54 | Alexis Mora, Harborside

 

“We’ve actually seen a lot of people increase their cannabis consumption during COVID… people are spending more time at home or what have you. So folks are definitely stocking up on their cannabis. But yeah, we have seen a shift away a little bit from any of the combustibles.”

— Alexis Mora

Dispensaries are essential — we learned that early in the pandemic — and they are also evolving, like all other , 54 | Alexis Mora, Harborsidebusinesses right now. Harborside was started by Steve and Andrew DeAngelo in 2006, and is now stepping into the 20s with a focus on adapting to the needs of its customers and community, both online and off. Listen and learn how Harborside has led the way, by:

  • Transitioning from providing primarily medicinal cannabis to also accommodating adult use
  • Providing education to first-time or inexperienced customers
  • Taking good care of veterans and seniors
  • Adjusting to the realities of COVID-19
  • Expanding it’s product offerings and online access
  • Prepared for a future that includes more events and canna-tourism

Follow Harborside on Facebook and / or on Twitter.

Transcript of Kannaboom Podcast with Alexis Mora

Copyright 2020 © Kannaboom

Kannaboom (00:00): Have you been to the dispensary lately, or have you ever been to a dispensary at all? In the age of COVID more and more retail is moving online. People are letting their fingers do the walking on their keyboards, even when it comes to cannabis, which with all the choices now available can become overwhelming. If you're lucky though, you have access to a good dispensary. And by most accounts, there's not a better dispensary than Harborside, originally in Oakland. Our guest today is Alexis Mora marketing director for Harborside Dispensaries, which now has four brick and mortar outlets and a robust online presence. We talk about the experiential nature of this business. What makes a great dispensary, how to prepare and get the most out of your visit to the dispensary and what the dispensary of tomorrow looks like. This podcast, my website Kannaboom (with a K dot com) and my weekly newsletter, 5 Boom Friday are all focused on how cannabis and CBD can help you achieve better wellness and how to find products that are safe and effective. You can subscribe at Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or your other favorite podcast player. And if you enjoy the show, please leave a review and help us expand our reach. Here now is Alexis Mora of Harborside.

Kannaboom (01:05): Cannabis is booming and Kannaboom is on it. Welcome to the Kannaboom podcast where we interview experts on the changing story of hemp, humans and health, from San Diego, here's your host, Tom Stacey. Hey, we're back with the Kannaboom podcast. This week. We have Alexis Mora from Harborside up in Oakland. Hi Alexis. How are you doing?

Alexis Mora (01:23): I'm doing well, Tom, how are you?

Kannaboom (01:25): Really great. We're kind of way through the pandemic and something I've been working on for awhile is getting someone from a dispensary on to talk about the experience for maybe first time users or for people who have been there. And finally got you, which is great because Harborside, I consider it one of the preeminent dispensaries in the country.

Alexis Mora (01:43): Yeah. It's you know, Harborside has been around for a really long time. We're one of the oldest dispensaries in California and in the United States generally. So we come with a lot of historical knowledge. So folks have really kind of come to know and love Harborside as an Oakland, a staple for a really long time. And we've since then expanded that footprint across California. So we're able to kind of reach folks from all across.

Kannaboom (02:12): So where are your other locations?

Alexis Mora (02:14): Yeah, so we have one in San Leandro that is our newest location really, really beautiful dispensary. We also have a location in San Jose as well as the first Southern California drive through in Desert Hot Springs, which is really exciting. When we got that license, it's a super cool experience. If you're ever down there, I highly recommend you checking it out.

Kannaboom (02:36): Nice. Steve de Angelo and his brother Andrew opened the original Oakland dispensary in 2006.

Alexis Mora (02:42): Yep.

Kannaboom (02:43): So along the way, you guys have had some time to perfect the model. And when I look at your website, I'm really impressed with the community vibe. You guys are really involved in the community quite a bit.

Alexis Mora (02:55): I think, you know, with Steve and Andrew kind of being at the of it they are really fantastic folks. They've been activists heavily involved in cannabis for a very long time. And so with that, Harborside has always carried the spirit of community and really, you know, basically the premise of bringing cannabis to the community and cannabis to all and, you know, at its heart, it really just kind of started with cannabis being kind of positioned as, you know, medicine for the communities in which we serve. And you know, it was, it was this kind of access point for people to get their medicine and their healing products. With that, you know, we've done a lot of work and have tried to keep the dispensary focused on the people and which we're serving. And so we've built a really strong relationship with the Oakland community itself. And we have, you know, since 2006, obviously come a long way from, you know, getting from this medical model into now adult use and kind of servicing a new, almost a new generation of cannabis folks at Harborside. So it's been a really interesting experience kind of seeing that, that space shift and kind of grow with still kind of keeping our community at heart. So, you know, recently too, with, with everything happening with COVID you know, there was this kind of like call to action of, okay, well, what can we do locally outside of a lot of the community initiatives were already doing you know, we partner obviously with the last prisoner project, that's always been something that's near and dear to our hearts. But specifically, you know, what could our response be for you know, folks that are struggling right now due to the pandemic. And we've actually donated over a thousand dollars to our COVID-19 Oakland Support Relief Fund which, you know, we've been partnering with the mayor of Oakland for that to help provide testing for our local community because again, you know, a lot of the folks that we serve are high risk right now at this point, they are struggling to kind of get their medicine. And so we're really just trying to figure out what we can do to help support everyone.

