Tag Archives: consumer education

Biros' Blog

2016 Year in Review: Why the Cannabis Industry Needs Resiliency

By Aaron G. Biros
No Comments

2016 was a tumultuous, but productive year for the cannabis industry. Larger companies began to take interest in the fledgling market, like Microsoft and Scotts Miracle-Gro. This year brought major innovations in technology like market data tools, advances in LED tech, efficient cultivation tech and patient education tools. The Supreme Court set an important precedent by shutting down a challenge to Colorado’s cannabis market.

Voters legalized cannabis in 8 states last month Photo: Nicole Klauss, Flickr
Voters legalized cannabis in 8 states on Election Day.
Photo: Nicole Klauss, Flickr

Election Day brought a renewed sense of vigor to the market with voters in eight states legalizing forms of cannabis. California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts passed recreational cannabis measures, making legalization’s momentum seem exponential.

But November 8th also gave Donald Trump the presidency, and his cabinet appointments, namely Sen. Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, gave many a feeling of uncertainty for the future of federal legalization. Adding insult to injury, the DEA repeatedly stood by their antiquated and ludicrous judgment for cannabis to remain a Schedule 1 narcotic.

Gage Skidmore, Flickr
Trump nominated Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) for Attorney General Photo: Gage Skidmore, Flickr

A lot of the fervor surrounding public safety could be described as overdramatic or somewhat unwarranted. 2016 was the year of misinformation. Fake news spread like wildfire with people sharing stories like this or this that turned out to be very misleading or just downright false.

States with legal cannabis came under heavy public scrutiny and addressed problems like consumer education, public safety and lab testing. Pesticides became a highly publicized and persistent issue in a number of areas, with some states regulating it heavily and addressing public health concerns. Plenty of new rules were formed surrounding labeling and testing, with Oregon, Colorado and Washington experiencing some regulatory growing pains.

Those growing pains shed light on the need for regulators to craft rules that allow for changes, adding rules where necessary and getting rid of cumbersome rules that might thwart market growth. Rules need to be able to adapt as the industry grows, much like businesses need to adapt to a changing market climate to stay afloat. This is all the more reason why cannabis businesses need to make their voices heard and work with regulators to move things forward.

Pesticide Use was a major issue of 2016 Photo: Michelle Tribe, Flickr
Pesticide use was a major issue in 2016
Photo: Michelle Tribe, Flickr

With so much uncertainty surrounding the future of legal cannabis in America, the word of the year for 2017 should be resiliency. In a social-ecological context, resiliency is “the capacity of a system to absorb or withstand perturbations and other stressors such that the system remains within the same regime, essentially maintaining its structure and functions. It describes the degree to which the system is capable of self-organization, learning and adaptation.”

img_6245
A warning label for cannabis in Oregon after the October 1st compliance deadline

Self-organization, learning and adaptation are three very important attributes of a resilient system. Without knowing what will happen when Trump’s cabinet takes the reigns of federal agencies, it is important to prepare for the unexpected. Adhering to standards like FOCUS allows cannabis businesses to prepare for unexpected events like recalls or product safety failures.

Those standards could also become the law down the road, as government officials often look to an industry’s voluntary consensus-based standards when deciding how to regulate it. In 2017, a number of state governments will embark on the heavy undertaking of writing the regulatory framework for legal cannabis.

2017 will bring opportunities and challenges to the cannabis industry. The industry’s rapid growth juxtaposed with political, economic and regulatory uncertainties create a climate that requires resilience to be built into the system at all levels. It is critical, now more than ever, that cannabis businesses build strong relationships with industry groups, advocacy groups and regulators to craft the institutional capacity and mutual trust needed to weather the uncertainty ahead.

Consumerguide
Soapbox

A New Tool to Make Cannabis Evaluation Easy

By Matthew Huron
3 Comments
Consumerguide

All cannabis is not created equal.

Just as industry experts have developed a set of tools to assess artisan experiences with wine, craft beer and diamonds, our team of cannabis cultivators at Good Chemistry Nurseries- who hold decades of experience backed by extensive education in horticulture and botany- have developed a new consumer guide to evaluate the essential aspects of cannabis called STATS (Sight, Touch, Aroma, Taste, Sensation). We hope the newly developed guide will begin an industry-wide dialogue about consumer education and provide fundamental knowledge on how to evaluate the quality of a cannabis flower.

