In the latest episode of the Cannacurio Podcast from Cannabiz Media, my co-host, Amanda Guerrero, and I discuss year-to-date dispensary and retail licenses, Oklahoma license saturation, and more. We also speak with Tyler Stratford, Director of Cannabis Operations at Monica’s House, which hosts carefully curated cannabis products and services in West Hollywood, California through its retail, onsite-consumption, extraction, and soon delivery licenses.

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Cannacurio Podcast Episode 13 Transcript

Amanda Guerrero: Thanks for joining us at the Cannacurio Podcast. We’re your hosts, Amanda Guerrero and Ed Keating. On today’s show we’re joined by Tyler Stratford, the Director of Cannabis Operations at Monica’s House.

Tyler is a long-time friend of the Cannabiz Media team, and we are so excited to have him on our show. But, as always, before we jump in with our guests, let’s see what news Ed has for us this week from the data vault. Ed.

Ed Keating: Thanks, Amanda. So we just wrapped up a blog post on dispensaries and retailers year-to-date. We try and do these every month just to give people a snapshot of how that part of the market is growing or shrinking.

And so far this year, we’ve seen 554 new licenses, and 200 of those, so at least a good 40%, are in Oklahoma. However, we’ve noticed that the rate of new licenses is on the decline. In February, 63 were issued in Oklahoma, and it was down to only 11 in May.

Amanda Guerrero: I’m just curious here. Why do you think there’s been a decline in the licenses since this last quarter?

Ed Keating: My guess, I mean, it’s been trending down quarter by quarter since late last year. I think we may be reaching a saturation point. I mean, the licenses, as we know, are not that expensive to get. $2,500 and you can get your license, but there’s only so many that the state can really handle. And with a population of only four million people, having close to 1,500 dispensaries might be enough. So we’ll have to see.

The other thing that we’re keeping an eye on is how many of last year’s licenses are renewing? And we’re trying to get a handle on that data from the state so that we can see, all right, even if they’re not issuing new licenses, are any of them falling off the back? So just something we’re keeping an eye on there because dispensaries and retailers are obviously a big focus for a lot of our customers.

Amanda Guerrero: Yeah. I think that’ll actually be the next focus for our… You said, it will be the next focus for us, but if you remember and recall a few podcasts ago, we actually wondered out loud when Oklahoma would reach the point of saturation. So I’m curious to see what the renewals will actually look like and where the state lands.

But, thank you for the update, Ed. As I mentioned, today we’ll be joined by Tyler Stratford of Monica’s House. Stay tuned.

Welcome back to the show, everybody. Today we’re joined by Tyler Stratford of Monica’s House. Monica’s house is a West Hollywood cannabis operator with a unique license. We are so happy to have you on the show today, Tyler. Welcome. How are you?

Tyler Stratford: Thanks, Amanda. Thanks, Ed. Happy to be here. I’m doing great. Actually, I think everybody’s pretty excited with the energy going on across the country, good or bad. I think it’s a time for things to change, and I think it’s going to happen both with the cannabis industry and the country as a whole. I’m excited.

Amanda Guerrero: We are so, so happy to have you on the show. You’ve been a long-time friend of the Cannabiz Media team, as well as a long-time friend of mine within the industry and a veteran in some regards. But let’s give our viewers some background. How long have you been in the cannabis industry?

Tyler Stratford: About nine-and-a-half years. It’ll actually be around 4/20 next year. That will be my 10 year mark in the industry and honestly the first time I ever tried cannabis.

Amanda Guerrero: Wow, that’s crazy. That’s insane. Almost 10 years in the industry. Tyler, that must mean that you have what, 100 years of experience? Working experience?

Tyler Stratford: Yeah, we call it dog years, right? Experience in the cannabis industry equates to dog years in experience in any other industry, for sure.

Amanda Guerrero: No kidding. But where did you work before, Tyler? Where were you prior to the industry? What were you doing?

Tyler Stratford: I was actually in the army. I served as an infantry soldier in the Honor Guard in Washington DC, First Presidential Marching Platoon. I got out in 2011, and in 2009, my parents honestly had started one of the early licenses in the medical side of Colorado. First one in Boulder and I think the seventh statewide. So that was my bridge gap from going from the military straight into cannabis, never actually having tried cannabis before in my life.

