How To Set Up Dispensary Standard Operating Procedures

August 18, 2021

So you opened or want to open a dispensary, but now what? First things first, to ensure your operations can scale as you build momentum, you will need to examine the systems and processes that make your business tick. Enter dispensary standard operating procedures.

In this article, we will do a deep dive into why dispensary standard operating procedures are critical, the top SOPs your dispensary should consider building, and other ways to help your dispensary run as smooth as butter; let's dig in.

What is a dispensary standard operating procedure anyway? 

Dispensary standard operating procedures (also known as dispensary SOPs) are the documents, protocols, systems, and processes your cannabis dispensary will have to manage the business's day-to-day operations. SOPs help companies guide their employees in executing their business tasks to increase efficiency and profitability in the long term. 

SOPs will also help you comply with the regulators' requirements and improve your dispensary's efficiency and profitability. Also note that good SOPs are not a substitute for employee training and quality management. You must enforce the SOPs through regular training, drills, and exemplary leadership. Before we get into the SOPs, here is a detailed look at why they are essential. 

Why does a dispensary need standard operating procedures?

High-level, good dispensary SOPs help your business run smoothly, act as a compass for your employees, and build brand loyalty and company culture.

SOPs will also ease the onboarding process for new team members who can check the guidelines before executing new tasks to ensure proper task completion.  
Another reason SOPs are necessary is because regulators require dispensaries in the cannabis industry to have SOPs in place to ensure that they abide by the guidelines. However, while adhering to regulatory guidelines is essential, that is not the only reason you should design and implement robust SOPs.

dispensary standard operating procedures | lady on computer

5 reasons you need dispensary standard operating procedures.

There is a limitless number of reasons why it is important to roll out SOPs at your dispensary, but if you had to distill them down, the 5 top reasons your dispensary needs dispensary standard operating procedures include but are not limited to: 

  1. To stay compliant
  2. To increase efficiency
  3. To prepare for the unexpected
  4. To improve customer experience
  5. To build brand identity

Let's explore these reasons more in depth.

1 - To stay compliant.

Dispensary compliance is a crucial element to have covered at your dispensary to ensure you avoid fines and lawsuits. Most state regulatory bodies issue SOP guidelines for cannabis dispensaries to follow. These SOPs are intended to ensure that businesses comply with the regulations and that regulators can easily monitor the dispensary’s operations for quality assurance and compliance. 

Some compliance measures could include your dispensary being required to submit periodic documentation to regulators to verify that you are enforcing the SOPs that guarantee compliance with the regulations. This will help you maintain your dispensary's license and safeguard your business operations. Due to the heavy consequences of failing to comply with the regulations, you should implement the SOPs your state mandates when it comes to compliance. And example of a compliance requirement for 19 US states is the Metrc system. Read more about what you need to know about Metrc here.

2 - To increased operational efficiency.

SOPs are designed to guide your employees through their daily tasks and duties. They help ensure that no matter who in your team performs it, each task is done the right way and in compliance with the regulations. This understanding of roles and duties will vastly increase your dispensary's operational efficiency, which in turn will increase your profit margin.

Furthermore, good SOPs coupled with regular training can reduce employee errors and time wasted redoing tasks, thus increasing productivity and customer satisfaction.  

3 - To preparation for unexpected eventualities.

Sailors in the Navy do drills for a living. They are deployed for several months at a time in carrier groups at sea, running daily drills, war games, and simulations. This repetition of the drills and simulations gives the sailors the confidence required to deal with any eventuality, however unlikely or unpredictable. 

Implementing good SOPs can help your team build the necessary confidence in their roles to manage unexpected events and crises without breaking character or protocol. It is that level of military-grade drilling and task execution that will help you avoid getting penalized for failing to comply with the regulations and possibly losing your dispensary license. 

4 - To improved customer experience.

Customers greatly benefit from a well-curated customer journey beginning the moment they walk through your doors and ending when they purchase a product. Implementing well-thought-out and intuitive SOPs that take into account every moment of the customer experience can standardize your customers' experience, regardless of who in your team they were in contact with. In addition, standardizing your customer service can help you build brand loyalty and make you an industry leader in your area.

Furthermore, providing a standardized and well-curated experience for your current customers can help you attract new clients to your dispensary. While many states do not allow cannabis businesses to advertise openly to consumers, there is no law against customers using word of mouth to tell their friends about your business and the quality of service. 

5 - To build a brand identity and culture.

SOPs are an essential way to manifest and invest in brand identity and organizational culture. For instance, if part of your brand identity is teamwork and support for each other, then you could design your SOPs to require tasks to be done in teams with well-defined roles for each team member. In addition, you could require that new team members always work in partnership with a more experienced teammate. That could easily foster teamwork within your dispensary and make sure that teammates who need help always have someone in their team to go to.Now that we know why you need SOP’s, let’s explore some of the top SOP’s your dispensary should follow.  Below are 8 popular SOP’s your dispensary needs. 

dispensary standard operating procedures | Lady at a till

8 dispensary standard operating procedures you need.

While every dispensary differs regarding the products, brand, and organizational structure, many share the same operations playbooks.

Operations like opening and closing the store, sales transactions, and security protocols are staples in the cannabis dispensary industry.

We have prepared a list of the main operating procedures you need to have before serving your first customer. These SOPs will ease your compliance with the regulators, increase your efficiency and help you to become more profitable in the long run. Here are the dispensary SOPs you should be thinking about:

1 - Opening & closing procedures.

