When Quality is your Brand with Joel Pepin of JAR Cannabis

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
BUDZ EMPORIUM
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TRANSCRIPT:

Hey, budz.

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?

Yeah, absolutely.

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.

That’s right.

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.

That’s incredible.

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.

Incredible.

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?

For sure.

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.

Interesting.

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.

Amazing.

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 everybody.

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:

Innovation meets Cannabis with Nohtal Partansky

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
https://www.sortingrobotics.com/


Host: Ry Russell
BUDZ EMPORIUM
WeedBudz RadioSupport the show

Transcript:

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.

So Nohtal

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.

Right.

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.

Right?

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.

Right?

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.

Very cool.

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.

Interesting.

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?

Yeah.

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.

Where else?

Maryland.

Yeah.

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.

Yeah, definitely.

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.

Perfect.

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.

Don’t Let it Smoke You with Tarris Batiste

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
BUDZ EMPORIUM
WeedBudz RadioSupport the show

TRANSCRIPT:

Hey, budz.

Welcome back to another episode of WeedBudz Radio.

Of course, I’m still your host

Ry Russell

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.

That’s incredible.

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.

Right?

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?

Absolutely.

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.

Right?

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?

Yeah, absolutely.

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.

That’s powerful.

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.

Ask away.

I do.

So I guess my first question is, do you use now? Do you use today?

Absolutely.

Still 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.

Absolutely.

Completely 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.

Incredible.

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.

I’m excited.

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 dontletitsmokeyou@gmail.com. I’ll respond faster there.

But that’s how we can kind of stay connected.

Follow me on Instagram.

I’ll follow back.

I’m really here to connect. I’m really here to learn.

I’m open to it.

But I’m also here to kind of help nudge

and say, hey, just do what you do.

Just don’t let this stuff control you. For sure.

Love it.

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.

BUDZ UPDATE: Office of Cannabis Policy Town Hall in Bangor

https://www.wabi.tv/video/2022/08/25/office-cannabis-policy-discusses-industry-issues-bangor-town-hall/https://www.wabi.tv/video/2022/08/25/office-cannabis-policy-discusses-industry-issues-bangor-town-hall/

https://www.wabi.tv/video/2022/08/25/office-cannabis-policy-discusses-industry-issues-bangor-town-hall/

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.

Friday August 26th, BUDZ EMPORIUM TO HOST EVENT WITH LEUNE, CLDZ, and NOVA FARMS!

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.

Gary Cohen and Cova Software delivers the best POS and Payment Solutions for Cannabis Retailers

Ry Russell and Gary Cohen on WeedBudz Radio

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

Cova Software


Host: Ry Russell
BUDZ EMPORIUM
WeedBudz RadioSupport the show

Hey, budz.

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’s right.

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.

Every day.

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?

Probably so.

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.

That’s amazing.

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.

Amazing.

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.

Absolutely.

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.

Grit and Innovation in the Hemp Industry with Franny Tacy

Hello & welcome to today’s episode of Weed Budz Radio!  We welcome back our friend, Franny Tacy of Franny’s Farmacy.  From seed to retail, Franny has been a long-time leader in the industry of hemp and hemp production.

Join us today to hear from Franny on what gives her staying power in the industry and why so many businesses fail.  Franny also shares how she found new love and a new love for pasta which is now about to launch as a new product platform for the Franny’s Farmacy franchise.

Guest: Franny Tacy
Franny’s Farmacy



Host: Ry Russell
BUDZ EMPORIUM
WeedBudz Radio


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TRANSCRIPT:

Hey, budz.

Welcome back to another episode of WeedBudz Radio.

I’m really excited today because it has been 2

years and a week or so since we last

had had Franny Tacy on the show.

And as you all remember, Franny has an

incredible brand from seed to retail, just an

absolutely gorgeous product, and we got to see

some of it in our trip to Connecticut.

And those of you that follow us on Instagram saw how

amazing that visit was when we got to meet our friend

Mike and Griff and just had an incredible experience.

And now, as an operator of a retail

establishment in the cannabis industry, I need help.

And there’s only one person that I could

think of to go to for some help.

So joining us back on WeedBudz Radio is Franny.

Franny, thank you so much.

You know, I’m loving this.

I am loving this.

It is so much fun to reconnect.

It’s been incredible.

I can’t believe that the first time I saw you,

you were speaking virtually at a conference because the pandemic

had hit and we couldn’t do anything anymore.

And you just really brought it down.

And I’ve never seen anybody so

captivating in a virtual format.

And I was lucky enough to know your PR

partner, and we were able to connect and get

talking, and it’s just been a great relationship since

following your journey and vice versa, and just seeing

how the stores have grown from a couple of

company owned stores to some franchises to some other

exciting things that we’re going to talk about today.

So there’s a lot of glamour in what we do.

And I think often when people find out, Franny, that I

own an adult use cannabis establishment, that there’s some sort of

badge of honor there that I was unaware of.

And so I would just like to hear from you.

Is it truly glamorous being in this side of

the industry and being in this industry because you

make it look such. You are so sweet.

You see, I’m, like, absolutely cracking up.

There is a perception of that, and I think

it’s because neat like you, we’re digging and talking.

We’re like, oh, yeah, we’ve got a podcast to do.

I think part of the illusion that it’s

glamorous is because we’re living our passion.

I mean, I’m living my passion, and I live on a farm

that was the first farm in North Carolina to plant hemp.

This is passion.

I work for a plant.

I cannot not do what I do.

So I love what I do.

I mean, I do a lot of it

between manufacturing and distribution, we’re in 6 states,

expanding in 7 states, with CBD and hemp.

And now we’ve done applied for retail licenses

in recreational and Connecticut now really getting back

to people are seeing these new things that

I’m launching, which are the textiles and the

foods, and they’re like, girl, what’s up?

I work for a plant.

I work for a plant.

I cannot stop, but it’s not glamorous.

