How Arizona Dispensaries Are Handling New Recreational Marijuana Sales
STEVE GOLDSTEIN: In November, Arizona voters approved the legalization of recreational marijuana use in the state. Now adult use of pot is permitted in 15 states plus the District of Columbia. And just days ago, businesses here started selling the product to non-medicinal users, and the lines have been wrong — as long as expectations met demand. Earlier, I spoke with Raul Molina. He's the chief operating officer for Mint Dispensary. I started by asking what the process of switching to selling recreational marijuana, rather than medicinal, was like and how the public has responded in the first few days.
RAUL MOLINA: We were told that we were going to be going live on Friday. We weren't sure what time everybody kind of thought it was going to happen somewhere around 5 o'clock. But we, we got notice at about 12 that it was going to basically be happening in the next hour or so. We finally got an email at 12:30, letting us know that we were approved for adult use and we decided that we were going to start at 4:20 in the afternoon, just like good cannabis people would do. We put out an email blast and a text blast. And then we had a few billboards that we had ready to turn on and we did all that at 12:40. And when we sent out the text blast, we told everybody, "Hey guys, we're open for rec. We're going to start at 4:20." Twenty minutes later, by 1 o'clock, the line was around the building. So me and my partner are sitting there watching it. And when it was getting close to go around the building and touch, we decided that it was just time to start because the last thing we wanted is somebody to get sick with COVID, or have a line two, three times around the building because we're waiting for 4:20 to be symbolic. We probably had more patients in the last eight hours of the day than we did in the first eight hours of the day by about threefold. And since we started selling, it's been probably about, I'm going to say about three to three and a half times the normal amount of patients.
GOLDSTEIN: A basic tenet of economics is supply and demand. Are you going to have enough supply to meet this increased demand?
MOLINA: We are. So we, we've been getting ready for this moment basically for a year. And we've been getting ready for the launch basically the last three weeks. We grabbed all the product we could get from anybody who was willing to sell us as much as they could sell us. Where normally in a month, you know, we go through, call it about 500, 600 pounds. We're probably going to be doing some around 1,500 this month. But we, we bought what we thought was enough for two, three months. It looks like it's going to be closer, like enough for maybe about a month and a half. But by then we'll have figured out where else we're getting what's next. And so we don't expect to have that that big of an impact. What we do plan to do is we're going to hold on to some, no matter what, to make sure that our medical patients are going to still have access to some. So little stuff that we're doing here and there to just kind of make sure that at some point we always have something for somebody.
GOLDSTEIN: There are other states that have legalized recreational marijuana and they've seen almost a marijuana tourism of sorts. Do you expect to see that in Arizona? And if so, how do you think it'll affect the state's economy?
MOLINA: I actually think it will. One of the largest sections of, of new consumers is the senior citizen. It would surprise you. About a year and a half ago, we started seeing an influx of senior citizens and people in their third stage of life coming in. They always come in early. They usually come in about 8 to about 10, 10:30 in the morning. So we ended up doing is we created what we call "The Morning High," and basically everything was 20% off. It just keeps growing and growing — the amount of third-generation people that keep coming in. So that's kind of been our biggest new patient that's been coming in. One of the gentlemen that was working the line, that was telling people what register was next and where they could go, had to take a break, so he asked me to take his spot for a minute. I sat there for about half an hour directing people to the register. And it blew my mind how many couples came in, and it blew my mind how many kids came in with their parents. It was real interesting seeing the generation gaps being closed. I was told a story by one of the people that was in line while I was standing there, and it was kind of cool. He's telling me, you know, I go, "Is that your dad?" And he's like, "Yeah." I go, "That's pretty cool that you guys smoke together." He goes, "Yeah, it saved our relationship." Like, what do you mean? He goes, "When I was a teenager," he goes, "me and my dad couldn't get along." He goes, "I was rebellious. I was always out doing something, getting in trouble." He goes, "And then one day," he goes, "I was skipping school. I went home and I went into the garage and I caught my dad getting high." He goes, "My dad knew I got high and didn't want me to. And he was always jumping on me over it." He goes, "And then I caught him getting high." He goes, "Since then, we've become best friends." He goes, "But me and my dad were like water and oil. We just couldn't get along." He goes, "And then after I caught him, you know, basically doing the same things that I was doing, we found out that we actually had so much in common. And that's maybe why we were bumping heads." He goes, "But yeah, my dad's my best friend."
GOLDSTEIN: What about people who hear that particular story, and they find it troublesome, maybe even scary. How do you talk to them about what you just said and how legalized recreational marijuana could affect communities?
MOLINA: You know what, I actually, I prefer that audience over an audience of a huge group of smokers who are already consuming and don't need to be convinced. I kind of like to be thrown in the hot seat so that I am actually able to maybe turn some heads or turn some opinions a different way. And the biggest thing I tell these people is do a little bit of research. Everybody has some slight interest in cannabis at some point. Start wherever interests you. If you just want to start looking up some of the recreational interviews and recreational articles that are out there — and I call it following the rabbit hole. And that's kind of what I suggest to people: Follow the rabbit hole. The next thing you know, you're going to be learning about stuff that you never thought you were even interested in knowing about. And I'll tell you this: four years ago, if you would have told me that I was going to be in the cannabis industry and that I was going to be selling cannabis, I probably would have thought you were high.
GOLDSTEIN: Raul Molina is chief operating officer from Mint Dispensary.