BUDZ EMPORIUM WILL BE HOSTING A SPECIAL EVENT WITH OUR BUDZ FROM JAR CO. WE WILL HAVE PIZZA AND SODA AND WILL BE OFFERING STEEP DISCOUNTS ON ALL JAR PRODUCTS. BE SURE TO MARK YOU CALENDARS AND JOIN US FOR THIS ONE OF A KIND EVENT.
RSVP for the event here: https://facebook.com/events/s/jar-co-visits-budz-emporium/3315562698712725/. RSVP HERE
JAR Cannabis Company has rapidly grown into one of the largest Cannabis operations in the state of Maine. They operate multiple retail locations within the adult-use and medical markets. They also have an incredible cultivation facility and do their own extraction and manufacturing of finished goods. Jar Cannabis has become a staple at Budz Emporium as well as other Maine retailers. JAR is known for its quality products and superior packaging. We are blessed to be joined by JAR Co-Founder, Joel Pepin to discuss what it takes to scale a business in the current state of the industry. Joel is also known for his policy work and advocacy for the community. Join our conversation and hear for yourself what it takes to build a brand rooted in quality.
Guest: Joel Pepin, Co-Founder Jar Cannabis Co.
Host: Ry Russell
WeedBudz RadioSupport the show
Welcome back to another episode of WeedBudz Radio.
I’m excited to update you on a few things.
As you know, Budz Emporium here in Medway
is doing phenomenal and just continues to grow.
We have have the best vendors in the state and
some that I want to introduce you to today.
But when we first got started at Budz Emporium,
it was not all rainbows and unicorns.
It was a struggle and it was hard, especially as
some of you know, we had a few other ventures
that were going in the sustainability space and a few
things that just took a turn during the pandemic.
And so we had limited resources and we had
to work with just the best brands, brands that
were willing to work with us, that produced quality
product that we were proud of.
And there were so many.
But there’s one in particular that I
want to introduce you all to today.
In joining from the JAR team, the
J in JAR, is Joel Pepin.
Joel, thank you so much for joining us.
Pleasure to be here. Thank you.
So it’s cool, man.
I’ve been walking around the store and I was looking
at pictures side by side from where our shelves were
in February of 2022 to where they are today, and
just the work that we’ve done together.
When we opened, I remember having to ask Ryan if we
could do 4 strains and make that up into a pound.
So a quarter pound of 4 different things.
And he kind of was like, we don’t normally
do that, but if that’s what we need to
do to help you get open, then okay.
And I just remember we had 2 jars on each
shelf, and here we are today with upwards of 12 strains,
sometimes from just your brand concentrates and cartridges.
And so it’s just been so fun
to grow and to grow with you.
And I just want to say thank you for
kind of helping us out in those early stages
and helping us to be where we are today.
Man, it’s been fun to watch and thank
you for the support and for the interest.
And we’ve always really sort of had a
lot of excitement for your geographical location.
So watching the evolution of your business and
seeing the whole thing grow from our perspective
has been a lot of fun.
And I might add, I’m actually very excited to announce
this, but I do think we’re going to be up
your neck of the woods maybe mid October to try
to hike Katahdin before the park closes.
So we were just talking yesterday, Adam and
I were talking about coming up and maybe
doing a JAR pop up for the afternoon.
That would be amazing.
So definitely everybody will have to check out our Facebook
page and Instagram page for when that’s announced, but we
would love to have you here at the store and
kind of showcasing what you all do.
And I brought some samples for those that are
tuned into our YouTube channel today, so you can
kind of see some of the work.
But that’s so exciting.
So I can’t wait to have you all up here. So tell me.
I originally thought JAR was stood for jar in
these beautiful jars that your product comes in.
And I also brought for those tuned into the video,
a concentrates jar, so you can see that as well.
The packaging is beautiful.
So, Joel, I always thought JAR
just stood for these beautiful packaging
that your brand incorporates into itself.
And so can you tell me what JAR actually stands for?
So we’re not the most creative people, right?
And so when we were trying to figure out
how to come up with a brand for our
cannabis, we had all these different ideas and names,
some with multiple syllables, and we couldn’t really come
up with something that felt right.
And JAR is basically stood for
Joel and Ryan cannabis company.
My business partner, Ryan and I started
working together about a decade ago in
medical cannabis, and so it was simple.
Joel and Ryan cannabis company. Right?
And it was a little bit of a play on words.
You put your good weed in a jar,
so we kind of like that component.
And it wasn’t the most creative, but it just
felt right out of all the different things that
we came up with, so we stuck with it.
And then it’s funny now it actually
stands for Joel, Adam, and Ryan.
So our business partner Adam, he sort
of came into ownership years later after
Ryan and I started working together.
And we like to joke with Adam saying,
you’re lucky your name started with an A,
otherwise I’m not sure if it would’ve worked.
You would have needed a new business partner.
So how long have you and Ryan known each other?
About 10 years. 10 or 11 years.
We’ve known of each other for longer than that.
We both kind of grew up, and I grew up
in Auburn, he grew up in Turner, and there’s a
few years between us in age, so we knew of
each other before that, longer than that.
We had some we had close mutual contacts
that knew each of us, but he and
I together about 10 years, 11 years.
So business partners are hard as it is, and in this
space, I feel like it’s even more of a challenge.
Even myself, I’ve had, I think from
start until today, probably seven different partners.
It’s just you have different visions,
you have different levels of commitment.
So what makes up a good team and
how do you develop a good team?
Because I’ve only seen and been able to watch
about a year now, but it seems like all
3 of you really kind of have your silo
of execution, and you do it beautifully.
And so I was just curious, how did
that partnership come together and how do you
guys keep that oiled up and frictionless?
Well, I mean, I think in any
partnership, it’s not always frictionless, right?
So I think in any partnership it’s good, especially
in the onset, to figure out like, when there
is friction methods of working through that in a
productive way, which we’ve been able to establish.
I think the biggest thing for us, it’s probably
one of the biggest advantages we have as a
company, is the strength of our partnership, right?
And for Ryan and I early on, like I
said, there’s a few years age difference in us.
And so where do I go with this?
When I started as a medical caregiver, it
was really early on in the program.
It was late 2010, 2011, and for those watching that
were around back then in the program, that was basically
right when they came out with caregiver registry cards.
And so Ryan was one of the first
caregivers that received one of those cards.
And you knew it by the way they numbered the cards.
I think he might have been the second or
third caregiver to receive one of those cards.
I might have been like the 11th.
And so we had met right around that time.
And I don’t know, we just had a lot of the same values.
We were friends outside of business.
We had sort of the same
goals and beliefs around cannabis.
In a lot of ways.
Ryan has been a mentor to me. I’ve looked up to him.
He’s a few years older and he’s been able to
sort of accomplish things, but I was just sort of
trying to figure out how to get started in life.
He was a little bit further ahead and there
was a lot that I looked up to.
And the way he was cultivating was sort
of like on a different level even back
then, which was really eye opening for me.
So Ryan and I have a real close bond
in partnership, the closest of friends outside of work.
And it’s not always easy to
be friends and then have business.
But for whatever reason, he and I have been
able to navigate that I think, very well.
And I think you’d say the same
and we do anything for each other.
And then I think when it comes to business, we just want
to do the best that we can every day for our business,
and we want JAR to be the best it can be.
We’re very passionate about that.
We really want to make careers
out of working in cannabis.
We’re both entrepreneurial, right?
We don’t ever want to think about having to get
a job somewhere else or to work for somewhere else.
So we’ve always just wanted to run our
own cannabis company and make that our job.
And then Adam was a great fit.
So I think in terms of our
partnership and our silos of expertise.
Adam has sort of been watching JAR’s
evolution since I’d say, like, 2014.
Adam’s a childhood friend of mine. I grew up with Adam.
I’ve known Adam since I was maybe 10 years old.
So, again, just a very strong bond of trust and
sort of like knowing who the potential partner is and
what they care about, what’s important to them.
So I think the 3 of us, we share a lot of
the same goals and vision for business and specifically for JAR.
And I think we all have different areas of
expertise, which has complemented each other very well, and
it’s translated very importantly to the business.
So to break it down for everybody, Ryan, really, he
oversees everything, cultivation and what I’ve seen him do cultivation
and what we do today, day in and day out
with our cultivation team is so impressive to watch.
And so, really, producing consistent, high quality flower has
been the backbone of our brand over the past
decade, and that’s Ryan’s wheelhouse. Right?
I have been a little bit more involved
with building out the retail side of the
business, overseeing concentrates and the extractions.
As you know, I’ve done more of, like, trying to
help find retail locations, getting towns to opt in and
that type of thing, some of the lobbying stuff.
And then Adam just has a really creative mind
when it comes to just business strategy in general.
So Adam is like a great sounding board for anything
and everything that we’re trying to scheme or consider.
Adam really helps us keep our eyes on cash flow
and cash management in a way that is not easy
for me to do or for Ryan to do.
So the 3 of us together, it’s a lot of fun.
Now, you guys have been in this industry since the
conception of really legal cannabis in the state of Maine.
And so I’m fascinated to get your opinion on
the medical industry versus the adult use side.
And let’s take it from the business perspective.
What does it take to run a successful business on
the medical side versus what does it take to run
a successful business on the adult use side?
Is are the principles the same
or is it dramatically different?
I would say the foundational principles that we
have that made us successful would translate to
all kinds of different businesses, not just medical
cannabis, not just adult cannabis.
It’s translated well for Ryan and I and business
interests, like, outside of cannabis altogether.
So it’s just about being detail oriented,
doing things right the first time, not
cutting corners, treating people well.
Honestly, a lot of what we do is just very basic
things that we all believe strongly in, like treat others the
way you want to be treated type of thing.
Positive workplace culture, only put out your best quality,
and if you’re going to do something, do it
right the first time, or else what’s the point
in doing it in the first place?
To answer your question about what it takes to
be successful medically versus adult, I think it’s a
lot of the same type of thing.
Of course, each market is at a different
point in terms of its maturity and dynamics. Right.
But overall, I think the reasons we’ve been successful
in adult use were extensions of the same reasons
and principles that made us successful medically. Right.
And that’s just like for us, specifically, when it comes
to producing flower, we really believe you get what you
pay for when you build out a cultivation facility.
So we spare no expense when it comes to
our lights, our room design, our drying our curing.
And in our evolution over the past 10
years, we’ve been fortunate enough to build out
in many different facilities in Maine and Massachusetts.
And along the way, we’ve learned so much.
So we really believe, like, you can never
stop improving ways to produce better quality.
You can never stop finding ways to find efficiency. Right?
And so that was a big part of our success medically.
And of course, it’s a huge part of what
we’re doing right now in the adult use side.
And just since I’ve known you all, which would say
would be February of 2020, the growth has been incredible.
I mean, from stopping by SJR Labs to the building that
you have today, I mean, the growth is surreal, and I
can only imagine that you have to have a lot of
trust for each other to grow that fast.
But it’s truly like you’re trusting
each other’s, families with each other.
I got to meet Stephanie’s mom the other day
at the building, and I just thought that that
was so cool that everybody is truly involved and
invested in the business and with us.
Although it’s primarily Brooke and I kind of running the
operations in the day to day here, it’s my aunt
and uncle and my parents and so many other people
that have put blood, sweat, and tears into this building
in order to create what we have today.
So it really is kind of a
passion project, but it just incorporates everybody,
so there’s just so much love there.
Yeah, I mean, for us, it really
is more than, like, a business partnership.
It’s more than a friendship.
I mean, it’s like a family.
Like, JAR is a family to us.
We have our real families at home, but
JAR is such an important part of our
lives, my life, Ryan’s life, Adam’s life.
And so we have this big JAR family.
And for us, it is kind of surreal to
look at the evolution of what we’ve done together.
And I think when Ryan and I started working together
10 years ago, we had this hope of especially when
the referendum question in 2016 was on the ballot, we
were like, okay, if you don’t use cannabis passes in
Maine, maybe there’s a legitimate shot we could make a
career of working in cannabis in Maine for the next
15 to 20 years.
So there was a hope that we had, but
we didn’t really know exactly how it would turn
out, how it would play itself out for us.
So my family has been involved in the business.
Ryan’s family is involved in the business,
like the team that we’ve built. It’s surreal.
And we look at the talented staff that we’ve been
able to put together in the different departments and managers,
and it’s like we’ve got this amazing team of people
that move JAR forward every single day.
So it’s incredible and it’s a lot of fun.
It’s a dream come true, for sure.
Now, before we move, I have a
lot of questions about concentrates for you.
But before we go, I just want to show those.
And for those that are listening on the podcast,
head over to weedbudzradio.com and you’ll see a picture.
I’m holding some bud that has come from JAR Co.
And we were talking the other day here at the store
and we were talking about what is the brand behind JAR?
And obviously JAR has got a nice little
shield, but what is the actual brand?
And for us, it’s quality.
You know what you’re opening when
you open one of these jars.
It’s a quality piece of cannabis and it’s probably
one of the best that there is that the
state has to offer, if not in the country.
And that’s just a really special place to be.
But it’s something that the whole staff here is like.
JAR is so much more than just
a word on a piece of paper.
Like, it really is that crack when you open a jar.
So it’s just really special.
I wanted people to see that and kind
of how that’s packaged and just how beautiful.
But one thing I think we can all
really learn about today is the different types
of concentrates because there’s so many from live
resins, cured resins, to the sugars and batters.
And now I’m really excited because we have the
hash rosin carts here at the store from your
team, and those have been doing incredibly well.
And for people like me, I
just love that kind of product.
So I was wondering if you could kind of help
me differentiate, for example, to start Joel, what’s the difference
between a cured product and a live product?
So, like a cured resin versus a live resin?
So cured typically means that the plant material
that the concentrate was derived from, where it
was extracted from, was dried material.
So for us, like a cured resin cartridge that
was extracted from, you know, scissor trim, trim material
that was dry, it wasn’t fresh frozen. Right?
And then so on the opposite side of that,
live alive resin or a live raw means that
it came from plant material that was immediately frozen
right at the moment of harvest.
And was frozen up into and
during the point of extraction.
And so basically what that means, I think for
the most part, cured means came from dry material.
Live means came from fresh frozen material.
And I think the main difference is what we
see in a lot of our test results that
we have to do for every batch.
Like, it’s kind of funny.
Cured products sometimes and usually will have a
little bit higher potency in terms of THC,
the live products will be slightly less.
But what you’re getting in a live
product is maximum terpene retention for cured
concentrates that come from dry material.
That dry material went through a drying process.
There were some terpenes that came off
during that process from the plant material.
So there just aren’t as many terpenes
available at the time of extraction.
And so cured products for us, we freeze the dry trim
as soon as the trim is clipped away from the flower,
and we do everything we can to preserve terpenes from the
dry material that translate into the cured products.
And cured products can be phenomenal in
terms of flavor, profile and potency.
And this would be considered a cured product. Right?
Like something that I would typically smoke or
open from a package that would be cured?
Yeah, your flower. Absolutely.
And maybe we can talk later about some of
the techniques that we’re using to really cure flower,
but there’s a serious art to it and we’re
sort of like refining our approach to that.
We’ve made some big leaps forward, we feel,
in our process over the past year.
But, yeah, your flowers, cured concentrates
are coming from dry material.
Live concentrates typically are coming
from your wet frozen material.
Interesting, because that right there. Right?
So resin and rosin, it’s like, okay, live, cured.
I’ve now figured that out.
So the live comes from the fresh plant that’s
frozen, then extracted that’s live, and then cured comes
from something that we would just consume in practical
terms that would be ready for extraction.
So what’s the difference between something
like a resin and a rosin?
Those seem exactly the same to me.
Yeah, it’s like one letter that’s different. Right.
But actually it’s a
completely different extraction process.
And one thing I think that’s important to note
on the live product, so, like, the frozen material
that we’re extracting from is whole plant.
So it’s like, it’s for us, it’s your A grade flower
that you would smoke, like the wet version of harvest.
And it’s the trim that would get separated
in a cured product meant for only extracted.
So your live product isn’t getting
extracted from just like frozen trim.
It’s getting extracted from frozen whole plant material
shucked from the stem, which is pretty cool.
So the difference for us internally, and I
think across the market, the difference between a
resin and a rosin, rosin is concentrate that
is extracted via no solvents.
So solventless extraction.
So for us what we’re doing, and we’re
really excited about doing this now in our
current facility is ice water extraction.
And then go through some post processing where
you’re basically just using pressure and temperature to
separate out the rosin through a rosin crest.
So there’s literally no solvents.
You’re using ice water as the solvent to
extract the trichome heads from the plant material.
And then we’re using a press to sort of
like refine the finished rosin material in the various
forms that you would find in the store.
Resins go through hydrocarbon extraction.
So blend of butane protein.
You’re using a solvent to remove the
trichome heads from the plant material.
And then of course, we go through postprocessing
to remove those solvents and yield the concentrate
that’s still really good quality but just went
through a different extraction process.
So now I’m curious because I’ve got, let’s see,
for example, this is ice cream cake cured batter.
And I have this is sour snippets sugar.
And so those are a little bit different.
