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Arizona is one of the most recent additions to the list of states that has legalized marijuana for adult use. The Smart Safe Initiative passed in 2020 and today we talk with one of the masterminds of legalizing Cannabis, Sam Richard. Hear everything you need to know about legalizing marijuana in today’s episode.
Featured in Today’s Episode
- The Key ingredients to a Successful Initiative
- Arizona’s Cannabis Market
- Best Practices to Legalize Cannabis
- Protecting the Cannabis Ecosystem
- Collaborating in Cannabis
- Best soils for Cannabis growth in Arizona
Sam is a strategic thinker and is well versed in the development of complex government affairs, communications, and media plans. Sam has a degree in nonprofit leadership and management from Arizona (Go Sun Devils) State University’s College of Public Service and Community Solutions, is a Fellow of the Flinn-Brown Civic Leadership Academy, and holds certificates from both Valley Leadership and the Center for Progressive Leadership.
Sam was recently recognized by the Arizona Capitol Times in its inaugural Breakouts Award highlighting “the sharpest political minds in the state,” and has previously been recognized in the Phoenix New Times’ Best of Phoenix as Best Lobbyist and by the Phoenix Business Journal as a member of the 2013 class of Forty under 40.
[00:00:00]Bryan Fields: This is the dime, dive into the cannabis and hemp industry through trends, insights, predictions, and tangents.
[00:00:10] What’s up guys. Welcome back to another episode of the dime. I’m your host Brian Fields. And with me as always is my right hand, man.Kellan Finney. And this week, we’ve got a very special guest, Sam, Richard executive director of Arizona dispensary association, Sam, thanks for taking the time.
[00:00:26] How are you doing today?
[00:00:27]Sam Richard: Very, very well. And so grateful for the time to speak with you guys and all your listeners. Thanks for the,
[00:00:33]Bryan Fields: yeah. We’re excited to dive in and hear about Arizona Kellan. How you doing?
[00:00:38]Kellan Finney: I’m doing well. I’m super excited to chat about Arizona, where my Alma mater NAU is. And I just want to do a quick shout out to NAU, thinking down your base football team a couple of weeks ago, first time in almost a hundred years.
[00:00:51] So let’s go Jackson.
[00:00:53]Sam Richard: That’s right. Good. Jack has a sun devil. I’m right with you there.
[00:00:59] Same [00:01:00]
[00:01:01]Bryan Fields: by this time comes out. Hopefully there’s not a monumental loss that everyone’s like, what are these guys talking about? But we can always slip that in for you boys. All right. So Sam, before we kind of dive into Arizona as a whole, I would love for you to tell us a little bit about your background.
[00:01:14]Sam Richard: Yeah, absolutely. So I was born in Minnesota, so I have some of that, you know, Midwestern roots in my system. But my parents moved when I was pretty young because you don’t have to shovel the sun. So Arizona is all that I know. And I get cold when it’s 50 degrees outside now. So it’s, it’s, that’s the background, but my, my route to cannabis was through a legislative action and policy.
[00:01:36] So I’m a former contract lobbyist and did quite a bit of work. In state-level politics and policy here in Arizona. And as the group behind prop 2 0 7 came together, I joined the team as the executive director. Of the trade association in the state with all the licensed owners and kind of represents the broad based regulated cannabis ecosystem here in Arizona, and have been a part [00:02:00] of that ride for about two years now.
[00:02:01] And I absolutely love every minute of it, you know, for those of you who work in the cannabis industry, you know that there are as many downs as there are up, but Arizona is just a really great place to be in the cannabis industry. And I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with this board of directors, with the association and our, our fantastic group of.
[00:02:19] Yeah, I’m
[00:02:19]Bryan Fields: excited to kind of learn more about those areas. So like, let’s take us back to the beginning where we got into cannabis. Was there a single moment when you were in your day-to-day life where you realized I want to dive head first into the cannabis center?
[00:02:32]Sam Richard: Yeah. So some of the work that I did previously was around social policy on left of center issues.
[00:02:37] So a lot around environmental justice, criminal justice reform, immigration justice, which is a huge issue here in Arizona. And through that. I was really introduced to the intersectionality of cannabis policy that, you know, I think that a lot of our conversations in the industry kind of treat cannabis as its own thing.
[00:02:57] That’s separate and apart from the [00:03:00] rest of society. And I think that one thing that will help the long-term success of the regulated cannabis in America. It is an understanding that, that, you know, cannabis has been inextricably linked to society for tens of thousands of years. And it shouldn’t be extricated from any section of policy.
[00:03:19] And I think that was something that really kind of fueled a lot of my initial interest, you know, a big part of our legalization initiatives. Was focused on restorative justice issues. 20% of our existing market was the number that we used to include in social equity licenses. There’s a large swaths of money that will continue to go to try and chip away at the incredible harm done by.
[00:03:44] The the decades long failed drug war that was really, you know, felt w w with some incredible pain here in Arizona with the likes of people like former Maricopa county, sheriff, Joe Arpaio, and former Maricopa county attorney bill Montgomery that really [00:04:00] just kind of had a laser focus on going after cannabis consumption.
[00:04:04] And we’re, we’re, we’re grateful that we were able to communicate. The, the idea of cannabis and normalized cannabis in such a way that 2 million people voted yes. On prop 2 0 7 with nearly a 20% margin, a 60, 40 margin on election night in, in 2020. So pretty, pretty exciting times to be in cannabis in Arizona.
[00:04:23] And so happy to chat about.
[00:04:25]Bryan Fields: So let’s kind of take a step farther down there, Arizona dispensary’s association. Can you kind of share a little bit how
[00:04:31]Sam Richard: it works? Yeah, absolutely. So we are a fairly typical trade association that you might find in any other industry where we gather around you know, the proverbial table, sometimes zoom, just because of, you know, a pandemic and we’re a statewide association.