My home has like 4 pieces of furniture in it.

But granted, I have 14 different lodging options

on my farm that are fully furnished.

They all have toilet paper, soap, and

every type of dish you could want.

My own home I’m like I’m a visitor in sometimes,

so we may make it look a little glamorous.

I like to think that’s not the real thing.

No, if you’re grinding I mean, I live as simple of

a life that I can because objects just kind of get

in the way and they accumulate and they slow you down.

I have a nice roof over my head.

I sleep comfortably, but I pretty much sit on the

floor when I’m home because I’m not there often enough

to go to the retail store and buy a lawn chair.

Just not worth it to me.

Well, we laugh because I have lodging.

So in my house, who knows what could be in there?

But I always have the backup, extra refrigerators and beds, so

there’s no such thing as a sofa in my house.

There’s mattresses on the floor, which is

that’s where we’re going to sit. There you go.

If we sit.

And I have 2 air mattresses

here at the store, so we’ve got, like, the store and

then our little studio space and then the warehouse.

And there’s definitely been times, especially in the

winter, where it’s just not worth it to

go home after it’s been snowing all day.

And you’ll have to shovel to get in and

then you’ll have to shovel to get out.

It’s sometimes more worth it to just blow

up that air mattress and take a power

nap and get right back to work.

I mean, whether you’ve been in the business 15 years

or 5 years or 5 months, this changes every day.

And a good store is going to face lift their

store and re merchandise every day and every week.

Anyway, this business, you have to do all

that while learning new laws, while the laws

completely change the next week, and then they

might change back or change into something else.

And you always have to stay on top of it.

And so there’s not a lot of

free time when you’re doing it right.

I’ve definitely seen some people that make it

look very glamorous, but their retail shops don’t

seem to stay open too, too long.

So I think right now we’re all just kind of trying

to ride into the wave, maybe, and see what happens.

And there’s nobody that I know that’s ridden into

the wave faster or stronger than you have.

And so when we last talked, like I mentioned,

you had a couple of company owned stores.

I think you had just got

into your first franchise store.

So where are we now?

Because I’m seeing a lot

of growth in Franny’s Farmacy.

Well, and I appreciate the fact

that you said strong and fast.

I say strong and one foot in front of the other.

It doesn’t feel fast because it’s all always

done about long term and building the brand

and being built to last and growing a

business like a plant with strong roots.

So we got our 3

corporate stores rocking and rolling.

We figured out the system.

And while it’s doing that, it took 2 years and

hundreds of thousands of dollars to be able to franchise.

Because I was consulting for people, they

were like, how are you doing this?

It’s not banking as usual.

It’s not marketing, credit card processing, website.

Nothing is business as usual.

I have had 11 businesses before

this while working in pharmaceuticals.

So that’s what inspired me to do franchising.

And so we’ve got 4 dispensaries

in Georgia, all different franchise owners.

South Carolina, Florida, Virginia, Connecticut

opening New York next.

So we just keep expanding all in

very strategic ways in states, in Connecticut.

I don’t know if I said that.

So giving people a path to success.

Because even when you give people a plan, we

send kids to school every day and we have

a plan how everybody’s going to succeed.

But we still have 30% of kids that don’t graduate

from high school and they can’t follow that plan.

So if you set somebody up as

an entrepreneur, that’s never been that before,

we’ve had 90% of businesses that have opened in

cannabis in the space we’re in, Ry, have closed.

They don’t make it.

They don’t make it.

And so that is part of what the inspiration is for me.

I feel like as I’m getting older, I’m

going to have a birthday next week.

I’ll be 53.

They say it happens to these women when they get older.

It’s like, what is my role now?

My kid has grown, he’s

self sufficient, all these things.

I was like, what is this?

This is my service.

My team is my family.

I can’t do this without them.

To see what has happened to make all these

and you’re talking about keeping up the laws.

We just had D-8 outlawed

in Virginia and in Connecticut.

And now how we have to pivot to be

in all these states and really doing business.

That’s part of the reason we stayed small.

There’s franchises out there that went and opened 600 stores

in 2 years and they’ve closed 80% of them.

Because it was about making money.

It wasn’t about cannabis.

I work for a plant.

The longevity and the story.

The industry needs me.

The community, our country, history needs us, Ry.

To be successful and keep telling the story.

Because I will be doing this in another 40

years or as long as I walk this planet.

I will be working this plant

in some way, shape or form.

So destigmatizing, educating while remaining profitable in business,

and making money while developing and offering a

service is the greatest gift that I could

do to wake up every day too.

Sometimes people like, how do you wake up?

I’m like, oh, I’ll wake up.

Oh, your body wakes you up.

Ever since we got the store going,

I don’t even have an alarm anymore.

I’m excited to get to the store.

And you mentioned running these businesses

profitably because that’s the biggest challenge.

It’s really easy to throw up a cannabis store and have

people come in and appreciate what you have to sell.

Running a profitable business in this space is the

hardest thing I have personally had to do.

And you know, I have run profitable

businesses in other industries multiple times.

And it’s not like this.

And the margins have never been this tight.

And the margin of error has never been this small.

So do you have any tips, be it executionally

that you’ve implemented that keeps your businesses profitable?

It is always, always keeping on top of it.

And the good thing about me is in

business is that I am so systems oriented.

System, system, system and accountability.

Accountability is the hardest thing because people love

to work in their silos so that they

can’t be scolded, reprimanded, reprimanded challenged.

We don’t do that.

We do not operate in that environment.

We cannot be successful in that environment

because the business is so dynamic.

It’s not like everything is now, to be

honest, between COVID, between recessions, between Ukraine, every

single person that is staying in business and

over 60% of businesses across the entire country

have turned over in the past 3 years.

You’ve got to be flexible, nimble, small and on point.

And it takes a team.

No individual person can do all these

things and no individual person is successful.

And that is what the cannabis

industry I call it hemp fever.

And the symptoms are egomaniac.

I’m going to get rich.

