Starting next year, vendors in California will no longer be able to give away free samples.
VAN NUYS, Calif. – Christmas came early to medical cannabis patients this weekend in the form of Patient Appreciation Days held by dispensaries in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley. These events, in which retailers bring vendors into their shops to interact with patients, have been growing in popularity. For a maturing industry with lots of new and competing products, they are a way for brands to market themselves face-to-face with consumers. Retailers, who usually provide food and other perks along with the free samples and other deals provided by the vendors, like them because they drive in a lot of bodies. Patients like them for the deals.
Saturday, I stopped by The Reefinery—aka Cahuenga Caregivers—located in Van Nuys at the corner of Kester and Oxnard, where food trucks were stationed on the street serving up burgers and bacon-wrapped hot dogs as part of their Mega Patient Appreciation Day. Broken up into groups of four for three-hour shifts, vendors set up tables inside the dispensary festooned with colorful decorations. A steady stream of patients arrived throughout the day, lending a party atmosphere to the occasion.
“The patients love it, because they know we’re not always trying to sell them stuff,” said The Reefinery founder, Greg Megeurian. “Like Omm Remedies, which is here educating people on the medicinal benefits of cannabis and then also giving them a five-minute massage,” he added. “Now we’ve opened their eyes to a whole new world of cannabis they had no idea existed.”
He had another special treat planned for later in the day. “From 4pm to 8pm, we have HendRx Farms, a licensed farm from Humboldt County, coming in to teach people down here how to cultivate their six plants in the backyard. How to do good sun-grown,” said Megeurian.
In 2018, people can expect to see different value-adds during customer appreciation days. “Next year, they take the compassion out of the Compassionate Use Act,” said Meguerian. “You can’t sell product for less than cost, and you can’t give it away. We can do half-off, but not buy one, get one free.” The new rules are the result of Section 5178.a of the Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulations, which state that a “licensed dispensary shall not provide free samples of medical cannabis goods to any person.”
The state could relax those rules, and fines may be minimal in any case, but the new adult-use reality in California will also usher in a new, creative day in vendor-retailer-customer events. “We will continue to do vendor days,” assured Meguerian, “but it will be more about education.”
Brands represented at The Reefinery Saturday included new ones mixed with established, including Kushy Punch, Lola Lola, Kiva, WVapes, Suicide Girls/Lowell, Dank Tank, Delta 9, Whoopi & Maya, Procana, Master Growers/Jetty, Dank Nuggs, Sensichew, Vet CBD, Pure Nirvana, Hendrx Farms, Kaneh Co., Omm Remedies, Brass Knuckles and Guilty Pleasures.
RDC Parking Lot Party
Sunday, I swung by Reseda Discount Caregivers, aka RDC, for their big Parking Lot Party. Located in Tarzana on Oxnard, RDC enticed patients with food from The Habit Burger Food Truck and lots of vendor deals, including up to 20 percent off vendor products in the store. Outside in the parking lot, where the vendors were lined up along long tables, free samples and buy-one-get-one-free deals were abundant. When I arrived there was a line waiting to get into the dispensary, a rarity for Los Angeles, to say the least.
Several of the same vendors that appeared Saturday at The Reefinery also appeared at RDC Sunday. Others included Punch Edibles, GFarma, Beezle, Dr. Norms, Nuggy & Waxxy J’s, California Honey, The Good Guys, Humboldt Tinctures, SoCal Co-op, Hubby Bars, and Varavo.