A Message From Bridget: January 2022

 In A Message from Bridget

Image: Our team volunteering at Feeding Chittenden

Greetings from CeresMED,

Last month we announced an increase in pricing across specific product categories beginning in 2022. Of course, no one is ever excited about a price increase. We made this difficult decision as a result of a steady escalation in our daily operational costs over the past couple of years. We tried to hold back the decision as long as we could. We hoped that we would emerge from the pandemic with positive shifts in the economy, improvements in the supply chain, and changes to state and federal legislation that would make it less costly to do business in the cannabis industry. Unfortunately, it appears that the inflation we are experiencing in the US economy as a whole is here to stay for the foreseeable future, and critical pieces of legislation like the SAFE Banking Act remain stuck in congressional limbo.

At the center of everything we do is the drive to create value for our registered patients by providing high-quality products at an affordable price. However, due to federal prohibition and the resultant lack of insurance coverage, medical cannabis is “expensive” at a base level simply because it is all out of pocket. As a result, we often hear from our patients that they struggle to afford our products. This sentiment is echoed by physicians who support their patient’s use of medical cannabis as a replacement for opioids but find that this option is unsustainable because of this lack of coverage. So how can we say that we aim for affordability? To best answer this question, let’s take a closer look at some of the factors that influence our pricing, above and beyond average overhead costs associated with any business.

  1. A Dedicated Team of Skilled Cannabis Professionals: Our people are our greatest asset, and we want them to prosper. In addition to a comprehensive compensation package which includes a generous healthcare plan, we provide time off benefits and a 401(k) with company match. We encourage our team with a range of supports such as free yoga classes, new hire referral bonuses and an EAP (Employee Assistance Plan). Both labor and healthcare costs have gone up considerably since the start of the pandemic. As a wellness company, we strive each year to keep our employees’ wages in step with cost of living increases and out-of-pocket healthcare expenses as low as possible, even when our costs continue to rise.
  2. Wide Selection of Products and Services: We offer the widest selection of products and services in the Vermont Marijuana Registry (VMR), including but not limited to: four geographically-dispersed dispensing locations, statewide, low-cost home delivery, online ordering with express pick-up, curbside service, and access to customer service support via phone and email five days/week. Our menu of products is extensive for a company our size, and all of our products are handmade in small batches. All of this requires a sizable team of trained staff, equipment and other resources.
  3. Standard Discounts and Monthly Specials: The list price is not what all patients pay. Some patients receive standard daily discounts on their purchases (veterans and patients that qualify for our Financial Assistance Program). Others can take advantage of regular opportunities to reduce their cost. In most instances, patients can combine these discounts to create substantial savings, leading to a lower average price paid at the point of sale. For example:

    2019 Vermont Women’s Fund Annual Celebration

    • List price of 1 gram Garden Variety flower: $14.75
    • Price per gram when purchased in 7 gram increment: $12.85
    • Financial Assistance Program price for 7 grams: $11.56
    • Veteran price for 7 grams: $10.92
    • Veteran price for 7 grams stacked with a 20% off monthly promotion: $8.73
  4. A Commitment to Environmentally Sound Practices: Choosing to do right by the environment costs more. Whether we are utilizing local and/or organic ingredients for our infused products, gradually transitioning our packaging to eco-friendly, recyclable solutions, or purchasing solar energy to power our cultivation facilities, we are constantly evaluating and improving our supply chain and practices to protect our planet and offer products that you can feel good purchasing.
  5. Investment in R&D: To keep pace with this rapidly evolving industry and the science supporting the therapeutic benefits of cannabis and plant-based medicine as a whole, we invest in research and development to provide a diverse set of products across multiple methods of consumption. Early on, we partnered with O.penVAPE and Mary’s Medicinals, the industry leaders in vape and transdermal technologies. We have also invested heavily in our in-house Quality Control Lab, which among other things, analyzes and reports cannabinoid content for each of our products. To ensure that our results are accurate, we regularly utilize the services of other state-certified labs and twice annually participate in national proficiency testing.
  6. Outreach and Education: Education is the key to the successful use of medical cannabis for symptom relief. It is also how we reduce the stigma and common misconceptions surrounding cannabis so that our community can have confidence in the legalization of its use. We offer continuing education opportunities to our staff, our patients, healthcare professionals and the greater community. We do this through events like our Meet Your Medicine Maker series, sessions on trauma-informed care with Pathways Vermont and sponsorship of the UVM Integrative Pain Management Conference. For the last six years, we have also maintained a part time Community Educator position whose primary role is to educate verifying healthcare professionals and patient support groups on how to access the VMR and the products and services available through the dispensaries.
  7. Community Partnerships: We are active members of our community! Through sponsorship, donations and marketing initiatives, we support nonprofits that provide critical services to Vermonters, educate on the responsible use of cannabis and work for criminal and social justice reform: The Intervale Center, Vermont Foodbank, Groundworks Collaborative, Project CBD, Vermont Women’s Fund and Last Prisoner Project, to name a few.
  8. Cost of Compliance as a State-Licensed, Federally Illegal Operation: 20-30% of what we do is non-value added and instead, related to compliance with state regulations, a zero-tolerance for product diversion and increased cost of capital due to federal prohibition and lack of access to traditional bank credit services.

Ada Puches and Shayne Lynn at VBSR event

If you have made it this far in my message, thank you for your continued interest! It is a lot to chew on and, in reality, represents just the tip of the iceberg. Operating a vertically integrated cannabis company is complex and expensive, especially one that is mission driven. Therefore, we offer these details to help you better understand who we are, what we do and how that affects our pricing. 

These initiatives and priorities reflect our commitment to the triple bottom line of people, planet and prosperity, and it is why we decided to accept the invitation to become Champion members of Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility (VBSR). We are excited to work with the staff and members of VBSR to solve the environmental, social and economic challenges that face our industry. In addition, we are looking forward to sharing our knowledge with aspiring cannabis entrepreneurs so that together we can build a vibrant, just and sustainable marketplace in our brave little state. 

 

My Health & Wellness Picks for January:

Free Urban Moonshine webinar, Deep Dive into Elderberry: 4pm EST, January 4th, 2022. Learn about this winter season, plant ally from one of our local experts, herbalist Guido Masé. He’ll explore the folklore and pharmacology and offer simple recipes to stock your home apothecary.

From Mountain Rose Herbs

50 Ways to Spice Up Your Life! In honor of the new year, Mountain Rose Herbs re-issued some of its favorite “old school recipes.” I liked this blog in particular as it gives us 50 simple and delicious ways to get more herbs and spices into our daily diets. Incorporating herbs and spices into our food is one of the best ways to receive the benefits of our plant allies.

3 Powerful Essential Oils for Stress Relief: We talk a lot about terpenes regarding the potential therapeutic benefits of cannabis. Terpenes are volatile aromatic compounds found in the essential oils of plants. The three oils discussed here complement the use of cannabis to relieve anxiety and can all be used safely in simple applications such as palm inhalation, bath salts or massage oils. In addition, this article provides many recipes and tips for you to explore individually or in combination.

Wishing you all a joyous, prosperous and healthy new year,

 

 

 

 

Bridget Conry

Director of Brand Experience CeresMED

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