So there’s like a couple of indications, like I’m

going to do this, I’m going to do this.

No, don’t tell me what you’re going to do.

Tell me what you’ve done.

Yeah, okay.

Because people are selling everybody else

on what they’re going to do.

And that is why the industry has gotten a bad rap.

People said, oh, great, you can do it.

And everybody believes the white man is

the one to do it, right?

No, no, no, no, no.

They got hemp fever.

I have an ex husband that had hemp fever.

No, you build this with the right.

It’s new.

Any new industry is the toughest place to be.

That’s not your get rich in the new industry.

It’s when the new industry all of a sudden

hits the bell curve and everybody else caught on.

If you can make it through

there, it’s the toughest time.

And that’s where we are.

We still have not even begun to tap the market.

We’re less than 10% of

Americans that are cannabis consumers.

We have a whole world and market.

But we got to stay small and profitable and smart.

Because if you’re not profitable.

You’re not in business, and you’re not helping anybody.

You can’t help people by sacrificing yourself.

That’s the toughest thing here.

I’m not just opening a store in

some part of Maine for convenience sake.

I chose probably the hardest.

I chose where my heart is.

It is a beautiful region with mountains and lakes.

There’s no people, there’s not a huge population.

It’s very conservative.

My grandparents were ministers in this

region, and there’s a whole community

of anti-cannabis individuals and people here.

I just had a lunch meeting, and one

of the people asked me what my grandparents

would have thought of me doing this.

And I’m so blessed I got to tell 3 of my

4 grandparents what I was doing before I got to do

it, and was blessed by them to do that.

Both of my grandparents that were ministers

more than gave me their blessing.

They both utilized the plant

for different things for themselves.

And so it’s so special.

I know your family plays a

big role in your business, too.

We’re like siblings for different parents because my

dad was an ordained deacon, and I have

a whole family of Episcopal ministers.

And my dad believed three things god, family, and farm.

That’s it.

And when he passed away in a tractor accident

two weeks before, I planted my first hemp crop.

But he was there that whole time supporting me.

Everybody’s like, oh, what’s Daddy going to say?

Oh, what’s Daddy, what’s the family going to say?

And what this plant has done for my family.

They call me the gateway in my family now.

They’re like, oh, you’re the gateway to all this

stuff that we hear about, but nobody conservative.

Nashville, Tennessee, so conservative.

And it’s a similar story, how much has helped them

and how proud they were that I could stand up.

I mean, it meant everything to have my

dad, your grandparents, to say, you believe in

this, and we believe in you.

Yeah, it is special.

And it’s funny because the town we’re in is called Medway,

and there’s a sign as soon as you get off the

highway that says Medway, the gateway to the Katahdin region.

And Katahdin is the largest mountain in Maine.

And so we are right here off the highway.

So we’re your gateway to cannabis too.

So it’s a perfect little ecosystem here, but it

is it’s such a fine line to draw because

I love this community so much, and I want

a business to succeed here without me.

I want businesses to succeed here, and

I want there to be pride here. It’s a milltown.

There used to be a lot

of pride, and we’re lacking that.

And I just want to see that come back.

And so for us, I want to just give everything away.

If it was up to me everything’s free

and it’s not possible to do that.

There’s no way for me to stay here and

be the engine for entrepreneurial development in this region

if I can’t keep my own businesses afloat.

And so it’s a fine line because you have

to stay profitable in order to compete long term.

And I think a lot of companies look at this like

the tech space of just acquire more users, acquire more users,

and then you’ll be able to sell that to a degree.

But that’s not just it.

You have to have the empathy.

You have to have the understanding and

the compassion for the plant and the

community in order to be successful.

That acquire new users is what

has put everybody out of business.

Because every cannabis business for the years

has been speculating and operating at a

20% loss is standard for everything.

So if you’re a million dollar

business, you’re going to lose $200,000.

That year was the standard.

Competing for the new users.

We’re going to go capture the market.

We’ll catch up on the back end.

This is a lot of like the millennial

thing that I love Millennials, but there’s a

lot of people like, we don’t like it.

They uber eat, they get, they order in their food,

they get a ride across town, all this stuff.

But that is what was a detriment to many businesses.

Instead of getting in and building a

business, they’re like, we’re going to overspend

over market to capture the users.

And it’s all smoke and mirrors, smoke and mirrors.

We’re so great, we’re so good.

No, you’re not.

You’re not running a good business, and that’s

why you’re going to be out of business.

And we have seen the biggest companies, the one

that had $50,000 boost at the Expo and all

the private parties and everything, where are they now?

Right?

Because I’ve been speaking at events across this

country since 2017, and in the first 2

years, I talked to 30,000 farmers.

Where are those people now? Good business.

And pay something else if the USDA I’m

celebrating my 10 year anniversary on the farm.

So it was long before hemp was legal, and when

I got my loan, it was a USDA loan.

And I’m a shepherdist, according to the USDA.

For Katahdin sheep.

Hold on Katahdin mountain.

Yes, it’s a hair sheep of neat sheep.

We have sheep on our farm, but no kidding.

That’s so cool.

Well, you need to get up here and visit anyway.

I would love to in the summer months, please.

Well, it’s 92 right now, so I feel like that’s

probably fairly accommodating to what you want, but not me.

That is way too hot for us.

So I want to ask you because I was

talking to a mutual friend of ours and he

shared a rumor with me that you’ve got some

really cool things going on with Franny’s Farmacy.

I don’t want to say in a traditional sense

because there’s nothing traditional but what we do, but

outside of the retail and the manufacturing space and

that you were exploring an opportunity in another market

but still under Franny’s Farmacy.

So do you have any truth to this rumor?

I heard that it might be a food truck of sorts.

So freaking cool. Yes.

So Franny’s is as we’ve been evolving.

It’s really the brand.

The first year I planned was for food and fiber.

Guess what?

I keep talking about business and going back.

There’s no business in that, right?

