On April 14th, 2023 Budz Emporium in Medway becomes the states first adult-use store to offer live plants for sale to adults 21 years of age or older. The store will also be selling seeds in a variety of strains. The store has a limited number of seedlings right now but will be receiving truck loads more over the next few weeks. If you would like to be on the waiting list for seedlings you can call the store at 207-723-1634 or email email@example.com. Seeds are readily available in autoflower and photoperiod. Stop by Budz Emporium in Medway, Maine for all of your cannabis seed and seedlings this growing season. The maximum amount of seedlings that can be purchased by any adult at any one time is 12. Stop by or give us a call today 207-723-1634.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.