[00:04:45] But we come together a couple of times a month to talk about legislative issues. Compliance and regulatory issues as well as make important business connections and kind of network amongst peers. So there are quite a few different [00:05:00] associations along the spectrum in the cannabis community. Our focus is on the ownership of the licenses and the independently operating sublicensees.
[00:05:09] And we can talk kind of more about the machinations of our market, but we are vertically licensed. But not necessarily vertically integrated like a market like Florida. So we actually have the ability to have a very robust wholesale market while at the same time having vertical ownership of that license and all of the expressions of that license underneath.
[00:05:30] So we, we are, we are kind of the gathering place for the owners and operators of the dispensary’s, the cultivations, the processors and manufacturers across.
[00:05:42]Bryan Fields: So to pick it one step further on that, is it like an expo type of event where it’s just Arizona focus where people come to network or is it more discussion-based can you kind of take us behind the curtain on how it works?
[00:05:54]Sam Richard: Got it. Yeah. Sorry. I now understand better what you’re trying to get at. So we are an extremely [00:06:00] boring association for people who are generally interested in the cannabis community. Our focus is. On making the, the business climate as operable as possible from the perspective of current owners. So as new testing regulations come out, we are in a position to offer feedback and suggestions to the regulator as what would.
[00:06:24] Or industry, and of course we don’t get everything we want, but it’s that, that ongoing and collaborative relationship with our regulator. So a really good example, just, just a small little vignette in the, some of the work that we do. We are a regulated just as every other market across the country, by the division of weights and measures.
[00:06:43] Packaging is an incredibly important part in the cannabis world. Well, according to the NIST handbook, the national Institute for standards on something or other, you have. Both metric weight. And you customary unit weight on all packages that are [00:07:00] sold, but cannabis has largely been under the radar of divisions of weights and measures because we’re not federally regulated yet.
[00:07:08] So our division was concerned that we were only listing things in metric units, right? So this is a 3.5 gram eighth, or this is, you know, a one gram container of butter or wax. Right? Well, hypothetically, those packages also need the list that it’s 0.15. Ounces or 0.03, five ounces for four, the 3.5 and the one gram in particular.
[00:07:32] Right? So we’re actively working with the national board of weights and measures as well as our local regulators here on kind of a glide path to help make sure that all of our operators are fully in compliance with those particular facets of our work. So that when we get to that federally regulated world, Arizona operators don’t have to Battle with, with the struggles that go to the minute level of regulation and [00:08:00] compliance.
[00:08:00]Bryan Fields: Yeah. That’s such a key detail, right? And it’s sometimes I think it’s overlooked the, the complexity of such a minute detail, but it’s so necessary for being ready for the next step. So is Arizona. One of the only ones that has a dispensary association, are there other states you’re familiar that have similar association?
[00:08:17]Sam Richard: Yeah, absolutely. So I’m not unique. W which I’m very grateful for. And I lean on my colleagues across the country quite often. So w one of the facets of my work is with a group called attack. Which is the American trade association for cannabis and hemp. And there are regular gatherings of the, the MES in other states.
[00:08:39] So the Nevada dispensary association, my friend and colleague lake Martin is working in fantastic ways over there. You also have the, the Hawaii. Dispensary association, there’s the New Mexico chamber of commerce and there’s groups in other places that are doing similar work. I obviously listed kind of my regional partners, but this is something that, you know, [00:09:00] happens in Massachusetts and Maryland and, and pretty much any market where there is cannabis.
[00:09:05] There will be an association. The question is kind of how that association matches up. So I think that a lot of. Listeners will appreciate some level of detail. So if you’ll forgive me, I’m going to go into the trenches here in a little bit, in my experience, many of the associations match the licensing model of the market that they’re in.
[00:09:26] So in, in Ohio, as an example, there are three different associations because there are three different licenses. You’d need a different license for retail, different license for cultivation, a different license for processing in Arizona because of our vertical license. We really only need one association because of you’re in the market.
[00:09:44] This is how that, that happens. So that’s really kind of how that works. So if you’re in a place like Nevada, there are a couple of different options to go to. But the retail license holder has worked with lake and her team at the Nevada dispensary association and there’s nuances [00:10:00] across the country. But at the end of the day, we are not the only significantly sized or significantly successful trade association for the cannabis ECOS.
[00:10:08]Bryan Fields: I appreciate you breaking that down. And it seems like you provide such an important value for the operators in Arizona. And as you kind of were sharing those details, immediate just kind of takes me back on how challenging cannabis is from a state to state standpoint and all of these different variables that others have, especially for these large scale M episodes that are operating in multiple.
[00:10:27] How complex understanding the balances of all these associations, that and the challenges it is. So to continue on, you know, what percentage of the operators in Arizona are involved in the ADA?
[00:10:39]Sam Richard: So R a 125 licenses that are currently open as a part of the market, and we represent 105 of those licenses. In addition to that, there are a variety of groups that have made the decision to join and contribute meaningfully to the association that aren’t licensed owners.
[00:10:57] So an example, and actually I’m [00:11:00] wearing their shirt today wanna a great California brand and regional brand. And all of that is in the Arizona market. They are a member of the association. Even though they do not own a license to operate in Arizona. They lease that ability to be here. So even though Nancy and her team, you know, are on the ground day to day, they, they absolutely care about the market.
[00:11:21] And we see that in many regional companies coming in. Right. So connected and alien labs is now operating in Arizona. You have groups like that have kind of put their toe in the water here. And a variety of other options that we can go down that path. But, but our primary role is to protect and advance the regulated cannabis ecosystem from the perspective of those license owners,
[00:11:44]Bryan Fields: take it one step down that path.
