Columbia Care Turns Its Attention to Florida in Effort to Launch Cannabist Retail Brand
Photo courtesy of Columbia Care

Columbia Care Turns Its Attention to Florida in Effort to Launch Cannabist Retail Brand

Chief Growth Officer Jesse Channon said the rebrand will help the company compete more effectively in the state’s unique market.

September 13, 2021

Columbia Care’s national rebrand has come to Florida, the latest state where the company’s dispensaries will now operate under its Cannabist brand.

RELATED: Columbia Care Launches 'Cannabist' Retail Brand

Columbia Care announced Sept. 2 that the Florida Department of Health’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use (OMMU) approved the name change, paving the way for the company’s 14 dispensary locations across the state to take on the new brand.

In addition to its retail locations in Cape Coral, Gainesville, Jacksonville, Melbourne, Miami, Orlando, Longwood, Bonita Springs, Bradenton, Brandon, Delray Beach, St. Augustine, Stuart and Sarasota, Columbia Care operates more than 100,000 square feet of cultivation and manufacturing capacity in the state.

The company also operates in Massachusetts; New York; Pennsylvania; Ohio; Delaware; Maryland; Virginia; Washington, D.C; Arizona; California; Colorado and Utah.

All 99 of Columbia Care’s existing dispensaries across the country, as well as any new retail locations that will be built out, will all eventually operate under the Cannabist brand. Rebranding has already been completed in Tempe, Ariz.; San Diego, Calif.; Villa Park, Ill.; Lowell, Mass. and Deptford, N.J, as well as across all of Columbia Care’s retail operations in Utah.

Columbia Care’s chief growth officer, Jesse Channon, told Cannabis Dispensary that all the company’s dispensaries will be rebranded by the end of the year, and that the rebrand in Florida will help the multistate operator compete more effectively in that state’s unique market.

“I think Florida is a really interesting view into a licensed, regulated market where you see that just being present and just having product is not good enough anymore,” Channon said.

As more vertically integrated medical cannabis providers come online in the state, patients have more options—and operators have more competition. Increased product offerings have made patients more selective, Channon said, which pushes businesses to provide not only a wider variety of products, but also better retail experiences.

“I think that’s a trend that we’ve seen emerging and part of the reason we made the decision to invest in the state by flipping every one of our existing locations to the new format, putting in the new technology, doing the new infrastructure builds, doing it all at one time,” he said.

The inspiration behind the Cannabist brand is the “total weed nerd” or the “sommelier of weed,” Channon said—the “cannabists” who have totally immersed themselves in the plant.

As they looked across the industry, the Columbia Care team felt that the cannabis retail experience had become too transactional and sterile, and they wanted to change that.

“We wanted to build something that focused on the concept of empathetic education and really put engagement with the consumer at the center of that whole experience, whether it’s technology or the infrastructure, the way that we design the spaces [or] the brands that we carry,” Channon said.

The team also wanted the new brand to immediately communicate to consumers what the store sells, and that it is a place where customers can engage with an expert on cannabis to help guide their shopping experience.

With the rebrand now underway in Florida and elsewhere across the country, Channon said it has been challenging to retrofit existing facilities under the Cannabist name.

“We often joke around that being a multistate operator and having the footprint that we do, which is among the largest in the country in terms of the number of markets that we serve, it’s kind of like running a multinational organization inside the U.S.,” he said. “Every state is a bit different from a regulatory and compliance point of view.”

Not only must Columbia Care seek regulatory approval in each state to change the name of its dispensaries, but the company must also evaluate its existing infrastructure when retrofitting its operational dispensaries to align with the new brand. Colors and logos have to be updated in each location, and Columbia Care must also be mindful of not wasting the existing structures and finishes already in place at its retail locations.

“The team has done a really good job and a thoughtful approach to taking the best out of those spaces that existed and then ultimately bringing them to a place where they feel as on-brand as something like Deptford, N.J., which was a new build that ultimately ended up the Cannabist,” Channon said. “The goal is to have a cohesive feeling across the country, but the retrofits are definitely the more challenging to do.”

The new branding also comes with updates to Columbia Care’s technology. The company has implemented Forage, a proprietary product discovery application that allows patients and adult-use consumers to take a quiz that ultimately recommends products and brands that they might enjoy.

Each of the Cannabist locations will also have touchscreen panels throughout the store that will display the dispensary’s menu and allow for express ordering.

“I think the combination of those two technologies, plus the new retail experience, just gives patients a lot more power when it comes to things that can make a difference for them,” Channon said.