So we explore the medicinal

path, which made perfect sense.

I was in pharmaceuticals, but my love and my passion

and we keep coming back to this, is food.

And so we have Franny’s Pasta and Prana, which prana

is breath, pasta and prana is our new food truck.

But the story is, I got divorced, never swore off

every man ever on the face of the planet.

And it’s like, as soon as you

say you swear them off, they’re everywhere.

And I’m like, gosh.

But then fell in love with my best friend, who

is also my yoga teacher and a pasta man.

And as a gift of love to me, he put hemp and pasta.

He makes pasta, and he sells it

at the market, and he teaches yoga.

And I said, honey, I love you, but I don’t like pasta.

I’ll be sitting on that all day long and wearing

it on my thighs, and it doesn’t feel good.

And I’m very gluten and tolerant.

And he put hemp in there, and I

was like, how did you do this?

It’s like, well, I spent $20 on

1 pound of hemp, and we made this.

So the past year has been this introduction

of how do we put hemp into pasta?

What’s the nutritional information?

How do we scale up?

How do we manufacture it?

I’ve been running around to all these events.

Like, when we were at NOCO, we bring our

cooler bag with us and filled with hemp pasta.

And Dan Herre and all our other

buddies are eating this hemp pasta.

They said we need to go cook some at Marijuana Mansion.

We show up there for a party,

and everyone’s like, we love this. We want this.

And I was like, that is so cool. It’s coming.

I mean, a year, it takes so long

for people to do what we do.

And so sometimes it’s a lot of pressure

because people expect a lot from me.

They’re like, oh, Franny, you’re doing it should be

5 star, and why haven’t you done this, this, this?

And I was like, hey, this takes a

lot of courage to do what I’m doing.

And this is a passion project, and

it’s 1 foot in front of the other.

And just last week, we officially launched it.

Amazing.

Love Shine Play Festival, which is a yoga festival.

So they’re all into the health and nutrition and, like,

one little serving of pasta with hemp in it.

Hemp flour, the superfood high in omegas and

has 20 to 25 grams of protein.

It’s a superfood. The gnocchi has 25 grams of protein

because it has eggs and cheese in it.

But the regular cut pasta, 20

grams of protein, it is amazing.

We’ve already I had 2 people from the press

show up today to interview me about this pasta

They’re like, what’s going on?

Why have we never heard about it?

I said, because it doesn’t exist.

It doesn’t exist.

5 years ago, it was illegal

to even grow hemp for food.

And so I was the first person in the country

to do a Ted Talk on hemp in 2018.

Hemp is a crop.

What is hemp as a crop? I’m a farmer. I love to farm.

I love food and land.

The only crop that could feed

clothe, shelter and provide medicine.

Well, as a businesswoman, I had

to take the medicinal route.

As a businesswoman, building a brand, we need to

continue to let people know how amazing hemp is.

So by introducing the superfood and now

we have other things that are infused.

You can get CBD oil on it.

You can do this infusion it is opening.

People are floored.

Educated, smart.

People are like, what do you mean hemp for food?

We see it, but they think

edibles is the biggest division.

Right before this, we were having business talks.

What’s your top sellers?

What’s the market?

There’s now stores that are opening that are only edibles,

they don’t have bags, they don’t have anything.

Just edibles.

And so the community in our society, as

we’re educating and destigmatizing cannabis, they think that

all food has THC or CBD in it.

Right. Now, we get to distinguish. No, it’s super food.

So this, I don’t know if you can see it.

That’s a little picture.

We got a little Buddha sitting on

our food truck, and it’s awesome.

And there’s our menu.

It’s super simple.

It’s build your own pasta bowls.

You can get zucchini noodles, cut pasta or gnocchi.

You pick a sauce.

I was out tiptoeing through my farm granted

It was 5:30 in the morning.

I was exhausted.

Cutting basil to make pesto to serve the people.

And I had a religious experience with

my land and with the most important

thing we do, which is feed ourselves.

Everything we put in our mouth

is either medicine or poison.

And that is also this food.

So I’m so excited.

We’ve had restaurants.

We want to order cases.

I’m like, Whoa, dude, it’s frozen fresh.

That’s how we make it.

I don’t even know how to ship it there.

We’re not there.

We just start small.

That’s amazing.

What a cool product.

Yeah.

I’m going to ship you some, though.

So when this is over, you better send me your address.

I will.

You’ll be like, oh, Franny, in a month,

you’ll be like, we’re having you back on.

We’re going to talk about it. Yeah.

Franny’s restaurant is the next obvious choice.

So, I mean, there’s got to be

a food market and all that.

Yeah, that’s what I’m saying.

It’s always so amazing. What’s that?

I said, we have lemon,

lavender cookies and tahini cookies.

People are freaking out.

We’re really building a foods division.

I’m going to send you sample pack and you’re going to

I can’t wait because when we were in Connecticut,

we tried a little bit of everything, tried the gummies.

It was funny, but it wasn’t funny.

Brooke threw her neck out that morning.

And so we’re going to meet Griff and the team.

And her neck, I felt so badly, like she

could not walk without truly her whole body clenching.

And so we got some of the lotion and it helped.

And we had a nice lunch

right there with the whole team.

We definitely tried the creams and definitely

could provide a great testimonial for that.

She absolutely loved it and felt great.

But it’s just so incredible.

And I love and we’ll definitely have to not wait

2 years before we have you on next time.

But in the meantime, what’s the best way

for everyone to follow you and stay connected?

So if you look at Franny’s Farmacy

F-A-R-M obviously pharmacy anywhere on

social media, our website, frannysfarmacy.com

But in this brand stuff, please

follow our farm, Franny’s Farm.

I used to have 18,000 people.

They cut that off on Instagram.

But that’s a beautiful place where you can

come and actually stay on our farm, enjoy

our hemp garden and Franny Tacy

myself, I also have a whole bunch

of stuff that’s really fun.