[00:11:46] So when you’re having those conversations in a group, large group setting, do these conversations sometimes get heated because obviously what’s going on. There are pretty intense from an understanding. The complexity of what needs to occur, but also the importance of, of ensuring that [00:12:00] the decisions that are made are valuable for the collective.
[00:12:02] So how does that kind of work when you’re all kind of discussing that is an open forum? Can you kind of shed some more light on
[00:12:08]Sam Richard: that? I’d be happy to. And before we went live on the recording, we were talking a little about football and I often think through metaphor because it really helps me kind of encapsulate things.
[00:12:19] So I really feel. When we get together as an association it is like a meeting of the NFL, right? Where we are there to make the league better. We are there to make the game of football. But as soon as that meeting’s over and we see each other on the field, it’s back to being competitors. Right. And you know I forget right now, if the Cardinals see the jets this season, but, you know, I’m sorry if that has to happen this year.
[00:12:45] But, but the reality is, is that I think both the jets and the Cardinals care about maintaining the integrity. Of the game of football and moving that game forward. And I think when we have those conversations, as difficult as they may be, they always come from a place of, of a [00:13:00] singular vision and shared values to maintain the integrity of the regulated cannabis ecosystem.
[00:13:05] Because here in Arizona, it remains the case as in almost every other market where there is regulated cannabis that we have a shared competitor in the illicit mark. And when we’re sitting around that table as an association, what we want to do is we want to continue to take back our market share from the illicit market and other regulated markets where our residents feel they have to travel to, to get regulated cannabis.
[00:13:31] So that’s really the, and I guess maybe in a subtle way, I’m calling myself Roger Goodell in, in that. But you know, maybe if I get a shot at running the NFL, maybe I’d do a better job than him.
[00:13:42]Bryan Fields: Well-played to integrate the, the shot taking in there. I’m just going to lightly skip over that and I’ll just edit it out.
[00:13:47] If I don’t feel like it played Sam, won’t play it, Sam.
[00:13:53]Sam Richard: And I’m sorry, I just, I just want to mention this. I actually am a fan of the jets because Todd Bowles, you know, it was former defensive [00:14:00] key guy here with the Cardinals. So big, big, big, big.
[00:14:03]Bryan Fields: I appreciate the sympathy, compassion, but it’s just not necessary over here.
[00:14:07] We’ll figure it out by the time this thing airs, hopefully. All right. So kind of continuing down the route because like on the politics side, I think so many times. We as people who operate in this base or interested parties in this space, sometimes don’t understand the complexity of what goes on with, with passing some of these politics through.
[00:14:26] Can you kind of take us behind the curtain a little bit about, you know, prop 2 0 7 and, and kind of what influenced the speed, which allowed Arizona to pass it. So.
[00:14:35]Sam Richard: Yes. Yeah. So and I think by bypassing you mean kind of getting up to speed or opening the market. So I just want to make sure is that what you’re looking at?
[00:14:43] Okay, great. So, you know, I think in general, one of the guiding kind of maxims in politics and policy for me has been that well worn. That politics is the art of the possible and to go all the way back in history, Arizona [00:15:00] actually had a medical marijuana citizens initiative on the ballot in 1996. The same year that California did, what we also shared with California is that voters of Arizona approved that measure in 1990.
[00:15:14] What was different in Arizona than in California, is that our legislature invalidated that citizens initiative with their first act in the following legislative session. So Arizona could have had just as mature of a market as California, but our legislature at the time was not in full approval of the idea.
[00:15:34] So we have had this long battle. Around cannabis policy in Arizona, that, that stretches 25 years. And through that, we have learned what Arizona voters and the general public in the 48th state kind of has an appetite. In terms of the cannabis community. So we are what some investors and some observers of the market might call a limited [00:16:00] license state.
[00:16:00] But one thing that I like to remind people is that we actually heard loud and clear from voters both in 2010 when our medical cannabis initiative was passed. And in 2020, when our adult use initiative passed that we did not, our voters did not want us to become Oklahoma. With when there is literally a cannabis retail shop on every corner.
[00:16:23] So our voters wanted a limited license state, and we responded to that in kind at the same time, there needed to be a direct. Focused effort to restore the harms of the drug war. So that was why our, our initiative in 2020 was so balanced between industry and restorative justice. And I think you saw that in the overwhelming response at the ballot box, in terms of kind of what, what you may think is kind of a, a, a general partisan split.
[00:16:53] We completely blew any of those assumptions out of water.
[00:16:58]Bryan Fields: No, what? No, it would sandwich. You [00:17:00] sad about it being on the ballot back then, and then how close things really came to moving forward? I did not know
[00:17:05]Kellan Finney: that it was on the ballot in 1996, but going to school in Arizona, it was pretty obvious that there, the significant portion of every, anyone I met from Arizona that attended college, at least with me, was pro cannabis from our generation at least which I think is probably the case in most college campuses across the country would be an assumption.
[00:17:25] I think.
[00:17:26]Sam Richard: I also wasn’t aware that Arizona did not want to be an unlimited license state. Can you Sam,
[00:17:34]Kellan Finney: could you walk us through exactly how that was explicitly?
[00:17:36]Sam Richard: Communicated on the ballot in terms of the options. Yeah. So, so it wasn’t necessarily an option on the ballot, but through focus, grouping, and polling, and kind of the due diligence that you do prior to launching the language of an initiative, it became clear to us that if it was kind of that, you know, for lack of a better phrase, I’m sure I’ll get it.
[00:17:56] From someone in Oklahoma after this airs, but you know, the free for all that, a [00:18:00] market like Oklahoma represents, wasn’t something that we found that would provide a winning path in Arizona. So that was kind of where I was going with that politics being the art of the possible is that, you know, we’re in a position, right?
