Tag Archives: retail

Marijuana Matters

Education & Experience: Understanding the Operations

By David C. Kotler, Esq.
No Comments

I often write about the legal side of and opinions about the cannabis industry. Much of what I write about is culled from anecdotal experiences within either my personal practice or observations in regard to the industry. I recently had a trip to Portland, Oregon to spend time learning and understanding a little bit about a particular client’s operations so that I could provide counsel to that particular client, where permissible. For me, it was an important part of the education, which I stress and serve as the basis for this article.

With education comes understanding. What I see in the cannabis industry is often those who are critical of the use of cannabis, either recreationally or medically, seem to demonstrate some lack of understanding. In Florida, as the “No on Amendment 2″ commercials and videos roll out, I see much information that clearly comes from a lack of understanding or potentially a willful desire to distort the truth.

I share the following, less as a means to correct those distortions, but more as an opportunity to educate one who may be reading this and who may not have the same experience, which I just had the opportunity to receive. My time in Oregon was spent predominately in Portland and Salem as this is where the particular client has locations that I was able to view and experience.

My observation from a zoning perspective was that there was not a dispensary on every corner and that at times I had to be patient before seeing a dispensary during our drive. Of note in regard to the dispensaries that I did see was often the use of “cannabis” or “marijuana” in the name or associated with signage at the dispensaries, in addition to a green cross. However, there were many that did not take as visible an approach. I recall seeing, pursuant to the rules of the Oregon Program, windows covered so that one cannot see in. From time to time there were billboards advertising dispensaries. What I noticed most was in part, the clean presentation of the particular client I was seeing versus what was presented on the outside of many dispensaries we passed. This may be highlighted in part based on viewing dispensaries through what one might consider an East Coast lens. There are others that might argue that this perspective, particularly in emerging markets, is much different than that which has been developed over time in the West Coast markets, many of which have now gone recreational.

Overall, like anything, what I saw ranged the gamut from unprofessional and a little unsightly to professional and clean looking, which generally fit into the surrounding neighborhood. In particular, my client’s dispensary in Salem was in a retail shopping center along with a Little Caesars, Aaron’s Rentals, a nail salon, and other normal and expected retailers. Unless you poked your head inside the door, it would not be readily apparent that it was a dispensary.

My experience with the types and looks of the dispensaries running the gamut was mirrored by a particularly unique experience I had in viewing customers/patients. What was clear from a very limited time of viewing who it is that goes into a dispensary in Oregon was that it was impossible to pigeonhole the types of patients and ailments or, in the recreational setting, who the end user might be. On the Saturday morning of my visit, while viewing operations in Salem, I was approached and began to speak with an older gentleman with a long straggly gray beard who appeared to be in his late 60’s to early 70’s. During the course of our conversation he let me know that he is looking forward to taking it easy, and that he was a veteran. He had two friends with him and it looked like they were going to enjoy some time relaxing together, but he was also able to tell me that it was assistive to him at times when his anxiety got the best of him. His purchases were economical, and it was apparent that he and his friends were of limited socio-economic means; however, his purchases were notably and significantly cheaper for use than potentially alcohol if, in fact, he was not medicating and using with his friends recreationally.

Within minutes after the gentleman left, the exact opposite walked in the store. Candidly, I was mildly surprised by whom I held the door for to walk in as I was leaving. For a moment I was transported from Salem, Oregon to any town in central New Jersey or main street USA. Decked out in what could have been Lily Pulitzer or other preppy outfit were two soccer moms. They had stepped out of the newest model of a particular German automobile manufacturer. Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to engage with the soccer moms in discussion, but it was clear through their knowledge of the layout and interaction with the employee behind the counter that this was not their first trip to this particular location.

So what does the foregoing illustrate? For me it illustrates the development of perspective through education. It is that perspective that I hope to bring to the advice and counsel of clients. Perhaps I can use the knowledge to be assistive in making recommendations on regulatory issues, if consulted on them, helping to explain to politicians and bureaucrats or zoning and planning officials what might or might not be important in their considerations when dealing with a client. My observations should ultimately help me assist in educating others as to what the business and operation of cannabis related businesses might actually entail and look like. It is absolutely necessary, irrespective of one’s role in the cannabis industry, whether it be on the real estate side, insurance brokerage, providing legal or consulting advice (especially as individuals transition from those areas of practice in non-cannabis related spaces) that one take the time to understand the industry and its practice from the inside out. Only then can one be an effective resource to a cannabis related business wherein once the layers of the onion are peeled back, there is actually substance and information.