Amanda Guerrero: Wow. What a transition. And it’s a very great story that illuminates, if you guys haven’t heard or have connected with Tyler previously, I would definitely encourage you all to do so because Tyler’s story is very unique, but really helps to illuminate a lot of the ways that cannabis can benefit our veterans.

But, Tyler, we’re here to talk about Monica’s House. So, tell us a little bit about this new opportunity and what makes you guys unique.

Tyler Stratford: Happy to. I’m so excited about Monica’s House. First off, let’s start from the industry licensing side. They had a unique licensing process that the two gentlemen who founded Monica’s House, Patrick Fogarty and Jon Locarni, who happened to win a license in that competitive application process beating out big names like MedMen, for instance, who did not win in that process. And the interesting and unique thing about it is, it’s the first place where they’re really regulating the adult use and consumption of cannabis.

So we got an edible consumption lounge license. You may have heard of OG Cannabis Cafe, formerly Lowell cafe. They got a smoking consumption license. It’s likely that within the next year or so, and probably even by, with the results of November’s local ballot initiatives, that we’ll all have both smoking and edible consumption. But this is the only place really where that’s regulated. The license doesn’t actually even exist on the state level.

And in fact, what makes Monica’s House unique is a couple of things. First, we’re one of the only ones of the people granted licenses that actually have them co-located in the same space. So we will have our retail, we’ll have our edible consumption lounge, and we’ll actually have our Type 7 non-volatile extraction license going on in the same location on Santa Monica Boulevard.

If you guys know where the current MedMen location is, we’re across the street and West about 500 feet and we’ll be in the Thomas Schoos Design Studio. Honestly, that space in and of itself makes our license and our operation incredibly unique. It’s one of a kind, and he’s been curating it for 10 years.

Ed Keating: Tyler, that sounds great, and I can tell you’re very excited about the opportunity. One thing that I wanted to dig into a little bit is what you’ve been able to bring to Monica’s House because I’ve known you from your MJ Freeway and Canna Advisors day.

So that brings a compliance in operation and a consulting background, at least from my thinking. How have you been able to leverage those skills to help prepare Monica’s House for launch?

Tyler Stratford: Great question. Definitely, I’ll say with MJ Freeway, I got a lot of exposure as an implementation consultant to basically every market that existed for cannabis at the time. Through them I was able to open up a few hundred dispensaries in about 30 plus markets, including Canada, helped with some of our clients in Spain and Puerto Rico, and then was able to help open hundreds of operations across the vertical, actually, with cultivation and extraction as well.

That really just gave me an insight to how the market works as a whole so when I’m dealing with vendors, I understand their perspective. I know where they’re coming from because I’ve opened those businesses.

And actually, at Boulder Kind Care way back in the day, since we were vertically integrated we had everything except extraction, I worked a lot in cultivation. So that plus, honestly, the insight of working at a… I’ll just say in MJ Freeway I learned a lot of lessons right early on, and they’ve since changed a lot, but that gave me a lot of insight into what exactly the point of sale and inventory control companies were trying to create on the back end in the way of logic.

And that’s pervasive in all of the point of sale companies and inventory control companies that I’ve interviewed and demoed since being at Monica’s House, is they all seem to be good at different things but also to have this solid underlying logic now. And that’s not 100% of them, but that’s the most of the ones that I’ve encountered.

So, right now, picking out the systems and operating systems for our operation, it’s really given me a lot of insight to what works best for us and not necessarily what is a good and bad point of sale system.

Ed Keating: Oh, great. I mean, that’s real helpful insight that you can provide to the organization. Now, digging back into what you were talking about earlier about the licensing process. Now as I understand it, West Hollywood is the only city allowing and regulating cannabis lounges. Is that right so far?

Tyler Stratford: I believe Oakland is doing something of that sort, but it’s not in the way of issuing a license. I haven’t honestly dove into that side of it as much, but there was some talk of medical side cannabis consumption lounges in Arizona as well as Missouri, believe it or not, and they don’t even have a dispensary open yet.