[00:18:13] We as an industry who would largely be funding the initiative wanted to make sure that the investment into running a political campaign had the highest likelihood of success. So responding to the voters pushback in that way was something that, that we responded to in kind and made sure. There was going to be a cap.
[00:18:33] So the actual like policy hook is that in Arizona for every 10 licensed medical pharmacies, we are allowed one medical marijuana license that is now a dual license in, in an adult use marketplace as well. So we will never eclipse. A 10 to one ratio of the number of pharmacies in the state. And that was, that was something that the voters responded well to, [00:19:00] and obviously continued to respond well to in, in 2020.
[00:19:03] And the thing that I would say, and I’m sorry to continue rambling here, but Brian asked the question kind of how, how it happened so fast. You know, one thing that I think people often forget about. Is that we have been in medical market since our voters voted on it in 2012, the first transaction happened on December 8th, 2012.
[00:19:22] And so almost a decade. We have been operating and establishing a relationship with our regulator and the initial awardees for the adult use marketplace were those same operators that have been operating as a medical market. So the idea that this was going to be a completely separate program was kind of really off the table in terms of what other markets have had to experience with that.
[00:19:46] We also had a very robust. Medical program, we have somewhere in the neighborhood about 315,000 qualified patients currently. And we have just around 7 million people that are residents of Arizona. So in terms of a per capita [00:20:00] basis, we’re actually a stronger market than a state like Pennsylvania and essentially neck and neck with a state like Florida in, in terms of that medical market.
[00:20:07] So we have an incredible level of market mature. From a medical standpoint, going into that adult use standpoint, we also I’m very proud to say because of the work of the association of a very strong and collaborative working relationship with our regulator. So those 75 days between election. And the first transaction on January 22nd, 2021 were some very, very long days and long nights, but we worked collaboratively to make sure that this was going to be a program that worked the other thing, which you know, is crazy to even talk about this nine months after the fact ish, eight months, nine months after the fact is we launched in the middle of the pan.
[00:20:49] And what’s different than Illinois launching in the middle of the pandemic is we knew it was the pandemic when we voted on it. And we knew there was still going to be the pandemic there. So someone who [00:21:00] I Revere and admire in this. Chris crane, he often talks about kind of the two choices that regulators have in going into an adult use market.
[00:21:07] You kind of have that date certain, or you have the flip, the switch model. So you saw that date, certain idea come through in a state like Illinois. Where there were lines around the block between the week of Christmas and new years, as people were anticipating that January one launch date, where we did something called flip the switch, where just one day, without any announcement or kind of preparation, the department of health issued the licenses.
[00:21:33] And we had that first transaction with that reality. What you had is you had more of a trickled in. So you didn’t have the lines wrapped around the block, but you had like kind of a building momentum and a building excitement, which was a very huge benefit for us in Arizona, in the midst of the pandemic where we didn’t have 125 super spreader events on the launch day of adult use, because we were able to kind of maintain social distance.
[00:21:59] So to the [00:22:00] extent that we did have lines around them, It was largely because people were standing six feet apart and make sense.
[00:22:05]Kellan Finney: I want to go back to one other thing that you said and not in terms of how you guys drafted the bill. So how much input did you guys take from other states? Right. Cause I know like correct me if I misspeak here, but the model that Arizona followed, it sounds very similar to the model of Colorado followed in terms of limiting the license and like the slow rollout versus.
[00:22:25] State like Washington, where anyone who had enough money, you could come and buy a license. So the success of those two markets, is that something that influenced
[00:22:35]Sam Richard: how the language was written when you guys
[00:22:38]Kellan Finney: first
[00:22:38]Sam Richard: drafted up prop 2 0 7? Yeah. Like a good improv artist, I’ll say yes. And so Colorado and Washington were absolutely models, but so, so it was every market that, that wasn’t existence.
[00:22:50] You know, this is kind of like business school, 1 0 1, right? Like first to market, isn’t always best to market. We were in a position in Arizona to learn from our friends and [00:23:00] colleagues who had done this in other markets, whether that be Illinois, Washington, Colorado, California, Massachusetts, other places that kind of went first.
[00:23:09] And, you know, we also have the benefit of living in the shadows of the two most mature adult youth markets. So we saw what we liked out of the California model. We saw what we liked out of the Colorado model. And we kind of went through the buffet line of what we thought was good policy and kind of crafted that art of the possible, right.
[00:23:29] What we thought would have a high degree of success at the ballot box plus something that would be good for industry. Good for community and really good for, for the overall reintegration of cannabis as a daily part of, of society as it was a long time ago. And we’ll be again. I think
[00:23:49]Bryan Fields: that’s so important that you shared that.
[00:23:50] And like that’s how I like optimistically dream that politics are. And it’s so great to hear that that’s how your team kind of went through the process because we’ve heard [00:24:00] from so many other sides that other states kind of take a different approach. And it seems like they take a longer route intentionally for negotiations or politics, whatever it is.
[00:24:07] And it seems like your team had a really strong understanding of exactly where it needed to go and was willing to cover. Be fair to meet in the middle ground because you wanted to get it done. And I think that’s really commendable and I, and I definitely tip my hat to that. So let’s go back to that story.
[00:24:21] You shared about having that January date for the flip, the switch. Was that the original target date? When you sat down with all the parties to try to work through all the issues, was that the original target date or did you have a different one in mind? And it was more of a moving.
[00:24:35]Sam Richard: Yeah. Th th that’s a somewhat complex question, I think, depending on who you ask around the table election day was November 3rd.
[00:24:41] I think there was a big contingent of folks who wanted to open up the adult use market on November 4th. But I think that there was also some folks who, who understood that there was, you know, Kind of a level of preparation that was necessary. Right. I think that we’re seeing that with the CAO bill that’s happening right now.
