Even as demand for cannabis surges, the coronavirus pandemic has proved a reckoning for many companies in the business. But medical cannabis company Trulieve has managed to perform under pressure — something CEO Kim Rivers attributes in part to a dogged focus on its home market of Florida.
"For us, it was about really focusing on building a brand; focusing on winning customers and loyal and repeat business from those customers; and, again, expanding in a thoughtful and intentional way," Rivers told Cheddar. "Folks were kind of enamored with the thought of being in as many locations at one time, but that can lead to very inefficient business practices."
As its contemporaries have shuttered operations, canceled deals, and filed for bankruptcy — or the U.S. equivalent — amid a year full of challenges exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, Florida-based Trulieve has continued to grow. The company opened its 55th dispensary in Tarpon Springs, Florida on Thursday — its 53rd location in the Sunshine State — as well as touting a hiring spree when it reported earnings back in May. At the time the company said it had filled 500 positions since mid-March and was looking to onboard some 300 more employees, according to Green Market Report.
Even so, navigating the pandemic has not been easy, Rivers said. Trulieve had to drastically pivot the nature of its business to accommodate pandemic-related restrictions. Pre-pandemic, Rivers said about 80 percent of business came from walk-in customers. After the onset of the pandemic, that fell to about 10 to 15 percent with the remaining business coming from pickup and delivery.
"We saw a dramatic shift in our business pretty early on," she said
"We had to double our fleet of cars. So we went from 100 vehicles to 200 vehicles pretty much overnight. We deliver next-day across the state of Florida. In addition, rolling out technology platforms to make transactions as contactless as possible," she later added.
In spite of the challenges, the pandemic hasn't been all bad for cannabis. Demand has proven remarkably robust — except in markets that rely heavily on tourism — and medical markets like Florida have only gathered steam, Marijuana Business Daily reported.
Promising revenue forecasts placing the global market's potential at $42.7 billion by 2024, according to marketing research firm BDSA, have some revenue-starved state governments, like New York and Pennsylvania, eyeing legalization as a means of injecting some much-needed cash back into the economy.
Rivers likened the trend to the end of Prohibition, which coincided with the Great Depression.
"There are a lot of parallels with the cannabis industry today. Similarly, we have a prohibited substance that we know can not only bring folks and help the economy but also of course bring relief to people in a medical sense. So I think it really is a win-win," Rivers said.
Activists have been pushing to legalize adult-use cannabis in Florida for years, but the two petitions to get it on the 2020 ballot fell short of signatures in late 2019.
Rivers said it "remains to be seen" whether potential tax revenue will be a consideration in legalization talks next year.