Despite operational issues due to the COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain tightening, Missouri Health & Wellness is working quickly to open five pharmacy locations in the state’s medical cannabis market, which officially began its first sale in October.
The company has five retail licenses. This is the maximum number of licenses a company can have in the Missouri market. Missouri Health & Wellness opened its first location in Washington at the end of November and its second location in Sedalia just before Christmas. On January 25, the company opened a third pharmacy in the state capital, Jefferson City. Now Missouri Health & Wellness has its sights set on the last two stores in Kirksville and Belton, which will open by the end of winter.
Photos courtesy Missouri Health & Wellness
Missouri Health and Wellness: Washington, Mon.
The company is able to build its locations quickly despite delays in the Missouri medical program due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Kathleen Beebe, HR director and regional manager for Missouri Health & Wellness, says it took the state’s first pharmacies a year and a half to open after the state began issuing patient identification programs.
“The most exciting thing is when patients walk through the door for the first time and you hear what they’re dealing with, and they’re so excited to have one more option,” Beebe told Cannabis Business Times and Cannabis Dispensary.
Most Missouri Health & Wellness patients are 60 years and older, and many are first-time cannabis users who are disappointed with the results of traditional medicine.
“I think this is the number 1 that excites me the most about this industry. We bring relief to people,” says Beebe.
The company also strives for a diverse and inclusive culture in which employees feel valued and can make meaningful contributions to the company and the patients they serve.
Missouri Health & Wellness budget tenders (called “wellness specialists”) go through a solid training program to ensure they can have conversations with patients about cannabis, Beebe says.
As in many emerging markets, the Missouri medical cannabis industry is currently experiencing a lack of supply chains, particularly amid the ongoing pandemic that Beebe said has delayed the adoption of many breeders and manufacturers.
“They are still under construction,” she says. “We’re seeing more and more of them on the market now, but our first manufacturer just passed its final inspection a few weeks ago. Obviously, it will take them a while to ramp up production. “
The COVID-19 pandemic has also further limited Missouri Health & Wellness’s ability to benefit itself in the communities in which it operates due to exposure to personal, patient-related events. Traditional marketing channels like social media are also challenging the industry due to the limitations of the various platforms for cannabis.
“Social media doesn’t like when we talk about cannabis too much, so it limits our options,” Beebe says. “We’re really trying to get creative by using our website more and texting. We do have a text service, but … the carriers block certain messages. … We hired a new marketing agency to help us think outside the box to find out how we can get out of there despite COVID and the marketing challenges the industry has probably always had to face. “
To help ensure the safety of its employees and patients during the ongoing pandemic, Missouri Health & Wellness is verifying the temperatures of everyone entering the store and providing hand sanitizer to its employees and customers.
Patients are asked to take care of paperwork the first time they enter the store, and staff disinfect clipboards and pens after each use. The pharmacy’s registries are also cleared between each customer, and staff and patients are asked to wear masks in the store.
Photos courtesy Missouri Health & Wellness
Missouri Health and Wellness: Sedalia, Mo.
Missouri Health & Wellness pharmacies sell eight-pack flowers, as well as pre-rolls and groceries. The company began selling gums and cannabis-infused beverages on New Year’s Eve, and Beebe says pharmacies saw an increase in business just from offering these two new lines of products.
“We hear that there will be some vape cartridges and of course there have been a lot of questions about concentrates,” she says. “I assume that we will be dramatically different from where we are today and where we will be in two or three months.”
Missouri has issued a total of 192 pharmacy licenses, and Beebe estimates that there are currently around 30 pharmacies open in the state.
“I assume that this will change dramatically in the next few months,” she says. “We’ll likely see most of them go online. What you see in this market today will look dramatically different over the next few months, between an increase in supply and an increase in the number of open pharmacies. ”
According to Beebe, Missouri Health & Wellness will further differentiate itself in the fast-growing market thanks to its friendly and supportive wellness specialists.
“I really emphasize to the team that it is important to be respectful of one another,” she says. “Of course, when this patient comes through the door, remember that he is dealing with something. They can be upset because they are not feeling well and need help. This is where we come in to support them, whether or not they sit down and help them figure out how to find their patient card online because it can be a little difficult to do or just have a conversation with them that you can relate [to]. … For me, customer service will be what really helps us stand out. “
Patient education is also a key differentiator for the company, Beebe added. Many of the Missouri Health & Wellness team members work in other states’ cannabis programs that teach them a variety of cannabis knowledge to serve the company’s patients.
“We hear a lot that we have to fight a little hard to break the stigma,” says Beebe. “It’s not that it’s unique to Missouri, but because we’re a bit more conservative, we know there are people out there who don’t support cannabis. That is why we help to give the industry a professional tone. … you will come in and be treated like a patient, and your privacy is important. When we have this professional customer service and care for the patient, I ultimately see that we focus our attention and break that stigma. “