[00:24:58] I think that there are, are [00:25:00] conversations that people are having, that we’ve never had before. And not just in terms of like, you know, we are actually a topic of conversation in Washington, more. So people like are realizing that full legalization, full integration into kind of how America. Capitalism and American business works is going to be extremely difficult because all sorts of different federal agencies are going to want a piece of our pie, whether that’s the FDA, the small business administration the division of weights and measures that we talked about.
[00:25:31] Right. But you know, any cultivator that grows under glass or under tent or anything like that. It’s going to get a visit from the EPA on the appropriate handling and disposal of pesticides. And like, that’s just one small example of the dozens and dozens and dozens of federal agencies that will be breathing down cannabis operators next.
[00:25:51] So for anyone who thinks that their state regulator is difficult to work with, I think that they might not be. Excited or, or they shouldn’t be as excited about [00:26:00] legalization happening as soon as it may because there’s going to be a lot of those moving pieces. So I kind of went in a different direction of what your question was there.
[00:26:06] So I hope you can remind me what it was, but I just wanted to highlight that, that, you know, I think that we often position. Legalization as kind of like the Zenith of what we’re after. And I believe that that is kind of the, the overarching goal that we should be aiming toward, but we have to do so with a level of understanding that it’s not as easy as we might think.
[00:26:29] So I was not in that November 4th camp is what I’m trying to say. I thought that a few extra months, a few extra weeks to kind of work out the kinks would be helpful because it wasn’t just new for our operation. It was new for our regulators, right? We were not just a medical market, but we were a medical market with significant personal privacy protections that did not transfer over to the adult use marketplace.
[00:26:53] So there’s a lot more transparency and increased line of sight from the department of revenue, into the department of health [00:27:00] services. Licensed through. So there’s a lot of those kinds of little things that you might not have foreseen that really, what was the significant bulk of that work in that 75, 80 day period where we were kind of putting the pieces together?
[00:27:14]Bryan Fields: Five 80 days is still extremely fast. And I definitely support the guy who was like November 3rd. Let’s get it done too. Just well, the meeting, we’ll just flip the switch and we’ll start moving product. Can’t blame him for the optimism. So take us through that conversation. Cause like it’s so fascinating to hear that obviously 70 days is still very short period of time, but was there one issue that kind of dragged on that was harder to kind of get past as a collective?
[00:27:40] Can you kind of share some information behind the scenes?
[00:27:43]Sam Richard: Yeah, that’s another really great question. You, you, you guys are full of them. I love it. So the idea here, it was more of a shift in mindset and change is difficult. Change is hard, whether we’re talking about personal issues or professional issues.
[00:27:56] Right. But you know, the idea. The [00:28:00] cannabis communities and cannabis culture really wrapped itself around the idea of a medical product in some ways hampered some of the conversation or some of the ease in that transition conversation to an adult use marketplace, because some regulators and some kind of pieces of the ecosystem approach.
[00:28:21] Adult use cannabis separately from medical cannabis in terms of the product. One thing that we benefited from was a shared understanding across all parts of the ecosystem that cannabis has demonstrated therapeutic benefits, regardless of a medical or an adult use designation in a very similar way to something like IBM.
[00:28:45] Right there. There was a time where if you wanted add bill, you needed a prescription from your medical professional. And now there is a shared understanding in society that we have enough information about the benefits and use of relatively simple pain relief therapy that [00:29:00] you can participate in its consumption without the oversight of a medical professional.
[00:29:05] So helping regulators understand that that’s essentially what we are doing here, right. Help them. I realize that, you know, there were very few pieces in the supply chain where we needed to segregate product between adult use and medical in the Arizona program. There’s only one point in the program where that is separated and for only one type of product, which is something that really, I think makes the Arizona program unique.
[00:29:33] Cannabis is cannabis up until transaction and at transaction. The only thing that is separated is the amount of adult use edibles. So every adult use edible can only have a maximum of 100 milligrams per package and needs to have a suggested dose of 10 milligrams per serving. And that is something that’s unique, right?
[00:29:55] So. Colorado. There are RFID tags that are [00:30:00] separate. Even if you have the same, you know, room of blue dream, you have to have tags for medical blue, dream and tags for adult use blue dream in Arizona. That product is not segregated until point of sale. And that shift, I think, is something that really.
[00:30:16] Streamline the move to a wide open marketplace.
[00:30:20]Kellan Finney: That’s really smart. The lack of doing that is probably what causes these states on the east coast, New Jersey, New York to take so long to come online. It’s easy.
[00:30:34]Bryan Fields: Brian, come on. I mean you’re right. I there’s, I wish I would
[00:30:38]Kellan Finney: separate it and have the same product.
[00:30:40] It makes so much sense the way that, that Sam just
[00:30:42]Bryan Fields: described that, you know what I mean? Right. But Sam has been very straightforward and unfortunately on the east coast, we don’t do things straightforward. We over-complicate things. And I think it’s because of the financial value of what these companies have from the market standpoint.
[00:30:56] I’m not, you know, minimizing Arizona’s market size, obviously [00:31:00] they’re crushing it, but I think some people see New York and they see this massive opportunity and everyone’s very protective and I’m sure there’s a bunch of politics stories. We can talk about offline Sam that you can share that are just nausea, fear, but it’s also the truth.
[00:31:13] Right. And at the end of the day, like that’s how, unfortunately these things work and there’s just really nothing we can do about it.
[00:31:17]Sam Richard: So I just want to add one other thing because I, I want to make sure that. Papering over the complexity. I think that one of the things that’s important note is that identifying the medicinal benefits of cannabis was important, strategic decision by the cannabis movement.
