Staying Local during Multimillion-Dollar Marijuana Buyouts

by Marie Paredes Saloum

I like to think that we’re in an era when the small business rules the roost. Being a small business in 2019 not only allows for versatility, mobility and scalability, but it also allows business owners to be in total control of their creative direction, expansion plans and advertising initiatives. What’s most important to me, though, is that maintaining a small size gives me that direct line between my clients and my organization. That said, my business is in a fairly new, emerging industry — medical cannabis — so a direct connection to my patients is crucial. But within the broader modern-day consumerism landscape, we’re seeing major shifts toward convenience, trustworthiness and localism. 

Just look at the way we shop now: We want one-stop convenience, ease of access and, for most of us, a friendly face to buy from. We read reviews; take recommendations; research the exact products we want; and make quick, informed decisions about what to buy and when. In considering the general public’s shopping habits and all the operating benefits of owning a small, scalable business, I have actively and intentionally kept GreenPharms Dispensaries a small, family-owned business since we opened in 2013. Not a single outside dollar invested, and that’s the way I like it. 

Even amid the massive, multimillion-dollar buyouts that large investment firms have facilitated in the state of Arizona in the last several months, I have always maintained that GreenPharms would be a family operation. In the last 12 months, a considerable percentage of my top competitors have succumbed to the lucrative appeals of large corporate buyouts. One of the largest cannabis companies trading on the New York Stock Exchange has aggressively expanded its presence in the state, buying up some of the most recognizable brands in Arizona’s marijuana market in recent months. These brands are still in business, operating now with much more capital than they might have had before, but, in truth, I don’t feel much added pressure. Simply put, the consumer wants an authentic, local connection to what they’re purchasing, and no amount of money in the world can manufacture that. Moreover, in the medical cannabis industry, our customers are actually our patients, and I believe I have an obligation to service my patients with the highest caliber of care possible — a goal I don’t think I could truly accomplish if forced to play by someone else’s rulebook. 

For GreenPharms, locality is key. We are a self-contained supply and logistics train, overseeing every step between branding, production, quality assurance, packaging, shipping and, ultimately, sale. We own the land that we produce our products on, which allows us to employ eco-conscious, sustainable growing practices. We create and test new products all year long in our own facilities to stay on the industry’s leading edge. We partner with other local vendors to provide our patients with the highest quality products in Arizona. In my eyes, these are all the perks of owning my own business. Not having to do anything by someone else’s preferred method means I can confidently put my name on anything GreenPharms and guarantee the quality and care that went into procuring that product. In other words, it’s my way or the highway. 

One small business hurdle that’s specific to the medical cannabis industry is the idea of focusing on organic growth and brand recognition while also avoiding the stigmas associated with marijuana, that, at this point, are quite frankly pretty stupid. The whole Matthew McConaughey character from Dazed and Confused — that’s not GreenPharms, and it never will be. Getting there has been a bit of a challenge, but at least I have the ability to fight back against the status quo and maybe even change a few minds along the way. Operating within the tenets of someone else’s business plan wouldn’t allow me to do that in the same way. 

Like many small-business owners, my bottom line isn’t just about the Benjamins. I find that so many of my local business-owning peers want much more than that. We’re focused on educating our consumers, providing the best products and services for our communities, and building loyal relationships. These things aren’t impossible to accomplish across state lines or from under the banners of large corporate powerhouses, but they’re easier to do when you’re the one calling the shots — that’s why GreenPharms is committed to remaining local during the multimillion-dollar marijuana buyouts.   

Marie Paredes Saloum, owner of GreenPharms Dispensaries, has been a pillar in Arizona’s cannabis community since medical legalization was passed in 2010, eventually opening her first GreenPharms location in 2013. Saloum’s decision to join the cannabis industry was born out of a personal decision to take her husband’s care in a more holistic and natural direction after a severe car accident left him badly injured. Since then, GreenPharms has carved out a top-quality, family-first reputation, collectively dubbing the dispensary’s employees the Pharmily. 

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