STATSGuide
A view of the materials for consumers

STATS was created in response to our customers’ growing desire to differentiate between high quality and low quality flower. Two years ago, a consumer may have walked into a dispensary, and may have been thrilled just to be able to buy legal and safe cannabis. Fast forward two years, and now they’re asking, “How do I recognize quality cannabis?” By introducing STATS as a consumer awareness campaign, we are hoping to meet the needs of consumers to understand the complexities of the cannabis flower, as well as opening up the industry to a more conservative market that might be overwhelmed and intimidated by the cannabis culture.

STATS, which is available at no cost at statsguide.org and at Good Chemistry dispensary locations, is designed as an interactive booklet that breaks down the complexities and characteristics of quality cannabis through the five main categories; sight, touch, aroma, taste and sensation. The short, easy-to-read tool also comes with a concise glossary, which includes definitions of cannabis-related words, and expressions that might not be palpable to a novice consumer. Here is an overview of the STATS tool to evaluate quality cannabis:

Consumerguide
The STATS take away guide book for consumers

Sight: Seeing the flower can sometimes be the only evaluation option before purchase. It is important to know the visual cues for remarkable cannabis. STATS help consumers evaluate qualities including: trichome content, color, structure, size and trim.

Touch: Touching the flower can help with evaluating the cure, or the controlled drying process used to achieve proper moisture content post-harvest. STATS define how the bud should feel.

Aroma: Distinctions can be made between high and poor quality cannabis aroma. Because each flower strain can have a unique scent, STATS reviews what scents should be expected, and what smells can denote poor quality.

Taste: Different flowers strains will have unique flavor profiles. Similar to wine tasting, experience is necessary, STATS helps consumers learn to distinguish between different flavors among the flower strains.

goodchemistryteam
The development team of STATS

Sensation: The first sensation that comes from cannabis is the sensation of lift, or of being high. Varying experience levels may affect how people feel with each strain and the amount of time people feel lifted. We have identified the key categories of sensations that come from different strains including amplify, relax, relieve, and sleep.

Now, there is an easy and free tool to provide novice and aficionado cannabis users new insight and understanding into the purchase they’re about to make. Good Chemistry Nurseries developed STATS in conjunction with our Colorado-based master cultivators Duncan Cameron, Scott Toland, Heath Byington and Stephen Spinosa. Our development team came to this idea with a strong desire to address consumers’ interest in learning more about how to assess high quality cannabis.

good to know kit

Colorado Distributes Consumer Education ‘Good To Know’ Kits

By Aaron G. Biros
1 Comment
good to know kit

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) launched the Good to Know program in January of 2015, aimed at educating the public on consuming cannabis responsibly. The CDPHE developed a free kit for retailers that will be distributed this week, hoping to reinforce safe and responsible experiences with cannabis at the consumer level. Intended specifically for recreational cannabis retailers, the educational materials will be distributed at the point of sale.

good to know kit
The Good to Know kit for retailers

According to the CDPHE, last year between April and August, Colorado saw a 28 percent increase in retail cannabis sales. In anticipation of a period of high demand this summer, the ‘Good to Know’ retailer kits are being distributed this week. According to Ali Maffey, CDPHE policy and communication unit supervisor, the state is mailing 100 kits to additional retailers ahead of cannabis-related events, such as April 20th, which are expected to bring an influx of tourists.

The takeaway information cards in the kits display frequently asked questions regarding edibles and secondhand smoke, as well as advice for appropriate legal usage of cannabis. “The educational materials can help guide bud tenders through a conversation with a consumer to prepare them for the effects of cannabis, dosage considerations, using caution with edibles, driving impairment and the risks of second hand smoke,” says Maffey. “Voters passed the legalization of cannabis, and as the state health department our role is to educate on the safe and responsible use of cannabis, while safeguarding public health.”

The continued efforts by the state for consumer education could highlight an important push for safety. “We have been talking with other states about what works in our messaging and they are all looking at public education campaigns as well,” says Maffey. In this respect, Colorado is leading the country in educating consumers on safe, responsible and legal cannabis use.

goodchem.exter

Dispensary Best Practices: A Q&A with Stephen Spinosa

By Aaron G. Biros
1 Comment
goodchem.exter

Stephen Spinosa, vice president of retail operations at Good Chemistry, has over seven years of experience working in the cannabis industry in the operation and management of licensed dispensaries.

stephenspinosa1
Stephen Spinosa, VP of retail operations at Good Chemistry, delivering the keynote at Dispensary Next

He was previously an inventory manager in a 7,000-square-foot medical marijuana cultivation in Colorado. Spinosa is currently part of the team at Good Chemistry dispensaries, which has locations in Aurora and Denver, Colorado. He oversees staff training, state and local regulatory compliance and seed-to-sale inventory tracking.

