Local marijuana dispensary approaches challenges of new offerings, COVID-19

NILES — In the wake of getting its business off of the ground, Green Stem has also been dealing with the arrival of the COVID-19 threat. Delivery of product, and adult-use sales are on the horizon from Green Stem, though there are kinks in the process of getting weed on wheels.

The dispensary has also shifted its approach to getting product into the hands of patients, with curbside carry out. The business is currently working on ways to get their product in the hand of both their current medical use patients, as well as the prospective adult use clientele. George Lynch, CEO of Green Stem, has been addressing snags with his team each step of the way.

During the Niles Planning Commission meeting on March 18, the commission granted a special land use request for Green Stem to begin adult use sales of recreational cannabis in its store. The steps that followed included passing a local inspection and applying for an adult-use license through the state. While these steps have moved forward as planned, and its license has been secured, Green Stem staff have had quite a few other things on their plate as they adapt their medical marijuana business to include adult-use sales, as well as the COVID-19 mandates that have been implemented.

With the license for delivery secured, forms in place for both patient and delivery driver, cameras and lock boxes being installed in the vehicle designated for deliveries now, Green Stem is still working on obtaining the proper insurance for the service.

“We are trying to figure out the logistics of that and how it would actually work, right after we get the insurance,” Lynch said.

Both demand and familiarity are parts of the challenges that present themselves with a delivery model for Lynch.

“If I get 50 [orders for] deliveries in a day, people aren’t going to get it. There’s just no way,” he said.

With just one vehicle becoming equipped for deliveries currently, working within all the frameworks that the state provides and working with existing patients, Lynch anticipates scheduling deliveries. Combine that with new safety precautions coming through from the COVID-19 crisis, and Lynch is trying to stay adaptable.

“We’re looking at adjusting on the fly as newer rules come down,” he said. “We want to comply with the state. We want to keep everybody safe.”

For the safety of existing patients, staff, and future adult-use customers, Lynch has ceased to allow anyone other than employees in the building’s retail area.

“We are allowing two things,” Lynch said. “We have an ATM in our lobby, so we are letting one person at a time come into the lobby and do an ATM transaction. We are allowing people to come in to go to the bathroom.”

Lynch thinks that online ordering is going to be a key to his business’ future success while the extra precautions are being taken.

“The best process that we have right now is for someone to go online to Leafly.com, the site that we are using, and they go to Green Stem,” Lynch said. “Our menu and prices are right there. We do it every morning.”

From there, Green Stem will be able to schedule carry out to patients and clients.

With the unofficial marijuana holiday, 4/20, coming on April 20, Lynch is both hoping for success and safety.

“We can’t afford crowds,” he said. “We can’t afford 40 people lined up. We’re not allowing a line at the door. Everyone will need to remain in their vehicle.”

Currently, Green Stem is still seeing many of its usual clientele.

“I think we’ll get through this,” he said. “We’ll get people his medicine.”

Lynch said at least 60 percent of their current business is those with severe medical issues in their senior years.

“We are here to service that,” Lynch said. “We just have to make it as easy and as simple as possible for everyone.”

Lynch has not announced the exact date Green Stem will begin retailing adult-use marijuana. Right now, he is focused on keeping his team safe, keeping the product stocked, getting it into the hands of current clients, and ironing out the kinks in delivery and carry out as Green Stem adapts to the current climate.