‘Into the light’: Truckee cannabis delivery grows amid pandemic
On Jan. 15, Tahoe Honey Co. began taking its first recreational and medical marijuana orders after having its business shuttered for roughly two years.
The owner of the company, Charles Willett, said he had to stop operating while awaiting county and state permits, but after receiving a use permit from the town in June, followed by a six-month wait at the state level, he has been cleared to resume delivery services in the Truckee-Tahoe area.
While Willett said business is good in the area, he’s still recovering from paying rent at his location in Truckee for the past two years, along with dealing with a number of other hurdles when it comes to delivering cannabis in the Truckee-Tahoe area.
Among the challenges the three delivery services in Truckee face are rules from county to county, state restrictions between California and Nevada, and operating under a delivery-only business model.
“I would be lying to say that it doesn’t hurt the business not to have a brick-and-mortar store,” said Willett, who added that having a physical storefront is a long-term goal of Tahoe Honey Co.
Willett said that while having a brick-and-mortar location would help his business grow, there has been pushback from members of the community about having marijuana dispensaries in Truckee — a stigma related to the industry he’s hoping to change.
“For so long the cannabis industry was in the shadows and now we’re coming from the shadows into the light,” said Willett. “We are people, too, and we just want to be welcomed into the community. I’d love the opportunity and the chance to change people’s feelings or to show them a different side of cannabis.”
Part of changing people’s perceptions about the industry, according to Willett, will be centered around giving back to the community. Tahoe Honey Co. recently launched its Bears Helping Bees nonprofit, which aims to establish a charitable footprint in the community. Willett said plans are to engage the community regarding causes that funds would be directed toward.
Brick and mortar vs. delivery
Another of the town’s delivery services, Tahoe Harvest Collection, has been operating for roughly a year now. Owner Michael Johnson said he isn’t necessarily interested in moving away from the delivery model, stating that a physical store would create additional costs for his business.
“You’d have to have armed guards and employees all of the time,” said Johnson. “It’s a different ball game.”
Johnson said business at Tahoe Harvest Collection, which he operates with his son Andrew, has been steady during the past year, but that the industry as a whole still faces an uphill battle regarding several issues. Johnson highlighted the 280e tax code, which doesn’t allow for businesses that sell Schedule I or II controlled substances to deduct any expenses related to their operation.
“At the end of the year, we can’t take federal deductions,” said Johnson. “At the end of the year, we may be paying 80% federal tax.”
Another issue facing businesses in the industry is restrictions surrounding advertising. Under state law, businesses selling cannabis are only allowed to advertise via broadcast, cable, radio, print, or digital communications where at least 71.6% of the audience is reasonably expected to be 21 years of age.
Still, Johnson said his business has continued to grow this past year, adding that many of the customers he’s added are from the Bay Area or are here for ski trips.
“It’s seven days a week, 11 hours a day,” he said. “It’s not an easy business. You’re constantly moving. We are just constantly working.”
Truckee’s other cannabis delivery service, Winter Greens, was the first to be fully permitted by the town and state. Owner Todd Winter said shortly after starting operations that the biggest hurdles facing businesses in the industry are costs.
“It’s expensive,” said Winter “You have to find property. You have to talk to landlords that will see eye-to-eye with you and be OK with cannabis in their space.”
Currently, three businesses hold use permits for cannabis in Truckee. The town doesn’t have a cap on the number of permits it will issue.
Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-550-2643.
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