Ed Keating: That’s right. That’s right. And in terms of the three licenses that Monica’s House got for dispensary, consumption, delivery, and soon to be extraction, what was that process like working with West Hollywood? Because from what I’ve read, they seem to be pretty progressive in making this happen and trying to get license holders to get established in the city with innovative concepts.

Tyler Stratford: Yeah. It seems that, and I’m not very much familiar with California in general, but it seems, and what I’ve been told is that West Hollywood is an innovator in the state and that they like to move forward with progressive policies and the ballot measures, et cetera. So it doesn’t really surprise a lot of people that West Hollywood is doing this.

But it was very, I’ll say, transparent working with them during the application process. We had direct points of contact. We could talk and ask questions about stuff after a time period, because obviously there was a lot of people applying for these licenses. So we had to wait our spot in line. But the issue seems to be that none of these license application processes are perfect and they never will be because humans are involved.

So, whether it’s Missouri or West Hollywood or Pasadena, there is scrutiny of the process afterwards. So it’s usually by, I’ll be honest, by the people who don’t get a license because the ones who win have no issue with the process. Why would they? So read into that part as much as you want.

But I’ll say it’s been really good working with the city, especially after the fact, really making sure that what we said we would do in the application we’re doing in real life. And of course during the application process, we didn’t even have to identify a physical location. So that was different in this process, as opposed to a lot of others where you have to show control of a location.

Ed Keating: Right. So, digging into the license choice, your references earlier that when it comes to these consumption facilities, it can either be smoking, vaping and ingesting, or consumption of edible products by ingestion only. Was there ever a strategic choice point to go one way or the other, or did Monica’s House know that it was always going to go down the path that it chose?

Tyler Stratford: I think there was a vision from the beginning that eventually it would settle out and everybody would have both types of consumption, and a strategy that Jon and Patrick, I believe, took from the beginning was that, “Hey, we’re not going to go,” because you could apply for both and that seemed to be a bigger hurdle. The city isn’t just going to, out of the gate, give somebody who’s untested both of those licenses. And I don’t believe they did.

So it seemed to us to be easier to get an edible and retail license and then focus on co-locating them and then establishing ourselves in the market, proving to the city of West Hollywood that we could abide by their rules. And then of course, we just, to be honest, there’s a ballot measure that qualified for November that does just that. It does a lot of other things that I don’t like, but-

Ed Keating: Great.

Tyler Stratford: … it does that.

Ed Keating: Yeah. And some of the other interesting things I saw in looking through the applications themselves are that there should be no on-site sales of alcohol or tobacco and no on-site consumption of either of those products. Did that surprise you, or do you think that’s really standard with these kinds of facilities where they just don’t want to get all that mixed together?

Tyler Stratford: I’d say to use an army term, they’re probably going to crawl, then walk, then run into the adult use and consumption here in the city. I believe that that, again, is something that’s going to be changing. I think that as people, the populace, people who are consuming cannabis and alcohol become more educated about their own ingestion limits of each and both combined, that it will be something that doesn’t rest so much on the owner of the consumption lounge to really monitor. And, for instance, we currently need to have emergency protocols in for if something goes wrong, right? Just like a bar.

Ed Keating: Well, I was going to say, and similarly, one of the last things that really caught my eye and here I’m really interested in your operation’s perspective is it said that cannabis consumption areas have to provide law enforcement and all neighbors within a hundred feet of the business, the name and phone number of an on-site community relations employee in case there are any problems with the establishment. How do you think that’s going to work?

Tyler Stratford: I actually like that they enforce this because it’s been a best practice of mine for a long time in the form of community engagement. If you’re a dispensary and you’re moving into an area, get to know your neighbors.

Just like if you’re moving into a house and you want to get to know your neighbors, you don’t want them to call the cops first. To be blunt, you don’t want them to call the cops first, you want them to call you. You want them to fix an issue on your level, a little discrepancy, before decide to involve the police. Because, let’s face it, they got better things to do.

And this is something that if we can handle it between us and our neighbors, that they honestly don’t need to get involved. In West Hollywood, we’re actually required to have a roving guard that covers the neighborhood, so that’s something we’re also having to do. That’s another good thing, I think, in the form of community engagement and interaction is really just monitoring the surrounding area.

