Coronavirus has undoubtedly impacted Colorado's cannabis industry, but how deeply is hard to gauge. Statewide orders for all recreational pot sales to go curbside were abandoned after less than a week, while citywide plans to close all recreational stores in Denver for seventeen days were dropped just hours after they were announced. The result has been a roller coaster of sales for dispensaries, with larger operations better prepared for the fluctuation than smaller shops. But the hits don't stop there.
Scott Reach, founder of Denver dispensary House of Dankness, award-winning breeder and grower and head of several other cannabis-related endeavors under the Dankness brand, was in Spain in mid-March when the annual Spannabis event was postponed, and barely made it back to Colorado before travel restrictions were put in place. With time on his hands and no weed to smoke because he's been down with the flu (really), we caught up with Reach to learn about his short time in Spain and how coronavirus has affected his award-winning dispensary and cultivation.
Westword: We heard you had an intense traveling experience in Spain about a month ago. What was it like learning that you were in a coronavirus hot spot after the fact, and what was it like getting home?
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Scott Reach: Last year, a winter storm messed everything up, and we couldn't even get there until the second day of Spannabis, the show we go out for every year. This year, there was so much already going on in Italy and Spain, and I tried convincing my wife that it might be a good idea to skip it. Right up to the event, the organizers and Spanish government were all good until pretty much the day before the show. So when I landed in Frankfurt for the connecting flight to Barcelona, I got the text that everything was canceled. We just stayed in a house for four days and looked for flights back. Then things starting snowballing out of control, so we were able to fly out of there and get back to Denver on Saturday. We just missed the crazy airport lines.
The flight cancellation cascade happened about two days after that. I was at Disney World the week before this, too, and there were people who were sick all over there. I've had mild flu symptoms since returning from Spain — a light cough and three days of a slight fever. My doctor is quarantined in Estes Park, but he told me to stay away from the rest of my family as much as possible. So I stayed in my room, away from my wife and kids for about eight more days, and now my family is on day eighteen of isolation.
So you barely make it back to the country, but then you're immediately stuck at home for three weeks and maybe longer. What's that like as a business owner and cannabis grower?
I used to be really bad at being a control freak, but I'm very fortunate to have such a great team and staff. Once you start growing into more of a cannabis conglomerate, you start to put good people in control of those things, and there's less stress and gray hairs. Right now, though, I'm concerned for the health of my employees. I get to sit at home and do nothing, but they're considered essential workers — crazy that marijuana is still looked at horribly in some parts of the country but in others it's essential — and I don't want any of them getting sick.
I run the grow and my wife runs the dispensary. We run a skeleton crew as it is, so when we lose a person, two people usually have to step in to fill that. If 30 percent of my staff is out, that can really hurt. My main grow manager was actually with me in Spain, so he had to self-isolate, too. We took him with us as a vacation, and now he's probably going crazy, not being able to make sure his clean-freak standards are in place. Luckily, a lot of the system is automated by now, and we know our staff is good. But it gets really hard to just sit around after you're stuck at home for a few days.
I imagine you haven't been able to use cannabis much, if at all, during all of this.
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No, not at all. Once you can't smell or taste anything and your lungs feel hot, you can't be smoking. I'm probably as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as most people have ever seen me.
March was a weird ride for all of Colorado's cannabis industry, which has undergone a number of temporary changes, some of which aren't even in place anymore. How have you handled all of these executive orders and rule changes, and what has it done to your business?
If you've been in the cannabis business for any amount of time, you know there are constant regulatory changes and law changes, but we're just seeing it every other day, seemingly on the fly, right now [laughs]. I think everyone is trying to keep the customers happy and safe and maintain social distancing, but Denver just looked crazy during the curbside thing.
We've called the MED for clarification, and that's all you can really do. Where we are, it's a little more calm, but seeing people taking orders on the street just looked crazy. Our retail side got fussed at some on the first day [of curbside-only sales], because they put up a staging area outside to keep the workers warm, and the fire department came by and said we couldn't keep those generators under a tent — but they made an exception for one day after hearing about the situation. Everyone seems to be trying to work together for this.