The founding members of Trilogy Wellness came together in 2014 to apply for a Maryland dispensary license with one goal in mind: to provide medical cannabis to patients in a safe, responsible way.
Now, about 10 months after its March 2018 opening, the Ellicott City-based retailer works to achieve that goal through building a well-educated staff and strong relationships with customers, vendors, the community and state regulators.
“It’s all about the customer,” President and COO Herman Dunst tells Cannabis Dispensary.
Trilogy sells flower, pre-rolls, concentrates and topicals, and invests in its staff and employee training to ensure that patients receive the best customer service possible, Dunst says.
“No. 1 is staff,” he says. “Staff is your, in my opinion, No. 1 asset. … We wanted them to be well-educated nonstop, not just a bare-minimum training. … We want them to be well-educated so when a person comes in, you instill confidence in that person, right from the get-go.”
Trilogy strives to educate its customers and help them feel comfortable when visiting the dispensary. The company also works to give back to the local community, hosting a community-related event each month.
Currently, Trilogy has an ongoing winter charity event that allows customers to make clothing or food donations in exchange for a discount on the dispensary’s products. Past events have included donations for veterans and dog shelters, as well as a school supply drive.
“We pick an event for every month. We want to give back to the community,” Dunst says. “That’s what it’s all about.”
In its 10 months of operation, Trilogy has not received one compliant from the community, he says, which he credits not only to the company’s charitable spirit, but also its transparency with the local government.
“When we first started this whole process, we sat down and met with the local government. We sat down and told them what we were trying to do. We were very transparent,” Dunst says. “We didn’t have any issues with zoning. They supported us, and that makes it much, much better.”
Trilogy holds open houses and invites local leaders, as well as the police department, to tour the facility. “One time, we had 20-30 [people] come out, just so they can see what’s going on, so they can understand it,” Dunst says. “They could see our policies and they could see how we were going to handle some things, and they also saw our education materials. So, they didn’t draw any assumptions of what we were going to do or what we we’re trying to do. They actually saw it, and we gave them an open doorway to stop by any time.”
Trilogy extends this transparency to its partnerships with vendors, ensuring that the suppliers they work with hold the same standards of product quality and cost effectiveness.
“We work hard at making sure we’re dealing with the right vendors,” Dunst says. This is rooted in relationship building—after starting an initial conversation with a prospective supplier, Trilogy’s team members visit the operation to see how it operates, what procedures are in place and how the staff is treated, Dunst says.
“If they’re following the rules in … what they do, we build that relationship from there,” he says. “Once you build that relationship and you have that trust, it’s easy to buy back and forth.”
Trilogy often asks its cultivation and processing partners to visit the dispensary to help market their products to customers. “We want our patients and our customers to meet these growers and processors so they can see where the product they’re buying [is] grown and who’s produced it,” Dunst says.
A Growing Market
As of Jan. 22, Maryland has 1,269 total health care providers who can recommend medical cannabis, 81,890 registered patients and 5,112 registered caregivers, according to the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission’s website.
Although varying interpretations of the regulations may cause friction when it comes to consistency, Dunst says the market is still in its infancy and will overcome these growing pains.
“I find the regulations not bad, not bad at all, when you look at your other states,” he says. “You’ve got to commend the effort to do this to protect the integrity of the medical cannabis and also protect the patients.”
Trilogy views the commission as an ally, he adds. “We operate under transparency, and we view them as they’re there to help us. We want them to help us. We want them to be abiding to the regulations, … so we can serve the patient and customer the best way we can.”
Gauging supply and demand was a challenge upon Trilogy’s launch into Maryland’s brand new medical marijuana market, Dunst says, but having an educated staff that can help customers find the right products has helped the company overcome this obstacle.
“When your staff is well-educated and well-versed with your supply and demand problems and can offer other solutions or other products, it works out,” he says.
As the market continues to mature, Dunst predicts that customers will become more educated and specific in their product needs. Edibles will also likely come to Maryland, he adds, as customer demand grows for that product category.
Broader U.S. cannabis trends are coming into view as that customer demand increases the pressure on the marketplace. Larger corporations will enter Maryland’s market, and adult-use legalization will become inevitable, Dunst adds. “I think in the next two years, you’re going to see recreational come to Maryland, and I think we’re going to see how we’re going to service the people recreational-wise and how you’re going to service the people medically.”
In the meantime, Trilogy will continue building its staff, focusing on customer service and fostering its strong relationship with the community.
“I really believe that you can look at staff, you can look at patients, and then you have to give back to the community,” Dunst says. “We want to be known for how we promote community events and give back to the community."