Year One of Dispensary Sales in MO
Greenway Magazine

15 October 2021

 

Ahead the one year anniversary of retail sales of medical marijuana in Missouri, Greenway speaks to Bradford Goette of Nirvana Investments and Andrew Mullins of MoCannTrade

On Sunday, October 17, Missouri will mark the one-year anniversary of retail sales of medical marijuana.

In November 2018, 66 percent of voters voted for an amendment to the Missouri Consitution that would legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

On a blustery October morning, a line akin to Black Friday stood and sat in front of locked doors just before 8 a.m., in Manchester, Missouri. In a few moments, the way Missourians had purchased marijuana would change forever.

A line of medical marijuana patients waits outside N’Bliss in Manchester to be among the first to make a dispensary purchase in the state.

N’Bliss would open its doors and make the first legal medical marijuana sale to a patient in Missouri history. That first patient was Larry Simpson. Simpson had battled and survived a hellacious battle with stomach cancer, it ravaged his body, prevented him from having an appetite, and wreaked havoc on his life. Simpson and his wife were invited to be at N’Bliss and make the first purchase of medical cannabis for his treatment before the crowds were let in.

A few moments later, Larry Simpson, a man who battled and beat cancer became the answer to an obscure trivia question: Who was the first person to legally purchase medical marijuana in the state of Missouri?

On opening day at N’Bliss the room was stocked with five cultivars of medical marijuana flower. There were no medical edibles, extracts, tinctures, or any other manufactured product available.

A display case showcases the selection of medical marijuana products available on October 17 2020.

The Archimedes’ brand Solhaus was the first flower available to patients with five varieties available ranging from 10% THC to just under 20% THC. That first flower was sold at $59.99 per ⅛ or  $349.99 per ounce.

Today the Manchester location of N’Bliss boasts more than 25 cultivars of marijuana flower, with prices as low as $30 per 1/8th for the low THC-high CBD CB Dutch from C4 and multiple $250 per ounce offerings. In addition to flower, N’Bliss now boasts extracts, pre-rolls, tinctures, topicals, and roughly 50 edibles. A far cry from the selection available one year ago. The Missouri market is fully blooming.

As the market crosses the one year mark, Greenway spoke to Bradford Goette, CEO of Nirvana Investments and Andrew Mullins, Executive Director of Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association about the journey from licensing to retail and the year since.

A display case inside the Manchester location shows only a portion of the wide variety of products now available, less than 12 months after the first retail sale.

Display cases inside the Manchester location showcase flower varieties from multiple cultivators.

A display case inside the N’Bliss showcases vapes and extracts, popular products that were unavailable less than 12 months ago.

“One year ago, we had two dispensaries open and fewer than 400 Missourians directly employed in the industry. What a difference a year makes. We just celebrated our 150th dispensary approved to operate in an industry that now directly employs nearly 5,000 Missourians,” said Mullins.

With over 150 dispensaries approved to operate, Missouri now has more than one dispensary for every 1,000 active patients in the state.

In the year since the first retail sale, the medical marijuana program in Missouri has recorded over $140 million dollars in sales, seen the approval to operate for hundreds of new businesses, and has seen monthly sales averages climb to over $20 million dollars. Retail sales have grown for 5 consecutive months.

“Some days it seems like just yesterday and some days it feels like 10 years ago,” said Goette, “We have seen growth in licenses from cultivation and manufacturing to transportation and, of course, the opening of dispensaries around the state to serve the patients of Missouri. It is so great to see so many Missourians who are committed to helping individuals in every aspect of the cannabis business come together to collaborate and truly try and make this the best medical cannabis market in the country for patients and businesses.”

Andrew Mullins and Bradford Goette | N’Bliss

Greenway: What can you tell me about the race to be the first dispensary in the state to offer products to patients?

Goette: “I don’t think we saw it as a “race”, we saw it more as living up to our expectation and commitment to provide patients with the legal medical cannabis they have been waiting so long for and deserve.”

Greenway: What can you tell me about the obstacles you faced along the way?

Goette: “I think I speak for the industry when I say, you don’t have enough pages in Greenway for me to tell you of all the obstacles we face as an industry. The biggest obstacle, in the beginning, was the supply chain of cannabis for patients. We made it our mission with our team to build relationships with as many cultivators and manufacturers, so we can offer variety and give our patients choices in the flower or other product types they find works best for them.  It is great to see that we are in a better spot one year later for patients.”

