MUSKEGON — The line was 15 cars long on a recent Thursday evening, with employees shuffling between vehicles and the retail shop to scan IDs and run products out to patrons.
Such is the new normal for Park Place Provisionary, one of two dispensaries in Muskegon serving both medical and recreational cannabis customers.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s original stay-at-home order on March 24 permitted dispensaries to remain open as an essential business, although they were required to establish curbside pick-ups or home delivery. The Marijuana Regulatory Agency had previously planned to expedite requests for home delivery services.
Tracy Powers, vice president for Agri-Med LLC, the parent company of Park Place Provisionary and Exit 9 Provisionary in Crockery Township, said operational changes were already underway before Whitmer’s order.
Park Place’s steady “high volume of customers” in a relatively small space “was really starting to impact our employees and their feelings of well-being,” Powers said. Park Place has around 20 employees who sort and package products, answer phone calls and manage operations.
Since then, Park Place has set up a drive-thru operation at its location just east of Seaway Drive in Muskegon’s designated marijuana overlay district. The company asks customers to pre-order online or by phone. Drivers pull into the store’s parking lot, an employee (wearing a protective face mask) scans customers’ IDs, and another employee brings out a paper bag that was filled inside the building. A cash transaction takes place when the bag is delivered.
The Park Place system also focuses on efficiency: The company turned around 15 carloads of customers in less than five minutes.
Overall, Powers says “business hasn’t really changed, other than the fact we’re doing it outdoors.”
The volume of customers has remained steady, perhaps increasing slightly when federal stimulus checks started arriving, Powers said. The vast majority of purchases — 80 to 90 percent — are for recreational sales.
Powers added that customers also are buying larger quantities at a time, likely to avoid more frequent trips. She declined to give sales figures.
“People will come and spend a big chunk of change and walk out with a pretty good sized bag of product,” she said.
Although the coronavirus hasn’t disrupted Michigan’s cannabis supply chain, state policies have, according to Powers. In early April, the Marijuana Regulatory Agency announced that caregivers would no longer be able to supply recreational products for retail stores. The policy was expected to stay in place until September to allow for newly licensed growing operations to supply stores. The change significantly affected supply availability — particularly for distillate used to make edibles and vape cartridges — and sent prices upward. Powers says it could take at least a few months for supplies to catch back up with demand.
“I’m sure by fall we’ll be rocking and rolling again,” she said. “The next few months will be tough on the recreational side. There’s been a lot of demand, I can attest to that.”
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