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What to Expect in This Episode

Episode 70 of Utah in the Weeds features Chris Jeffery and Richard Maloney of WholesomeCo, a Medical Cannabis pharmacy in Bountiful, next door to a Utah Therapeutic Health Center clinic.

They told us about the launch of WholesomeCo’s delivery program, which gives Utah patients a convenient option for obtaining their Medical Marijuana. [05:05]

Next, they told us about the experience of having cannabis delivered from the perspective of a new patient. [12:08]

WholesomeCo is dedicated to serving the needs of Utah’s Medical Marijuana patients. They believe patients’ needs should always be the driving force behind what they do. [13:52]

WholesomeCo customers used to pay fees to have their Medical Cannabis delivered, but the company stopped charging for deliveries in August. Chris and Richard told us a little bit about the factors that led them to make their deliveries free. [15:39]

Chris and Richard also talked about the recent changes in WholesomeCo’s payment processing, which now allows patients to make cannabis purchases with debit cards instead of cash. [20:25]

WholesomeCo is more than a Medical Cannabis pharmacy and delivery service. Did you know they’re also growing cannabis?  WholesomeCo has a greenhouse in Garland, and they’re using feedback from their patients to guide their decisions about which strains to grow.  Look for WholesomeCo’s recycled glass packaging when their flower becomes available in Utah dispensaries later this year.  [26:11]

Tim, Chris, and Richard talked about the State of Utah’s Medical Cannabis advertising restrictions, which prevent pharmacies like WholesomeCo from placing advertisements. [31:34]

Many of Utah’s Medical Marijuana patients qualify for the program under one condition, but they also use cannabis for secondary, non-qualifying conditions. Tim, Chris, and Jeffery talked about some of these secondary conditions and how they might influence the future of Utah’s Medical Cannabis program. [34:12]

Utah’s Medical Marijuana industry is growing quickly, and that means businesses like WholesomeCo have to be ready to serve more and more patients. [37:09]

We wrapped up this episode with a quick preview of WholesomeCo’s upcoming iOS app, which will make it easier for patients to register, consult with a pharmacist, or shop for Medical Cannabis. [40:39]

Resources in This Episode

Podcast Transcript

Tim Pickett:

Welcome everybody out to Utah in the Weeds. My name is Tim Pickett. I am your host.

Tim Pickett:

You’ll notice today on Episode 70 that Chris Holifield is no longer hosting. For right now, I’m going to host by myselrf. I love Chris. He’s a great friend of mine, and has turned his attention to his other podcast, I am Salt Lake. I want to make sure that I give a shout out to Chris. He’s been a great co-host, taught me everything I know about podcasting, about recording with people.

Tim Pickett:

He is an amazing advocate for the cannabis space, has given this podcast and everybody a lot of great content and a lot of great interviews. So shout out to him. I’m sad to see him go, but I’m happy for him to move on to his real estate business, and he has a great family. If you guys ever need a realtor, Chris Holifield is the reefer realtor as far as I’m concerned. And look him up if you ever need to buy a house or condo, anything in real estate. He’s a great guy. Reach out to him. And sad to see him go. It is definitely harder than it looks to do the podcast, and he makes it look easy.

Tim Pickett:

Today’s episode, Episode 70, is an interview with Chris Jeffrey, the CEO of Wholesome, as well as Richard Maloney, the head of retail with Wholesome. And I think everybody can agree, that has been to WholesomeCo and been a part of their retail process, they have a stellar retail process. They treat everybody with great respect. They have a great staff in there. All of the people behind the counter are second to none in the Utah market. Very happy to be involved in the cannabis space with them.

Tim Pickett:

My name is Tim Pickett again. I’m your host of Utah in the Weeds. You can find us on any podcast player that you can subscribe to, Apple, Spotify. And you can also find us online at utahmarijuana.org/podcast, utahmarijuana.org. You can also find us on YouTube. And on YouTube you’re going to want to go to the channel called Discover Marijuana. That is my channel on YouTube. There’s a ton of educational content there, and all of the podcast episodes from start to finish can be seen and heard there on YouTube. Happy to have you guys subscribe to that channel as well.

Tim Pickett:

Today’s conversation we get into the delivery system of Wholesome, Wholesome Direct is what it’s called, and the trials and tribulations of being involved in this cannabis space as a retail operator for the entirety of 2020. Now, WholesomeCo is just over a year old, for those of you who went out to their anniversary. It was a pretty big event, and this is a great conversation about that. We touch on their grow and some products that are going to be coming out in the fall, some of their flower, because they do have a grow license. So stay tuned on announcements for that.

Tim Pickett:

From a housekeeping perspective, I want to let everybody know to tune in to the webinar series. So, I do a webinar series with Zion Medicinal and Blake Smith every other Wednesday. Next Wednesday at 7:30 PM this webinar will be on cannabis and inflammation. We’re going to dive a little bit into the science. Those are really great opportunities to ask questions as a consumer, as a patient, so don’t hesitate to log in to that webinar. You can find out more information there by signing up for our newsletter at utahmarijuana.org.

Tim Pickett:

Let’s get into this conversation with Chris and Richard. Enjoy everybody.

Tim Pickett:

We’re back with Richard Maloney and Chris Jeffery. Remember we were downstairs in the back of your… I mean, what do you guys call it? What’s the internal word for… is it the shop?