Kannaboom (05:15): We saw it in this early on in the pandemic where dispensaries were designated as essential. And from what you're telling me, it really is. I mean, it's a wellness resource for people who really rely on it.

Alexis Mora (05:26): Yeah. I mean, that was a really, actually that was a really big win for us. And I think just people in cannabis in California, that it was deemed an essential service particularly now again, through the lens of like the adult use space. So, you know, with that being said, it was also like, okay, well, how do we continue providing these essential services to our community, given all of these barriers, given that some of the people that we serve, which, you know, for us, we see a lot of veterans. And we see a lot of seniors come through Harborside, which is kind of unique in the space. So it was a challenge for us to figure out how to kind of deliver their medicine in a way that was also safe. And in a way that we could also help support them due to, you know, other things like, you know, folks being out of work or dealing with financial crises or other things like that. So it was a really big thing for, I think, all of us in this space but just kind of reiterate, you know, where Harborside really came from from the beginning,

Kannaboom (06:30): You've got a drive through, do you have curbside service at your other?

Alexis Mora (06:36): We do. Yeah. So Desert Hot Springs because we have the drive through does not have the curbside pickup the rest of the dispensaries do. And so that has been super interesting also you know, if you're somebody that has been to a dispensary or a Harborside location prior to COVID your experience today is very different. You know, Oakland Harborside has always had lines out of the door. Try that with six feet of social distancing you know, makes it that it is very looks and feels very different than it did before. So we've seen an increase in kind of our delivery services that makes a ton of sense. You know, with folks staying home, people are just kind of ordering more generally. But if it's something that, you know, you still want the experience of kind of going in you can certainly do curbside pickup as well. And that is actually, you know, outpaced our in store traffic that we traditionally see. You know, Oakland in particular is, Oh, is very busy. We typically have lines even, you know, Monday mornings. And so it's, it's definitely changed kind of the experience when you're going in there.

Kannaboom (07:50): So it sounds like you guys are both successful as a brick and mortar outlet and you've kind of segued to an eCommerce model as well.

Alexis Mora (07:58): Yeah, actually, I just did a panel with Ad Week talking about that, which was like, how do you do marketing and how do you operate in this quote unquote post pandemic world? Although I think we're still kind of in this pandemic world, I think, you know, the retail landscape is just going to, it's going to feel different for a lot of folks, I think throughout 2020, but also bleeding into 2021 and next year. And that has been a really big focus for us. You know, e-commerce for cannabis and cannabis in general, I would say just because of the newness of our industry, the challenges of compliance and regulations and, you know, for us in particular having multiple locations and having a consistent experience across the board, those are all challenges that we face. And so when COVID hit, it was like, okay, well, you know, folks, aren't coming into our brick and mortars anymore. How, how are we still going to give them information? Particularly when, you know, a lot of the bread and butter is the experience. When you're coming into a dispensary, you're taking a look at the products, you're reading the labels, you're trying to understand what the brand represents or you're talking to a consultant. So that part unfortunately gets lost a little bit with e-commerce. And so it was like, you know, how do we create this platform? That's going to be similar, even though we have different laws to kind of work around to a traditional or other industries. So that has actually been, you know, on my plate. I joined Harborside at the beginning of this year, you know, that was one of the biggest things, you know, when COVID hit, which was all right, we have to have this be something that is kind of a focus for us, make it a seamless experience, make it so that you know, folks are kind of also aware of, Hey you know, this brand is, is on promotion. This is what makes it special. But also how do we serve recommendations and products to people that they're actually looking for? So you know, these are conversations we're also having with brands. Like if you know, Harborside is getting into August, this is National Wellness Month. So we're doing a big feature and kind of curating our selection more towards wellness products. So how do we kind of create this contextual information or experience for people coming onto our website? You know, 'I want to know more about tinctures, how do they work?' 'I want to understand more about sublinguals.' and so it's, you know, a two part of making sure that, you know, those products are front and center, they're easily accessible. Your, you know, online process is relatively painless. But how do I also learn about these products and these brands in an authentic way, and also in a way that fits in my life, because you know, that's the other beautiful thing about cannabis right now, which is, you know, form factors. There are so many different, so many different things in cannabis. It's really cool. It's like, you know, now we have sublinguals, you have edibles, you have micro doses, you have all of these different things. It's almost at a fault where there's too much, too many options that are out there. And so you know, education has been a really big thing for us and is something that we're going to continue to workshop, come out with additional content on, 'Hey, we have these wellness products. Here's how you can use it.' You know, 'You're cooking with cannabis, here's a cooking class with cannabis.' So you can understand how to apply these things in your day to day.

