*This story was originally published in the October 2017 issue of Marijuana Venture, on sale now at a store near you.
For more than a year, the city of Bend, Oregon prepared for the Aug. 21 solar eclipse. Our city’s population was expected to grow overnight from 80,000 to an estimated 1 million. This not only brought about a problem for the restaurants, hotels and other businesses in our city, but also put a kink in the cannabis distribution channel. In fact, we were told by some farms and wholesalers that they would not be able to deliver product during the week of, or the week after, the eclipse.
For a restaurant with a well-established distribution channel, a hiccup in inventory is met with a strong backup plan by vendors. For an industry where farmers jump in their cars to deliver product, it produces a bigger problem.
Constant rotation and fresh product are essential to our retail shop. Customers love the weekly change, but no deliveries for up to two weeks could alter that experience for the customer. Luckily, we prepared ourselves for the worst-case scenario. Going into the eclipse, the shelves were stocked and the back-stock was in place. We planned to have product when no one can deliver. It wasn’t easy, but careful planning and good relations with our current vendors was key.
The eclipse came and went and the distribution channel will reopen as roads clear of tourists, but the eclipse brought to light a problem we have in this industry: We have a weak distribution channel consisting of mostly of farmers hand-delivering product retailers in their personal vehicles. Don’t get me wrong, we love seeing the farms and building the relationships we have with them, but we know driving long distances is not practical in the long term for some of these businesses.
My hope is the distribution channel will become more robust and equipped to handle unexpected events. We can all prepare for an eclipse, but it’s the unknown event that we need to prepare for as this industry grows!