Chris Jeffery:

Yeah, the store.

Tim Pickett:

The store.

Chris Jeffery:

And that was the back office, so kind of like a restaurant has front of house and back of house, that’s our back of house, which also is our kitchen.

Tim Pickett:

Right. So we’re in the back of the store.

Richard Maloney:

It slowly evolved to delivery operations.

Tim Pickett:

Oh, back in that area?

Richard Maloney:

Where we did that interview is now where it technically is a registered vault with the state, so we’re capable of storing product in that room if we so please. And then you’ve also got delivery operations that are picking orders, packing orders, putting labels on orders, doing a second verification check when they’re putting those items in the bag to make sure that they’re the exact product that that patient’s ordered.

Tim Pickett:

Okay. So, this is a long ways from where we were a year ago, right?

Richard Maloney:

Yes.

Tim Pickett:

Because it really was… even more than a year ago we talked before, and we had no… I mean, we were just barely getting started.

Richard Maloney:

I think we talked on August 7th. And-

Tim Pickett:

Oh, so almost-

Richard Maloney:

… the official grand-

Tim Pickett:

Yeah, because-

Richard Maloney:

… opening was-

Tim Pickett:

… it was the grand opening.

Richard Maloney:

… August 12th, which we just celebrated the one year anniversary.

Tim Pickett:

You guys had a really awesome one year anniversary. So, talk a little bit about, how has it been over the course of the year, what have you seen with the program? Let’s just go back from that interview and what’s happened since, because so much has happened.

Chris Jeffery:

Yeah. I think internally there’s been a bunch, but I think starting at the market level and how the market’s grown, I think the biggest question mark for me, and a lot of folks in this industry, most likely, is, or was, back in the day, where is this program going in terms of patient counts, are patients going to be active in the program? Those patients that may have been purchasing in other states, are they actually going to start purchasing here in Utah?

Chris Jeffery:

And so seeing that, fast forward a year to August 21, I think we’ve been very pleased with how the patient numbers have grown over the course of that year. And that’s really pointed to our original thesis where the market was going to be at the end of three to four years, closer to maturity. And it’s even ahead of pace from that original thesis.

Chris Jeffery:

And so I think that’s the highest level, most important thing that has come to fruition. And that drives everything internally, whether we invest in delivery, and how quickly we invest in delivery, and how big we go with delivery.

Tim Pickett:

Yeah, because, did you feel like you were going to have, when we talked before, did you feel like you were going to have delivery the way… We’re going to get into this today in a big way, but did you feel like you were going to have delivery in the way you have it now? Could you foresee this? Was this in the plan?

Chris Jeffery:

Yes. So, this was part of the plan before we even opened up the physical retail experience. We pushed the state to get delivery launched. They weren’t ready for delivery offering, mostly because of the technology and gaps in data. And so we helped with the API creation to be able to enable delivery and in the tools that enable delivery. We started on that work almost right when we opened up the store, but it wasn’t surfaced from a compliance perspective until January 21 this year.

Chris Jeffery:

So we were hopeful that we actually launch delivery in 2020. We weren’t able to do that, but soon thereafter, late January 21, is when we actually launched delivery. So, more or less, yes. This is how we thought the market was going to develop and how we were going to develop alongside that. But now we’re seeing delivery really on this rocket ship, and so we’re investing even further right now on the delivery operation, which is separate from the retail operation, and that it’s a whole different set of inputs and outputs.

Chris Jeffery:

You have the supply side, which is your delivery vehicles, your scheduling and how many routes you have, you have your delivery drivers, which is a different profile of employee than an agent, you have your delivery ops managers, which manage schedules and availability through each zone each day. So it’s just a different type of business that is… You need the physical retail because, obviously, that’s the entity that’s selling the cannabis, whereas delivery is more of a service business, and so it’s a different set of tasks.

Richard Maloney:

And with that we’ve added a whole customer support arm of our business, which we didn’t have when we just first opened physical retail. But with delivery there can be cases where people need a quick question answered, or they may want to replace a product on their delivery before it goes out.

Richard Maloney:

So Chris invested in a customer support team that now handle a lot of those issues once those orders are placed in our queue in MJ Freeway and those orders are starting to hit the road. We have a team of people that are now dedicated to working with patients that have placed orders for delivery specifically.

Tim Pickett:

Is there any place in the state you don’t deliver to now, or you pretty much cover the whole…

Chris Jeffery:

So right now, according to the patient database, we’re covering roughly 99% of the patients that are in the program today, in terms of allowing for at least one day a week delivery availability.

Tim Pickett:

Yeah. Okay. So this is delivery, and I want people to understand this, because we’re in Bountiful, we’re upstairs from Wholesome right now, and you have patients as far south as in Saint George, Bloomington, down the far south tip of the state, we can go east into Moab.

Chris Jeffery:

The one area that we don’t have availability just yet is the very south eastern quadrant, kind of the four corners.

Tim Pickett:

Like Blanding, the four corners area into Montezuma Creek?

Chris Jeffery:

Yeah. What’s challenging is that, if you look at the patient count down there, it’s really hard for us to… I think there’s, last we looked was six patients or seven patients in the program. That’s a five hour drive.

