In an unprecedented move for the cannabis industry, Hawaii announced in September 2017 that the state’s newly opened medical marijuana dispensaries would be cashless by Oct. 1, 2017. The state adopted CanPay, a mobile debit app that provides cashless payment solutions for the cannabis industry, as the only state-approved alternative to cash transactions in Hawaii’s medical dispensaries. Despite some initial confusion about whether dispensaries could still accept cash (they can) and if offering the state-sanctioned cashless option was mandatory (not yet), the announcement garnered lots of attention within the U.S. cannabis industry.
Helen Cho, director of integrated strategy at Honolulu-based Aloha Green Apothecary, feels that CanPay provides patients who are uncomfortable carrying cash with an important, state-approved alternative. Roughly 10 percent of the dispensary’s transactions are through CanPay, and that’s with clientele predominately aged 55 years or older. “They like to stick by the rules; they like to do things that are legal. It was important that they had an option that they knew was sanctioned by the state,” Cho says.
Cash-only transactions don’t only affect how businesses operate, they also affect customers’ and patients’ convenience in making purchases. As the industry becomes increasingly competitive, the consumer experience is becoming increasingly important as well. Cannabis consumers are seeking the same ease and frictionless experience they enjoy when purchasing any other legal product.
Tim Cullen, CEO of Colorado Harvest Company, views traditional payment methods as a right for the industry and strives to provide them at the company’s three Colorado dispensaries. Each store accepts cash (there are ATMs on site) and the CanPay app as payment options. “I want people to have an alternative to carrying cash with them,” Cullen says. “In today’s society and economy, it’s actually quite rare that someone pays for something in cash outside of shopping in a dispensary.”
Arizona-based Nature’s Medicines implemented a digital payment option offered through Hypur, an Arizona-based payment solutions provider. Nature’s Medicines Marketing Director Nathalie Porter says the Hypur system “has shown to be very convenient for a lot of our patients, and it also helps cut out a lot of those [patients’] bank fees.”
Making Cashless Happen
Your success and ease in adopting cashless payments will depend largely on your choice of service providers. Information about CanPay and Hypur is offered here, not as endorsements, but as examples of companies willing to speak openly and on the record about their services, whose customers (contacted independently) were also willing to speak about their experiences with those services.
For both CanPay and Hypur, dispensaries must have a banking relationship with a cannabis-compliant financial institution operating within their respective member networks to ensure cannabis-related transactions can be fully transparent at every step. Depending on your situation, these companies may be able to help you connect with a cannabis-compliant bank or credit union that can help you offer cashless payment options or help your compliant banking partner participate.
CanPay, which operates only in the cannabis sector, is available in 10 states and approximately 100 dispensaries as of March 2018, with more states being added soon. Hypur, which works in several industries, is available for cannabis businesses in seven states. Tyler Beuerlein, Hypur’s vice president of business development, expects those numbers to grow dramatically this year. Both companies have launched operations in California, where Beuerlein reports multiple financial institutions are entering the cannabis market now that a finite regulatory system has been established.
For CanPay, the focus remains on its mobile debit app and providing that service extremely well. “Our primary service is enabling dispensaries to accept electronic payments from their customers in a transparent way,” Dustin Eide, CanPay’s CEO, explains. In contrast, Hypur offers its cashless payment service plus a portfolio of compliance-related technologies—such as Hypur Comply, a “transaction monitoring and electronic reporting system designed for highly regulated markets,” as explained on the company’s website—to help financial institutions ensure participating businesses are compliant.
What the Future Holds
As the industry grows, options for cashless payment services will undoubtedly grow, too. With nearly a decade in business—and several service providers behind him—Cullen offers dispensary owners some sound advice: Vet cashless payment providers carefully, get your bank in on the vetting process and never do anything to jeopardize your bank’s trust.
“That relationship is one of the most important business relationships we have,” Cullen says. “We have been in situations in the last nine years where we did not have a bank account. It sounds like a fun reality TV show, but it’s a nightmare.” While legitimate cashless payment solutions are just one piece of the banking puzzle, they represent one less cause for sleepless nights for dispensary owners.
Jolene Hansen is a freelance writer and former horticulture professional. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Enter the Green Room
Departments - Great Ideas
Denver’s Seed & Smith gives customers a behind-the-scenes, educational tour about how the company grows and manufactures products.
