How dispensaries can build a loyal community around them

Dispensaries are popping up on every corner in states where medical marijuana is legal, and for good reason. This multi-billion dollar industry is projected to double its total retail sales in the next three years, with the potential to rake in $6.8 billion in 2021. While eager entrepreneurs continue to line up, the competition is already sky high. As businesses battle it out in this new arena, any and all competitive advantages are surely welcome. One easy way for dispensaries to get ahead is to focus on making better recommendations to patients; if you are familiar with the current marketplace, it is abundantly clear that budtenders need better education.

Budtenders are the intermediaries between patients and products in the medical marijuana industry. It is their responsibility to help patients sort through thousands of strains and numerous consumption methods, to find the treatment that best suits each individual. Due to the vast variety of ailments treatable by medical marijuana, this position is paramount to providing good customer service and ensuring that people get proper relief.

In the industry’s current state, budtenders often do not receive proper training. It is no secret that dispensary employees often lack necessary knowledge on the products they carry. In fact, in a 2016 study on dispensary employees, the scientific journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, found that only 55% of dispensary staff members had formal training for their roles, while only 20% of those trained had specific medical-related instruction. However, 94% of employees were providing medical marijuana recommendations to patients. Untrained employees floundering to give correct guidance creates a perfect storm for poor customer service.

Due to this unprofessional behavior and lack of standards in dispensaries, patients are often left upset. This leads them to leave comments on popular medical marijuana based internet forums like Grasscity stating, “Who else is tired of walking into a medical dispensary only to find that the guy/girl behind the counter knows nothing about marijuana?” With pervasive negative reviews like these, it is clear that many budtenders need better training.

Considering the countless conditions and treatment options that exist in the medical marijuana world, dispensary employees have a lot to learn when it comes to matching products to patients. For example, a condition such as epilepsy requires a radically different approach to treatment than a disease like anorexia. While an epileptic patient may require CBD oil, a person suffering from anorexia will likely need a strain high in THC. Furthermore, treatment is often even more nuanced than simply matching strains to conditions; different stages in a condition will require different treatment modalities. As conditions become more or less severe, different doses and delivery modalities must be determined. For example, a patient at the height of their chronic pain will likely need edible cannabis for its strength and long duration. However, as the condition eases up, the same patient may be better off shifting to a consumption method such as vaporizing, which allows patients to more-easily go about their daily work while medicated.

At the end of the day, the best way to refine the recommendations given by budtenders is to increase the data available to them. As dispensary employees learn from an informative resource, their ability to provide good customer service will flourish, thus increasing the satisfaction of patients. While competition grows like a weed, a dispensary with better access to good data will certainly grow the strongest roots.