May 19, 2023

Why Do Cannabis Dispensaries Need SOPs?

Lindsay Crafford
May 19, 2023

Disclaimer: This content is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. You are responsible for your own compliance with laws and regulations.

When dreaming about plans for your dispensary, you probably spent time coming up with an unforgettable vibe for your space and thinking about how you want your front-of-house staff to make your customers feel. You probably also learned a thing or two about cannabis point-of-sale (POS) systems, regulatory compliance, inventory management, and how to keep your staff happy.

But it’s possible that in the whirlwind of getting your dispensary off the ground, you didn’t take the time to write down exactly how you like things to be done.

If that’s the case, take an afternoon to build out your SOPs, or standard operating procedures. You’ll enjoy greater consistency in every area of your dispensary, from emergency planning and security to promoting a better customer experience. Best of all, it’ll be easier than ever to thoroughly train new employees.

Let's dive in.

What are dispensary standard operating procedures?

Often referred to by the acronym SOP, a standard operating procedure is exactly what it sounds like: a standardized procedure for how you do a particular task in a dispensary.

Dispensaries have dozens of them. You and your staff are executing SOPs daily, every minute.

However, SOPs are useless without great communication, training, documentation, and implementation. In many dispensaries, SOPs aren’t well-documented. Instead, staff members are trained to do things a certain way, and it's assumed that everybody knows “this is how we do things here.”

Miscommunications can happen often in a fast-paced environment, especially if you’ve been dealing with the high budtender turnover in the cannabis industry right now. Well-documented SOPs built into your employee manual, and available for reference as a separate SOPs bible, give a solid backbone to your training program.

Why dispensary standard operating procedures matter

Like Alton Brown says, “Organization will set you free.” If you’ve got documented, measurable, iron-clad systems in place, you’ll be free to do the work you wanted to do when you first opened your dispensary—hire amazing staff, create an unforgettable retail experience for your customers, and mostly importantly: avoid compliance violations.

Standard operating procedures matter because they allow you to clearly outline your expectations and standards for all the different elements of your cannabis operation and make sure every shift runs as smoothly as possible. Your staff will appreciate the open communication, because there’s nothing worse than trying to figure out the right way to do something in the middle of rush hour.

Get staff input when creating SOPs

Creating SOPs is not about making your staff into robots, or about being closed off to different ways of doing things. You’re setting the standards, not making laws. Make it clear to your staff when you’re implementing new SOPs that there’s opportunity for feedback and creativity on their part.

Ask for your staff’s input when building your SOPs. See if they have a better, cheaper, or more efficient way of doing something. After all, your FoH staff are the ones facing hundreds of customers each night, and your BoH staff are the ones actually in the trenches with your inventory.

Get as much input as you can from as many staff members as you can when building your SOPs, and they won’t feel like rules coming from the boss, but like guidelines for dispensary success that the staff themselves helped build.

What can SOPs do for your dispensary?

1. Maintain compliance

Regulatory compliance is a crucial element of dispensary operations that ensures you avoid fines, lawsuits, and even loss of your retail license. 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 might include your dispensary being required to submit periodic documentation to regulators to verify that you are enforcing the SOPs that guarantee adherence 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.

2. Create consistency

How often do you hear a dispensary owner say, “I like [x task] done this way, but most of my staff do it that way”? It’s a common issue that comes from improper training and underused SOPs. If your standards and expectations haven’t been clearly outlined, it’s easy for things to get murky.

SOPs are even helpful for tasks that seem insignificant. For example, when your budtender greets a customer at the counter, do they:

  • double-check their ID?
  • ask how the customer how they're doing?
  • introduce themself?
  • ask what brought them in today?
  • try to upsell them with relevant sales offers or specials?

Whatever works best for your dispensary is up to you, but make sure every staff member knows which method you prefer—and make sure you write it down. When your expectations are documented, there’s no confusion, no miscommunication, and you’ll start to see more consistency throughout your dispensary.

To keep things in order, create several one-page SOPs and collect them in a binder organized by staff position.

3. Prepare for the unexpected

Navy sailors do drills for a living. They're 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 iron-clad SOPs can help your team build the necessary confidence in their roles to manage unexpected events and crises without breaking character or protocol. It's this 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 retail license.

4. Nurture brand identity and a positive 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.

The bottom line

Sitting down and writing out all your expectations for every task in the dispensary might sound daunting. But by spending one (or two) afternoons now, you’ll help your dispensary run like a well-oiled machine indefinitely—without you having to hover over your staff during every shift.

Well-documented and easy-to-reference SOPs can get you back to the part of your job you love: making sure both your staff and customers leave your dispensary happy every night.

About Dutchie

Dutchie is the leading technology partner for cannabis retailers of all sizes. With a range of solutions covering point of sale, payments, ecommerce, insurance, and more, Dutchie empowers dispensaries to run efficiently, scale their operation easily, stay compliant, and offer outstanding experiences to the customers who rely on them.

Request a demo today.

About the author
Lindsay Crafford
Sr. Content Marketing Manager, Dutchie