Kayla Johnson | Oklahoma Chronic Magazine | June 18, 2020
By all standards, Oklahoma's cannabis industry is thriving.
Left and right, records are being smashed, and with how well things are going, it came as an incredibly nasty shock to many dispensaries, processors, and grow facilities when 7-11 reached out and informed them rather abruptly that leases would not be renewed for their buildings.
7-Eleven Inc., which owns approximately 70,000 stores in total, bought out the Oklahoma franchise for its stores in January of this year. At the time of the sale, lease-holders were sent an email from the property manager, informing them of the transaction and letting them know that "on day one, nothing changes" and that "There is no need for lease assignments."
Six months later, in the midst of a global pandemic that has impacted many aspects of daily life here in Oklahoma, many of these same lease-holders were informed by phone that 7-Eleven would not be renewing their leases, and their businesses were to vacate the property.
For business owners like John Koumbis, owner of JKJ Processing Inc., the impossibly-short notice they received has left them scrambling to figure out what their options are, and he says the impact of the company's decision would be widespread across the state"I couldn't believe it, to be honest. It's utterly ridiculous of them to shove that onto us at this kind of short notice, and the worst part is, there are several hundreds of us that are going to be impacted by this. The space we occupy was empty for 13 years before we leased it from them, and I'm not sure what they're thinking with this, honestly."
Like many other business owners across the state, Koumbis received a phone call on June 16th from the 7-Eleven property manager that oversees his building, informing him that 7-Eleven would not be renewing their lease, which was originally set for renewal on July 1st. Understandably upset, Koumbis asked why the company had abruptly changed course on cannabis leaseholders, the answer he was given was shocking. "She just said that they're not for marijuana, they don't believe in it, and they're not renewing any leases going forward with anyone who's in the marijuana business and leases from 7-Eleven."
During his conversation with the property manager, Koumbis also asked point-blank how long the company had known they wouldn't be renewing and was told that 7-Eleven made the decision back in January, then decided to wait until two weeks before many renewal dates to inform businesses, leaving hundreds of business owners and employees scrambling. Despite their lease stating that thirty days of notice was required by both landlord and tenant, a separate section, Koumbis discovered, essentially nullified that, and says that it makes it especially abhorrent that the company waited several months and up to the last two weeks to make any contact with tenants about the changes. "The building we occupy, it sat empty for over twelve years before we leased it, it took a lot of time and money just to get it up to code, and so many other mom and pop shops are in the same boat. They've sunk their life savings into these places, and they're just getting pushed out now."
I reached out to the property manager, and 7-Eleven's corporate offices both here, and in Texas for comment about this situation and to share their reasonings for pushing these businesses out, and received nothing. Even though 7-Eleven has remained silent after putting, at a minimum, dozens of Oklahoma cannabis businesses in an incredibly tight spot during a global pandemic, these canna-businesses have always embodied Oklahoma's drive to succeed against all odds, and in spite of 7-Eleven's apparent disdain for the industry and its employees, they'll continue to do just that: succeed.
As we receive more information, we'll continue to update this story, and in the chance that 7-Eleven does reach out, their response will be shared here as well.