Flower Is Selling Really Well Right Now
How one cannabis company is adapting during this unprecedented time.
Cannabis flower continues to be a hot seller during the coronavirus crisis. According to research conducted by BDS Analytics, retailers are reporting a 50 percent increase in the sale of flower over the past few weeks. And flower purchases, in general, are being made in larger quantities than is ‘typical.’
We talked to Nishant Reddy, co-founder and CEO of A Golden State, a premium marijuana flower company based in northern California, about how his company is operating in this unique time.
Any thoughts on why flower sales are up right now?
If you’re a more seasoned cannabis consumer, having flower around is like having ingredients to make a meal. For the more novice consumer, flower gives value. It also gives a fast-acting, dependable result, and people want that right now.
How have your business practices changed during this time?
When we started seeing the crisis unfold in China, the first thing we did was order a year’s supply of packaging. A lot of the packaging for the industry comes from China. When it started taking hold in the U.S. we thought, what do we need to do to maintain business continuity? We broke the cultivation team into smaller teams so that there was the same skill set in every team. Even if it affected efficiency, we knew that if workers became sick we’d be covered — at least the harvesting could still get done. It was equally important that we enacted employees’ well-being programs, like infection protection measures: smaller teams, mandatory hand washing every 20 minutes, all employees wearing gloves and masks, even foot baths inside the facility to get the germs that would otherwise be on your shoes. All travel by employees had to be reported to management because we needed to quarantine certain employees so they wouldn’t contaminate the rest of our workforce.
Have you been able to actually grow your workforce at a time when almost every industry is contracting?
It’s a very sensitive subject because we’re in an environment of economic uncertainty. We’ve seen a surge in demand, people stockpiling, but we’ve also seen signs of that flattening out and normalizing off the initial spike. We need to protect our existing workforce first, let them know their jobs are secure, and unfortunately, we’re also not in an environment conducive to interviewing people.
In what ways have you seen people help each other over the last several weeks?
What’s been really uplifting is, we’re in an industry that was created to provide medicine and well-being for people. We’ve seen partners step up — The Circle in Long Beach and Erba in West LA — and we’re working with them to have special hours and prices for seniors, anything to make buying medicine easy for them. There’s also a general awareness that the economy isn’t in great shape, so we’re working with our partners to lower prices and help people get their medicine. Part of the responsibility of being considered an essential business is, if they’re letting me stay open, what can I do to help my peers and my community? Like we’re donating 10 percent of our sales to the California Food Bank. We’re happy to do anything we can do to pitch in and help, and that onus is on all of us in the industry.
Are you surprised to see so many states call cannabis “essential business”?
Being in this industry everything is a surprise—you can’t take anything for granted, you just never really know how the local and state governments will align with the industry. We’ve just seen taxes on cannabis go up, but none of that tax revenue has been used to help the industry — that was surprising, too. But am I pleasantly surprised by this? Absolutely. And for the states that aren’t legal yet, they’re seeing how cannabis is used as a medicine, how people use it every day in their lives, and that it’s unjust to not allow them to use it at a time like this.
Has your thinking about your business or the overall industry changed going forward?
Even in a normal environment, we’re always thinking way into the future — you never want to get caught on your heels. My priorities as CEO are always to produce the highest quality medicine in California, protect my employees and their families, and protect our investors. So I don’t see this event changing a lot of our business practices, but what I think entrepreneurs should take away from this is measured growth, building a sound and stable business, maintaining liquidity, and not over-hiring. It’s easy for entrepreneurs to lose sight of the discipline necessary to build a strong, sustainable business that can weather a storm like this, so this is a time for some companies to perhaps reel it in a bit and hit the reset button.