Tim Pickett:

I rotated in Blanding in PA school, and oh my god, it’s a long ways from anywhere down there. I feel for them. They need access, I get that, but you really need a retail center a little closer. It doesn’t make sense to drive all that way.

Chris Jeffery:

Sure. And I think that we just launched Moab, that area, not too long ago, maybe a month ago, and we’re seeing some great growth there. And I think that we’ll eventually cover that southeastern quadrant. But remember, we just launched this in January, so we’re still less than a year into it. And so we do think we’re going to have 100% of the patient population covered here probably within a year of launching, so by January 2022.

Tim Pickett:

It’s pretty impressive. And I think the state… I don’t know. Has the state given you feedback on… They better be appreciative of your willingness to travel. Because is there somebody else who’s doing this type of delivery?

Chris Jeffery:

I think there’s one or two other operators. I don’t know too much of where they’re delivering and how often they’re delivering to certain areas. As I’ve told the team, we have the components of building a business in our hand right now, so let’s focus on what we’re doing. But I do know there’s some operators. I think Dragonfly’s doing some delivery. But, remember, our team is actually coming from the delivery world, the food delivery world, and so we have a unique advantage in scaling operation like delivery.

Tim Pickett:

You got the expertise.

Chris Jeffery:

Yeah. And we did food before we did cannabis, and food is really challenging. You got to get it right in 45 minutes, and if you forget the fries, you have to go pick up the fries.

Tim Pickett:

Oh, my gosh.

Chris Jeffery:

And so you’re making about a buck an order. So, getting that right at scale is super challenging. And so we think this is a much… it’s not easy, but it’s a different set of inputs and outputs that make it a lot more palatable than food.

Tim Pickett:

So how long does it take if I’m in… What’s your average distance, right, average distance patient? Let’s put them in Orem or point in the mountain down someplace a little bit further away. Oh, Draper. Let’s put them in Draper. Right?

Richard Maloney:

Same day.

Tim Pickett:

So I order… Same day?

Richard Maloney:

Within two hours.

Tim Pickett:

Okay. What’s the process like? I’m a patient, right, I come see me, Tim, right, get my evaluation, three days later, takes about three days to get your card, you get online, you do a pharmacist consultation virtually right now, because we can do that.

Richard Maloney:

Yeah. Or in person, if they want to do that.

Tim Pickett:

Or in person, so you’re registered. I get online. I can do an order. Take me through the process.

Chris Jeffery:

Yes. So I think the first step is the patient verification. So, if you’ve already had a consult, we have automated that process to verify you in an automated way by checking the backend to make sure that you actually have gone through that consultation process. If you haven’t you can do the virtual consult or the in person consult. And once you’re approved in our system, in our database, then you can place an order, whether that’s for pickup and pick it up in store or whether that’s for delivery.

Chris Jeffery:

Now, delivery, it really depends on where you’re located. So, in the I-15 corridor we have same day delivery availability, so you can get your order delivered on Draper same day, which is a little bit later in the day. And then as you get closer to our store, like Salt Lake County, Davis County, and part of Weaver, you can have same day, which is typically within a three hour window. It’s closer to on demand, but it’s not fully on demand just yet.

Tim Pickett:

I mean, come on. That’s as on demand as you need.

Richard Maloney:

It’s pretty good.

Chris Jeffery:

Yeah. I mean, we want to continue to offer more and more convenience, and on demand is kind of the Holy Grail. But remember, food is a different industry. Food is… everyone’s eating three times a day.

Tim Pickett:

I think you’re setting the bar so high with your background in food that you’re overkill.

Chris Jeffery:

Yeah. Well-

Tim Pickett:

But that’s good.

Chris Jeffery:

… not yet.

Tim Pickett:

I mean, that’s patient care.

Chris Jeffery:

We’ll get to-

Tim Pickett:

Right?

Chris Jeffery:

… the point of overkill, and we’ll be like, okay, we’re overkill. We’re not there quite yet.

Richard Maloney:

Yeah. I think we do, in a way, speak to one of our core values, which is patient’s needs define what we do and how we do it. And I think a lot of medical cannabis dispensaries, or pharmacies, or recreational stores in any of these states could make a similar statement, that they’re all about the patient, they’re all about this.

Richard Maloney:

I truly believe that we embody that, because we drove one order to Saint George. That’s a five and a half hour drive. We obviously don’t make any money on that. But I truly believe we’re embodying this motto of patients’ needs defining what we do when we do go to these extreme lengths to get them their medicine.

Richard Maloney:

And I don’t feel that there’s very many competitors in the Utah market or other markets that are really committed to that convenience factor, and we’re going to bring this thing to your doorstep, you don’t even have to go anywhere. And I feel like we’ve made some serious strides in order to have what Chris talks about, that on demand experience, like you’re ordering from DoorDash or any of those other platforms.

Tim Pickett:

Yeah. I mean, I can talk to this about how my staff, Utah Therapeutic Health Center, or what patients say, and it’s, to be honest, it’s hard for people to talk about anything else right now. The conversation really is around delivery, and around how Wholesome will deliver anywhere, and you’ve even recently removed your delivery fee. So for a while you were charging a delivery fee, but now… What makes you decide to do that? Do you to get to a certain point of volume and you’re like, okay, well, you know what, we can do this?