Spinosa recently delivered a keynote presentation at the Dispensary Next Conference in Portland, Oregon titled “From Waiting Room to High-End Retail Experience: How Dispensary Culture Has Changed from 2009 to Now.” He discussed the rise of high-end experience and gave tools for dispensaries to improve retail operations.

In the presentation, he covered supplier quality, security, tiered pricing, inventory tracking and safety issues. Much of what he discussed revolved around the consumer experience and how important the culture at a dispensary is for the buying experience. After his keynote presentation, I sat down with Spinosa to discuss the customer experience, consumer education and safety and sales trends.

Cannabis Industry Journal: What are some of the key areas where dispensaries can improve the quality of customer experience?

Stephen Spinosa: Ultimately, the dispensary experience is like any retail experience. Good Chemistry’s staff is always friendly, smiling, welcoming and helpful to all customers that walk through our doors. Having employees who are experts at providing advice to any user level, and who are extremely knowledgeable on each strain and edible effect is extremely important to us. It is all about making the customer feel comfortable in their experience, especially for novice users who may feel timid when entering a dispensary for the first time.

goodchem lobby
Smiling employees greet customers in a clean environment

Good Chemistry’s high-end retail experience includes our up-to-date LED menu screens that present our daily flower menu. That may seem like common sense, however, you would be surprised how many dispensaries do not have a flower menu for their customers to peruse.  It helps the customer navigate through all the strains that we offer, and adds to the overall retail experience. We offer twenty or more strains every day.

Additionally we do not have an armed guard hovering at the entrance, making our guests feel uncomfortable. We have highly sophisticated security, like every dispensary, but we’ve left out this intimidating and unnecessary aspect.

CIJ: Can you discuss what you and your employees do for consumer education and safety?

Spinosa: When introducing cannabis to consumers, it is our mission to educate our customers on the correct dosage based on experience level. Our bud tenders are trained to ask a lot of questions before recommending anything. If a customer is a first timer, the bud tenders will have certain recommendations based on their experience level, such as high-CBD [cannabidiol] flower, a low THC percentage vaporizer pen, or a 1-5mg edible serving.

goodchem.exter
The exterior of a Good Chemistry dispensary

That said, strains of cannabis often cannot be neatly compartmentalized into sativa vs. indica, so our bud tenders also educate customers about the entourage effect, the interaction of the various compounds in marijuana to produce each strain’s unique feeling.

We have developed a pioneering category system to help our customers, whether novice or connoisseur. The system is broken down into four main categories to help consumers decide what sensation they would like to experience: stimulation, relaxation, sleep or relief. We use the four categories to guide our customers through our daily flower menu by labeling each strain with a category.

goodchemwall
This wall display shows customers the Good Chemistry categories of strains

If a customer is purchasing edibles, we provide an Edibles Education brochure from the Cannabis Business Alliance that stresses the Start Low, Go Slow motto. We also educate consumers on the difference between edibles made with butter vs. oil. Additionally, all of our third party vendor edible products for adult-use are packaged safely in 100% child resistant packaging.

It is important that our customers have a great experience, which is always possible with good guidance. A happy customer is a repeat customer. We are also well aware of the importance of educated employees. Our employees go through a formal training program, and we have monthly meetings where vendors come in and educate the employees on how to sell and dose various products.

CIJ: Can you tell me about your inventory and some consumer trends you are noticing?

Spinosa: Flower is the biggest seller, and for good reason: we have award-winning strains that are $30 an eighth, every strain, every day. Not many dispensaries offer such incredible pricing. Right now, the purchasing trend tends to lean toward the strains that have the highest THC percentage.

goodchemint
The interior of the dispensary has digital displays and ample lighting.

This may not accurately depict the best strains, because there have been findings that the entourage effect means different strains can have unique lifts, but it is definitely what the industry is seeing as far as sales trends. As far as edibles, gummies are the biggest sellers followed by hard candies, chocolate and baked goods. Lastly, concentrates such as live resin, shatter and wax have increased in popularity. Good Chemistry produces a new product called solvent-less rosin, concentrated THC oil that is produced using just heat and pressure. Rosin is currently picking up a good amount of traction, although not many dispensaries currently offer it.