budgloves

BudGloves Makes Handling Cannabis Safer

By Aaron G. Biros
No Comments
budgloves

Kush Bottles, a packaging provider specific to the cannabis industry, recently launched the product BudGloves aimed at reducing the amount of human contact to cannabis products. The company is known for their child-resistant, regulatory compliant packaging.budgloves

The product BudGloves is the first glove of its kind engineered specifically for cannabis. The nitrile gloves do not contain any powder and are designed to prevent any transfer of resin, latex or powder to the cannabis. They are also slightly thicker than most other gloves to avoid getting caught or tearing, extending their life to withstand the typical shift of a trimmer or processor.

Nick Kovacevich, chief executive officer of Kush Bottles, wants to see a standard for preventing human contact with cannabis products to reduce the risk of contamination or loss in quality. Whether it is during cultivation, trimming, inspection, processing, transferring cannabis to instrumentation or even at the point of sale, it is important to minimize human contact to the cannabis.

“In California, we see bud tenders in dispensaries actually reach in a jar and grab cannabis to show the patient without gloves, which is a terrible standard operating procedure,” adds Kovacevich. “I would want all bud tenders to handle cannabis with gloves on.”rsz_budgloves2

Particularly when handling food-grade products, most health code regulations require the use of gloves like these. According to Kovacevich, oils and extracts can be at a greater risk of contamination. “It is imperative that concentrates and extracts, especially those with activated THC, are handled with gloves to prevent any outside materials or contaminants from sticking to them,” says Kovacevich. The gloves are manufactured to meet stringent quality standards. To promote safety and quality of cannabis, reducing human contact with the product should be an important part of any company’s employee manual.

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.

Wellness Watch

Employee Training: Compassionate Customer Service

By Dr. Emily Earlenbaugh, PhD.
No Comments

Compassion is a frequent buzzword used in the cannabis space and many businesses start up with a mission surrounding compassion and strive to be compassionate towards their patients or consumers.

Research shows that profit-driven retail management and compassionate service can be accomplished in the same way. By turning to the industry mantra of compassion, companies can contribute to the well-being of patients or consumers served and employees, while also increasing sales, positive reviews and return visits.

One large aspect of dispensary management is setting up a corporate culture around employee-customer interactions. Some dispensaries have mastered this through employee training and thoughtful SOP’s, which help maintain a compassionate, positive environment for every person that walks through the door.

Research shows that when consumers have positive interactions in retail environments, they are more likely to make a purchase and to positively rate the products they select. When feeling these positive mental states, our perceptions of products become more positive as well, and our trust in those around us increases. Conversely, when we feel negative emotions like loneliness or exclusion, our perceptions of products also become more negative.

People experiencing positive mental states, like gratitude, joy or compassion also have better health and increased emotional well-being. For both compassionate and profit-driven reasons, getting people into a positive emotional state is extremely beneficial. Of course, creating a compassionate, mood-boosting environment is easier said than done. Thankfully, there is a lot of research on how to do this as well.

So how can we set up a corporate culture that fosters more positive states in others? It takes energy and intention, but it can be done. As a dispensary manager, one of the most important things you can do is ensure that your employees have what they need to function well. Research shows that when employees are working under stressful conditions their interactions with customers suffer. This could mean being underpaid, overworked, unsure of job security, rushed, or crowded; but whatever the reason, a stressed employee is less able to maintain positive interactions with customers. Once you have a happy and well-treated staff, you can start training them to cultivate positive states in your consumers.

Here are a few time-tested methods to teach to your dispensary staff and practice with your patients or recreational customers:

Positive Feedback Exercise

One of the simplest methods is giving positive feedback. It has been demonstrated over and over again that when you give someone positive feedback, his or her mood is instantly boosted. They become more grateful, creative and engaged.

Positive feedback can come in different forms. It might be a simple compliment like “Wow, I love your earrings.” or it might be a positive response to a question, such as “That’s a great question, not everyone thinks to ask about what these test results mean.”

To cultivate positive feedback, make a point of looking for things you can genuinely compliment about your customers or coworkers. Be careful not to fake your positivity. Most people can tell when positivity is faked; and it can actually have negative health risks for the person doing the faking.

