The Panther Group

Southwest sauce: Mountaintop Extracts sets a high standard for New Mexico

At Mountaintop Extracts, clean is the name of the game. 

Co-founder Eric Merryman was searching for clean cannabis for his mother, who had been diagnosed with cancer. But when Merryman visited medical marijuana dispensaries in New Mexico, he found that no one could answer his questions about the pesticides and solvents used to grow and manufacture the products on their shelves. 

Merryman applied to be his mother’s caretaker so he’d know for sure that her medicine was made from clean, sustainably-grown cannabis. 

“He got really passionate about it and never wanted anyone else to go through the same thing he did,” said Jennifer Merryman, president of Mountaintop Extracts and Eric’s wife. “He wanted to create a company so that people would never have to worry about clean, safe medicine.”

In 2016, The Merrymans started Mountaintop Extracts with the goal of manufacturing safe products. To do this, the Albuquerque-based company uses a light-hydrocarbon extraction method, a process that cleans the cannabis of microbials, molds and mildews, heavy metals, and any pesticides that may have been introduced during cultivation. 

According to Eric, Mountaintop seeks to acquire the cleanest cannabis possible from any cultivator implementing ethical practices in their cultivation. 

“We reward these cultivators with free marketing and educational materials for making this commitment to clean, consistent safe medicine, whether it be for the medical program or the adult-use market,” he said. 

Mountaintop assumes all cannabis is contaminated to some degree and has developed an in-house system for testing to identify those pre-extraction conditions and formulate its filtering process to address issues such as molds, mildews, pests and environmental elements as well as water-based pesticides. 

“In the early days, we took significant financial losses because we did not have an SOP in place to address this,” he said. “It was very hard in the beginning as we assumed everyone was doing the right thing.”

To educate consumers, Mountaintop created a program called Discover Cannabis, a ten-card series designed to help people understand everything from terpenes to terminology. The program empowers patients to choose and understand their own medicine.

“We wanted to help elevate the community as a whole,” said Joel Krukar, Mountaintop’s director of marketing and business development. “We wanted to create a stronger narrative between the budtender and the consumer.”

Consumers also can request to see the lab tests for any of Mountaintop’s products, which include concentrates, vape cartridges, edibles, and other infused products, including Oasis THC powder, which can be mixed into beverages — as a sweetener for coffee, for instance —or used in foods or cooking. 

“Oasis encapsulates all that medicine without a ton of glucose,” Krukar said. “It allows for more direct absorption of the medicine. It’s really for health-restricted diets like for diabetes patients.”

Sustainability is at the core of the Mountaintop ethos. When the company outgrew its original 1,140-square-foot facility, it expanded 960 square feet by repurposing two shipping containers. 

“We built them out like a refrigeration box to reduce energy consumption for heating and cooling by one-third,”  Jennifer Merryman said. “The entire facility captures natural lighting, and all ancillary lighting are LEDs.”

The company also increased the footprint for its kitchen and edible packaging to 3,600 square feet and within a year had to expand another 1,600 square feet for its administration and dry goods warehouse. 

“We are bursting at the seams and are looking to close on a real estate deal for a facility that is 12,000 square feet,” Jennifer said.

Mountaintop is approved for a solar loan to incorporate solar panels for a more carbon-neutral extraction, and it focuses its entire supply chain on reducing, reusing, and recycling. 

To reduce the CO2 emissions that result from the extraction process, they’re using a high-efficiency chiller to offset dry ice and a closed-loop system to recover its solvents. It also uses an inline filtration system to reduce the energy and labor needed to create clean solvent.

To transmit their earth-friendly message, Mountaintop developed sustainable packaging, working with domestic partners and using recyclable materials when possible. Their graphics verge on the psychedelic, with cacti, flowers, and tarot-inspired designs. 

“Cannabis is nature’s medicine, so we’re taking a natural and wonderment approach,” said Krukar, who is the visionary behind the brand’s look. “It reflects the Southwest — it’s nature, it’s rustic, it’s rediscovery.”

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