Greenway: Early on we saw dispensaries face supply issues on a regular basis, as the market has grown that has essentially become a nonissue, what is the next great threshold for our industry to overcome?

Mullins: “Most of our members continue to watch patient escalation very closely. Last year at this time 65,000 Missouri patients and caregivers had medical cannabis cards. Today that number is more than 145,000. But we know there are hundreds of thousands more that might benefit from medical cannabis.

Continuing to normalize cannabis as medicine and grow the patient count will be key for this industry over the next twelve months.”

Greenway: What was the hardest part about opening a retail medical location in the midst of a pandemic?

Goette: “Our purpose at N’Bliss is to help individuals access Cannabis products, in a safe, secure, and reliable manner, this just happens to go a long way in the face of a pandemic.

So even though we were fully prepared with a process in place for sanitization, temperature readings, and masks on hand for all patients, it still makes it difficult trying to not only meet but exceed patients’ expectations due to social distancing.

We feel that our Wellness Specialists set us apart in the industry when it comes to education and helping them find the right path when choosing products to help them. It is very challenging to have meaningful conversations with a mask and at a distance, especially for those patients who unfortunately had to wait in line to get their medicine.”

Greenway: Where do you think companies have been successful over the last year?

Mullins: “We’ve seen the quality and selection of products really increase since the early days of the industry. I’m also very excited to see our industry mature and the focus of companies move from getting operational to really beginning to dig into patient education and advocacy.

Because of the unique nature of this industry, many patients rely on dispensary wellness agents, nurses, and others to discuss the medicine and potential treatments for their patient customers.

This is exciting because there are so many things this amazing plant can do for patients and having the front line of our industry providing that information and education are invaluable.”

Greenway: Where do you think companies have stumbled or could improve?

Mullins: “Like in any farming operation, you have to expect the unexpected, and you get better each and every harvest. As expected, we saw small stumbles from some operators in a new climate trying to do largescale crops and harvests. But those early challenges have been overcome as the cannabis they are growing today for patients is exceptional and the hard work and perseverance are paying off.”

Greenway: How do you retain the customers you had on day one?

Goette: “Our Mission is to ‘help individuals find their path to Bliss.’ We believe when you are committed to the individuals and communities, who depend on you to help them find a solution or provide them with options in a trusting and caring way, they will stick with you.

It is imperative for us to create a culture where people are our #1 Passion, we know that this helps us retain and grow our patient base, even when more choices present themselves.

There are many great dispensary operators throughout the state, so there is no better feeling when I talk to one of our patients at N’Bliss and they brag about one of our Wellness Specialists doing that little something extra for them…now that is Nirvana.

Additionally, we all know that in this industry our resources are very restricted when it comes to advertising and outreach, especially in the social/digital space. We have strong partners in place who have been essential in building a community of loyal patients we are able to communicate with on a weekly basis.”

 

Greenway: What lessons have you learned over the last year?

Goette: “It sounds a bit cliché, but holds true – Stay Focused, Control the Controllable (pandemic not included), and don’t get discouraged for more than a minute.”

Greenway: With the explosion in the number of dispensaries and more facilities coming online each week, what would you say is the biggest ‘win’ for the industry over the last 12 months?

Mullins: Having a fully functioning, robust and operational program with over 252 operating facilities, despite a prolonged, worldwide pandemic is impressive and a testament to the hard work so many have put in over the last year. And the best is yet to come.

 

Greenway: What is your greatest accomplishment over the past 12 months?

Goette: “Seeing our team grow, gives me such great satisfaction to see so many people across our organization doing great things for us, each other, and of course the patients we serve.

It is all reflected in enabling us to get all of our licenses opened (4 N’Bliss Dispensary’s, 5150 N’Fusion, and Bold Lane Logistics) over the course of these last 12 months. None of this would be accomplished without teamwork and dedication.”

 

Greenway: What is the next goal for you?

Goette: “To be around for the next 12 months (I’m old in cannabis years) to see how the industry has grown and that our team, along with so many other great people, have their fingerprints all over that growth.”

What, if anything, would you do differently?

Goette: “Nothing.”

Tammy Puyear contributed to this story.

Photos/ Andrew Mullins, MoCannTrade, and Nirvana Investments

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