MJBiz Magazine September 2021

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Interact with Consumers on TikTok and Clubhouse

Cannabis Executives Share Their Biggest Mistakes Best Practices for Marijuana Delivery








VOLUME 8 • ISSUE 8 • $12.95


Retail Revolution The future of cannabis retail includes curated recommendations, consumer-direct sales and new adult-use markets


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1 . 8 3 3 . 4 C A N A PA J U A N A R O L L .C O M

















From the Editor COVER STORY

RETAIL REVOLUTION The future of cannabis retail includes curated recommendations, consumer-direct sales and new adult-use markets.



Five Questions with Weedmaps CEO Chris Beals



MJBizMagazine September 2021 • Volume 8 • Issue 8


Hemp Notebook


Company News


Industry Developments


Cannabis companies join new social media platforms to participate in discussions and connect with potential consumers.


Best Practices in Retail


Industry Players


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Interact with Consumers on TikTok and Clubhouse


Cannabis Executives Share Their Biggest Mistakes

Seed to CEO Podcasst

Best Practices for Marijuana Delivery

Retail Revolution The future of cannabis retail includes curated recommendations, consumer-direct sales and new adult-use markets

On Our Cover Technology already has altered how marijuana consumers shop. Advances in the years ahead promise to change the way we buy cannabis forever.


MJBizMagazine | September 2021

Arizona-based cannabis retailer Hana added adult-use sales to its medical offerings earlier this year. Courtesy Photo

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Founded by the father-daughter team at Curio Wellness, an industry-leading cannabis brand known for quality and innovation, Far & Dotter is a curated wellness collective focused on empowering diverse entrepreneurs. Through the Curio Investment Fund, eligible franchisees can start their business as the majority owner from day one and enjoy a clear pathway toward full ownership.

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MJBizMagazine | September 2021


Cassandra Farrington and Anne Holland

Editorial Advisory Board Jessica Billingsley Jesce Horton Tyler Beuerlein Chanda Macias Liz Connors Jim Makoso Rod Elliot Roz McCarthy Mara Gordon Kristin Nevedal Robert Groesbeck Nancy Whiteman To start/change/cancel your subscription, visit MJBizMagazine.com, call us at (720) 213-5992, ext. 1, or email us at CustomerService@MJBizDaily.com. MJBizMagazine subscriptions are currently free to qualified U.S. cannabusiness professionals and investors age 21 and over only. To advertise with us, email Sales@MJBizDaily.com or call us at (720) 213-5992, ext. 2. MJBizMagazine, Volume 8, lssue 8, September 2021 lSSN 2376-7375 (print); lSSN 2376-7391 (online) MJBizMagazine is currently published 10 times per year by MJBiz™, a division of Anne Holland Ventures Inc. POSTMASTER: Please send address changes to: MJBiz, 3900 S. Wadsworth Blvd., Suite 100, Denver, CO 80235. © 2011-2021 by by MJBizDaily™, a division of Anne Holland Ventures lnc. All rights reserved. Materials may not be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission. For reprints of any article, please contact Customer Service. MJBizMagazine.com

FromtheEditor | Kate Lavin

Preparing for the Future


Grocery stores sold out of nearly all paper products, dry goods and produce. N95 masks were nowhere to be found. Even my smug refusal to pay for Amazon Prime folded quickly when I could not find a thermometer anywhere but felt compelled to take my temperature nonstop.

retailers and logistics giant Amazon decide to enter the regulated marijuana market. And at least one developer already has launched a software program that uses a store’s inventory-management system and individual customer preferences to offer personalized cannabis recommendations to consumers.

A Line to Remember

The Future is Now

Perhaps the most memorable crossover between the coronavirus and cannabis retail came March 23, 2020, when Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announced that marijuana and alcohol stores would close at 5 p.m. the following day. A friend who lives in a suburb that doesn’t allow regulated marijuana sales called me in a panic. “You go to the dispensary,” she said, “and I’ll go to the liquor store.” When I arrived at the shop across the street, a masked employee with an iPad was standing outside, sorting customers into adult-use and medical lines while advising them of the wait time: two hours. I had been in line for about 90 minutes and made it as far as the waiting room when the city—realizing its announcement had created a two-hour, social-distancing nightmare—reversed its plan to close marijuana retailers.

While some of the experts interviewed for this issue detail changes that are years away—such as customized lighting and music as well as automated product suggestions unique to each individual who enters the store—other innovations have already arrived. Take, for example, the advice of retail executives who transitioned from medical into recreational marijuana sellers and shared their wisdom for the cover package on page 40. If you are in need of more inspiration, look no further than MJBizCon, which returns to Las Vegas the week of Oct. 18. The conference content team has done an outstanding job putting together the agenda at mjbizcon.com to prepare cannabis executives for the future, no matter what that holds.

he retail business changed forever in March 2020.

Enter the Purchasing Options The chaos in Denver served as a warning to regulators across the country: Like the Costco shoppers lining up at 6 a.m. and racing to the toilet paper aisle, cannabis consumers were stocking up for an uncertain future. Several state governments responded by passing emergency legislation to permit marijuana preordering and pickup services. Others allowed home delivery for the first time. Consumer response was overwhelmingly positive, and some markets have made these changes permanent. (See page 66 for best practices on launching marijuana delivery for your customers.)

Cannabis Retail 2.0 While preorders and delivery will undoubtedly be part of marijuana sales going forward, other key changes are happening. Some California cannabis brands are sidestepping the traditional brick-and-mortar retail model for reaching customers and selling to them directly online (see page 48 to learn more). The retail wizards at consumer-analytics company Nielsen say it’s only a matter of time before mainstream


Marijuana Business Magazine | September 2021

Kate Lavin MJBizMagazine Editor

FiveQuestions | with Chris Beals

Map to the Future Fresh from going public, the SPAC behind Weedmaps has capital in hand and plans to grow By Solomon Israel


M Technology went public in June after merging with special purpose acquisition company Silver Spike Acquisition Corp. WM Technology now trades as MAPS on the Nasdaq exchange.

Cannabis consumers know the Irvine, California-headquartered company for its popular Weedmaps platform, a digital dispensary directory with features including retail menus and online ordering. In addition to listing their cannabis businesses on Weedmaps, WM Technology clients use the company’s software to manage everything from retail point-of-sale to wholesale transactions. MJBizMagazine caught up with WM Technology CEO Chris Beals to learn more about the tech firm’s plans for the future.

WM Technology reported gross proceeds of $579 million from the Silver Spike merger. What are you doing with that capital? There are all these new states that have moved forward legislatively, and they moved forward faster than we would have expected with legalization. (We have) capital to launch products, adapt products, expand products within those new jurisdictions. But then we’re also seeing the pacing of licensing increase in all of these jurisdictions that were already legalized but don’t have enough licenses to effectively meet consumer demand or to suppress the illicit market. It takes capital to make sure you’re providing your offerings to all these new businesses as they come online. We’re always surveying the landscape for potential acquisitions

10 MJBizMagazine | September 2021

Chris Beals

or M&A targets. We have the ability to look at technology companies that have really interesting and strong technology that’s being used outside of cannabis and figure out how to bring it into cannabis. (We’re) investing in our people, continuing to attract the best and brightest engineers and product people ... and increase our pace of hiring. We have really ambitious hiring plans for this year and a ton of open roles on our website.

There’s lots of excitement about possible U.S. federal legalization. How are you preparing for that possibility? There are a ton of really interesting products, product features and revenue streams that we simply can’t go after right now because of federal illegality. For instance, think about things in the area of how you help brands better reach consumers, use coupons or that sort of thing. It’s really difficult when we cannot provide any sort of payment services or sit anywhere in the chain of commerce.

We can provide all this really powerful software to help businesses succeed and grow. But federal illegality definitely puts constraints on what we feel comfortable offering from a compliance viewpoint. However, I think the sobering reality is that I don’t see any of the forms of federal legalization, or bills that are currently on the table, as really having any chance of passing, whether it be this year or potentially even during the first term of this presidential administration.

Weedmaps’ business is based around not touching the plant. Is it possible that could change? For example, would Weedmaps offer cannabis delivery? That I can answer pretty easily, and the answer is no. With the breadth of software that we offer and the tools that we offer, I think it’s a far more scalable position to sit in to provide businesses the software they need to be really successful at servicing customers. The actual touch-the-plant delivery space is incredibly complex, incredibly rigorous. How it is accomplished varies not just state by state but city by city. Federal legalization isn’t going to change that. What’s interesting for us as we look at federal legalization is: How can we help those businesses with things like payment solutions? Or how can we help them better administer programs like loyalty or (customer relationshipmanagement) software? I think a lot of our customers really appreciate and respect the fact that we’re there as a growth partner

from a software viewpoint, not a competitor.

In a December 2020 investor presentation, WM Technology hinted at some future functionality for business customers. Can you say more about those upcoming features? Our general philosophy on new software is that it should have a natural and tangential relationship to the software we already offer or to the Weedmaps marketplace platform. We’re really investing heavily in partnerships and integrations with third-party (point-of-sale systems), with third-party loyalty and (customer relationship-management) software providers. We’re actively looking at offerings and tools we can provide to help make

it easier for brands to reach new consumers, build affinity, build loyalty, but then also manage their sales lifecycle with retailers.

In the past, Weedmaps has run into trouble related to carrying advertising for unlicensed cannabis retailers. What steps is Weedmaps taking to ensure its retail clients are licensed? It’s really important and critical that we make sure that the businesses who are using that software are validly licensed. We have what we call our enhanced verification program. That’s rolled out in all jurisdictions. For businesses to be on the platform, they have to go through a vetting and verification process with our customer success and safety team.

With respect to that program, we’re always looking at interesting ways to expand it. We’ve had some states reach out about direct integration with their licensing systems, which is really interesting to the extent we can reduce manual labor in that process. While it costs time and money to do that verification, I think it positions us really well for the future and, I think, sets the flag in the sand for who we are as a company. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Solomon Israel is a reporter for MJBizDaily and MJBizMagazine. Reach him at solomon. israel@mjbizdaily.com.

September 2021 | mjbizdaily.com


HempNotebook | Kristen Nichols

In The Zone Can hemp’s retail legacy help correct mistakes on the high-THC side of cannabis?


et me tell you where I buy marijuana: It’s a very friendly retailer behind an adult bookstore and just down from a pawn shop on a busy street in one of Denver’s industrial areas.

Now let me tell you where I get CBD products: I like this adorable boutique in a tree-lined shopping district, near a high-end wine retailer and a bakery. Other times, I visit a spa that has a fabulous selection of CBD topicals. I’ve been thinking about these three very different shops recently, as we dive into the state of cannabis retail for this issue of MJBizMagazine. I’m hoping that as the full cannabis industry expands, efforts to make the sector inclusive and diverse include some deep thinking not just about who is participating in the space, but where.

Zone Defense I’m not the first to notice that marijuana retail suffers from an image problem. Even as state after state legalizes marijuana—and jurisdictions within those states open opportunities to sell MJ products in brick-and-mortar stores—the industry suffers from ongoing perceptions that cannabis smells bad and attracts crime. It’s a misconception that leads one community after another to relegate marijuana retail locations to low-value industrial zones and away from prime real estate and single-family homes. The same politicians who denounce

prohibition and the war on drugs ensure they won’t see marijuana being sold in their shopping malls and neighborhoods. As a result, marijuana retailers are concentrated in depressed areas, often near rental housing stock and areas more populated by people of color. And then? Public officials turn around and accuse marijuana retailers of targeting the poor and racial minorities.

Hemp Stands Out In this respect, hemp has fared better. Though certainly not immune to racist and classist zoning policies, hemp retailers haven’t found their products derided as public threats and nuisances. Research on hemp retail and zoning disparities isn’t as robust as it is for marijuana zoning—itself an area in need of study. But my observations in Denver aren’t unique. Part of the reason is that hemp products are more diverse, meaning that goods beyond flower are commonly sold in conventional retail stores. Marijuana, by definition, is grown for enhanced cannabinoid content. So, no one sells marijuana fiber or grain to the public. Still, the CBD boom didn’t translate into anti-hemp zoning. Hemp can smell just as skunky as marijuana, yet hemp retailers somehow escape that “stinky hippie” bias.

Lessons From Hemp It’s worth considering hemp’s retail footprint as the world reevaluates cannabis policy more broadly. Why are pot shops in crummy neighborhoods, while luxury retailers carry CBD topicals? It’s all perception—colored, of course, by the historical weight of racist stereotypes. I hope hemp retailers take seriously the challenges they’ll face if and when they decide to add high-THC items to their shelves. Our marijuana counterparts are so thrilled to be operating legally that entrepreneurs often don’t blink at zoning restrictions that keep them hidden from the sight of middle-aged white women like me. I hope hemp retailers aren’t as acquiescent. Make a big stink (figuratively!) and demand that equitable retail opportunities are key to ending the war on drugs. Kristen Nichols is editor of Hemp Industry Daily. She can be reached at kristen.nichols@ hempindustrydaily.com.

Why are pot shops in crummy neighborhoods, while luxury retailers carry CBD topicals? It’s all perception—colored, of course, by the historical weight of racist stereotypes.”

12 MJBizMagazine | September 2021

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CompanyNews | U.S., Canada & International

U . S . D E V E LO PM E N T S

By MJBizDaily and Hemp Industry Daily staff

New Mexico Marijuana Operator Prevails in Drawn-out Legal Case A New Mexico appellate court upheld a 2018 lower court ruling allowing Ultra Health, the state’s largest medical marijuana operator, to open two new dispensaries. The New Mexico Department of Health refused to approve the two dispensaries in 2018, but Ultra Health opened the retail outlets after prevailing in a district court case the same year.

Harborside Expands California Presence; Debt Options Remain Limited Harborside, a California-based vertically integrated marijuana company, closed its acquisition of Sublimation (Sublime). The total consideration of $43.8 million includes approximately $38.4 million in voting shares of Harborside (207.6 million shares based on volume-weighted average price for trailing 30 days) and $5.4 million in cash. Sublime adds statewide distribution to Harborside’s portfolio, with service to 526 active customers. The acquisition completes Harborside’s vertical integration across cultivation, manufacturing, distribution, branding and retail.

New West Genetics Joins Clean-Tech Incubator New West Genetics, a hemp genomics company in Fort Collins, Colorado, is the first hemp company selected to participate in the Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator, a $50 million technology program focused on early stage clean-technology entrepreneurs. New West Genetics is one of five companies that will receive up to $250,000 and conduct research and development activities at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory near Denver. This year, the incubator program is focused on making indoor agriculture more sustainable as extreme weather and water shortages threaten the agriculture industry.

Massachusetts Dispensary Sued Over $21 Million Debt Teneo Funds SPV is suing Quincy, Massachusetts-based dispensary Ermont for $21.8 million. A lawsuit filed by

16 MJBiz Magazine | September 2021

Recent deals, acquisitions and other announcements from cannabis companies

Teneo requests that the court halt any transfer of assets by the dispensary and that a receiver be appointed to run the medical marijuana business. Ermont’s former creditor, Tilt Holdings, sold the debt to Teneo in February for $1.25 million and a portion of future collections. Tilt Holdings acquired the debt in 2018 and extended a line of credit to Ermont. Selling the debt was part of Tilt’s attempt to resolve issues with Massachusetts regulators over allegations the Boston-based company had overstepped industry caps on ownership stakes in state marijuana businesses.

