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Coronavirus Lockdown Gives Cannabis Delivery Company a Surge That May Last

Rodrigo Ramirez, budtender and driver for The Holistic Center, with bags of orders packed up and ready for delivery.EXPAND
Rodrigo Ramirez, budtender and driver for The Holistic Center, with bags of orders packed up and ready for delivery.
Josh Giles/Holistic Center

Before the state went on lockdown, cannabis delivery was almost an afterthought in the cannabis industry. But now it’s an important part of dispensary operations, and some expect the boost it’s received from coronavirus containment to be long-lasting

Arizona’s own homebred cannabis delivery company Supurb’s active user count “skyrocketed” from 9,500 in February to 37,000 in March, said CEO Jonathan Ghiz. He added that transactions through Supurb increased from 9 to 12 percent to 25 to 35 percent at partner dispensaries.

“I’ve learned more in a month about where this company needs to go to be successful, for the customers, for the dispensaries, than I have in years working in this space,” Ghiz said.

Unlike California, where the state authorized more than 100 licensed delivery businesses, or Washington, D.C., where you can only get recreational cannabis through delivery, Arizona medical marijuana delivery services depend on each individual dispensary.

Any employee that delivers cannabis must have a dispensary agent certification issued by the Arizona Department of Health Services, which costs $500 per person per dispensary. While the industry has found ways to twist, skirt, or ignore other regulations, no delivery company has its own set of drivers.

That has left dispensaries pretty much on their own when it comes to the logistics of online ordering, hiring drivers, and adhering to transaction regulations.

Companies like Leafly and Grassp, a multistate service out of California, can help provide the online infrastructure for deliveries, but their role stops there.

“It’s like Postmates for weed,” Ghiz said.

Ghiz launched Supurb in 2016 with his fraternity brother from the University of Arizona, Justin Schudel, the
company's chief operating officer.

The service has an online portal where patients can shop for cannabis from 13 dispensaries like Oasis, Health for Life, and The Holistic Center. Some clients have expanded the service to other locations in the past month.
Patients can schedule a delivery or have their order come immediately and receive constant text message updates on the status of their delivery. The idea is to maintain retail experience expectations, said Josh Giles, the Holistic Center's general manager.

The Holistic Center has hired three drivers in the past month, bringing its total to five — nearly 20 percent of their staff. Their drivers wear gloves and masks, and carry hand sanitizer.

When the dispensary first signed up with Supurb in October 2019, the store would usually go on 30 to 40 deliveries per day, Giles said. Now they do up to 90.

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The Holistic Center, located at 21035 North Cave Creek Road, has adopted the practices of many dispensaries, such as only allowing patients into the waiting room to limit interpersonal contact. After checking in, patients return to their car and receive a text message when their order is ready.

Some patients who have ordered delivery appear to be fully quarantined, Giles said, wearing protective equipment such as face shields. Sometimes, the cannabis delivery person may be the only person a customer encounters all day.

Deliveries long have been an important option for the dispensary and its patients, according to Giles. Since lockdown, it has become many patients' preferred method, and may stay that way.

“Time is money to people,” he said. “They don’t want go to a dispensary and wait there for 20 to 30 minutes when they could be at home getting it delivered.”

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