Amazing. And of course, we’ll add all of

those links to our show notes.

So if you head over to weedbudzradio.com, you’ll be

able to connect with Franny right from there.

And of course

Thank you so much for joining us.

And we’ll see you on the

next episode of WeedBudz Radio.

100th Episode – Can Legal Weed Win? Joined by Economists Robin Goldstein and Daniel Sumner.

Ry Russell with Economists Daniel Sumner and Robin Goldstein, Authors of Can Legal Weed Win?

Find Can Legal Weed Win?

Welcome to our 100th episode of WeedBudz Radio!  I am your host, Ry Russell and I invite you to join this compelling discussion today of the economics of owning a business in the cannabis industry.  There are many factors that can hinder growth and success in this competitive market so we ask the question – can legal weed win?  

To answer that very question, we have the authors of the book “Can Legal Weed Win?  The Blunt Reality of Cannabis Economics”, Robin Goldstein and Daniel Sumner.  

ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Robin Goldstein is an economist and author of The Wine Trials, the controversial exposé of wine snobbery that became the world’s best-selling guide to cheap wine. He is Director of the Cannabis Economics Group in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at the University of California, Davis. He has an AB from Harvard University, a JD from Yale Law School, and a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Bordeaux.

Daniel Sumner is Frank H. Buck, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics at the University of California, Davis. He grew up on a California fruit farm, served on the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, and was Assistant Secretary of Economics at the US Department of Agriculture before joining the UC Davis faculty. He has a BS from Cal Poly and a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Chicago.

 


Host: Ry Russell
BUDZ EMPORIUM
WeedBudz RadioSupport the show

Transcript from this Episode:

Hello, buds.

Welcome back to another episode of WeedBudz Radio.

I’m your host, Ry, and as most of you

know, I opened a cannabis dispensary in northern Maine.

And as exciting and amazing and fun and

challenging as that is, you really need to

look at the economics of getting into the

cannabis industry and the economies of your business.

And that’s something that we’re going back

and forth with all of the time.

And as most of you have heard throughout my

grumblings that taxes are one of the things that

really hinder us as a business from being able

to scale, being able to employ more people.

And it’s a constant challenge of, is this worth it?

Are we crazy?

Some might say maybe a little bit of both.

But it’s always time to go to the experts.

Why hypothesize and sit here and fester

on things that I know nothing about?

It makes more sense for me to talk to individuals that

wrote the book on whether or not legal weed can win.

And so joining us today, we have

the incredible authors of Can Legal Weed Win? The

Blunt Realities of Cannabis Economics.

And so I’m really excited to have

both Robin and Daniel join us.

Thank you so much for joining us today.

Thank you very much.

So you two gentlemen obviously have an extensive

knowledge not just about cannabis economics and cannabis

business, but about economics in general.

I know that’s a topic that you both have

studied and teach upon and share your knowledge upon.

So I guess my very first question

to you gentlemen is, am I crazy?

Am I bonkers for getting into the

cannabis industry the way that I have?

Well, let me say something to begin with, and

that is, you know your local market, you know

your local competition, and Robin and I may give

you some background, but the most important thing is

what’s going on right where you are.

And we could say, boy, it’s really

tough, and here’s some examples where it

seems to be working more than others.

But you’ll know your local situation, if you’ve

got 13 other guys that are undercutting you

on price, we could say, gee, the market’ s

booming, and you could say, I’m getting screwed.

You see what I’m saying?

So we can have some insights about the

bigger picture, but, you know your local stuff.

Speaking of the bigger picture, would you consider

legal weed to be winning right now?

Would you say that it’s failing?

What is your perspective on how weed

is measuring up from an economic standpoint?

Well, we don’t think it’s winning

right now, that’s for sure.

It’s, of course, a different situation in every state, and

some states are doing a lot better than others.

So one of the things we do in the book

is we compare states that have been doing comparatively well

with ones that haven’t and look for some of the

reasons why, and we say, well, we mean the state.

It’s a viable legal market.

Legal weed is able to beat illegal weed.

That’s sort of a success for legal weed.

And it’s been really hard in states

like California, where we come from, for

legal weed to compete with illegal weed.

And the biggest reason is price.

Illegal weed is much cheaper to produce and sell

because they don’t have to pay all the taxes

and go through the regulations and follow all the

rules, including a lot of rules that you have

to follow in any legal business.

Not just weed, but a lot of specialized cannabis rules

that only cannabis companies have to follow has made it

more costly and more difficult for them to compete with

the illegal guys that have been around for a while.

So the states that have done best are the

ones where they’ve been able to bring prices down

and be more competitive, where legal weeds able to

be more competitive with the illegal stuff.

And there are neighborhoods where, for

one reason other, your customers don’t

really care about price that much.

Not very many, but some.

And you’re in some town where everybody really

wants to be legal in every way.

Even though they could have weed, it’s

legal for them to have it.

They want to deal with

local legal businesses, that’s great.

But not everywhere is like that.

So if I was thinking about the distribution,

it goes from really struggling to hanging on.

And the, boy, I’m just printing money here, at least as

far as there are people that have made those claims.

There may be a consultant that’s doing very well and

a lawyer who’s doing very well, but it’s tougher to

find somebody who’s actually in the cultivation business.

And it’s also easy for people in business.

And I do a lot of food economics.

And you talk to a farmer and he says,

oh yeah, that guy who’s just one step up

the chain from me, he’s making all the money.

And then you talk to the guy in the

marketing, the distribution business, the middleman, and he says,

yeah, the retailers make money, the farmers make money.

God, I can’t make a go of it.

And then you get to the retailer and he says, the

prices are so high, those guys are charging me so much.

Plus I have my rent and the labor, and who

knows where you can get a worker these days?

You see what I’m saying?

And I really do think it

goes from struggling to hang on.

But the big thing about weed is

that the illegal market is there everywhere.

The competition from the illegal guy is always there.

And that’s the point Robin was making.