Ed Keating: Yep. No, that definitely makes sense. Now, one question I was curious about is, looking back, what about consumption licenses in other states? We know California has been at the forefront and I think I’ve heard inklings of this in Denver and planned, I believe, in Illinois and Massachusetts. But what’s your perspective looking back on the consulting side of your background and also what you’ve learned in the Monica’s House experience?

Tyler Stratford: Yeah. Actually I forgot to mention Denver before, but Colorado actually passed a measure that allows for consumption lounges of three different types, but it’s really based on community approval. So as a perspective, them, Colorado doing it the way that they’re doing as a state, as a whole allowing it, but making sure the local community has a buy-in, I like that method. That’s like if you have dry counties in some states where they don’t sell alcohol. It’s basically the most local communal buy-in.

And what we’re seeing in other states is people just testing the envelope. So in Missouri, I believe it’s in Springfield, there’s a consumption lounge that’s “medical,” and they’re very rudimentary. But they’re seeing what Missouri’s allowing them to get away with because quite frankly, there’s not really regulations around lounges.

They talk about not being allowed to consume on-site at the retail space or of course at any of the production or cultivation spaces. But I see it as something that it’s going to be a lot less regulated. I mean, honestly, it’ll be probably more in the form of consumption lounges, not so much attached to retail, much like we have bars that aren’t necessarily able to give me a 30-pack to take away with myself.

So I think it’ll shape much more in that way, but honestly, I think a lot more states are going to start bringing it online. I mean, I remember back in the day in Alaska doing a thing at the MJ Freeway and going to a consumption lounge that they had currently in operation back even just as they passed recreational, it was still a medical lounge, but-

Ed Keating: Sort of bringing it all back together. I’m curious for Monica’s House, and they managed to get those West Hollywood licenses in what sounded to be a very competitive environment up against some big, well-known names. What’s the pathway for state licenses because, obviously, there’s a rather robust licensing scheme in California?

Tyler Stratford: Yeah. Like I’ve said before, it’s basically like a rubber stamp process. We’ll say that if we have the local approval and West Hollywood signs off on it and everything like that, the BCC at the state level is likely going to say, “Hey, great, you’re good with the local entities. Good. Because their regulations and restrictions exceed ours.”

Basically is what typically happens is if there’s local regulations they exceed that of the state, so if the state actually checks in with the city and says, “Hey, they’re following all your rules, great. Well then they’re definitely following ours. Here’s their state level license.”

And for us it’s been a matter of, the city was, Hollywood requires you to have a public hearing basically with access to the public so they can… or city council members where they can ask questions about your application and things like that. So we’ve gotten through that stage of it for all except our delivery, which was actually delayed because of COVID.

So that’s the path forward, is really, once we get our last hearing with the city of West Hollywood for our delivery license, we’ll be able to push that through on the state level. And then there’s actually, if you’re a veteran and live in California, then you get precedent. So you can benefit there just by being a vet. They actually will move your paper up the line or your application up the line.

But once we get that, it’s about three months of construction on our retail consumption lounge side. And then to be honest, I’m thinking we’ll probably be open sometime in October, November.

Amanda Guerrero: Wow, fingers crossed. Fingers crossed, Tyler. That sounds like you guys have a lot of work ahead of you and hopefully no more COVID-19 delays. But I wanted to bring it back to your previous experiences in the industry. We’ve touched on you working at MJ Freeway and having experience at Canna Advisors, and it was during those times that you utilized our platform. So I was just wondering, what are some of the ways that you use Cannabiz Media and…

Tyler Stratford: First off, when I was at MJ Freeway, back when they were MJ Freeway, they used it basically to get all of the information on these emerging markets where they were issued licenses at the state level. Contact information, location information, and that’s really important when you’re trying to capture our market as an ancillary company in general. So, really, from that perspective as just an ancillary company, that was the most beneficial resource I could have had at the time that existed really nowhere else.

At Canna Advisors, it was kind of the same thing. We wouldn’t utilize it to initially help people get licenses in a state, but being co-invested in the success of those licensees, at Canna Advisors, we helped them get the competitive license. It allowed us to use the network in that state to help them get branding deals or just, honestly, production and packaging deals.