Active Listening Practice

You can foster positive emotions in your customer base through active listening and compassion for the challenges they are going through. Research finds that active listening can improve communication dynamics and reduce stress.

For this practice, notice when your patients are complaining and pay careful attention to what they are saying. Try to really feel what it might be like to be in their situation and sympathize with them. You can show this sympathy by acknowledging what they are going through.

These practices may seem simple but they can yield big changes in a customer’s impression of your dispensary environment. By cultivating compassionate practices with your staff and customers, you can take care of your community while helping your business to thrive.

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.

Wellness Watch

Creating a Balanced Menu: Tips for a Better Dispensary Inventory

By Dr. Emily Earlenbaugh, PhD.
1 Comment

When it comes to running a well functioning dispensary, one of the biggest challenges can be stocking a balanced menu. Cannabis consumers have a wide range of tastes and preferences when it comes to products and the most successful dispensaries have a wide selection to meet this need. When a dispensary can keep a consistent stock of products that a particular consumer likes, they can quickly become the only dispensary that consumer frequents. For those dispensaries looking to fill out their menu with crowd pleasing products, I recommend the following practices.


 

Diverse Strains
Cannabis comes in many varieties, and each strain has a slightly different effect on the user. One of the biggest mistakes I see in new dispensaries is a menu that is weighted heavily toward one type of cannabis. The grower or manager of the collective may prefer Diesel varieties, or Haze, and choose similar strains repeatedly. This can severely limit your potential client pool to only those cannabis users who enjoy that one variety. When stocking your flower and concentrates, look for a range of genetic varieties, and be careful not to have too much bias in one direction or the other. 
 
Consistent but New
Cannabis consumers want a consistent supply of strains that work well for them. But sometimes using one strain all the time can lead to decreased efficacy of that particular strain. Keeping a rotation of similar strains in one category can help keep your client base intrigued with new strains, without sacrificing consistency. If you have patients who really enjoy the strain Grape Ape. Rather than keeping Grape Ape in stock at all times, you can stock it regularly, but rotate it with similar strains like Lavender or Blackberry Kush, or new strains with similar genetics.
 
Consumer Feedback
Successful dispensaries are responsive to their consumers’ purchasing habits. Tracking the strains and products that your consumers buy can be helpful when deciding what to purchase again. However, this type of tracking does not tell you about the consumers you may have lost by not having the right product in the first place. Giving your consumers an avenue to give you feedback on your products and request ones that you do not have can be a great way to find out what your particular client base is looking for.
 
Edible and Topical Options
The fastest growing demographic of cannabis users are baby boomers, and many of them are less interested in smoking cannabis than using an edible or topical product. Having a wide variety of edible and topical products can help to bring in this growing demographic. When choosing edible products, look for both sugary treats that appeal to the sweet tooths out there, and the more medicinal products like capsules and tinctures for those looking for exact dosing and a more clinical experience.
 
When in Doubt, Ask for Help

For those looking for more in depth information on how to create a balanced dispensary menu, seek out help from people with industry experience. My practice, Mindful Cannabis Consulting offers consulting and dispensary staff trainings on just this topic. Whether you are just starting out or looking to optimize your existing dispensary, a little help can go a long way.

 
puregreen lobby

Consumer Trends: Analyzing Oregon’s Dynamic Markets

By Aaron G. Biros
No Comments
puregreen lobby

Oregon was the second state to legalize medical marijuana in 1998 behind California that introduced legislation measures two years earlier in 1996. In the past two decades, Oregon has grown its medical market, treating more patients and producing exponentially more cannabis. Since October 1st of 2015, Oregon’s recreational sales have been made legal, creating potential opportunities for dispensaries to target this emerging market.

In that first week of recreational sales alone, dispensaries in Oregon made over $11 million in revenue. That figure is more than double what Colorado made in its first week and significantly larger than Washington’s figures posted.

puregreenpdx
The exterior storefront of PureGreen in Northeast Portland, Oregon

Matt Walstatter, president and founder of PureGreen, a dispensary located in Northeast Portland, Oregon, says that while recreational customers are limited to seven grams of flower per day (no concentrates or edibles yet), they have noticed an uptick in sales of certain strains.

“Up until October 1st of this year, our sales percentages have been very consistent with about 66% to 72% flower sales since we opened and around 20% concentrates and 10% edibles, with the remainder consisting of topicals and non-medicated products,” says Walstatter. “Now we have an influx of a new type of customer so we do around 80% of sales in flower since the introduction of recreational sales on October 1st.”

