TILT Holdings’ Blackbird technology powers cannabis delivery services in California and Nevada, where the states’ governors have deemed the industry “essential” and open for business—with some caveats. Certain dispensaries may now only permit medical cannabis patients in the store, for instance. Much of the market, then, has quickly flipped over to delivery and pickup orders.
Tim Conder, TILT Holdings COO, says that Blackbird data shows a 400% increase from one week to the next, citing sales numbers from mid-March—just as the coronavirus outbreak was settling the U.S. into widespread shelter-in-place dictates. Delivery had suddenly become more important than ever in this nascent industry.
“The situation this week has been rapidly evolving,” Conder says. “Our first and foremost concern is protecting the safety of our employees, but also keeping them working so that everyone can continue to be paid and not use up paid leave. We’ve been really trying to balance those two things, which has been pretty difficult.”
The key is adaptability.
The Blackbird team typically offers a two-hour delivery window. In short order, that was bumped back to same-day. Now, the team is working with next-day delivery.
“The situation is conducive to next-day delivery because the lion’s share of the population is required to be at home,” Conder says. “We can route all the deliveries that were placed the previous day. It’s allowing us to keep up with the surge in demand.”
In the meantime, this flexibility is allowing the team to perform significantly more deliveries.
And while Blackbird has been developing its system for several years now, other companies are finding themselves in a position where delivery network must be assembled quickly. In Michigan, for instance, dispensaries were given the greenlight by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to begin delivering cannabis directly to customers at home. Easier said than done, of course.
“Logistics and transportation are complex,” Conder says. “Networks cannot be established overnight. It requires procurement of vehicles, it requires employees, and to actually provide long-term sustainable service, it requires an understanding of your network logistics. That’s who your clients are, who your customers are, where they live, when they expect their products. It’s a complex infrastructure.”
One effect of these rapid-fire market trends is a stronger demand for delivery services in the cannabis space—even after the coronavirus outbreak subsides. It’s an open question for now, but it’s certainly possible that more companies will need to develop delivery systems to meet the market where it’s headed.
It’s unclear, however, when commercial industries and the U.S. economy will settle back into anything resembling normal. For now, cannabis companies are taking this crisis day by day.
“We’re just trying to make sure that we keep up with demand so that people can continue to get the services they’ve come to rely on through Blackbird,” Conder says, “while keeping our employees safe during this very uncertain time.”