[00:31:35] And it really helped communicate to an entire population that was reticent to embracing. That that was the path forward. But I think one of the unintended consequences of our kind of laser focus on that medicinal language, calling, calling people, patients, and calling this medicine and that type of thing, it’s actually turned out to be a little bit of a barrier in making the [00:32:00] conversations around transitioning to an adult use marketplace, largely because people are stuck in that kind of pharmaceutical or medicinal model.
[00:32:08] And I think. Work to remind people that cannabis was a normal part of society prior to the 20th century and, and reminding them that we can get back. There is a big kind of shift in thinking once people see that it can be a normal part of your life, that you can take a, a, you know, a heavy CBD tincture in the morning, and you can microdose with edibles throughout the day and maybe end your night with a nice bowl or, you know, And, and, and have a a highly increased quality of life through that regimen, I think is something that will, will shift the thinking of the broader society.
[00:32:46] But that’s going to take time normalization. Isn’t something that happens overnight,
[00:32:51]Bryan Fields: perfectly sat in, right? Like society’s got this stigma for so long and it’s going to take a real long time to kind of remove it and remind people that like, if you can [00:33:00] have an alcoholic beverage at a party and it’s completely accepted, like there’s no reason.
[00:33:03] You can’t consume cannabis in the same form or different form, and still enjoy yourself in a normal accepted whatever way society deems reasonable in, in certain regards. So let’s kind of switch gears. So what’s one area about the Arizona cannabis market that most, would it
[00:33:21]Sam Richard: be. That’s a great question. Oh man.
[00:33:23] Because there’s, so there’s so many and some of it is, you know, this kind of belief that, that it runs through like Arizona, just like the, the mindset. I mean, like we had somewhere in the neighborhood of 115 days. Over 100 degrees this, this summer. And when you experienced that kind of harsh environment of the desert, you kind of develop this you know, thick, outer layer skin, right?
[00:33:52] I mean we, we were joking about football earlier and, and. Make it seem like the current reality excuses, the pain of our long and [00:34:00] storied troubled history as a franchise because San Antonio Holmes was out of bounds and we should have won that super bowl, but that’s neither here nor there.
[00:34:06] The reality, the reality is that we have this red headed stepchild mentality that we always are in a position where we’re proving ourselves. I mentioned earlier that we live in the shadow of the two most mature adult use markets in California in color. But it’s not just that we have the grand canyon right here, but when people think about, you know, going to the, the, the, the Southwest to enjoy the outdoors, they’re going to the mountains of Colorado, or they’re going to the national parks in Utah.
[00:34:39] They’re not thinking about, you know, the, the incredible landscape that we have here in the great state of Arizona and that transitions into. Where I’ll put up some of our craft cannabis up against some of the best stuff coming out of the Emerald triangle, or even some of the best indoor, you know, whether it’s jungle boys or cookies [00:35:00] out of Southern California.
[00:35:01] Right. But I think what is different about Arizona is our overall market. Isn’t yet matured to, to having a significant level of quality as the baseline. So we have operators that are hitting, you know, that they have dialed in genetics and they have. Amazing SOP is when it comes to cure and all sorts of great stuff.
[00:35:21] But our, our general market, like whenever we have a great extractor, like come up to the ranks, a California operator, a Colorado operator, poaches them and they move. So we’re, we’re always kind of. Place where we have to earn the right to be heard and earn the seat at the table. And I think, you know, now the pandemic restrictions are, are lifting.
[00:35:42] Hopefully people will come out to Arizona for whether it’s the Phoenix open or just a great hike in Scottsdale. And I would love to any of your listeners, if they want a personal tour of some of the best cannabis in the country, give me a ring and, and I’ll, I’ll take you around to my favorite.
[00:35:58]Bryan Fields: I hope you don’t broadcast your [00:36:00] number. That might be a really dangerous thing. Cause you bad people hitting you up on the regular, but Hey Sam, I’m in Arizona. Let’s go for it.
[00:36:07]Sam Richard: I’ll have one other
[00:36:07]Kellan Finney: thing I want to throw in there to Arizona is every high-end skilled grower that I’d ever come across. And when we talk about the best environment to cultivate candidates, whether that’s indoors, outdoors, every single one of them has always deferred to the best place.
[00:36:26] If I could pick anywhere in the world would be out in the desert with enough water, because you’re not going to deal with, with pasts, the plants thrive in that kind of a high heat environment. As long as you have enough water forum. And so I think that as the pandemic laughs, you’re going to see more high end outdoor growers look to states like Arizona, just because of the environment is not conducive to, to pass.
[00:36:50] So it decreases your costs from pesticides and pest mitigation programs. And, and the plant does love to grow in high heat. Right? And so as long as you enough [00:37:00] water, the plants going to crush it in those kinds of environments. So I just want to throw that caveat out
[00:37:04]Sam Richard: as a little love terrorist. I love that.
[00:37:06] I love that. Thank you. And you know where you went to to school is a great area to do some of that outdoor cultivation. I mean, some of the best living soil cannabis in Arizona comes from Flagstaff and, and the surrounding area. So, you know, because of the climate in kind of central and Southern areas, Quite a bit.
[00:37:23] It’s either grown under tent or grown under glass or grown fully indoor. But we absolutely have climates within the state where some great full sun living soil cannabis can be grown. And I know you cautioned me against it. I won’t like, you know, give out my cell phone number, but if you can find me, I would be happy to share any cannabis with any of your listeners that come through.
[00:37:45]Kellan Finney: also a Flagstaff has mountains too. People never remember that Arizona is very diverse. It’s got mountains and there’s a ski area there. So.
