By Sarah Donahue | March 9, 2021
Sol Flower dispensaries’ mission is to empower its employees and customers to live their lives with “soul.”
CEO Pankaj Talwar says Sol Flower accomplishes this by helping folks with anxiety, muscle aches and digestive issues with cannabis. Then, he adds, people can wake up every day feeling “fully empowered” and ready to “seize the day.”
The employees at his dispensaries are no exception.
Working in a dispensary can be “stressful” and “very fast paced,” he explains. However, cannabis helps many of his employees find the mental clarity they need to stay present in the moment so they may live their lives with “soul” and exude this energy within each customer interaction.
Talwar is the head of vertically integrated Copperstate Farms, which established Sol Flower dispensaries in 2019.
Scottsdale Airpark’s Sol Flower, located off North Hayden Road and North 82nd Street, is now a dual-licensed dispensary. That means it’s allowed to conduct recreational and medical marijuana sales within its facility.
Recreational sales began at the Scottsdale Airpark location on January 28, and since then, many of the location’s “core” customers are “ecstatic,” he says.
Many have voiced their excitement about the fact that purchasing marijuana has become “more of a social experience,” one in which even mom or grandma can join, he adds.
Talwar says he “loves” the Scottsdale Airpark location, saying it’s located at “such an amazing crossroads” between commercial businesses and residential communities.
However, the location is in need of more signage, he says.
It took almost a week for the location to formally begin recreational sales after its dual license was approved on January 22.
Dozens of other newly licensed competitors opened for recreational sales in the meantime “but we were comfortable waiting,” he says. The dispensary had a list of state-regulated measures to implement before it could open its doors for recreational sales.
Sol Flower’s staff and marketing team had to secure child-resistant bags and update its payment system to collect the additional 16% tax for recreational sales.
The dispensary also had to transition all the employees’ dispensary agent cards to the new dual-purpose facility agent cards, which Talwar says was a “herculean effort.”
The fingerprint of each employee had to be resubmitted along with the state-required $300 fee per employee.
“All the credit goes to the Sol Flower retail dispensary team and the HR team for making this happen at such a timely, rapid-fire basis,” he says.
The dispensary is serious about following the regulations around Proposition 207, he says. It wanted to train all of its employees properly.
New inventory locations also had to be implemented to ensure that medical marijuana products were “segregated” from recreational products, Talwar says.
It’s “really important” to take extra precautions to ensure that a recreational buyer doesn’t accidentally get their hands on an item only permitted for medical marijuana sales.
Recreational buyers are limited to no more than 100 milligrams of THC per package of edible marijuana products. However, medical marijuana cardholders can purchase edibles with a much higher potency.
Mixing recreational and medical marijuana customers together created some concern about potential long lines and wait times, Talwar says.
The dispensary took steps to mitigate this concern by creating separate lines, he says. Medical patients also have the ability to get their products delivered to their homes.
Sol Flower sets itself apart from the rest by placing customer service “at the top of everything,” he says. “We are constantly monitoring how fast we can get service needs met.”
It’s important to get experienced “cannabis connoisseurs” in and out the door as efficiently as possible, he says. However, “We want to be able to provide to the cannabis curious and the cannabis newbies the time to ask a lot of questions because it is overwhelming.
“We want to provide a more safe, open environment and allow them the time to ask the questions and ease their way into it so that they don’t have a bad experience.”
The dispensary trains employees to handle “certain situations with care and the right level of empathy,” he adds.
Copperstate also differentiates itself from competitors by being “vertically integrated,” Talwar says. Copperstate is “blessed” to have a 40-acre greenhouse in Snowflake.
“We’re one of the largest greenhouses in the country for cannabis — and we have it right here in Arizona.”
All the marijuana plants are sun-grown without the use of harsh chemicals and pesticides. The greenhouse utilizes ladybugs to serve as natural predators to control the many aphids that “enjoy eating our leaves,” he says.
“We let the ladybugs get a nice full stomach, and eventually they fly out through the vents, but they still usually get a few days of feasting and that’s all we need.”
Copperstate buys a million ladybugs each week, Talwar says.
However, “we’re not perfect,” he says. Occasionally, “the buds don’t look as perfect as if we used harsh chemicals.”
Growing marijuana indoors under artificial light also helps to give buds a nicer appearance; however, all plants in the Copperstate grow house are sun-grown.
“We are very natural. When it gets hot, we don’t have AC sucking up a lot of energy. We open up vents, and the only way our plants grow is through the sun.
“We live and die by what the sun provides.”
Copperstate and Sol Flower take their natural methods of growing marijuana very seriously, he says. Their system of vertical integration provides both variety and scale so that Talwar and his team know “exactly what’s being sold.”
It also allows them to provide their products at a reasonable price, Talwar explains.
However, since recreational sales began, the demand for products has “really skyrocketed,” he says. Many dispensaries are stockpiling to be prepared.
This intense demand combined with a new testing regulation put into effect at the end of last year has caused lab facilities to become “overwhelmed,” he explains.
“We’ve had delays in getting our lab test results back,” he says. “We can only put on the shelf what has been certified.”
Sol Flower seeks to provide a “safer alternative for people who may have been buying illegally through the black market,” he explains. The passage of Proposition 207 was “a wonderful, symbolic moment.”
The recreational legalization of marijuana was eagerly sought out by the majority of Arizonans, he says, mentioning how it was approved by 60% of the state’s voters.
For his employees, “it helps remove the stigma that sometimes some people feel by being in the industry.”
“It is such a historic symbolic victory because it’s a full validation of their passions and it helps legitimize their chosen career choice.” ν
14980 N. 78th Way, Suite 204, Scottsdale
See website for other locations.