Justin Cue was born in Winslow, Arizona, but raised in the Midwest, giving him a unique perspective on the cannabis industry and attitude of his home state. He’s been the General Manager of Sol Flower Sun City since March, meaning he was faced with unforeseen challenges right away in creating a safe in-store experience for patients, and just recently moved into a General Manager role at the Tempe location. We chatted with Justin about what makes the west coast unique, what makes cannabis different than coffee and how Sol Flower busts common myths about what a dispensary should be.
What do you look for when building a team and a culture in your store?
Culture is everything. All the dispensaries here sell similar products, and we all carry each other’s brands. It’s the people that make a place stand out. Our motto here is to foster an inclusive cannabis community, and that means hiring people with an inclusive and holistic mindset when it comes to health. Because health is a variety of things – exercise, eating right, taking care of the mental side – and we try to hire people with a diversity of thought and open minds.
What are some of your favorite memories from your career in the cannabis industry?
Working as a budtender, like I did for so many years, you get to meet all sorts of interesting and cool people. And yeah, I love helping people on a daily basis with their meds, helping them pick the best flower, etc… But then there’s the one person in ten who comes in and sincerely tells me how their health is not in a good place and cannabis is truly the only thing that makes them feel better. I like to remind people that this plant isn’t like coffee or yoga where it helps get you through your day – in some cases it’s literally the only thing helping people. So I appreciate the activism around cannabis and making it recreational, but it’s so cool to be reminded regularly just how important it actually is.
What stands out about the Arizona market compared to the Midwest?
I definitely went against the grain with my thoughts and pursuits when I was living in the middle of the country. Even family and friends weren’t sure about cannabis as a career 10 years ago. Though from my perspective, the market had a lot of potential and it has truly developed to be one of the best in the country. There are a ton of great brands and a really good ecosystem of cultivation, testing and dispensing. The vibe out here is great. I worked in the industry in Michigan for a bit and it may be that the midwest just isn’t as developed yet. Cannabis culture is just really alive on the west coast and has had more time to establish itself.
What are some of the biggest misconceptions around dispensaries, and how does your store break them?
I think a lot of people expect to visit some shoddy hole in the wall place with stereotypical stoners working there. Like you would literally have to put your hand through a hole to get weed. Of course, it’s not like that at all. Especially at Sol Flower. We try to cultivate an experience that’s top tier and we provide a sleek, modern retail space similar to an Apple or Tesla store. A place where people look at it and go, oh wow, is that a dispensary? This is real medicine that helps people from all walks of life and our dispensaries are inviting places.
Favorite ways to consume?
I appreciate a good dab and a nice bowl. Lately I’ve been more into edibles and tinctures, but I mostly like to keep it simple.
Favorite cannabis memories?
It might sound cliche, though cannabis and nature just go really well together. There’s nothing like waking up and looking out over a canyon, forest or ocean and enjoying some top shelf flower.