PHOTO BY BLOOMBERG VIA GETTY IMAGES
From Paris Hilton’s birthday party to anonymous dispensary runs.
When cannabis operations were deemed essential businesses by the state of California, Jacob* (whose name has been changed for privacy reasons) breathed a proverbial sigh of relief. As a Los Angeles-based account executive for a cannabis manufacturing and distribution company (which will also not be named) headquartered in Oakland, California, this classification made the 27-year-old feel as secure as he could as the state and country began to shut down all but its most necessary functions.
“That was a blessing, not to worry about whether or not we’re gonna have jobs,” Jacob told VICE. According to Jacob, his company has manufacturing and distribution licenses that allow them to purchase raw cannabis materials from its network of around 50 farms in Humboldt county, California. “We send a van and a guy with cash to buy these raw materials, hundreds of pounds of flower at a time or 50 to 100 liters of cannabis distillate, and we essentially flip them by turning them into consumables,” Jacob said, by making pre-rolled joints, concentrates, and infused products to sell to cannabis dispensaries, who in turn sell product to the everyday weed buyer.
Back in February, he chronicled his pre-COVID workweek, which involved driving between dispensaries for one-on-one meetings, party-hopping with free samples, and dealing almost exclusively in cash (banks are still hesitant to work with cannabis businesses due to the drug’s federal illegality). Now, he spends time on conference calls and makes quick visits to move products with minimal in-person contact. “We had to suspend all our marketing operations,” he said. “It’s hard to build relationships that way.”
Just because the social element has been cut out of his work life doesn’t mean COVID-19 has been bad for cannabis sales. “The level of competition has been going down,” he said. “There’s just definitely not the same bandwidth of competing brands that were there before.”
This is what an average week for Jacob looks like in the cannabis industry. Originally, VICE spoke with Jacob before the pandemic, but we have added additional context from subsequent conversations to illustrate how his work has changed.
Published: September 23, 2020
Founder & Interim Editor of L.A. Cannabis News