Selling marijuana the American way

14 Jan 2020
In summer I stopped by to see my friend in the U.S., who was just on his way to a cannabis dispensary. What could I do? I went with him. And while I was there, I used the opportunity to make an interview with the owner of this dispensary. This allows me to take you on a tour through the backstage of this dispensary.

Legalization of plants with high cannabinoid content is spreading through the world at an immense pace. This process has been going on the fastest in the U.S. – a country, where the global cannabis prohibition has spread from like a virus many decades ago. Nowadays, the map of the U.S. states that have legalized cannabis in some form or other has to be updated several times a year. 

Basically, there are two types of legalization. Cannabis is either allowed for medical purposes only (in this case those who want to buy medical cannabis need to have a prescription or a recommendation from their doctor), or for medical “as well as” recreational purposes, when any adult person can buy cannabis with high THC content. The state of Nevada, where Las Vegas and thus the above-mentioned Jardín dispensary is located, represents the latter case. Medical cannabis, marijuana, weed, hash, extracts, concentrates, essential oils, tinctures, ointments, cookies, cannabis electric cigar cartridges and other forms of cannabis products – all can be bought by anyone aged 21 and more. The offer is really broad and greatly exceeds that of Spanish social clubs I’ve also visited. What's also interesting is that you can buy products with different proportions of cannabinoids and terpenes, including products with zero THC content, but rich in CBD and with various terpenes.

[caption id="attachment_11052" align="alignnone" width="780"]Selling-marijuana-the-American-way Customers are either medical, or recreational users[/caption]

From customer’s point of view, the dispensary's functioning is quite simple. Once you enter, you have to go through a security check at the reception. You have to present some kind of document proving you're at least 21 years old. The receptionist writes your name down in a guestbook and asks whether you're buying cannabis for recreational or medical purposes. Only then are you allowed into the dispensary itself through an electrically-controlled door. In Jardín, there is a long L-shaped counter with several shoping assistants (called budtenders) behind it. There are two queues leading to the counter, depending on whether you're after recreational or medical use. All budtenders have been thoroughly trained. They have passed educational courses focusing on production, processing and effects of the products they're selling. This ensures that they can offer both patients and recreational users precisely what they need. Every product has been meticulously marked with a batch number, a barcode and a list of its basic components. A sample from every batch is tested in an independent lab. The result of testing is either attached to the product packaging, or you receive it separately. So, whether you've bought a classical bud, an extract, a tincture or an edible, you always know what it contains. That way, you are able to get the same content every time you come in. In case something doesn't suit you, you can always try a something different based on the recommendation of your budtender, who will discuss with you the effects you felt after using the product you bought the last time, and what you would like to change. Customer’s feedback serves as a valuable source of information for the budtenders and the dispensary as a whole.

During my registration at the reception, a charming receptionist told me that the owner of the dispensary, Adam, is present there at the moment. I encountered him when browsing the buds and extracts at the counter and we agreed that he would tell me more about Jardín. We met later that afternoon, which bought me enough time to prepare a couple of questions. Adam came to our meeting together with his colleague, John, who has a “dream job” of every cannabis lover: his task is to select and test products that would become a part of Jardín's selection. It means he visits producers and growers, observes their manufacturing and growing procedures and tests the taste and effects of the individual products on himself. He's an inventory keeper who knows precisely what the dispensary has to offer.

I asked both guys a few questions in regards to how Jardín operates. You can read a selection of the most interesting answers below.

[caption id="attachment_11051" align="alignnone" width="780"]Selling-marijuana-the-American-way Conditions inside the container ensure that the quality is preserved[/caption]

Adam, could you introduce Jardín a little?

Adam: Jardín means “garden” in Spanish, French and I think in Italian as well. This dispensary is the first of the brand. Our goal from the very beginning has been to improve perception of ordinary people regarding cannabis and dispensaries selling it. That's why we wanted to create a high-class dispensary in all aspects. We have extraordinarily beautiful space, attractive and perfectly trained staff, and we are selling top quality products. We opened our dispensary in November 2016, when cannabis could be sold to registered patients only. The prescription is not too difficult to obtain, but we wanted to have a dispensary to serve recreational users as well. We took the risk and invested considerable sums into license, premises and into employees. It worked, and literally one week after the opening, a draft about legalizing cannabis for recreational purposes became law. People voted for full scale legalization in a ballot. June 1st, 2017 we started selling cannabis for recreational use and our bet on luxury setting and a high-quality product is paying off.

[caption id="attachment_11050" align="alignnone" width="780"]Selling-marijuana-the-American-way Buds are packed and sealed in tin cans. The content of active substances is displayed on the back side[/caption]

Tell me something about the security and surveillance in your dispensary. I can see some cameras here. Are they yours or are they here due to some security regulation set by the state?

Adam: That is our internal security system. The dispensary is very well secured in all aspects. We have sturdy, impermeable blinds installed on the windows and doors to ensure that the facility is secure even at night. All the doors are also protected by the camera system you've mentioned.

It's not some sort of state regulation asking you to record what's going on here, who's coming and so on, similarly to some countries?

Adam: We keep the records for some time, but it's not compulsory. The state of Nevada has set the rules in a way that they don't present unnecessary obstacles to businesses. The rules are not perfect but they still follow common sense. And we want to adhere to the rules because the licence is very costly and we want to keep it. We're not trying to jink and exploit gaps in the law. On the contrary. We want to set an example for other dispensaries and we are also aware that we and our business are under a heightened supervision of the state of Nevada, city of Las Vegas, Federal government and the Supreme Court. And, of course, we are supervised by ordinary citizens and our customers. Our goal is for people to say: “Look, they're having a completely normal, legal and transparent business. They're creating jobs and paying considerable taxes.”

How does the control of quality and composition of your products work, who do you purchase from and how are growers and producers controlled?

Adam: There are two levels of control. First, we buy cannabis from licensed growers and producers only. That way we phase out black and gray market. Furthermore, all our suppliers are from Nevada. Every product, or rather every batch of it, is tested in an independent laboratory, as required by the law. Growers and producers are thus subject to regulations set by state. The second part of testing is done by us. And that's John's work; he establishes relations with suppliers and searches for high quality products suitable for our business strategy. It works both sides. We want the best product and they want to have their favourite product available in the best dispensary.

What do people buy most frequently? Are they interested in what they're buying? Is there a limit per purchase?

Adam: People can buy 28 grams of dried flower or an equivalent in a different form: extracts, edibles, etc. at every purchase. But there's no limit on the number of purchases so you're free to come and shop twice a day if you need it. People still buy dried flower in most cases, but the popularity of extracts, e-liquids and edibles will rise, because smoking in public is forbidden, even in casinos and hotels. And as we know, smoking is the most visible method of cannabis consumption.

John: People still don't have enough information about cannabis and its effects, so they wouldn’t ask about any specific product; they would rather say what they expect from it. This is true for medical and recreational users alike. Customers give us their requirements, sometimes even mention their previous experience, and our budtenders offer them products that are suitable for their intentions.

So much for the news from Las Vegas. I'm looking forward to seeing you in the next issue of Soft Secrets.