NewLake Enters $20.5M Deal With Arizona Cannabis Firm Cannabis real estate financier NewLake Capital Partners in Connecticut announced a deal to acquire land in Phoenix and lease it to Arizona-based, vertically integrated marijuana operator The Mint. The $20.5 million deal includes $2.4 million to purchase the land and $18.1 million for tenant improvements. The Mint will use the property to build a 130,757-square-foot marijuana cultivation and processing facility. The lease was described as a “long-term, triple net” agreement, meaning The Mint will pay ongoing expenses for the property.

Curaleaf Violated Labor Law in Massachusetts, Judge Says Cannabis multistate operator Curaleaf engaged in unfair labor practices by “implicitly” promising certain retail store workers in Massachusetts increased benefits and better employment conditions if they didn’t support unionization, a labor court judge ruled. The 25-page decision is a cautionary tale for how marijuana businesses communicate with employees when unionizing activities are underway. However, the judge dismissed several other allegations against Massachusetts-based Curaleaf, including a claim the company unlawfully terminated an employee because of her pro-union views.

Schwazze Buys Grow in Colorado for $11.3 Million Denver-based Schwazze closed on a deal to acquire marijuana cultivation operation Southern Colorado Growers for $11.3 million. The acquisition includes 34 acres of land with outdoor cultivation capacity as well as indoor, greenhouse and hoop house facilities and equipment. Schwazze spent $6.8 million for the business and $4.5 million for the real estate, paying $5.9 million

CompanyNews | U.S., Canada & International in cash and $5.4 million in stock upon closing. The company plans to build out the cultivation capacity over the next year.

Hard Rock Cafe, Cointreau Allege Hemp Trademark Infringement Hard Rock Cafe and spirits maker Cointreau Corp. are the latest to bring trademark complaints against CBD manufacturers. In lawsuits filed in New York and Florida, the companies allege that CBD makers are trying to confuse customers into thinking they are buying branded CBD products coming from the older companies. Restaurant chain Hard Rock Cafe sued Hard Rock Hemp, a South Carolina company that makes CBD topicals, edibles and pre-rolls. Cointreau Corp. filed suit against Canopy Growth Corp. for its line of hempderived, CBD-infused beverages sold under the brand Quatreau. Hard Rock and Cointreau both seek unspecified damages. The hemp companies have not replied to the charges and did not return messages from Hemp Industry Daily.

Verano to Acquire Sierra Well for $29 Million Illinois-based cannabis multistate operator Verano Holdings said it is spending $29 million to acquire Sierra Well, a vertically integrated marijuana company in Nevada with two retail outlets as well as production and cultivation facilities. In exchange for $5.6 million in cash and 1.5 million shares, Verano is getting 11 cannabis licenses in Nevada. The two retail stores are located in Carson City and Reno.

MassRoots and Hedge Fund in Legal Tangle Over Stock Claim Denver-based cannabis social media platform MassRoots, which recently announced a deal to merge with metal-recycling firm Empire Services, is trying to fend off a $12 million arbitration claim by an investment fund. Iroquois Master Fund, a hedge fund operated by Iroquois Capital Management of the Cayman Islands, claimed in a demand for arbitration that it holds a warrant entitling it to purchase up to 156.3 million shares of MassRoots stock at $0.0004 per share. MassRoots counters that it’s not subject to the warrant,

which Iroquois bought from a third party in 2019. The company is requesting a court injunction to prevent Iroquois from pursuing the matter through arbitration, saying it would cause “irreparable harm.”

Ayr Wellness Enters Two Deals Marijuana multistate operator Ayr Wellness agreed to purchase Illinoisbased Herbal Remedies Dispensaries for approximately $30 million. The transaction is made up of $10 million in stock, $12 million in seller notes and $8 million in cash. Herbal Remedies operates two licensed cannabis retail shops with 50 total employees. The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2021. Ayr Wellness also is spending $17 million to acquire two Nevada cannabis businesses: Tahoe Hydroponics Co., a cultivator, and NV Green, a concentrates producer. The deal includes two cultivation licenses, one production license and one distribution license. The acquisition’s $17 million price tag includes $5 million in cash, $3.5 million in debt and $8.5 million in stock.

High Tide Continues Acquisition Spree Canadian cannabis retail chain High Tide entered a $3.85 million deal to acquire online marijuana accessories retailer DankStop. Under terms of the deal, High Tide’s U.S. subsidiary will purchase 100% of DankStop shares for $3.85 million in High Tide shares. Feliks Khaykin, co-founder of New Jersey-based DankStop, will join High Tide as director of U.S. operations, and DankStop director Gabe Aronovich will become High Tide’s director of U.S. business development.

Oregon Hemp Businesses Accused of Mistreating Seasonal Workers Three Oregon hemp companies are being sued by more than a dozen seasonal workers who say the businesses required them to sleep on dirty floors and use the bathroom outside. The lawsuit was filed by 17 migrant workers against West Coast Growers, Topshelf Hemp and Fire Hemp, all managed by the same man in Grants Pass, Oregon. The workers charge that the companies withheld wages and required them to work without lunch or rest

September 2021 | mjbizdaily.com 19

CompanyNews | U.S., Canada & International breaks during the 2020 harvest and lodged workers in “unsafe” housing, including some without heat or running water. The plaintiffs seek unpaid wages and a court order blocking the hemp companies from housing migrant workers.

Hemp Bioplastics Startup Expanding to Former Pennsylvania Textile Mill


Sivana Converting, a Pennsylvania company that makes hemp bioplastics, purchased part of a former textile mill in Sunbury. Sivana plans to make

Cookies Plans Flagship Cannabis Store in Toronto Detroit-based Gage Growth Corp. will work with

hemp-based biodegradable plastic food containers, cups, plates and straws for the commercial market.

Store Ordered to Stop ‘Gifting’ Marijuana New Mexico’s Cannabis Control Division issued a ceaseand-desist order to Las Cruces-based novelty shop Speak Easy for giving cannabis samples to customers who bought stickers priced $15-$90. Officials warned the store that “gifting” cannabis violated state law. New Mexico legalized recreational marijuana in April, but legal adult-use sales have not launched.

Canadian producer Noya Cannabis to launch Cookies cannabis products in Ontario before expanding into other provinces, according to a news release. Gage said it expects to open a flagship retail store in Toronto by the end of this year. Gage signed an agreement with U.S. cannabis brand Cookies last November to incorporate Cookies Retail Canada Corp., or Cookies Canada. Under the deal, Gage received 80% of the new company. According to

a May 2021 filing, Cookies Canada intends to open two retail outlets in Canada this year.

GTEC Cannabis Uplisting to TSX, Rebranding as Avant Brands


Kelowna, British Columba-based GTEC Cannabis Co. received approval to graduate from the TSX Venture

MediPharm Labs Australia Wins Government Grant MediPharm Labs Australia, the Australian subsidiary of Barrie, Ontario-based MediPharm Labs was awarded a government grant worth $352,000 (AU$466,577) to help fund a project at the company’s cannabis extraction facility in Wonthaggi, Victoria.

Exchange and commenced trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange on July 12. The company also said it plans to change its name to Avant Brands. The rebrand “will further align and strengthen the company’s identity as it continues its pursuit to be a North American leader in handcrafted and highly sought-after cannabis brands,” the company said.

The grant is part of Australia’s AU$50 million Manufacturing Modernization Fund, which offers funding to help small- and medium-sized manufacturing businesses scale up and compete internationally. MediPharm Labs Australia will use the funds for its AU$1.19 million Manufacturing Innovation and Capacity Optimization Project. Have a company announcement you want us to consider? Send a news release or general information to omar.sacirbey@mjbizdaily.com. (Note: We’re looking for news about expansions, financing, deals, partnerships and similar developments, not product announcements.)


September 2021 | mjbizdaily.com 21











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170 lbs


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36 lbs

92” L x 15” W x 12” H

255 lbs












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33 lbs

65” L x 9” W x 12” H

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73” L x 47” W x 18” H

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IndustryDevelopments | International & State MAP LEGEND High level of medical development/implementation Medium level of medical development/implementation Low level of medical development/implementation Other - federally illegal but unique circumstances Recreational

Countries included have passed legislation at the federal level and must fulfill at least one of the following criteria: • Cultivation, manufacture or sale of medical and/or recreational cannabis allowed. • Doctors can prescribe medical cannabis. • Import and/or export of medical cannabis allowed. High: Countries at the forefront of the global industry. Frameworks are established, and adoption is well underway. Medium: Implementation has begun but is still limited or restricted; lots of room for the market to develop. Low: Legislation has been passed, but implementation is very limited or nonexistent. Decriminalization is not included.

National & International News Canadian MJ Producers Have Sold Less Than 20% of Output Since Legalization Canadian cannabis producers have sold less than 20% of their production since the country launched adult-use sales in October 2018, according to an MJBizDaily analysis. The newest data implies that most of the cannabis produced between 2018 and 2020 was either stored in inventory or destroyed, and less than one-fifth ended up in retail stores. Some 447,118 kilograms (nearly 500 tons) of unpackaged dried cannabis was destroyed by licensed producers between 2018 and 2020, according to data provided to MJBizDaily by Health Canada, the federal body tasked with regulating cannabis production. About 2.7 billion grams (2,976 tons) of cannabis was produced in Canada between October 2018

24 MJBizMagazine | September 2021

and December 2020, but MJBizDaily estimates that approximately 450 million grams reached store shelves.

Long-delayed Mail Ban Leaves Vape Makers and Retailers Adrift Months of delay for a U.S. ban on shipping vaporizer components has left marijuana and hemp operators wondering if they should prepare for shocks to their business models or proceed as usual and hope the rule never comes to fruition. The ban was supposed to take effect in April, the result of a 2020 law that prohibits the U.S. Postal Service from shipping vaping products. The ban included components without nicotine and could eliminate direct-to-consumer vape shipping.

© 2021 MJBizDaily, a division of Anne Holland Ventures. All rights reserved. Data is current as of August 12, 2021.

But in April, when the USPS planned to publish details about enforcing the ban, the agency said it needed more time to review public comments. Months later, the rule remains unpublished. Vape manufacturers say they have pivoted to private delivery to continue business without using the USPS. Large private-delivery services such FedEx and UPS already have stopped shipping vape components in response to the law, forcing vape manufacturers to find niche operators to move product.

Proposed Tax Rates in Schumer’s Marijuana Bill Elicit ‘Sticker Shock’ The draft bill outlining Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s federal marijuana reform legislation sets a

nationwide MJ excise tax that would rise from 10% to 25% over five years, a rate industry officials say would be overly burdensome and too high to combat illicit operators. The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act—unveiled in mid-July as a 163-page “discussion draft”—would legalize marijuana by removing it from the federal Controlled Substances Act. The move also would eliminate Section 280E, the provision in the Internal Revenue Service tax code that prevents marijuana businesses from deducting ordinary business expenses. But a 25% federal excise tax on marijuana would likely exceed any savings from the elimination of 280E, experts said. Small cannabis producers would be eligible for an excise tax reduction.

September 2021 | mjbizdaily.com 25

IndustryDevelopments | International & State WA MT











































■ Medical ■ Recreational HI

Note: This map does not include states that have legalized only CBD-based oils.

© 2021 MJBizDaily, a division of Anne Holland Ventures. All rights reserved. Data is current as of August 12, 2021.

State News Arkansas

Arkansas True Grass has begun collecting signatures to get a recreational marijuana legalization initiative before voters in the 2022 general election. The group has until July 2022 to gather the necessary signatures to get the initiative on the ballot. If the measure passes, the industry would be regulated by the state Department of Agriculture and home cultivation would also be legalized.

California Los Angeles County authorities announced the seizure of the largest illegal crop of marijuana in state history, worth an estimated $1 billion. L.A. sheriff’s deputies seized 373,000 marijuana plants and 33,480 pounds of cannabis flower, which have a combined value of about $1.2 billion on the illicit market. The seizure was the result of a 10-day law enforcement investigation that culminated in search warrants being served June 8 on 200 facilities in the Antelope Valley area. There were 131 arrests made in connection with the raids. L.A. Sheriff Alex Villanueva said criminals running the facilities were stealing groundwater and threatening local residents.

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IndustryDevelopments | International & State Connecticut As part of an effort to make the cannabis industry more equitable, people living in 35 Connecticut cities and towns will receive priority for recreational marijuana business licenses, state officials announced. More than 200 of the state’s 833 census tracts qualify as disproportionately impacted by drug prohibition, based on drug conviction and unemployment rates. Language in the legislation says residents of those areas will pay less for licenses, and half of all cannabis business licenses must go to applicants from those areas. When Connecticut approved the legalization of adult-use marijuana, it also instituted a ban on hemp-derived THC products and products containing delta-7, delta-8, delta-9 and delta-10 THC from being sold outside licensed cannabis retailers or medical marijuana dispensaries.

Georgia The state medical marijuana industry took a major step toward launching when state regulators approved six cultivation licenses for six MMJ companies. The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission (GMCC) announced during a public hearing that it is awarding two Class 1 licenses and four Class 2 permits to manufacture low-THC medical cannabis oil. A Class 1 license allows grow facilities up to 100,000 square feet; a Class 2 permit allows facilities up to 50,000 square feet. The licensees are expected to start operations in the coming months, and each company will be allowed to open five dispensaries.

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Illinois Regulators issued 125 adult-use cannabis licenses in Illinois after a yearlong delay in actualizing the state’s vaunted social equity program. Until now, existing medical marijuana operators have controlled the 19-month-old, billion-dollar adultuse market, while additional retail licensing has been tangled up in litigation. The existing MMJ operators that enjoy the first-mover advantage currently operate 110 retail stores. The new licenses included 55 for cannabis retailers, 32 for craft cultivators, 28 for processors and 10 for transporters. Another 130 retail licenses had not been awarded at press time.

Kentucky The Kentucky Hemp Association claims that state police are illegally raiding legal hemp retail stores as they look for delta-8 THC products and has asked a state judge to put a stop to the practice. The Kentucky Department of Agriculture told hemp license holders in April that delta-8 THC products remain illegal controlled substances in the state. The Kentucky Hemp Association argues that hemp-derived delta-8 THC is legal under state and federal laws regulating hemp production and that the court’s inaction could severely impact Kentucky’s hemp industry. No court hearing has been scheduled for the case.

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IndustryDevelopments | International & State Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a legislation package that will regulate hemp-derived delta-8 THC. The new regulations, which take effect Oct. 11, also restrict sales to channels approved for state-legal marijuana, banning the products from being sold in unlicensed retail stores. Delta-8 THC products will be regulated by the state’s Marijuana Regulatory Agency. Separately, a bill signed into law limits the total amount of THC that a product intended for human or animal use can contain.

Missouri The state might have competing campaigns to legalize adult-use marijuana in the 2022 general election. Fair Access Missouri has already submitted—and had rejected—seven proposed ballot measures that would have legalized recreational cannabis. The group is now refining its initiative language and expects to have finalized ballot language by September and to begin the signature-gathering process in October. Another organization, New Approach Missouri, which ran the successful 2018 medical marijuana legalization campaign, also will be attempting to put adult-use cannabis legalization on the statewide ballot. Separately, Gov. Mike Parson shot down legislation that would have eased the tax burden for medical marijuana companies.

