Five Tips to Open and Run a Marijuana Dispensary Successfully

Tyler Stratford, director of client operations at Canna Advisors, one of the North America’s top marijuana consulting companies, shared some important tips for anyone ambitious enough to apply for a cannabis dispensary license. In a recent article, he followed that up with even more tips to open a dispensary and run it efficiently, after winning your license.

Before jumping in, Stratford recommends setting a specific timeline for when your doors will open. He said, “In some markets, it will be restricted. They will give you six months before you have to be certified, staffed, and ready to open your doors.” Other markets, however, are significantly more lax. He advises establishing a target date and working backwards from there.

You need to focus on creating two basic timelines: a timeline for company building and another for the physical building. Stratford explains how to advance both timelines parallel to each other:

1.      Design Location

It is important to employ a professional interior design team to complete the construction of your dispensary location. This tip is crucial, and it should include a detailed plan, layout, and strategy of all stationed cameras, guards, and other security features. The building’s interior design should prioritize efficiency of workflows over aesthetic appeasement.

2.      Employee Hiring and Training

Equipping staff with the skills they need to do a stellar job is imperative. During the first three months of construction starting, it is vital to employ qualified individuals to fill upper management positions. Creating a handbook describing the vision and mission of your company, as well as laws regulating the wider marijuana market, is essentially useful. From there, you start filling other vacancies.

“Cross-training of the executive team to the management team is really important. Not so that they can take their jobs, but so that everyone knows the job of the people above them,” Stratford explained. “This helps reduce the high turnover rate seen in the cannabis industry nowadays, as it provides a clear view of employees’ growth path and potential.”

3.      Point-of-Sales Software

In addition, also two to three months in, at around the same time, you will need to decide on the inventory control system, or point-of-sales software, to use, and you should test it. Secure systems for banking and create efficient workflows for cash management, both of which are particularly challenging with federal prohibition forcing dispensaries to work on a cash-only basis.

The law now requires seed-to-sale tracking systems, which should form the basis of the point-of-sales software you choose. If not, you may need to redo it in the near future. Combined, all of these factors will ensure you comply fully with state regulations, which is the primary requirement for maintaining an operational license.

When it comes to your point-of-sale software, find the one that integrates best with the system used by your municipality or state. This is because you will need it to create regulatory reports for your business. An integrated system can prevent double data entry and general issues of non-compliance. Every one of your employees must be proficient with these tasks at least a week before opening day.

4.      Opening Rehearsal

Rehearse the opening before stocking your store with inventory. Invite friends, family, colleagues, and anyone whose opinion you value as candid and honest to a practice run. To avoid regulatory trouble, it is best not to have any weed stock for this soft launch. Use non-regulated items for the rehearsal, as the goal is to determine how people interact with your vibe, space, and registration process.

During this test, you will be able to identify problems and inefficiencies before officially debuting, and it will give you an opportunity to fix them first. Stratford cautioned, however, that being a market pioneer does not guarantee that you will be a market leader. He said, “My advice is: It is better to come to market correctly than first.”

5.      Third-Party Audit

Just before you open your doors, it is vital that you hire a third party to conduct a full audit of your business and its systems. This will ensure that all aspects of your operations are compliant with laws and regulations enforcing them. Once you are up and running, Stratford strongly advises conducting these audits at frequent intervals, as even the littlest mistake can provoke the wrong side of the law.

“The point of this overall is: You have a lot on your plate, so better go get an outside expert to look at what you are doing and just double-check,” Stratford encouraged. “It is much easier to pay a consultant or a lawyer $3,000 to $5,000 once per quarter to come in and do a two-day, full-on compliance audit, than it is to pay a single infraction fee, as most are above $10,000.”

Stratford reiterated the importance of compliance several times, emphasizing that, “Dispensaries at this point should be as transparent as they can be, because they are under the highest level of scrutiny from local authorities, as they interact directly with the public more than anybody else does.” If you follow his tips, you will be well on your way to opening and running a successful marijuana dispensary.

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