Let’s say that one of our clients had only gotten a dispensary license. Well, for sure, they wanted to connect with people who had gotten licenses on the cultivation and extraction infusion side. That was absolutely paramount when you’re getting up and operating in a state is to have a unified front with all the other licensees.

We also used it, and it’s funny you guys mentioned Oklahoma, because when that was an emerging market, and like you said, it’s likely becoming saturated now, we utilized it for our operational consulting services. They didn’t have much of an application process, so we didn’t see them as having necessarily a lot of experience in cannabis to get it up and running because there wasn’t many requirements besides being a state resident for two years and having a pulse and paying $2,500, pretty much.

So, it really helped us get into that network down there and contact the people who were trying to start it from the grassroots in Oklahoma and who really need people like Canna Advisors who had success in other markets with their clients to really expand their network and expand their footprint and decide what their market share was, because as Oklahoma becomes more saturated, the market share decreases with every license that’s added.

So we used Cannabiz Media’s email marketing campaign platform basically, and it really got us an incredible amount of hits being able to push some of that information to our CRM like Zoho and whatnot, was really useful and it really helped our marketing team and our sales team connect on what message and what market we were attacking at what time.

Amanda Guerrero: Wow. I mean, it sounds like you’ve been able to not only utilize the platform for your own personal game, but it’s also helped your former clients in the past. And that’s great. I love that. Now, are there any tips or tricks that you’d like to share with our audience?

Tyler Stratford: Yeah. I’m currently using Cannabiz Media in Missouri because Monica’s House also got dispensary licenses and production licenses in Missouri. So just like I said, good for a new emerging market and basically expanding your network there.

That’s why I’m using it in Missouri, and the tricks and tips that I guess I would share with you guys is, Cannabiz Media has an incredible filtering and basically things you can whittle down to exactly what license you want to see. What kind of point of sale they’re using, where they’re located, you filter by zip code, talk about licensed type.

Maybe that somebody for us, for instance, that I want to connect with in California, who I found out also has a license in Missouri. There’s a lot of conglomeration of basically seeing who was connected to what licenses in a multi-state. So that really helps us at Monica’s House when we’re using Cannabiz Media. And the same thing for Canna Advisors.

So, save those lists that you filter down to because you’ll have a limited number of them, but they’re really strong. And then build your email marketing campaign from those really refined lists, and you’ll get your target audience.

Amanda Guerrero: I love it. That’s great, Tyler. I’m also a fan of our filtering. It facets within the platform as well and I’m so glad that it’s helping you out in connecting you to other businesses across the country. It’s important for our community to stay connected during this time.

But thank you so much for joining us today, Tyler. It was such a pleasure speaking with you and learning more about what you’re doing here at Monica’s House, and we look forward to hopefully seeing [crosstalk 00:24:35]

Tyler Stratford: On our shoulders to progress this industry correctly and this failed war on the drugs. And, yeah, happy to be a part of it with you guys. Miss you and I’ll be seeing you soon.

Amanda Guerrero: Thanks, Tyler. Ah, Ed, what a great interview. I love catching up with old friends. But, looking ahead, do you have any updates for us on the data and licenses we can look forward to from the data vault?

Ed Keating: Yeah. There’s three things that are taking up our time this week. One, I’ve been talking about a lot, more hemp dates coming in from some of the states and from our researchers as we work through new information that we’ve been able to get.

Next week’s Cannacurio blog post will be about cultivation licenses, so just like this one, about which states issue licenses for dispensaries and retailers. The next one will focus on cultivation licenses so we can see where there might have been growth there.

And then finally, I’m finishing up a white paper on all the companies that connect through METRC and Leaf Data, at least in Washington, and how many licenses those companies are able to connect with. So it’s just an interesting review of some of the more technology-enabled companies and what states they’ve chosen to operate in and how many licenses they may have the opportunity to sell to. So, excited to get that one across the finish line.

Amanda Guerrero: Sounds like you and the team are going to be some busy bees over the next week. I’m very much looking forward to the white paper as well as the hemp updates. We’ve got a partnership going with the National Hemp Association through our Trade Association Partnership program, and we’re definitely looking forward to sharing that with you guys as well.

Thank you everyone for joining us on today’s podcast. We’re your hosts, Amanda Guerrero and Ed Keating. Stay tuned for more updates from the data vault.