions.”

A foray into cannabis-infused edibles

The company, a year after its founding, was slowly becoming a household name in New Mexico’s medical cannabis industry.

Mountaintop Extracts, of course, had a focus on making concentrates like their diamonds and butter that so many New Mexicans have grown to love. It was a business model that worked.

But as any entrepreneur in any industry will tell you, the key to sustainability — and even growth — is to diversify your portfolio. So that’s what the couple did. Their next step was to create products infused with cannabis that can be ingested rather than inhaled.

It helped that Jennifer Merryman had some experience with making food products. As a side business, she started a biscochito company during the time she and Eric Merryman were taking care of his mom.

Now that they were in the cannabis business, making edibles seemed a natural move. So with a little encouragement from Susan Billy, an executive with Ultra Health, the state’s largest cannabis company, Jennifer Merryman shifted the company in that direction.

“I credit her. She was the one who was like, ‘You did biscochitos, you did these cookies. We want edibles,’” Jennifer Merryman said. “It was really at her encouragement. I consider her like a little angel in my life.”

Mountaintop Extracts created its first batch of cannabis-infused lollipops — about 150 of them — for Ultra Health. The lollipops quickly sold out. Now in 2023, the company “cranks out” thousands of edibles a week.

Lollipops are not the only edibles made by the company. It also makes Tiki Juice — which comes in flavors like pina colada and mango — and gummies as well.

The company’s latest product, which released in April, might be Mountaintop Extracts’ biggest and boldest yet. It’s a powder called Oasis that can be mixed in with drinks like water or juice.

The product was created with the help of a former University of New Mexico chemist and took about a year to get the science behind it right, Eric Merryman said. But the goal was to create a sugar-free product that could meet the needs of a patient’s dietary restrictions.

Aside from being sold in stores, Eric Merryman also got a patent in Canada on the product’s technology and is awaiting another patent in the United States. Eric Merryman said the technology used in the powder will eventually be used in other cannabis products.

“This could be a door opener just because of its uniqueness,” Eric Merryman said. “…It is unique enough that it could easily attract someone to replicate what we’re doing here in New Mexico. And so we’re certainly open to those types of opportunities.”

A ‘proper foundation’

For the couple, cannabis has become a way of life. And it has given life to many thousands of patients across the state.

It has also meant growth for the company. When Mountaintop Extracts first got started, it was just the two of them. The company now has roughly 40 employees.

“It’s really humbling and I take that position very seriously as being identified as one of the top product producers in the state,” Eric Merryman said. “It means a lot to me and I’m proud of that and the team that we created, and the community in which we work and are recognized. It’s beautiful.”

He added: “Who knows where it goes from here. …I was always taught as a builder (that) you start with the proper foundation and that’s exactly the way that we handled it here.” (Full Story)

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