But if I had the live rosin or live resin out,
it might look a little bit similar to this.
Joel might be a little bit soupier in consistency.
What’s the biggest difference between that?
Because the batter and some of those resins,
they seem similar, but they taste dramatically different.
And so I’m guessing that those
are a different process as well.
Yeah, they are a different process.
The difference between your batter and the sugar
that you’re showing there similar extraction process.
The batter goes through a whipping motion to sort
of blend the cannabinoids and terpenes into the consistency
that you have there in front of you.
The sugar goes through a little bit
more of a lengthier post processing where
essentially the concentrate yielded from extraction.
We’re trying to crystallize and crash out some of
the THCA into the sort of more chunkier forms
of the concentrate that you see there.
What we try to do is retain a
decent amount of terpenes with our sugar.
So I think the difference between the
2 that you showed right there is
there’s obviously a difference in consistency.
Sugar on average seems to test a little bit
higher and it’s potency does have some terpenes with
it, but not as terpene rich as the batter.
So I think someone who’s looking for more of a
flavor profile and depending on your method of consumption, you
might want to steer them towards a batter.
But someone coming in, again,
depends on their consumption method.
But someone who’s looking for like
a higher potency dab will concentrate.
Typically sugar is the direction you
want to push them in.
THCA is the precursor to THC. Right?
So THCA gets heated and then that becomes THC. Yeah.
So THCA, THC in its acid form is basically that’s
how THC occurs and is produced by the plant. Right.
And so THCA, when heated, converts to Delta-9 THC
and Delta-9 THC is what is psychoactive for us
that’s what basically gives us the high that we feel.
So your sugar that has a lot
of THCA has a high THCA value.
As soon as you put that on your rig or you
put it on a bowl and you put your lighter to
it, it’s converting in real time and you’re consuming quite a
bit of Delta-9 as you inhale and so that’s sort
of where you get that psychoactive effect from.
Perfect. Now. As a retailer.
One of the things that I’m really struggling with is how
to properly display my concentrates because I try to keep them
dark and I try to keep them cool and then I
have to open each of them to let people smell them
and check them out and I have not figured out the
perfect way to display concentrates and so as I’m looking at
kind of building out the right display I was wondering if
you had any tips or tricks or things because I know
even people at home they might get a jar of concentrate
and just stick it on their desk and open it up
a week later.
So what is the proper way for a retailer
to display concentrates and then for once I take
it home, how should I care for it?
Yeah, I mean it’s a challenge for us too.
In our stores a lot of the concentrates that we end
up putting on display you need to be able to display
a product if you really want to be able to showcase
it to the customers coming in but just by nature of
having the lid off of it showing in your display case.
Lights getting to it.
It’s degrading the concentrate slightly so for us
a lot of times like our display end
up either getting destroyed or they’re not
sold to an end consumer so you’re kind of
like sacrificing one out of the bunch to display but
when life is exposed to it, your terpenes are coming
off of it, it is degrading the quality of the
concentrates for the most part in terms of storage for
the majority of the concentrates just the coolest temperature that
you can get is the best right?
And then keeping it out of light.
So ideally like mid 60s to low 60s
is the best way to sort of store your
concentrates in a box out of light.
Most of what we do is shelf stable and
will retain its quality quite well for the consumers.
I think it’s really important to
I think the biggest thing.
Especially during summertime is like keeping any form of concentrate in
your car on a hot summer day and that’s like a
real quick way for either a vape pen to go bad
or shatter to get all liquefied so the big thing is
just like keeping it out of direct sunlight.
Keeping it away from heat on the rosin
side and there’s some versions of some SKUs
of hash that actually need to stay refrigerated
all up and through the point of sale.
And we haven’t quite yet gotten to the
point of producing those on a regular basis.
But for us, even in our stores, like,
we’re looking at adding special refrigeration for certain
types of coal cures and hash cues.
And then there’s some people that are really into consuming
hash that have these little portable coolers at home to
keep your hash in, that you would plug in to
keep it controlled at the right temperature.
So hashes a little bit more and
certain types of hash are a little bit
more particular and how they should be stored.
There are several forms that are okay at
room temperature, just like most of what you
have, like the cartridges, those are all fine.
Just keeping them in the coolest
temp possible at your store.
That’s amazing. So that was one of the things that we were looking at,
was getting a little bit of a display that sort of had
some sort of cooling element on the bottom and that way you
could put the concentrates on top of it and then just remove
the lid, keep it protected from the light.
But we’re bouncing a few ideas back and forth,
but we want to make sure that we definitely
do them right because we have such a loyal
customer base for concentrates up here.
For Sure. For us at our stores, what we like to
do is our back storage area where the vaults
are, keep them very cold, and we dehumidify.
We’ll add humidity in the middle of winter when it’s
really dry outside and make sure things don’t dry out.
That’s important for your flower quality too.
So I think retailers like even thinking about your
product storage behind the sales desk goes a long
way, especially for preserving quality and shelf life.
Now, Joel, before we go, I want to talk to you a
little bit about some of the policy work that you do, because
I feel like anybody in the cannabis industry has to do a
little bit of policy work at one time or another.
And I know that you are part of a couple
of different organizations, and I just love for you to
kind of talk a little bit about some of the
work that you’re doing on the policy side and some
of the organizations that you’re a part of and maybe
others want to get involved with as well.
Yeah, for sure.
So policy work in Maine has been I’ve been involved first
hand for the past, I don’t know, 5, 6 years.
And it’s something that I feel a lot of operators
in Maine don’t have the perspective of that policy work
in Maine, you can get results off of some effort,
a little bit of effort, especially when you join that
effort with other like minded people.
And I think there are other cannabis markets out
there where operators could put some work into
policy, put some effort into policy work and not
be able to get like, a state rep on
the phone or a senator on the phone.
And here in Maine, one thing that I’ve kind
of appreciated is there’s been certain times where I’ve
needed to call the rep in the district or
the senator in the district where SJR Labs, for
instance, is operating to try to get a piece
of legislation sponsored that would help our business.
And I was able to do that.
I think for anybody who has an
interest, like the politicians in Maine are accessible.
And I don’t think it’s like that in many other
cannabis markets, especially not the bigger ones, which is, I
think, a unique opportunity for our industry. So today
and for the past 2 years, I want
to say 2 to 3 years, I’m president
of the Maine Cannabis Industry Association.
We lobby for both medical and adult use policy work.
And then before that, I was involved with just
sort of like as a stakeholder who had hired
our own private lobbyists to sort of like, keep
us posted on what’s happening up in Augusta.
So really what I’ve been involved with, I
think since 2015, especially since 2016, when the
referendum was on the ballot, keeping my eye
on what’s going on in Augusta.
And then since then, there’s been a
lot that’s happened on the medical side,
going from plant count to canopy, 500 square feet of
canopy was something that we were very involved with
and in support of being able to wholesale what
was 70% of your product as a caregiver and
retail 30% was a big thing.
So getting caregivers legally allowed to wholesale their product
was very important to the industry that we believe
strongly and we were involved with being able to
for caregivers to have more than one employee.
More than one assistant.
Was a really important one and logical
one that we fought for. Caregivers
being able to have the right to a storefront.
One storefront is a big one that we fought for.
And then, of course, nowadays caregivers can
wholesale what they grow, and of
course, we supported that as well.
So medically, those are some of the
big things that we’ve been involved with
on the adult use side most recently.
What do we do?
We passed a bill 2 sessions ago that basically allowed
for an entry way to check IDs in stores.
It’s kind of like an oversight in the drafting
of the original rules for the adult use program
that you had to check ID outside the door.
So it was like the first year,
year and a half of the program.
That’s basically how the law read. So we changed that.
That said you could check inside the door if
you had sort of you could keep the patrons
from entering physically separate from the sales floor.
So that was a big one.
We’ve streamlined this last session, some of the
testing requirements, so, like, not having to test
your trim or your fresh frozen prior to
extraction final form testing seemed logical.
There’s a lot of redundancy in testing or there was.
And so we made progress last session
on sort of streamlining that process.
I think a big one we’re focused on we haven’t been
able to solve yet is the excise tax for operators.
So this whole $335 a pound to the state in
the adult use program definitely needs to be reworked.
And so we’re really looking forward, a lot of our
stakeholders are looking forward to trying to make progress.
We had made some progress on it, but it basically
stalled in appropriations and never became law last session.
So yeah, man, those are some of
the big ones that we’ve been up. There are many more.
I can’t think of them all right now.
That alone is sickening.
When you think of, let’s just say, for example,
for an outdoor plant, that excise tax could cost
double to 3 times as much as it costs
to put into the plant itself.
Yeah, it’s definitely an industry killer at this point
in time and I get why it’s there.
We conceded that original tax structure 10% at the point
of sale, 335 flat just to get the program launched.
We knew that this was something that
we’d be lobbying for in the future.
And when the program started, 335 was roughly 10%
of the wholesale price of flower for adult use.
Wholesale flower has come down more and so the
excise tax effective percentage is a lot higher.
I mean, it’s an industry killer for the
current wholesale rates and it’s sickening like the
amount of money that operators have to pay.
And it’s kind of funny.
Like the state released office cannabis policy released a
study, a third party study that was done kind
of saying how it’s the adult use program, the
regulated program that has done more in the medical
marijuana program have done more to sort of like
curb black market illicit marijuana activity than anything else.
And I think for the regulated market to continue
to have success in doing that into the future,
we’ve got to lower the cost of operation.
That 335 is a significant cost.
It sure is.
That is absolutely a killer because when you think
about trying to get vertically integrated and working backwards,
whether you’re a cultivator working forwards or a retailer
working backwards, if this industry is so hard as
it is with the way that the tax system
operates that something like that, you’re right.
It’s just so limiting when we’re trying to
create an industry with rapid growth but with
the safety and security that is required to
keep the public and the stakeholders safe.
Because I think stakeholders are looking at some
of this in a positive light as well. Right?
I want to make sure that the products that we put
out are the best that are top notch and nobody’s going
to get sick and I also don’t want to get sued.
And so these accountabilities are
For sure. And I think one of the things the industry
has going for, especially the adult use industry, because
everything is tracked through final sale is like we’re
really able to communicate to politicians, to stakeholders outside
of the cannabis industry, like how much of a
force this industry really is and has been in
the state of Maine for all these years. Right?
So the adult use program this summer grew
to new highs in July and August.
$16 million months, $17 million ed, we e
We don’t know exactly what the medical regulated market is doing,
but I would imagine the two combined, we employ a ton
of people, you know what I mean, in the medical industry
and the adult use industry and those numbers to be able
to prove that to people is we’ve never had the amount
of data that we’ve had before.
So it’s a major economic driver for the state.
There’s a lot of people employed in the industry.
There’s a lot of people that come to Maine and appreciate
tourism in Maine that know that cannabis is a high quality
product at a very fair value in either market here, which
is a huge thing for tourism in general.
And I think it’s really important that Maine’s developed
that reputation in the Northeast and I think it’s
very important for both industries in Maine to continue
for that to be the case moving forward.
If you’re on a vacation in the Northeast, people need
to know that the best product at the best prices
in Maine, and a lot of people do, but we
need to make sure that continues in the future.
100% people come to Budz Emporium for that exact reason.
I mean, they’re driving from out of state
sometimes coming up here, doing their weekend snowmobiling,
hiking, camping, and then they’re doing whatever they
need to do because the prices are just
dramatically and so significantly less expensive here than
they are in other parts of the country.
But it’s also, I think even some of my
friends that from California, they were surprised when they
came out here that Maine truly has some of
the best products in the country by far.
There’s just incredible cultivators
here, yourselves included.
So we’re super grateful for that.
Yeah, I know, it’s true.
I mean, we’re also sort of like far down
the rabbit hole day in, day out to realize
what we’re doing and how it compares to other
markets in the country or even across the world.
And it’s like when you take a step back, it’s true.
Like Maine really does produce some of the best
cannabis in the country and in the world.
And I think it’s for a bunch of different reasons where
a lot of us are just blue collar, hard workers.
I think cost of business here is
competitive relative to other markets in the
Northeast and different parts of the country.
And there has been, especially the medical side,
sort of like a low barrier to entry.
So you have a lot of specific operators focusing
on 1 or 2 segments of the industry of
the supply chain and just maximizing their process and
their quality and their efficiency in that realm.
Whether it be like just concentrates or
just edibles or just flower production, we’re
all competing with each other.
So that elevates everybody’s quality
by nature of competition.
So, yeah, man, we take a step back, and
it’s really impressive with what the market means done.
It is. Well, Joel, I just want to thank you so
much for all the work that you all are doing
and for joining us today on WeedBudz Radio.
For those that are tuned in, where can they find
JAR retail locations and where can they find you online?
So, jarcannabis.com, we keep up to
date with our retail locations.
You can find us on weed maps.
So JAR retail locations.
So we have adult use retail in South
Portland, in Wyndham and Newry up by Sunday
River on the Sunday River Access Road.
We’re a week or 2 away from opening our fourth
adult use store in downtown Old Port, which is exciting.
And then we have sort of like our flagship medical
store in Wyndham, right next to our Wyndham use adult store.
So you can find our medical store in Wyndham as well.
Amazing. Well, be sure to check out all of
those locations and be sure to head over
to weedbudzradio.com, check out those show notes.
We’ll have links to connect with Joel
and to connect with JAR Cannabis.
And of course, we’re always so grateful to all of you
for tuning in to another episode of WeedBudz Radio.
We’ll see you in the next one.
DROP US A LINE:
Welcome back Budz! I am your host, Ry Russell and today I am excited to introduce you to the CEO of Sorting Robotics, Nohtal Partansky. As an Aerospace Engineer, he shares his experience working at NASA and what led him and his business partners to venture out on their own to create their own robotics company and their journey into the Cannabis space. Their new technology helps create infused products with more efficacy and efficiency than ever before. Nohtal and his team are on a mission to reduce the repetitive tasks that are slowing down innovation within the cannabis industry. Tune in and join our conversation.
Guest – Nohtal Partansky CEO, Sorting Robotics
Host: Ry Russell
WeedBudz RadioSupport the show
Hey, budz, it’s your best bud Ry here.
And I’m excited to talk to you all today because
as some of you may remember, back in the pandemic
when everything was a little chaotic, I started working on
a number of different podcast shows, and one of
those shows was called IOT Idols Innovators to Watch.
And I got to explore the world of
innovation through automation and kind of what these
different engineers and innovators were kind of bringing
to make life better and make life easier.
And that was extremely fascinating.
And as time goes on in the cannabis industry and
you see manufacturers coming online more and more
and more unique products, I started to kind of look and ask,
where is automation coming into the cannabis industry?
When is it coming?
And lo and behold, it is always easy to
find on LinkedIn and the little universe we’ve created
here because our good friend Mike Mejer from Green
Lane Communication introduced us to our next guest.
So I’m really excited to talk about this with
somebody that knows a thing or two about it.
It’s so great for you to join us on WeedBudz Radio.
Thank you very much, Ry.
Yeah, I’m interested to be a part
of the series of innovators and automation.
Yeah, it’s so exciting.
And obviously two passions of mine are
cannabis and technology, and you are kind
of where cannabis and technology collide.
And so for those that don’t know, it’s fascinating to
think that your career has kind of been all over
the place and a very entrepreneurial journey, if you will,
but not necessarily a traditional entrepreneurs journey.
I was wondering if you don’t mind sharing
a little bit about your journey into kind
of what brought us here today. Yeah, sure. No worries.
I guess I don’t know what
a traditional entrepreneur’s journey might be.
I’ve talked to a few of them.
They’re kind of always all over the place, right?
But my background is in aerospace engineering, so
I have a master’s degree in aerospace engineering.
I worked at NASA JPL, the
NASA Research Center in Los Angeles.
And I actually worked on a project
that is currently on the surface of
Mars producing oxygen, and it’s called Moxie.
So I was the lead mechanical engineer
on the heart of that instrument.
And then also I did a lot of work
on the overall architecture, and that was awesome.
But as you might assume, NASA is kind of a
heavily bureaucratic sort of environment, and it moves very slow,
and it can be kind of frustrating sometimes.
And so me and my co founder that was also working
at NASA at the time, we wanted to kind of strike
it out on our own and then build this robotics company.
So we picked up our third co founder,
who was doing his PhD in computer vision,
and we said, all right, let’s build robots.
And the first robot we made was
actually a robot that sorted Magic the
Gathering cards or Pokemon cards, trading cards.
And that was pretty cool.
It was super valuable to the industry that it
was in that industry was just very small.
So it sorted the cards.
Yeah, actually you’d put in a thousand cards and
we started with Magic the Gathering and then
eventually went to Pokemon and Yugioh.
But you would put in a thousand cards.
There’d be a camera that went over the cards.
It would scan them, cross reference them to an
online database of over a hundred thousand unique cards,
accurately identify what it was, what set it was, what variable,
kind of promo, small detail card.
And then it would take those thousand cards and
it would do whatever type of sorting you wanted.
So did you want to get all
the expensive cards out of that pile? It could do that.
Did you want to sort them by alphabet? It could do that.
