Strategies that helped marijuana companies thrive in 2020

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Christopher and Denise Mink

Christopher and Denise Mink, owners of Med Pharm in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, advertise their dispensary on several local billboards, including this electronic sign, which they can program with custom messages. (Photo by Sean Capshaw)

(This story is part of the cover package for the November-December issue of Marijuana Business Magazine.)

Let’s face it: 2020 has been brutal.

A global pandemic.

An economic recession.

And a hyper-partisan presidential election.

Even for the cannabis industry—with its history of federal raids, draconian regulations, counterfeiters and more—2020 posed challenges like no other.

Most of the trials from the past year are attributable to the coronavirus pandemic and the lethal threat it posed to cannabis industry employees and consumers.

Beyond that, executives saw supply chains from China snap almost overnight, stalling deliveries of vape parts and packaging.

Meanwhile, governments in many markets mandated that cannabis retailers end in-store sales, forcing them to pivot to delivery and curbside pickup.

Not everybody could hack it.

Making the cut

Coming off a difficult 2019 that included a vaping health crisis and a retreat among cannabis investors, 2020 delivered an additional punch that broadsided many companies, from multistate operators that went bankrupt or laid off scores of workers to small businesses that were forced to sell their licenses.

“Throughout this, we’re adapting. We don’t know how long it’s going to go on. Years? A month? We don’t know,” said Brandon Rexroad, CEO of Portland, Oregon-based MSO Shango Premium Cannabis, which does extensive business in Las Vegas. “But you don’t want to be the guy who’s waiting. There were some retailers in Vegas that just shut their doors.”

Many marijuana businesses embraced the challenges that 2020 threw at them and found they could not only survive the year but thrive.

Marijuana Business Magazine has scoured a variety of data sources and business indicators to bring readers insightful tables showing which publicly traded companies excelled this year, which ones didn’t and why.

We also identified eight smaller companies that survived and often thrived in 2020. These aren’t necessarily the biggest, best or most profitable cannabis companies in the United States—coming up with a short, definitive list would be nearly impossible. But the companies highlighted in these pages demonstrated what it takes to succeed.

Key measures and yardsticks included:

  • Top sales positions in various states, according to data from Seattle-based cannabis analytics firm Headset and LeafLink, a New York-based marijuana industry wholesale inventory and ordering platform.
  • The number of new patients or customers added by companies.
  • Unusual and/or innovative strategies that allowed companies to rebound from adversity.

Some other keys to success included smart inventory management, aggressive discounting, crafty marketing, product variety, data gathering and analysis as well as increasing self-reliance.

The stories and data in this package are intended to offer insight and inspiration for marijuana businesses dealing with adversity in the years to come.

Click on the links below to learn more about these companies’ strategies to survive, and thrive, in hard times: