Leon worked in one of the first dispensaries near the Phoenix-Tempe border. He tells me, “I worked there and compliance was always taught as the number one rule.” Leon worked in the inventory which was a very small room behind a wall of drawers used to stock inventory for the sales floor. His job was simple, learn everything he can to assist the inventory manager and assistant manager, as well as roll between 700 to 2500 pre-rolls per week. “I became very proficient in my job in a time before rolling machine using a thumper became commonplace. Mastering pre-rolls allowed me to learn about other aspects of inventory. The education I received is priceless, but the highlight of everything was I learned what it takes to intake a pound.” The state of Arizona requires strong records and tracking for all cannabis or cannabis products down to the gram. State audits occur and will inquire if you have issues with your inventory and reconciliations.
Normally, when a dispensary sources in a pound from a cultivation, it goes through a process to intake it to their system. This process has checks and balances to hold accountability as well as maintain the strict laws enacted by the state of Arizona. Leon explains “It takes a few things, a DA (dispensary agent) card for the transfer, an ATO (Authority to Operate) license for the cultivation, and working knowledge of your POS tracking system to enter the weight into the dispensary system. Without these components, intaking weed from any other source becomes more complicated but not impossible. Our inventory was very high functioning, so from time to time, we ran out of weed and broke the law to get more.” At the time, there weren’t many cultivations fully operational with extra cannabis on hand if an emergency came up for a dispensary. This limited supply was made even more complicated when business also involved payment terms that might range from a 7 to 14-day consignment. Leon says “If there was nowhere that had extra weight for sale, or you ran out of weed without paying off your terms, you were in trouble.”
A Monday afternoon at the dispensary, and inventory was tracking that on hand cannabis flower was low. A call from the inventory manager to the general manager and primary ownership was made to request more. Ownership handled all purchasing of bulk flower at the time, and the general manager controlled the sales involving the product. Ownership immediately began searching for more cannabis flower, while the general manager made a decision to have a flash sale that Wednesday. The result was the dispensary blowing through a majority of its sales floor stock, with the inventory packaging the remaining backstock. This is a situation that might cause these sorts of problems for dispensaries which leaves patients with two or three options for flower at times. Leon says “Ownership called when they saw the menus posted online. All the managers were walking on eggshells after a severe reprimanding from ownership. It was a rough Thursday but by Friday the vibe had shifted to something more optimistic. Security had shown up to inform the dispensary that the owner was on his way with an intake.” Two of the main security guards showed up with the head of security and owner driving a van in not long after.
The guards each carrying the largest blue totes used for moving were brought into the inventory vault by their lead and the owner. Leon tells me the owner smiling ear to ear declared that “the drought was over ” and that this intake was for eighty pounds. He tells me “the inventory manager was shocked at the amount but also relieved that we had flower to package.” He walked with the owner back to the van while asking about the paperwork while the assistant manager and I opened the totes to look at the intake.” In each tote were 40 lbs. of some of the most amazing weed, it had everything you could want, looks, smell, frost, and effects. “We were floored, I had not seen anything this good looking ever, but it was a short lived high. The inventory manager had returned, and he did so without any paperwork from ownership, he only had a big frown.” Leon said. The inventory rallied and on the command of ownership had a plan to intake the cannabis. Ownership had a former cultivator card on file, but the cultivator hadn’t been active in six months despite his card still being valid. Leon tells me, “The inventory manager used this former cultivator card on the intake, and pushed it through his system. These systems don’t communicate with each other, and it’s up to the state to track what goes where. If they didn’t follow up on the trip manifest, or investigate how he logged the weight with the info he used, it wouldn’t be seen.”
The intake was completed, and the inventory began processing the pounds into eighths and grams. The end of that Friday had record sales, and Leon recounts the budtenders selling two pounds of one strain in an hour. Leon tells me that “the inventory manager confronted the owner in front of staff about the intake. Ownership tried to brush him off until a reminder of the consequences was mentioned for the use of an inactive DA card. It was a reminder that caused the owner to have a fit of rage to say how insignificant that is considering he brought all of the weed from a farm in Southern California via Nevada.” The eighty pounds being broken down for sale and occupying the vault in bulk was from another state. Those eighty pounds had crossed two different states before arriving in Arizona where it was legally sold in a medically licensed dispensary. The dispensary, if caught, could’ve lost the authority to operate and been shut down, all of which was not as serious as the charges since cannabis at the federal level remains illegal. Leon having few regrets tells me, “if I had to do it again knowing how serious it was beforehand, I still would’ve. We had countless patients who needed their medicine, that were only hurt by federal drug scheduling.”
Adrian Ryan was born in New Mexico and attended school since elementary in Arizona, his time growing up split between the two states. He hopes to work towards recreational cannabis, enjoys reading, writing, film, music, and also writing music.