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Montana Draft rules for adult-use cannabis businesses in Montana focus mostly on advertising options. Under the draft regulations, each company would be allowed two signs that are each 11 square feet or smaller. Billboards, banners and flags would not be permitted, and no TV, radio, social media or newspaper ads would be allowed. Separately, more than two dozen Montana hemp farmers have been awarded $65 million in damages as part of the second-largest civil judgment in state history. According to court filings, Canadian and U.S. businesses and investors promised to pay the plaintiffs up to $700 per acre for hemp grown in 2018 and then failed to pay.

Nevada A bill permitting marijuana consumption lounges was among a flurry of last-minute measures approved by Nevada lawmakers before they adjourned for the year. The bill will allow Nevada regulators to offer two new types of marijuana business licenses related to consumption lounges: • One for retailers that want to open consumption lounges on the same property as their retail shops. • One for stand-alone lounges that will be limited to single-use products, in the same manner as bars that sell alcohol. Alcohol sales will not be permitted in either type of establishment.


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IndustryDevelopments | International & State New Mexico Marijuana cultivators in New Mexico could grow more than twice the number of plants currently allowed if changes proposed by the state’s newly created Cannabis Control Division are adopted. Under proposed rules for the state’s impending recreational marijuana program, cultivators could have up to 4,500 plants at one time, but regulators recently proposed increasing that number to 8,000 plants. Growers also could apply for increases of 500 plants at a time under the plan, with a cap of 10,000 plants. The Cannabis Control Division also set a $10-per-plant fee for all marijuana producers. The initial draft of the rules sought fees of $22 per plant.

New York A Native American tribe in New York state said it has legalized recreational marijuana and will “soon” begin legal sales. The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, which has a reservation near the Canadian border in upstate New York, signed off on a new tribal ordinance allowing members of the tribe to launch adult-use marijuana businesses. Recreational marijuana sales will begin in Akwesasne, New York, according to the tribe. Separately, the New York State Bar Association said lawyers are free to take part in New York’s adult-use marijuana industry despite federal prohibition. Bar associations in other legal markets have been mixed in their views on members serving the marijuana industry.






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North Carolina The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians legalized its own medical marijuana market, likely providing the first foothold for the cannabis industry in North Carolina. The tribe said the decision recognizes that cannabis has medicinal value. Details about the MMJ market were not immediately available. The tribe’s Cannabis Control Board will handle business licensing for the program as well as patient certification. Attempts to legalize MMJ through the state Legislature have thus far been met with defeat, although the North Carolina Senate Judiciary Committee voted in favor of a plan to legalize medical cannabis use for certain conditions.

Ohio Two state lawmakers introduced a bill to legalize recreational cannabis. The measure would establish a 10% excise tax on gross receipts of marijuana retailers. Meanwhile, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol launched a campaign to put adult-use marijuana on Ohio’s 2022 ballot. The group of cannabis advocates filed paperwork with the secretary of state’s office to get the effort started.

September 2021 | mjbizdaily.com 33

IndustryDevelopments | International & State Oregon A new law simplifies delivery tracking, increases edibles concentration limits and requires regulators to identify ways to reduce the use of plastics. New regulations also define delta-8 THC as an “adult-use cannabinoid” and call for a “maximum concentration” on “any artificially derived cannabinoid,” similar to limits on delta-9 THC in marijuana products. The law also allows state marijuana inspectors to review hemp grows in conjunction with the state Department of Agriculture, which tests hemp for THC content.

Pennsylvania State medical cannabis regulators can’t turn over the responsibility of redacting sensitive information from license applications even if the work is a burden, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled. The state health department had appealed that ruling, contending that medical marijuana applicants know best what information is proprietary or an issue of security. The original lawsuit was brought by news organizations, which argued that state regulators improperly allowed companies to redact material that should have been disclosed under the state’s public information law.


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Rhode Island The upper chamber of the Rhode Island General Assembly approved a bill to legalize recreational cannabis, but the House of Representatives adjourned before approving the bill. Separately, state regulators again delayed a lottery for medical cannabis business licenses because of an ongoing administrative appeal by a rejected lottery applicant. It was the second delay for the lottery, which was originally set to take place last spring.

Utah A lawsuit claims that out-of-state marijuana companies were given preference during the application process for eight medical cannabis cultivation licenses the state awarded in 2019. The federal complaint alleges officials at the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food coached multistate marijuana growers on how to succeed in the application process. JLPR, the plaintiff in the suit, also alleges that officials allowed their personal connections to affect their judgment in the scoring process. JLPR is asking the court to order state regulators to grant the company a cultivation permit or “put it first in line for a license when the next one becomes available.” JLPR also is seeking unspecified monetary damages.

September 2021 | mjbizdaily.com 35

IndustryDevelopments | International & State Washington state State regulators said marijuana processors cannot convert hemp-derived CBD into delta-9 THC in the legal cannabis market, a move that is likely to be welcomed by MJ cultivators who feared the practice involving federally legal hemp would undermine their own businesses. The decision by the state’s Liquor and Cannabis Board is intended to clear up confusion around the legality of hemp-derived CBD converted to delta-9 THC in the licensed market.

West Virginia Federal agriculture authorities have awarded $200,000 to a West Virginia University professor to study what leads to inconsistent levels of THC in hemp plants. Michael Gutensohn, an assistant professor of horticulture, will collaborate with two former WVU faculty members for the project, which includes seeing what genetic and environmental factors lead to THC accumulation in plants. The study is funded by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, which is a research arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Gutensohn says evidence that environment plays a role in a hemp plant’s THC level has been circumstantial and not scientifically analyzed.

Wisconsin The state might relinquish hemp oversight to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Wisconsin will retain its state-run program through 2021 but might punt some hemp oversight to the federal government in future years because its program is losing money, according to a budget memo. No date for a final decision has been set, but staff positions to oversee the hemp program aren’t funded in the current fiscal year, which began in July. Wisconsin has been running a hemp program since the 2018 growing season, when states were still running pilot programs for hemp.

Wyoming Members of the national and local Libertarian Party are teaming up with Wyoming marijuana activists to get a medical cannabis legalization initiative on the state ballot next year. The campaign, which doesn’t yet have a formal name, got the go-ahead from the Wyoming secretary of state to begin the signature-gathering process. In addition to the Wyoming Cannabis Patient Act of 2022, which would legalize medical marijuana, backers are trying to get adult-use marijuana decriminalized with a second ballot initiative, the Wyoming Cannabis Amendments 2022. The campaign must gather at least 41,776 signatures from registered Wyoming voters for each of the two initiatives to be placed on the 2022 ballot. Note: Entries sourced from MJBizDaily, Hemp Industry Daily and other international, national and local news outlets. These developments occurred before this magazine’s publication deadline, so some situations may have changed.

September 2021 | mjbizdaily.com 37

Retail Revolution

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The future of cannabis retail includes curated recommendations, consumer-direct sales and new adult-use markets

September 2021 | mjbizdaily.com 41

Retail Revoution


Retailers double down on technology such as online ordering and data-backed product suggestions as Amazon and federal legalization of marijuana appear on the horizon


he future of cannabis retail is technologically exciting—think ubiquitous online ordering and sophisticated consumer analysis—and fraught with potential challenges, including federal regulation and competition from corporate behemoths such as Amazon. That’s the assessment of Rick Maturo, associate director of cannabis client services at Nielsen, the national consumer-analytics company based in Chicago, and Bethany Gomez, managing director of the Brightfield Group, a cannabis-focused consumerresearch firm. New technology could amplify business opportunities for cannabis retail. And in order to prepare for mainstream competition, today’s cannabis players must be technologically savvy. Here are five things today’s marijuana retailers should know about tomorrow.



Ordering cannabis online has been possible for several years, but now it’s becoming universal. Most retailers have their menus online, meaning even in-person consumers can educate themselves about the products ahead of store visits. “In terms of technology, there’s been a big shift away from requiring people to touch things or interact as much face to face,” Gomez said.

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Bethany Gomez

To be competitive in the future, marijuana retailers will need to learn about and deploy new technologies while preparing for market changes and potential federal legalization. Some factors to consider include: • Marijuana consumers increasingly will use online ordering. Retailers lagging in this department should incorporate online ordering software as soon as possible. • Some major cannabis brands have started bypassing brick-and-mortar stores and are using a combination of direct-to-consumer sales and marijuana delivery.

“We see a lot more dispensary-level innovation just in terms of ‘click and collect’ or … purchase through the apps,” she said. As part of that trend, Gomez says cannabis retail stores are employing more vending machines and kiosks. The technology has evolved to monitor seed-to-sale tracking while dispensing products, she said. Mike Bibbey, vice president of marketing at Philadelphia-based multistate operator Ethos, said the company uses kiosks with iPads or Microsoft Surface tablets in some of its stores. “The software is a simple internet browser that displays the menu software (from Bend, Oregon-based Dutchie),” he said. “We have plans to develop our own software in the future, but we are using off-the-shelf products today.”

• Retailers can look forward to new technologies such as AI-assisted product recommendations, vending machines and more sophisticated sales analysis. • Some observers believe federal marijuana legalization will lead to cannabis sales at major retailers and drugstore chains. Others say strict government regulations and limited distribution channels will limit sales to dedicated marijuana storefronts. • Amazon could be a disruptive force entering the industry, or regulations could squash the retail giant’s plans before they get off the ground. • Retailers in state markets transitioning from medical-only to adult-use marijuana sales will need to make tough decisions about how to serve existing MMJ patients. The transition requires updated software, new SOPs, extensive training and possible changes to product offerings.

Dispensaries and adult-use marijuana retailers increasingly post their menus online so consumers can research products in advance.

Consumers Old and New Maturo agrees the marijuana industry’s retail future will be more digital. He noted, however, that there will be a difference between how veteran consumers engage with stores online compared to newer consumers. “People who have more familiarity with the cannabis category are more likely to use online ordering (or) delivery services than people who are new or canna-curious,” Maturo said. “For more experienced users, it’s really more about, ‘I know what I want, I know what I’m looking for.’ … It’s all about efficiency.”

Subscription Sativa The cannabis industry could reach a point where repeat customers set up recurring deliveries of their favorite products—much like a monthly CSA (community-supported agriculture) subscription—provided state and local laws evolve with technology. Less frequent consumers, however, are more apt to visit a retailer to answer the questions that menus cannot. “There are still folks who like the idea of going into a dispensary and having

Rick Maturo

someone they can ask those questions of and be able to see and feel the products,” Maturo said. “The end goal is … eventually, they’re going to become a more knowledgeable and more active consumer (and) don’t necessarily feel the need to go into the store.”


A growing number of software platforms are aiming to help retailers take the guesswork out of understanding their consumers.

Retailers can text or email promotions based on individual consumers’ past buying habits—and more personal recommendations could become the norm within a few years. “They’re offering curated selections, curated promotions, to specific users based on their past behaviors,” Maturo said, adding that he sees these developments with a cannabis retailer he visits in Illinois. “I’m seeing a lot more promotions that are specific to the types of products I want. And I’m getting hit with messaging that is directing me toward new products that are similar to other products that I’ve purchased,” Maturo explained. “We’re seeing that development scale pretty fast in the cannabis industry—I’d say it’s arguably much faster than what we’ve seen in traditional industry.” He predicted that in the next four to five years, brick-and-mortar stores will be able to target consumers who make physical visits to their stores with individualized promotions and messaging. For example, a consumer could scan an ID at the front door, triggering in-store menus to feature

September 2021 | mjbizdaily.com 43

Retail Revoution

Garden Remedies in Massachusetts carries a line of vape products named after their intended effects such as Clarity, Energy and Serenity. Courtesy Photos

products and promotions that the shopper is most likely to want. This is more feasible at a store with light foot traffic, Maturo noted. “The whole store could change when a certain customer walks in, depending on their preferences,” Maturo said, explaining that wall colors, music and menu boards could all change to cater to an individual shopper. “You make it very idiosyncratic with the customers who are inside the store at any given time.” Gomez agrees that consumers want to have solid product recommendations and a smooth retail transaction. Technologies that streamline the product-exploration process are helpful, she said, but some systems that live on an iPad can provide that level of education as well, without the need for bells and whistles.



As cannabis expands from its core demographic to a “more universal” audience, some consumers won’t have time to review menus as experienced buyers do or question budtenders like newcomers. For them, products named after the desired effects will simplify ordering, making “it a little bit easier for the end consumer,” Maturo said. Garden Remedies, a small chain of medical and recreational dispensaries in Massachusetts, carries two in-house

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Jeff Herold

vape brands—one eponymous, the other called Seven East—that have names such as Calm, Clarity, Energy, Focus and Serenity. Jeff Herold, co-CEO of Garden Remedies, said that the company’s customers were instrumental in naming the products. “We wanted to increase communication about what our various products do to make consumption more accessible and positive for all users, whether established or new,” he said.


National marijuana legalization will trigger momentous changes and challenges for cannabis. In retail, Maturo believes federal legalization will drop the final barriers keeping mainstream chains from entering the industry.

The retailers best positioned for that are convenience stores such as 7-Eleven and chain drugstores such as CVS. Drugstores are accustomed to dealing with highly regulated products, and convenience stores check more IDs per day than any other retailer, which is an advantage from a legality standpoint, Maturo said. “There is also a lot of overlap between convenience store shoppers and cannabis users,” he added. In fact, convenience stores were among the first to start offering CBD products such as beverages, topicals and tinctures, though Maturo said the coronavirus pandemic pushed many CBD users to shop online, creating a dip in convenience store sales.

Enter the Mainstream Retailers Mass retailers also could enter the industry, providing competition as well as new distribution channels, Maturo said. “That’s not necessarily bad news for the MSOs,” he cautioned, referring to multistate operators. “Just like Coke and Pepsi are the predominant soda brands sold by every CPG retailer in the country, some MSOs will probably have the opportunity to get into some of those major retailers. “I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime in the next three or four years, because these things always take time.




Retail Revoution Thousands of convenience stores already sell hempderived CBD products. Some experts believe the stores would be a natural fit for marijuana in the event of federal legalization.

But when that becomes a reality, it’s going to shake up the retail landscape that we see today,” he said. Gomez was less bullish on the idea that cannabis will be sold at mainstream retail. Even with federal legalization, she said it would be a long time before marijuana is available through national chain stores such as Walmart. Cannabis retailers, however, shouldn’t sit on their hands. “There’s a great deal of opportunity to make this experience a lot more exciting for consumers,” Gomez said. “If you look back about four or five years ago, the average dispensary was a very drab and depressing experience. Women historically have hated shopping at dispensaries, which has caused a lot of lost revenue from female consumers,” she said. “Now, cannabis dispensaries have become a lot more upscale. … A lot of MSOs have worked really hard to make these stores very approachable for a wider range of consumers.”


Federal legalization could usher a new player into the industry—one that could have an even bigger impact on existing marijuana retailers than convenience stores and other mainstream retailers. On June 1, online sales and distribution giant Amazon addressed the cannabis

46 MJBizMagazine | September 2021

question for the first time. “Our public policy team will be actively supporting The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2021 (MORE Act),” Dave Clark, Amazon’s CEO of worldwide consumer, wrote on the companyʼs blog. “We hope that other employers will join us, and that policymakers will act swiftly to pass this law.” The statement drew immediate attention from the cannabis industry, with many theorizing it was the Seattlebased company’s first step toward launching marijuana sales.

