Being a cannabis retail business owner in any industry comes with a tremendous amount of responsibility—the safety of your employees and customers, proper legal compliance, and facilitating a space that has a purpose are among a few to mention. The cannabis industry is no different and your responsibilities as a cannabis business owner actually increase due to the simple fact that cannabis is a heavily regulated substance, whether or not people use it for medical benefits or recreationally.
More than that, cannabis retail has its own track record of negative connotations and it’s been a battle to get to the point we’re at currently. From being a Schedule I drug to being used in medical applications around the world, cannabis has been and continues to go through it all.
Owning a cannabis retail business that handles product means that these responsibilities lie in keeping forward progress at the forefront of why you’re in the industry. It means that a focus on monetary value not only destroys the potential for advancement in a social setting, but in a medical setting by reinforcing positions against cannabis. More though, it means that you ought to take culture into consideration and examine those that are affected by what you are seeking to accomplish in this industry.
Negative connotations which stemmed from the Reefer Madness era are constantly being challenged and making an active attempt to engage in dialogue that flips the script is undoubtedly important. Taking pride in the industry that you work in and being the conversation starter to break that stigma and educate consumers—new or old—is a duty that business owners should take seriously.
This is to say that as a cannabis retail business owner, you are part of a community that is fighting an uphill battle—and we all can use as much help as we can get.
Be patient and take the time to educate newcomers or those of opposing viewpoints that cannabis has a lot to offer. Mentioning the legitimization of the industry through check and balances systems put in place such as METRC integration, testing procedures, and the research that is being completed helps paint a picture of the realistic situation in the industry.
As an owner of a company in the industry, it’s pivotal to be able to converse with fellow businesses owners, potential employees, and consumers to push the cannabis industry forward. It means networking should be a priority so as to work collectively and contribute to an overall positive cannabis experience.
Point consumers in a direction that contributes to an overall positive cannabis retail experience, without frustration (though it can be difficult). For some, this is done simply by extending an invitation to your location for a tour. For others, it’s by providing resources that individuals can grasp for on their own time such as product information brochures and graphic pamphlets.
Everyday conversations are going to make this industry succeed and in-turn make you succeed.
Prior to legalization, dispensaries have historically been seen as dirty, unprofessional, “pot shops” that have nothing positive to offer to the public. Locations with rod-iron bars, dark windows that sport the typical green “stoner” cross, and improper check-in techniques do nothing but reinforce this narrative. This script, although fading slightly in younger generations, is still alive and well in various parts of the country.
As an owner, aiming to flip the script and take the lead in promoting a new narrative should be a top priority. Creating an inviting environment that aims to impress your customers at first sight is a sure fire way of being able to participate in an overall positive experience.
Simple aesthetic upgrades to your dispensary such as clean furniture to relax on in the lobby, inviting color schemes, and well-lit displays that are organized with intent can be the difference between making a positive impact and losing a customer before they can look around. This goes for the brands that you carry as well.
Adhering to new regulations such as enforcing employee badges adds a subtle, but effective way of welcoming consumers.
But that’s not everything—your staff needs to be top-notch too!
Not only should your employees strive to be the best, but they should certainly look and act like it! Responsibilities in training your staff properly on available products and new technology will help you separate from the illicit market that cannabis is oftentimes paired with. This includes online ordering (if available) and the advantages of using software to increase efficiency. Providing your staff with knowledge in biological subjects they need to answer questions about things such as terpenes, grow techniques, and various strains is critical.
It’s rare that your budtender or a first-time customer knows everything about cannabis other than what they have heard or been told, but everyday creates an opportunity to expand a knowledge base. Encounters with customers should be seen as an opportunity for your budtenders to either teach or learn something new at the end of each day.
Promoting ethics that takes something positive away from every transaction and creates an overall positive impression is oftentimes a priority that is overlooked if focusing solely on the monetary value that your business has.
And this is where curating an experience for your customers can make a world of difference—don’t miss this subtle, yet effective way of engaging consumers.
There’s no worse way to put your license at risk in this industry than to ignore compliance. Not only does this put your business at risk, but it in-turn promotes a negative narrative which has been losing traction in recent times. An active effort to legitimize this industry, put a professional face to it, and knock the overarching stigmas that have been associated with cannabis use for generations is a central part to being a businesses owner.
Proper training on a cannabis retail point-of-sale. which incorporates inventory management facilitates a simple, yet effective way of maintaining compliance. As a team, the ability to leave lasting impressions as a compliant and professional business can take your business far!
Social media outreach plays into this line of thought as well. Think about some ways that your business can utilize social media to promote responsible consumption instead of overconsumption.
If your answer the above question is “I don’t,” then what exactly are you doing? This isn’t to say that a large portion of proceeds ought to be distributed to any singular organization, but urges you to look at yourself as a part of your surrounding community. It is to say that as a business owner, selflessness with respect to the community can provide priceless benefits.
The state of California is not only a recreationally legal state but is a state where local jurisdictions hold the power to outlaw cannabis. Citing concerns for the safety of children, disrespect for the community, and potential increase in crime, local communities oftentimes feel like they will be left out of the big picture.
We would argue that one essential method of breaking this barrier is to show your worth to the surrounding environment by giving back to the community. Monetary donations for outreach programs, playgrounds, basic donation of school supplies, and participating in all local government activities plays out in two ways:
I. It brings the community a source of engagement with a cannabis organization in an ancillary manner, thus not violating regulations for age restrictions and zoning requirements.
II. Giving back to the community helps steer the conversation in a way that centralizes the professionalization of the cannabis industry while highlighting an important part of ethics with respect to social equity.
Although cannabis culture has a lot to offer to patients in need and individuals looking to utilize cannabis to positively influence their lifestyle, it is also home to responsibilities as a business owner. Accepting responsibility and critically thinking about the wholesome meaning of your role in the industry is simply a task that cannot be ignored.