If you have spent time in a cultivation facility, you are familiar with the typical list of people you might encounter: the master growers, the extraction specialists, the chefs, the packagers.
When Truman Bradley enters his cultivation facility, though, he might see six 80-year-old members of a local bridge club, a family of four or two best friends in town for a long weekend.
These people aren’t working in Bradley’s grow, nor are they wandering unsupervised through restricted areas. They are there to peek behind the curtain of a legal marijuana grow and learn how cannabis is grown. It’s all part of the Seed & Smith customer experience, an experience Bradley has worked tirelessly to develop.
Seed & Smith is a Denver- based, vertically integrated medical and recreational dispensary. Its 21,000-square-foot facility houses the company’sgrow, dispensary, extraction lab and packaging department. Having all under one roof allows Seed & Smith a unique opportunity: It can give anyone over 21 an interactive, “brewery-style” tour of its full-service cannabis facility, providing an exclusive look at and understanding of how cannabis businesses operate.
Location, Location, Location
Bradley’s dream was always to offer a consumer-facing tour—a “Napa-style experience”—as he says. So when searching for a location, he needed a place zoned for retail and cultivation. That process “took years off my life in stress,” Bradley says. “Denver was like [the board game] Settlers of Catan; there were only a few spots on the board left.”
He found the perfect location near the Denver-Aurora border: an old forklift-manufacturing facility with 21-foot ceilings that would “allow the plants to expand and to breathe and to be grown the right way.” Roughly halfway between Denver International Airport and downtown, the dispensary and its tour have become a hot tourist attraction, while also sustaining a robust local clientele, despite its mostly industrial surroundings, Bradley says.
Seed & Smith prides itself on two things: transparency and producing high-quality craft cannabis. The tour helps with both by keeping the company accountable, says Bradley. “We are on display four days a week, and so it’s really important that we do take the extra time and take that extra focus to make sure that we’re rock solid … and that carries all the way through to the retail side.”
Groups meet in the dispensary’s lobby before Director of Customer Experience Samantha Schafer, or another manager, leads the group around the building and into the tour’s first stop: the vegetative room.
Inside the Veg Room
A goal of the tour is to “show customers the entire life cycle of a cannabis plant … from seed to sale,” Bradley says. That education begins in the veg room. Customers watch a short video that details the differences between seeds and clones, and the cultivation process from vegetation to packaging. After the video, two black curtains are raised, and customers can peer into a large, fully stocked veg room. Note that tour-goers never actually enter any of the rooms. “We touch on the fact that if you were able to walk into the grow room, that would potentially bring contaminants into the grow room,” Schafer says.
Instead, Seed & Smith has a pallet of its soil on display as well as an example of its planting pots. “We allow you to put your hands in our coco-soil blend, so you can kind of feel what [it’s] like. … You can read the ingredients. We talk about … why it is important to grow cannabis a certain way,” Schafer says.
The Bloom Room
At the next stop, the bloom room, samples of recently harvested and cured flower are displayed in magnified, perforated jars. Guests are asked to smell each and identify whether they smell citrus, cheese, diesel or berry. Once the scent is identified, they can then flip over a card to learn more about the strain. Three large windows are color corrected to make the room’s lighting appear normal so people can take selfies in front of the plants. One window remains without color correction to show “the incredible orange-light that the plants are existing in,” Schafer says.
Customers aren’t the only people visiting. According to Bradley, the tour’s success has led to members of regulatory agencies coming through to train new staff. He says the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment recently toured. “The tour allows us to work with regulators and have transparent dialogues regarding safety, compliance and operating procedures to assist these agencies in making informed regulatory decisions.” Bradley explains.
The “harvest hall” is where tour participants see the extraction lab and packaging room. Upon entering, guests can gaze through a window as technicians create slabs of shatter, distill pure THC and isolate terpenes. Inside the packaging department, workers are seen meticulously weighing flower, and guests can hold a 1-pound bag of vacuum-sealed bud and take pictures.
Next stop is the “Smelfie Station.” While discussing extraction, tour guides touch heavily on terpenes. The guide sprays isolated terpenes onto cards for guests to smell. Schafer says the idea came from perfume stores. “It’s familiar to people, so it immediately takes away the stigma, and it educates people about terpenes.”