Delivery Giant Sees ‘Writing on the Wall’ “The big elephant in the room for a lot of retailers out there today is Amazon,” Maturo said, adding that the online retailer is lobbying the federal government to take a more definitive stance on marijuana. With all of Amazon’s distribution networks, the retailer is in “a pretty good position to deliver directly to consumers,” he said, adding that the company could easily act as a fulfillment center for multistate operators. “Companies that are prioritizing delivery really need to be watching what Amazon is doing,” Maturo said. Because as much as Amazon appears to be in the early stages of backing marijuana

legislation, the company likely “sees this as an opportunity for them to get in and potentially kick over that part of the business.” But Gomez believes cannabis consumers’ buying habits could make it harder for Amazon to take over the space. E-commerce typically requires consumers to wait days for deliveries, for example, whereas cannabis delivery companies often provide same-day service. “Cannabis consumers don’t shop that way,” Gomez said, pointing to Canada’s e-commerce medical marijuana model, which she called “not really all that popular with Canadian consumers.” Additionally, the government’s desire to tightly track marijuana commerce is likely to be a hurdle for companies with Amazon’s ambitions. “Every state requires seed-to-sale tracking,” Gomez said. “They require cannabis to only be sold through those legal channels, those licensed dispensaries, and there’s not a lot of incentive to allow … more channels, which can be much more difficult to control and track and regulate.”

Omar Sacirbey is a reporter for MJBizMagazine and MJBizDaily. You can reach him at omar.sacirbey@mjbiz.com.

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Retail Revoution


DEPARTURE By John Schroyer

Cannabis brands using delivery to bypass retailers, sell directly to consumers


handful of cannabis brands have begun selling products directly to customers through their websites, effectively bypassing the traditional brick-and-mortar retail shops and delivery companies that have become gatekeepers for legal marijuana. The direct-to-consumer approach is being employed by some of the biggest marijuana brands in California, including CannaCraft, Cann Social Tonic, Kiva Confections, Old Pal and Roach. While the trend appears to be taking place primarily in California—the largest U.S. marijuana market and the one with the most established delivery infrastructure—insiders expect the practice to spread quickly to other states that allow home delivery. “The (COVID-19) pandemic made (cannabis delivery) practically a necessity. As people use Amazon more and more … direct-to-consumer made a lot more sense,” said Kenny Morrison, president of the California Cannabis Manufacturers Association and CEO of marijuana manufacturing company VCC Brands. “When the pandemic hit, it was like, ‘We’d better step on it.’”

Different Options Brands have several options to set up direct-to-consumer infrastructure, including obtaining delivery licenses or partnering with existing marijuana delivery businesses. But Morrison

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Roie Edery

said the key selling point for brands is twofold: • It allows consumers to shop the brand’s entire line of products—not just what retailers or independent delivery businesses choose to carry. • Brands can collect and retain customer data, providing valuable business intelligence for product development. “There are different ways of achieving direct-to-consumer (sales) that are compliant,” Morrison said. Oakland, California-based edibles brand Kiva, for example, is reportedly contracting with licensed delivery company Grass Door to fulfill customer orders placed through Kiva’s website. Others, including Venice, Californiabased cannabis brand Old Pal, have partnered with delivery businesses such as Amuse to create brand-specific websites for “super fans,” as Old Pal CEO Rusty Wilenkin referred to the companyʼs loyal customers. “A store might not carry all of your SKUs, whereas your online experience carries all of your SKUs,” Morrison

said. “People who are big devotees may go: ‘I had no idea they had all these flavors. I’ve got to try them all.’” Reaching super fans has been a primary driver for Old Pal, which specializes in white-label flower, pre-rolls and vape cartridges. Wilenkin said Old Pal’s online ordering function went live in late June, and he believes it will increase sales by giving consumers more options that are brand-specific.

‘Everyone Is Doing It’ One person navigating the direct-toconsumer trend is Roie Edery, cofounder of California marijuana delivery giant Eaze. Edery launched Ginger, a direct-toconsumer platform and delivery service for marijuana brands, in June. One of the company’s selling points is that brands will be the sole owners of all consumer data obtained through online transactions. “I’ve pitched close to 30-40 brands in the past month, and nobody has said, ‘Yeah, no, not interested.’ Everyone is like, ‘Hey, great timing, we just started thinking about this,’” he told MJBizDaily. “It’s truly an open field right now. Out of the top 100 brands in California, only about 5% are doing (direct-to-consumer sales), and the other 95% are thinking hard about it.”

John Schroyer is a senior reporter at MJBizDaily. You can reach him at john.schroyer@mjbizdaily.com.



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Retail Revoution

RX TO REC From OG Colorado to newcomer Arizona, retailers share lessons learned during the transition from medical to adult-use sales

A Return to Medical in Colorado COLORADO

Legalized medical marijuana: 2000 Projected MMJ dispensary sales for 2021: $370 million to $410 million

By Omar Sacirbey


everal states are transitioning from medical to recreational marijuana markets, and others will soon be in the same spot. To learn how retail businesses can best navigate this change, MJBizMagazine spoke with retail executives from three different states to find out how they steered their stores through the shift. Their insights touched on strategic decisions based on individual market conditions, customer forecasting, inventory, pricing, product selection, technology, training and other factors.

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Legalized recreational: 2012 Projected recreational retail sales for 2021: $1.8 billion to $2.1 billion Source: 2021 MJBizFactbook

Retail Tips • Find out whether the state is offering any incentives for retaining a medical marijuana business after adult-use legalization. • Take advantage of economies of scale that often accompany increased traffic from recreational sales. • Research whether transitioning to recreational-only sales will prevent the company from owning an MMJ license in the future.

Retail Revoution One of the first decisions retail executives make when transitioning from a medical to recreational marijuana market is the extent to which they want to maintain a medical business. The answer often depends on the incentives each state provides patients and businesses to stay in the medical market. In Colorado, for example, the medical marijuana market before recreational legalization was a poorly concocted mess that businesses couldn’t wait to exit, said Alex Levine, co-CEO of cannabis retailer Green Dragon. The company has 15 retail locations in Colorado—all but one of them recreational—and is opening stores in Florida. Before Colorado’s legalization of recreational marijuana, Levine said, the number of plants a vertically integrated MMJ business could grow was tied to its patient count. To increase plant counts, businesses competed zealously to register patients, resulting in what Levine referred to as “patient wars” characterized by “patient sign-up bonuses” such as deeply discounted ounces of flower. “Dispensaries were in the background scrambling with this constant influx and outflow of patients. … If your patient counts were constantly changing, there was almost no way to be compliant,” Levine explained. The result, he said, was a medical marijuana system that began to “fall apart.”

Switching to Adult Use Colorado’s adult-use marijuana system “streamlined” regulations, Levine said, and eliminated many of the problems that beset businesses under the medical program. As a result, Green Dragon, which had five dispensaries before 2014, exited the medical market to focus on recreational cannabis sales. Cutting its medical business saved Green Dragon operational costs, while the sharp decline in the number of Colorado’s MMJ card holders after adultuse legalization seemed to bear out the wisdom of the retailer’s decision.

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Green Dragonʼs new storefront in the upscale Cherry Creek neighborhood of Denver sells medical and adult-use marijuana. Courtesy Photo

“It was very hard to run medical and recreational stores simultaneously because, back then, they could not be located in the same sales area like you see today in Colorado,” Levine said, adding that in the early days of regulated recreational marijuana, MMJ and recreational sales had to be kept separate. “Running both med and rec operations would have been like running two stores. … So that would have been double the cost.”

Don’t Abandon Loyalists Levine stressed that the choice to focus on recreational stores didn’t mean Green Dragon neglected its medical consumers. The company was able to serve consumers who use cannabis for medical and wellness reasons with products from its lineup of recreational marijuana. And because the expanded recreational market allowed Green Dragon to increase production, the company was able to use economies of scale to keep costs down. “We actually were able to offer products cheaper than we were before,” Levine said. “We had a wider variety of products, and we were selling them at a better price. The only difference in

Colorado was that, on the medical side, the edibles could be stronger, and you could buy more of them. “The high-dose products are pretty advanced, and over 90% of patients don’t need anything like that,” he added.

Back to the Beginning While Green Dragon has been all-in on recreational marijuana, it could be reawakening to the medical market. In April 2020, the company acquired a store in Denver’s tony Cherry Creek neighborhood that was licensed for both adult-use and medical sales. Levine said Green Dragon plans to keep serving medical patients at that location. The shift coincided with MMJ patient numbers in Colorado jumping about 30% between 2019 and 2020. “A lot of the kinks have been worked out, and it’s a lot easier to operate on the medical side now,” Levine said. “It still is more difficult than recreational—there are definitely more things to keep track of. But the reason we keep (the medical license) is, if you ever get rid of it, you can’t ever get it back. “We don’t really know what the future of medical in Colorado is, so we’d like to keep our options open.”





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Retail Revoution Mindful Moves in Massachusetts MASSACHUSETTS

Legalized medical marijuana: 2012 Projected MMJ dispensary sales for 2021: $250 million to $305 million Legalized recreational: 2016 Projected recreational retail sales for 2021: $1.1 billion to $1.4 billion Source: 2021 MJBizFactbook

Retail Tips • Look for markets likely to legalize adultuse marijuana and secure medical cannabis licenses in areas that are hospitable to the industry. • Hire a legal team to advise your company on location scouting, regulations and compliance. • Don’t rush into opening additional adultuse stores if your medical marijuana retail model is working.

Regulations that allowed Massachusetts businesses to have up to three medical and three recreational licenses played a major role in the state’s transition from an MMJ to an adult-use market. Where businesses chose to locate was contingent on what was permitted by local municipalities. Sanctuary Medicinals, for example, started in New Hampshire’s small medical marijuana market. But company executives decided that expanding to Massachusetts would be necessary to create a thriving cannabis business. “We knew that adult-use (legalization) there was inevitable and that we had to participate in it to be competitive,” Sanctuary Chief Operating Officer Nick Satmary said. In 2016, the company started scouting towns to gauge local sentiment and search for real estate.

A Good Bet Ultimately, Satmary and his team settled on Gardner, a town of 20,000, where they found a storefront near major highways with ample parking and where the local government licensed MMJ businesses and was expected to permit adult use as well.

54 MJBizMagazine | September 2021

Sanctuary received approval to begin a medical business first, started cultivating in 2017 and opened its Gardner dispensary on Nov. 23, 2018—about the same time Massachusetts’ recreational market was coming online. Leadership’s expectation that Gardner would be one of few locales to approve recreational businesses proved correct. Because Massachusetts allows medical and recreational sales to co-locate, Sanctuary opened an adult-use operation under the same roof on March 6, 2019. At that point, Sanctuary was still one of the few recreational stores in Massachusetts, and its opening was greeted with long lines of customers.

No-Rush Rec But rather than rushing to open more recreational stores, Sanctuary opened two more medical outlets—one in Danvers on July 6, 2019, and the other in Woburn on Sept. 9, 2019. Sanctuary chose the locations because the towns had opted out of adult-use sales and there were only a small number of medical license holders to compete with in the area. “We picked those locations because we knew that they were going to opt out of adult use but also because of the access for patients,” Satmary said. Sanctuary opened its second adult-use retail location in Brookline, Massachusetts, on Aug. 1, 2020, and is currently considering locations for its third recreational license.

Ready, Set, Sell Satmary said that, so far, the transition from medical marijuana to adult use has been successful because of preparation. This includes meticulous location scouting, staying in close contact with state regulators, careful product selection, compliance and hiring “good lawyers”—in this case, the Boston office of cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg. “We trained all of our team on safety, compliance, product knowledge,” Sat-

Infused edibles for medical marijuana patients can contain up to 10 times as much THC as adult-use edibles. Courtesy Photo

mary said. “We studied established adultuse markets, where they priced products and what the bestsellers were. At the start, we kept everything very basic: flower, pre-rolls, vapes, concentrates, shatters, crumbles, sauce and then edibles like lozenges, fruit chews and chocolate.”

Adult-use Challenges As in other markets, Massachusetts had a much lower THC cap for adult use than for MMJ. Recreational edibles, for example, can contain no more than 100 milligrams per package and 10 milligrams per piece versus 1,000 milligrams per package and 100 milligrams per piece for medical edibles. The discrepancy required adjusting dosages for some products but nothing that was especially costly or laborintensive, Satmary said. Another challenge was integrating Sanctuary’s seed-to-sale platform, BioTrack THC, with the new Metrc system that Massachusetts mandated for recreational retailers. “The biggest thing was just integrating our seed-to-sale with Metrc to make sure they kept up in real time with each other,” Satmary said. “This was new for us—it was also new for the commonwealth and new for the regulators here. “Everybody was learning Metrc here at the same exact time. So the little nuances that came with Metrc—the tracking surrounding it, the inventory, compliance—all of that was a big challenge.”

Retail Revoution

Product Education Is Key in Arizona


Legalized medical marijuana: 2010 Projected MMJ dispensary sales for 2021: $1.0 billion to $1.2 billion Legalized recreational: 2020 Projected recreational retail sales for 2021: $250 million to $300 million Source: 2021 MJBizFactbook

Retail Tips • Research how much store traffic increased in states that launched adult-use marijuana markets. • Educate budtenders about how to serve customers who are new to cannabis. • Adjust THC levels in popular medical products so recreational consumers can try them.

The staff at two-store Arizona cannabis company Hana correctly projected state voters would legalize a recreational market during the 2020 general election. Adult-use sales began in January of this year. Anticipating an influx of canna-curious customers, Matt Pinchera, president of the cannabis business launched in 2015, tried to estimate how the company’s traffic might increase and staff appropriately. “We tried to look at other states that went from med to rec and what their customer traffic counts were. Today, every day is different,” Pinchera said, noting that adult-use customers greatly outnumber medical customers some days, but on others, they are more evenly split. While Hana’s recreational customers outnumber the business’ medical patients, Pinchera said there are more than enough patients to justify keeping medical sales open. The company also has a 20,000-square-foot grow that it plans to expand to 60,000 square feet this fall.

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Adult-use marijuana consumers are more likely to require assistance with product selection than experienced medical patients. Courtesy Photo

Educating Staff and Consumers In a market expecting an influx of inexperienced consumers, it’s critical that staff are thoroughly trained on the store’s products and how to educate customers about them, Pinchera said. Hana also invites product vendors to train staff about their offerings so that budtenders can present them to consumers safely and competently. “We knew there were going to be some new customers who once were cannabis users, but perhaps there are new products on the shelves that they’re not familiar with,” Pinchera said. “It’s kind of a continuation of being able to educate both the medical patients and the new adult-use customers.”

Retooling Product Lines Hana, formerly known as Hana Meds, also had to reevaluate the products it offered on each side of the business and make some adjustments. In Arizona, where the state mandates that medical and recreational stores be co-located if an owner has licenses for both, the amount of THC allowed in edibles is capped at 100 milligrams per

package and 10 milligrams per piece. The amount of THC allowed on the medical side is higher. Hana had a 40-milligram lollipop that was popular with medical patients, but the product had too many milligrams of THC to be sold on the recreational side. To offer the product to adult-use consumers, Hana started making a 10-milligram version. “There was an initial R&D cost to work on the formula, but once it was dialed in, there is no cost to make the switch,” Pinchera said.

Predicting Inventory Issues Another concern was having enough inventory. “There were shortages across the state, across the board,” Pinchera said of the early days of adult-use sales. “We followed what the bestselling products were and just did our best to have them. “The most popular items were flower, but we saw upticks also in (vape cartridges) and edibles, which were two categories that adult-use consumers gravitated toward.”

