Where do dispensaries get their weed
Gone are the days when cannabis vendors can bring products into a dispensary for show and tell without professional packaging, lab testing results, accurate dosage information, presentable sales people, or a reliably consistent distribution system.
In the above video, Aaron Justis, President of Los Angeles dispensary Buds & Roses, reflects on his experience with vendors over the years.
Some tips for vendors. First, bring samples. Dispensaries want to try samples. And since the bud tender is your gateway to the customer, you should want them knowledgeable about and willing to recommend (push) your product(s). Good presentable packaging is also a must. Help your product stand out on an increasingly competitive shelf.
Aaron also talks about opportunity in product innovation. There are so many things missing from the dispensary shelves. Brands that can help fill a void on the shelf will find a receptive audience among buyers and decision makers.
Fortunately, when marijuana is involved, there’s not a lack of creativity among those creating new products. Innovative products are coming to market, whether it be novel delivery mechanisms, or products featuring isolated molecules such as THCA or CBD.
Thinking this type of feedback from dispensary’s would be helpful to vendors, and in turn, the dispensaries who are sold to on a daily basis, I reached out to a few dispensaries for their thoughts on a few questions. One responded 🙁
Fortunately, his comments are educational.
If others who work at dispensaries want to chime in, I’ll (try to) add your comments to whichever of the below questions you answer. Help vendors fine tune their sales pitches to make it more meaningful to all.
What makes for a good pitch / presentation from a new vendor looking to get shelf space in your dispensary? What are you looking for?
Liam Comer (Growhouse Dispensary, Nederland, CO): The very first thing I look for is their credentials. We’ve had a handful of people who come in who aren’t badged with the Marijuana enforcement division who want to sell to the dispensary, which would be highly illegal. It happens more than you would think.
From a sales perspective, it is very important to me that the salesperson knows their product. Also, they have to come in knowing all of their numbers. At Growhouse, the mark-up is typically 80-100% up from wholesale. So we immediately want to know the price-point and how it competes with similar products so that we’re not wasting our or the salesperson’s time. There are lots of great single dose edibles in our state that are sold wholesale at $5-$7. But we sell all single doses at $5. So there’s no scenario in which we will buy those.
When reviewing the product I always ask what is this product doing differently. For example, in the brownie market, I’ve only seen one company (Love’s Oven) that has strain specific brownies. The rest either say Indica, Sativa, or Hybrid. For MarQaha tinctures, their tincture is agave based, so it doesn’t have as oily and chemically of a taste as some of the other tinctures. I’m always looking for something positive I can say that distinguishes that product from all of the others that are sold in our store.
How has your evaluation process evolved over the years?
Liam Comer: When we opened, we were getting samples every day because vendors were competing to get on our shelf. Everyone has always gotten samples of everything because we have a very small staff. Usually, a couple days after we were given samples, I would ask who I was working with how it affected them, but we never developed a formal rating system.
Growhouse hasn’t really needed to go that direction in part because of where we are based. Nederland has had a cannabis culture for a very long time, to the extent that locals are not afraid of over-consuming at all. Because it is such a small town we have many repeat customers, so even though we evaluate as budtenders, the customers do a lot of evaluation for us.
For example, Edipure is one of our candy providers. Personally, I had great experience with my sample of their product. But we’ve had a few people come in and say that since the candy is coated in THC rather than infused with THC, the dosing package to package is inconsistent.
What are the current hot product categories?
Liam Comer: By far the hottest category is 1:1 THC to CBD. This comes in the form of candy, capsules, and tinctures. It may be in part because our market is dominated by people above 50 years old, but CBD is very popular despite being more expensive. The 1:1 is always a pleasant high, but also since its not purely CBD (which is far more expensive), having that 50% THC drives the price down and makes it more affordable.
Other than that, cannabinoid specific transdermal patches are a relatively easy sell for CBD and CBN. There aren’t enough products that are CBN or CBD specific to match Nederland’s demand.
What new product categories are emerging – new product types that you’re now carrying that maybe weren’t around 6 – 12 months ago? Or product categories you see coming to market in the next few months that you’re excited to introduce to your patients / customers?
Liam Comer: Although producers haven’t caught up to this yet, there is a demand for non-sweet edibles. Colorado is one of the healthiest states in the country, but edibles are always packed with fat and/or sugar. People have asked for something savory, but we have nothing to carry to meet that demand.