Kannaboom (11:46): Right? Well, I noticed on your site, I was poking around and there's a quick start guide that is really nice. It's kind of an extended FAQ, which is really useful for somebody who's coming in the first time. And when we work in this industry, we forget that there's medicinally approved in 33, 34 states and for adult use in 12 states. So there's a lot of people around the country who still don't have an experience, but may as their state migrates into legal status and might be intimidated, might not know exactly what to do. As you mentioned, there's a lot of complexity, it can become overwhelming. So what do you tell somebody, particularly a senior citizen or a vet who's coming in for the first time? Do you have any kind of a few basic tips for these people?

Alexis Mora (12:30): Yeah, those are actually my favorite people to talk to. I think, I think it's really at its core, I think about listening to what they need and what they're looking for. So most folks particularly that are new or they're older, you know, the cannabis of today is not the cannabis that they may have been smoking in the seventies. It's, it's far more potent. There's a lot of other things that are out there. And so I think one is, is almost normalizing it and saying, and creating a safe space. That's like, it's, it's okay. You know what I mean, to talk about this? What, what are you looking for in a product? What are you looking to kind of achieve? One of the things that we see a lot of times and generally this is something that we see across the board is, you know, I need cannabis for sleep or I have you know, chronic pain or I have anxiety, or I have all these different things from that point. Um we really just kind of walk our customers through and say, all right, great. So, you know, you're looking for something for, let's say pain relief, you're looking for something for sleep. What are the kinds of the modes that you are comfortable with? Are you more comfortable with a topical? Would you like something that can be directly applied to this, you know, area that has inflammation? Or is this something that you want to incorporate with your, you know, daily pill regimen and you want to do a tincture or something like that? So understanding the form factor the reason why they're looking to cannabis is, you know, important. And then you're kind of just really taking it from there. A lot of times, and I think this is still true to this day. It's like word of mouth is big. So if we get somebody that's new, oftentimes they'll say, 'Hey,' you know, they might even bring in the product. 'Hey, My friend gave me this gummy and I really liked it, but I'm open to exploring different things.' so then, you know, take that maybe one step further. You know, for me, I, you know, use cannabis as something that, you know, for multiple things in my life. But oftentimes, you know, I'm on the go and things like that. So I'm trying to understand too, how much they want to get this kind of integrated in their day to day, or is this your glass of wine at the end of the night? Are you even using it for any sort of health purpose? So, you know, I always, I always think, and this is also what our consultants are really fantastic at, listening to what they need and providing recommendations from that. I will say, you know, with Harborside, just having the, the legacy that we do you know, one of the things that makes, I think our location really special is that we have that legacy, but we also have really, really in depth product knowledge our entire portfolio there, there's a pretty pretty technical process in terms of the brands and the types of brands that we're bringing in and putting on our shelves so that we ensure they've all been kind of vetted. And they're also curated for you know, the folks that are coming to our door. So we always have a rotating selection. We always have consultants that are very up to speed on the latest in not only the brands that we carry, but also just generally what's happening in cannabis. You know, and I think that's going to be very important. Also as we're learning more about cannabis and, you know, before it used to be, we would get folks saying, 'Hey, you know, I heard indica means 'into couch.' we now, you know, we now know that hey, it may not be as simple as that, there are terpene profiles, there are cannabinoid profiles, there are different things, you know, CBN is, you know, we, I think people are still on the CBD kick now, but now it's like, okay, well, 'What's the new new with THCA and CBN and what do those mean for us?' So it's a really cool process for all of us really in this space of learning. But also innovating to Harborside is vertically integrated. We have our own in-house brands. And so part of this in terms of, you know, talking to folks is also learning about and creating products for people that are like, 'Hey, I would love this. I don't see this in the industry. Can you make this happen?' and so it's, it's really just, I think, an exciting time for us. And, you know, we love talking to our customers. They're, they're our core. You know, we definitely are here to, to serve them and give them the best recommendations that we can,

Kannaboom (17:21): You know, for someone who's coming in the first time, it might do them some good to kind of, pre-think a little bit about, 'Hey, what's my purpose? What kind of relief am I looking for?' And, and as you said, what might the mode be and come prepared to be delighted because there's going to be a lot of options.

