Item 9 Labs Corp.’s recent acquisition of ONE Cannabis Group, the parent company to dispensary franchisor Unity Rd., creates the nation’s first vertically integrated cannabis franchisor. In announcing the deal, the combined companies stated key goals of converting Unity Rd. website visitors into bona fide franchisee leads and assisting new and established dispensary owners in handling problems.
Unity Rd. is steadily awarding franchises around the United States, and Item 9 Labs will provide crucial assistance in developing a trusted supply chain for all of them. This is a particularly thorny challenge for cannabis dispensaries because cannabis products are not permitted to cross state lines. Due to this constraint, Item 9 Labs aims to partner with cultivation sites as suppliers within the same states where Unity Rd. franchisees operate.
Item 9 Labs offers more than 75 active cannabis strains and 150-plus differentiated cannabis vape products along with concentrates. At its home base in Arizona, which legalized adult use of cannabis this past January, Item 9 Labs is increasing its operation by some 650,000 square feet on its 50-acre location. Item 9 Labs’ products are sold in nearly half of Arizona’s cannabis dispensaries.
In announcing the acquisition, Item 9 Labs CEO Andrew Bowden said his company has “grown intentionally with all brands centered on helping others become the best versions of themselves. This fits well with Unity Rd.’s mission of inspiring confidence in the benefits of cannabis for all.”
Item 9 Labs also owns and operates DispensaryPermits.com and DispensaryTemplates.com, platforms for providing information relating to cannabis laws and regulations, cannabis-related news from states, and cannabis business applications.
Awarding cannabis licenses
The newly-combined companies already have won cannabis licenses in 15 states. Mike Weinberger, chief operating officer of ONE Cannabis who has become chief franchise officer of Item 9 Labs Corp., said those successes are an important foundation for future franchisees. “Extending our in-house knowledge in dispensary applications will strengthen our traction in emerging markets,” he said, adding that access to Item 9 Labs products will give Unity Rd.’s franchise partners a leg up on their competitors.
Several states are looking at how tax revenue from legal cannabis could greatly offset the economic damage caused by COVID-19.Mike Weinberger
Weinberger also pointed out that the pandemic has fueled a boom in the industry as a whole. Several states – among them New York’s recent steps toward legalization – are “looking at how tax revenue from legal cannabis could greatly offset the economic damage caused by COVID-19.”
For its part, Unity Rd. reports a hefty uptick in franchise lead activity over the past six months. Arizona, Colorado, Maine, Michigan, New Jersey and Oklahoma are major targets for its franchising expansion.
One key attraction of Unity Rd., which was founded in 2018, is its solid track record. Its experienced leadership team shares crucial resources and knowledge that help franchisees operate their dispensaries with legal compliance so they can earn a big slice of the cannabis financial pie, which is expected to surpass $24 billion by the end of the year.
Justin Livingston, Unity Rd.’s vice president of franchise development, said his company offers franchisees a proven system that includes navigating the difficult licensing process for cannabis dispensaries. “I honestly don’t know how anyone could go it alone,” Livingston said. The license applications are more than 100 pages long, he said, and “are crazy complicated.”
Unity Rd. already has signed multiple agreements with 10 entrepreneurial groups across the country. It has been hailed as a top cannabis retail leader by MJBizDaily magazine and in 2020 was cited as one of the Best Cannabis Companies to Work For in the dispensary and cultivation categories in Cannabis Business Times. The company is the first cannabis business to receive a Franchise Times Dealmakers award.
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