September 6, 2011

Anne Holland: 5 Lessons for Dispensary Launches from the Pacifica Wellness Shut-down

By Anne Holland

In early August a new medical marjiuana dispensary opened in the town of Pacifica CA (pop 37,000).  By the end of the month, the dispensary reportedly had 300-400 registered patients.  It was also out of business — for now at least — when the town Mayor, police chief, city manager and a school district board member were awfully surprised not to see the new flower shop they were expecting when they dropped by on a casual walk around town.  Whups.

Here are our five takeaways from this story:

#1. Don’t lie on your business license:  Pacifica business license applications don’t have a category for dispensaries because there’s never been one there.  That said, it was just a little too disingenuous of Pacifica Wellness Solutions Group owner Ruben Salvatierra, to check the box “Flower store” when he applied for his license.  Why not say “Wellness” or “medical” instead?

#2. Make your signage match your official purpose: Although Salvatierra is giving quotes to the press about how his dispensary is helping cancer victims who may not be well enough to drive to the next-closest dispensary 20 miles away, it surely can’t help his case that his signage on the day the officials stopped by apparently advertised a “Monster Home Joint.”

#3. Location, location, location: 300-400 new patients in a month or less is a major score for any new small business.  Salvatierra told press he carefully researched and picked Pacifica specifically because there wasn’t any local competition.   Demographics were also in his favor, the area is fairly wealthy with an average household income of more than $89,000.

#4.  Word of Mouth & Weedmaps: If you’re putting together a marketing plan for a new dispensary, these are the only two methods Salvatierra used to get customers.  He didn’t have personal connections in the community before he opened. We’re not saying these should be your only two tactics – especially in more competitive markets — but they’re a good starting point.

#5.  PR: Once Salvatierra was shut down, he worked the local press and blogsphere to get his story out, and rev up supporters for a city hearing to be held next Monday Sept 12th.  Will it work?  We’ll let you know.

Anne Holland is publisher of Medical Marijuana Business Daily. A 20-year B2B publishing veteran, her career has taken her into content areas including media, defense, aviation, and many more. She heads up Anne Holland Ventures Inc., a B2B publishing and professional education firm whose experts create content, events, and courses that help businesses grow.

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