Running an Efficient and Compliant Dispensary

A conversation with Chris Lara from GreenSpacePro

Episode Description

Chris Lara heads up the Product and Business Development at GreenSpacePro and is a Strategic Advisor to the Temeka Group.

In this episode of the podcast we chat with Chris Lara from GreenSpacePro about what it takes to start an efficient and compliant dispensary. We also chat about the challenges facing cannabis retailers and how implementing a project management solution from the beginning of your business will help you grow and succeed in the cannabiz!  

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Episode Transcript

Chris Lara heads up the product and business development area at GreenSpacePro and is a strategic advisor to the Tameka Group.

In 2020, he pivoted from running a successful telecommunications company in Orange County, California, and a 20 year engineering career to start working with GreenSpacePro and the Temeka Group in the cannabis industry. Before his entry into tech. Chris was also a part of the Desert Storm Commissary Support team with the United States Air Force.

So Chris has a long history of great success in business and life. And working at GreenSpacePro they're a product of an AnamiTech and AnamiTech is a maker of purpose built software for the cannabis industry, helping cannabis businesses operate more efficiently and stay compliant and helping government agencies and financial institutions connect with those businesses.

So I'm sure Chris is gonna go into depth. What they're doing at GreenSpacePro and the work he's doing, but I just wanna welcome you here, Chris. Thanks for being on the show.

Chris Lara: Yeah, absolutely. It's great to be here, Tom.

Tom Mulhern: Yeah. As one of our first guests ever it's great to have you here.

So why don't we just kick it off? I just wanna know, you have this long history of telecom technology. What made you switch into cannabis?

Chris Lara: To be honest with you, Tommy, it was something very personal. I'd been an engineer, for a long time involved with software, as well as in telecommunications, as you had stated, but, and that was always, an industry. It was always a, an end a means to an ends.

And, it worked out very well, very grateful for, for that time there One of the things I love about cannabis is I don't necessarily, especially when I get involved and I saw the people involved, I saw the passion and the just, the excitement is, it's an expanding market.

That's coming state by state and eventually be here in the entire United States. It does come with this stigma for sure. And it's a stigma, that I actually held cause I was never really a cannabis user. And I consider it more of a movement. Than an industry or a culture. It's a people that are really have meaning behind and purpose and why behind what they're doing.

And I didn't understand any of that. Being a bit more of a conservative background, not a subscriber to cannabis or the belief that it really helped people and did good things. Unfortunately in my marriage, I'd been married, for about 10 years and I had a wife

at the time healthy marriage that was diagnosed with stage four cancer at the age of 37. And she was actually a Japanese national, a hundred percent Japanese and even stronger stigma towards cannabis than we in the United States. In fact, if you just have a small amount of cannabis, you can go to jail for five years

no questions asked in Japan super strict over there. So you. Long story short, as she, she developed stage four cancer, they gave her a very short time to live a matter of months by the time she was diagnosed and it was hereditary. She was a huge athlete basketball player, six foot Japanese gal, beautiful gal went to the gym, exercised four or five days a week, eight, much better than I did.

And for her to have that diagnosis, we were floored. We had a two year old little daughter at the time. and, when we looked at the options, we just, we decided to jump into chemotherapy and radiation, as well as for the pain and what she was enduring and what she was going through with her liver, it started out as colon cancer and it went to her liver.

Her stomach was extended, almost six inches because of the inflammation and what was going on again, this was a beautiful 37 year old woman, and it was just ravaging her. She started slowly on the pain medication and they were giving her oxycodone and morphine Percocet.

And it was literally turning in her into a walking zombie. And I could say within a short time there was from my perspective there was more damage being done to her by these big pharma drugs than even by the cancer itself. And, we looked at cannabis, but she was absolutely, no way I can never do that.

What would my family say? Cuz there's this huge stigma in Japan, finally we were at our wits end. We said let's try it. And we know she tried it, she couldn't smoke it, obviously because, but we tried some gummies and we tried some tinctures and I have to tell you, Tom, it was amazing.

I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it myself, within a matter of two and a half months, her liver had swollen down almost all the way where you could hardly see any inflammation. Obviously the CBD helped with. The THC, helped with her perspective and her mentality and that there was actually hope that she could actually feel joy.

