Author – Jon Russell
Edited by Noah Persin
“Supply chain”, “cost management”, “market saturation”
These terms are best recognized from a corporate boardroom or any movie about Wall Street, but at the March Cannabis Science Pub at Cozmic Pizza in Eugene, Oregon these and many other business power words were thrown around as panelists discussed the topic of distribution in the legal cannabis industry. Five panelists and a large group of interested community members came together to get a sense of and discuss how the distribution landscape was progressing and where it might going the next few years.
The evening started with the usual audience participation trivia questions, mostly pertaining to what licenses are required and how growers (both OMMP and recreational) can distribute their excess flower. We learned several key points such as how the state defines a “batch” of cannabis and who can and can’t sell excess flowers without licensing. The crowd was quite involved and it was clear that many had paid at least some attention to the licensing changes and wanted to learn more about wholesale distribution.
Next, Charles Weller and Benjamin Nadolny from the Emerald Trade Alliance (ETA) gave a quick update regarding House Bill 4014 and the removal of the in-state residency requirement and how that could allow large out of state corporations to enter the Oregon market with deep pockets and seemingly unlimited resources. Potentially forcing out the smaller craft growers from the industry. They gave a quick call to action asking the crowd to write their leaders or head to Salem and help advocate to keep the Oregon cannabis business alive.
After the ETA update the panelists took the stage. The speakers were:
- Charles Weller (not the same as above) – Buzy Bee Distribution
- Adrian Nelson – Cascade Cannabis Distribution
- Chris Malott – Highly Distributed
- Lindsay Jacobsen – The Drop
- Kelly Sue Buchwald – GreenSea Distribution
Each person took a moment to discuss their backgrounds and where their companies were located and the host kept everything flowing smoothly!
I want to take a moment to give a HUGE kudos to the host Erika Winters with Oregon’s Constant Gardener, who took the mic with her first time (and first class) MCing the event. She did great keeping the crowd engaged and paying attention. She was very pleasant to listen to and her prepared questions were right on point, cutting to the heart of the current issues in the industry. Questions asked covered topics including the difference between extracts and concentrates, the biggest challenges the speakers have faced as distribution companies, and the future of distribution in Oregon and the U.S.
Many of the speakers felt that the issue of extracts vs. concentrates highlighted some glaring issues in the industry but also brought some lesser used products (such as bubble hash and kief) back into the limelight as both secondary manufacturers and retailers were looking to source other products. On the challenge question, the RESOUNDING response was their issues with vendor consistency. Everyone is looking for some organization and focus as we move forward and grow the industry over the next 18 months! It was summed up nicely by Chris from Highly Distributed who said, “it is a lack of sophistication due to an immaturity in the industry”. The general consensus is that the industry is brand new so no one really knows how to act yet.
Erika kept things rolling and we began the audience participation portion of the event. The audience asked questions regarding banking regulations, how the “Oregon brand” was going to be protected, and how distributors are working towards Clean Green certifications or ideologies. The answers varied between companies but all agreed that a strong “Oregon brand” will only really happen with strong branding of individual products so that big business can’t come in and take over the industry. All of the speakers also agreed that you can’t stop the money so the industry needs to be strong here BEFORE large corporations come in and take over.
One of the last questions asked was how the distributors helped with branding and marketing for their clients. Most of the panelists agreed that while they would help a little if it was necessary, they preferred clients to have a strong brand when they began working together. GreenSea Distribution was the only company that said they wanted the marketing and branding work. Their marketing team is one of the primary service offerings they provide and Kelly Sue wanted to be completely clear that she not only welcomed but actually wanted to work with clients and vendors by saying, “I love marketing, it’s what I do at GreenSea and it’s my passion.”
The Cannabis Science Pub is put on by OG Analytical and Oregon’s Constant Gardener each month, and these panels provide a forum for the community to ask questions from the business leaders and cover the important issues in the industry. Come see the next one on April 26th, 2016 which will cover the topic of “Sustainability”.