That’s the challenge about price.

We’re talking about legal markets and illegal

markets and legal pricing and illegal pricing.

And I think something that is confusing

and misleading is the term legalization.

And when I think of my operations here in

the beautiful state of Maine, it’s a legal operation.

And I struggle to see where

federal legalization will make things better.

Everybody, I think touts that federal legalization

is going to make everything exponentially better.

But the feds are making a lot of money off of

me right now, and they do control some of the kind

of merchant services, if you will, systems of all of this.

And so it’s hard for me to see,

well, what’s the federal incentive to legalization?

So can you help demystify what legalization is?

But why ultimately, does the term

legalization become so misleading to people?

This is music to our ears, because that’s one

of our themes, and I’ll let Robin elaborate.

One of the first things we do in

the book is say this word legalization.

We’re using it, but it can be really misleading.

Yeah, and it can just mean a lot of different things.

For example, when a state passes a ballot question or

a bill that says weed is legalized, it can take

years between getting from that point to getting to the

point where you actually have stores open, because states take

years sometimes to drop regulations and so forth.

Vermont, 4 and a half years after they

passed a law legalizing recreational weed, they still

don’t have a single recreational store open.

Oklahoma, on the other hand, managed to do that in a day

with what Vermont took 4 and a half years to do.

But that was medical legalization.

So you have medical and then that’s basically a

market that’s limited to state residents with doctors permissions

and that’s sort of a lot more states are

set up that way than the recreational.

But when we talk about recreational legalization, Dan and

I, from an economic point of view, of course

you care whether the stores are open and they’re

doing business and there’s a market.

So we consider full recreational legalization to only start at

the moment when stores are actually open and you can

walk into a store and buy weed legally.

And there’s about 14 states that are

now at that stage with recreational.

I’m curious, in Maine, we’ve been looking at a

lot of data on prices and also on

the number of dispensaries in each or retailers

in each state and the density of retail.

One thing we noticed about Maine is that you guys

have a lot of stores for your population, and you

also have the prices on the lower side of

the spectrum of what we’ve been looking at.

So I’m curious, why do you think that is?

What’s the market like in Maine?

I take responsibility for the lower prices.

No, but our store does take a lot of pride in that.

For example, Budz Emporium, specifically, we have a

guarantee that we are the cheapest recreational store

in the state of Maine, and sometimes that

means selling our vendored wholesale products for less

than that vendor’s own retail establishments.

And we’ve kind of made that guarantee

because we know that price is the

primary driver of consumer behavior right now.

And within that, there’s different parameters around

selection, but it really is price.

We were the first store to offer

a $99 ounce in the rec market.

That was lower than many ounces in the medical market.

And frankly, it can be cheaper than

what you get from Bob next door.

And that really boomed our business.

And that was something that took a lot

of work, a lot of creativity, a lot

of partnerships from many different sides.

But that single handedly took the average cost of an ounce

in our store from about $200 down to about $125.

That’s a significant jump in 30 days.

And you are seeing a jump like that in the

state of Maine where, for example, when we open the

store, I think the average price per gram to the

consumer was right around $15, $14 and some odd cents.

And if I’m not mistaken, the latest reports are showing

about, $10.50, $10.75 I think, per gram right now to the consumer.

And we’re below that here at my store in particular.

But we built our business off value.

I used to operate a drive in movie theater, and

the only way that I saved that was creating the

value of kind of reducing that barrier of the ticket

price and increasing the value on food.

Everybody brought in sandwiches.

Nobody was buying food at the drive in.

And we kind of changed that model around where

you wanted the food at the drive in.

It was good and it was good value.

And so I try to take those principles

and bring them over here to my operation.

But it is in the state of Maine, you

have 3,500 to 4,000 medical shops which are untested,

and then you have about 100 or so retailers

in the adult use market right now.

And that’s definitely going to grow.

But there’s a lot more hurdles

in the adult use recreational market.

The med market is a piece of paper front and back,

and you can open a store within probably 72 hours.

The adult use side is a grind and a grueling

process that I think will get easier over time.

But the barrier to that’s very low

as well at $2,500 per license.

So I think if not the lowest in the country, one

of and so the barriers to entry are very low.

And that’s where I think branding comes into play

and value and all of that here in Maine.

But the economies here are very different.

And when we see tourists from Pennsylvania, New

York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, they cannot even believe

what the price per pre-roll or per 8th

is here in the state of Maine.

And they want it.

The thing that in my opinion, and you two are

economists, but I think even having a market like Maine

is going to drive the prices lower in Massachusetts and

Vermont and kind of trickle down because those tourists are

going to start demanding it from their retailers, which, to

your point, Daniel, that works backwards.

The retailers will then put that pressure on

the middle man, the middle man backwards.

So it is a very unique segment of the industry.

We are in Maine.

Are you allowed to deliver Ry or is

it strictly storefront because that limits your scale.

Of course.

It does very much, though.

And currently the adult use market

is not allowed to offer delivery.

That should be coming online hopefully

August, September, October of 2022.

And when that does, I think

that’ll help retailers out a lot.

However, that doesn’t come without its own challenges

and own infrastructure and all of that.

And I’m lucky.

I’m in the north Maine woods.

I’m the only adult use store really for an hour

south and probably an hour and a half north.

And so I’ve got a nice piece of territory where

you go to Portland, you’ve got 70 stores stacked on

each other, loyalty is zero, and it’s very price conscious.

Yeah.

Connecting back to the point you asked, the question

you asked earlier about federal legalization, I think you’re

really smart to care a lot about price.

And Maine is going to do comparatively well compared to

some other states around Maine when federal legalization comes in,

because you’re going to all of a sudden be competing

with stuff from all over the place.

Now, you’re also going to face competition from Wyoming

or Montana or Oklahoma, places that might be able

to make it even cheaper because they have lower

costs of land and labor and things like that.

But the thing that I think people we say a

lot in the book, the thing that people miss about

legalization, they think it’s just going to help everyone.