And she just wasn't bogged and weighed down by these numbing effects of these big pharma drugs. And I honestly believe it gave us two years and we traveled all over the world. We went to Japan, we went to Hawaii. We had a lot of experiences in those times. And I credit a lot of the, the peace.

And the medical benefits that she felt because both the CBD and the THC in cannabis. And after that, I tell you what I was an advocate for sure.

Tom Mulhern: I've heard story. After story of people that cannabis has really changed their life in the better, cancer other diseases that have been not healed, but it makes it so much more bearable. So that's man, what amazing story? .

Chris Lara: Unfortunately she did pass after two years, but I do believe that it definitely prolonged her life. Absolutely the quality of it during that time. And just centering back on the question, that's really the why of why I'm in cannabis. Shortly after she had passed, I started working as a strategic.

Advisor, with a friends company of mine, Paul Nieboer over at Tameka Group, and they were a premier builder they've been in every mall in America, building jewelry stores. And they were in a lot of the stadiums, the cowboy stadium Rams, they helped with SoFi and they built out the fanatics as well as the new era, retail parts of each one of these stadiums.

And they had recently gotten to cannabis, With Stiiizy, they were bringing on Cookies and, cannabis building out those dispensaries with very similar to jewelry with the glass cases and the heightened security and the kind of the the compliance issues. And, Mike Wilson headed it up that company, he was the visionary and his idea was, I want to build all of them, not just one of them.

And he really. Treated the cannabis industry, just like he would, any other customer did not take advantage of the fact that it was cannabis and just, lowered the price, did it in half the time. And they've really won this industry over. It was great to be part of that, to see that, to transition into cannabis since I was already passionate about it.

And about a year, nine months after I joined Temeka, he asked me to help out on GreenSpacePro and the software that they developed to help manage their projects and work specifically in the industry.

Tom Mulhern: We talked about some of the stigmas that people are experiencing in cannabis, but thinking of dispensaries, what are some of the largest roadblocks? For new dispensaries opening in north America. And then what is GreenSpacePropro kind of providing to overcome some of those roadblocks in the way.

Chris Lara: Part of it is the cost obviously is within an, in any business and building that out. A lot of it is just the, regulation and the compliance and the requirements that are put on cannabis. In addition to the normal requirements that would be into, a regular kind of brick and mortar business that doesn't have to adhere to, a lot of the rules on a lot of the regulations that and the fact that it's new and a lot of people are learning what they're doing, or some people are coming out of the illicit market and then learning a whole new kind of paradigm of how to do business.

You know, give an example. I was, fortunate enough to be, you know, I'm part of a Cookies project. We're opening a dispensary in Corona, California Temekas actually beginning the buildout and we're planning to open maybe in December, January or February at the end of this year or in 2023 and went through this whole process, even before we knew we would be awarded a license because in that city, it was a competion.

There were 66 different brands that were competing for 12 different licenses. And it went for everything from knowing the requirements and the daily limits of what a, an individual could consume to the security concerns to, product, to the regulation. And we had to go through a strenuous application.

That application was over a hundred pages long. And again, it was an intense competition, as well as having interview with HDL, which was a governing kind of authority that helps decide who could actually do business within certain cities. So it was extremely competitive. And then we actually came in fourth in that process.

And two years before that even began, we knew we were gonna get the license. It was joining the chamber of commerce, starting at cannabis coalition, donating to first responders because you know what you want to give an image and promote, healthy wellbeing as well as create policies to take care of employees.

And the local community, which is above and beyond just about any other industry, when you're trying to open up a brick and mortar store GreenSpacePro is a really a software built by cannabis people for cannabis people. I've worked with different people that were trying to use Asana or Trello, and those are great project management softwares, but really in this industry, it's about simplicity.

It's about really narrowing down to their needs and meeting those and helping 'em to get answers quickly, as well as collaborating within one ecosystem instead of being fragmented and using five or six. It really helps you manage your projects, your licenses, and your compliance, all in one system as well as helps you to keep track of dates and times.

And it's really streamlined and purpose.

Tom Mulhern: And with so many different legislations in different states, how do cannabis dispensaries manage. That like, how do they manage the different legislations? And I know your software really helps with that, but how do you help those dispensaries manage those compliance and avoid fines?

Cuz it's probably so confusing when you're opening it up and you go online and you look up okay, what do I need to know? And then, it might be different in a different state than the state you're in.

