Multi-state cannabis operator The Botanist puts consumer education at the forefront of its operations.
The company, which has 16 locations across five states, launched adult-use sales at its Montville location in Connecticut on Jan. 10, marking the state’s first day of adult-use sales.
Although The Botanist is among the first retailers to serve Connecticut’s adult-use market, it has already created a foothold in the state by serving medical patients. The company’s team is excited for a bright future ahead in the state’s adult-use market, with its focus on educating and creating immersive experiences for consumers.
© Courtesy of Ashley Lynn Photography for The Botanist.
The Botanist Montville.
The Botanist holds two of nine hybrid (medical and adult-use) licenses in Connecticut with its Montville and Danbury locations, and plans to launch adult-use sales at the Danbury store in the coming weeks, says Kate Nelson, the senior vice president of Acreage’s Midwest & Northeast Regions, which owns The Botanist brand.
Nelson says the company’s focus for the first day of sales was to ensure that consumers had a positive and smooth experience.
“When a new program launches, we always expect there to be heavier traffic at the outset, and it tapers off as time goes on,” she says. “I feel confident that our team did a phenomenal job in delivering. Even on the first day of sales, the longest wait was maybe 15 minutes. And that goes to show that with a lot of planning, preparation, and the right execution, … while we did see a tremendous amount of traffic on that first day, our waits were not impacted negatively, no more so than they would on a normal day.”
Nelson says The Botanist also strongly focuses on creating immersive experiences for its consumers. For example, the company created a “Botanist” inside a tent at the retail store for the first day of adult-use sales.
“We saw on the first day of sales, a lot of operators were expecting that high traffic, so they were maybe only offering online purchases, but then you limit that education,” she says. “For us, we wanted to make sure we weren’t doing that so that you could come in and talk to someone. We actually had a tent in the front of the store, … where we created a ‘Botanist in a tent,’ so to speak, where you got the same experience of the elements of the brand, the plants, the seating, and all the things you’d experience inside the store.”
The Botanist tent not only allowed the company to ensure a smooth flow on the first day of adult-use sales but also provided an immersive experience for consumers and allowed them to have more one-on-one time with budtenders, she says.
The company plans to use the Montville adult-use launch as a foundation for its Danbury location.
“Something we’re really proud of is how smooth and seamless the first day of sales were, and that’s something we can … build a foundation on to make sure as we go into the next adult-use launch for us in Connecticut, … [we can] make sure someone’s first experience coming into an adult-use dispensary is such a positive experience that they can’t wait to do it again,” Nelson says.
The Botanist is one of three of Acreage’s brands. The company also operates a medical dispensary in South Windsor, Conn., under its Prime Wellness brand. Nelson says the company plans to launch adult-use sales there once it receives the necessary local approvals.
Navigating Connecticut’s Adult-Use Market
Connecticut’s program is “unique” compared to other states, which is why consumer education is so crucial, Nelson says. For example, she says the state has a “particularly low” purchasing limit for adult-use consumers. Individuals 21 years and older are limited to a quarter-ounce of cannabis flower, or its equivalent, per transaction, Cannabis Business Times previously reported.
That purchasing limit is on the lower end compared to surrounding adult-use states. For example, New York allows individuals 21 and older to purchase up to three ounces of cannabis and up to 24 grams of concentrated cannabis for personal use, while Massachusetts allows adults 21 and older to purchase 1 ounce of flower or five grams of concentrate per transaction.
Nelson says several adult-use consumers in Connecticut didn’t fully understand the purchasing limits or, for that matter, know how much they could purchase at one time. The Botanist makes it a priority to educate consumers on those thresholds, Nelson says.
“We’ve always been educators, and now we can just educate and share information on a larger scale,” she says. “Our education is focused on a larger population of the community in each area where we operate because there are more people that can potentially benefit from cannabis. It’s our job to make sure they understand what they can be purchasing and what the rules are. We’re kind of the experts in the field, so we need to be able to share that information with others so they too can make informed decisions for their health.”
Another significant nuisance to educate Connecticut cannabis consumers about is the strain names in the state, as the law does not allow traditional strain names to be registered for any type of advertising purposes.
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For example, a popular strain name like ”Gorilla Glue” or “Wedding Cake” used to represent a product in another state would be advertised as a different strain name in Connecticut, although the product may be completely identical.
“All of the Connecticut products are like a Connecticut custom name that most consumers have never heard of,” Nelson says. “So, for the first purchase, they’re really relying on the information that a staff member can share with them because most people would not be able to recognize a single strain on the [Connecticut] menu. [Typically,] it’s something that they may have read about on Leafly, heard about before, or tried from another adult-use program.”
The Botanist conducts weekly training on products and strains to ensure the information is clearly communicated to consumers.
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“Within our stores, we also do our absolute best to provide as much information as possible about the products,” she says. “While we may not be able to share those real strain names externally, our staff has all the documentation about each and every product and receives training on a weekly basis to learn about all the new products that are coming to the store so that anything that guests were to ask them about, they can really speak to it from the point of knowing everything that there is to know from the vendor who provided it to us. So, we’re experts in this, and we want to help bring people along on the journey.”
The Botanist also holds virtual educational events for patients and consumers to educate them on various topics such as the state’s market, pain management tips, and much more.
The company most recently hosted a pain management virtual webinar where one of its pharmacists and a doctor discussed how to manage pain with cannabis, Nelson says.
“We’ve been holding these webinars for a while, but now obviously have a larger audience that is able to learn from them,” she says. “So, that’s absolutely one of the benefits I think we can bring to the community. And we’ll continue to do so and really home in on how focused we are in sharing that education piece.”
As Connecticut’s adult-use market continues to emerge, Nelson says The Botanist will continue to work with the state and other operators to highlight areas of the program that could be improved.
Moreover, The Botanist’s goal is to provide consumers with the same experiences across all its locations.
“I would expect to see more centralization of the procedures and the processes and the experiences that we have, so that the people who are shopping in Montville and Danbury don’t have a different experience than those who are shopping in South Windsor,” she says. “And the same is the case for, let’s say, our dispensaries in Maine and Illinois, which right now may not be under The Botanist brand, but we still want to focus on those same core tenants of what makes us and continue to harmonize those operations.”
The company is thrilled to be serving adult-use patients on the Eastern side of Connecticut through its Montville location and is looking forward to serving customers in the western part of the state through its Danbury location, she says.
“We’re excited to get the word out that adult use is here, share more about how it operates, and what people would need to know, and hopefully, help continue to destigmatize cannabis as something that is accessible through the state system, trustworthy and tracked, and really a safe alternative to people who may traditionally have been purchasing on the [illicit] market,” she says.