Unmedicated, Oleg Maryasis talks a mile a minute, tapping his foot incessantly and frequently lapsing into a nervous stutter. After he takes a long drag of weed, his speech becomes more steady and the tapping stops.
“Cannabis, besides medicine, is a spiritual plant,” said Maryasis, who has replaced all of his anxiety and depression pills with the drug. “I was able to find peace on it.”
New York doctors won’t be prescribing their patients cannabis for at least another 15 months, but Maryasis has already dropped everything to launch his new vaporizer company, The Magic Within. Over the last year, Maryasis, 30, quit his ten-year-long career as a financial analyst, pressed pause on his side gig throwing underground electronic music parties and moved from his apartment in Crown Heights into the basement of his parents’ house in south Brooklyn’s Marine Park.
Like most of the entrepreneurs and investors trying to make it big off cannabis, Maryasis is not interested in taking on the risks of growing and selling marijuana. New York growers will face an estimated $20 million in startup costs, according to The New York Times. And the tension between federal and state laws still makes many investors shy away from growers and dispensaries.
Maryasis’ move to focus on vaporizers in particular is partially a response to New York legislators’ decree that medical marijuana must be consumed through vaporization or tinctures; it can’t be smoked. Maryasis plans to manufacture two different models of vaporizers — one for medical use and another for recreational use, although the latter will likely be labeled as a device for ingesting tobacco.
After consulting with doctors and the state health commissioner about the features they want to see in a medical-grade vaporizer, Maryasis said he has a prototype in the works. He said he wants the device to come with a function that prevents it from dispensing more than the prescribed dosage of marijuana and software for doctors to track their patients’ usage.
Maryasis is more apt to talk about the spiritual and palliative qualities of weed than money, but he admits he has already sunk $60,000 in personal savings and loans into his business and is still shopping for investors. Most of the money has gone towards renting space in a factory in Connecticut and hiring a small team of engineer. Maryasis hopes they can build a non-medical vaporizer reliable enough that it can sell for $250 and support a lifetime guarantee. He also envisions a Brooklyn storefront where customers can pay more for custom vaporizers that will be assembled right in front of them.
Maryasis said he’s already brought on six people to work on finances, marketing and distribution for The Magic Within, but they’re not getting paid yet. They’re all partners in the company with promises of a share of the profits once the money starts rolling in.
“I get two calls a month from guys like Oleg,” said Adam Schoenfeld, who has been helping to launch and market vaporizer companies for ten years. “They’re all working on products and, more often than not, they do not come to fruition.”
But some vaporizer companies do strike gold.
The international cannabis vaporization industry is now worth hundreds of millions of dollars by Schoenfeld’s estimation. He said the exact value is difficult to gauge because companies that market to marijuana users still operate in the shadows. Ploom Inc., the company being hyped as the next step forward in vaporizer technology, went a different route. Ploom partnered with big tobacco to develop and market its newest product. But, if Youtube is any indication, Ploom’s gadgets make their way into the hands of stoners as well and still serve as competition for guys like Maryasis
Maryasis already has one failed vaporizer business under his belt, but said, this time, the quality of his product will set him apart.
“With our approach, showing people we care about them and want them to have the best experience possible with our products, the profits will come naturally,” Maryasis said.
It’s a good time to put new, non-marijuana products on the market for people to invest in, said Jake Schrader, a partner at Articulated Investors, which has been renting real estate to marijuana-related companies for years. Schrader is currently looking for new ventures in New York’s emerging marijuana industry, but said he never rents to growers or dispensaries or invests in them, and knows a lot of investors who feel the same way. Many of those investors have been showing up to meetings of New York’s Cannabis and Hemp Association, said its founder, Scott Giannotti, whose company sells grow lights.
Even with ancillary products, reputation is a concern for investors. Maryasis said none of the interested investors he’s talked to would be willing to comment for this article because they didn’t want to be publicly associated with cannabis.
Still, he said the stigma associated with his business is waning: his neighbor called him “Cheech” the other day, but then pulled out a copy of the New York Times article he was mentioned in and wished him luck. Even his mother, Irina, a traditional woman from Ukraine, has come around to his way of thinking.
“At first the word marijuana terrified me,” she said when Maryasis went upstairs to join his parents for lunch. “But now that I’ve learned that it helps people, I think my son is doing the right thing.”