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Retail Revoution

Visitors to the Stash and Co. website can use StrainBrainʼs AI Budtender to get customized product recommendations. Courtesy Photos

I, BUDTENDER By Omar Sacirbey

StrainBrain uses technology to recommend products based on customer preferences and inventory


hether shopping online or in a marijuana store, less-experienced cannabis customers might not know what to ask a budtender. Likewise, experienced consumers can waste a lot of time researching strain descriptions and still not end up with what they want.

58 MJBizMagazine | September 2021

Those are the types of problems Andrew Leber, a biomedical software creator, set out to solve with StrainBrain. The company in Hamilton, Ontario, launched AI Budtender, a software program that recommends marijuana strains. “Our core-value proposition is that there are going to be users—not only new

users but even experienced users—who come to your menu and just see a sea of products,” Leber said, adding that the number of choices can overwhelm consumers and keep them from finding a product that is a good match. Leber, who built StrainBrain with business partner and engineer Graham

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Retail Revoution


Bohm, further posited that consumers without guidance would make less informed choices and potentially dislike the products they picked, which could “taint” their shopping experience and dissuade them from revisiting the store.

Andrew Leber

How it Works To use StrainBrain, consumers fill out a survey on their local retailer’s website, selecting their preferred effects, flavors and desired product strength. The program makes recommendations based on the user’s choices in conjunction with the inventory available at their chosen retail location. So far, AI Budtender can suggest only flower strains, but Leber is looking into incorporating other products such as vape cartridges. The AI Budtender is integrated with each store’s inventorytracking system, so it will never recommend a strain that is out of stock, he said.

AI Introduction Stash and Co., a nine-dispensary chain in Ontario, Canada, was the first business to try StrainBrain in early 2020. “I thought it was really interesting and something new in the industry that we should try,” said Stash and Co. Chief Operating Officer Joe Glynn, who was approached by Leber about the software. Glynn asked his budtending staff to test the AI Budtender, and they were impressed.

60 MJBizMagazine | September 2021

before they come face to face with real budtenders. “Most of our customers want to talk to somebody. … They want to ask some questions. They want to learn more about cannabis,” Glynn said. “Our budtenders are my experts. So this was going to be an opportunity online to help guide a customer through their shopping experience.”

Cost Benefit?

“It was great. It made some really good recommendations,” Glynn said. The budtenders “all said that a lot of the strains that were being picked for them were actually strains that they would normally go with.” The retailer’s rollout of StrainBrain coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing business lockdowns. In that situation, the AI Budtender proved its mettle, Glynn said. “It was a really great feature to have come on board during the pandemic, when most of my customers were only ordering online and they weren’t able to talk to a budtender,” he explained. “It was a great resource to have.” Glynn stressed that the AI Budtender isn’t supposed to replace human budtenders but, rather, help customers inform themselves about products

Leber anticipated StrainBrain would be in about 50 locations in the United States and Canada by late August. The company makes money via a subscription model, and Leber said the AI Budtender costs about $450 per month, per store. StrainBrain was easy to integrate with Cova, a common point-of-sale system in the Canadian cannabis industry, according to Glynn. He also made a deal with Leber that allowed Stash & Co. complimentary use of the AI Budtender in exchange for metrics to see how consumers are using the program. Glynn is awaiting data from StrainBrain about how many people are using the software and how many users are being converted into purchasers. “I don’t have a full understanding of how many customers are actually using it,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of customers tell me that they really like the program,” Glynn said. “They’ve used it, and they think it’s really exciting.”


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Listening In By Adrian D. Garcia

Cannabis companies join new social media platforms to participate in discussions and connect with potential consumers

Burgeoning social media sites TikTok and Clubhouse offer cannabis companies an opportunity to elevate their profiles and engage with customers and colleagues. TikTok is a video-sharing app that operates much like Instagram Reels. The TikTok platform is popular with those in Generation Z and some millennials. Clubhouse, meanwhile, is an invite-only, voice-sharing app organized around interest areas and communities. And, like LinkedIn, the platform is frequently used by marijuana professionals and advocates. Here are some considerations for cannabis companies interested in exploring these apps: • Clubhouse provides an opportunity for brands to host conversations that highlight the expertise of community partners or knowledgeable talent within the company. • Conversations on Clubhouse can be organized around high-level topics, including industry trends and issues. • Professionals using Clubhouse might benefit from listening and participating in discussions not explicitly tied to cannabis. Expanding their focus could provide learning opportunities and connections with those in adjacent industries. • TikTok does not allow promotion or discussion related to controlled substances including cannabis, alcohol or tobacco. Those in the industry must be cautious and creative on the app to avoid account bans and suspensions. • Influencers on TikTok might be able to talk about products and brands in an authentic way that avoids the risk of a company’s account being flagged for violating community guidelines.

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he cannabis industry is in the early stages of figuring out how to talk, joke or maybe even dance its way to success on the burgeoning social media apps Clubhouse and TikTok. Entrepreneurs in the cannabis space have identified Clubhouse as a platform to network and promote themselves, while more established brands highlight their internal experts or host panel-like discussions on the social networking app that uses voice conferencing. Clubhouse reached 10 million weekly active users in May after expanding access to include Android users. The app

initially launched exclusively for iOS users in March 2020. High-profile names on the platform include Tesla’s Elon Musk, comedian Tiffany Haddish and Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The site is also popular with big names in cannabis such as Gary “Gary Vee” Vaynerchuk, co-founder of Los Angeles-based Green Street Agency, and cannabis consultant Dina “Dr. Dina” Browner. Users can drop in to hear them and others chat about topics or launch conversations of their own. TikTok, meanwhile, is “almost like

the Wild West,” said John Shute, CEO and founder of Denver-based cannabis marketing agency PufCreativ. Companies use the video-sharing app to raise brand awareness and drive sales but must navigate ever-changing algorithms and the risk of account suspension. “People like to see personality and creativity—and these platforms allow you to combine both, but in their own respective ways,” Shute said.

CLUBHOUSE When used for business, Clubhouse is like LinkedIn turned into a

September 2021 | mjbizdaily.com 63

Listening In

Ancillary cannabis supplies company Bowlz came up with a cheeky way to avoid TikTok’s cannabis filtering algorithm. Courtesy Photos

conversation, Shute said. It’s an opportunity to personalize your brand and get involved in higher-level conversations that include political, social justice or environmental issues. Users can follow “clubs” centered on topics such as “The State of Cannabis” and “Cannabis Thought Leaders,” which each had more than 10,000 followers as of mid-August. Club creators and admins on the platform host public or private “rooms,” where members chat together or listen to discussions. Multistate cannabis operator Curaleaf started experimenting with the app this year. The Florida arm of the Massachusetts-based company has hosted several panel-like discussions on the platform, including “Cannabis Stigma and the Role of Community Advocates.” Curaleaf also has highlighted internal talent such as Jessie Kater, senior vice

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community,” said Yesenia Garcia, vice president of marketing for Curaleaf in Florida. “We try to provide—whether it’s for our patients, our guests or anybody who’s just curious about cannabis in general—a platform where they feel comfortable being able to engage and ask questions,” she said. The company will likely tweak its approach on the app based on what content is successful and leads to the most engagement, Garcia added. Discussions on Clubhouse include diverse and sophisticated topics such as cannabis and e-commerce. Courtesy Photo

president of manufacturing, who led the discussion, “Nanotechnology in Cannabis.” “We look at Clubhouse as an opportunity to engage with the

NETWORKING Clubhouse has been key for Scott McDowell as he builds out his e-commerce business, Bloom Mary Jane. The Denver-based company sells CBD bath bombs produced by a white-label manufacturer. Mike Prasad, founder of the “Marketing Club” on Clubhouse,

encouraged McDowell to pivot from his initial blog concept to an ecommerce business. McDowell also participated in a CBD-related business accelerator after meeting one of its co-founders, Mike Sibert, on the Clubhouse app. “It’s really important to find your tribe and find out who you click with, but don’t just stick with them,” McDowell said. “It’s also important to step outside your comfort zone and just look at other industries. You never know who might pop in a room.”

TIKTOK TikTok offers a greater opportunity for engagement to translate into sales because of the viral nature of the app, Shute said. The company revealed in August 2020 that the app had more than 100 million weekly active users in the United States. PufCreativ recently encouraged the team behind smoking-equipment retailer Bowlz to post on TikTok. “They had a video go viral just out of nowhere and sold out their inventory,” Shute said. “Now they are blowing up: selling out of every single inventory round that they get and forming huge partnerships. It’s really cool to see.” An April 23 video highlighting how a Bowlz-branded glass rod could be used for lighting pipes and other smoking devices had garnered about 2 million plays by early June. Other videos posted by @BowlzOfficial have been played tens of thousands of times and highlight the company’s smoking paraphernalia while popular songs play in the background. The company’s posts cover related topics such as, “Something we wish we knew when we first started poking smot.” (The wordplay reflects Bowlz’ attempt to stay on the right side of the app’s regulations governing cannabis, alcohol and other substances.)

THE RULES Cannabis companies have to be creative when promoting marijuana consumption or related products and services.

Yesenia Garcia

TikTok’s community guidelines “do not allow the depiction, promotion or trade of ” cannabis. The app, which initially launched in China, warns users that it will remove any content that violates the rules and suspend or ban accounts involved in severe and repeated violations. “Do not post, upload, stream or share … content that offers the purchase, sale, trade or solicitation of drugs or other controlled substances, alcohol or tobacco products (including vaping products),” the guidelines state. Searches for posts with the hashtags #cannabis, #marijuana or #weed typically yield zero results on the app. Videos tagged with hemp- and CBD-related hashtags, meanwhile, do not face the same restrictions. Because of the restrictions, marijuanarelated posts frequently include coded hashtags such as #oregano or #leaf to avoid being flagged while still reaching interested users.

INFLUENCERS Influencers can also be helpful in protecting a brand’s account from being banned on TikTok, said Tessa Adams, chief marketing officer at California-based cannabis retailer Moxie. Moxie has worked with influencers to promote its delivery service, HighNow, Adams said. “It’s authentic content that speaks to our type of consumer without screaming, ‘Hey, we’re cannabis, and we’re selling this.’” The company finds users it wants to partner with amid scans of cannabisrelated hashtags, she said.

“We’ll definitely take sort of a deep dive into each user’s comments and content to really understand what they’re trying to do and what they’re about to make sure that it aligns with our brand and who we are as a company.” After Moxie identifies an influencer to work with, someone from the company will send the user a direct message through the TikTok app or via Instagram. If the influencer agrees they would be a good fit for the company, Moxie sometimes provides samples to the user. Most influencer partnerships are driven by free products and discount codes. The company occasionally offers compensation when it wants to use the content created by the influencer for its own purposes, Adams said. “We work with each respective influencer on a custom package to make sure they are able to test the products they are most interested in, so the content remains genuine and authentic,” she said. “Moxie has products in every category, so finding the right fit for each influencer is easy and helps generate the best possible working relationship.”

SELLER BEWARE According to a Pew Research Center report published in April, 21% of those surveyed use TikTok. Among TikTok users, 48% are 18-29 years old, the report said. Moxie sees TikTok as an avenue to reach potential consumers in Gen Z, which it considers “the up-and-coming consumers for cannabis,” Adams said. But the brand is careful about marketing to those 21 and older who are legally allowed to recreationally consume cannabis in California. And it looks to tap into trends popular only among those in their 20s or millennials, she said. “We definitely never want to advertise to the younger crowd, and we make sure that we’re specific and stating exactly who it is that we’re talking to when we’re speaking,” Adams said.

September 2021 | mjbizdaily.com 65

BestPracticesInRetail | Solomon Israel

Delivering Customer Satisfaction Insurance, employee safety and fleet management are all concerns when launching a cannabis delivery service

Direct-to-consumer cannabis delivery isn’t permitted in all jurisdictions, but retailers that can deliver have the opportunity to grow their revenue by meeting customers where they are—at home. Cannabis delivery veterans recommend: • Considering the benefits and drawbacks of outsourcing delivery to a third-party service versus building your own delivery infrastructure.

A driver with Nevada-based Blackbird delivers cannabis to a consumer. Courtesy Photo


he coronavirus pandemic popularized direct-to-consumer cannabis delivery, but marijuana operators believe the practice is here to stay. “People just don’t want to have to leave their houses for anything these days,” said Monica Gray, chief operating officer of delivery-only cannabis retailer Nice Guys Delivery in San Rafael, California. For marijuana retailers in jurisdictions that permit delivery, a well-designed delivery service will be a critical way to capture market share and serve customers.

Outsourcing Versus Building Creating a successful delivery service can be a major undertaking. Where regulations allow, some smaller dispensaries prefer to outsource delivery to third-party operators, such

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Monica Gray

• Hiring reliable drivers with solid customer-service skills and taking extra care to keep those drivers safe as they work. • Exploring revenue options beyond delivery fees, such as minimumorder requirements. • Choosing delivery vehicles carefully, with the knowledge that insurance costs will likely be high. • Considering back-end software to help manage delivery orders and logistics.

as Nevada-based Blackbird, which does deliveries for dispensaries in Reno and Las Vegas. “We just take the headache away,” said Drea Ballard, Blackbird’s regional operations director for Nevada. “All you’re concerned about is filling the product as you would any retail sale in the store.”

Meanwhile, some larger dispensaries see value in controlling the delivery experience from end-to-end. Las Vegas-based Planet 13 Holdings moved away from third-party delivery services and built an in-house delivery system before the coronavirus pandemic hit, Vice President of Marketing David Farris said. “The way that you offer exceptional service is to control it yourself,” he said. “We were (tired of) apologizing for mistakes that weren’t our fault or delays that we didn’t have control over.”

BestPracticesInRetail | Solomon Israel Even with in-store shopping opening up, Farris said a lot of consumers are still placing delivery orders because of the convenience. “They don’t want to buy cannabis any other way anymore.”

Focus on Drivers Hiring a third-party delivery service was never possible for Nice Guys Delivery because of California regulations that require deliveries to be made by workers directly employed by licensed retailers. Nice Guys had 20 employees at the start of 2020, with its staff growing to about 55 this past June as a direct result of the pandemic. About 30 of those employees are drivers. Clean driving records and background checks are an obvious starting point when hiring delivery drivers. Beyond that, customer-service skills are critical, Nice Guys’ Gray said. “They’re the actual face that is going to be at the customer’s doorstep.” Most of all, said Blackbird’s Ballard, drivers should be consistent and reliable, ready to show up and deliver the goods. “The first thing I look for is someone who’s going to show up five days a week,” said Ballard, adding that Blackbird experiences better results with full-time drivers rather than parttime ones. Dependable, friendly drivers also can reap benefits in the form of tips. “Our delivery drivers do very well,” Gray said. “I joke all the time that I’m going to quit my job and just start to drive.”

Keeping Drivers Safe Since drivers deliver high-value inventory, their safety is paramount. Blackbird puts tracking units on all its delivery vehicles for safety purposes, but they also offer an operational benefit. “We can move deliveries around if we need to, because we know exactly where everyone is at all times,” Ballard said.

