James Johnston spent 30 years as a postal executive, so it’s fair to say the man knows a thing or ten about logistics. Sol Flower is lucky to have this Pennsylvania transplant heading up our brand new white glove cannabis delivery service, which soft launched earlier this week at our flagship Sun City location. We chatted with James about the new program, the learning curve for an industry outsider, and the joys of jamming with a joint.
What’s it been like getting Sol Flower’s delivery service up and running in such a short time?
I’ve been the delivery operations and logistics manager at Sol Flower for 5 weeks. The first week I was here I hired 20 people. I had to pick my management team, onboard 16 delivery drivers, build the process from scratch and do all the state compliance checks. It’s a little different than delivering pizza, but it’s worth it because this gives patients another avenue to get their medicine without having to come in.
How has your background helped you get a program like this off the ground?
I’m a retired postal executive with 30 years of experience. I was the VP of western Pennsylvania and oversaw 900 post offices and 5 processing/distribution plants. Sol Flower brought me out because of that experience, even though I’m a total outsider to the cannabis industry. It’s definitely refreshing to see how happy and excited all the employees at Sol Flower are – it’s such a huge change coming out of the government after three decades.
What makes this the moment to get into the industry?
For me, it’s the excitement of being part of a legalized industry. It’s historic what’s happening around the country. At the same time, it can be tough for an outsider to get in because there’s such a steep learning curve – more than I even thought. I had been looking to get into the space for 18 months and it wasn’t until I started here that I understood just how much knowledge of the plant that Retail and General Managers really have. I thought I knew about it because I’ve been smoking for 40 years, but I feel like a layman in many ways. But now, with delivery starting up, it’s going to bring in more people like me from different industries who can help businesses scale in unique ways. I finally have a niche.
What have you learned so far in your cannabis crash course?
I’ve been a proponent of the plant since 1980. My dad started the UMSM – United Marijuana Smokers of Michigan – in the 70s, trying to legalize it all the way back then. So I’ve been around the gray for many years but all I really knew was there was indica and sativa. When I got here and people asked me what my favorite strain was, I told them I’ve never met a strain I didn’t like. It’s been eye opening learning about the differences between strains and the medicinal values of each. We have over 100 strains here so I have a lot of research still to do before I can really nail down a favorite now.
What are some of your passions outside of logistics?
I’ve played guitar for 43 years and been in bands all throughout my life. I jam with some buddies in Portland and we’ve even written a couple albums together without ever being in the same room. Music really centers me, so when I’m feeling anxious I pick up my acoustic and strum for 20 minutes to get right with myself. Cannabis helps me focus while I’m playing and uplifts me at the same time.
Favorite way to consume?
I’m a good old fashioned, roll up a joint on a frisbee guy. I’ll leave it at that.