Alexis Mora (17:37): Yeah. I mean, I, and a lot of options, I think then people really realize, like, I know, we say, we're like, 'Hey, you know, are you interested in flower?' And they're like, 'What's that?' And you're like, it's, I mean, it's the thing that you're probably most familiar with that you see all the time, it's what you maybe would refer to just sounds like weed or whatever. I'm not even knowing all the different form factors that are available, there's, you know, patches and all of these different things. So you know, definitely, you know, think about what you would like if you have something specific in mind, but if not, and you're coming in, open-minded, that's kind of where the fun begins. You can come in depending on what location you go to you know, Oh, we'll reference Oakland it's an open cell model. So you come in, check in with our security, you grab your basket and you just basically peruse around, you can kind of grab products, you know, see you know, what you would like on your own and different people feel comfortable with different things. You know, some people want to kind of come in, see what's out there, ask questions if needed. Other people would like a consultant to just kind of walk them through, give them a lay of the land. But yeah, I would say, you know, come with an open mind you know, have a couple of things. If there are specific ailments that you want to focus on. Absolutely let our consultants know. But you know, do know that you're in good hands. And you know, consultants will listen to you, the things that you want. They're very up to date on all the products that we carry. And that's kind of where the fun begins.

Kannaboom (19:16): So I've noticed you, you don't refer to them as budtenders, they're consultants. And that's interesting. I mean, budtenders sometimes get a bad rap. How do you train your consultants? There's a lot of complexity to the different cannabinoids. There's many different forms to take this in. So that's a lot of knowledge that they need to be able to relate to the customers as they come in.

Alexis Mora (19:38): Definitely. Yeah. So generally for us we'll have kind of quarterly trainings. That's just a general overview on, 'Hey, you know, what's, what's the latest and greatest that's happening right now in the industry.' You know, obviously we have folks that get onboarded, so we'll have kind of like a Cannabis 101 crash course if they do not have the experience, although most folks that we hire do. And most folks that we hire actually are very passionate or have a history in growing their own cannabis or you know, some other passion project within the cannabis space. So we'll have these quarterly trainings, these onboardings just kind of going through everything that we know about cannabis knowledge today. The other part is that our brand partners are actually really great allies in this space. It is beneficial, I think for all brands and most folks in cannabis, I would say the main thing that we're really trying to get across is that education component because it can be very easy to get lost in all the noise that's out there. You have these buzzwords, like, you know, CBD, THC, CBN, all of this, you know, terpenes, all that kind of stuff. Live resin, shatter. Like there's so many different things that are out there. So we talked, we kind of invited the brands to come through and also do trainings about, you know, a, their product, what makes their process unique, proprietary also holistically, you know, what, what does this kind of benefit? How does this work? So there's kind of, you know, on a high level, general cannabis trainings that we'll have. And then on more of a specific brand specific level, we'll go ahead and do these staff trainings or clinics. I'd say we, we typically have those, you know, once a week, if not you know, once every two weeks. So our staff is pretty much always on the know on a weekly basis.

Kannaboom (21:45): I'm getting a picture of almost like Trader Joe's, where you come in with your basket. There might be a brand representative there with samples. I don't know, there's a wide variety of inventory and then there's people to help you make your choices.