Chris Jeffery:

Yeah. I mean, you have to look at… what we coin, and it’s something that any consumer facing businesses looks at, it’s your unit economics. So, what’s the average order ticket value, how far are you driving, so what’s the cost of your order. And we’ve seen an increase in our average ticket versus in store, which has given us the confidence that we can actually do this for free.

Chris Jeffery:

Now, there’s definitely orders that we lose money, like Richard just gave you an example. We’ll deliver down to Saint George, we’ll take one order down, we’re losing money on that order. But that’s okay. We’re still in this early growth phase of our business and-

Tim Pickett:

Sure. You’re building fans.

Chris Jeffery:

Yeah. We’ve invested well ahead of where the revenue is today because we know where the puck’s going.

Tim Pickett:

Well, and I think, to your point, Richard, the fact is the patients need it, and, I mean, the economics don’t really work. We opened a space in the same building as Bloom, and the economics of being in Cedar City, they’re not the same as being in Millcreek, right, where all the people are, but people need access, regardless, people need access.

Tim Pickett:

And I just got back from North Carolina testifying in a state senate committee meeting about the fact that this is medicine. So I’m totally on board with the argument that it just is… It is what it is. People need their medicine. And if you believe this is medicine, and people need it like medicine, then this seems to be an easier argument to make, right? Well, we’re just going to deliver down there.

Chris Jeffery:

Well, and it’s also, I think, to this point around access, in a market like Moab where there’s not a physical presence of a store, this is going to help with bringing more patients into the program that actually need the medicine.

Chris Jeffery:

I think a lot of patients that don’t have a store right down the corner from their house, they may not join the program, and they might be buying from a different state, or just not even know that this is a medicine that could help them. And so by us offering delivery in such a wide way, wide access way, I think that that’s going to drive… that has driven new patients to the program.

Chris Jeffery:

And so, that’s something we told the state from day one, “You guys enable us with delivery, you approve this and get us launched, we will drive more patients into the program.”

Tim Pickett:

Have you seen, with delivery, needing that patient almost like a… what we call the patient experience team where we… that’s our team, and you have to have this customer support team because it’s a cumbersome…

Richard Maloney:

There’s a lot of moving parts, lots of different systems that we’re working within today to enable these deliveries. So, I think when you add in a lot more moving parts things become more complex, and then you need to level up the service that you’re giving people.

Richard Maloney:

We as WholesomeCo never want to hear a patient come and say, “Oh, no one answers the phone.”, or, “I never got a response from my email.”, or, “Never heard back on this question I had.” We want to get out ahead of that. We want to proactively communicate with people. So, when their orders are getting placed for deliveries where we have a full script that they’re sending out when they send that text message that we’ve got your order all packed up for you, it’s about to hit the road.

Richard Maloney:

We’re overly communicating with our patients, and I think we’ve seen some feedback from them of how awesome it is. They’re getting almost communicated to better than a DoorDash or a well-established cfood delivery company. So I think the more proactive we are in our communication with our patients, the better the experience is. And I think you need to have those warm bodies in a seat to have those phone calls and to answer those emails, because you never want to leave somebody hanging.

Chris Jeffery:

And it’s a different type of business too than physical retail. Physical retail, most of the issues that arise are in person, you can deal with them through your agents or your pharmacists that are here on staff in person and face to face communications. Once you start scaling a digital experience, which delivery is that, you’re front of line workers or virtual. They’re the customer service people. And then from that they field all the questions.

Chris Jeffery:

If we need to alert a pharmacist because it’s a very specific medical question on how to use this category of products and if it’s right for that person, that will then be offloaded to the pharmacists team, versus maybe it’s an agent that actually needs to service someone some certain question or some certain concern. But we have that front of line worker to then take that call, whether it’s an email or a phone call or a text, and route that to the right person. So it is a different type of business than physical retail.

Tim Pickett:

When you order the product online and we get all the way to pay we know downstairs, typically, you’re still using cash, but we can’t use cash because the law… it says, right, in the law, you can’t use cash on a delivery driver, so what’s the… How do you get over that?

Chris Jeffery:

Yeah. So we started with one provider that we had some issues with. It was kind of like a Venmo for cannabis type thing, so you had to download an app and tie it to your bank account. So it was kind of a debit ACH transfer. That wasn’t working as well. And so, one of the things that we unlocked just recently was, we replaced that provider with another provider that was handheld debit swipe machines, so at the point of delivery.

Chris Jeffery:

So just like if you eat out somewhere… I know in Europe they had this… when I was there, you sit at your table, they come up with that handheld thing, you’d swipe your credit card, and your funds would transfer. Now this isn’t credit card, but it’s debit card, so you actually swipe your debit card, you type in your pin, and funds are transferred at the point of delivery. And so that’s really solved a lot of the issues that we had with that first solution that we were using.

Tim Pickett:

So now I get all the way through the cart, I select my products, you verify that I’m a patient, you verify that I have the limits associated with my recommendation in the system by my QMP, and now you launch that delivery. They come to my house. I haven’t paid anything yet. I’m there. I have to be there. Just so everybody knows, the patient has to be there with their ID.

Chris Jeffery:

That’s right.

Tim Pickett:

You have to verify that with the driver. We call them-

Chris Jeffery:

Yeah.