Did you want to sort it by edition, set, rarity?
It could do that.
And then after it sorted, it would upload
that database to the online store of these
sellers and basically eliminate 80% of the labor
that these people who sold online would do.
It was really cool.
It was like probably one
of our most sophisticated robots.
And yes, that was kind of
the first thing we started with.
So what did you do after that?
So after that we then got into
a startup accelerator called Y Combinator.
Kind of a fancy sort of venture arm
with a business development program behind it.
If you don’t mind, Nohtal
why is that specific program so valuable?
Because those that are listening might
not necessarily know kind of what’s
all entailed with something like that. Yeah.
So Y Combinator is commonly referred to as the
Harvard of Silicon Valley because it was the first
startup accelerator kind of like built that model.
And that model is basically they give you a
bunch of money to invest and then they kind
of help you develop your business model.
And a bunch of the biggest companies in the world
have gone through it like Airbnb, Dropbox, DoorDash, Instacart, kind
of these companies that are very common now.
They started with like three guys in
this business development program.
That’s amazing and it’s hard to get into.
So congratulations. Super hard.
Yeah, I think the acceptance rate is
less than 1% or something like that.
Yeah, so we got into that and we said, okay,
we want to use this network of all these founders
and these investors to find a bigger market.
And so after kind of scouring the different industries of
what’s a good place to put our efforts behind, we
found that cannabis just really didn’t have a lot of
automation and it was very manual and very labor intensive
and a lot of these big companies weren’t even looking
at it or even trying to service the industry because
of its federal status.
So living in the gray is where startups kind of thrive.
And we said, okay, cool, we have a positive
disposition towards the plant, and we like robots, so
this sounds like a good path forward.
And so then, boom, that’s what got us into cannabis.
And that was kind of the
small journey into the cannabis ecosystem.
And then we’ve been doing a
bunch of weird stuff since then.
So before we talk about the cannabis and the weird stuff,
can you tell me a little bit about what is it
like being cannabis positive in a very federal environment?
You mean like when I was working at NASA? Yeah.
I didn’t smoke any weed when I worked at NASA.
Yeah, I was pretty low key because they can do
drug testing and stuff like that, and you also don’t
want to be caught with your pants down.
So I would say me and my kind
of engineering friends while we’re there, kind of
took a sabbatical from cannabis during that time.
Sure. You clearly had experimented with it
prior to your experience with NASA.
So leaving, because I was kind of trying to
wrap my mind around how does a systems engineer
at NASA get in the cannabis space?
Yeah, I mean, it was like kind of those steps, right?
It was like moving from NASA to doing robots
for small industry and then small industry to big
industry in cannabis is a bunch of kind of
non sequiturs to get to where we are.
And you said as soon as we kicked off
that there’s not necessarily one true standard entrepreneurial journey,
if you will, because my background is very media
heavy and very marketing focused and consumer experience and
found my way into the cannabis industry, bringing all
of those skills together.
And again, those steps don’t necessarily make sense looking at
them individually one by one, but it’s really easy to
kind of see how we got here when you look
at it in the rear view mirror.
And so I’m fascinated, when you looked at the cannabis
space, did you have an idea of where you thought
we needed help in terms of automation, or was that
a journey in a process in and of itself?
Yeah, that was also a bit of a
journey because I didn’t actually know anything about
the cannabis industry when I first started.
I mean, I knew I liked weed.
That was kind of where it began, right.
And when we got into the industry, we
kind of had to experiment quite a bit
to understand really where the pain points were.
And a big part of that was helping set
up a co packing facility in Oakland and actually
running that and participating in that process of running
a plant touching facility that would co pack with
some bay area clients and also act as like
R and D for this highly controlled substance.
And that process is really what taught me
and our team exactly what’s needed in the
space because we started building for cannabis manufacturers,
and then we were kind of participating in
the knowledge gathering of this cannabis manufacturer.
And so we kind of became
the customer to know the customer.
And then that’s where all these
problems started becoming very apparent.
Like, when you’re actually in the operations and you’re in the
day to day, you’re like, oh, wow, this is crap.
Wow, that doesn’t make any sense.
Is there any solution for this? No. Okay.
Let me talk to my customers
or other people in the industry. Do they know? No. Okay.
Well, there’s like, no answers to this.
Very surprising, because this industry is huge, and it’s getting
bigger and bigger, but there’s like, these huge gaps, and
that really served as, like, a good launching point for
our current products that we launched now and the product
roadmap that we have moving forward.
That’s amazing because I think of the cultivator specifically
and the processors and manufacturers, there’s a lot of
opportunity for automation when you look at it on
the surface and having really kind of my origin
of my career being manufacturing, I’ve seen incredible equipment
automate some of the most mundane tasks.
And one of the things that I really love
the most doing research for this episode was on
your LinkedIn page, you wrote, I want a world
where all repetitive labor tasks are done autonomously.
Then people can find or can utilize their
efforts on helping others and being creative.
And I thought that was really powerful because there’s
an argument so often, well, if you just automate
all of this stuff, what about my labor?
What about my staff?
I don’t want them to go anywhere.
So I get what you’re saying, but what do
you say to the argument of, well, some of
this equipment could automate thirty, forty jobs?
That LinkedIn post is kind of like
an overarching ethos of mine, right.
But when it comes to practicality of the automation,
especially in the cannabis industry, and how it’s kind
of hyper fragmented in these different states, if you
talk actually with these manufacturers, they’re not firing their
people when they buy equipment.
They’re just actually using them
for higher value add tasks.
Because really the problem that these people are
having is not that they want to automate
jobs and then fire all their staff. No.
It’s that they can’t even find
enough people to do the jobs.
That’s the big problem.
It’s not having the workforce of the labor
because people don’t want to do these jobs.
Extremely hard to hire.
I mean, I even ran into that issue
myself with the co packing facility up north.
It was very hard to hire for some of these kind
of simple tasks because people don’t want to do it.
There’s a very few amount of people that
want to sit down and pack prerolls all
day or pack concentrate jars all day.
It’s extremely tedious.
It’s super boring.
And when you do find them.
You actually can’t have them do that all day.
You have to vary the tasks throughout the
day because otherwise they get super slow.
They get really grumpy because those jobs suck.
People will do them because they need to, but
it’s the responsibility of the employer to make it
not a nightmare for the employees to do it.
And as you know, the industry in the United
States is moving more towards a knowledge worker basis.
I think it makes a lot of sense to automate
those jobs that the manufacturers are having difficulty filling.
It’s not that they want to fire a bunch of people.
They can’t even hire the people they need.
So that’s kind of where that
comes from in a practical sense.
I appreciate that argument very much because the more and
more I talk to cultivators, you’re right, they need fifty
trimmers, but there’s only twenty five that are hireable, and their
capacity is now limited to man hours.
Where to your point, it’s, well, maybe those twenty five
trimmers that they do have could be out generating
revenue rather than sitting at a desk trimming weed.
I guess that when you put it that way.
That seems to make a lot of sense on paper.
Another point that you made
is just that repetitive task. Right?
The boredom sets in.
Agitation can kind of set in.
And when I first started my career, I worked at
a medical manufacturing facility for diagnostic kits and eight hours
putting pipettes into a kit or putting cotton swabs into
a kit or filling vials, and it’s just it was
the same thing all day, day in and day out.
And eventually there was a really big shift to kind
of cross train and get people, and it made the
nights go by so much faster when you’re learning something
new and you’re applying yourself in different ways.
So I like just that example there because even in the
retail side, you could be cutting flyers or labeling, and it
just becomes so tedious that you kind of have to shake
it up in order to get the maximum output because there’s
no point in labeling when you’re just doing one at a
time versus when you’re kind of going at it. Right.
And you’ve got a flow going.
So that makes a lot of sense, and the
more that I think are there’s so many applications.
So I know you have a machine right now
to help with infused blunts and prerolls, correct?
Yeah, that’s called our Jiko robot.
Okay, so tell me a little bit about that.
Yeah, so that’s an idea that we got
from participating in that co packing facility directly.
A customer came to us, said, hey, we want to
do some infused payrolls, kind of in the fuzzy style,
and this is back in 2020, and when infused prerolls
in California were kind of just becoming a little bit
trendy, they were still very small part of the market,
and they asked us to do this job.
They gave us all this kief.
They gave us all this distillate.
They gave us stuff to make the prerolls.
We made the prerolls. It’s easy.
Then when we did the infusion
part, we were painting them.
We followed these SOPs that they gave us
but it ended up being extremely messy, both
in interaction with the customer because we ended
up using too much kief and running out.
And then the distillate was super messy and
kind of literally all over the place and
it just wasn’t a good process.
And, I mean, we did try to do a very
good job of it, but the spillage rates and all
that kind of methodology just didn’t really make sense.
And so since that labor was so high and that
spillage was so high, I kind of went back on
the robotic side and said, let’s just make a method
of infusing that is not just kind of cosmetic.
It looks cool, but actually
is functionally a better product.
And in a manufacturing kind of
gross margin sense is less spillage.
So you save on your material input costs.
And in some of these markets, it’s extremely expensive
and less labor, which in every market is expensive.
And that’s another thing that people
just don’t want to do, right?
People don’t want to sit there and paint
prerolls with distillate and then roll them in
kief. Yeah, it’s not a great thing.
It’s not a great job.
And so that’s when we made the Jiko and
basically just injects prerolls and blunts with concentrate, making
a column of concentrate down the center and turns
it from just like a regular preroll and kind
of into like a little dirty dab rig where you
have this cherry on the end vaporizing all this
concentrate, kind of smooths out the smoke.
You get that full terpene profile when you do
things like live raws and injections, and then you
can start mixing and matching and making designer joints,
which is not something you can do these days.
Can you do more solid type concentrates as well
as the distillates and batters are going to be
a little bit more runny, whereas the sugars and
the rocks and sauce are going to have a
little bit more of those solid factors to them.
Does that machine allow for both or does it
have to be more kind of the liquid side?
So it has to be able to become a liquid.
What happens after it’s a liquid kind
of changes depending on what it is.
So if you’re using a distillate after you
inject it, it’s still going to be basically
a liquid, just like a hard liquid.
However, if you’re using a batter or maybe
like a non pen stable rosin, after you
inject it, it turns into like a crystal.
So you can do these injections and when it cools
down, it cools down into like a crystalline structure.
And that’s what is really bad.
If you put it in a vape
cart because then it can’t burn.
But if you put it inside of a joint, it’s perfect.
It’s kind of like you’re getting that little dab.
So, yeah, I mean, it has to melt down.
You can’t, like, put in just kief, right?
You can’t inject kief because that’s like
a solid granular type of thing.
But we’ve seen people do like, hash rosin where that
is kind of this oily, mushy sort of dough, and
then you melt it down so it becomes runny.
And then you can inject it
into the joints or the blunts.
And then when it cools down, it goes back into
that same form that kind of like gooey dough form.
And that will dose based off of weight, I assume.
So doses by viscosity and time.
So we’re basically doing like a time based
dosage because the range of materials is so
large, kind of this constant pressure pushing, it
decreases the chance for you to accidentally create
cavitation in the system by pulling a vacuum.
And if you pull a vacuum, sometimes your batters or
your shatters or your sugars that you’ve melted down.
So we do sugars and stuff. You just have to melt it down
so there’s no more crystals left.
But if you do that and then you pull a
vacuum on it, it can sometimes actually create bubbles.
It actually causes it to decarboxylate.
And so this way we actually just provide a
constant pressure and just push it through the system.
That’s very cool.
So when you are doing this and
you’re working in this facility and you’re
seeing the opportunities, was there any regulatory
issues that come up when you’re manufacturing
equipment to manufacture these schedule 1 drugs?
Well, I mean, we don’t have any of the
schedule 1 drugs in our robotics facility because we’re
not licensed and that’s I don’t really want to
get rated or something like that.
We just have hemp and like Delta-8,
which is legal, and hemp is super legal.
So we have that documentation on staff ready to go.
But on the plant touching side, we would
deploy our machines to that co packing facility
to really run a real life scenario.
Because infusing hemp with Delta-8 is
very different than infusing THC joints with
like a rosin or like, a batter
because that material consistency is different.
The way it affects and response
to heat is super different.
It’s just just like so different.
So when we were doing kind of the final phase of
testing that last six months, it was in the field.
So I know, like in Maine, for example, the regulators
cannot seem to figure out once you infuse a
preroll, do you measure it as a flower product?
Do you measure it as a concentrate product?
So I was curious how that is working
in some of the markets that you’ve seen,
because obviously it becomes a manufactured product.
But I’m just trying to forward think here because
Maine doesn’t have this yet because they don’t know
how to tax it or how to regulate it.
So have you heard about that in other markets
where you haven’t been able to infuse products?
And do you have an idea of kind of why?
There’s some places where the infusion
of products is highly regulated or
segmentated from different operators.
So I know in Oklahoma, like a farm can’t
infuse, you need specifically like a processing license.
And then when it comes to how you’re going
to quantify the joint in California and in Michigan,
they quantify all of them as infused, as joints.
They’re just joints with more THC
or whatever inside of them.
And I know that right now, on the possible ballot
or a ballot like decision tree on how to tax
things in New York, they’re actually trying to connect the
taxes to the THC percentage, which I think would be
insane and make no sense whatsoever in terms of regulations
of infused products and just things in general.
They’re kind of all over the place.
And it’s honestly extremely confusing where they
even get these ideas from.
I’m confused just thinking about that.
How do you tax on the percent?
Like, would alcohol be taxed on the percentage? Right.
No, because then effectively you
deincentivize a variability of products, right?
And it’d be very different because everyone in
every state is like chasing THC percentage.
Like, can we make a preroll that’s 50% THC?
It’s like, yeah, you could.
I’m not sure if it would be good, but you could, right?
And people are kind of buying off that
notion because everyone is still getting educated on
the market on what matters in a preroll
or what matters in a cannabis product.
And yes, if they did that, that
would kind of fuck it up.
I think it wouldn’t make any sense.
We have Budz Emporium our adult
use store here in Maine.
We have a kief infused preroll that is
37 and a half percent, and that’s the
highest product we have thus far anyway.
But again, looking at when these types of
products come to market, I think that they’re
just going to be a huge opportunity here.
Speaking of huge opportunity, one I would like
to ask is this machine and this equipment,
is this something that’s readily available for cultivators
and processors to buy right now, or is
this within your facility right now?
The Jiko unit?
Oh, no, it’s ready to buy all over the country.
So we’ve sold ones everywhere.
We sold a few in Canada.
We sold to Michigan,
Washington, Oregon, Oklahoma, Massachusetts.
Now we’re basically focusing on a lot of
those emerging markets, like New York, Ohio, these
kind of places that are starting to come
online and getting their feet wet.
And they want to start with automated systems because
they kind of see what everyone else started with
when they had an army of people and they’re
like, yeah, I don’t really want to do that.
Let’s take some lessons, learn from the other states.
Yeah, like I said, I can’t wait until we have it here.
So we’ll have to get one of your
units to Maine at some point, I hope.
My last question for you.
You saw the opportunity in the
cannabis space for this unit.
I’m curious, would your peripheral kind
of seen some other areas?
Because I think of trimming
right? And just preroll packing.
There’s already equipment there, but there’s not,
at least to my knowledge, nothing like
true scale full automation yet.
But that’s just kind of what my
simple mind sees as low hanging fruit.
Do you have any kind of other thoughts of just
ways that this industry can automate and become more efficient?
Yeah, I mean, one thing that we built and just
launched recently is a kind of vape filling machine, which
isn’t special so much as there are other machines around.
What I think we have taken the approach as is
to kind of build a platform that was from the
ground up specifically made for cannabis and very different from
what other people are kind of doing where they find
something from another industry and they kind of jerry rigged it
to make it work with cannabis stuff.
And so when you start with the cannabis plan
in mind and that sort of material handling issue,
you then can very easily kind of mix and
match that design to do other things.
Like that vape cartridge filling machine will
also be able to do gummies.
And if it’s doing gummies, it will also
be able to do maybe drinkables as well.
And so we’re kind of going through this experimentation
process of where have the current technologies that have
been applied to the space fall short.
And that’s kind of where we see it
in like vape cartridge, gummies, edibles situation.
And I think that’s where we’re going to be
focusing a lot of our effort on next. It’s amazing.
I can’t wait to continue to follow your journey
and the products that you all have coming out.
So for those that are interested right now in getting in
touch with you or getting some of your equipment or following
you, what’s the best way to stay in touch?
I think the best way to stay in touch is
follow me on LinkedIn and you can hit me up
on LinkedIn or just, I guess send me a message.
nohtal@sorting roboticscom. That’s my email.
I check it every day.
So if you want to reach out, just drop me a line.
Well, thank you so much.
We’re so grateful that you made the time
to join us today on WeedBudz Radio.
Thank you for having me.
And of course, we’re so grateful to all of you
for joining us on today’s episode of WeedBudz Radio.
Be sure to head over to
weedbudzradio.com check out those show notes.
We’ll have links to all the
websites you can connect further.
And of course we are excited to
see you in the next episode. So stay tuned.