Alexis Mora (21:57): Yeah. And actually, so, you know, in Oakland it's, man 2020 has been such a whirlwind. So you know, it's funny that you mentioned the samples part. So pre adult use, we used to be able to do that. We used to be able to say, 'Hey, you're coming in. The best way, you know, in my opinion for, for folks is really to try a product, try a product, see what you like based off of that.' we are unfortunately not able to do that in the adult use space. We can do, you know, promos we'll have, you know, a brand ambassador as an example, that's there or, you know, that was the case pre-COVID that would give you kind of the lay of the land and let you know, answer all your questions regarding that particular product. And then maybe say, 'Hey, if you purchase this, you get this for a penny.' Um since then we had a tasting room actually in Oakland, I consider Oakland our flagship. So we had a tasting room, which was really great because, you know, the beginning of the year you would have folks basically come in and you could do a flight of dabs which is super cool. You know, I think from an industry perspective, I think of like cannabis, very similar to the wine or the kind of craft beer industry. It's like tannins are to wine as terpenes are to cannabis, as hops are to craft beer. And sometimes some of the best ways to get that education out there in a really practical form is to try it. So we had a tasting room in which you can do, you know, flights of dabs, or you could, you know, take a hit of this flower sample quote unquote, and then go out on the floor and then, and pick it up yourself. Um now with COVID we cannot have any sort of onsite consumption. So that space is actually going to be converted into a cannabis concierge which is really exciting. This is something we are rolling out over the next month or so with the kind of this wellness initiative that we're doing. But it's exactly for those folks that need a little bit of handholding. You can basically come in it can either be a first come first serve basis, or you can reserve a slot almost like the Genius Bar at Apple, come in and you say, 'Hey I want to talk to you' and I will also want to get, or be surrounded by a curated selection of products that likely as a first-time customer, you would be drawn to where it's a good starting off point for you. And so we're starting this whole concierge service where you're going to have someone dedicated to basically having consultations with you, walk you through products, kind of have a more in depth you know, not interview process, but really understanding of what they would like. And then we'll have a personal shop for you. So that's kind of, you know, what we're repurposing with that space. However, you can still come in, grab your basket peruse around the shelves you know, and really kind of figure out what, what you want best, hop in line. And then go ahead and check out.

Kannaboom (25:17): That sounds really cool. It brings to mind, one of my guests was a chemist and she was kind of musing that eventually there will be an endocannabinologist on duty at the dispensary, and it was the first time I'd ever heard that word. It's a big one, essentially the idea of sort of a pharmacist who understands your genetics and maybe the genetics of the plant itself and how those two are going to match up, which is a big tall order. But do you see it going in that direction?

Alexis Mora (25:45): That it would be ideally? Yes. That would be fantastic. I can say the struggle now. You know, particularly as a marketer in this space too, is there are so many wonderful applications for cannabis. We know that what we legally can say or make claims about cannabis is a very gray area. So assuming that we are able to make these claims and, and really what that's going to take, I think is research. I mean, if, if there's more research that we can refer to and say, Hey you know, in this study we found that you know, X amount of people did get you know, better, a better night's sleep or it helped with insomnia. We can refer to that. I certainly think that's the direction we're headed. I know that, you know, historically there have been times where Harborside or other brands have had a nurse practitioner or something that helps support them. But really what has to happen, I think first, is for us to have kind of concrete information on what we legally can say about cannabis. You know, I saw actually I was excited for a little bit because Kaiser had sent out an article or a blog post actually talking about CBD, which I was like, well, this could be really big, you know, if it's something that's positive and it's still, it's still frustrating to kind of see, you know, a lot of us know that CBD is incredibly beneficial. There's kind of the downside of it where there's so much CBD that's out there. Not all CBD is created equally. And you know, there's that whole snake-oil stigma, unfortunately that's around it. But yes, I, I ultimately would love, you know, that to be a thing that we have because you know, that's essentially what we're, we're talking with these people about, particularly for people that are really using it for medical reasons. I mean, I, you know, my introduction to the cannabis space actually was, you know, my, my partner at the time had to, or he has Tourette's Syndrome. And it was one of the only things that helped his ticks. It took him, I mean, such a long time to find CBD that I really wish that, you know, it was something that he would have found out years ago because it would have been years of relief that he would have been able to have. So, you know, with kind of keeping cannabis as wellness and cannabis as a medicine at heart you know, let's put forth the research that's there for us to be able to kind of make those claims. And most certainly there are going to be people that are going to want to talk to people like that.

Kannaboom (28:41): Right. You're running an operation. That's not like a Gap or something. It's, you know, people don't come in and look for things basically solely on their taste. I mean, it's more of a functional thing and a lot of times they need guidance, so you guys give it to them. So that's great. Have you noticed any trends during the pandemic, are people consuming more edibles? Are they doing more vapes or is there anything emerging that you see?

Alexis Mora (29:05): Yeah, I mean, so I think I definitely will say edibles. So there was this whole thing in, in the industry, people refer to it as vapegate. It was, you know, yeah. About a year ago. So since then, you know, vaping has kind of gotten a bad name from that with COVID and it being one of those things where it's like, you don't want to cough in public, you know what I mean? You don't really want to maybe smoke or kind of ingest or smoke rather a combustible that will maybe irritate the lungs. So from anything that's been combustible, we have seen kind of a little bit of a pivot away from the cartridges away from flower into kind of edibles and topicals. So that has been a trend that we've been seeing. However, I still think that folks you know, there, there are just some preferred methods that people really have that they're going to kind of stick to you. You know, from a consumer perspective we've actually seen a lot of people increase their kind of cannabis consumption during COVID or during the quarantine, I would say. Because I think people are spending more time at home or what have you. So folks are definitely stocking up on, on their cannabis. But yeah, we have seen kind of a shift away a little bit from any of the combustibles.