Tim Pickett:

… a driver, right? And then you use a debit card. And that’s the only source of payment that you’ll take. So they don’t have any cash. And I just swipe my debit card right there. Do you ever run into like, oh, I brought the wrong product, or I need to change the amount of the bill, or things like that, or is this pretty much dial?

Chris Jeffery:

Yeah, all that stuff is dialed in before. And we have multiple points to check that. I think Richard alluded to earlier. We have multiple teams that are checking to make sure that order’s exactly the order that has been ordered. The one issue that we’ve had come up a couple of times is that someone swipes a debit card, and, for some reason, the funds aren’t in the bank account.

Tim Pickett:

In the right account.

Chris Jeffery:

Unfortunately, we can’t drop off the order, we have to collect the payment. So in that instance we’ll have to return the order and then we can schedule it for the next day that we’re actually in that area, which is typically the following day. But we’ve had a patient or two that they get upset because they’ve been waiting for their order, the order shows up, and the funds-

Tim Pickett:

Oh, shoot.

Chris Jeffery:

… aren’t there.

Tim Pickett:

They don’t have the funds.

Chris Jeffery:

Yeah. So in terms of-

Tim Pickett:

Look, that’s not on you. I get that.

Chris Jeffery:

You’re right. So we actually do a lot of communications prior to the order to say, make sure you have your debit card, your ID…

Tim Pickett:

You’re going to be there.

Chris Jeffery:

… you’re going to be there.

Tim Pickett:

Do you ever run into like, you show up the house and the patient’s-

Chris Jeffery:

A couple of times.

Tim Pickett:

… not there?

Richard Maloney:

That happens from time to time. But I’m actually pretty impressed people are at home ready to get their medicine. And they’re there with a big smile on their face when you show up. So, I think our delivery drivers feel like superheroes when they come back to the shop after a day’s work, because everyone greets them with open arms.

Chris Jeffery:

Well, the key there though is you are able to select the time that works for the order to be dropped off. So, if there’s a time today that doesn’t work when you’re going through that ordering process… You select, okay, from 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM, for example. Well, if that doesn’t work you can order five days or actually six days in advance. So, you can say, well, tomorrow from 10:00 to noon works better.

Chris Jeffery:

And so you can select that window that works for your lifestyle. And that’s you basically committing to say, yeah, I’m going to be home at that two hour timeframe. And then we alert you before we leave that, hey, make sure…

Tim Pickett:

Hey, we’re on our way.

Chris Jeffery:

Yeah. “Something came up and I’m not going to be home.”, and then we’ll work to reschedule that for a more convenient time.

Tim Pickett:

I just think this is awesome, especially in Utah where there’s going to be a lot of people… There’s a core group of cannabis consumers that are going to use cannabis, regardless of the law. There’s going to be a core group of patients that have been using medical cannabis and now are legally accessing it. But there is, beyond that, especially in conservative states, there’s going to be a group of people who don’t feel comfortable coming into the store, per se, and a group of people who can’t physically get here, right?

Chris Jeffery:

That’s right.

Tim Pickett:

We do home visits. We don’t do a lot of them, but we do home visits. These are people who can’t get to a clinic. These are people who need home delivery. And I think that expanding that to people who aren’t quite comfortable… Your cars are unmarked, right? It’s just a car just…

Chris Jeffery:

Yeah.

Tim Pickett:

Yeah, this car just shows up, and a normal looking individual comes to the door, and this is a professional thing. I think that that opens up cannabis as a legitimate medicine even more, right, which is really… All three of us talk about this all the time when we meet. We’re trying to legitimize cannabis as medicine, and get people to just think about it as another tool in the toolbox of whatever’s in the medicine cabinet.

Chris Jeffery:

And the experience, to your point, is close to kind of a FedEx driver dropping off a box. There’s a couple other steps in that kind of drop off, that we need to check the ID, we need to collect payment, but it’s not… Product’s just in someone’s hand, they’re handing it off, and you can clearly see what it is. It’s a discreet packaging, looks like just another box that you would get from a FedEx driver.

Tim Pickett:

That’s pretty cool.

Chris Jeffery:

Except we don’t have anything that says FedEx on the car either.

Tim Pickett:

Right. So, when we talked a year ago product availability was a massive issue. It was an issue, even though we didn’t have as many patients in the program as we do now. Now I think we’re up to roughly 35, probably between 35,000 and 40,000 legal cannabis users in Utah, and the product selection has gotten better, product availability seems to have gotten better, but we’re still waiting, guys, we’re still waiting on flower from Wholesome.

Richard Maloney:

True.

Tim Pickett:

When? Come on. When?

Richard Maloney:

So you should start-

Tim Pickett:

We’re excited.

Richard Maloney:

… to see flower hit our shelves and other pharmacy shelves in November of this year. So we just finalized all of our packaging. It looks amazing. We’re working with a group out of Santa Rosa that’s called Tree Hugger. They’re a sustainable glass group, so all of our glass jars are already made from 50% recycled glass. All of our lids are made with recycled ocean plastic. So, we know we’re not 100% there, but WholesomeCo is making a commitment to doing what we can to be a sustainable company.