[00:37:54]Bryan Fields: So Sam touch on some of your continuing education in the cannabis
[00:37:57]Sam Richard: space. I think on another [00:38:00] podcast that I listened to in the space from Chris Walsh and the team over at MJ biz daily, that he mentioned recently that every six months in cannabis is like two years of experience in any other industry.
[00:38:12] And I think that people have different versions of that calculation. Well, somebody acquainted to time in Vegas where every day is like a month. But yeah, so, but the idea here is that, I mean, just even a couple of months in the space is professional development enough, but I’m really proud and really honored to be a part of the inaugural class of a certification called.
[00:38:37] And it’s a great group of people that were brought around the table to be the instructors of that. So Colorado’s own Nick Tanem Nick nicotine is one of the instructors there recently passed luminary in the hash space. French. W is one of the instructors, a guy named Patrick King, who goes by the soil king.
[00:38:54] One of the leading voices in a natural and regenerative farming is part of that. [00:39:00] And it, it’s really just an idea to elevate premium cannabis and create kind of a singular system of talking about quality. So it’s modeled after the Somali aid program for while. And, you know, every time I roll a J at this point, you know, I’m doing, you know, like 20 different questions around us the assessment of aroma and flavor and appearance and effect and creating a library of that.
[00:39:27] And I think that’s something you know, that you see in, in chocolate, you see that in coffee, you obviously see that in, in wine and other spirits. So I think that cannabis is one of those kind of consumables that has hasn’t yet had. Shared system of assessing it other than, oh man, this is fire. Oh, that’s straight gas.
[00:39:46] Right. I think, you know, kind of improving our lexicon and improving our understanding of how to describe cannabis is something that I’m really excited to be a part of. So I’m not yet fully certified. I’m actually going back up to Humboldt county next month [00:40:00] to finalize my certification. I hope.
[00:40:02] But it it’s something that I would have. Those of you who are connoisseurs sewers and otherwise kind of care about that elevated quality of cannabis to take a look into great, great
[00:40:12]Bryan Fields: program. That sounds awesome. And I think that’s like when people come to us and they say, Hey, you guys, I want to be in cannabis, but like, I don’t have enough money for a dispensary.
[00:40:20] What do I do? I think these concepts that you’re bringing a table are such are such media in an industry that needs advancements on so many levels. You know, it takes a creative thinkers like yourself who understand the importance of kind of positioning cannabis differently than it’s currently being discussed.
[00:40:37] And that involves kind of furthering education. And I’m excited to kind of hear how it goes. And I’m excited to kind of have you teach us a little bit more about that. So I’ll have to have you back on and kind of take us through the process and and maybe, maybe we do that one on
[00:40:48]Sam Richard: video. Yeah, absolutely.
[00:40:50] And the other thing that I would say too, is any of those. I’m sure it would be more than happy to talk to you about the program. I’m just a participant, but you have guys like Kevin , who is [00:41:00] just an incredible leading voice in building a genetics library. And he is just like, if I could just listen to him 24 hours a day, I would be okay with it.
[00:41:10] He is an amazing luminary in the space. And that’s, that’s the other piece of just in general. Observing and appreciating and celebrating cannabis at every point in the supply chain, from, from seed to experience. You know, I think we often talk about from seed to sale, right. But the sale is just the start of the experience when somebody brings that home.
[00:41:31] So it’s a really exciting time to be in cannabis. And I’m just count myself lucky to be a part of that program.
[00:41:36]Bryan Fields: So since you’ve been in the cannabis industry, what has been the biggest misconception
[00:41:42]Sam Richard: that cannabis has. I think that’s, that’s a theme in my work with the association and something that I’m eager to invite people to consider obviously things that make cannabis different and make cannabis unique.
[00:41:57] But in terms of industry, in [00:42:00] terms of kind of how we operate as business entities, Frankly, the only thing that separates us is the kind of gray space that we live in that federal illegality at, at the current moment. Every other industry that is licensed to operate has consistent headaches with their regulators has an ongoing working relationship to adjust laws and adjust regulations.
[00:42:22] So, so that their operators within that ecosystem can be compliant and successful in the marketplace. Every other industry deals with employee issues, disgruntled or happy, or et cetera, et cetera. I think what the overarching thing that is different about cannabis is that everything is harder because of the place that we live in, in federal regulation.
[00:42:45] But once we approach the kind of second stage of cannabis adoption in the regulatory ecosystem, I think that folks with. See that, you know, cannabis business can be [00:43:00] just as boring working in finance or working in, you know, the hospitality industry or, or, you know, being a classroom teacher and in a weird kind of, you know, counterintuitive way.
[00:43:14] A goal of mine is to work, to make working in the cannabis industry. Boring. It shouldn’t be exciting to find health insurance either for yourself or your, for your employees. We have bud tenders that are making decent money, who can’t sign for a car. Because the bank doesn’t like where their paycheck’s coming from and that kind of injustice for the 25,000 employees that work in the Arizona cannabis industry is something that I want to move beyond.
[00:43:43] So you’re asking very simple questions and each one I take on like a half an hour journey. So I don’t envy your editing time, but I’m, I’m really grateful for the opportunity to. No, I
[00:43:56]Bryan Fields: think it’s important. And we like when you’re diving into the details. Cause I think that’s where [00:44:00] the true understanding comes.
[00:44:01] And I think sometimes people forget that, you know, someone who has a normal job at a dispensary working as a bud tender, like shouldn’t have those types of issues you, you shared. I mean, they should be able to be treated like a normal citizen in society. And you’re right. This is just another layer of challenges.
[00:44:16] And unfortunately it’s certainly where we are. So before we do predictions, we ask all of our guests. If you could stomp your experience in a main takeaway or lesson learned to pass onto the next generation, what would.
[00:44:30]Sam Richard: Smoke weed, but I also think just generally too, I think it shouldn’t be special. It shouldn’t be a spike in the ratio kind of, as we were talking about it.