Hello Budz! Welcome to another episode of Weed Budz Radio. I am your host, Ry Russell, and today I am joined by Tarris Batiste, Author of “Don’t Let it Smoke You”. As a community of advocates, we often focus on the benefits of Cannabis and removing the negative stigma associated with the industry. Today we discuss the importance of responsible use and the potential hazards of not educating yourself. Tarris shares his personal journey and how he found balance, respect, and appreciation for the plant.
Guest – Tarris Batiste – Author
Purchase Book: Don’t Let it Smoke You
Host: Ry Russell
WeedBudz RadioSupport the show
Welcome back to another episode of WeedBudz Radio.
Of course, I’m still your host
And today I want to talk
a little differently about cannabis.
Not negatively, not positively, just differently, because
I would consider myself an advocate.
I would consider most of you
tuning into this show an advocate.
And I think we sometimes get lost in our advocacy.
I think we like to downplay some of
the negative components that can come with cannabis.
And we love to cheer and celebrate all of
the amazing things that cannabis does for people’s lives.
But there’s a spectrum, just like there is with
everything, and there’s this wide gap in the middle.
And I think it’s unfair for us advocates
to look past some of the negative things
that can happen with cannabis in people’s lives.
And I think it’s obviously ignorant for those that
just see the negatives to not educate themselves and
inform themselves on some of the positives.
So in my journeys of looking for people that might be
able to speak on both sides of this, I was super
blessed to get connected with Tarris Batiste on LinkedIn, and he
is the author of Don’t Let It Smoke You.
And I want him today to share his journey
and what his personal opinions are about cannabis, how
it can be an effective use for athletes and
for individuals all over the world, but how it
can also kind of take control negatively.
And so, joining us today, Tarris, thank you so much.
Yeah, for sure.
Thank you for having me on.
I’m happy to be here, happy to chat about with you.
I love your passion.
I love your passion around cannabis and your
understanding around the pros and the cons.
Happy to be here and happy to get in to talk to you.
Well, we connected very quick.
I remember you sent me a message and
I said, I want to talk to you.
If you’re not going to give me twenty minutes of
cannabis is the best thing in the world, I want
to have a real conversation, and it’s real.
And so I would love for you to share
with the audience a little bit about your journey.
How did you and I connect, kind
of where did you come from?
And then let’s talk about the book.
Yeah, so how me and you connected was via LinkedIn.
Just doing my outreach about the book.
The book came out a year ago.
I was been doing tons of outreach. Right?
Trying to market, trying to get it to as
many hands that makes sense, that’s aligned with it.
So that’s how we connected kind of before then.
A little bit of background.
I’m from Georgia, from a small
town in Georgia called Cartersville.
I live in Seattle now. That’s my new home.
It’s been in my home for like, three years.
Learning about the cannabis industry, where
it’s going all different topical,
CBD, CBDA, CBDG.
Actually, I love that shit, man. I’m going to be honest.
But I learned about that right now.
But also what got us on the
call is I wanted to do both.
I wanted to be able to use and not let it control me.
And you sound like you kind of had the same thing.
Had the same similarities going on.
Not personally, but as you kind of grew up with it.
And that’s what got us on the call, man.
I’m happy to talk to it, for sure.
So when did cannabis first start
playing a role in your life?
Yeah, so like, everyone I don’t want to
say everyone, but I started off smoking. Right?
Back then we didn’t have the cool CBD
bongs and all that stuff like that. Right?
I started off smoking and I
started off around 8th grade.
Ry, but it didn’t continuously happen until, I would
say, junior year in high school is when I
really started to learn how to roll up by
myself, didn’t need my friends, and started to kind
of get into that act over and over again. Interesting.
And was it something that you were using because
obviously you were an athlete, so was it something
that you are using for pain management or were
you using it because it was cool?
You know, neither at that
time, to be completely honest.
I was using it because I enjoyed
it and the shit was fun.
It got us around hot chicks in high school.
It got us around each other and we kind of all
stood around and kind of stayed to this little bubble.
So I enjoyed that. Didn’t notice.
It was going to be a cool thing.
Although it kind of was kind of edgy
and kind of arcane, little mysterious when we
were younger, but yeah, for sure.
How about college?
Obviously as an athlete, you’ve got
to be drug tested, right?
So how do you use and consume in college?
So that’s when I caught onto the pain management part. Right?
I played safety in college.
I understood after using so much, you start
to get to certain cadence for you, right?
You start to understand when you
use in the mornings and nights.
So that’s why I understood
pain management around practices.
Two a days, three a days.
I actually went to rehab my sophomore
going in my junior year in college. Ry, I’m serious.
I was using all the time,
and everybody on the team knew.
I didn’t hide it.
My eyes were always red.
I would always smell it on my fingertips. Right?
And the coach tried to look out for me around
my junior year in college, I tried to figure out
that pain management, and I tried to figure out myself,
and I was just going through it.
And that’s what got me to rehab and that’s
what got me to write the book, for sure.
Thank you so much for sharing that.
I think it’s similar to a lot of stories out there.
I think a lot of people can kind of get into
a system in their mind that it’s fun, it’s healthy, look
all around, look at all the great things it does, and
then we forget that it can smoke us, too. Absolutely.
Tell me about an average day.
So you’re in college, you’re working out in
the morning, you’re practicing two or three times
a day, you’ve got games, you’ve got school.
I mean, how much are you smoking?
Yeah, and I was smoking blunts, too.
I’ll get to your question, but I actually
listened to a guy that you were speaking
with on your radio, John Friess.
He was talking about tobacco and the
chemicals and what it does to you.
So that’s why I mentioned I was smoking a bunch, too.
But to get to your question, so an
average day in college will look like this.
I worked out in the mornings, like
all athletes at any school, right?
But I would smoke before I go workout, right?
So that’s the first thing.
If the workout was 6:00 AM, I
would wake up at 5:00 AM.
If the workout was at 9:00, I would wake up at 7:00.
So I would alter my day around that.
But in the short, I would smoke really much after
everything I did, after I ate, before I ate, it
kind of became like my go to thing.
I would say like five, six times a
day, at least two blunts a day.
Yeah, for sure. And that’s a lot.
So you were scheduling around your smoking sessions?
And as I got older, I started to use it as a reward.
Ry, you know what I mean? Okay.
I got my homework done, practice pretty good, everybody’s
cool, me and my girlfriend on a good page.
Okay, let’s smoke. You know what I mean?
So I started to do that too, for sure. Yeah.
That’s powerful because, I don’t know, I wouldn’t say all
of us, but I would assume just about all of
us has done that, has used anything, whether it’s candy
or sugar or soda or cannabis, that we reward ourselves.
We reward ourselves for that shitty task
list that’s going to take all day.
And we don’t want to do it, but we’re going to do it.
Because as soon as it’s done,
we’re going to get this sweet release.
You already know.
Yeah, I totally get it.
But I’m curious because obviously I shared with
you for me what some of the consequences
were of not intentionally and deliberately understanding what
I’m consuming and how I’m consuming and just
allowing it to smoke me as well.
But I’m curious what some
of those consequences were for you?
Ask that question in a simpler way, will you?
What were some of the
negative ramifications of smoking weed?
Yes. Number one, my family started
to notice me distancing myself.
Thanksgiving, family functions, if I wasn’t high, probably
not coming. Number two in my relationship life.
Whether I was hanging out with friends, going to a bar,
or whether I was going out to eat with my girlfriend
in college at that time, I had to before and they
were like, damn, we got to wait on you.
The women were like, what are you doing?
We don’t smoke. Why are you taking?
And it started to get in the way and
they started to mention that to me and I
started to look outside myself and say, damn.
So those were a couple two.
That really stuck out to me.
And after that, I would say
the last thing really, my money.
At that time, all my money was going to it. Right?
I think that happens often around the world, but when
you’re young, all my money was going to it.
And I wouldn’t even buy in big batches either, Ry.
I was buying small grams each
day, just wasting my money.
So those are three points that really stood out to
me and I had to make a change really quick. For sure.
As a retailer of an adult use
establishment in Maine, I’m not conflicted.
People ask me all of the time if I’m conflicted.
I am not conflicted.
I have no problem investing in my community.
And I’ve had customers where I’ve said, hey, maybe you
should see if this can last you the weekend.
Not that I don’t want to see you.
Come see me tomorrow.
We’ll have a cup of coffee.
I love the social aspect of my
job, but I’m also very serious.
I stupid love my community and I
am going to look out for them.
And I don’t like the other drugs in my community.
I don’t like people using anything unsafely.
We talked about it before.
If it was up to me to rewrite the law,
it’d be twenty five before you could smoke or drink.
Like, it wouldn’t even be.
It’d be booze, too, I think.
Until your brain is formed.
I really don’t want to see a lot
of chemicals in it unless it’s needed.
I’ve never been conflicted and as I mentioned, I’ve had
people I say, just try to get through the weekend
and then we’ll hook it up again on Monday.
Well, jeez Ry, why are you cutting me off?
I said, I’m never going to cut you off.
That’s not what I’m doing. Yeah.
As your friend, I’m just telling you what I know.
Price wise, this is getting expensive.
And of course I need to feed my family
and feed my employees family, but again, not at
the expense of your wellbeing, because you come to
me and I sell you joy, for sure.
That makes me happy every day,
but I want total happiness.
I don’t want you to go home and
be like, well, now I can’t buy coffee
tomorrow because I just paid Ry at Budz Emporium.
I just don’t like that. Right. Well said, too.
And I think that’s where we kind of connected.
That’s a humanitative part of you.
And that’s why I’m happy that we
got guys like you in those shoes. For sure.
I appreciate that.
For those listening that maybe are relating
really strongly right now, what do you
have for some words of encouragement?
And how did you pull yourself out of that
system, out of that funk that you are in? Yup.
So for the words of encouragement,
I would say it’s okay to drift.
I’m going to get to that.
It’s okay to drift.
And then how I pulled myself out of it.
So I talk about it in the book, literally step
by step, and don’t let it smoke you, but I’ll
give it to you in a little bullet point fashion.
So first, I acknowledged my issue.
I was blown enough to say, hey, I do this.
I went to rehab for it in college.
The coaches know, although I didn’t pass rehab.
I just gave it up, by the way.
But my mom knows, everybody knows.
So that’s the first thing. Acknowledge it. Wear it with pride.
Who cares? Especially now.
That’s the first thing.
Just stand in it.
It helps you a lot.
Second, I would say start to understand your
internal and external goals, who you’re hanging around,
why you use, why you use, right? Why you use?
Is it used because you’re bored playing a video game?
Is it because you’re with this group of people?
Or is it because you like to use it
to go to the studio and make music?
It’s different for everyone, right?
So those are the two points I would say
that’s what helped me cut back.
Just being very open to it and
really just not being dependent around it.
I don’t like to say addiction, I don’t like
to say habits, just not being dependent to it.
So that’s kind of my couple of little nuggets there.
I hope that helps somebody, for sure.
You sound like you want to unpack some stuff. Go ahead.
So I guess my first question is, do you use now? Do you use today?
Incredible. So what was mentally the biggest?
Because I think when we talked,
for me, it was just intention.
It was Mark, if I’m going to do something, I’m
writing it down, then I’m consuming it and I’m just
going to be aware because it was so easy. Right?
Especially if you own a store. Right?
It’s so easy to find pre rolls.
No, it’d be like being extremely
obese and running a buffet. Right?
Like you’ve got to be intentional
about what it is that you’re doing.
And for me, I have employees to support
and families to support and a community to
love and a business to thrive.
I’ve got to be very aware of what I’m doing.
That’s a journey, right?
Kind of wellness all in general is a journey.
I was curious if you were able to kind of
come out of your battle and your struggle and now
say, wow, that relationship with cannabis is very different.
Now, you don’t necessarily get over it.
You just learn how to live and deal with it.
You’re not going to say, you know what, I’m done with
cannabis, because it does help you in some point, right?
Depending on who you are, it helps
you in some way recreational or medically.
Maybe you don’t know yourself, too.
I truly believe in that.
But you asked me, you said, do I still use today? I do.
I know when it’s an asset to me.
I like to say the power of when, the power of
when they use for you and for me is different.
In mornings, nights, et cetera, and then how
you use micro dosing, et cetera, it’s different.
So I know how to use for myself, I don’t know how
to use with a group of my friends, but for myself.
So it’s different.
And that’s what I kind of hang my head on, for sure.
It is a journey, and I think often consumers, I
see it here, they come in and they ask a
question and they want that answer, and they get frustrated
with my answer, it’s a journey and I’m willing
to go on it with you.
And some of them are just like, well, no, I want to
know how many milligrams and what’s going to be the bet?
And I don’t have that answer.
I don’t know.
And frankly, if anybody does know that
answer, I’d be a little cautious.
Yeah, I’m glad you said that, Ry.
It’s growing with us hand in hand. Literally.
More cannabinoids are coming out by the day as we grow.
It’s growing with people hand in hand.
So I think we’re all kind of in a journey
and experiment and trying to figure out what works best.
For all we know, there’s a compound in
this plant that’s more psychoactive than THC.
It’s the universe inside this plant, and
we’re just starting to explore it. Absolutely.
So I don’t want nobody to think that I don’t use.
I just understand how to use, use healthy and
use how I want to use, for sure.
And for those listening at home that might want
to get some tips on how to use healthier
or may just kind of need that empathetic story
of wow, somebody else gets it.
Like, there is a low point to this.
When done incorrectly, how do
they stay connected with you?
How do they find the book?
Yes, you can find the book on Amazon.
Just type in Don’t Let It Smoke You
and type in Tarris Batiste.
You can go to cleverchief.org to get the book there too.
It gives you a little bit more information
about what I have coming up, et cetera.
If you want to kind of go back
and forth, play a little verbal tennis, right,
go to email@example.com. I’ll respond faster there.
But that’s how we can kind of stay connected.
Follow me on Instagram.
I’ll follow back.
I’m really here to connect. I’m really here to learn.
I’m open to it.
But I’m also here to kind of help nudge
and say, hey, just do what you do.
Just don’t let this stuff control you. For sure.
Well, thank you so much for joining us today.
It really means a lot to me. Thank you.
Thank you for your time.
Ry, hopefully we can get some books in Maine
with you, so we get that going for sure.
And I want to know how it goes in
Maine in some ways that you kind of utilize
Don’t Let it Smoke You
So that’d be cool to know.
Absolutely. We’re excited to have the books here on the
shelf here at Budz Emporium in Medway, Maine.
Thank you, Tarris, for allowing me
to put that plug in there.
So, of course, as all of you know, all
of the links to connect with Tarris and grab
the book, Don’t Let It Smoke You
Those will be right on our show notes.
So weedbudzradio.com and then in those
show notes, we’ll have those links.
You can go purchase the book.
And of course, we are grateful for you joining
us for another episode of WeedBudz Radio.
And we’ll see you in the next one.
Last night some of the Budz from Budz Emporium went to Bangor to take part in the town hall discussion sponsored by the Office of Cannabis Policy. Many topics were discussed and the budz brought up some urgent matters. For example, a few weeks back customers and patients were stopped by boarder patrol checkpoint between the exits on i95 Howland and Lincoln. Boarder Patrol was reminding individuals that cannabis is still federally illegal and therefore subject to confiscation. Although the individuals were let go freely their product and medicine was still taken. This is a concern for businesses within the 100 mile radius that boarder patrol covers around international lines. For a small business like Budz Emporium, should boarder patrol seize a car load of product or seize the store either scenario is something that would cripple a small family business like ours. Ultimately, the conclusion was that federal authority wins and should they decide to pull a vehicle over legally transporting cannabis the federal authorities will confiscate the product. Another team member brought up the concerns in regards to product testing and the lack thereof in the medical market. The office of cannabis policy also is concerned about this and needs the legislature to move on the subject. They also mentioned the presence of organized crime that is a significant concern within the medical market. All in all there was good conversation between stakeholders and the office of cannabis policy. I think one of the key takeaways for stakeholders is that OCP looks at themselves as compliance not law enforcement and those are two different roles with two different responsibilities. It is important to use our resources within the office to continue to move the industry forward and keep the public healths interests as our primary responsibility. Be sure to check back for more Maine Cannabis Policy Updates.
On Friday August 26th, 2022 from 10am until 7pm Budz Emporium Recreational Dispensary in Medway, Maine will be holding their first ever in-store event. Joining Budz Emporium for this event will be the brands Leune, who provides delicious terpene infused pre-rolls and vaporizer products along with CLDZ, making an incredible juice shot with rapid results, and lastly we are proud to have our partners at Nova Farms joining us for this event. We are excited to see everyone and have some swag to give out from your favorite Budz along with our partners. We have some incredible deals to share with you as well. All Leune products will be up to 25% off for this one day only. CLDZ Juice shots will also be more than 25% off and will be only $5 a juice shot for this special day. Lastly, with the help from our friends at Nova, you may remember our partnership created the first recreational $99 Ounce, and for this one day only we will beat that and you can pick up an ounce of Nova Farms Grease Monkey for only $85 an ounce. You read that right! Mark your calendars for Friday August 26th, 2022 at Budz Emporium. Offers are while supplies last so be sure to get here early.