When analyzing the top-selling strains, Walstatter’s figures show an inclination of customers and patients to prefer high-THC strains when buying flower. Girl Scout Cookies, a very high THC, low CBD strain, consistently sells the most at over 2000 grams per month. “People that smoke flower generally want high-THC strains, while people that seek CBD overwhelmingly do not smoke as much and prefer ingesting edibles, tinctures, capsules or other products with low THC content,” adds Walstatter.

puregreen lobby
The lobby at PureGreen

PureGreen keeps a select few high-CBD strains on their shelves, including Cannatonic, which is known for its approximate 1:1 ratio of THC to CBD. “Out of twenty five strains on my shelves, I usually keep two or three high-CBD strains because they have their niche, even if they are less sought after, it is certainly worthwhile to carry them,” says Walstatter.

“Because Oregon has such a well established cannabis culture with less novice customers than other markets, our more popular strains are consistent over multiple months so we built a brand around knowledge and education,” Walstatter says. “Our budtenders usually come from a background involving the plant whether they were involved in cultivation, trimming or processing, and then they go through extensive training to be able to recommend certain strains for different ailments or preferences.”

Walstatter offered some tips for dispensary owners and employees at the Las Vegas Marijuana Business Conference in November where he sat on a panel with other industry experts called What Patients and Consumers Want: Strain Trends, Product Mix & CBD vs. THC. “Understanding your customer’s needs and their buying habits plus properly managing your inventory is the key to success,” says Walstatter. “We have a couple of exclusive growers that went through an extensive review process, they tend to rotate through different strains while we have some grower-specialists that grow only one strain very consistently.”

puregreenpdx
Exterior view of PureGreen dispensary in Portland, Oregon

Walstatter prides himself in his team’s exceptional customer service. “People do business with people they know, like and trust, so authenticity is very important to us,” he adds. “Over delivering on value in the form of knowledge, expertise and service is crucial to growing your brand and business.” Having a high quality product mix, knowledgeable staff and inviting atmosphere are a few of the ingredients to running a successful dispensary.

“It can take up to six months or longer to bring a new strain from seed to sale, so if it is a popular strain, it is very important to have a backup grower,” Walstatter adds. He likens his dispensary to a farm-to-table restaurant where the menu is constantly changing: “This time of year, there are some greenhouse and outdoor crops that do well on the shelves but strains can go in and out of season.”

While edibles and concentrates are not yet available for recreational sales, state regulators are closely monitoring other state’s rules and progress to map out a timeline for their introduction. This would effectively create another new emerging market, opening up potential opportunities for dispensaries in Oregon to diversify.

screenshotCannaScore

Staying Compliant with CannaScore

By Aaron G. Biros
No Comments
screenshotCannaScore

Cultivators, manufacturers and dispensaries face a variety of ever-changing regulations that vary between states. The cannabis industry is notoriously inconsistent with regulations and as new legislation changes the rules so often, it can be difficult for businesses to keep up and stay compliant.

CannaScore provides a cannabis compliance auditing system that takes an inspector through questions around the operation, flagging areas that are out of compliance with state regulations. CannaScore works in Washington, Oregon and Colorado, and has plans to provide its services in Nevada and Maryland soon.

screenshotCannaScore
Various screenshots of an audit being performed with CannaScore

After co-founding DANK, a dispensary located in Colorado, Kush Bottles Colorado, a marijuana child-safe packaging company, and Denver Consulting Group, license-to-sale consulting company for the marijuana industry, Greg Gamet co-founded CannaScore after finding third party compliance audits to be lengthy, time-consuming and inefficient. The company developed the program and a mobile app within one year and beta-tested it for another six months.

“We are trying to stay in code with city and state regulations, along with the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division [MED], who finally has enough money to go out and enforce those laws. CannaScore identifies areas of concern and allows business owners to take corrective actions before problems ensue,” says Gamet.

homescreencannascore
The home screen of the app, CannaScore, on an iPad

According to Gamet, some of the biggest areas of concern for business owners involve making sure employees and day-to-day operations follow the extensive rules set forth by state and local governments. “The MED wants to make sure there is no hidden ownership [or] diversion of the product, and that dispensaries are following the rules, especially when it concerns public safety,” he says. “CannaScore can help businesses get a great overview on how they are operating within these rules that are enforced not only by the MED, but local police and fire departments, local health departments, and the Colorado Department of Agriculture.” The program will be available to other qualified consulting services to use through licensing agreements.

audit summary
An Audit Summary Report prepared for Cannabis Investors Group

The overall score, much like a FICO or Dun and Bradstreet score, rate an individual’s or business’ credit score, which helps business owners, banks, landlords and other stakeholders know what level of compliancy a cannabis business is operating. It also keeps a compliancy record on hand if a business is required to prove to a governing body its willingness to follow the rules.