Kannaboom (30:43): Well, and I think objectively, I would surmise there's more anxiety maybe right now and more insomnia. I know in my case, I do, I have increased my edible consumption just before I go to bed. And that helps me sleep and maybe that's going around.

Alexis Mora (30:58): Oh yeah. I mean, it is real it's, you know, I think just generally as a society right now, there's just more, there's more stress. There's a lot, there's a lot of stuff that's going on in the world right now. And so, you know, I think, you know, folks needing it for kind of sleep, honestly, a lot of folks needing it for anxiety or just like, I, it is a medicine, you know, I, I talked to a lot of people they're like, it is, you know, had I not had cannabis, I don't know how I would get through some of the things that I, that I get through. And so, you know, I think more than ever, we're really trying to kind of be that partner for people because it is something where, you know, they're like, Hey I may have not consumed as much, you know, before, when I was going out and about and doing all this stuff, but just, you know, even like the stresses of like people staying at home and also having to do their job and then take care of their kids and do all this stuff. And so it's, it's definitely, I think even from like a lifestyle perspective, folks are trying to figure out, like, how do I kind of integrate this more into my life and, and a day to day thing you know, so long as it's, it's in like a healthy and kind of responsible way for them. So I definitely can see that.

Kannaboom (32:19): Yeah. I mean, people have less of a social life. You can only take so much of Zoom, but maybe they're self-medicating a little more, and then there's a harm reduction aspect to that too, for a lot of people, for many years, maybe alcohol was to go to relax and that's not always healthy. Cannabis is definitely less harmful. That might be part of the trend as well.

Alexis Mora (32:40): Yeah, definitely. I mean I can say that, you know, we had a lot of people you know, kind of approach Harborside too, because you know, we were folks who were just generally like cannabis sales during COVID just took off. I mean, when COVID hit, we hit higher sales during that week than any 4/20 that we had ever seen. So, you know, folks are definitely, you know, gravitating towards that. And there were a lot of articles that, that were, that were out as well saying that, you know alcohol consumption certainly increased you know, given the choice of the two and just for me personally, cannabis is definitely the way to go because it doesn't necessarily have all of like the negative effects that you, you could get if you're over-consuming alcohol. But you know, the other interesting thing too, is like for a lot of creatives or a lot of people that are working from home, like, you know, cannabis is, is certainly something that can help with you know, sleep and things like that. But also it's, it can be a really great stimulant for creatives. You know, some of it's, it's super interesting, like, you know, talking to cannabis consumers, because they're really from all walks of life. I mean you have, you know, CEOs to stay-at-home moms to all of these different people that are kind of using it and leveraging it in a way that, you know, makes sense for them depending on what they use it for. So I've talked to a lot of folks that are like, you know, actually it's really great I'm home you know, maybe have my edible and that kind of sparks a lot of like my creative processes too. So like if you're one of the people that are listening and you're, you know, smoking and doing something really creative, like you're, you're in really good company there. So yeah, it's kind of slowed things down, I think for a lot of folks and, and the applications and trying out different products, like it's, you know when in 2020 COVID you know, is, is the time to kind of check it out .

Kannaboom (34:49): As we evolve and, and people do learn more about this and all the options they have available to them, what's your vision? How do you see the future unfolding? You know, I could ask you, what does the dispensary look like in three to five years, or where do you think we're going?