We are about to carry for the first time a THC infused gum, which we anticipate selling well because many people are tourists who have had bad experiences with homemade infused baked goods. I haven’t tried the gum yet, but I think people are going to buy it once it’s in the store.
On the vaporizing market we were recently pitched an oil cartridge that is propylene glycol and coconut oil free. Instead, they said that they were using cannabis terpenes as the binding agent. Customers looking into trying vaporizing for the first time always choose coconut oil over propylene glycol because propylene glycol sounds dangerous. Personally, I haven’t done much research on propylene glycol, but I know that coconut oil based vaporizers have been known to cause a disease called lipid lung or lipid pneumonia.
Can you tell a story about the worst sales pitch you endured?
Liam Comer: The worst pitch I have experienced was for a concentrate that was essentially a reprocessed shatter that had the terpenes extracted from it. When I asked why you would remove the terpenes (and thus the taste) from the concentrate, he said it was for people who liked concentrates but don’t like the taste of cannabis. I really don’t think that market exists, and when I asked him the price point he presented me with a sheet that explained that we had to give them our extra trim in exchange for them to sell us the concentrate. We don’t have any trim because we’re a wholesale buyer. So the salesperson had obviously not looked into our business or just asked us about our grow.
What is the role of the budtender in both the evaluation process (pre-approval) and the sales process (once approved) for new products in your dispensary?
Liam Comer: For the Nederland store, the budtender’s evaluation doesn’t play a big role in whether or not the product gets to the shelf unless they have a seriously bad experience with it. Like I said, budtender’s approval is very important for the product to get off the shelf. A lot of people have no idea what they want when they walk in, and since there isn’t significant marketing of anything on our shelves (because there are laws that restrict depicting infused products in marketing), they are coming in for the experience of trying an infused product rather than seeking a particular brand out. So usually, I suggest a product, and they buy the first one I suggested.Gone are the days when cannabis vendors can bring products into a dispensary for show and tell without professional packaging, lab testing results, accurate dosage information, presentable sales people, or a reliably consistent distribution system. In the above video, Aaron Justis, President of Los Angeles dispensary Buds & Roses, reflects on…
Where Do Dispensaries Get Their Weed From?
Gangs still profit from storefront sales
The recent proliferation of marijuana dispensaries has created an avenue for people who are interested in smoking the drug, but don’t want to directly fund organised crime.
“I feel like going into a dispensary diminishes the sketchiness of buying weed. It’s not like you’re buying drugs; it’s like you’re buying groceries. They don’t get it from drug dealers, I don’t know where they get it from, but I’m pretty sure it’s not from drug dealers,” said Bart*, a student who regularly purchases marijuana from dispensaries.
(He isn’t alone in his preference; 16.2 per cent of undergrad students surveyed recently at Ryerson University say they exclusively purchase marijuana at dispensaries.)
They do get it from drug dealers though, Bart.
Jiaotusanku, Chinese for crafty rabbit, an idiom that means “a sly individual that has more than one plan to fall back on,” is a Toronto-based polydrug and marijuana supplier with ties to the Triads. He said this of dispensaries:
“Dispensaries are just dealers with a storefront. They’re the new hustlers in town and they’ve bettered my business. I work with [dealers and dispensaries]. I am well connected and I set up deals where my personal interest is at best, functional upon dispensaries picking up off the cartel.”
He implies that the rise of dispensaries and their enormous demand for product has made his work much less risky, and set him up with a cushy middleman gig.
“I just collect free money. The only risk that I have is predicated upon setting up the transaction to mutually benefit both parties. As long as I ensure the deal is set up, there is no risk for me. I’m not even a drug dealer anymore, just the person who knows people. Cops have encountered me seven times this month, at all three places that I live at. Zero arrests.”
The situation of dispensaries next to restaurants and clothing stores across the country has given them an air of professionalism, and hoodwinked people like Bart. It’s easy to forget that they still operate outside the law, and, unsurprisingly, never disclose where their product comes from.
“No store will tell its clients exactly where they get it from,” said James Whitehead, owner of medical marijuana dispensaries in B.C., in an interview.
“It’s not like a vineyard where they say: ‘Here it is on the vineyard map. Go drive by and have a look.’ There are no tours of the grow facilities. They are clandestine operations.”
The survey that included the marijuana purchasing preference question was conducted at Ryerson University. It was contributed to by 897 undergraduate students and was a randomised poll, conducted person-to-person on March 3-7, 2017. The margin of error is plus or minus three percentage points, 19 times out of 20.Gangs still profit from storefront sales. ]]>