ADU is located in the Bell Canyon Pavilions strip mall just off the I-17, and bills itself as "the most comprehensive school of it's [sic] kind in America!" The class we took, "Initiative 101," began with a bad joke and a disclaimer from ADU founder and instructor Allan Sobol, operations manager of Marijuana Marketing Strategies, LLC.
First, Sobol, dressed in a white lab coat, pulled out what was obviously a big, fat fake joint and said he'd pass it around to relax everybody before we began. He asked for a lighter, which no one offered, then laughed and said we'd passed our first test. Then he said most of what we'd hear during the three-hour class was based on fact, but some of it was hearsay and speculation.
Sobol told us he was a marketing analyst and consultant, a paralegal, a private investigator, and has more than 40 years of experience in business management. We're not sure if that was based on fact or hearsay, but we will say the man knows how to make a buck.
There were more than 30 people in our class, all crammed together on metal folding chairs in a small room, and with one exception (we media), each person paid $100 to be there. That's $3000 for one class. ADU holds mostly sold-out classes twice per day, an average of four days a week. Cha-ching!
For the first hour of class, Sobol discussed the history of Marijuana Marketing Strategies and explained that Arizona Dispensary University is focused on "the beauty and magic of marketing." He explained that he doesn't own the "prototype dispensary" (MMDAZ) in which ADU holds classes, and that "We are not in any way affiliated with the Department of Health," which we believe because he kept referring to AZDHS director Will Humble as "Bill Humble." He talked about upcoming classes at ADU, and made a quick plug for his Arizona Association of Dispensary Professionals.
The second hour, Sobol talked about the history of medical marijuana initiatives in Arizona (Google it for free), and referred to the Voter Protection Act of 1998 as the "Voter's Rights Act." He also discussed how potential patients and dispensary owners can get cards and licenses (again, the most current information from ADHS is public).
The third and final hour is when it got most informative, as Sobol talked about establishing and contracting with grow facilities, drawing up professional business plans for dispensaries, projected operational expenses, and marketing strategies. He recommended attorneys and accountants.
Finally, Sobol announced that future ADU classes would include lessons on the application process. Included in the $250 class fee is a financial plan, and a 20-page business plan people can modify and submit with their applications.
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We should point out -- just as Sobol legally had to - that neither he nor ADU have any kind of insider access to getting a patient or dispensary application approved. They're simply providing information (along with heavy doses of speculation) and offering advice. Attending a class at ADU doesn't guarantee anything for anyone -- except a nice fat profit for Sobol and co.
But at least he's honest about it. Early in the class, Sobol came right out and said it:
"I'm not afraid to tell you this [ADU] is a for-profit business, and I hope to make a lot of money."
Something tells us his hopes won't be easily dashed.