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Planet 13 in Las Vegas created an in-house delivery service to serve customers. Courtesy Photo

David Farris

Blackbird also has an exact-change policy, so that drivers aren’t carrying large amounts of cash in order to make change. Gray of Nice Guys Delivery said her customer-service team doubleconfirms the details of every delivery location to make sure it’s legitimate. “If there are any red flags—like an address being in a parking lot—we won’t do the delivery,” she said. The company also monitors local police and fire activity to steer drivers away from trouble. Planet 13’s security team trains its drivers to improve their situational awareness and help them make safe decisions, Farris said.

Fees or no Fees? Blackbird charges cannabis retailers a flat delivery fee of around $10, plus a per-mile rate. Ballard said most of Blackbirdʼs delivery clients donʼt pass on the full fee to customers. Charging fees is one way to recoup the costs of a delivery service, but some delivery operators simply require a minimum-order value to qualify for free delivery. Planet 13, for example, requires an order of at least $50, Farris said. “We do want to offer these services for free,” he said, adding that free delivery promotes customer loyalty. “If you’re ordering a $40 product and paying $15 in fees just to drive it to your house, why not just spend $50?” he said. In California, Nice Guys Delivery doesn’t charge fees, either. The company requires a $50 minimum order for deliveries in its home area of Marin County and a $100 minimum for deliveries to San Francisco. “I feel a minimum (required) order structure is more transparent,” Gray said. “No one likes to see additional fees at checkout, despite you even saying that you have a delivery fee upfront. People get disappointed when they go

BestPracticesInRetail | Solomon Israel all the way to the cart and they see an additional fee.”

San Rafael, California-based Nice Guys Delivery serves Marin County and San Francisco. Courtesy Photo

Vehicles and Insurance Vehicles are a must-have for cannabis delivery services, and buying and leasing are both viable options. Blackbird started out buying vehicles but switched to leasing to help reduce maintenance costs. The company exclusively uses Toyota Yaris subcompact hatchbacks, which Ballard described as inconspicuous, safe and reliable. “Most of our cars are getting between 40,000 and 60,000 miles a year, so there’s a lot of wear and tear on them. Leasing definitely made a lot of sense as we expanded.” The cost of insuring those vehicles for cannabis deliveries is “astronomical” compared to regular car-insurance prices, Ballard added. Proof of driver training helps lower premiums slightly, he said, but there hasn’t been much competition in the cannabis insurance space until recently. Farris agreed, saying the cost of insurance for Planet 13’s delivery fleet has been challenging. “We’ve gotten more strict with who we’re hiring and what’s on their record and their driver history ... just to try to mitigate (high insurance premiums) as much as possible,” he said. “But the costs are significant either way.” Nice Guys Delivery uses mostly hybrid gas-electric vehicles, such as the Toyota Prius, to help save on fuel costs. Cannabis businesses often face difficulties securing loans and financing, Gray said, so companies might have to pay cash upfront for vehicles.

Back-End Software For cannabis delivery services, software helps manage the logistical complexities of accepting and processing orders for delivery. Rather

70 MJBizMagazine | September 2021

than developing their own software, many dispensaries use platforms developed by third parties. Nice Guys Delivery uses the Meadow point-of-sale system, which includes delivery-management Drea Ballard functionality. Gray said she had considered building a custom software tool for her business but ultimately thought better of it. “Why spend hundreds of thousands of dollars … when there’s something existing (for which) I could Zach Lipson pay a monthly fee?” Blackbird has its own software product, which Ballard said is helpful for tracking and retaining customers on top of filling regulatory compliance needs. “We have geo-fences—areas that are off-limits, because of a municipality not offering (cannabis) retail in their neighborhood or city—that can be weeded out through Blackbird, and then someone using that address wouldn’t be able to even place an order.” Planet 13 uses Dutchie and I Heart Jane to manage orders, and the company is transitioning fully to Bend, Oregon-based Dutchie going forward.

The software costs retailers $250 per month and offers tools to manage and fulfill cannabis orders in line with regulatory requirements. Dutchie co-founder and Chief Product Officer Zach Lipson said Dutchie can also be integrated with third-party fleet management software and offers two-way communication with customers and automated delivery notifications. “You need a consumer experience that is smooth, that is enjoyable—and, frankly, allows you to receive these delivery orders … in a very simple and easy way,” he said. “I think it really is critical that retailers in this space are really meeting their customers where they want to be,” Lipson added. “And that, really, in today’s world, is online.”

Solomon Israel is a reporter for MJBizDaily and MJBizMagazine. You can reach him at solomon.israel@ mjbizdaily.com.

IndustryPlayers | New Hires & Promotions

Brendon Lynch

By Omar Sacirbey

A look at some recent hiring moves in the marijuana industry

Mainstream Retail Vet Moves Into the Marijuana Fast Lane


rendon Lynch discovered how fast the cannabis industry moves when he was recently hired as Jushi Holdings’ executive vice president for retail. Lynch had served as chief retail officer at Los Angeles-based Therabody for about six months when he was contacted by an executive recruiter who saw his profile on LinkedIn and thought he’d be a great fit for the position at Jushi. Within a week, Lynch met Jushi executives for interviews. Nine days later, he accepted the company’s job offer. “That was one of the things that was appealing to me about Jushi: They make decisions quickly,” said Lynch, who also held executive posts at Anthropologie, TOMS and Rudy’s Barbershop.

“They don’t have to go through this kind of typical, somewhat bureaucratic process when they feel like they’ve found the right person. That was refreshing.” Lynch added that he wouldn’t have taken just any executive post. He is excited to spend 20%-30% of his time working on challenges unique to cannabis. “If this were more of a traditional business or retail business … honestly, I probably wouldn’t be doing it. It’s kind of, ‘Been there done that.’ “Being able to educate the customers is really, really critical. Many customers are new to cannabis, and many have some hesitancy around it. Being able to help people understand how it’s grown, how clean it is and then, ultimately, how it can help them is paramount.”

CFO With Tech Roots Joins Curaleaf

New Ops Leader for Arizona MSO

Columbia Care Expands Board

Curaleaf Holdings, an international provider of cannabis products, appointed Ranjan Kalia as chief financial officer. He succeeds Michael Carlotti, who is stepping down. Since 2008, Kalia served as executive vice president and chief financial officer of Virtusa Corp., a digital strategy, digital engineering and IT services company with more than 25,000 employees globally. His duties included controllership, financial planning and analysis, treasury, tax and internal audit. Before Virtusa, Kalia spent eight years with EMC Corp., including as vice president of finance and chief financial officer for the Asia-Pacific region. He also held senior financial, controller and audit positions at GE Capital, PepsiCo and PricewaterhouseCoopers and served as a board director and audit committee member for Polaris Consulting & Services from 2016 to 2018.

Tilt Holdings, a Phoenix-based provider of cannabis business solutions, including inhalation technologies, cultivation, manufacturing, processing and retail, hired Dana Arvidson as chief operating officer. Arvidson most recently was vice president of corporate development for PhyNet Dermatology, a physician practice-management company in Franklin, Tennessee, and led acquisition, practice valuation, negotiation of terms and integrating practices. Arvidson previously served as vice president of capital markets and investor relations for First Marblehead Corp. in Boston. As Tilt COO, Arvidson will provide operational leadership for the company’s strategic objectives and establish key performance indicators to gauge efficiency and effectiveness of internal and external operational processes.

New York-based Columbia Care, one of the largest multistate cannabis operators, appointed Philip Goldberg, former CEO and co-founder of Green Leaf Medical, to its board of directors. Goldberg co-founded Green Leaf in 2014 and grew the company into a multistate operator in the mid-Atlantic region with 500 full-time employees, 400,000 square feet of cultivation space, three extraction labs and 10 dispensary licenses across Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Goldberg served as Green Leaf’s CEO until the company was acquired by Columbia Care in June.

72 MJBizMagazine | September 2021

Oklahoma Food Safety Board Taps Dispensary CEO Blake Cantrell, CEO of The Peak Dispensary, an Oklahoma City-based chain of medical cannabis stores, was appointed to the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority’s Food Safety Standards Board (FSSB).

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IndustryPlayers | New Hires & Promotions The FSSB, more often referred to as the OMMA Advisory Board, includes state officials, experts and OMMA-licensed cannabis industry representatives.

Infused Desserts Co. Gets Two Marketing Execs Las Vegas-based Hervé, maker of French-inspired and cannabis-infused desserts, added two new marketing executives: Cheyne Nadeau, who joins as vice president of marketing, and Emily Ryan, who joins as head of trade marketing. Nadeau most recently was director of marketing for cannabis brand Alt and was head of marketing at Canndescent in California. He also spent seven years as culture marketing manager for Red Bull North America. Ryan was marketing manager at California edibles maker Plus Products.

q Plus Products Hires Marketing VP Marketing specialist Tara Soltow joined California edibles brand Plus Products as vice president of marketing. She most recently was principal marketing consultant at San Franciscobased Epoch Roots, which she started in 2019.

Soltow started her cannabis career as trade marketing director at Kiva Brands following previous senior posts with Beam Suntory and the All Terrain agency in Chicago.

Hoban Law Group Merges; Attorneys Disperse Hoban Law Group (HLG), a cannabis law firm based in Denver, merged with Clark Hill, a Michigan-based firm with more than 650 lawyers in the United States, Ireland and Mexico. The merger resulted in Hoban staff moving in new directions. Bob Hoban, who founded HLG in 2008 and grew it to more than 10 offices in the United States and abroad, becomes co-leader of Clark Hill’s Cannabis Industry Group and heads the firm’s Denver office. He is joined by seven other Hoban attorneys—David Bush, Donnie

Emmi, Claire Wells Hanson, Brent Johnson, Darren Kaplan, Craig Small and David Wunderlich—as well as several paralegals and support staff. Hoban will co-lead Clark Hill’s cannabis practice with Sander Zagzebski in Los Angeles. Zagzebski joined Clark Hill earlier this year from Greenspoon Marder. Meanwhile, attorney Steve Schain, who had worked for the Hoban Law Group focusing on East Coast markets, announced that he and other Hoban attorneys would launch their own firm.

Aleafia Board Vet Named Chair Mark J. Sandler, the longest-serving member of the board at Aleafia Health, an Ontario, Canada-based cannabis producer, processor and seller, was appointed board chair.

Currently senior partner at Cooper, Sandler, Shime & Bergman, Sandler is an appellate and trial lawyer as well as an adjudicator and mediator in regulatory matters, including securities litigation. He served three terms as an elected member of the Law Society of Ontario’s governing body.

Vicente Sederberg Bolsters N.J. Office National law firm Vicente Sederberg hired Heather Kumer as counsel in its New Jersey office. Kumer joins from Prime and Tuvel, where she was a partner. Previously, she was an associate attorney in the Jersey City office of Connell Foley, where she developed medical cannabis policy for a major hospital. In 2020, she was chosen as a Rising Star in land use by New Jersey Super Lawyers. She also has served as

in-house counsel and sustainability coordinator for the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency. She is a LEED-certified professional in building design and construction.

Greenspoon Marder Expands As part of its Midwestern expansion, law firm Greenspoon Marder added five Chicago-based attorneys to its Cannabis Law Group. Irina Dashevsky, Ryan Holz, Doug Sargent and David Standa join as partners and Robert Johnson as of counsel. The firm also appointed partner Nick Richards as chair of the group. Hired or promoted someone for a senior-level position? Send a news release or general information to Omar Sacirbey at omar.sacirbey@ mjbizdaily.com.



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Sneak Preview


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Daymond John Co-Star ABC’s Shark Tank and Founder/CEO of Fubu

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The MJBizCon conference program has been specially curated for YOU by our in-house experts, the journalists behind the award-winning MJBizDaily news service. You'll find over 70 sessions and 100+ leading industry

Our 1-day forums allow you to focus on a single segment of the cannabis industry, as well as connect and network with peers with similar interests.

speakers who will address today's top business and legal challenges and updates, industry analysis and insights, new trends, and more. Whether you’ve been in the industry for years or are just starting out, there are

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sessions geared to your immediate needs. Plus, come together at these special sessions throughout the show:

Finance Finance Forum Forum

OPENING GENERAL SESSION – DAY 1 State of the Industry and Predictions with Chris Walsh, MJBiz CEO and Founding Editor


Reality Check: A Deep Dive Into U.S. Cannabis Legalization—Is Your Business Prepared? Clash of the Titans: Can Cannabis Culture and Big Business Co-Exist?



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Connect With 1,100+ Exhibitors You Need To Know With over 230,000 sq ft of expo space, MJBizCon is the largest expo floor serving the cannabis industry. That means you can get ALL your business done in one event, under one roof. You'll find exhibitors from professional grow and processing equipment to financial services and infused products—and everything in between you need to run your cannabis operation. Come ready to make deals, find new suppliers, check out new tech, compare supplier offerings and ask all your questions.

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SeedtoCEO | Sound Bites from the MJBiz Podcast


veryone wants to get in on the cannabis market. The new podcast “Seed to CEO” gives marijuana entrepreneurs an edge. Each week, MJBiz CEO Chris Walsh interviews a cannabis executive to learn the stories behind their successes and failures. To hear from those who have been there and done that, visit mjbizdaily.com/podcast or listen to “Seed to CEO” wherever you get your podcasts.


Tune In Today!

These “Seed to CEO” podcast guests answered:

What was your biggest challenge or mistake when you started in the cannabis business?




We were pheno-hunting: We had 240 plants that were vegging, and they were different phenotypes. They needed to be sprayed with neem—an organic type of pesticide that has been used for centuries—and you’ve got to spray in the dark. So, not only did I spray them with lights on, I got distracted, left the barn and left the lights on all night. And it killed them all. Burned them up. Thank God, we had some clones in another part of the building. But we had to wait another whole cycle. We lost $300,000, maybe more. You know what my cousin keeps saying to me when I make a mistake? It’s tuition. For the education. So I’ve paid my tuition.

I applied for every license, and they gave me every one of them. I said, “You got to be kidding me! Time to go to Colorado and see what a dispensary looks like.” I’d never been in a dispensary before. We did take a trip to Colorado. I’m walking around taking pictures thinking, “I’m going to have the same products these people have, and I’m going to know where to order them.” I realized quickly that’s not the case. When we came back home, I realized I needed to learn everything I could. So I sought out people with knowledge of cannabis. I sought out anyone that had worked in the industry. And we just started surrounding ourselves with those people.

We bought a lot of product that was exceedingly high priced early in the market, and then we were stuck with it. The law prohibits you from selling cannabis for less than its acquisition price. Producers had gouged us on price so significantly that, as the prices came down, we couldn’t sell it. We couldn’t give it away—that’s illegal. And couldn’t even sell it for half of what we bought it for because that was illegal. We bought it at such a high price that it was garbage. We had pounds (of marijuana) that had to get destroyed because I couldn’t sell them.

Owner, Belushi’s Farm Eagle Point, Oregon

Owner, Med Pharm Broken Arrow, Oklahoma

Quotes have been edited for length and clarity.