Hello Budz! I’m excited to have a returning guest; Gary Cohen, CEO of Cova Software. As a business owner, I have met with and researched several software platforms for my own business as we opened an adult use dispensary this year. Cova software was the perfect solution for us and I invite you to join us to hear from Gary himself. From first-class service to high-performance software, Gary and his team are continuously evolving to support retailers in providing a best-in-class customer experience and staying ahead of regulations and laws within the Cannabis industry.
Gary Cohen – CEO
Host: Ry Russell
WeedBudz RadioSupport the show
Welcome back for another incredible
episode of WeedBuzz Radio.
And of course, I’m your host, Ry.
And joining me today is a guest that we’ve
had on before and one that I’m really excited
to to share with you all today.
Because as you know, we have been on
a journey in our own cannabis retail world
of Budz Emporium here in Medway, Maine.
And when you’re opening a retail store, there’s
a lot you need to think about.
And just so much going on, so much chaos.
And one of the biggest things that you need to figure out
is what are you going to use for your POS system?
And we have spoken about different companies.
We’ve spoken to Gary before, and we’ve
learned a little bit about Cova.
And so when we were getting open, we called Gary,
and Gary introduced us to his team at Cova Software.
And they took incredible care of us.
They taught us how to use this
entire system in a very tight timeline.
We were kind of under the gun.
We were just moving slow and then moved fast.
And Gary’s team was there the entire step of the way.
Even when we were delayed, they were still there
and they were still ready to help us.
And we get the system in, and it’s perfect.
And we have ATMs in, and that’s helping
us with our business and our tourists .
And then the ATMs go away
because their banks say no more.
We saw where it’s located.
So we got a debit card system, and the fees are insane.
And when you’re already paying incredible
taxes, you cannot afford incredible fees.
So what do I do in a panic, I think?
Well, who has solutions to these things?
Well, of course, our next guest, Gary
Cohen, CEO of Cova Software, always has
solutions to these types of things.
So, Gary, welcome back to WeedBudz. Thanks, Ry.
It’s great to be here.
It’s incredible to think that our journey started prior
to the pandemic and you’re one of
our first episodes of our rebranded WeedBudz radio show.
We met at MJ Bizcon, and we stayed in
touch ever since we’ve seen you in Portland, Maine.
We purchase and we invest in your
product, and we love it so much.
And it’s just been a wild ride,
and it hasn’t been that long.
Well, in marijuana years, 3 years is
like 30 in any other industry.
So time flies fast, especially in a
super high growth space like we’re in.
Speaking of super high growth, I remember a story that
you shared with us at Bizcon about your
first trade show, if you will, and kind
of where your market share was and how it grew.
And as far as I know, Cova is now
the number 1 POS software in North America.
I mean, such a lion share of the US.
And the Canadian market.
Yeah, we are.
Well, I think that your experience with us and
just so that the people listening know I love
Ry and I want to support him, but we
didn’t do anything special or different for him.
So when he reached out and said, hey, I need
to get going with something for my dispensary that I’m
finally going to get to open, I hate to say
it, but you didn’t get any special treatment.
You got like, what everyone gets so everybody
can get the Ry Russell treatment from Cova.
That Ry Russell treatment is a top shelf experience.
But I think that’s our secret sauce.
So I think what we did really astutely or well at
the very beginning was we were new to the industry.
Everyone was dealing.
For the most part, everyone is new to the industry.
When I think about everyone opening a dispensary, we’ve
got a lot of people who have no retail
background almost, I’d say 90% have no cannabis background.
And then you add that full compliance element into
it, where you got to do it right and
get connected up and report properly, do the taxes
properly and all that stuff, and it’s complicated.
And we set a mission to simplify that
complexity and hold your hand during the process.
So not just teach you how to use the software, but
try to educate you on, here’s what you’re getting into.
Here are the pitfalls, here’s how you can navigate through
those things, and if we could be that value added
service, not just the software, but a partner to help
you through this, that was our mission.
And when people ask, how did Cova
go on such a fast trajectory?
Because we were of the bigger POS companies, we’re the last
ones in, but we went to the top pretty fast.
And it was those 2 things, compliance and education.
There’s our secret sauce and that’s free for everybody.
But the execution is really where it lies.
Well, and I think the execution side really
comes about because of our DNA.
We spun out of a big, huge POS company.
So the know how I guess one of my
proudest moments is we got this client in Canada
that was an existing chain that had 20 dispensaries
in Ontario and didn’t go with Cova originally.
Decided they wanted to go with us,
but could we launch all 20 of their
stores by the end of the month?
So we’ll sign the thing, but in the next
25 days, can we cut over 20 stores?
And we did 20 stores perfectly.
Well, what’s behind all that is, I hate
to say it, it’s the non sexy.
Do you have processes?
Do you have people trained internally who know how to
do this stuff in scale, do it at an enterprise
level as fast, and all the parts necessary have been
figured out and everyone can get on the same page.
So that’s how you execute through experience,
document what works, what doesn’t work.
Cova has been incredibly nimble since
day 1 in self analyzing.
What are we doing now that’s not working
or that’s not the best way, and not
being stuck in, that’s the other good thing.
We’re new. The industry is new.
So instead of saying, well, that’s how we’ve
always done it, there is no always.
So the way we’re doing it isn’t
that good or it’s not that effective.
Change it, modify it, test it, does it work better?
There’s the story of execution.
Well, when I think about
that Ry Russell treatment that I got,
I felt like I was just obsessed with, just
everybody just took such good care of you.
Well, you know what’s underneath that?
Not to cut you off, but one of those things that
happened was we started looking at every dispensary or set
of dispensaries or chain of dispensaries as a project.
And I’m not a process guy, but there’s a
whole discipline in the world called project management.
And there’s a proper way to manage a project.
Whether you’re building a house or
remodeling kitchen or building a road
or designing software, it’s a project.
And there’s a way to define what
you’re trying to do, assign people responsibilities,
go through a set of steps.
And when you think about you being obsessed on,
that’s the project, right, your store was a project,
and there’s all kinds of people who got assigned
to your project and they are obsessed on it.
That’s their thing.
And they know what they’re supposed to do
relative to your timeline, store size, way that
you want to operate the store.
So anyhow, I’m giving you all the secret sauce.
But it is, but it’s not as,
it’s not like we’re geniuses.
These are just taking the things that work that
are generally accepted ways of the optimal way to
do business or do a piece of business and
applying it to our industry, which is brand new.
And guess what?
Most of the other players in our
industry, they’re not on that page yet.
They will be someday.
But we kind of came into this
going, well, there’s project management discipline.
How are we going to put that in?
And I’ve always been obsessed with the
consumer because that’s ultimately what my side
of the supply chain is focused on.
However, I was really inspired by the level
of service and care from your team.
And I mean, just to your point, they were
foreshadowing where I was and helping me be prepared
for something that I did not even know that
I needed to be prepared for.
And that is something that we really try to
tailor that experience for our guests as well.
Maybe a 5% of concentrate is stupid.
We don’t know our customers.
This customer only smokes flower.
And that’s what I felt like with your team as they
really got to know me and kind of tailored that experience.
And maybe I didn’t take some
of the generally accepted best practices.
I was like, I don’t want to do it that way.
And your team be like, okay, well, how do you want
to do it and how can we make it fit?
So it’s streamlined within the way you will execute.
So it was just incredible.
And obviously as we got going and we learned
more, it was the right fit for us.
But one of the questions that came up for us
was, you hear about metric and seed to sale tracking
and you’re worried about compliance and all of this stuff,
and there’s so many point of sale systems out there
that it was hard to kind of tell, like, do
I need seed to sale software?
Do I need retail POS software.
Can you help kind of break that down for other
people that might have kind of been on that journey?
Like I was, what’s the difference and
what does a retailer really need?
That’s a great question.
What you just asked has become
a marketing induced complexity in terminology.
So when I started Cova, seed to
sale and traceability were a synonymous concept.
It was when you plant a seed gets big enough, how
are we going to track that seed as it becomes a
plant all the way through the supply chain to when the
chain of custody gets handed over to the end user, the
customer, and it’s a chain of custody thing.
This whole concept of traceability and seed
to sale is because A, states like your
state that went medicinal, it’s a medicine.
So can we implement some of the
process and thinking around tracking medicine?
What happens if a medicine is tainted or bad or we got
to go catch it, get it out of the supply chain, or
get it out of the hands of the person who bought it?
Kind of like tainted Tylenol.
And when you think about a box of Tylenol and
it’s got the lot number, expiration date, it’s got all
kinds of stuff stamped into that bottle that’s so that
if something’s bad we know exactly which batch to go
find, get off the shelves and protect people.
So that’s traceability.
Now the second benefit to traceability is
you’ve got something that’s federally legal.
So from the state perspective, to be able
to say to the federal government, hey, we’re
watching this marijuana seed from when it’s planted all
the way through the supply chain, we’re going
to track it so that it doesn’t divert.
That’s a big concept is diversion so that the
legal cannabis doesn’t divert out of the supply chain,
gets sold out, the back door, stolen, or inbound
diversion, we’re going to get illegal or unlicensed product
or untested product into the supply chain.
So we’re going to put
in this whole traceability system.
And that way if I go into a store and
I go, this product is not licensed, or this product
was never tested, I can trace it all back and
go, I know what’s Kosher and not in the store.
Well, where everything got confusing is when people,
some of my competitors, started saying we sell
seed to sale software because originally seed to
sale was the state traceability systems, which was
either bio tracker, metric, and then for a
brief period, leaf Data Systems was in it,
but those were traceability and traceability receipts of
sale and it was a state implemented system.
But then they switched it over to vertical software.
And instead of calling their product vertically integrated
software, meaning it’s software that can help you
manage and track your grow or your MIP,
your manufacturing operation or your retail.
And you have a vertically integrated business that does
all of those aspects of the supply chain.
And our software is vertically integrated to
connect internally on our side, the software
side with all those pieces.
And they started calling it seed to sale.
And that’s what made everything confusing.
The truth is, there’s grow management software, there’s
manufacturing software where you’re taking raw products and
you’re turning them into some sort of other
product and then there’s retail software.
Now, I’ll say this one thing, it’s very
rare in any industry that someone does all
of the pieces of the supply chain well.
Usually, if you’re a farmer, there’s great agricultural software
to help me understand what goes into my crop and
my product and the mechanics of that, that are tracking
yields, what are we putting in and what are we
getting out and what’s working and what’s not.
That’s grow management
software, manufacturing software,
it’s like whether you’re a coke plant or a
cookie bakery or you’re making razor blades, manufacturing
is a process and you’re measuring and managing the
process and there’s great software for that.
And then lastly, there’s retail software
that’s all about running a store.
It’s very rare that any company does all of that great.
Lastly, in our industry, because of metric or because
of state traceability systems, it doesn’t matter whether you
have a software that can do all three of
those things at every stage of the product’s life,
it has to be reported to the state through
that state traceability system.
So there’s no states where I can bypass that.
And within my software, I can make it
transfer it to my store, and I’m done.
And I can keep everything within my software platform
and it’ll see and talk to each other.
Because the validation step that’s got to happen
in every state is, here’s the plant that
I planted, here’s how big it got.
Now I’ve harvested, I got to tell the
state what I’ve harvested, then I got to
tell the state where is it going?
Even if it’s going to my own store,
I can’t just move it in my software.
I have to go to the state.
The state transfers it to the
next place in the supply chain.
And I think that the misnomer about
one software can do it all.
It doesn’t work that way and the
benefit you get is minimal, if anything.
One last thing, and I know I’m throwing arrows at some
of my competitors but I’m going to throw them anyway.
And that is when I ask people what’s the best advantage you
get out of seed to sale software, as they call it?
The number 1 answer is single sign on.
I just have 1 login password,
I don’t have to remember 3.
Well, in the grand scheme of things, I know that’s
a convenient thing but I don’t know if that justifies
the hundreds or thousands of dollars a month.
But anyhow so my recommendation is always go out,
look at the best in breed for if you
got to grow, there’s amazing growth management.
That is software that is easy
and sophisticated to use as Cova.
Same for manufacturing and then that’s
what we do in the retail.
And similarly on the payment side, there are
many competitors and there are many advertised claims,
if you will, and it gets murky.
Some offer part of a fee and some
of that fee goes the retailer and that
kind of incentivizes them to go there.
Some just have exorbitant fees on the consumer, no fees
on the retailer and then there’s others where there’s fees
on everybody and it just gets so confusing.
And I think we reviewed probably 4, 5
There aren’t too, too many.
But there are a handful of payment
solutions out there because as I mentioned.
Our ATMs just no longer became an option for us and
we had to act quick and we got a system in
and it was working but then it was declining all of
our Canadian customers and for us that’s a big market for
us right here on the Canadian border.
And so that was a surprise and we kind
of got through that and moved through that hurdle.
And then I started seeing the daily fees I was
paying and I was like, man, I’m already paying all
of these other taxes and I’m already paying these fees.
Yes, it’s cheaper than the ATMs for the consumer
but it’s not necessarily a better all around product.
And then talking to Nick and I’m asking some
of your team, there’s got to be a solution.
A day later I get an email there’s Cova pay and
I’m all excited and I met with your team and I
don’t know if I was the first person to reply, but
I’d say as soon as that you’re one of the first.
Yeah, I was right on that email and same thing.
Your entire team is knowledgeable.
They explained it to me, how it’s going to
impact my consumer, which is the number 1.
Number 2 was the fees and number 3
was, can my simpleton brain make it work?
If it matches that criteria, then we’re pretty solid.
And it did.
It was a better product for the consumer,
it’s way more cost effective for us and
the lines of communication are there.
I know that when I provide feedback, it goes up.
It goes all the way up until it
gets to you if it needs to.
But your team is so educated that I’m sure
most of the time it doesn’t even need to.
And so I think within 72 hours, we
had a plan, like an execution plan together
of how we’re going to pull this off.
And so that alone stands out.
But I’d love for you to just kind of give
a brief synopsis, if you will, of what Cova pay
is and what the advantages are for retailers.
Well, I don’t know if this is
a good story or a bad story.
Since we launched.
Which will be 5 years in November.
I’ve literally gotten 3 calls a week.
Every single week from some payment
provider wanting to partner with Cova.
Because when you’re connected to the POS.
It’s the holy grail.
And it’s whether it’s a fully integrated
solution or it’s a standalone solution.
One way or another.
Payment and POS in other industries was like
an inflection in technology and customer experience.
Everything kind of gelled when
payments and POS got married.
So everyone was contacting us.
And honestly, our board and the company we
spun out with is so skittish about risk.
They don’t want anything bad to happen to Cova,
and they don’t want anything bad, and we don’t
want anything bad to happen to our customers.
So as a result, we were incredibly
slow in getting an integrated payment solution.
And we were incredibly slow at even
getting a non integrated payment solution.
And a non integrated payment solution.
Like when you go to a restaurant or Jiffy
Lube or something and they say, it’s going to
be $114, how are you going to pay?
I’m going to pay with a credit card.
You give them your credit card, they type
in $114 in a separate little payment terminal,
and then they swipe your card.
Well, if it’s that kind of experience, if
they have to type in the amount from
the purchase of the purchase, it’s not integrated.
They call it a swivel chair because you’re
doing this system and you do that, you
come back to the system and finish it.
So it took us over 2 years
to get US a vetted payment solution.
That was a swivel chair.
And the reason that we were so slow and
there were other companies in our space that have
been doing payments for years and years, but to
find one that was relatively safe, they had send
certification, which is an element of banking.
Accreditation is very rare.
And you go, well, Gary, how did
you have like hundreds call you?
Well, because they’re not legit for cannabis.
So the US
banking system will not bank the cannabis industry
because Visa and Mastercard are federal banks.
And if it’s federally illegal, they won’t touch it.
So then all these other guys are just masking who
the customer is. I could tell you the funniest.
Like, I’ve got 100 stories of a
guy going, wait, just talk to me
because we figured it out.
We know because of the Spanish Falkland Island
Act of 1435, you can actually run payments
through the Falklands on this international treaty.
That is totally legit.
I’m just looking at them like, that’s the
biggest bunch of bullshit I’ve ever heard.
This is the definition of money laundering. Yes.
That’s all this is.
Then you get the next guy who’s
saying, no, we figured it out.
We convert the payment to crypto.
We process the crypto through London.
They turn it back into cash.
It gets back into your bank
account in 7 to 10 days.
That’s money laundry.
You’ve diverted money into another form to pull it
back into usable currency, and you can’t do it.
So then you ask, Well, Gary, why don’t you just do it?
All your competitors are doing it.
And then dispensaries, guys come to you, Ry
and go, hey, we’ll do your payment processing.
They probably hit you up a couple of times a
week because you’re a bridge.
You’re an new retailer.
And how are we going to do it?
How are you going to get away with it?
Oh, we’ve got it figured out.
They all say the same thing.
Well, we wouldn’t touch it with a 10 foot pole.
And I can tell you, it cost us opportunity, because if
someone else is going to do it, some other POS company
is going to do it, and it’s what we want.
