5 Tips To Successfully Open And Operate A Marijuana Dispensary

In a recent article, Tyler Stratford, director of client operations at Canna Advisors, one of the top cannabis consulting firms in North America, shared a few fundamental tips for obtaining a marijuana dispensary license with Benzinga’s readers. Wondering what’s next, we reached out once again and asked him to reveal his top guidelines to open and operate a weed dispensary, once a license has been procured.

Before moving forward, it’s important to set a timeline for opening your doors, Stratford said. “In some markets, it will be restricted; they will only give you six months before you have to be certified, staffed and ready to open your doors." In others, it’s more lax.

As you establish an end goal, you want to start working backwards from the target date. There’s two basic timelines that you should pay attention to: the physical building timeline and the company building timeline.

Advancing The Timelines

This is how you should advance your parallel timelines:

1) Get a design team in place and finish the construction of your retail location. This includes ensuring workflow efficiency and security.

2) Hire and train your staff. Start with upper management positions in the first three months of your build-out. Coming up with a handbook detailing your company’s mission and vision as well as wider cannabis market regulations is usually very helpful.

“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 said. “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) Around that same time frame — two to three months out — you’ll also want to start selecting and vetting your point-of-sales software (or inventory control system) and cash management workflows, as well as securing banking relationships, which is no easy task. All of these elements will, first and foremost, help you remain compliant, which is a central requisite to remaining operational.

Your employees should be fully trained in all of these tasks at least one week ahead of opening.

An extra tip in relation to your point-of-sales software: Check which product best integrates with your municipality or state’s system, which you’ll be required to use to report on your business. Integrated systems will help you avoid double data entry and general non-compliance issues. In addition, check how easy it is to verify your numbers — such as inventory, sales and taxes — in the system you choose.

4) Before stocking your shop, have a soft opening with friends, family and anyone you think will share an honest, candid opinion. For this soft launch, you should avoid having cannabis in your dispensary to make things easier from a regulatory standpoint; replace regulated products with other items instead and see how people interact with your registration process and general retail space and experience. This will help you identify any inefficiencies and fix them prior to your official debut.

Being first to market does not ensure you’ll be a market leader, Stratford warned. “So my advice is: it’s better to come to market correctly than first,” he said.

5) The final step before opening your store is having a third-party audit to ensure every piece of your business is compliant. Continue to conduct these audits periodically once you’re in operation; a small error can cause a very big problem.

“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. It's 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,” the expert said.

“Dispensaries at this point should be as transparent as they can be because they are under the highest level of scrutiny from local authorities because they interact directly with the public more than anybody else," Stratford said. 

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_________ Image Credit: Javier Hasse

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