Whether it's a pre-roll in a pop top, flower in a barrier bag, or shatter in a concentrate container, the packaging for Arizona medical marijuana products must come from somewhere, and most of the time that somewhere is Dizpot.
Even though Arizona’s cannabis is grown within state borders, its market is global. Certain pieces of the industry rely on equipment and services from around the world.
CEO John Hartsell started Dizpot (pronounced dihz-po) in Phoenix, but now has worked in nearly every legal cannabis market, including Canada and Mexico. The company has warehouses in Oklahoma and Missouri and an office in Shenzhen, China.
Hartsell works with manufacturers in Mexico, Italy, Vietnam, and Pakistan, but domestic manufacturers make up 20 percent of Dizpot's products. While it may seem a mundane business to some, Hartsell says the company takes pride in its work.
“We’d rather wrap the cartridge in beautiful packaging that catches the consumer’s eye,” he said.
A little more than half the medical cannabis packaging in Arizona comes from Dizpot, according to Hartsell. The company ships 5 to 7 million packages a month in addition to design and branding. One of its slogans is that it's a “one-stop shop” for dispensaries' packaging needs.
Dizpot is one of several companies that provides packaging across the country; others include Cannaline, Kush Bottles, and the aptly named Marijuana Packaging.
While most states have allowed dispensaries to stay open during lockdown orders, businesses that act as in-betweens with the rest of the economy feel the economic pullback a little more acutely.
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Shipping has become less predictable, Hartsell said.
“The last thing a business owner or a buyer wants in their world is unpredictability,” Hartsell said. “You want to spend your money at the last possible moment and get your returns as quick as possible.”
Due to shortages in some types of common cannabis packaging, Dizpot and its competitors have been working together to make sure the industry stays supplied, selling their stock at wholesale prices.
The biggest shortage has been the popular, plastic pop-top holders that pre-rolls usually come in, 90 percent of which are made in China, according to Hartsell.
The shortage hasn’t been due to decreased manufacturing so much as it has to China’s extension of the Chinese New Year festivities this year to as late as February 9 in some cities, which left some shipments in ports, he said, adding that Dizpot’s pop tops ought to arrive sometime this week.
A couple of domestic manufacturers are in the process of “tooling up” to produce pop tops at competitive prices, he said. Obtaining glass jars for concentrates and “no smell” baggies, on the other hand, hasn't been any trouble.
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During the Marijuana Industry Trade Association’s April meeting, Hartsell said the cannabis industry is “built to handle emergencies.”
“Every day is a crisis, right?” he said.
Since its inception, the industry constantly has been harried by “political influence and people with personal agendas,” Hartsell said. Dizpot doesn’t escape banking scrutiny, since it’s no secret where the money comes from — people who the feds consider narcotics dealers.
“The people in this industry are trained and groomed to handle the most adverse business conditions,” he said. “We’re built to handle it and can really empathize with what everyone else is going through. And that is an important part of our industry — being good neighbors.”