Chris Lara: For someone who is an MSO or even in California, you've got so many different jurisdictions. And they all have their own rules on top of the state legislation. And so you've gotta ha either have a compliance, hire a third party person. What we do is we actually have templates and self audits for the entire state of California that helps you follow those along and then go through it yourself to make sure that you're actually compliant before you get into fines or losing your license as well as be able to manage.

We have a guy Ed Linestskiy, who who's been in the industry for a long time, very versed in him. And we have a, a content crew that helps, the content stay up to date as well as doing specific projects. One of our clients Ashe Society is in Santa Ana and we help develop a template to follow the specific Santa Ana city

requirements on top of, California. So we usually work together and even have a white glove service to work, with our clients to help them with the regulation.

In New York we're really taking that on by storm. A lot of these guys are transitioning from, hemp growers into actual cannabis growers, and we've been through this process dozens and dozens of times, in California and we're and a lot of these guys that they don't know the legislation, even, the governing bodies

they're not sure exactly how to handle this. It's all very new. And so we take a lot of the experience that we have as well as give a lot of, referrals, whether it's, insecurity or employee onboarding or inventory that we have with the connections of the people that are doing business the right way in cannabis.

And we really help guide along that process, because like I said, it's not necessarily an industry. It's a culture, it's a movement. And we're all trying to be successful as this industry expands throughout the entire country.

Tom Mulhern: If a new dispensary's opening, when should they be using a project management solution, like GreenSpacePro from the very beginning or is it something as they grow what challenges would they run into if they don't have something like your system?

I'm sure you've had a lot of cannabis dispensaries come to you being like, ah, we need your help right now. We're running into these issues. When's the best time for a dispensary to start using a solution. Like what you guys offer.

Chris Lara: the very beginning, and even whether it's dispensary or it's manufacturing or cultivation, we have programs and, templates that we work with specific to those, and right from the beginning, even as you're starting your community benefits where you're building your name and you're getting notarized within the local community, which is a very important part especially in different jurisdictions of having a good name and promoting it in a healthy, positive way.

So right from the beginning, you can begin managing all. Kind of a horror story, one of our bigger clients, they're building the stores very quickly. We were up in Santa Barbara. Tomeka finish the entire build out. Did all the millwork, the design handed over the keys,

and what happened is a lot of times you may not have your location or you may not, have your building, you might have certain things in place when you're applying for that license. They had everything go into a PO box. Guess what? They are operational, they are profitable a year goes by.

Boom. They get shut down. They lose their license. It took two months for them to reopen and they lost all that inter you know, revenue, because why, because they didn't check their PO box. Simple things with reminders, emails, notifications, creating teams as well as privacy. It allows you to, keep track of what's going on and collaborate with your team.

Tom Mulhern: Speaking of collaboration, you mentioned Tameka group and Mike Wilson founded Tameka group as well as Anami Tech. How do you partner with Tameka to of offer this all in one solution for clients? You've worked with Cookies and Ashe and some of these others.

What does that collaboration look.

Chris Lara: Temeka really is the premier builder for a lot of these, for a lot of, at least the retail presence in cannabis throughout the entire country. They're in dozens and pretty soon hundreds of stores that they're building, they've got the process down and they actively exclusively use GreenSpacePro to manage all their

projects, you can invite in, outside people to a specific task project or location such as your GCs. And also the team that we're working with at the time, whether it's, Seven 10 labs or Ashe or one of these other guys we're actively using the software with them, we give them a, a free license in the beginning, so they can actually use it to project manage.

And so they're already ingrained in the software. It's helping them out. We know it's gonna help 'em out because it's helped us out so much in order to keep track of these projects and keep things on a timely way, as well as see a timeline of you know, when each action is happening, as well as the dependencies.

And from there, we give them a, just a great discounted rate from there so they can continue to use it, to manage their projects. We've really narrowed down this entire process to. Big milestones. One is up until you get your license. And everything that goes into that is, is just, a monstrosity.

And then after that, obviously running efficiently, avoiding fines and obviously avoid losing your license. And we help with both aspects of the business there.

Tom Mulhern:  What is one thing about the cannabis industry that you just didn't expect that you've, that's really surprised you about working in, in cannabis?