And actually competition will help

some people and hurt others.

You’re ahead of the game by caring about price,

by thinking about price, by figuring out how you

can price not just competitively, but at the bottom

of the price spectrum in your area.

And that’s the skill set and the advantages that

will be needed in the future with competition.

As a retailer, what we say about

federal legalization is first, do no harm.

In fact, my motto has been let cannabis be kale.

We don’t need a bunch of regulations from the Feds.

The states have been handling that pretty

well, and local governments and everybody else.

And in fact, this idea of federalism,

this idea that different states do things

differently, okay, that’s the way it goes.

But the last thing we need is to layer on a

set of federal taxes and federal regulations on top of that.

And what Robin is talking about is the

beauty you go back to the U.S. Constitution.

The beauty of the U.S. Constitution is

it made a free trade agreement.

So let’s just accept that.

So imagine the federal government did

one thing and one thing only.

It just took cannabis off this schedule

of prohibited substances or illegal substances.

The list of severe drugs, all you

did was cross that one line out.

Taxes would change, banking rules would change.

All of those things are just tied to

the fact that the raw material that you

buy is on this list of illegal stuff.

Therefore, you don’t get to deduct it

from your taxes as a retailer.

And the federally registered banks don’t want to deal

with you or they find it awkward because you’re

dealing with a substance that’s on that list.

Now, there may be some other places where somebody

has to cross something out, but what we’ve seen

about the federal regulations, no matter who they’re sponsored

by, even the one that was released yesterday or

today, it goes on for pages.

And Robin and I say, how about a postcard?

You don’t really have to do a lot here, and

maybe later you want to say, okay, we’re going to

add cannabis cultivation to some USDA program or something.

But as long as you don’t prohibit

it, it’s there for lots of things.

And so that’s what we’d say for you, and

particularly you, Ry, and I would say your customers

and the customers in Maine that want to take

advantage of access to Washington state or maybe eastern

Massachusetts, where they have some particular cultivars of ours

that are tasty or somebody likes, fine.

But it doesn’t tie you when you go buy a banana, you’re

not stuck to buying a banana that was grown in Maine.

And when you grow an avocado, yeah, same thing.

You buy that avocado, it can be grown in Mexico.

It could be grown down the

street from here in California.

Same with strawberries, et cetera, et cetera.

You go buy strawberries in January, you don’t

say, God, it’s coming from some guy with

a hot house under glass doing all kinds

of electricity to grow a damn strawberry.

Whereas in cannabis, it has to be.

And so this free trade, particularly in the raw material, I

think is a boon for your kind of business, and it

may not be a boon for the cultivators of Maine that

you could see some growers saying, wait a second, I don’t

want to have to compete with Colorado.

That makes a lot of sense.

That sounds so hopeful.

So I want to go back there for a second.

But first you said something about legalization, and then

the feds will put taxes on top of that.

But my argument is, where are they

going to put taxes on top of? What?

What could they possibly put taxes on top of?

Because we’ve got our sales tax, and then we pay our

income tax monthly or quarterly, and they’re getting a nice chunk

of change on that, upwards of past 30% of our revenue,

and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Now, there’s a lot of if you’ve got big money,

you can put a holdings company in between it and

a property management company in between it and stack and

layer and all kinds of other things, but just straight

up, pound for pound, what would it look like if

there was true federal legalization?

Well, here’s the problem.

Over the years, I lived in North Carolina for

a while, and I studied tobacco economics, and I

moved to California and started studying wine economics.

And so I can tell you there’s

a federal excise tax on wine.

So if you go to your local grocery store and buy

a box or buy a bottle, it’s got a bunch of

federal taxes later right into it, right off the bat.

Excise tax.

Same with a pack of cigarettes.

Lots of federal taxes, then state taxes, then if you’re

in a city that puts local taxes on top.

So just because there’s state and local taxes

and regulations doesn’t mean the feds can’t put

some more taxes on the product itself.

We know they tax your business, your income

taxes, and other things on your business.

But this is product taxes.

Our argument is it’s not needed.

We got plenty of taxes already.

And particularly, and this is really crucial

for everybody to understand the health of

the industry because we’ve got this illegal

business that is running parallel now.

Maybe not in Maine, maybe nobody

grows illegal cannabis in Maine, right?

Yeah, I wish.

The feds aren’t going to tax illegal cannabis anymore

than they do now, and they’re not going to

stop it any more than they do now.

And at least in most jurisdictions when you legalize

it, the agency that’s in charge of monitoring legal

cannabis in Colorado, the Colorado agency that does that,

they don’t go after illegal cannabis.

They don’t even know how because they have a long

list of growers and retailers and wholesalers and testing firms,

and they say, here’s a bunch of regulations you have

to follow, and it’s their job to make sure that

the legal industry follows the law, okay?

That’s their job.

There’s this whole illegal industry that’s doing its

thing undercutting your prices and everybody else’s.

And that’s the big challenge

that Robin was emphasizing.

Robin, I just told him that he was giving me a glimpse

of hope and then right there all the way, oh no, you

signed up to be on their radar and on their list.

So I guess I have a question for

both of you gentlemen before we end today.

Where’s the hope?

I think there’s plenty of hope because people over time

see what works and doesn’t and learn from successes and

failures of others. I think we think that the most

hope is when people are willing to look at other

states and see what’s worked and what hasn’t.

Be brutally honest about what’s failed.

One of the mistakes regulators have made, as you see

more and more states opening up, and it’s like the

default is they just go copy the regulations.

They’re writing off the regulations, they just copy the

system from California or from Colorado, and you’re like,

well, why would you copy some regulations?

Why would you copy a system of a state that

where legal weed is not doing comparatively well against illegal?

But if they looked at what’s going on in Oklahoma

with the medical system there, they’re not at recreational yet,

and they see how much that industry is thriving and

they’ll be probably competitive in an interstate market, then you

want to set up more like that.