Richard Maloney:

The cannabis space, in general, has a lot of waste, and we are going to try to do our part to mitigate that waste. So, all of our designs look amazing. We work with a group out of Kansas City called Carpenter Collective. We will be offering 14 gram and 28 gram units as well, so we’ll have four strains that are coming out of our greenhouse, and that’s up north in Garland, Utah. So I’m really excited.

Richard Maloney:

I’ve been patiently waiting for seeing us at mass production, which is… we’re about to turn that corner. So there’s a new chapter of WholesomeCo’s history. And I think patients should start to get really excited about our harvest two and harvest three, because we’re stockpiling some pretty awesome genetics, grandiflorum being one of them, which is a Oakland based genetic group. We have some strains from them that none of the other producers out here in Utah have.

Richard Maloney:

So, that’s the type of stuff that gets me really excited every morning, is I know that while it may not be here today, I know what’s coming in the future, and I think a lot of patients are going to be happy with the quality of product they see from us.

Chris Jeffery:

And I think the other thing to keep in mind is that when we started this business we wanted to really define how we grew products, and what products we actually grew, and how we grew them based on what the patient was telling us.

Chris Jeffery:

And so starting with the retail business and understanding that data and what they want, what they don’t want, how they’re buying, what’s the cadence of their purchases, that always used to define our first big phase of cultivation expansion, which we’re getting… next week we should harvest. And so that’s the crop that Richard is talking about that’s going to hit the shelves in November.

Tim Pickett:

Yeah. I think, I mean, from my perspective, originally, everybody was just on all of the growers, why are you not growing, why are you not growing, and Wholesome took a little bit of a unique approach compared to a couple of the others, right, focus a little more on the service experience, getting this delivery out. And, to your credit, in my opinion, you’ve done a really good job.

Tim Pickett:

I think the market has, or the growers have grown enough product. It seems like there’s enough product in the market now for the number of patients. And you have filled a gap in the market by the delivery in the retail side. So, in the beginning, while I’m sure there were people on you to get your products out to market, on the other hand, had you done that and emphasized that you may not have been able to access that patient in Saint George or Bloomington early enough. So-

Chris Jeffery:

That’s right.

Tim Pickett:

… you can’t do it all. Right? But, that being said, we’re all pretty excited, because you’re one of the last, right? There’s a little bit of anticipation. You’re so good at this. I think the bar has been set pretty high for the level of quality you got to come up with now on the product side. Do you not agree?

Chris Jeffery:

100%.

Richard Maloney:

I 100% agree.

Chris Jeffery:

You got to be good at each step of the supply chain if you’re actually going to build out the entire supply chain. But, from our point of view, it starts with understanding patients. And I think that building cultivation in a silo based on what you may like or what works for you as a patient is not necessarily what works for the market. And so I think we’ve done the kind of… built it the opposite way.

Chris Jeffery:

And we have some great partners that have helped us get to this point, but, to your point around investing in certain areas and deciding where you’re going to invest first, second, and third, again, understanding patients was number one, which was wrapped up in delivery and making sure that we could access more patients.

Chris Jeffery:

And so that few million dollar investment in building out delivery, which we’re continuing to invest in today, that has allowed us to offer delivery to people all over the state, which, to your point, if we chose to invest really heavily in cultivation and/or processing, manufacturing, we probably wouldn’t be scale niche or statewide with delivery.

Tim Pickett:

What have been some surprises you’ve seen or things in the program over the past year that have just been interesting or not, or things you want changed?

Richard Maloney:

That’s a good question. I think having had so much experience in other markets, I think that certain advertising regulations could potentially be looked at. I’m not complaining at where it is today. I understand it’s medicine. But I do think that that’s an area that should potentially be looked at. Because I do think, at the end of the day, patients, if they’re looking to medicate with cannabis, there’s probably a lot of people out here in the streets of Salt Lake and bountiful that might want to try it but they just don’t have a clue there’s a program that exists, because they can’t find any information.

Richard Maloney:

Or they may stumble across your feel better bill boards, but there’s not too many outlets for them online or in other places to learn that there is this program that exists, and there are doctors like you that are willing to sit with them and talk about their condition that they might have. So I think that’s one area that could potentially get some loosening down the road.

Tim Pickett:

For listeners, dispensaries, medical cannabis pharmacies in Utah are not allowed to advertise. So you won’t see a billboard that says WholesomeCo medical cannabis pharmacy. You won’t see a Dragonfly medical cannabis pharmacy billboard. That’s not going to happen. Right? You don’t see a commercial. You don’t see print advertising.

Tim Pickett:

When you see Jilu, when you see that, that’s a CBD advertising. And third parties, you might see a Wholesome delivery.

Chris Jeffery:

Wholesome Direct.

Tim Pickett:

Wholesome Direct. That’s a third party, “third party”. I am a third party, utahmarijuana.org. That’s a third party. So you can see my billboards. So there’s ways to navigate that scenario, but it’s regulated and…

Chris Jeffery:

It’s not as clear, I mean, from a communications perspective. Us as a pharmacy, communicating with patients or prospective patients can be much more clear in terms of how we communicate and what we communicate if we were allowed to do it. Otherwise, you’ll see billboards for WholesomeCo which are focused on our delivery service, but you’re not going to see us talk about product offering. It’s really just promoting a delivery service, which is a third party. So it’s not a direct communication channel or way of communicating that’s very clear to the patient.