Chris Lara:  I think it, it just points back to what I was saying before. Just, dealing with technology. It's exciting. It's interesting. It's new. If you don't keep up with it what, you know, almost becomes obsolete. And so that does add a more of exciting aspect to it than a lot of other industries, but cannabis is just changing daily and new things are coming out and new states are coming on new legislation and new products.

You see people who are involved, who love the industry who love cannabis themselves and are passionate. And just the energy. Like when you go to a conference, unlike a technology show or telecom show, like you go to MJ biz and it's wow, I'm here.

And people are excited. And just the energy. We're, a lot of us are just having a ton of fun because of the nature of the industry and the culture within the cannabis. And that's one of the things I actually. Didn't realize not only that, the amount of professionalism a lot of these guys have and just, how evolved some of the systems they have.

And it's just been a real pleasant surprise. And it's always exciting.

Tom Mulhern: For a new cannabis business, that's looking to open up. What is one piece of advice that you give to someone who's thinking about getting into cannabis or opening a dispensary? What's like a nugget a piece of advice that you would give to someone looking to enter?

Chris Lara: I think one of the great things about this and this reinforces, what I keep saying is you're not alone and don't reinvent the will. There are people out here that have been successful. There's a huge community embrace that get input on it. Don't think that you, Hey I can do this

cuz there's so many nuances and so many pitfalls and so many horror stories, gravitate to people who are already successful in the business. That's what we try to do, in our partnerships with you and several other, players in different parts of the industry and just, a lot of people, you just find working together, helping each other out because, we are passionate about it and I think that's really important.

There is competition, of course, but it's a healthy aspect to this industry and not so much a negative eat each other to death. So you can be successful mentality, at least what I've found in my experience in it.

Tom Mulhern: It's such a growing industry, it's just doubling and doubling, and it's such a young industry. And so we have to work together, coming into cannabis. You kinda have to, because what else are you gonna do? We're all newbies at it,

Chris Lara: exactly.

Tom Mulhern: Anything else you wanna share with some of our listeners, any other questions that you may have?

Chris Lara: How is it going for you guys? What is it that you guys, cuz obviously you're very successful, like in the restaurant sectors and several other sectors and now you guys are really pushing for being the premier employee management software.

Like what is it about you that. For you? What makes a cannabis exciting and why cannabis versus a different industry?

Tom Mulhern: For Kaya, we kind of transitioned in uh, during the pandemic, as you know, we're, we're Push Operations was more of like a restaurant industry uh, people management system and with COVID and lockdowns and all of that we, we found that just. You know, It was a struggling industry. And so looking at cannabis, we really saw this thriving industry that we could come and use this amazing software that we'd built to help retailers do what they're doing even better.

And it's been such a, an amazing fit for what we offer this all in one solution for HR onboarding, everything. What you guys are doing, offering a all in one solution because people don't want to go and find a different thing for their payroll and a different thing for their, for making sure that they have the right legislation as they're opening a dispensary, they want it to be as easy as possible.

And so, that's kind of where we came in and stepped in and said, we have this solution. Let's see if it works. And it's really gone well, being able to partner with new dispensaries opening up and, it's a challenge, like you said, like every place is so different

So managing that has been an interesting journey for our team, for sure.

Chris Lara: No, absolutely. I would agree with you on that, but no, it's exciting.

Tom Mulhern: Chris, how can people find out more about what the work you're doing, maybe, find out more about GreenSpacePro or even Tameka?

What are some ways they can connect with you or connect with what you guys are doing?

Chris Lara: Yeah, I think one of the best ways is through our website, you can, contact us. You can schedule a demo, I'd be more than happy to do a demo. We actually have an entire team, for onboarding for customer success, and that website is

And I would encourage people to go there, to read a little bit about it, understand about what we're trying to do, how we're trying to help. And the other, you know, for Tameka group, who's building out a lot of these dispensaries and handling it the right way and taking care of people.

That's and we're at a lot of the shows together and building a huge community. But I think that's usually probably the best way to start to look more into that.

Tom Mulhern: Thank you so much for coming on the show and kind of sharing, such insights on really, that starting point for dispensaries and those important things, helping them to avoid those fines and those regulations that could really be disastrous.

So man, I really

Chris Lara: absolutely. And thanks for having me on to this has been a lot of fun. It's, great, talking with you again and, looking forward to, in the future possibly doing more of these or, getting together and within the community.

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