So we’re hopeful in the sense that over time, maybe

it will take a century or maybe 10 years, but

I think over time, people learn from their mistakes.

He’s the optimist, the real wild card, the real

question mark is what you’ve been getting out, which

is what form federal legalization will take.

Legal weed could, as Dan said, if

it’s just descheduled, that could really help

legally win in a lot of places.

If they add another layer of

taxation, then it’s anyone’s guess.

It could be a step backward

before we’re able to step forward.

Where your case is interesting a lot

of places, California is one of them.

Washington State is another.

There are several where when adult

use was introduced, medical died because

they had essentially the same rules.

Most people in California got both licenses

when they were both available same.

It wasn’t easy.

Neither license was easy.

They got both licenses, and then the customer

said, well, unless they were under the age

of 21 or had some, there was no

particular reason to get a medical card anymore.

Whereas what I found fascinating about what you said

was that if I declare and you always said

medical in quotes, you always said that.

And it’s interesting that I look at you as a retailer

and said, well, why don’t you go to the medical route?

You could access a lot of customers.

You could have stores side by

side, one medical, one adult use.

But in most places, there was just no reason for

medical once you had adult use up and running.

And it’s fascinating.

So there’s a case where Maine did something

quite different than the rest of the country.

We like to strive to say that we’ve seen

the future and we’re trying to reverse engineer it.

And it’s looking at state by state that has

come before us and trying to learn from their

mistakes, trying to innovate on where they left off.

And I think as long as we stay creative

and innovative and ultimately focused on the customer’s value

first, I’ve yet to see a business model truly

fail where the customer was ultimately the happiest.

And that’s something that we just

kind of strive for here.

And I think that’s ultimately how the industry wins.

Being an industry, that’s not just cool, but

it really, truly is part of the community.

And that’s easy for me to say in my tri

town area of 10,000 individuals, but also because of that,

it’s much easier for that community to know how hard

we work to live up to that.

It’s much harder at scale to show

the customer that same level of love.

And that’s really what we’re trying to

dial in before we replicate, is how

do we replicate true community value?

Because that’s what we did at

the drive in, and it succeeded.

And I think that is ultimately not only

the way cannabis will succeed, but in my

mind, that’s the way it should.

I think the people of the cannabis industry, hopefully

most of them, feel the same way that we’re

sharing love with the world when we put this

in a safe, legal fashion and bringing it.

And I think often that’s why the accidental air

quotes come out when I refer to medical.

It’s because they should be the ones

putting in the level of care.

The level of continuing education.

And the level of seriousness that we

emphasize with our teams because they’re medical.

They should hold themselves accountable.

And they should ultimately be testing their own product

if there’s no legal reason to do so.

We very much we were licensed to answer your

question, Daniel, why didn’t we were licensed as medical?

And when I learned that medical was not required

to test, we bowed out and decided that that

was not the values we stood for, ultimately not

where we wanted to be in the marketplace.

We felt that, yes, we’re entrepreneurs and

not necessarily looking for a boss, but

we are looking to be held accountable.

And testing doesn’t just hold us accountable, it

holds the cultivators and the processors accountable.

And ultimately, I think that just

makes a safer product for everybody.

So that’s ultimately why we decided

to do the recreational side.

That’s interesting.

Testing is an important one.

It’s one of the things that differentiates if you

ask what differentiates the legal from the illegal product

and experience, and you talk about both and the

testing is like the main substantive difference.

No one can necessarily from smoking weed, from

smoking in particular, where you can’t necessarily know

whether the person who grew it or packaged

it had a state license or not.

But the certification of testing

means something to some people.

Some people aren’t willing to pay more for it, but

some are, and it matters to a lot of people.

And so that’s one differentiator.

But I think you bring up a really important point

about the customer experience and the service element of it.

Most illegal weed is delivery.

And there’s something special about

this in-person’s storefront experience.

And I think some of the early storefronts that

would open, having to follow so many rules kind

of came off as kind of cold.

It was like an Apple Store pharmacy kind of thing.

And you didn’t really have it wasn’t like

such a nice experience that you’d pay a

little extra to have that experience.

But certainly that’s low hanging fruit for people that’s

a big part of the experience is buying it

and getting guidance on what to choose.

And this is a new industry where a lot of

people, especially people who are just starting to explore it

and haven’t been like long time consumers of weed in

the past, they just don’t know anything about what to

buy or what’s the differences between products.

And I think you’re delivering a

lot of value by doing that.

And I think that’s important for people around the country

to keep in mind as they figure out how to

navigate the legalization and compete successfully with illegal.

Thank you.

I really appreciate that.

We definitely strive to do our best.

It’s a humble family shop up here in the north

Maine woods and we’re loving every minute of it.

And honestly, I just want to thank you both so much for

taking the time to riff with me today on all of this.

It’s just overwhelming sometimes when you’re up here and you’re

in your own head and you’re looking at the future

and you’re looking at the past to predict.

And it’s nice to have minds that do that on

a daily basis, help kind of deweed that for us.

So thank you so much.

And gentlemen, how does our buds

at home find your book?

Amazon. Can Legal Weed Win? The

Blunt Realities of Cannabis Economics. Amazing.

Well, thank you both.

Tell your local library too.

Tell your local bookshop, et cetera.

We’re going to have to get a couple of copies

for our library here in Millinocket, so it’ll be fun.

And I think the community is always looking

for more ways to educate themselves on cannabis.

And I think one of the things I love most

about this is the community is part of this rally.

They are a part of the success of

the store and they feel that way.

They’re always looking for products.

So awesome.

And obviously, we are always grateful for all

of you that are tuned in and continue

to tune into WeedBudz year after year.

It has been incredible to

produce these shows for you.

So be sure to head over to

Weedbudzradio.com and check out those show notes.

We’ll have a link for you so

you can go purchase the book directly.

Take you easily right there.

And of course, we’ll see you in the next show.

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