[00:44:41] You know, my goal is to have sharing a joint at the end of the Workday, just as normalized as you know, sharing a glass of wine or getting happy hour with a couple of buddies. I think that that is my. Is to make cannabis as integrated to daily life as any other activity. Whether you’re [00:45:00] driving to the store, driving to the bar, driving into the dispensary, it shouldn’t raise eyebrows.
[00:45:04] It shouldn’t be something that that’s special or controversial. The only thing that’s controversial is like how many girl scout cookie strains we have that needs to be changed. Those need to go away, but that’s a personal feeling.
[00:45:20]Bryan Fields: We’ve talked about it a bunch today, Arizona voters approve the sale of adult use cannabis in November and roughly 72 days.
[00:45:28] I think you said by January providers were able to begin sales. Damn. What state do you think will follow? Arizona’s quick model of flip the switch next.
[00:45:41]Sam Richard: Okay. I want to say. The rest of them. That’s my answer. And the reason why I say that is I think that as regulators in the, kind of the, the dark caves of federal government, see what happened in Arizona, they are seeing what is happening [00:46:00] in the Northeast.
[00:46:01] I think that. Made a choice that Arizona is the model for the country. So I think that the next state that will be open to all regulated cannabis will be the balance of states that do not yet currently have a program. Those states will flip the switch because they’re going to skip the line of that medical market.
[00:46:24] And just go straight to an adult use marketplace. So whether that’s a state like Texas, or, you know, another big kind of central state that has yet to kind of enter into any regulated cannabis system, that’s my prediction. So let’s see that come to fruition in the next 12 months, we’ll all have me back and we’ll see how wrong I was.
[00:46:45] Thanks as a good guest,
[00:46:46]Bryan Fields: Texas off the
[00:46:47]Sam Richard: board. You know, I was thinking
[00:46:49]Kellan Finney: about this and I was trying to think of a state that kind of fits the same. Environment or ecosystem that Arizona was operating in. And
[00:46:57]Sam Richard: my
[00:46:58]Kellan Finney: thought is as [00:47:00] this, I think that within the tri-state area, we’re talking New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.
[00:47:07] I think that based on the proximity of those states and how highly competitive. Those state governments are going to have to be, to capture their tax revenue from
[00:47:20]Sam Richard: having an adult use cannabis market. I think that that’s going to force one of the three
[00:47:25]Kellan Finney: into following the Arizona model as a way to try to undercut the other two states.
[00:47:31]Bryan Fields: my guess
[00:47:32]Kellan Finney: is you haven’t heard a lot of news out of this state or at least I have it is. I think it could be. And I think that New Jersey and New York are, have this ego thing going on where they think they’re better than the other one. And they’re going to try to turn it on before and steal some money.
[00:47:47] And it’s all about like, well, you
[00:47:48]Sam Richard: just cross the bridge and do this, but I think like quietly over there, Connecticut’s like taking
[00:47:53]Kellan Finney: notes and they’re going to be like, you know, we’re going to follow Arizona and we’re just going to beat all these people to market. And now we’re going to take New Jersey [00:48:00] and New York revenue while they all argue in a fancy room with, with women.
[00:48:04] What do you think, Brian, did I
[00:48:05]Bryan Fields: take your state? No, I was, I was a little nervous though. Saw your breakdown was really close to where I was thinking I am in the east coast and it’s funny, right? Like, I don’t think of exactly which place I’m thinking until after we enter the conversation. And my first thought was Texas.
[00:48:22] And then I was shocked that went off the board first. My second one is Pennsylvania. I think everyone is flooding into that state and we see all the biggest operators are there. And I think, you know, money moves. All it takes. And I think when they see the same thought process, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, they’ve all legalized that I think Pennsylvania goes fast and I think they end up being the next, flip, the switch because the governor and I’m going to butcher his name, John with the beard and Dean and something that I won’t be able to pronounce correctly.
[00:48:52] He’s a big proponent of legal cannabis. And I think he’ll communicate what’s going on. He’ll get the support based on the [00:49:00] backings of the lobbyists. And I think they’ll be the next to flip
[00:49:03]Kellan Finney: That’s a good guess. They have like the fifth largest student key in the country and from a state perspective too.
[00:49:07] So there’s a lot of money in that state too. So I imagine that they can utilize that capital to influence decisions
[00:49:14]Sam Richard: and make things
[00:49:15]Bryan Fields: a little quicker potentially. And all the big operators are already there.
[00:49:18]Kellan Finney: Like, yeah, no. I mean, truly they’re all moving as quickly as they can and buying up real estate in that,
[00:49:23]Sam Richard: in that sector from a
[00:49:24]Kellan Finney: medicinal perspective.
[00:49:27] Yeah, totally
[00:49:28]Bryan Fields: wonderful Sam. So for our listeners that want to get in touch and want those personalized tours, where can they reach you?
[00:49:35]Sam Richard: I love that. So we’re on the, the series of tubes known as the internet on a Z dispensary’s dot org. And my email is just Sam at that URL. So happy to receive any emails from anybody out there and check.
[00:49:48] Easy dispensary’s dot org, where on Instagram and all that. But as we discuss a lot of our work is kind of internally focused on our members. So we aren’t super active on the social medias, but always happy [00:50:00] to interact with folks who want to know a little bit more about Arizona, the grand cannabis date.
[00:50:03] You’re not going to give out your day.
[00:50:09] What was that rapper? I’m Mike Wall.
[00:50:15]Bryan Fields: Mike Jones,
[00:50:16]Sam Richard: by the way. Oh, sorry. Sorry. It’s Jake, Mike Jones.
[00:50:20]Bryan Fields: Mike Jones. I think that’s how.