Tim Pickett:

Yeah. There isn’t that clarity of communication. That’s a good way to put it. So, what about qualifying conditions? Do you find that patients are coming in… I mean, this is interesting to me too. Do find that patients are coming in, their qualifying condition is pain, and yet they’re using it for secondary conditions? And do you get a lot of that, do you feel like, on the retail side?

Richard Maloney:

I feel like we see a little bit of it. You’ll potentially have people that come in with pain as a qualifying condition but they have diabetes or they have neuropathy pain or-

Tim Pickett:

Yeah, different-

Richard Maloney:

… there’s some type-

Tim Pickett:

… types of thing.

Richard Maloney:

… of pain rooting from somewhere, but…

Chris Jeffery:

Or it’s pain and they can’t sleep because of the pain.

Richard Maloney:

True.

Chris Jeffery:

And so it’s kind of this-

Richard Maloney:

We see a lot of that.

Chris Jeffery:

… yeah, I have pain in my shoulder, and I’m up all night because it’s painful to sleep. And so they’re actually using medical cannabis for the pain but it’s actually helping them sleep.

Tim Pickett:

So is it like a secondary diagnosis that’s not really… we’re not tracking that. There’s a lot of talk on our side. In fact, I talked to your pharmacist in charge, Kylie, and we’re trying to figure out, how do we navigate this, how do you develop products when pain is the qualifying condition but they’re using it for sleep? Do you develop a sleep product, and how do you know how much sleep product to develop? Because pain is the qualifying condition.

Tim Pickett:

You’re not really getting a true sense of what patients are using cannabis for. And this is probably something that’s for our later discussion, because the program is still small compared to, I don’t know, where do you see it going? Right? 35,000 now, I mean, what’s the projection? You guys even know?

Richard Maloney:

I feel like-

Tim Pickett:

What do you think?

Richard Maloney:

… if sleep was added as a condition this would be a whole different ballgame out here, because I talk to patients down there daily that are getting off Ambien and they can’t sleep at night for some PTSD type related condition, or they’re a veteran that’s back here from Afghanistan and…

Tim Pickett:

But they may not have PTSD as a qualifying, right? “They don’t have.”

Richard Maloney:

Right. So I’m trying to say they’ve come in for pain but they actually have PTSD or CPTSD, and they’re trying to figure out how to just get access to the medicine. So, potentially, and I hate to say this, but when they’re talking to their doctor they may actually feel more comfortable saying, “I just got back pain.”, because they’re going to walk out of there with a card, or do they really get into the nitty gritty of the true pain that they’re dealing with?

Tim Pickett:

Right. The trauma that they’re dealing with and what they really want to feel better, like using this to feel something different or to relieve symptom.

Richard Maloney:

Right. Because like depression, that’s not a qualifying-

Tim Pickett:

Yeah, not a-

Richard Maloney:

… condition.

Tim Pickett:

… qualifying condition.

Richard Maloney:

But is depression pain?

Tim Pickett:

Do you guys… are you capable of seeing a lot more patients? Is this something that, okay, we’ve maxed it out, or we’ve got a lot more room to grow?

Chris Jeffery:

Yeah, I mean, I think in a growing market, in growing business, you have to redefine yourself along the way, the same business in SOPs in how you’re set up to handle 100 patients is not the same to handle 1000 patients in a day or a week. And so you’re constantly looking at what you’re doing and how to improve upon that. Obviously, you mentioned the one year anniversary. We had lines everywhere.

Tim Pickett:

The line out the, I mean-

Chris Jeffery:

The drive through.

Tim Pickett:

The drive through was up to almost the light at some points. I mean, how do people get into Costco?

Chris Jeffery:

So, it’s funny you mention that, because when we opened the store, that was one of our concerns, is that are we going to have a line out of our parking lot into the Costco parking lot? Because that’s not going to be a good thing. Costco’s not going to appreciate that.

Tim Pickett:

That would not have been good. Wait, do you have the line circle around in front of Deseret Book?

Chris Jeffery:

Yeah, maybe.

Tim Pickett:

That’s an interesting-

Richard Maloney:

Yeah, by Office Depot-

Tim Pickett:

… spot, right?

Richard Maloney:

… into Petco.

Tim Pickett:

Oh, it’s Office Depot now. It used to be Deseret Book.

Richard Maloney:

No, there’s Deseret book there.

Chris Jeffery:

Yeah, they’re still there.

Tim Pickett:

It’s right here, right?

Chris Jeffery:

Yeah. But, yeah, that would be ironic.

Richard Maloney:

It was definitely backed up to Deseret on the anniversary.

Chris Jeffery:

But that system “broke” delivery. We had to turn off delivery. So, it’s good to see your breaking points. I constantly try to challenge the team, like where’s our breaking point, whether it’s sourcing inventory and buying too much inventory, or whether it’s getting too many deliveries in, or having a line out of your drive through that’s too long. But at least you know, okay, well, we’ve hit that breaking point, now we have to reconfigure what we’re doing to be able to handle that level of volume. So we’re doing that literally once a quarter.

Richard Maloney:

Yeah. We’ve fully outgrown the original vault spaces we’ve had. So we’ve got some things in the works that we’re working on remodeling, so, a much larger space to house all of the products that we provide patients. So, I’m very excited about that.