In performing dispensary, grow, infused products, and MIP kitchen audits, CannaScore can give the consulting company that is performing the audit the ability to assist in the correction of any and all violations. “Once a violation has been found, the consulting company can work with the customer to get it corrected immediately, which will increase revenues,” says Gamet.

“Because rules and regulations change so often it can be very difficult to stay on top of managing everything that goes into staying compliant,” Gamet adds. “Keeping compliant in the cannabis industry is a full time job and CannaScore can make it easy.”

As the industry grows and regulators hammer out details in legislation, compliance will remain an important part of any cannabis business. Staying in code with local laws and state regulations can make or break a business.

dispensarypic

A Dispensary’s Road to Success

By Aaron G. Biros
No Comments
dispensarypic

The Herbery, a dispensary with two locations in Vancouver, Washington, is currently awaiting medical endorsements from the state for both locations. The two co-founders, Jim Mullen and Rick Zahler, found a credit union to work with them, Salal Credit Union in Seattle. “There are five dispensaries in the Western part of Vancouver, so it is quite a saturated market,” says Jim Mullen. “But we have drawn considerable business and are very happy with the success of our two locations.”

dispensarypic
A view inside the The Herbery

It has not always been like that, says Mullen. There are several key ingredients that go into launching and operating a successful dispensary, all of which pose significant barriers to entry in an extremely competitive retail market. Rick Zahler won the second and third positions in Vancouver for the state i502 retail licensing lottery. Zahler has more than 40 years of experience in franchising restaurants, a background that gives him a competitive advantage in scaling up his business.

Mullen and Zahler formed a partnership in early 2014 and by that summer they had finalized their lease agreement, converting an old restaurant into their flagship store. They hired local architects, contractors, and CPA’s and began looking for staff. “We set out to find the best people who could provide a level of customer service that this industry needs to be recognized as a mainstream business,” adds Mullen.

“We are changing the perception that you have to go into some back alley store to buy your pot,” he says. “We have a very attractive, well-lit storefront; we get complimented on the look of our stores all the time, one woman called us the Nordstrom’s of dispensaries.”

Before the doors opened, Mullen and Zahler worked long and hard to find growers, manufacturers and processors that met their standards. “We wanted to fill our display cases and shelves with premium cannabis, so we found really high-quality indoor, outdoor and greenhouse grows across the state,” says Mullen. “We go out and do site visits to see firsthand what nutrients they use, along with their standards and practices, to really size up our suppliers and verify they are giving us safe and high-quality products.”

budtenderpic
A bud tender helping customers at the dispensary

The Herbery hit some early obstacles as the market in Vancouver became highly saturated with dispensaries like New Vansterdam and Main Street Marijuana grossing well over $1 million each in revenue in May 2015.

“Our competition received a lot of media coverage and brand recognition early on. We had to side-step that with heavy guerilla marketing including handing out cards and flyers on street corners,” says Mullen. “We continued to push our social media marketing campaigns, slowly building a clientele with quality products, affordable prices and good customer service.”

Of all the roadblocks they hit, Mullen said the toughest aspect of getting started has been simply “letting people know that we opened and where we are.”

“There are fairly strict marketing rules, and staying compliant is difficult when you are trying to get your name out there,” Mullen adds. “We have been doing what we can with billboards and ads in magazines, but really word of mouth has gotten us far.”

budtenderpicdispensary
A bud tender can give recommendations on different strains or advice on consuming edibles

Looking forward, Mullen wants the ability to market in a manner that is similar to other mainstream businesses. He is also excited to get endorsed to sell medical cannabis. “With so many people seeking high-CBD products for a variety of conditions like fibromyalgia, chronic pain, anxiety, and more, we want to help patients get access to the medicine they need.”

As cannabis continues to be studied for its true benefits, Mullen anticipates significant advances in knowledge to occur within a very short timeframe.