Exit Through the Gift Shop
Bradley and Schafer get to see how much their guests retained when the tour ends at the dispensary.
“When people shop, they often say, ‘I want your highest-testing strain,’ but when they come for a tour and they learn about the effect terpenes can have in your body, and the aromatherapy qualities of the terpenes, they go into the shop [and] start asking different questions like, ‘What is your freshest product?’ rather than ‘What’s your highest-testing strain,’” Schafer says.
She estimates 95 percent of tour-goers visit the dispensary, and about 85 percent purchase something.
“We’ve always believed that if people could see how their cannabis is grown and extracted that frankly they would make different purchasing decisions,” Bradley says. “That’s why we’ve set up the tour the way that we have.”
Scott Guthrie is senior editor of Cannabis Dispensary.
Each issue we are committed to providing you industry insight, advice and trends from some of the most respected and knowledgeable individuals and journalists in cannabis today. We’re pleased to introduce you to our contributors.
is the CEO of Denver-based Lightshade, which operates three cultivation facilities and eight retail locations. Lightshade has been honored with multiple awards, including Leafly’s “Colorado Dispensary of the Year” and Business Insider’s “Top 5 Dispensaries in the U.S.”
Kristi Byers, AIA LEED AP BD&C
is the founder of Kristi Byers, Architect, an architecture and sustainable design consulting firm in San Diego, Calif. Byers has overseen the implementation of green design and LEED on projects across the U.S., including Golden State Greens, which is the first LEED Certified dispensary in the nation, according to the company.
began marketing/business consultancy Canna Media Works, launched the West Michigan Women Grow chapter and in January 2018, founded Cannabiz Connection. Cooper is also a marketing mentor for Kadin Academy, an eight-week online cannabis-business program for women. Cooper was named by the Grand Rapids Business Journal as among the “Top 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan.”
is the owner of MJ HR Strategic Solutions, an HR consulting firm based in Palm Springs, Calif. Denzin specializes in talent strategy and development for the cannabis industry. Her firm helps cannabis business owners develop strategic HR plans to select, develop, reward and retain employees who deliver value and loyalty. She can be reached at email@example.com.
co-launched Hybrid Social, an all-cannabis marketing and social media agency in Arizona, in 2015. Donohue has been a member of the Phoenix chapter of Women Grow since December 2014 and consulted on the Prop 205 campaign. She also has a CBD skincare line, and co-coordinates Cannafriends, an Arizona cannabis networking group.
has been with Berkeley Patients Group since 2001 and serves as vice president and chairman of the Board of Directors, and is chief product officer for NuLeaf dispensaries in Lake Tahoe and Las Vegas, Nev. He currently sits on the Board of Directors of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) and served as chairman of the board from 2012 to 2013.
is executive director atMagnolia Wellness, an award-winning dispensary in Oakland, Calif., and the managing director of the Berkeley Community Care Center dispensary at Amoeba Music. She co-founded the Berkeley Patients Group (BPG) medical cannabis collective in 1999, directing its growth for more than 11 years. In 2017, Goldsberry published her first book, “Idiot’s Guide: Starting and Running a Marijuana Business.”
is an attorney at Harris Bricken’s Los Angeles office. Her practice is aimed at corporate and regulatory issues in the California cannabis industry. With both a juris doctor and master’s in business administration, Halloran advises companies on cannabis-related legal issues. She is also a regular contributor to her firm’s Canna Law Blog.
is a freelance writer based in Wisconsin’s Driftless Area. A former horticulture professional, she is a frequent contributor to the Horticulture Group publications owned by Cannabis Dispensary’s parent company, GIE Media.
Sara F. Hawkins
has been a private practice attorney for nearly 20 years. She is a recognized expert in marketing promotions law, influencer/celebrity disclosure compliance, sweepstakes, contests and user-generated content promotions.
is a New York City-based freelance journalist whose work has appeared in the online or print versions of Glamour, Food & Wine, SELF, The Wall Street Journal and more. Her work covers everything from career and money to women’s issues, cannabis and beyond.
