Treez Chief Executive John Yang said that his team — which makes enterprise software tailored to cannabis companies — is seeing that the substantial changes to the basics of selling a gram of weed to consumers has weighed on dispensaries.
“You can’t be as efficient as before, and retailers are forcing a delivery or pickup model,” Yang said in a phone interview.
Requiring customers to pick up orders means companies must have runners, fulfillers and people taking orders over the phone, he said, which isn’t as efficient as normal operations. Cannabis companies in the U.S. also have limited access to financial services because marijuana is prohibited by federal law, which forces many of them to only accept cash that could be contaminated with the coronavirus.
In a videoconference Friday, Jerred Kilohm, who operates the Los Angeles dispensary The Higher Path, described how his staff uses a basket to collect cash from customers to eliminate the need to come into contact with the customers. The retailer is also implementing additional hand-washing, giving employees rubber gloves and other sanitation measures.
‘This is a very fluid situation’
In Florida, which has legalized medical marijuana, dispensaries are zoned as pharmacies, marijuana is not taxed and is considered essential. With the majority of its operations located in that state, Trulieve Cannabis Corp. /zigman2/quotes/210560499/delayed CA:TRUL -0.51% /zigman2/quotes/207658767/composite TCNNF -0.41% Chief Executive Kim Rivers said the company’s existing emergency response team, which normally handles hurricanes, has implemented a number of safety measures, such as deep-cleaning and sanitation at the company’s facilities that already follow pharmaceutical-level standards.
“In general, our employees are happy that work is available and we’re increasing production to meet demand,” Rivers said in a phone interview. “This is a very fluid situation and we are having daily conversations around daily impacts. We’re all coming to the realization that this will be the new normal over a period of time.”
Though Florida has not mandated marijuana delivery for all purchases, Trulieve customers have opted to buy product that way, sending delivery demand up 485%, which prompted Trulieve to nearly double its fleet of delivery cars.
Amid the nearly nationwide isolation due to pandemic-related lockdowns, Trulieve’s patient base appears to be dealing with it by speaking with the company’s staff over the phone more often and for longer. The company has received triple the number of calls it usually gets over a week, and Rivers said patients are more chatty: People are talking with Trulieve’s staff on average of 14 minutes, four minutes longer than they normally do.
From cash to ash: Pot companies have just months to live on average, study finds
Cannabis distributor Nabis, which operates in California, has made significant changes to its operations, staggering the company’s work hours — running deliveries Monday through Wednesday and having its pickers and packers in the warehouses Thursday and Friday — to minimize the number of people together at any one time. Like consumers, Nabis saw retailers stockpiling products initially, with the average order size doubling sharply when the news about the pandemic became widespread, CEO Vincent Ning said over the phone.
Ning said that because of the state regulations and practical matters, some contact with other people is impossible to avoid. It’s not possible to drop a $4,000 order of pot off on the side of the street, and each order is required to have a signed manifest.
Ning said distributors have been having trouble with law enforcement not knowing about or believing that cannabis is an essential service in California. After one of his trucks was stopped by law enforcement and detained for about 20 minutes while on a run, and the headaches related to sorting it out after the fact — which ate into efficiencies — his drivers now carry a letter from the governor that makes it clear that pot is considered essential.
“It just costs more for our business, adds a lot of additional headaches and costs,” Ning said. “But we’re looking at the essential status as a privilege, not a right.”
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