A comparison of working in two different states as a part of the MMJ industry

I have had the privilege of working in two different states with radically different cannabis industries, the knowledge and experience gained have been my best asset in advancing my overall cannabis career. I started in Oregon at an early OMMP (Oregon Medical Marijuana Farm) farm several years ago while traveling, my time working my way up from trimmer to cultivation showed me the future of this industry. It was a unique time, not long after medical was legalized with recreational soon to follow. I watched as our lead cultivator worked to ensure the best clean meds were coming from our farm. Working those 16-hour days, moving earth, building, and tending to the ladies, growing was some of the happiest time in my life. I am thankful because it taught me the most significant difference in the industry between Arizona and Oregon, the flower.

Learning and Growing in Oregon 

Oregon is by far one of the greatest places on Earth to grow anything, nutrient-rich soil and ideal climates make cultivation easy. At our farm, I moved up from trimmer, and started in the outdoor greenhouses, using only water and sunlight growing some of the best outdoor cannabis I’ve ever had. As time went on, I made my way indoors learning lights, our hydroponic set-up, and eventually managing a SOG (Sea of Green) style indoor warehouse grow. Our medium was still the Oregon soil, and our use of nutrients was minimal as a result. To this day, a few batches of Super Silver Haze from that time remain the best cannabis I’ve had, ever. The abundance of great cannabis is also the bane of the industry in Oregon, as the concentration of skilled growers has bottomed out prices on the medical and recreational markets.

The knowledge and accumulation of talented cannabis cultivators is most prominent along the West Coast. California is one of the largest cannabis markets, with Oregon and Washington close behind. That knowledge and ready availability of experienced growers led to Oregon becoming a market of excellent cannabis everywhere, then recreational was passed, and forced many to reconsider their options. I am included in that migration of experience, and after my time in Oregon, I moved home to Phoenix, AZ. When I arrived, medical cannabis was on the rise, and so I began to watch the new industry form while playing a part of the grey market in AZ. For years I worked in culinary, and after achieving skills with job titles that could benefit me, I got back into the industry. Arizona was a different market by that time, and my first step back in was on the patient side working in a dispensary.

Expanding My Cannabis Experience in Arizona   

Time at my first AZ dispensary was well spent, as the owner was a knowledgeable and well-respected part of the cannabis community. My entry interview was difficult in comparison to the “will trim for bud” model of Oregon. The job in AZ involved verifying my references, demonstration of knowledge, and the ability to communicate about cannabis. When I started, it was for inventory control, which was a learning experience about the Arizona market. Arizona is a conservative state, and when I started, the medical cannabis market was still very much in formation despite being active for years.

Simply put, few cultivations had excellent quality cannabis, but most others did not, even though the overall the market was stable. The development of new edibles, vapes, topicals, and concentrates were starting to become mainstream. The ability to identify quality in all categories became my job, both as an inventory associate and budtender.

Arizona does not have the abundance of knowledge or talent that the rest of the West holds. Instead, it is a combination of sizeable West coast operations moving East, and hometown caregivers coming together to provide a foundation in Arizona with flower. That said, I can count on one hand the cultivations with the best cannabis in Arizona, while those remaining, leave much to be desired in quality. In my time in inventory, I saw firsthand that the majority of business for any dispensary is flower. This created the initial stability of Arizona; the quality flower was worth the price point being asked, while others filled out your remaining shelves with good options at lower prices. As with any market, the green wave swept East and brought new talent and companies to continue building in Arizona.

Most recently as an Inventory Manager, my position required the ability to build a diverse but quality inventory. I took the time to learn about all the cultivations and products in Arizona. I watched as the influx of good weed started driving prices down along with the elimination of sub-par companies. As the market begins to level, prices along with quality have new standards, and slowly the market moves to ready itself for recreational. I can see that Arizona may never know the overwhelming quality found in Oregon, but it may never know those difficulties of the industry either. The use of pesticides, growth regulators, and questionable amounts of nutrients will always be the issue of Arizona. Those consuming the cannabis, however, will always move towards what is best for them, and patients across Arizona are now learning the differences.

Predicting the Future of These Markets

I believe in time these two markets will meet, and a nationwide middle ground will be found. As legalization, the oddities, and challenges that separate states will disappear, a more unified vision of cannabis will appear. Until then, the difference of these markets besides acceptance will always be quality. Oregon will always have its experience and environment for producing great cannabis. While in Arizona, those born of the desert will learn what it takes to make something great here, to evolve their market to be based in both quality and balance. The stark contrast in these markets will help to shape the future of nation-wide reforms and legalization. My advice to those on the rise in these states, continue to gain experience and look East or towards the Great White North for new opportunities for growth as it will be invaluable in time.   

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.