Shawna Seldon McGregor
joined Grasslands: A Journalism-Minded Agency as managing partner in March 2018. Prior to joining Grasslands, she spent nearly two decades at a New York City agency. Founding an office in Denver in 2012, McGregor was one of the first public relations professionals working in the legal cannabis industry.
launched Markyr Cannabis, a digital marketing and social media strategy agency, and Women in Cannabis, a support group for women entrepreneurs, with four chapters in Northern California, in 2016. Reed has also launched Kadin Academy, an online business academy that educates women entrepreneurs in cannabis.
joined Milestone Safety Group as a safety consultant in 2011, and has worked extensively as an on-site safety supervisor, and coordinator in construction, general industry and the cannabis sector with expertise in OSHA compliance, job hazard analysis and safety training.
At a recent get-together, friends of mine who are very much cannabis enthusiasts voiced fears about legalization and whether their children could get their hands on cannabis more easily if it were legal. While I could hardly believe what I was hearing (I asked them, “How many black-market marijuana sellers are going to ask your children for ID?”), it reminded me how stigmas surrounding cannabis consumption, although slowly crumbling, still remain.
As much as the cannabis industry has evolved in recent years, I am still perplexed by the number of people who are unaware of what is happening with legalization, who are confused about its benefits and various positive impacts on society, and by the number of states, counties and municipalities that continue to cling to prohibition.
This tells me that the cannabis industry should remain focused on education and outreach. Not only do we need to educate those who fear marijuana’s negative stigmas, but we also need to educate those who do consume as well as newcomers. The more we educate these groups, the more likely they will understand and be able to explain accurately the benefits of medical and adult-use cannabis to others, continuing to nudge cannabis into mainstream culture.
In this issue, this is an ongoing theme.
In the cover story (p. 52), Green Light’s Sonny Langdon had to plead his case about how “good” cannabis can be for the community. And now that he’s successful, he can (and does) give back generously.
Our guest interview (p. 28) delves into Berkeley Patients Group’s and Lightshade’s corporate social responsibility plans and how important they are to the dispensaries’ staff and communities. They are supporting youth programs, local police departments’ charitable efforts, veterans and poverty-focused organizations, and much more.
Then there’s education that makes consumers more comfortable at dispensaries and more knowledgeable when buying products. In “Great Ideas” (p. 18), vertically integrated Seed & Smith takes visitors (including government officials) on tours of its cultivation operation, where tour-goers learn about growing and extraction methods, terpenes, post-production and compliance—of which many, if not most consumers are unaware.
Despite the remarkable scientific and social progress we’ve seen with cannabis in recent years, the language we use to discuss its vast and varied effects is still stuck in the past. In some ways, this disconnect between common vernacular and scientific discovery is understandable. Cannabis is uniquely complex. It defies the narrow scope of conventional “single compound, single target” pharmacology. Yet the task of resetting the language of cannabis is vital. Learning to analyze, interpret and intelligently discuss this botanical powerhouse will help ensure better experiences for longtime users and newcomers alike.
Farma, a dispensary in Portland, Ore., has proven this process can be done on a small scale. Grounded in the work of the renowned neurologist and cannabis research pioneer Dr. Ethan Russo, Farma is one dispensary paving the way to cannabis curation according to chemical composition rather than plant morphology. By aggregating and analyzing reliable lab data—that is, by focusing on chemotypes rather than folklore and strain names—dispensaries can help guide patients and consumers through a spectrum of effects that more effectively target specific needs and desired experiences.
Sound Data Begets Sound Analysis
The process of analysis begins with ensuring safe access. In Oregon, this means partnering with independent, state-accredited labs capable of testing for more than potency and primary cannabinoid content, but the full spectrum of active compounds. Other states, such as California, are in the process of developing their own testing protocols.
Without solid lab data from the start, we cannot hope to generate reliable resources and experiential predictions that help folks form a lasting, positive relationship with the plant.
Curating with Chemotypes
Not everyone coming through the doors of a dispensary will have had a pleasant experience with cannabis. Maybe this is their first time; maybe they’re gun-shy after an encounter with a strong edible; maybe they’re coming for symptomatic relief without losing clarity and functionality. But that scent! It gets them every time. It is as intoxicating as it is calming, akin to some sort of urban forest bathing experience. Yet that comforting scent belies a surprising truth: the nose knows. And it is one of our greatest tools for understanding how cannabis will interact with our individual endocannabinoid systems. (For this reason, dispensaries would benefit from allowing consumers to smell and examine the product they’re buying. Pre-packaged and sealed flower is antithetical to informed consumer judgment.)