Alexis Mora (35:05): Yeah. So I think, I think overall with kind of brick and mortars, what we're really seeing, and this is not even really specific to cannabis, I think it's like across, across the board where it needs to be experiential, like there has to be a certain draw or a benefit to going in a store versus ordering things online. So from the brick and mortar perspective we are trying to basically create a space that is, you know, similar to your other retailers. I think Harborside has done a really great job. There's certainly more that we can do there. Which is, you know, why we're building like a cannabis concierge service and why we're creating these pop-up quarterly sections that are, you know focused for this quarter on wellness. We actually started that off with a Female Founders Space. Um I think that what you'll likely see hopefully is a little bit more diversity kind of in, in some of these cannabis retailers as well. And so that experience, I think, is going to be important. You're seeing kind of pop up stores or stores within stores you know, within these dispensaries. So I think that process will be more fine tuned. And again, we're trying to get that alignment with almost like your traditional retail experience, which depending on what dispensary you've been to before, like we got so many people that come to Harborside and are like, 'Whoa, like, I can't even believe that this is what a dispensary looks like compared to, you know, maybe what a dispensary I went to a couple of years before looked like,' or even earlier that year. So having kind of more engaging things in store, like, you know, these popups or like these kind of curated areas and having, you know, customer service at its core really is, is what's going to kind of differentiate the dispensary kind of, of the future. Um you know, on the flip side though, from a business perspective, I think really what we're going to see and what kind of expedited this is online shopping. I mean, most folks are staying at home, they're ordering their stuff online, they're on Instagram and, you know, shopping through their social media platforms. That is a huge hurdle for cannabis. It has been for, for a while. But now I think, again with this, that kind of fast track, this whole idea of e-commerce and what that looks like in order to kind of get it similar to another you know, industry that is not as heavily regulated. So I think there's going to be a lot more as it relates to kind of the digital space and just trying to kind of get all the processes really aligned, like you know, it's like basic things. I think sometimes we take for granted, especially if you're a new consumer coming into a cannabis space, like you know, at some point it would be really great to have a credit card processing. I think now it's, it's great that Harborside is able to do, you know, we can accept debit cards instead of just being a cash-only business, which we were for a very long time. You know, we would hope to get accurate pricing once the taxes aren't so fluctuating and things like that. But yeah, I think, I think, you know, in terms of the dispensary of the future, I'd also check out our latest dispensary in San Leandro. It is gorgeous. You know, and I think from an aesthetic perspective as well you know, we want to create an environment that is also not stigmatized. You know, we want to have quality products, we want it to be in a beautiful space. We want our consultants to be very knowledgeable about what they do. And so, you know, all in all I think is also a push to remove that negative stigma about what people think a cannabis dispensary is and make it a safe place for folks to kind of shop without feeling, you know, any sort of stigma or any sort of guilt that's affiliated with that.

Kannaboom (39:29): That's a good way to put it. I mean, for a lot of dispensaries, the one I go to is about 500 square feet. Once you get in there and it still has sort of the legacy feel of sort of an underground operation, almost, you know, you talk about something that looks like an Apple store and the Genius Bar, and you guys already are the dispensary of the future. Maybe some people will never go to a dispensary they'll shop online, but for those who want to go and who might not be in a place where there is a luxurious state-of-the-art facility, like Harborside presents, do you have any suggestions for them in terms of kind of pushing their dispensary to step it up a little?

Alexis Mora (40:08): Yeah, I mean, I think, you know, I think it's, you know, consumers really vote and have a lot of buying power with their dollar. You know, I would say particularly for us, like with customer experience, being at our core, like communicate that to, to your dispensary on, 'Hey' you know, if there's more products that you want them to carry if there are, you know, best practices or anything like that, that feedback is going to be wildly important. You know, it's, it's interesting this idea of you know, brand loyalty, dispensary loyalty you don't always see a lot of brand loyalty in the space. However, you do see a little bit of dispensary loyalty and that could be for various different reasons. It's your local dispensary, that's the one you want to go to? It used to be before I think where there were a ton more dispensaries prior to kind of adult use to where it, people were almost inundated and would go to the closest dispensary that had the best deal. Um so you saw a lot of folks that were really deal-oriented. But yeah, now it's like, 'Hey, I have trust rapport with the dispensary. I know the products that they're carrying and that that's also really important as well that they're, that they're safe, that they are what they claim to be. So I think at this point, you know, if you have kind of a licensed legal dispensary versus not you know, that's just one thing where I would recommend, you know, go to your licensed dispensary where, you know, the products that you come that you're buying are actually safe and tested. And yeah, just kind of give that feedback to you know, whatever dispensary that you're going to so that they can kind of better improve your experience going forward.

Kannaboom (42:05): Right. Well, that's a good point. You know, I know in California that the legacy market still does a lot of business because the taxes are so high. So you have people saying, well, I'm going to get more for my money on the street, but you don't have standards. You don't know if that product has been tested, if it has any pesticides or solvent residue or anything else. So, you know, if you're concerned about the safety and efficacy of the product you're putting in your body, and you should be concerned about that, then you're going to show up at the dispensary online or in person.

Alexis Mora (42:35): Yeah. I mean, and even with that too, like if you're a consumer that's very very persnickety about the test results and things like that there are actually a lot of brands that will kind of show their COAs their test results so that, you know you know, what's my cannabinoid breakdown, what are, what's my terpene breakdown if they test for that did it test positive or negative for this, that, and the other microbials, all that fun stuff. So there is a certain amount of just consumer safety, I think that you get and, you know, obviously being a licensed dispensary, there's a lot of there's a lot of things that we have to make sure that we're checking off from a compliance and regulatory perspective to ensure that what we're delivering is truly what it is and is, you know, being represented in, in a safe way. So we want you to feel good about the products that you're purchasing. We stand by those products. And so from, you know, again, an experience perspective, if it's not working for you or whatever, we will go ahead and remedy that suggest other products and this, that the other.