So we were just cautious.
So when we finally found people that, oh, wait,
where I was going was, what’s, the cost?
So what’s the big deal?
Are you going to go to jail?
No, nobody’s going to go to jail
if you use Jim’s credit card processing.
But what’s going to happen is in the
time it takes to clear your funds.
So if your dispensary does 50 transactions a day, and
let’s say half of them are on debit or credit,
and so 25 transactions at an average of $70.
So that comes out to, let’s say it’s couple thousand
dollars a day over the course of a week, that’s
$14,000 that your money is somewhere in processing.
Well, once they find out that you’re dispensary and in
the layers of credit card processing, someone discovers it to
pull the plug, you don’t get the $14,000.
You’ll never see cash on us.
Well, in most dispensaries, like, it would crush
anyone who has budgeted and planned on that
money and the money goes away, then the
next guy that you switch to happens again.
And the lifespan before the plug gets pulled is
usually about 2 and a half to 3 months.
So if 4 times a year you’re losing $14,000
to $15,000, what is $60,000 a year significant?
That’s why we didn’t do it.
Well, let’s go to Cova Pay.
So what Cova Pay
is, it’s debit.
It’s not credit, but we’ve got a provider that is
legally sanctioned to do debit only, long track record.
So we found a partner that it’s safe, like it’s
safe for us, which means it’s safe for our clients.
And we’ve done the work to integrate it.
And the big difference so, you know, when you
think about the customer experience swiping, like entering the
amount swiping versus your total is $114.
We will take debit or cash and they go, debit. Sure.
Give me your card.
Swipe it done.
It’s not that much time.
The difference is in reconciliation.
So at the end of the day, we sold
$1000. $700 of it was cash, $300 was debit.
And in the POS in Cova, as you
process it, you hit cash or debit.
So we know what it should have been.
But then when you pull the tape off of your
credit card or debit card readers, it says $250.
So now we got to find which one
of the sales adds up to the $50.
What if it was a $30 and a $20?
Somehow some manager every night got to figure out
how to reconcile the money in an integrated solution.
The fact that it got swiped, it’s debit, so no one has
to go, which button do I push to try to keep account?
So that’s a long way of saying it’s good from that.
The way you manage your store every day, it’s
even better in your records and reporting because now
at the end of the month, I can pull
a report and it tells me exactly what my
cash sales were, debit sales, if there’s any problems.
All the records are all associated payment type
with what was sold, I think, the most.
Now, here’s one last thing.
Everyone always, how did Cova get so big
and we didn’t have a payment solution?
Well, one of the things in a
market like Maine is you’ve educated
the market to show up with cash.
Or if you don’t have cash, we have an ATM.
So 90% of dispensaries haven’t, have or had an ATM.
The ATMs are actually going away at
a faster and faster rate now.
But you could go over there and
get cash, get out of line.
We’ll hold your sale, go get some money out.
But we’ve trained people.
This is how it works.
Now, tourists don’t know.
That’s who pulls out a credit card.
It’s all I got.
But the percentage of Americans that have a debit card
is something like in the 80 percentile, and the ones
with a credit card are in the 60 percentile.
So more people have debit than they have credit.
And the average per transaction is
almost 15% to 20% higher
when I can just keep adding things to the basket
and I don’t have to worry I only took $60 out
of the ATM, I’m not going to go back, pay
another fee and take another $30 to get more.
So they just keep adding to the basket. We’ve had so many
times where people are like, oh man, I only have $40.
Do you take card?
And we’ll say, well, we take a debit card.
Can I grab that, that and that?
Exactly. So it’s good for everybody, it’s
good for the customer, it’s good for you.
And the whole Cova Pay thing, I think what you’ll
wind up seeing strategically is, as it grows and gains
more and more adoption,
it’ll offset all kinds of other fees.
So subscription fees, CRM and loyalty.
E-commerce, that’s the other thing.
We’ll be adding a US e-commerce component.
So you can just pay on,
you could pay online.
That’s kind of cool too.
So one of the things that we’re preparing for, Gary, and
I know Brooke would be mad if I didn’t ask you,
is that as we continue to grow our retail business, the
state of Maine is looking at delivery for adult use.
And it’s something that we’re looking at very closely.
And I’m just curious.
Obviously you have a lot
of wisdom about different markets.
I was wondering if you had any insights on how
does delivery impact a retail business and will these solutions
be able to be integrated once delivery is available?
The answer is yes, they all will be.
Cova is partnered now with delivery software.
So we have a really great
partner in a company called Webjoin.
And to answer your question, at a bigger
level, as a market matures, delivery will become
more and more of a thing.
And the reason is, at the early stages
of a market, customers don’t know the form
factors that they can consume cannabis.
They don’t know which types they want.
Like, am I a Sativa guy?
Am I hybrid?
They don’t know all that stuff.
And that education that you do in the store is
not only vital to them, but it helps build that
trust and it helps build your store, all of that.
It’s necessary and it’s vital to both sides.
So a retail store at the start of a
cannabis market is one of the greatest things and
necessary things to get the industry off the ground.
But over time, people figure out, this is
what I like. I’m a this kind of guy.
Here’s how I like to consume it.
I don’t really need help anymore.
I know what I want.
Well, the next phase is order online, pick up in store.
So I don’t really need hand holding. I’m just going.
Can I go online?
Can I order it? Can I call you?
Can you set it aside.
I’ll come in, and then the next step is delivery.
I don’t need to even go to the store.
Now you’re providing that convenience factor,
I think delivery, again, in our
industry, it’s a patchwork of states.
No 2 states are alike.
The regs are different in every single state.
And the delivery regs are even more
convoluted because of their hyperness to security,
to when you think about
that seed to sale.
Well, what’s going on between the
retail store and the end point?
Should we be tracking it?
Where is the marijuana?
Like, that was the whole point of traceability.
Where’s the pot at all times?
Well, is the pot driving by a junior high, stopping?
It’s kind of scary.
So some states want to know, like, does
your software set a route, and then does
your software have GPS tracking to make sure
they followed the route they didn’t deviate?
Does your software say they deviated
and they actually went to the strip
bar that they shouldn’t have gone to?
Chances are the guy’s selling a bunch out of the back of
the delivery car and then he went back on his route.
Every state is different of how
much do we want to watch?
Every state is different about what
type of vehicle can be used.
Can it be a private vehicle?
Does it have to be a certain type of vehicle where,
like, in Missouri, the driver cannot be able to access the
storage of the cannabis, which needs to be in a locked
in a locked box or a safe in the vehicle, but
he can’t get to it from the driver’s seat.
He’s got to get out, go around.
So it’s almost a van or some sort of delivery vehicle.
Then you’ve got the issue of insurance.
Who’s going to insure it?
How much do we have to insure it for?
It adds all kinds of overhead.
The worst state, Missouri, when they wrote
up the original delivery guidelines, they had
2 cars for every delivery.
They had a car with the
cannabis and a security car following.
And you talk about, like, the
dumbest thing you’ve ever heard.
And the good news was, enough voices
jumped in and went, nobody does that.
You can’t do that.
It just kills the whole and they were
trying to deliver medicine to people who couldn’t
come and get their medicine, right.
So the intent was there.
The execution on a realistic basis was just ridiculous.
So delivery, in my opinion, delivery will be part of the
industry in every state in the next 2, 3 years.
And it makes sense.
It’s a win-win for everybody.
The thing is, if your state over regulates
it, you need to charge $20 on top
of whatever you’re doing for a delivery fee.
And now you’re pricing it out for people who
don’t have a car, can’t get to the store,
so there’s nuances to it, but it’s coming.
Well, Gary, I’m so excited to get to
connect with you again and catch up.
I feel like we do this once a year, so
we’re going to need to do it more often.
I just appreciate the time we get together.
Well, me too.
Honestly, my time going to Maine was the greatest.
Like, I couldn’t be more of a Maine fan,
and I haven’t been there in a year.
Like, I got to get back.
I will tell you right now, for Maine,
it is hot as it can get.
I think we’ve had a couple of
mid or low 90 degree days.
So I know for you, you’ve experienced that.
But up here in the northeast,
you don’t get that too often.
But another month or so and we’ll have to
bring you north of Portland to where we are
next time, the lakes and the mountains, Gary.
I can’t wait. Well, Ry
it’s great to see you.
It’s great to see you and it’s great to
see all of you tuned in to WeedBudz radio.
Be sure to head over to WeedBudzradio.com,
check out those show notes, links
to connect with Gary and Cova Pay.
And, of course, we’ll see you in the next episode.
Hello & welcome to today’s episode of Weed Budz Radio! We welcome back our friend, Franny Tacy of Franny’s Farmacy. From seed to retail, Franny has been a long-time leader in the industry of hemp and hemp production.
Join us today to hear from Franny on what gives her staying power in the industry and why so many businesses fail. Franny also shares how she found new love and a new love for pasta which is now about to launch as a new product platform for the Franny’s Farmacy franchise.
Guest: Franny Tacy
Host: Ry Russell
Support the show
Welcome back to another episode of WeedBudz Radio.
I’m really excited today because it has been 2
years and a week or so since we last
had had Franny Tacy on the show.
And as you all remember, Franny has an
incredible brand from seed to retail, just an
absolutely gorgeous product, and we got to see
some of it in our trip to Connecticut.
And those of you that follow us on Instagram saw how
amazing that visit was when we got to meet our friend
Mike and Griff and just had an incredible experience.
And now, as an operator of a retail
establishment in the cannabis industry, I need help.
And there’s only one person that I could
think of to go to for some help.
So joining us back on WeedBudz Radio is Franny.
Franny, thank you so much.
You know, I’m loving this.
I am loving this.
It is so much fun to reconnect.
It’s been incredible.
I can’t believe that the first time I saw you,
you were speaking virtually at a conference because the pandemic
had hit and we couldn’t do anything anymore.
And you just really brought it down.
And I’ve never seen anybody so
captivating in a virtual format.
And I was lucky enough to know your PR
partner, and we were able to connect and get
talking, and it’s just been a great relationship since
following your journey and vice versa, and just seeing
how the stores have grown from a couple of
company owned stores to some franchises to some other
exciting things that we’re going to talk about today.
So there’s a lot of glamour in what we do.
And I think often when people find out, Franny, that I
own an adult use cannabis establishment, that there’s some sort of
badge of honor there that I was unaware of.
And so I would just like to hear from you.
Is it truly glamorous being in this side of
the industry and being in this industry because you
make it look such. You are so sweet.
You see, I’m, like, absolutely cracking up.
There is a perception of that, and I think
it’s because neat like you, we’re digging and talking.
We’re like, oh, yeah, we’ve got a podcast to do.
I think part of the illusion that it’s
glamorous is because we’re living our passion.
I mean, I’m living my passion, and I live on a farm
that was the first farm in North Carolina to plant hemp.
This is passion.
I work for a plant.
I cannot not do what I do.
So I love what I do.
I mean, I do a lot of it
between manufacturing and distribution, we’re in 6 states,
expanding in 7 states, with CBD and hemp.
And now we’ve done applied for retail licenses
in recreational and Connecticut now really getting back
to people are seeing these new things that
I’m launching, which are the textiles and the
foods, and they’re like, girl, what’s up?
I work for a plant.
I work for a plant.
I cannot stop, but it’s not glamorous.
My home has like 4 pieces of furniture in it.
But granted, I have 14 different lodging options
on my farm that are fully furnished.
They all have toilet paper, soap, and
every type of dish you could want.
My own home I’m like I’m a visitor in sometimes,
so we may make it look a little glamorous.
I like to think that’s not the real thing.
No, if you’re grinding I mean, I live as simple of
a life that I can because objects just kind of get
in the way and they accumulate and they slow you down.
I have a nice roof over my head.
I sleep comfortably, but I pretty much sit on the
floor when I’m home because I’m not there often enough
to go to the retail store and buy a lawn chair.
Just not worth it to me.
Well, we laugh because I have lodging.
So in my house, who knows what could be in there?
But I always have the backup, extra refrigerators and beds, so
there’s no such thing as a sofa in my house.
There’s mattresses on the floor, which is
that’s where we’re going to sit. There you go.
If we sit.
And I have 2 air mattresses
here at the store, so we’ve got, like, the store and
then our little studio space and then the warehouse.
And there’s definitely been times, especially in the
winter, where it’s just not worth it to
go home after it’s been snowing all day.
And you’ll have to shovel to get in and
then you’ll have to shovel to get out.
It’s sometimes more worth it to just blow
up that air mattress and take a power
nap and get right back to work.
I mean, whether you’ve been in the business 15 years
or 5 years or 5 months, this changes every day.
And a good store is going to face lift their
store and re merchandise every day and every week.
Anyway, this business, you have to do all
that while learning new laws, while the laws
completely change the next week, and then they
might change back or change into something else.
And you always have to stay on top of it.
And so there’s not a lot of
free time when you’re doing it right.
I’ve definitely seen some people that make it
look very glamorous, but their retail shops don’t
seem to stay open too, too long.
So I think right now we’re all just kind of trying
to ride into the wave, maybe, and see what happens.
And there’s nobody that I know that’s ridden into
the wave faster or stronger than you have.
And so when we last talked, like I mentioned,
you had a couple of company owned stores.
I think you had just got
into your first franchise store.
So where are we now?
Because I’m seeing a lot
of growth in Franny’s Farmacy.
Well, and I appreciate the fact
that you said strong and fast.
I say strong and one foot in front of the other.
It doesn’t feel fast because it’s all always
done about long term and building the brand
and being built to last and growing a
business like a plant with strong roots.
So we got our 3
corporate stores rocking and rolling.
We figured out the system.
And while it’s doing that, it took 2 years and
hundreds of thousands of dollars to be able to franchise.
Because I was consulting for people, they
were like, how are you doing this?
It’s not banking as usual.
It’s not marketing, credit card processing, website.
Nothing is business as usual.
I have had 11 businesses before
this while working in pharmaceuticals.
So that’s what inspired me to do franchising.
And so we’ve got 4 dispensaries
in Georgia, all different franchise owners.
South Carolina, Florida, Virginia, Connecticut
opening New York next.
So we just keep expanding all in
very strategic ways in states, in Connecticut.
I don’t know if I said that.
So giving people a path to success.
Because even when you give people a plan, we
send kids to school every day and we have
a plan how everybody’s going to succeed.
But we still have 30% of kids that don’t graduate
from high school and they can’t follow that plan.
So if you set somebody up as
an entrepreneur, that’s never been that before,
we’ve had 90% of businesses that have opened in
cannabis in the space we’re in, Ry, have closed.
They don’t make it.
They don’t make it.
And so that is part of what the inspiration is for me.
I feel like as I’m getting older, I’m
going to have a birthday next week.
I’ll be 53.
They say it happens to these women when they get older.
It’s like, what is my role now?
My kid has grown, he’s
self sufficient, all these things.
I was like, what is this?
This is my service.
My team is my family.
I can’t do this without them.
To see what has happened to make all these
and you’re talking about keeping up the laws.
We just had D-8 outlawed
in Virginia and in Connecticut.
And now how we have to pivot to be
in all these states and really doing business.
That’s part of the reason we stayed small.
There’s franchises out there that went and opened 600 stores
in 2 years and they’ve closed 80% of them.
Because it was about making money.
It wasn’t about cannabis.
I work for a plant.
The longevity and the story.
The industry needs me.
The community, our country, history needs us, Ry.
To be successful and keep telling the story.
Because I will be doing this in another 40
years or as long as I walk this planet.
I will be working this plant
in some way, shape or form.
So destigmatizing, educating while remaining profitable in business,
and making money while developing and offering a
service is the greatest gift that I could
do to wake up every day too.
Sometimes people like, how do you wake up?
I’m like, oh, I’ll wake up.
Oh, your body wakes you up.
Ever since we got the store going,
I don’t even have an alarm anymore.
I’m excited to get to the store.
And you mentioned running these businesses
profitably because that’s the biggest challenge.
It’s really easy to throw up a cannabis store and have
people come in and appreciate what you have to sell.
Running a profitable business in this space is the
hardest thing I have personally had to do.
And you know, I have run profitable
businesses in other industries multiple times.
And it’s not like this.
And the margins have never been this tight.
And the margin of error has never been this small.
So do you have any tips, be it executionally
that you’ve implemented that keeps your businesses profitable?
It is always, always keeping on top of it.
And the good thing about me is in
business is that I am so systems oriented.
System, system, system and accountability.
Accountability is the hardest thing because people love
to work in their silos so that they
can’t be scolded, reprimanded, reprimanded challenged.
We don’t do that.
We do not operate in that environment.
We cannot be successful in that environment
because the business is so dynamic.
It’s not like everything is now, to be
honest, between COVID, between recessions, between Ukraine, every
single person that is staying in business and
over 60% of businesses across the entire country
have turned over in the past 3 years.
You’ve got to be flexible, nimble, small and on point.
And it takes a team.
No individual person can do all these
things and no individual person is successful.
And that is what the cannabis
industry I call it hemp fever.
And the symptoms are egomaniac.
