What is a Standard Operating Procedure? 

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are the documents, protocols, systems, and procedures that your cannabis dispensary will have in place to manage the business's day-to-day operations. SOPs help companies to guide their employees on executing their business tasks to increase efficiency and profitability in the long term. 

About this guide. 

We have prepared this guide to help you design SOPs that will help you comply with the regulators' requirements and improve your dispensary's efficiency and profitability. In this guide we will cover why you need SOP’s and some of the top SOP’s you need to create for your dispensary.

It should also be noted that good SOPs are not a substitute for employee training and quality management. You need to 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 your dispensary needs SOPs

High level, good SOPs help your business run smoothly, and can act as a compass for your employees that can build brand loyalty.

 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 SOP’s are necessary is because regulators require dispensaries in the cannabis industry to have SOPs in place to ensure that they abide by the guidelines set forth. However, while adhering to regulatory guidelines is important, that is not the only reason you should design and implement robust SOPs

dispensary standard operating procedures


Here are 5 reasons you need SOP’s

1 - For compliance with the regulators.

As mentioned above, 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. 

Your dispensary will be 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 laid out herein.  


2 - 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 - 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 - 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.

Good businesses will use their SOPs to comply with regulations and become more efficient.  Great businesses will go one step further. They use the SOPs as a platform to manifest their brand identity and create an 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


8 Standard Operating Procedures your dispensary needs.

While every dispensary is different in terms of the products and services it offers and the organizational structure, many of them share the same operations. 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 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. 


3 - Sales transaction process.

Sales transaction processes are crucial to the business because this is how the company generates its revenues. Sales processes could include the greeter (first customer contact), boxing and packing, and the cashier. Depending on the size of the dispensary, these roles could be performed by different employees or all assigned to one. 

Other sales transaction processes include answering customer product questions, recording shipping information, and processing various forms of payment. It would help if you integrated your SOPs with the technology you're using, like POS systems. It is essential to get this process right as any errors could result in material losses for the dispensary.  


4 - Delivery procedures.

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.

dispensary standard operating procedures

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. 


In conclusion.

These SOPs could help you manage a crisis while limiting the loss of customers. They include how to recall the products, how to speak to customers and what the employees are allowed to offer to assuage the anger and disappointment of the clients, and how to investigate what could have gone wrong with the product.

These are the major SOPs that we believe you should have in place before opening, but don’t forget that enforcing them is just as crucial as implementing them.

If you need more help managing your team consider people management software that can help you manage your operations from one easy to use platform!

standard operating procedures