Kannaboom (43:45): Alexis, what have we not covered that we should?

Alexis Mora (43:48): Ooh. you know, honestly, I think, I think right now it's, it's really you know, continue to kind of support you know, your, your dispensary is what I'm hoping in, just from my perspective. And I'm curious to kind of see too, is what cannabis events look like going forward, because, you know, there was you know, last year can't, I mean, cannabis and community is just really tied, closely together. And so we started becoming more mainstream in that kind of respect with things like Outside Lands and, you know, this idea of canna-tourism and, you know, all of these really things that COVID kind of put to bed. So looking ahead for these things, you know, the, the experience kind of in brick and mortar, the digital experience is certainly gonna be one thing, but I am looking forward to next year, once we're able to do more events, get back out in the community. Cause that's really, I think that one of the best ways to kind of interact and get that education out there, which is you know, going to these events or going to these places like, you know, a music festival or what have you, in which she would maybe have a glass of wine or beer or whatever. And couple that with cannabis, like, I think that's going to be one of the things that we're certainly looking forward to as an industry in general I know Harborside, you know, we're certainly itching to kind of get back out there and support not only community events, but canna-tourism events music festivals and things like that. So that certainly is, you know, on the horizon for stuff in the interim where, you know, figuring out how to, again, you know, have those experiences that you would have traditionally gotten like you know, vendor days and, you know, these in-store promos and all of that fun stuff and delivering it in a digital way. So, you know, keep a look out for content like that. But yeah, we're, we're definitely itching for kind of the next gen in kind of cannabis activations. Certainly as a marketer. It's one of the things that I absolutely love, I think cannabis pairs really well with that. And so we're definitely, you know, looking ahead to see how we can kind of plug in once you know, social distancing and all of that, you know, once we're able to kind of get past that hump.

Kannaboom (46:18): The stigma has been pushed back a little bit. The whole pandemic is kind of a speed bump and maybe there's a little momentum has been lost, but once that stigma has been pushed back, then you can step out and be more prominently involved as a wellness resource in the community.

Alexis Mora (46:34): Totally. I mean, it's, you know, people I think, and just kind of how I even got into cannabis too. I mean, I really, you know, I wanted to show a different light on what the cannabis consumer looked like, because again, it's, it's your mom, it's your friend. It's, you know, there's so many people that use it on a daily basis or even, you know, occasionally that, you know, being, you know, one of my favorite things is like being in places where it's seemingly unexpected, but totally makes sense. You know, we, there are so many ways that kind of cannabis can integrate in your life. And it's not to say that you have to, you know, smoke it when you wake up and in the middle of the day before you go to bed, there's ways that it can kind of integrate and, you know, your day to day in, in a way that you enjoy it, it's your relationship with the plant. Um so when, when we're able to do those things, when we're able to go to a Coachella or an Outside Lands, or even you know, you're with your, you know, friends and we're doing like, almost like an educational, like Tupperware party or you know, an infused dinner event, those, those things kind of normalize the cannabis space. And they also are a fun way to kind of interact and engage with, with cannabis. So those are the kinds of things that I think, you know, we're really trying to bring to light, particularly for this experiential thing. Like, you know, cannabis has a community thing with, with COVID right now, that's been very challenging. There's so many times or so many places or events where people are, you know, like passing a pre-roll I don't, I don't know when that's gonna happen again, of, you know, sharing a pre-roll. It's just kind of this, a communal thing that, you know, some people share. So I'm definitely, you know, looking forward to getting back out there you know, fighting the good fight but also shedding a different light on, you know, what the cannabis consumer, but also what the cannabis industry looks like. So there's, there's certainly a lot of work to be done there, but exciting stuff.

Kannaboom (48:44): Where can we find you guys online?

Alexis Mora (48:46): Yeah. So you guys can actually check us out at shopharborside.com. Really great resource again, if you're just kind of poking around, you want to learn more about cannabis knowledge in general or you can kind of even go through our online platform and place the order and pick up either for curbside or for delivery. So shopharborside.com is going to be where it's at.

Kannaboom (49:07): Awesome. Well, thanks so much for taking the time to explain this to us a little bit. I mean, you're at one of the leading institutions in cannabis and you're the right person in the right place. So thank you so much for sharing your time.

Alexis Mora (49:19): Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me.

Speaker 3 (49:21): You've been listening to the Kannaboom podcast with host Tom Stacey, if you like the show and want to know more, please check us out at Kannaboom (with a K) dot com and please leave us a review at Apple podcasts or wherever you listen. See you next week.

 

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