Tim Pickett:

Yeah. That’s your wheelhouse, right?

Richard Maloney:

Yeah. So it keeps everything clean-

Chris Jeffery:

I think it’s right through your back wall.

Richard Maloney:

… and organized. So, we’ve been patiently waiting for that to happen, because…

Tim Pickett:

I know I wanted more space and you were like yes. I remember originally you’re like, “Yes, Tim. You can have all that space all the way to the backside of the building.”

Chris Jeffery:

A month later.

Tim Pickett:

And then as a month later, you’re like, “Oh, yeah, Tim, you can’t have any more space. We need it all.”, which is good.

Richard Maloney:

Yeah. So I’m impressed with the growth that we’re seeing. And I think that we just want to continue to build the momentum. And I think Chris is really good at keeping the team here motivated at all levels of like, let’s keep going with the momentum. We’re doubling down on the things we’re doing right, and so I think that that mentality from our top leader does start to trickle into everybody else. And so you got people down here that are just pharmacy agents, but they’re invested. They’re our biggest shareholder.

Richard Maloney:

So we’re trying to just foster a mentality where everybody is willing to roll up their sleeves and do the work and nobody is greater than any job down there, whether it’s a delivery job or you’re the pharmacy agent, you’re the security guard at the front. We’re all trying to just get everybody speaking the same language and on this same mission of serving patients.

Tim Pickett:

That’s pretty cool. Is there anything else that you want to bring up, talk about?

Chris Jeffery:

Yes. So, one area that we’re investing heavily in, outside of all the other areas, is we’re building out better technology for connecting the front of our experience, which is the registration, building profile for yourself with the e-commerce layer.

Chris Jeffery:

Part of that is, Apple just announced about a month ago that they are going to allow native apps in their app store, which up until a month ago, and I remember when I was at Leafly with Richard, we fought Apple every month trying to get our app in there. They just announced month ago that licensed operators can actually surface a native app, and so we’re under development for that right now.

Chris Jeffery:

So, that will launch most likely early 2022. So, I know it’s four or five months away, but we’re really excited about that. So people can download an app, they can register, they can talk to pharmacists, they can order delivery, they can order pickup, all within one native app experience.

Tim Pickett:

Oh, that is going to be, I mean, it really is going to be a game changer for that type of thing. We’ve looked into the same thing because patients want access to, when does my card expire, I want to make sure that I’m up to date on what’s happening.

Richard Maloney:

You have a great system, by the way. I got my text message a month before it was going to expire, I got my email. Smooth communications.

Tim Pickett:

Thanks.

Richard Maloney:

Wholesome communications.

Tim Pickett:

Wholesome communications. It takes a lot of, like you guys now, I mean, like we were talking earlier with your delivery, I mean, it takes an army of people to really just navigate these little… it’s little pieces of the EVS system, it’s the little pieces of MJ. 80% of the program works fine, it works smooth, but there’s these little things that are… like you’ve got to scroll down and save-

Chris Jeffery:

The last 10% is always the har…

Tim Pickett:

… and submit people, save and submit, scroll down to the bottom of the EVS, gosh, dammit, save and submit.

Tim Pickett:

It’s about the patient, right? We all have the same goal in mind. We just want patients to be happy. We want them to feel better. We want them to use less prescription medications. We want to legitimize what we’re doing. And it is. It’s legit. Like I said in North Carolina, 49,000 people died in 2019 of opioids related deaths and zero people died of cannabis related deaths. And if we say nothing else today, that’s it.

Chris Jeffery:

Yeah. That’s right.

Tim Pickett:

This has been awesome, guys.

Richard Maloney:

Thank you.

Chris Jeffery:

We appreciate it, Tim.

Tim Pickett:

Thanks for coming back.

Chris Jeffery:

Yeah, thank you.

Tim Pickett:

Yeah, This has been fun. WholesomeCo dot…

Chris Jeffery:

Wholesome.co.

Richard Maloney:

Wholesome.co.

Tim Pickett:

Wholesome.co. Go online, register as a patient, if you’re not registered already. Try it out. Try their delivery-

Richard Maloney:

Free delivery.

Tim Pickett:

… system. Free delivery now. Load some stuff up in your cart, debit card, and, I mean, same day delivery here in the local area. You’re getting to pretty much everywhere you deliver to at least once-

Chris Jeffery:

At least once a week.

Tim Pickett:

… a week.

Chris Jeffery:

And for most of those… like Saint George we have two days a week that we’re offering delivery, so you can schedule that in advance so you come on on a Monday. If we’re delivering there on Friday you can just select your timeframe. And so, it’s a little bit different than truly on demand or same day, but there’s availability every single week for 99% of patients in Utah.

Tim Pickett:

You just need to set your Amazon day and your WholesomeCo delivery day for the same day during the week.

Chris Jeffery:

Exactly.

Tim Pickett:

You’re going to be home to sign for it, and you’ll be all set. Thanks, guys.

Richard Maloney:

Thank you.

Tim Pickett:

All right everybody. Utahmarijuana.org/podcast. You can download the podcast there. You can see summaries of the podcast. Thanks for listening. This is Tim Pickett. Stay safe out there.

 

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