Leaf Nation Logo

​​The Ups and Downs of Cross-Country Cannabis

For MSOs, what hits in one state usually won't be as effective in the next, but quality rules over everything.

Photo Courtesy of Adobe Stock

Do they love RS11 out in Colorado as much as they do in California? Is Grape Gas what they’re rolling up in Arizona, and does New York still love smoking Diesel? These are the kinds of questions you have to ask yourself when you’re a multi-state brand in the Cannabis sphere. Whether it’s expansion through a licensing deal or the creation of a new cultivation site, bringing a company up to this level gives someone a unique perspective about what consumers are smoking from coast to coast – something that’s becoming increasingly more valuable as a Gallup news poll reported in 2023 that now half of Americans have at least tried Cannabis. In honor of The Flower Issue, and hitting the halfway mark, we reached out to Anna Willey from CAM, Dave Polley from Preferred Gardens, and Ted Lidie from Alien Labs to get their take on creating weed for stoners across the country.

There’s no quick answer on how you build a menu for diners with different palates, but one thing each person we spoke to mentioned was having faith in the foundation they’ve built – particularly forging their path in California’s challenging Cannabis market. Polley admitted that, “Being in California for over a decade comes with a form of respect. I’d have to say it’s a faster track when you’ve done it the hard way for so long and been successful.” The ability to rely on track record is something Lidie also asserts has been one of the most valuable parts about swinging into a new market. “We’re an established brand, so people are excited to see us come to town,” he told us. Being a name that maintains their own operations in Arizona, and operates in Florida through Trulieve, he mentioned how the strains they’ve developed over their decade-long history have helped introduce them to consumers in new states before they even get there – primarily by having so much user-generated content available to describe Alien Labs products. And as for Willey – who has already moved her brand once from Colorado to California before now being in multiple states – she says, “You have to trust in what you’ve built in one state, take your staple strains, and hope folks in a new one will like it.”

In the end, when it comes to what’s easy about serving stoners across state lines, Polley summed it up best: “There’s nothing easy about it.” You might assume a strain’s popularity moves like fish along a current from the Pacific towards the Atlantic, but it’s a much more unpredictable process. Something that flies off shelves in California or Arizona might attract flies in Michigan or Florida. Lidie mentioned again how they’ve mitigated much of this through brand recognition of the strains they offer, but there are a host of unforeseen rules and regulations that pop up – forcing brands to rename strains, redevelop packaging, or even change cultivation methods completely in order to comply. Polley shared how Preferred Gardens has turned down big opportunities because partners weren’t able to get cultivation setups to Polley’s strict standards for product quality. Founded in California back in 2015, Preferred Gardens has put in the work – expanding into Florida through a partnership with The Flowery and projects already underway in Arizona and New York. One interesting issue Lidie pointed out was how, coming from California, there’s a lot we take for granted (such as how much of an educated trimmer community there is on the West Coast). Still, no matter how it’s grown or trimmed, the one constant seems to always be that it has to be good. As Willey, the largest female Cannabis producer in the country told us, “What hits in one state usually won’t be as effective in the next, but quality rules over everything.” 

Along with the issue of educating consumers with such a wide degree of knowledge about Cannabis from state-to-state, each shared how the one hurdle you might never consider is how quickly quality control becomes a much bigger situation than you bargained for. “I’m very hands-on,” Polley said, “so every batch needs to be smoke-tested by me and the crew. That might sound fun and easy to most people, but to be honest it gets overwhelming – even for the most decorated smokers.” Lidie, who also strives to check every batch that Alien Labs puts out, stated, “It’s a lot of work that on the surface, just looks like smoking weed – but I feel like quality control is a big part of how we hold ourselves accountable for what the work looks like and your personal standards are a big part of what drives your brand.” 

These rigorous personal standards are not only something each of these individuals highlighted as part of their recipe for staying on course in new waters, it’s also what can take the longest in terms of delivering the same experience to new smokers. This point was further echoed by Marc Hammond, who along with his brother Scott, operate Kalya Extracts in California and Oregon. Being a hash-making company, they not only have to look at flower trends from state to state, but also at which producers are creating the best material. They said the hardest part they’ve seen about a brand branching into new territory is the time it takes to rev up to the same level it was known for at home. 

To echo Polley’s statement from earlier, there really doesn’t seem to be anything easy about serving a national stoner audience. But speaking to these individuals, a very important point was made: Take the time to understand the regional differences and develop the product, so it’s a top shelf example of Cannabis in that state – instead of holding it against your work in another state. Each has different rules to live by, but both need to be reflections of a brand standard. After all, regardless of what you light in your bowl, we might have differences from state to state but one thing is clear: We all want good weed … or at least half of us do.

camdispensary.com | preferredgardens.com

This article was originally published in the March 2024 issue of All Magazines.

View our archive on issuu.

Are you 21 or older? This website requires you to be 21 years of age or older. Please verify your age to view the content, or click "Exit" to leave.