Researchers like Dr. Russo have shown how cannabinoids and those delicious scent compounds, terpenoids, work in tandem to create, mitigate and modulate our individual responses to cannabis consumption. This is commonly known as the “Entourage Effect.” This poly-pharmaceutical phenomenon suggests that the way we experience cannabis is dictated not by the plant’s morphology (indica or sativa) or even one or two isolated compounds, but through a myriad of molecules working in conjunction with one another.
The key, then, is knowing how all these active compounds—but particularly cannabinoids and terpenes—interact with our bodies. To this end, it is imperative that we generate complete and detailed lab reports with each harvest.
Strain names are notoriously unreliable – sound chemical analysis, a lot less so.
Using this data, consumers will no longer have to rely solely on the strain name when trying to ascertain effects—which is particularly ineffectual when it comes to proprietary chemovars, as there is little basis for comparison.
But what about those good-old standbys like Blue Dream? Is it not possible to make accurate predictions about these stalwarts? The answer, unfortunately, is no. That’s because, phyto-chemically speaking, one batch of Blue Dream will never be exactly the same as another. Depending on the genetic stock, the methods and the environment in which it was grown, even well-known cultivars can show significant swings in phyto-chemistry from harvest to harvest. For instance, one batch might be myrcene-dominant and thus a bit “stonier,” while another is much more focused and peaceful with a higher pinene concentration. A predicted effect comes from the weighing of all these tested compounds against one another to see which way the scale may tip.
In practice, this complexity can be daunting. Is a customer looking for appetite suppression? Perhaps they should try something high in THCV, humulene or a high-limonene/CBD combo. Pain relief? Myrcene and linalool are both known for their analgesic properties. Anxiety? CBD, for sure, but also CBG, CBC, pinene, and beta-caryophyllene, the only aromatic compounds to work similarly to CBD by helping to mitigate a negative THC response. Compounds should not be thought of independently of one another. Research has shown, for example, that when beta-caryophyllene and humulene are found together in high concentrations, anti-proliferative activity soars, inhibiting certain types of cancer cell growth. The combinations are endless, because this plant is so tremendously multifaceted.
Few would dispute that cannabis science is evolving, and we still have much to learn. But that should not keep us, as the face of the industry, from striving to responsibly parse the data that we have at our disposal. The effort is worth it. There is no better feeling than knowing that you positively helped redefine someone’s relationship with cannabis, to hear how your careful recommendation met or even exceeded their expectations.
To a degree, and likely unacceptable in any other industry, cannabis consumers have to take dispensaries at their word about the cultivars they carry. Does this Durban Poison possess true Durban genetics? Until now, there was no way to decisively know the answer. Buyers were forced to take the name on the jar at face value. Genotype certification changes that.
Phylos Bioscience here in Portland has revolutionized consumer reliability and grower reproducibility with the introduction of a certification system that ensures genetic identity. Through DNA sequencing, consumers can more accurately infer similar effects. Farma is proud to have been chosen as the first dispensary to bring that data to customers.
With the help of growers and breeders from around the world, tens of thousands of genetic samples have already been collected and placed within the Phylos Galaxy—an interactive, three-dimensional web that enables users to visualize the world of cannabis cultivars and how they relate to one another. Because Phylos works strictly with DNA from stems, samples can be collected from anywhere in the world, providing growers with the ability to not only protect proprietary cultivars, but also fine-tune genetics and cultivation methods. Further, the transparency provided by the Galaxy builds trust with consumers and better informs purchasing decisions.
We are in an exciting and dynamic period in the evolution of cannabis. The truth is, though, a lot of misinformation is out there, much of it steeped so deeply into cannabis and mainstream cultures that we have no choice but to work with it. The flawed, but familiar indica/sativa/hybrid taxonomy is here to stay for the foreseeable future. That said, people generally trust scientific data, especially when it is consciously cultivated and actively made approachable.
As the customer-facing side of this industry, it is our responsibility to erase the legacy of generations of prohibition and propaganda with a new, more evidence-based paradigm. By arming growers and budtenders with the resources they need to engage effectively and confidently with even the most hesitant of customers, together we can reframe the entire conversation around cannabis.
Andrea Sparr-Jaswa is the co-director of education and outreach at Farma in Portland, Ore., where she is responsible for aggregating and analyzing customer-facing data.
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