Liberty Cannabis comes to Missouri: Q&A with Lee Riley
Lee Riley is the Retail Market Director for Liberty Cannabis in Missouri. Liberty Cannabis is the retail arm of Holistic Industries and will operate 4 dispensaries in Missouri. In addition to Missouri, Liberty Cannabis currently operates dispensaries in California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.
Holistic Industries is the largest privately held multi-state operator in the US operating in 9 states. In addition to the Liberty Cannabis dispensaries, Holistic possesses licenses for cultivation and manufacturing in Missouri with a combined facility expected to open later this year.
Riley is a Missouri native who joined Liberty Cannabis in November of 2020. Riley has a background in legal cannabis markets and will oversee Liberty’s retail operations in Missouri.
On September 10, Liberty Cannabis launched its first of four retail locations in the state, located at 1400 Forum Blvd, STE 12 in Columbia, the first location will be joined by additional dispensaries in Kansas City, Rolla, and St. Louis – which are expected to come online by the end of 2021.
Greenway recently spoke to Riley about the impact and expectations of Liberty Cannabis coming to Missouri.
What does the Liberty Cannabis track record and experience in other states bring to the Missouri market that hasn’t existed yet?
Since the company started in limited license and medical markets, we really understand how to meet patient needs when it comes to access, product quality and consistency, and the retail experience. Holistic and Liberty were started by Josh Genderson in 2011 when he won a grower/processor license in D.C. He wanted his facility to be the best, which meant also learning everything he could about medical programs, licensing and regulation. Soon after, he was introduced to some parents who told him about a group of kids with intractable epilepsy that benefitted from high-CBD strains of cannabis. After meeting Jackson, one of the kids, and seeing first-hand how the medicine helped him, Josh knew he had to grow and process medical cannabis for these kids in D.C. Fast forward ten years later and we now operate in nine states, including Maryland and Pennsylvania, which are also medical-only markets. So, it’s personal for us. Not only do we know how to successfully open and operate in medical markets, but we all share a passion for advancing cannabis access and products for those in need. One of the biggest hurdles in launching a new market usually comes down to education and just as we have done in PA and Maryland, we train our staff accordingly to answer any and all of our patients questions and needs, matching them to products that will work best for their conditions.
What sets Liberty Cannabis apart from other brands and companies in Missouri?
We bring a new level of sophistication and expertise to the Missouri medical cannabis market with a positive track record of operating in medical markets around the country.
What can you tell me about your locations and their selection?
We’re so excited to come to Missouri. Liberty Columbia is our first, and newest, cannabis dispensary and opened on Friday. We will have additional dispensaries opening soon in Kansas City, St. Louis and Rolla, and our grow processing facility also in Kansas City by the end of the year. At Liberty, we make an investment in every community in which we operate and choose locations based on communities that want and need us to bring economic development, jobs and initiatives that will help better the communities we’re in like cannabis education, neighborhood beautification and revitalization, and other important investments. Our Columbia location is in a high traffic area with plenty of parking and shopping only 5 minutes away from the stadium and university.
What is the brand and business identity about?
At Liberty, we celebrate and believe that ‘Life is Better with Cannabis.’ Liberty is a neighborhood dispensary with diversity and inclusion at our core. Our goal is to have a workforce that looks like the community mosaics we serve.
How is your Liberty Cannabis aiming to be involved in the communities they are establishing a presence in?
We believe that cannabis is a force for good. Our regional focus and investment in the communities in which we operate allows for expansion into new markets, like Missouri, while maintaining the company’s core values to be the best place to work and shop in the cannabis industry. We hire locally and at this particular location have hired almost 20 positions (including both full and part time), with the ability to scale depending as patient demand increases. We also place a heavy emphasis on community outreach and cannabis education programs and are proud to be partnering with local non-profits like Southeast Enterprise (SEE) and Alphapointe for job training and placement for differently abled people. These partnerships support our goal to have a diverse workforce that includes people from different races, gender, gender identification, creed, ethnicity, religious belief, ability, LGBTQ+, and more. We know that when we have diversity seated at the table, production increases, employees are happier and patients who walk into Liberty and engage with our team can feel that. From a community outreach standpoint, we have a corporate social responsibility program called Liberty Cannabis Cares. We have already started sponsoring events and offer volunteer opportunities for our staff in the community including the Adopt-A-Highway program.
How has Liberty Cannabis been engaging with customers prior to launch?
Missouri has strict guidelines around engaging with patients directly through marketing, so we haven’t done a lot of that type of outreach to date. However, we’re hiring and those new hires are excited about Liberty and telling their friends and family about it. We’ve also started some community outreach projects and are hoping to get to know the locals in each of the locations through some of those efforts.
What are some of the products Liberty Cannabis will have available and from what companies?
We carefully curated our menu to offer the very best brands and products, from flower to oils to edibles, available in the state of Missouri. We are passionate about giving patients access to the highest quality cannabis, so have selected products that fit the bill. Once our grow/processing facility is up and running, we’re excited to bring some of Holistic’s brands to the market.
What should a patient expect at Liberty Cannabis?
While there are many options for cannabis patients in Missouri, what makes Liberty the best place to shop is the comfortable, at-home feeling patients get when they walk in the door. We are committed to being a true neighborhood dispensary by hiring from the surrounding neighborhood and giving back to the local community. The Liberty retail experience is convenient and unintimidating with a store set-up designed to invite shoppers to explore with captivating displays and organic elements. Liberty team members are called “Wellness Guides.” They are passionate about cannabis and deeply committed to sharing that passion and knowledge with others, making them a big part of the patient’s retail experience. Often, customers develop relationships with Liberty Wellness Guides, asking for them and their recommendations by name and finding new products for new patients. We’re also the first cannabis retailer to join the ranks of forward-thinking companies like Starbucks with a sophisticated app called Liberty Wallet, designed specifically around patient’s needs when it comes to cashless payments, messaging and a loyalty program that truly benefits the patient. It’s a convenient, safe and secure way for our patients to get the most out of their shopping experience at Liberty and is available for download on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. Think about it as cashless cannabis!
Do you have any events coming up?
Absolutely! We have events in the communities where we have Liberty dispensaries and other facilities. Throughout the year, we will be partnering with, and sponsoring, various local activations, initiatives and events through Liberty Cannabis Cares, our corporate social responsibility (CSR) arm of Holistic Industries. Most immediately, we’re a proud sponsor and community volunteer for The Harvest Hootenanny on September 18th. The Harvest Hootenanny is a yearly celebration of local agriculture and marks the completion of another successful growing season. For over a decade, Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture has used The Harvest Hootenanny, to showcase the value of urban agriculture and continue building community around the mission of good food for all, and the skills to grow it.