I’m going to get rich.
So there’s like a couple of indications, like I’m
going to do this, I’m going to do this.
No, don’t tell me what you’re going to do.
Tell me what you’ve done.
Because people are selling everybody else
on what they’re going to do.
And that is why the industry has gotten a bad rap.
People said, oh, great, you can do it.
And everybody believes the white man is
the one to do it, right?
No, no, no, no, no.
They got hemp fever.
I have an ex husband that had hemp fever.
No, you build this with the right.
Any new industry is the toughest place to be.
That’s not your get rich in the new industry.
It’s when the new industry all of a sudden
hits the bell curve and everybody else caught on.
If you can make it through
there, it’s the toughest time.
And that’s where we are.
We still have not even begun to tap the market.
We’re less than 10% of
Americans that are cannabis consumers.
We have a whole world and market.
But we got to stay small and profitable and smart.
Because if you’re not profitable.
You’re not in business, and you’re not helping anybody.
You can’t help people by sacrificing yourself.
That’s the toughest thing here.
I’m not just opening a store in
some part of Maine for convenience sake.
I chose probably the hardest.
I chose where my heart is.
It is a beautiful region with mountains and lakes.
There’s no people, there’s not a huge population.
It’s very conservative.
My grandparents were ministers in this
region, and there’s a whole community
of anti-cannabis individuals and people here.
I just had a lunch meeting, and one
of the people asked me what my grandparents
would have thought of me doing this.
And I’m so blessed I got to tell 3 of my
4 grandparents what I was doing before I got to do
it, and was blessed by them to do that.
Both of my grandparents that were ministers
more than gave me their blessing.
They both utilized the plant
for different things for themselves.
And so it’s so special.
I know your family plays a
big role in your business, too.
We’re like siblings for different parents because my
dad was an ordained deacon, and I have
a whole family of Episcopal ministers.
And my dad believed three things god, family, and farm.
And when he passed away in a tractor accident
two weeks before, I planted my first hemp crop.
But he was there that whole time supporting me.
Everybody’s like, oh, what’s Daddy going to say?
Oh, what’s Daddy, what’s the family going to say?
And what this plant has done for my family.
They call me the gateway in my family now.
They’re like, oh, you’re the gateway to all this
stuff that we hear about, but nobody conservative.
Nashville, Tennessee, so conservative.
And it’s a similar story, how much has helped them
and how proud they were that I could stand up.
I mean, it meant everything to have my
dad, your grandparents, to say, you believe in
this, and we believe in you.
Yeah, it is special.
And it’s funny because the town we’re in is called Medway,
and there’s a sign as soon as you get off the
highway that says Medway, the gateway to the Katahdin region.
And Katahdin is the largest mountain in Maine.
And so we are right here off the highway.
So we’re your gateway to cannabis too.
So it’s a perfect little ecosystem here, but it
is it’s such a fine line to draw because
I love this community so much, and I want
a business to succeed here without me.
I want businesses to succeed here, and
I want there to be pride here. It’s a milltown.
There used to be a lot
of pride, and we’re lacking that.
And I just want to see that come back.
And so for us, I want to just give everything away.
If it was up to me everything’s free
and it’s not possible to do that.
There’s no way for me to stay here and
be the engine for entrepreneurial development in this region
if I can’t keep my own businesses afloat.
And so it’s a fine line because you have
to stay profitable in order to compete long term.
And I think a lot of companies look at this like
the tech space of just acquire more users, acquire more users,
and then you’ll be able to sell that to a degree.
But that’s not just it.
You have to have the empathy.
You have to have the understanding and
the compassion for the plant and the
community in order to be successful.
That acquire new users is what
has put everybody out of business.
Because every cannabis business for the years
has been speculating and operating at a
20% loss is standard for everything.
So if you’re a million dollar
business, you’re going to lose $200,000.
That year was the standard.
Competing for the new users.
We’re going to go capture the market.
We’ll catch up on the back end.
This is a lot of like the millennial
thing that I love Millennials, but there’s a
lot of people like, we don’t like it.
They uber eat, they get, they order in their food,
they get a ride across town, all this stuff.
But that is what was a detriment to many businesses.
Instead of getting in and building a
business, they’re like, we’re going to overspend
over market to capture the users.
And it’s all smoke and mirrors, smoke and mirrors.
We’re so great, we’re so good.
No, you’re not.
You’re not running a good business, and that’s
why you’re going to be out of business.
And we have seen the biggest companies, the one
that had $50,000 boost at the Expo and all
the private parties and everything, where are they now?
Because I’ve been speaking at events across this
country since 2017, and in the first 2
years, I talked to 30,000 farmers.
Where are those people now? Good business.
And pay something else if the USDA I’m
celebrating my 10 year anniversary on the farm.
So it was long before hemp was legal, and when
I got my loan, it was a USDA loan.
And I’m a shepherdist, according to the USDA.
For Katahdin sheep.
Hold on Katahdin mountain.
Yes, it’s a hair sheep of neat sheep.
We have sheep on our farm, but no kidding.
That’s so cool.
Well, you need to get up here and visit anyway.
I would love to in the summer months, please.
Well, it’s 92 right now, so I feel like that’s
probably fairly accommodating to what you want, but not me.
That is way too hot for us.
So I want to ask you because I was
talking to a mutual friend of ours and he
shared a rumor with me that you’ve got some
really cool things going on with Franny’s Farmacy.
I don’t want to say in a traditional sense
because there’s nothing traditional but what we do, but
outside of the retail and the manufacturing space and
that you were exploring an opportunity in another market
but still under Franny’s Farmacy.
So do you have any truth to this rumor?
I heard that it might be a food truck of sorts.
So freaking cool. Yes.
So Franny’s is as we’ve been evolving.
It’s really the brand.
The first year I planned was for food and fiber.
I keep talking about business and going back.
There’s no business in that, right?
So we explore the medicinal
path, which made perfect sense.
I was in pharmaceuticals, but my love and my passion
and we keep coming back to this, is food.
And so we have Franny’s Pasta and Prana, which prana
is breath, pasta and prana is our new food truck.
But the story is, I got divorced, never swore off
every man ever on the face of the planet.
And it’s like, as soon as you
say you swear them off, they’re everywhere.
And I’m like, gosh.
But then fell in love with my best friend, who
is also my yoga teacher and a pasta man.
And as a gift of love to me, he put hemp and pasta.
He makes pasta, and he sells it
at the market, and he teaches yoga.
And I said, honey, I love you, but I don’t like pasta.
I’ll be sitting on that all day long and wearing
it on my thighs, and it doesn’t feel good.
And I’m very gluten and tolerant.
And he put hemp in there, and I
was like, how did you do this?
It’s like, well, I spent $20 on
1 pound of hemp, and we made this.
So the past year has been this introduction
of how do we put hemp into pasta?
What’s the nutritional information?
How do we scale up?
How do we manufacture it?
I’ve been running around to all these events.
Like, when we were at NOCO, we bring our
cooler bag with us and filled with hemp pasta.
And Dan Herre and all our other
buddies are eating this hemp pasta.
They said we need to go cook some at Marijuana Mansion.
We show up there for a party,
and everyone’s like, we love this. We want this.
And I was like, that is so cool. It’s coming.
I mean, a year, it takes so long
for people to do what we do.
And so sometimes it’s a lot of pressure
because people expect a lot from me.
They’re like, oh, Franny, you’re doing it should be
5 star, and why haven’t you done this, this, this?
And I was like, hey, this takes a
lot of courage to do what I’m doing.
And this is a passion project, and
it’s 1 foot in front of the other.
And just last week, we officially launched it.
Love Shine Play Festival, which is a yoga festival.
So they’re all into the health and nutrition and, like,
one little serving of pasta with hemp in it.
Hemp flour, the superfood high in omegas and
has 20 to 25 grams of protein.
It’s a superfood. The gnocchi has 25 grams of protein
because it has eggs and cheese in it.
But the regular cut pasta, 20
grams of protein, it is amazing.
We’ve already I had 2 people from the press
show up today to interview me about this pasta
They’re like, what’s going on?
Why have we never heard about it?
I said, because it doesn’t exist.
It doesn’t exist.
5 years ago, it was illegal
to even grow hemp for food.
And so I was the first person in the country
to do a Ted Talk on hemp in 2018.
Hemp is a crop.
What is hemp as a crop? I’m a farmer. I love to farm.
I love food and land.
The only crop that could feed
clothe, shelter and provide medicine.
Well, as a businesswoman, I had
to take the medicinal route.
As a businesswoman, building a brand, we need to
continue to let people know how amazing hemp is.
So by introducing the superfood and now
we have other things that are infused.
You can get CBD oil on it.
You can do this infusion it is opening.
People are floored.
People are like, what do you mean hemp for food?
We see it, but they think
edibles is the biggest division.
Right before this, we were having business talks.
What’s your top sellers?
What’s the market?
There’s now stores that are opening that are only edibles,
they don’t have bags, they don’t have anything.
And so the community in our society, as
we’re educating and destigmatizing cannabis, they think that
all food has THC or CBD in it.
Right. Now, we get to distinguish. No, it’s super food.
So this, I don’t know if you can see it.
That’s a little picture.
We got a little Buddha sitting on
our food truck, and it’s awesome.
And there’s our menu.
It’s super simple.
It’s build your own pasta bowls.
You can get zucchini noodles, cut pasta or gnocchi.
You pick a sauce.
I was out tiptoeing through my farm granted
It was 5:30 in the morning.
I was exhausted.
Cutting basil to make pesto to serve the people.
And I had a religious experience with
my land and with the most important
thing we do, which is feed ourselves.
Everything we put in our mouth
is either medicine or poison.
And that is also this food.
So I’m so excited.
We’ve had restaurants.
We want to order cases.
I’m like, Whoa, dude, it’s frozen fresh.
That’s how we make it.
I don’t even know how to ship it there.
We’re not there.
We just start small.
What a cool product.
I’m going to ship you some, though.
So when this is over, you better send me your address.
You’ll be like, oh, Franny, in a month,
you’ll be like, we’re having you back on.
We’re going to talk about it. Yeah.
Franny’s restaurant is the next obvious choice.
So, I mean, there’s got to be
a food market and all that.
Yeah, that’s what I’m saying.
It’s always so amazing. What’s that?
I said, we have lemon,
lavender cookies and tahini cookies.
People are freaking out.
We’re really building a foods division.
I’m going to send you sample pack and you’re going to
I can’t wait because when we were in Connecticut,
we tried a little bit of everything, tried the gummies.
It was funny, but it wasn’t funny.
Brooke threw her neck out that morning.
And so we’re going to meet Griff and the team.
And her neck, I felt so badly, like she
could not walk without truly her whole body clenching.
And so we got some of the lotion and it helped.
And we had a nice lunch
right there with the whole team.
We definitely tried the creams and definitely
could provide a great testimonial for that.
She absolutely loved it and felt great.
But it’s just so incredible.
And I love and we’ll definitely have to not wait
2 years before we have you on next time.
But in the meantime, what’s the best way
for everyone to follow you and stay connected?
So if you look at Franny’s Farmacy
F-A-R-M obviously pharmacy anywhere on
social media, our website, frannysfarmacy.com
But in this brand stuff, please
follow our farm, Franny’s Farm.
I used to have 18,000 people.
They cut that off on Instagram.
But that’s a beautiful place where you can
come and actually stay on our farm, enjoy
our hemp garden and Franny Tacy
myself, I also have a whole bunch
of stuff that’s really fun.
Amazing. And of course, we’ll add all of
those links to our show notes.
So if you head over to weedbudzradio.com, you’ll be
able to connect with Franny right from there.
And of course
Thank you so much for joining us.
And we’ll see you on the
next episode of WeedBudz Radio.
Find Can Legal Weed Win?
Welcome to our 100th episode of WeedBudz Radio! I am your host, Ry Russell and I invite you to join this compelling discussion today of the economics of owning a business in the cannabis industry. There are many factors that can hinder growth and success in this competitive market so we ask the question – can legal weed win?
To answer that very question, we have the authors of the book “Can Legal Weed Win? The Blunt Reality of Cannabis Economics”, Robin Goldstein and Daniel Sumner.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Robin Goldstein is an economist and author of The Wine Trials, the controversial exposé of wine snobbery that became the world’s best-selling guide to cheap wine. He is Director of the Cannabis Economics Group in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at the University of California, Davis. He has an AB from Harvard University, a JD from Yale Law School, and a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Bordeaux.
Daniel Sumner is Frank H. Buck, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics at the University of California, Davis. He grew up on a California fruit farm, served on the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, and was Assistant Secretary of Economics at the US Department of Agriculture before joining the UC Davis faculty. He has a BS from Cal Poly and a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Chicago.
Transcript from this Episode:
Welcome back to another episode of WeedBudz Radio.
I’m your host, Ry, and as most of you
know, I opened a cannabis dispensary in northern Maine.
And as exciting and amazing and fun and
challenging as that is, you really need to
look at the economics of getting into the
cannabis industry and the economies of your business.
And that’s something that we’re going back
and forth with all of the time.
And as most of you have heard throughout my
grumblings that taxes are one of the things that
really hinder us as a business from being able
to scale, being able to employ more people.
And it’s a constant challenge of, is this worth it?
Are we crazy?
Some might say maybe a little bit of both.
But it’s always time to go to the experts.
Why hypothesize and sit here and fester
on things that I know nothing about?
It makes more sense for me to talk to individuals that
wrote the book on whether or not legal weed can win.
And so joining us today, we have
the incredible authors of Can Legal Weed Win? The
Blunt Realities of Cannabis Economics.
And so I’m really excited to have
both Robin and Daniel join us.
Thank you so much for joining us today.
Thank you very much.
So you two gentlemen obviously have an extensive
knowledge not just about cannabis economics and cannabis
business, but about economics in general.
I know that’s a topic that you both have
studied and teach upon and share your knowledge upon.
So I guess my very first question
to you gentlemen is, am I crazy?
Am I bonkers for getting into the
cannabis industry the way that I have?
Well, let me say something to begin with, and
that is, you know your local market, you know
your local competition, and Robin and I may give
you some background, but the most important thing is
what’s going on right where you are.
And we could say, boy, it’s really
tough, and here’s some examples where it
seems to be working more than others.
But you’ll know your local situation, if you’ve
got 13 other guys that are undercutting you
on price, we could say, gee, the market’ s
booming, and you could say, I’m getting screwed.
You see what I’m saying?
So we can have some insights about the
bigger picture, but, you know your local stuff.
Speaking of the bigger picture, would you consider
legal weed to be winning right now?
Would you say that it’s failing?
What is your perspective on how weed
is measuring up from an economic standpoint?
Well, we don’t think it’s winning
right now, that’s for sure.
It’s, of course, a different situation in every state, and
some states are doing a lot better than others.
So one of the things we do in the book
is we compare states that have been doing comparatively well
with ones that haven’t and look for some of the
reasons why, and we say, well, we mean the state.
It’s a viable legal market.
Legal weed is able to beat illegal weed.
That’s sort of a success for legal weed.
And it’s been really hard in states
like California, where we come from, for
legal weed to compete with illegal weed.
And the biggest reason is price.
Illegal weed is much cheaper to produce and sell
because they don’t have to pay all the taxes
and go through the regulations and follow all the
rules, including a lot of rules that you have
to follow in any legal business.
Not just weed, but a lot of specialized cannabis rules
that only cannabis companies have to follow has made it
more costly and more difficult for them to compete with
the illegal guys that have been around for a while.
So the states that have done best are the
ones where they’ve been able to bring prices down
and be more competitive, where legal weeds able to
be more competitive with the illegal stuff.
And there are neighborhoods where, for
one reason other, your customers don’t
really care about price that much.
Not very many, but some.
And you’re in some town where everybody really
wants to be legal in every way.
Even though they could have weed, it’s
legal for them to have it.
They want to deal with
local legal businesses, that’s great.
But not everywhere is like that.
So if I was thinking about the distribution,
it goes from really struggling to hanging on.
And the, boy, I’m just printing money here, at least as
far as there are people that have made those claims.
There may be a consultant that’s doing very well and
a lawyer who’s doing very well, but it’s tougher to
find somebody who’s actually in the cultivation business.
And it’s also easy for people in business.
And I do a lot of food economics.
And you talk to a farmer and he says,
oh yeah, that guy who’s just one step up
the chain from me, he’s making all the money.
And then you talk to the guy in the
marketing, the distribution business, the middleman, and he says,
yeah, the retailers make money, the farmers make money.
God, I can’t make a go of it.
And then you get to the retailer and he says, the
prices are so high, those guys are charging me so much.
Plus I have my rent and the labor, and who
knows where you can get a worker these days?
You see what I’m saying?
And I really do think it
goes from struggling to hang on.
But the big thing about weed is
that the illegal market is there everywhere.
The competition from the illegal guy is always there.
And that’s the point Robin was making.
That’s the challenge about price.
We’re talking about legal markets and illegal
markets and legal pricing and illegal pricing.
And I think something that is confusing
and misleading is the term legalization.
And when I think of my operations here in
the beautiful state of Maine, it’s a legal operation.