82 MJBizMagazine | September 2021

CEO, Cannabis City Seattle

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INTRODUCTION Supplemental lighting products are ubiquitous in the cannabis industry, but the science behind lighting—and the benefits it provides—is not often well understood. Not to mention that, as in other areas of cultivation, there exist many myths about what supplemental lighting can and can’t do. To address that, we’re breaking it all down here, in the “MJBizDaily Lighting Buyers Guide,” the first in a series of resources aimed at connecting buyers looking for specific products and the sellers who offer these goods along with the technical services that will help their customers succeed. Laura Drotleff MJBizDaily

In addition to providing connections, the “MJBizDaily Lighting Buyers Guide” offers smart content from cultivation experts who have amassed decades of experience studying horticultural lighting. They weigh in on: • Considerations for choosing a lighting system for your cannabis grow. • Pervasive cannabis lighting myths. • Benefits of supplemental lighting on cannabinoid content and pest control. • New research on improving lighting efficiency. We hope that the expertise shared in these pages yields insights on how to use and select lighting products to improve efficiency and results in your cannabis grow. Big thanks to our contributor Georgie Smith for her diligent work to understand and write about the complexities of supplemental lighting. If you have any questions or want to provide feedback, please contact me at laura.drotleff@ hempindustrydaily.com.

CBD Hemp in Cornell University/GLASE trial studying the effects of different supplemental lighting on yield and THC and CBD content. Photos courtesy of Neil Mattson, Cornell University

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UNRIVALED For any commercial cultivator, your goal is to grow more weight. The more grams of usable material you get per square foot of cultivation space, the better you’re doing. The more efficient you are at doing that the more successful you’ll be. Solving this challenge starts with your choice of lighting. The A3i by Fohse is currently the most powerful AND efficient fixture on the market with a balanced spectrum. It’s the only fixture capable of delivering the same PPFD levels as a Summer sun, and we’ve all seen the massive growth cultivators achieve with outdoor plants. If you’re the type of cultivator who strives to set record-breaking yields every harvest, the A3i is the proper tool for the job. IP67 Easily hose down the fixtures after every harvest 4,200 μmol/s Achieve the same light levels as the sun in the Summer 3 SPECTRUM MODES Optimized for each phase of the plant's growth cycle

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MJBizDaily Buyers Guide Lighting


CHOOSING A LIGHTING SYSTEM FOR YOUR CANNABIS GROW Lighting technology advances and a maturing marketplace have made it more complicated to choose a lighting system for indoor and greenhouse hemp and marijuana operations. Improved LED technology offers lights that are vastly more energy-efficient and longer-lived than the traditional metal halide and high-pressure sodium (HPS) lighting systems familiar to most legacy cannabis growers. Cost savings can be significant: switching to LEDs from HPS lights saved vegetable growers 40% in lighting energy costs, according to a 2021 study in the Netherlands. But it’s more complicated than that. The upfront cost of LEDs is significantly higher than of the HPS lights that have been the industry standard for years. And many growers are unfamiliar with growing under LEDs. Plus, light efficacy, spectrum options and photons delivered vary widely from one LED manufacturer to another. When a grower decides to make the leap from HPS to LED, choosing the right LED lights for their operation adds another layer of complexity.

5 Copyright 2021, MJBizDaily, a division of Anne Holland Ventures Inc. You may NOT copy this report, or make public the data and facts contained herein, in part or in whole. For more copies or editorial permissions, contact CustomerService@MJBizDaily.com or call 720.213.5992 ext. 1.

MJBizDaily Buyers Guide Lighting


“When I think about what growers consider (in a lighting system), I think about how we get the most out of this plant,” said Travis Higginbotham, vice president of production for Harborside, a vertically integrated California cannabis company.

A Cannabis Lighting Buyer’s Checklist

Higginbotham and other horticultural lighting professionals consulted for the MJBizDaily Lighting Buyers’ Guide recommend growers evaluate the following factors in their lighting research:

What to Know and What to Ask Ask yourself: F What yields do you expect to achieve?

• Cannabis crop lighting needs.

F What is your daily light integral (DLI)?

• The growing environment.

F How will you provide spectrum?

• Climate and region.

F Does your state have an LED rebate program?

• Applicable energy and lighting regulations and incentives.

F How much will your energy use cost? F What’s the ultimate goal of your cannabis business?

• The cannabis marketplace. • The future of cannabis lighting.

F What do your end customers value?

• Cannabis crop lighting needs

Ask your manufacturer:

Cannabis needs a lot of light for peak performance, Higginbotham said. Growers should pay close attention to light quantity and how much daily light integral (DLI) is delivered to optimize production.

F Is this light listed with the nonprofit DesignLights Consortium? How did it rate? F What is this light’s efficacy? F What is this light’s failure rate?

He aims for a minimum DLI of 50 moles, a unit for measuring light. Bright sunshine in the summer may deliver as much as 65 moles a day.

F What is this light’s yield per square foot? F How long will this light last?

But light quality, or spectrum, is also essential, Higginbotham said, though spectrum has been a hotly debated topic since LEDs entered the cannabis marketplace.

F What is the Ingress Protection (IP) rating for this light? F What do your customer support and technical services offer?

LEDs can be designed to include or exclude different wavebands of the light spectrum, providing many more spectrum options than traditional high-intensity discharge (HID) lights.

F How long has your company been in business? F Can you refer me to other growers that have purchased from you?

First-generation LED technology could only compete against HPS lights for energy use within the red and blue spectrum (“blurple” lights), which use the least amount of energy for photons produced, according to Alex Gerard, chief technical officer at Foshe, an LED horticultural lighting manufacturer.

Don’t be afraid to: F Get multiple quotes. F Reach out to agriculture extension programs, university agriculture departments and professional lighting organizations (such as GLASE) for advice.

6 Copyright 2021, MJBizDaily, a division of Anne Holland Ventures Inc. You may NOT copy this report, or make public the data and facts contained herein, in part or in whole. For more copies or editorial permissions, contact CustomerService@MJBizDaily.com or call 720.213.5992 ext. 1.

Horticulture LED

Growing with the pros Chad Zaki Michigan Pure Med

“I’ve noticed every time I use the LEDs, especially these Philips LEDs, that the plants are not only healthier, but they also finish a lot faster than under any HPS type light. We are seeing higher cannabinoid levels, higher terpene levels and even higher yields by using Philips LEDs. Our relationship with Signify and Philips has really been a huge asset to our facility.”

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MJBizDaily Buyers Guide Lighting

But that fostered the myth that cannabis doesn’t need full-spectrum light, Gerard said, and led to disappointingly low harvests as reported by indoor growers who switched to red and blue lights from their tried-and-true HID system. But LED technology has advanced since then, Gerard said, and broadspectrum LEDs are much more energy-efficient. However, focusing on light quantity and ignoring light quality (spectrum) misses the big picture. “You can’t take a 10-watt light and have it grow the same as a 1000watt light. It’s not possible,” Gerard said. “But if your plant is unhealthy, it won’t capitalize on the energy it’s receiving. Spectrum plays into health and plant shape.”

GREENHOUSE VERSUS INDOOR CONTROLLEDENVIRONMENT GROWS Indoor growers must keep the lights on a lot longer than greenhouse producers, but it’s more complicated than just providing additional light, said Erico Mattos, executive director of the Greenhouse Lighting and Systems Engineering (GLASE) consortium. In an indoor grow, spectrum becomes critical because growers can’t count on natural sunlight to supplement spectrum provided by indoor lighting, Mattos said. “If you have a bad spectrum in an indoor facility, you’ll have a bad crop,” Mattos said. Conversely, greenhouses do benefit from supplemental lighting, which may influence a decision in favor of cheaper HPS lights rather than LEDs, or less expensive but more energyefficient LEDs in narrower spectrums, Mattos said.


Studying the Benefits of Supplemental Lighting on CBD Hemp Preliminary studies of different light treatments found slightly higher yields for greenhouse hemp grown under white LED lights. The study, conducted by the Cornell University Hemp Research Team in the winter of 2020, compared hemp plants grown under eight different light treatments including high-pressure sodium (HPS) lights, metal halide and LED lights. There were six LED treatments: a white broadspectrum LED, four different red and blue light ratios, and one where plants were started under HPS lights and finished under high blue light.

CBD hemp bud harvested from Cornell University/GLASE trial studying the effects of different supplemental lighting on yield and THC and CBD content in CBD hemp production. Photo courtesy of Neil Mattson, Cornell Univ.

According to Cornell horticulture professor Neil Mattson, there was no statistical difference between the light treatments on CBD or THC levels. Mattson has also been studying light treatments on hemp funded by the Greenhouse Lighting and Systems Engineering (GLASE) consortium established by Cornell University and Rensselaer Polytechnique Institute. He looked at three different autoflower strains grown under four different daily light integral (DLI) levels and found that two strains didn’t increase in plant dry weight above 20 moles of light. But one strain did show an increase between 15 and 30 moles. Future studies will look more at the effect of light quality on CBD hemp yield and CBD content under LEDs versus high-intensity discharge (HID) lighting and compare the energy efficiency of the different lighting sources. “The research could show that the flower dry weights and CBD yields are roughly the same for LEDs and HID, but the electrical consumption for the LEDs could be found to be 40 percent lower,” Mattson is quoted as saying in an article on the GLASE website.

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MJBizDaily Buyers Guide Lighting


Higginbotham agrees. “You can be incredibly efficient with LEDs when they apply only blue and red, and surprisingly, those are very efficient wavelengths for the plants,” Higginbotham said. “I do support blue and red light in a greenhouse situation because we already have full spectrum. LEDs give you that option, and that influences the cost.”

LOCATION AND CLIMATE AFFECT GREENHOUSE LIGHTING NEEDS Where a greenhouse is located and prevailing weather patterns make a significant difference in lighting requirements. Marc van Iersel, horticulture professor at the University of Georgia and co-founder with Mattos of the lighting technology consulting firm Candidus, recommends studying daily light integral maps to calculate day length. He also recommends taking measurements both outside and inside your greenhouse.

Redefining PAR Could Improve LED Efficacy As a result, the current light-efficacy testing guidelines don’t count the photons produced by far-red light. But they do include the extra energy to produce those photons. That makes “lights look worse based on how the testing is done,” van Iersel said.

Since the 1970s, horticultural lights have used a definition of light wavebands that plants are known to respond to photosynthetically. But the definition, known as photosynthetically active radiation, or PAR, is incomplete, resulting in limits on the efficacy of LED fixtures, says Marc van Iersel, horticulture professor at the University of Georgia.

But the real issue is that far-red light is the most energy-efficient waveband that LED fixtures can emit, van Iersel said. “If we started counting far-red light as well… it would actually increase the efficacy (rating) of LEDs,” he said.

PAR was defined in the 1970s as wavebands in the light spectrum between 400 and 700 nanometers (nm) by scientists measuring how plants responded to individual wavebands of light, van Iersel said.

Light manufacturers may choose not to include far-red light because they are penalized under current testing protocols unless PAR is redefined. This is despite the fact that it actually makes their lights more efficient, according to van Iersel.

However, scientists have long known that plants do use wavebands outside the PAR definition, including far-red light, which is between 700 nm and 850 nm.

Some lights may not qualify for rebate programs, another disincentive to including far-red.

“Research from the 1950s found that if you combine PAR with far-red light, then farred light is photosynthetically active,” van Iersel said.

“The standards of how light fixtures are assessed really needs to reflect the latest science, and right now, they don’t,” van Iersel said.

“That has been known for 70 years now, but people for whatever reason have forgotten about it.”

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Source: Clemson University

“You need to know how much of that sunlight is actually transmitted into the greenhouse. It’s lower than what most growers think it is,” van Iersel said, adding that natural sunlight transmission is at least 10% less through the greenhouse. Other factors can also influence the DLI that natural sunlight provides, including climate—particularly the frequency of cloudy days—and hanging many lower-wattage light fixtures that create more shade, rather than fewer high-wattage fixtures. “The trade-off (between LEDs and HPS) to a large extent depends on how much you use the light because LEDs are much more efficient. The more you use the lights, the more competitive they become,” van Iersel said. Another expense to keep in mind is that LEDs run cool while HPS lights run hot, according to Andrew Wilmerding, representing Gavita Horticultural Lighting Systems, a division of Hawthorne Gardening Supply. Use of LED lights will lower canopy temperatures two to four degrees compared to HPS, van Iersel said. Depending on where the grow is located and the time of year, using LEDs versus HPS lights may save money on HVAC cooling or, conversely, require more money spent on heating the facility, Wilmerding said.

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ENERGY PRICES, REGULATIONS AND INCENTIVES Growers should check with local authorities and energy providers for any electricity usage requirements and possible rebates for purchasing energy-efficient LEDs, Wilmerding said. Some states, including Massachusetts and Illinois, have taken steps to regulate cannabis energy consumption, reflecting the large power needs of cannabis grows. Legal U.S. cannabis cultivation in 2017 consumed enough electricity to power 92,500 homes, a city the size of Anaheim, Calif., and is forecast to increase 162% from 2017 to 2022, according to New Frontier Data’s 2018 Cannabis Energy Report. Restrictions on peak usage hours in Salinas County, where Higginbotham grows, means if he exceeds usage thresholds during certain hours, his price per energy unit goes up. He avoids peak usage hours by timing his supplemental lighting to reach his crop’s photoperiodic light requirements. Regional energy prices can also influence what system a grower purchases, van Iersel said. If energy is relatively cheap and a greenhouse producer is in a region with plenty of sunlight, it may make more sense to buy HPS lights, which are more affordable upfront but much less energy-efficient than LEDs. But the big incentives many growers are unaware of are rebates for LEDs, Wilmerding said. In large operations, the rebate programs can mean significant upfront savings. But don’t count on rebate programs being around forever, Wilmerding said. They vary from state to state. And some states, such as Oregon, have already run out of funds for LED rebate programs.

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Growers should consider the operational costs of their lighting system, not just now but over the next five to 10 years, Mattos said, pointing to a maturing cannabis industry and increasing market saturation.

Does Lighting Influence Pest Problems in Cannabis Crops?

“If you think you can make a lot of money, well, other people think that too,” Mattos said. “Market saturation will happen really fast.”

That’s the question Purdue University Department of Entomology graduate student Eze PojmannEzeonyilo is hoping to explore in his Master’s degree work looking at how LED lights may be useful for managing pests on CBD hemp production.

Further, cannabis consumers are increasingly concerned about the cannabis carbon footprint, Higginbotham said, and energy savings with LED lights is a big selling point.

THE FUTURE OF LIGHTING While old-school metal halide and HPS lights aren’t going away soon, the future of horticultural lighting is really in LED technology, van Iersel and others interviewed said. Using wide-spectrum LEDs to reflect different spectrums and even dim the amount of light they emit helps growers adopt automated “smart farming” technology. “Control with HPS is always going to be crude,” van Iersel said. “With LEDs, you can literally make them do anything you want.” LEDs allow growers to be “more dynamic” and respond to changes in weather and energy prices, Mattos said. Just controlling lights more precisely can return 25% to 30% in energy efficiency. Especially as researchers learn more about the optimum spectrum needs for cannabis, Mattos predicts the industry will continue moving toward LEDs, adding that cannabis growers are leading the way into LEDs for other horticultural sectors. “Five years from now, I don’t know if growers are going to be buying HPS lights,” he said.

Poymann-Ezeonyilo’s studies were inspired by intriguing results coming out of other horticultural crops. University of Florida researchers, for Stalk of a hemp plant infested example, recently with hemp aphids. Photo courtesy discovered that of Eze Pojmann-Ezeonyilo irradiation with ultraviolet light killed the eggs of both spider mite pests and the predatory mites used for biological control in strawberry crops. Pojmann-Ezeonyilo will study hemp aphids and hemp russet mites and how the manipulation of spectral quality of LED lights can be used to minimize pest damage and optimize biological control methods in indoor hemp production. He will explore whether using different LED lights can bolster hemp’s natural resistance to aphids and study how different light regimes influence the natural life cycle of pests. “If it ends up being an effective way of controlling pests, it helps fill in the gap where we don’t have the chemical controls that other crops have,” Pojmann-Ezeonyilo said. “We’re also looking at integrating this with organic solutions that people are using with pests.”