All brick and mortar retail stores should have SOPs in place for opening and closing the store. These SOPs help ensure that the store is closed properly and that no locks are left open for burglars to exploit. 

For instance, employees should check for any signs of a break-in or forced entry into the store before opening every morning. They should also check to make sure that all products in the display and stores are accounted for. 

At the end of the day, employees should check that the security cameras are working and lock all the doors and display cabinets. In addition, they should check and report any obvious security threats outside the store at closing time. Other end-of-day SOPs include generating sales and compliance reports as well as closing the cash registers and POS system.

2 - Customer check-in.

Many cannabis dispensaries violate their customer check-in procedures and end up facing fines and license suspensions by regulators. Due to this, it is crucial that you implement your customer check-in SOPs with redundancies to ensure compliance. 

By law, you are required to screen every customer entering your dispensary to make sure they are of legal age and are legally allowed to purchase cannabis at your dispensary. This process would include scanning the customer's ID to make sure it is genuine and valid, checking the customer's age, and entering these details into your customer database. 

SOPs regarding customer checkin protocols could include systems around who greets your customers and how and when they take their information, as well as the tools they will use to verify the government identification is appropriate.

3 - Sales transaction process.

Sales transaction processes are crucial to any retail business as this is how the company generates its revenues.

Sales processes could be simple, or nuanced depending on your dispensary's overall brand, however some common SOPs might include: 

- Customer greet time, and greet type
- Product knowledge processes
- Sharing features or specials
- Upselling protocols
- Boxing and packaging products
- Sales systems best practices
- Recording shipping and product information
- Taking forms of payment
- And managing sales technology like POS or payment systems
- Signing up customers for loyalty or referral programs
- Farewell and other retention protocols

It is essential to get this process right to help increase dispensary sales, avoid loss, and build your dispensary b

4 - Delivery procedures.

When we talk about product delivery procedures, we can cover two different types of delivery SOPs. Delivery of products to the dispensary, and delivery of products from the dispensary to customers.

Delivery of products to the dispensary:

In the cannabis space, logistics are no joke. Product delivery protocols follow tight guidlines including: Set time to deliver product, location of the product, how and where the product is stored, package acceptance protocols and. more.

Having good delivery procedures in place is a critical part of ensuring your stock is delivered safely, responsibly, and in the quantities in which you ordered it.

Delivery of dispensary products to customers

Suppose you are allowed to deliver products to your customers in your area. In that case, there is no doubt that you will be required to submit supplementary documentation and take the appropriate security measures to safeguard the product while in transit. 

Furthermore, there should be packaging and shipping guidelines with regards to the different types of products. For instance, you should have procedures in place to pack and mark fragile deliveries—like glass bongs—clearly to ensure safe delivery. 

Suppose you have outsourced your deliveries to a third party or use a delivery management tool or software. In that case, you should incorporate those details into your SOPs so your employees are clear on how to proceed with shipping a customer's order. 

5 - Security & cash management protocols.

Cannabis businesses face many problems when storing and moving cash from the store. Since cannabis businesses are not legal at the federal level in the United States of America, they are limited in the services they can receive from banks. As a result of those limitations, dispensaries struggle with large amounts of cash being stored on the dispensary's premises.

In addition to the cash, dispensaries also have many valuable products in inventory which makes them a desired target for criminal behavior. That is why the security and cash management protocols are usually set by the regulators and are tightly followed by the dispensary operators. For example, there are SOPs about which employees are allowed in sensitive areas like stores and cash safes, how long to keep security camera recordings and how to report a robbery. The SOPs also indicate when and how often armored trucks can pick up cash and how it is stored while at the dispensary. 

6 - Track-and-trace & inventory management.

Track and Trace SOPs are important for every cannabis dispensary. In order to comply with the regulations, you have to adopt track and trace SOPs into your inventory management system. These track and trace SOPs should cover inventory management processes like procurement, transportation to store, product transfers, and audits. 

Given how important track and trace SOPs are for compliance, you should automate this process if possible. Track-and-trace automation software can help you define the roles for each activity and integrate compliance checks. For example, it’s important to check that products are appropriately labeled, tested, counted, and intact when receiving. They should also be fitted with RFID tags as required by the law.

7 - Quality assessment.

Quality assessment SOPs will make sure your product is up to the required standard by the regulators and that you are not violating any laws over what ingredients can be included in your products and how they are made. Failure to comply with these SOPs or pass a quality assessment could leave a dispensary owner at risk of losing their license. 

8 - Product recalls and emergencies.

Product recall SOPs will come into play when a defective product needs to be recalled from the market. This can be stressful for the team as it will lead to customers complaining, and  management concerned at the losses being recorded. One of the most valuable assets to have in this situation would be SOPs that guide your team on how to act in this situation without losing their cool or professionalism. 

dispensary standard operating procedures \ weed

What are other ways to optimize dispensary operations?

Dispensary standard operating procedures are by far one of the best ways to optimize your dispensary operations, but right up there with them, would be dispensary technology.  In fact, some cannabis technology even helps you keep track of dispensary SOPs, and implement them into your work flows.

Cannabis software can also help automate administrative tasks like scheduling your staff, running dispensary payroll, or running reports!  In the end, the more organized and efficient you can be, the more your dispensary will profit.

Want a free dispensary standard operating procedures checklist? We got you, download the free checklist here!

dispensary standard operating procedures free checklist

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August 2021

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