And I struggle to see where
federal legalization will make things better.
Everybody, I think touts that federal legalization
is going to make everything exponentially better.
But the feds are making a lot of money off of
me right now, and they do control some of the kind
of merchant services, if you will, systems of all of this.
And so it’s hard for me to see,
well, what’s the federal incentive to legalization?
So can you help demystify what legalization is?
But why ultimately, does the term
legalization become so misleading to people?
This is music to our ears, because that’s one
of our themes, and I’ll let Robin elaborate.
One of the first things we do in
the book is say this word legalization.
We’re using it, but it can be really misleading.
Yeah, and it can just mean a lot of different things.
For example, when a state passes a ballot question or
a bill that says weed is legalized, it can take
years between getting from that point to getting to the
point where you actually have stores open, because states take
years sometimes to drop regulations and so forth.
Vermont, 4 and a half years after they
passed a law legalizing recreational weed, they still
don’t have a single recreational store open.
Oklahoma, on the other hand, managed to do that in a day
with what Vermont took 4 and a half years to do.
But that was medical legalization.
So you have medical and then that’s basically a
market that’s limited to state residents with doctors permissions
and that’s sort of a lot more states are
set up that way than the recreational.
But when we talk about recreational legalization, Dan and
I, from an economic point of view, of course
you care whether the stores are open and they’re
doing business and there’s a market.
So we consider full recreational legalization to only start at
the moment when stores are actually open and you can
walk into a store and buy weed legally.
And there’s about 14 states that are
now at that stage with recreational.
I’m curious, in Maine, we’ve been looking at a
lot of data on prices and also on
the number of dispensaries in each or retailers
in each state and the density of retail.
One thing we noticed about Maine is that you guys
have a lot of stores for your population, and you
also have the prices on the lower side of
the spectrum of what we’ve been looking at.
So I’m curious, why do you think that is?
What’s the market like in Maine?
I take responsibility for the lower prices.
No, but our store does take a lot of pride in that.
For example, Budz Emporium, specifically, we have a
guarantee that we are the cheapest recreational store
in the state of Maine, and sometimes that
means selling our vendored wholesale products for less
than that vendor’s own retail establishments.
And we’ve kind of made that guarantee
because we know that price is the
primary driver of consumer behavior right now.
And within that, there’s different parameters around
selection, but it really is price.
We were the first store to offer
a $99 ounce in the rec market.
That was lower than many ounces in the medical market.
And frankly, it can be cheaper than
what you get from Bob next door.
And that really boomed our business.
And that was something that took a lot
of work, a lot of creativity, a lot
of partnerships from many different sides.
But that single handedly took the average cost of an ounce
in our store from about $200 down to about $125.
That’s a significant jump in 30 days.
And you are seeing a jump like that in the
state of Maine where, for example, when we open the
store, I think the average price per gram to the
consumer was right around $15, $14 and some odd cents.
And if I’m not mistaken, the latest reports are showing
about, $10.50, $10.75 I think, per gram right now to the consumer.
And we’re below that here at my store in particular.
But we built our business off value.
I used to operate a drive in movie theater, and
the only way that I saved that was creating the
value of kind of reducing that barrier of the ticket
price and increasing the value on food.
Everybody brought in sandwiches.
Nobody was buying food at the drive in.
And we kind of changed that model around where
you wanted the food at the drive in.
It was good and it was good value.
And so I try to take those principles
and bring them over here to my operation.
But it is in the state of Maine, you
have 3,500 to 4,000 medical shops which are untested,
and then you have about 100 or so retailers
in the adult use market right now.
And that’s definitely going to grow.
But there’s a lot more hurdles
in the adult use recreational market.
The med market is a piece of paper front and back,
and you can open a store within probably 72 hours.
The adult use side is a grind and a grueling
process that I think will get easier over time.
But the barrier to that’s very low
as well at $2,500 per license.
So I think if not the lowest in the country, one
of and so the barriers to entry are very low.
And that’s where I think branding comes into play
and value and all of that here in Maine.
But the economies here are very different.
And when we see tourists from Pennsylvania, New
York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, they cannot even believe
what the price per pre-roll or per 8th
is here in the state of Maine.
And they want it.
The thing that in my opinion, and you two are
economists, but I think even having a market like Maine
is going to drive the prices lower in Massachusetts and
Vermont and kind of trickle down because those tourists are
going to start demanding it from their retailers, which, to
your point, Daniel, that works backwards.
The retailers will then put that pressure on
the middle man, the middle man backwards.
So it is a very unique segment of the industry.
We are in Maine.
Are you allowed to deliver Ry or is
it strictly storefront because that limits your scale.
It does very much, though.
And currently the adult use market
is not allowed to offer delivery.
That should be coming online hopefully
August, September, October of 2022.
And when that does, I think
that’ll help retailers out a lot.
However, that doesn’t come without its own challenges
and own infrastructure and all of that.
And I’m lucky.
I’m in the north Maine woods.
I’m the only adult use store really for an hour
south and probably an hour and a half north.
And so I’ve got a nice piece of territory where
you go to Portland, you’ve got 70 stores stacked on
each other, loyalty is zero, and it’s very price conscious.
Connecting back to the point you asked, the question
you asked earlier about federal legalization, I think you’re
really smart to care a lot about price.
And Maine is going to do comparatively well compared to
some other states around Maine when federal legalization comes in,
because you’re going to all of a sudden be competing
with stuff from all over the place.
Now, you’re also going to face competition from Wyoming
or Montana or Oklahoma, places that might be able
to make it even cheaper because they have lower
costs of land and labor and things like that.
But the thing that I think people we say a
lot in the book, the thing that people miss about
legalization, they think it’s just going to help everyone.
And actually competition will help
some people and hurt others.
You’re ahead of the game by caring about price,
by thinking about price, by figuring out how you
can price not just competitively, but at the bottom
of the price spectrum in your area.
And that’s the skill set and the advantages that
will be needed in the future with competition.
As a retailer, what we say about
federal legalization is first, do no harm.
In fact, my motto has been let cannabis be kale.
We don’t need a bunch of regulations from the Feds.
The states have been handling that pretty
well, and local governments and everybody else.
And in fact, this idea of federalism,
this idea that different states do things
differently, okay, that’s the way it goes.
But the last thing we need is to layer on a
set of federal taxes and federal regulations on top of that.
And what Robin is talking about is the
beauty you go back to the U.S. Constitution.
The beauty of the U.S. Constitution is
it made a free trade agreement.
So let’s just accept that.
So imagine the federal government did
one thing and one thing only.
It just took cannabis off this schedule
of prohibited substances or illegal substances.
The list of severe drugs, all you
did was cross that one line out.
Taxes would change, banking rules would change.
All of those things are just tied to
the fact that the raw material that you
buy is on this list of illegal stuff.
Therefore, you don’t get to deduct it
from your taxes as a retailer.
And the federally registered banks don’t want to deal
with you or they find it awkward because you’re
dealing with a substance that’s on that list.
Now, there may be some other places where somebody
has to cross something out, but what we’ve seen
about the federal regulations, no matter who they’re sponsored
by, even the one that was released yesterday or
today, it goes on for pages.
And Robin and I say, how about a postcard?
You don’t really have to do a lot here, and
maybe later you want to say, okay, we’re going to
add cannabis cultivation to some USDA program or something.
But as long as you don’t prohibit
it, it’s there for lots of things.
And so that’s what we’d say for you, and
particularly you, Ry, and I would say your customers
and the customers in Maine that want to take
advantage of access to Washington state or maybe eastern
Massachusetts, where they have some particular cultivars of ours
that are tasty or somebody likes, fine.
But it doesn’t tie you when you go buy a banana, you’re
not stuck to buying a banana that was grown in Maine.
And when you grow an avocado, yeah, same thing.
You buy that avocado, it can be grown in Mexico.
It could be grown down the
street from here in California.
Same with strawberries, et cetera, et cetera.
You go buy strawberries in January, you don’t
say, God, it’s coming from some guy with
a hot house under glass doing all kinds
of electricity to grow a damn strawberry.
Whereas in cannabis, it has to be.
And so this free trade, particularly in the raw material, I
think is a boon for your kind of business, and it
may not be a boon for the cultivators of Maine that
you could see some growers saying, wait a second, I don’t
want to have to compete with Colorado.
That makes a lot of sense.
That sounds so hopeful.
So I want to go back there for a second.
But first you said something about legalization, and then
the feds will put taxes on top of that.
But my argument is, where are they
going to put taxes on top of? What?
What could they possibly put taxes on top of?
Because we’ve got our sales tax, and then we pay our
income tax monthly or quarterly, and they’re getting a nice chunk
of change on that, upwards of past 30% of our revenue,
and there’s nothing we can do about it.
Now, there’s a lot of if you’ve got big money,
you can put a holdings company in between it and
a property management company in between it and stack and
layer and all kinds of other things, but just straight
up, pound for pound, what would it look like if
there was true federal legalization?
Well, here’s the problem.
Over the years, I lived in North Carolina for
a while, and I studied tobacco economics, and I
moved to California and started studying wine economics.
And so I can tell you there’s
a federal excise tax on wine.
So if you go to your local grocery store and buy
a box or buy a bottle, it’s got a bunch of
federal taxes later right into it, right off the bat.
Same with a pack of cigarettes.
Lots of federal taxes, then state taxes, then if you’re
in a city that puts local taxes on top.
So just because there’s state and local taxes
and regulations doesn’t mean the feds can’t put
some more taxes on the product itself.
We know they tax your business, your income
taxes, and other things on your business.
But this is product taxes.
Our argument is it’s not needed.
We got plenty of taxes already.
And particularly, and this is really crucial
for everybody to understand the health of
the industry because we’ve got this illegal
business that is running parallel now.
Maybe not in Maine, maybe nobody
grows illegal cannabis in Maine, right?
Yeah, I wish.
The feds aren’t going to tax illegal cannabis anymore
than they do now, and they’re not going to
stop it any more than they do now.
And at least in most jurisdictions when you legalize
it, the agency that’s in charge of monitoring legal
cannabis in Colorado, the Colorado agency that does that,
they don’t go after illegal cannabis.
They don’t even know how because they have a long
list of growers and retailers and wholesalers and testing firms,
and they say, here’s a bunch of regulations you have
to follow, and it’s their job to make sure that
the legal industry follows the law, okay?
That’s their job.
There’s this whole illegal industry that’s doing its
thing undercutting your prices and everybody else’s.
And that’s the big challenge
that Robin was emphasizing.
Robin, I just told him that he was giving me a glimpse
of hope and then right there all the way, oh no, you
signed up to be on their radar and on their list.
So I guess I have a question for
both of you gentlemen before we end today.
Where’s the hope?
I think there’s plenty of hope because people over time
see what works and doesn’t and learn from successes and
failures of others. I think we think that the most
hope is when people are willing to look at other
states and see what’s worked and what hasn’t.
Be brutally honest about what’s failed.
One of the mistakes regulators have made, as you see
more and more states opening up, and it’s like the
default is they just go copy the regulations.
They’re writing off the regulations, they just copy the
system from California or from Colorado, and you’re like,
well, why would you copy some regulations?
Why would you copy a system of a state that
where legal weed is not doing comparatively well against illegal?
But if they looked at what’s going on in Oklahoma
with the medical system there, they’re not at recreational yet,
and they see how much that industry is thriving and
they’ll be probably competitive in an interstate market, then you
want to set up more like that.
So we’re hopeful in the sense that over time, maybe
it will take a century or maybe 10 years, but
I think over time, people learn from their mistakes.
He’s the optimist, the real wild card, the real
question mark is what you’ve been getting out, which
is what form federal legalization will take.
Legal weed could, as Dan said, if
it’s just descheduled, that could really help
legally win in a lot of places.
If they add another layer of
taxation, then it’s anyone’s guess.
It could be a step backward
before we’re able to step forward.
Where your case is interesting a lot
of places, California is one of them.
Washington State is another.
There are several where when adult
use was introduced, medical died because
they had essentially the same rules.
Most people in California got both licenses
when they were both available same.
It wasn’t easy.
Neither license was easy.
They got both licenses, and then the customer
said, well, unless they were under the age
of 21 or had some, there was no
particular reason to get a medical card anymore.
Whereas what I found fascinating about what you said
was that if I declare and you always said
medical in quotes, you always said that.
And it’s interesting that I look at you as a retailer
and said, well, why don’t you go to the medical route?
You could access a lot of customers.
You could have stores side by
side, one medical, one adult use.
But in most places, there was just no reason for
medical once you had adult use up and running.
And it’s fascinating.
So there’s a case where Maine did something
quite different than the rest of the country.
We like to strive to say that we’ve seen
the future and we’re trying to reverse engineer it.
And it’s looking at state by state that has
come before us and trying to learn from their
mistakes, trying to innovate on where they left off.
And I think as long as we stay creative
and innovative and ultimately focused on the customer’s value
first, I’ve yet to see a business model truly
fail where the customer was ultimately the happiest.
And that’s something that we just
kind of strive for here.
And I think that’s ultimately how the industry wins.
Being an industry, that’s not just cool, but
it really, truly is part of the community.
And that’s easy for me to say in my tri
town area of 10,000 individuals, but also because of that,
it’s much easier for that community to know how hard
we work to live up to that.
It’s much harder at scale to show
the customer that same level of love.
And that’s really what we’re trying to
dial in before we replicate, is how
do we replicate true community value?
Because that’s what we did at
the drive in, and it succeeded.
And I think that is ultimately not only
the way cannabis will succeed, but in my
mind, that’s the way it should.
I think the people of the cannabis industry, hopefully
most of them, feel the same way that we’re
sharing love with the world when we put this
in a safe, legal fashion and bringing it.
And I think often that’s why the accidental air
quotes come out when I refer to medical.
It’s because they should be the ones
putting in the level of care.
The level of continuing education.
And the level of seriousness that we
emphasize with our teams because they’re medical.
They should hold themselves accountable.
And they should ultimately be testing their own product
if there’s no legal reason to do so.
We very much we were licensed to answer your
question, Daniel, why didn’t we were licensed as medical?
And when I learned that medical was not required
to test, we bowed out and decided that that
was not the values we stood for, ultimately not
where we wanted to be in the marketplace.
We felt that, yes, we’re entrepreneurs and
not necessarily looking for a boss, but
we are looking to be held accountable.
And testing doesn’t just hold us accountable, it
holds the cultivators and the processors accountable.
And ultimately, I think that just
makes a safer product for everybody.
So that’s ultimately why we decided
to do the recreational side.
Testing is an important one.
It’s one of the things that differentiates if you
ask what differentiates the legal from the illegal product
and experience, and you talk about both and the
testing is like the main substantive difference.
No one can necessarily from smoking weed, from
smoking in particular, where you can’t necessarily know
whether the person who grew it or packaged
it had a state license or not.
But the certification of testing
means something to some people.
Some people aren’t willing to pay more for it, but
some are, and it matters to a lot of people.
And so that’s one differentiator.
But I think you bring up a really important point
about the customer experience and the service element of it.
Most illegal weed is delivery.
And there’s something special about
this in-person’s storefront experience.
And I think some of the early storefronts that
would open, having to follow so many rules kind
of came off as kind of cold.
It was like an Apple Store pharmacy kind of thing.
And you didn’t really have it wasn’t like
such a nice experience that you’d pay a
little extra to have that experience.
But certainly that’s low hanging fruit for people that’s
a big part of the experience is buying it
and getting guidance on what to choose.
And this is a new industry where a lot of
people, especially people who are just starting to explore it
and haven’t been like long time consumers of weed in
the past, they just don’t know anything about what to
buy or what’s the differences between products.
And I think you’re delivering a
lot of value by doing that.
And I think that’s important for people around the country
to keep in mind as they figure out how to
navigate the legalization and compete successfully with illegal.
I really appreciate that.
We definitely strive to do our best.
It’s a humble family shop up here in the north
Maine woods and we’re loving every minute of it.
And honestly, I just want to thank you both so much for
taking the time to riff with me today on all of this.
It’s just overwhelming sometimes when you’re up here and you’re
in your own head and you’re looking at the future
and you’re looking at the past to predict.
And it’s nice to have minds that do that on
a daily basis, help kind of deweed that for us.
So thank you so much.
And gentlemen, how does our buds
at home find your book?
Amazon. Can Legal Weed Win? The
Blunt Realities of Cannabis Economics. Amazing.
Well, thank you both.
Tell your local library too.
Tell your local bookshop, et cetera.
We’re going to have to get a couple of copies
for our library here in Millinocket, so it’ll be fun.
And I think the community is always looking
for more ways to educate themselves on cannabis.
And I think one of the things I love most
about this is the community is part of this rally.
They are a part of the success of
the store and they feel that way.
They’re always looking for products.
And obviously, we are always grateful for all
of you that are tuned in and continue
to tune into WeedBudz year after year.
It has been incredible to
produce these shows for you.
So be sure to head over to
Weedbudzradio.com and check out those show notes.
We’ll have a link for you so
you can go purchase the book directly.
Take you easily right there.
And of course, we’ll see you in the next show.