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Why Spectrum Matters It is important to understand how light spectrum affects plant growth and potency For years, cannabis growers have been trying to understand the light spectrum and how each segment affects plant growth and potency. Recent research has only complicated the message on what parts of the spectrum are most beneficial. While the sun is obviously the most efficient light source for plant growth, we know it isn’t always available. That’s why good lighting manufacturers use the sun as a guide for the spectral output of their products. Spectrum A light spectrum is the many different wavelengths of energy particles, called photons, produced by a light source. Those photons are measured at specific nanometers (nm) representing a wavelength of light or band of light energy. Visible light is the part of the spectrum from 380-780nm. Plants utilize spectral energy beyond that from 300-800nm, with each section of the spectrum providing specific benefits to plant growth.

Photosynthetic Active Radiation (PAR) PAR is a range of the spectrum between 400-700nm where photosynthesis occurs. It consists of the rainbow of colors each with their own effects to plant growth. Blue reduces plant stretch and promotes tight internodal spacing. Green is essential for canopy penetration and has been found to enhance the production of chlorophyll. Yellow helps improve efficiency of canopy penetration. Red drives photosynthesis and is used heavily during flower production. Beyond PAR We now know that light beyond PAR is also beneficial to plants. Ultraviolet (UV) light gives the plant a solid base and creates protection. UV enhances the color, taste, and aroma of the plant. Far red can have a major effect on plant shape and size. It promotes plant stretching, increases plant biomass, and regulates flowering when used in the right ratio with red.

Know the Numbers Beware of false or misleading information and the way numbers are presented. Growers are often swayed by numbers they don’t truly understand and many times the data presented isn’t telling a full story. Manufacturers can provide any amount of data they choose which in turn can misrepresent the true performance of the product. Additionally, many metrics are actually for human eyes, not plant growth. Terms like lumens, kelvin and CRI just don’t tell you about the quality of the spectrum or how well the product will grow your plants. Learning to read the spectral distribution chart of any grow light source is beneficial. You should know what energy your plants are receiving and how much of that is important for plant growth. It’s always best to find a spectrum that is well-rounded, includes UV and far red, and mimics the spectrum of the sun as close as possible.

At EYE HORTILUX, our lighting products range from HID to LED, high wattage to low wattage and clone to flower spectrums because we know not everyone grows the same way. No matter your grow style, we have a lighting solution to help you grow your own way.


CMH 315

SE 600 @hortilux


LED 700-ESib

LED 700-ES

DE 1000-VS


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LED lights in an indoor marijuana grow. Photo courtesy of Fohse.

8 CANNABIS LIGHTING MYTHS Myths about lighting pervade the cannabis industry. Because the industry was underground for so many years, it led to growers doing things in ways that “make no sense,” said Marc van Iersel, horticulture professor at the University of Georgia. “Old school cannabis growers believe it’s a special crop, different than any other plant,” van Iersel said. “In reality, it’s just one more photoperiodic greenhouse crop. In many ways, it’s not that different from growing a poinsettia or chrysanthemum.” For the “MJBizDaily Lighting Buyers Guide”, we asked van Iersel and other horticultural lighting experts and cannabis lighting professionals about the lighting myths they hear frequently:

1. My plants are turning purple or yellow. My light must be too high. This isn’t a problem with the light quantity being too high: cannabis can grow under very high light conditions. But if other inputs aren’t balanced to support more light-induced photosynthesis—C02 supplementation, fertilizer, and water—the imbalance will stress the plant. –Bruce Bugbee, professor of plant physiology, Utah State University.

2. The proper amount of light for my plants requires placing them about a foot away from the lights. While light quantity does decrease further away from the light, this doesn’t consider the wattage of the light itself. Some lights produce greatly more photons than others, but differences are not discernable by the human eye. Accurately measuring how much light a plant receives can only be determined using a quantum sensor. –Bruce Bugbee, Utah State University. 14 Copyright 2021, MJBizDaily, a division of Anne Holland Ventures Inc. You may NOT copy this report, or make public the data and facts contained herein, in part or in whole. For more copies or editorial permissions, contact CustomerService@MJBizDaily.com or call 720.213.5992 ext. 1.

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3. There is a difference between lighting needs for indica and sativa strains of cannabis. There is no difference between the strains. They both like high light. –Bruce Bugbee, Utah State University.

4. Plants don’t need green light. Despite many theories—such as that plants reflect green light or green light is poorly absorbed by chlorophyll—plants use green light. It is particularly good at helping photons be absorbed deeper into the plant and is useful in high-light conditions –Erik Runkle, professor of horticulture, Michigan State University.

5. A 100-watt LED produces the same heat as a 100-watt HPS or metal halide light.

Hemp plants under LED lights as part of High-intensity discharge (HID) lights generate heat because a study looking at the effects of LEDs on the light is created by the ignition of gas within the lamp. cannabis pests. Photo courtesy of Eze LED fixtures use thin layers of semiconductor material and the Pojmann-Ezeonyilo. movement of electrons between layers to generate light. HID lights are much hotter than LEDs. Wattage doesn’t make a difference. –Andrew Wilmerding, representing Gavita Horticultural Lighting Systems, a division of Hawthorne Gardening Supply.

6. Cannabis responds only to the red and blue spectrum. While cannabis does respond to the red and blue spectrum, full-spectrum light (from natural sunlight or full-spectrum LEDs) is the most effective for growing cannabis. Full-spectrum LEDs are similar to natural sunlight, providing the full range of light within PAR (photosynthetically active radiation), increasing yield and harvest quality. –Alex Gerard, chief technical officer, Foshe.

7. Cannabis needs to be grown under metal halides for vegetative growth and HPS for flowering. Some growers believe the more reddish light emitted by high-pressure sodium (HPS) lights supports flowering. However, flowering in short-day plants (like cannabis) isn’t induced by different light spectrums. It is induced by reducing the photoperiod. Switching between metal halides and HPS is labor-intensive and unneeded. –Marc van Iersel, professor of horticulture, University of Georgia.

8. Cannabis grown under LEDs needs more CO2.

The only factor that influences the need for CO2 is the amount of daily light integral (DLI) the crop receives, whether that’s from natural sunlight or electrical lighting. It isn’t the fixture that makes the difference, it’s the total amount of light the plant receives, regardless of what fixture is used. –Travis Higginbotham, vice president of production, Harborside Inc.

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UNDERSTANDING HORTICULTURAL LIGHTING A glossary of common terms Horticultural lighting is riddled with technical jargon that can make understanding the fundamentals of cannabis lighting complicated and lighting purchases confusing. Plants respond to a broader spectrum of light than humans do, said Erik Runkle, a horticulture professor at Michigan State University. Because of that, different measurement techniques—and terminology—have been developed for horticultural lighting standards than what we use when measuring human light. Instead of discussing lumens, lux and foot-candles, horticultural lighting manufacturers discuss photons, PAR and micromoles (see definitions below). Growers don’t need to understand every nuance of a horticultural lighting system, Runkle said, but they should have a solid grasp of the basic tenets of horticultural lighting and the most commonly used phrases. Resources for more information about horticultural lighting include the Greenhouse Lighting and Systems Engineering (GLASE) consortium established by Cornell University and the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and horticultural departments in local land-grant universities. For a comprehensive overview, see the book Light Management in Controlled Environments, authored by Runkle and Roberto Lopez, a floriculture extension specialist at Michigan State University.

CANNABIS LIGHTING GLOSSARY OF TERMS Blurple Lights —Light emitting Diode (LED) lights that are a combination of red and blue emitting a purplepink light. Blurple lights are very energy efficient and support early vegetative and flowering stages but don’t offer a full light spectrum.

Broad-Band Spectrum —LED lights that emit a wide range of wavelengths that promote plant growth, including some that include far-red light. Broad-band spectrum LEDs are not as efficient at energy conversion as narrow-band spectrum LEDs.

CRI (Color Rendering Index) —A measurement of how well a light source reveals colors to the human eye compared to sunlight. Does a green look green? A red look red? A fixture with a low CRI may mask disease or pest issues and could pose problems for indoor growers with no natural light source. DLC Listed, Rated or Approved—DLC stands for DesignLights Consortium, a non-profit organization formed to create and enforce energy-efficiency standards for horticultural lighting. A DLC-approved fixture meets minimum energy efficiency standards, exhibits lifetime durability and has been constructed to tolerate plant-growing environments. DLI (Daily Light Integral) —The cumulative value of photosynthetic light delivered per square meter per day (rather than per second). DLI and PPFD (Photosynthetic Photon Flux Density) are both ways to measure how much light plants receive. DLI is the daily cumulative of PPFD.

Far-red Light—A wavelength that falls out of the definition of PAR but influences the plant’s shape, how large the leaves might become and how much extension the plant might develop, greatly affecting how large a plant might become.

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Fixture Efficacy—The energy efficiency of a fixture, or how much output is generated per unit of energy and how efficient a fixture is at converting energy into photosynthetic light. Fixture efficacy is especially important for indoor lighting.

HID —High-intensity discharge (HID) lights produce light by creating an arc of electricity between two electrodes housed inside a tube filled with a noble gas. They produce much more light per watt than incandescent or fluorescent bulbs. HPS and metal halide lights are types of HID lights traditionally used in horticultural lighting.

HPS —High-pressure sodium (HPS) lamps are high-intensity light bulbs filled with sodium that produce large amounts of light and heat energy. HPS lamps had been the industry standard for horticultural (and cannabis) lighting until the advent of LEDs (see below). They generally produce a red or yellowish light.

Joule —A unit of energy (J). The amount of electricity required to light one watt for one second. LED —Light-emitting diode (LED) lights are much more energy efficient at producing high intensity than HPS lamps, and can produce light in many more spectrums. However, LED fixtures are variable in their optimization for spectrum and light intensity based on manufacturer and are typically much more expensive to buy initially. Light Quality—Describes the colors of the light or the spectrum of the light, for example, how much blue, green, red or other light spectrums are emitted from a light source. Not all are visible to the human eye.

Light Quantity—Refers to the intensity or the brightness of the light and is the number of photons produced. Light quantity may be measured as the instantaneous amount of light (PAR) produced or the cumulative amount delivered in a day (DLI). Lighting Uniformity—How evenly light is distributed to a growing area, including uniformity of light spectrum and intensity. Because lighting regulates plant growth, flowering and water consumption, the uniformity of the lighting impacts the uniformity of the crop.

Metal Halide Light—An HID light with metal halide as the gas inside the bulb. Metal halide lamps give off a whiter/bluer light than HPS lamps and were traditionally used by growers in the vegetative stage of growth.

Micromoles (µmol) —Unit used to measure how bright the light is. One mole equals 1,000,000 micromoles. Growers use micromoles to measure the PPFD, a measure of the number of actual photons emitted over a square meter per second—expressed as µmol of photons m-² s-¹ of PAR. A daily mole measurement (or DLI) is an expression of moles of light per square meter per day.

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Moles —The measurement of photons emitted by a light source. Narrow-Band Spectrum —LED lights limited to the red and blue spectrums, sometimes referred to as “blurple” lights because of the purple-pink color they emit. Narrow-band spectrum lights are more energyefficient than broad-band spectrum or white lights (see above) and are often used in greenhouse situations where sunlight is also utilized.

PAR (Photosynthetically Active Radiation) —The waveband of light from 400 to 700 nanometers driving plant photosynthesis and therefore the wavebands that horticulturalists are interested in measuring. PAR also equals light intensity and the terms are often used interchangeably.

Photons —Tiny particles of energy (light) in the PAR range. Photons are converted into useful energy by plants through the photosynthetic process. Different photons have different wavelengths—a blue photon has a short wavelength and a red photon has a longer wavelength. Photons are measured in micromoles.

Photoperiodic Lighting—Delivering low-intensity lighting to create long lighting days when actual days are short.

PPF (Photosynthetic Photon Flux) —The total amount of PAR light emitted by a fixture each second. The values of PPF vary widely from one fixture to another. Some fixtures emit a tremendous amount of light, so growers need fewer fixtures to obtain their desired light intensity. Others emit very little light and growers thus need more fixtures to meet their desired light intensity. PPFD (Photosynthetic Photon Flux Density) —The PPFD is the light intensity (or photons) delivered to a given surface per second. Light intensity decreases as the distance from the light source and surface increases. PPFD is measured using a quantum sensor and is used to calculate DLI (see above).

Quantum Sensor—Also known as a “PAR meter.” Measures the intensity of light, or the numbers of photons emitted by a source of lighting, using micromoles per square meter per second as the unit of measurement. Sole-Source Lighting—Lighting for crops grown entirely indoors with the only light available coming from electric lighting.

Supplemental Lighting—Moderate-intensity lighting delivered at night or on cloudy days to supplement a low DLI and increase plant growth and quality.

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Advanced Energy















Babala (Xiamen) Agri-tech Co., Ltd.



Bellpark Horticulture



BFG Supply Co



Black Dog LED



Boulderlamp, Inc



California LightWorks



DimLux Lighting and Global Garden



Dongguan Ledstar Optoelectronic Technology Co., Ltd.


Dutch Lighting Innovations



EarthScout by Fohse



EstTech Inc






Fluence Bioengineering



Fohse, Inc.



Fresh-Aire UV



GE Current, a Daintree company






Grow Rebates



Grower’s Choice






Growspec USA, Inc



19 Copyright 2021, MJBizDaily, a division of Anne Holland Ventures Inc. You may NOT copy this report, or make public the data and facts contained herein, in part or in whole. For more copies or editorial permissions, contact CustomerService@MJBizDaily.com or call 720.213.5992 ext. 1.

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Guangzhou Linong Lighting Technology Co.,Ltd



Hawthorne Gardening Company






Heliospectra AB



Horizon Lift



Horticultural Rep Group



Horticulture Lighting Group



Innovative Growers Equipment, Inc.

www.innovativegrowersequipment. com


LeDinPro Lighting Co., Ltd.



Light On Technology Co., Ltd



Linnaeus Lighting



Losco Instruments Inc.



MarkVision Biotech






Mision Electronics Co.,Limited



Nanolux Technology Inc.



Native Gro






Pacific Coast Agro System Inc.






RF Agriculture, Inc.



Sanmenxia Geyapex Lighting Equipment Co.,Ltd



Scynce LED


C3842, C3942, C4142

Shenzhen Driverkerr Intelligent Control Technology Co., Ltd.



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Shenzhen Guanke Technology Co., Ltd.



Shenzhen Phlizon Technology Co.,Ltd.


Shenzhen SNC Opto Electronic Co., Ltd.



Shenzhen Umol Technology Co.,Ltd.






Solid Apollo



SpecGrade LED



Spectre Led


Spectrum King LED



Surmountor Lighting Co., Ltd.



Thrive Agritech



Trolmaster Agro Instruments Co., Ltd.









Universelite Co., Ltd.





C7716, C7816

Valoya LED Grow Lights











XSY Lighting



21 Copyright 2021, MJBizDaily, a division of Anne Holland Ventures Inc. You may NOT copy this report, or make public the data and facts contained herein, in part or in whole. For more copies or editorial permissions, contact CustomerService@MJBizDaily.com or call 720.213.5992 ext. 1.