To put it bluntly, many Arizona medical marijuana patients felt slighted – or, at least, slightly less special – after recreational marijuana sales kicked off in the state on January 22. Lines at dispensaries wound around the buildings, product became extremely scarce, and prices went up all over the Valley. More than three months later, patients are still complaining, especially about limited product options at their longtime dispensaries.
Not so much at Oasis Cannabis, though. The local three-dispensary chain maintains its focus on medical marijuana patients, offering express pickup for online orders, patient-only specials, and a larger variety of products to medical cardholders than what’s on the recreational menu. Despite not having its own grow operation until recently (the first harvest is due in June) and demand being "at least two to three times what it was this time last year," according to marketing manager Anders Mintz, Oasis’ locations have never run out of weed for patients and continue to offer a lengthy list of strains.
"We were struggling to find enough flower, but we still maintained at least 15 to 20 different strains on our shelf," Mintz says. "We never really dropped to where some of the other dispensaries were, where someone [would be] walking into a dispensary in January or February and they had like five strains on the shelf. Or even less. It was crazy.”
Simply prioritizing patients over rec customers, Mintz says, has helped Oasis’ dispensaries stand out from the competition in a growing market. And it’s kept cash flow healthy as the company navigates the balance between the new recreational buyer base and the needs of medical cardholders.
“Patients are the people that built our business. Those are those most loyal customers, the heaviest spenders. Going into a recreational market, those were pretty much all brand-new customers for us,” Mintz says. “We didn’t want to lose that foundation of customers in the medical market because that’s really how we got where we are today.”
Founded in 2016 by brother-and-sister entrepreneurs Rami and Maha Sweis, Oasis Cannabis expanded from its south Chandler flagship location to a north Chandler location in 2018, then into a Glendale outpost in mid-2020. The dispensaries were acquired by New York-based Ayr Wellness as part of a $75 million deal that was completed earlier this year. The three Phoenix Oasis locations are now part of a four-state, 45-dispensary operation under the Ayr umbrella.
But Mintz says everyone is staying in place in Arizona, and that Oasis’ new owners see the value in the existing patient-focused business model. The Sweis family is still heavily involved in operations, too.
"All of the Sweis family, even their father who in his 70s now, are doing anything that needs to be done around there," he says. "Ayr is a different kind of company, and they approach buyouts differently. They have no plans of sweeping house or turning over all the employees or anything like that. They really like what we’re doing. They only really invest in cashflow-positive businesses. They bought us out, and they’re here to provide additional resources so that we can all take the business to that next level.”
Part of the “next level” for Oasis has been introducing its internal brands, which include a concentrate called HAZE Cannabis, a cartridge brand called Lit, a CBD line called Dr. Joy’s Essentials, and bud that will come from its 13,000-square-foot cultivation site in north Chandler.
What won’t change, Mintz insists, is Oasis’ identity as a patient-first kind of business.
"We’ve always kind of prided ourselves on having a medical focus at the dispensaries, and we try to carry organic and sustainable products," he says. "We’ve tailored our entire business to making sure the medical customers are getting the best possible experience. We wanted to make sure that even though with recreational starting and ... the longer wait times or less product for that little bit, that we didn’t lose those medical customers, because ultimately, that’s the strongest word of mouth.”
The medical aesthetic extends to the interior design of the Oasis dispensaries, which is subdued compared to the neon-sign and pot-leaf-motifs of many other cannabis-based businesses. Walls are painted placid blue and the ceiling is adorned with New Age and nature decor elements like tree branches and crystals hanging from strings. Oasis continues to observe COVID-19 safety protocols. Everyone wears masks, stays six feet apart, and can avail themselves of numerous hand sanitizer stations. There’s not always music playing, so sometimes the sound of voices reaches a din during peak hours.
“It doesn’t smell like nag champa, like when you walk in a smoke shop or something,” Mintz says. “I actually just pulled up our last few reviews, and the comments are like, ‘It’s a really clean facility,’ ‘Very helpful staff’… it’s all really good. Our customers really do a good job of exemplifying the things we try to promote, like cleanliness, efficiency, and quality. If that’s showing in the reviews, then we gotta be doing something right.”