Recent polling data shows that Americans and Canadians alike are incredibly concerned about the safety of their medical and recreational marijuana purchases. With local news articles highlighting any crime that occurs at or near any cannabis businesses, and the slew of recalls announced on a near-weekly basis by Michigan’s licensing department, safety remains a significant factor in determining how the modern marijuana patient chooses their dispensary. Providing a feeling of security to your clientele can be difficult as the industry grows and changes so rapidly, but the payoff can be a loyal customer base and a better experience for everyone involved.
Michigan differs from many other states that have entered the legalization process, such as Colorado and Oregon. It can take a little more to make a client feel safe in Detroit than it might in other markets, but many concepts are still the same. Below we have outlined some ideas for Michigan provisioning center owners to improve their customer experience and keep clients coming back again and again. These ideas are based off our knowledge of the cannabis industry, including Ms. Pennington’s experience working in Oregon dispensaries.
Your dispensary storefront and your parking lot are the first things that a potential customer sees when considering your provisioning center. Putting time and care into seeing that your lot looks clean, well-tended and secure is an intelligent investment into your dispensary. Customers care about first impressions; if they see loiterers around your business, if the lot is dotted with potholes and trash, or if they suspect that they or their car might be otherwise unsafe, potential customers are likely to never walk through your dispensary’s door.
Cameras and Security Guards
While required by the MMFLA, and likely the MRTMA as well, camera surveillance makes a lot of people uncomfortable, especially in the Cannabis industry. Thanks to years of stigma from criminalization, many customers understandably do not want to be on camera while making their purchases. Cameras inside of a provisioning center often feel impersonal, while those on the outside, especially those watching the parking lot, add to a feeling of safety. We therefore recommend that your outdoor cameras be as conspicuous as possible—you want your customers to know that their vehicle is being monitored. In contrast, your indoor cameras should be more inconspicuous—you do not want your customers to feel like “big brother” is watching them buy their medical marijuana.
The presence of a security guard can also cause customers to feel safe at your provisioning center, especially one in uniform with an easily visible security badge. While far from acting as a guarantee of safety, they do make an invaluable addition to any Michigan dispensary’s team. Not only can a security guard help to usher patients in and out of waiting areas and monitor your parking lot, but they also provide a way for everyone, including the rest of your staff, to feel a greater sense of security from any problems coming in from the street.
While it may seem rather straightforward to have an ATM, it is important to recognize their influence upon the appearance of safety at your dispensary. Marijuana provisioning remains a mostly cash-only business for now, and as such, your customers know that anyone seeing them walk into a dispensary can reasonably assume they are carrying cash on them. As dispensary purchases can often exceed a hundred dollars at a time, many patients do not want to arrive with that much cash in their pockets.
Providing an ATM service with reasonable fees to your clientele offers them the opportunity to spend more money and feel a greater sense of safety while doing so. While it may be tempting to charge big ATM fees, this could cause customers to feel “ripped off”, even if they are getting a good deal on their marijuana purchase.
Making a customer feel safe doesn’t end once you’ve gotten them in the door. Customers notice your safety precautions. Erring too far on the side of caution can result in an impersonal experience. Today’s cannabis consumer wants to feel welcomed at their provisioning center; putting too many layers of glass and steel between them and you creates an atmosphere that causes many patients to feel uncomfortable and unsafe.
There is a careful balance to be struck between seeming too casual and being too careful. Too many security barriers may make your customers feels insecure, whereas not enough security measures will do the same. Put simply, do not sacrifice all warmth and personality in the name of security. Should your provisioning center be in a high-risk area, know that most security breaches happen after a store has closed. You would be better off investing in a good safe as well as reinforced exterior walls and roofs—a favorite entry point for dispensary burglars—rather than layers upon layers of bullet proof glass.
Product Testing and Certifications
Many customers are willing to pay higher prices if their product is thoroughly tested and the results are easily accessible to them. Customers want to know the THC and CBD ranges of the products they are buying before they make their purchase. Opting in to a higher level of product testing as well as making the results easily accessible to customers prior to their purchase can increase customer satisfaction and make patients more likely to return to your provisioning center.
In addition to testing, having product certifications can also help reassure your customers that the products being sold are safe. Products in the cannabis industry come in a far greater range than flower alone. Many customers are interested in trying these newer forms of product, but they may have fears or reservations about the process in which their cannabis product was created. One thing that many customers find great comfort in is organic labeling on their products, and there are several companies that provide such certification for the cannabis industry. Even though your customers may not have the time to understand exactly how a product was produced, they still want to feel like they know what they’re buying, and organic labelling and other similar certifications can help in this regard.
What is important to the customer is that they can feel like your products are safe for them to buy. Articles are published nearly every day on the unsafe elements found in untrustworthy cannabis products. Certain Michigan cannabis brands have started to develop a reputation for unsafe testing results. By avoiding these problem brands, and instead carrying product with clear labeling and transparent testing results, dispensary owners can vastly increase their patients’ feelings of safety and security when they purchase cannabis products.
Security in the marijuana industry is not a given. When patients discuss with each other where to go for their medical marijuana, they don’t always talk about prices. They also discuss whether a dispensary is “safe”, in terms of both the facility’s safety as well as the products being sold. If your customers feel safe in your provisioning center, they will be much more likely to return in the future. Thus, creating a feeling of safety as well as investing in the security of your product lines, your staff and your customers can increase repeat business, which will in turn drive your bottom line.
Mr. Roberts is the founder and managing member of Scott Roberts Law, a Detroit-based Cannabis Business Law Firm founded in 2014. Scott has spent his entire career representing businesses and helping them comply with municipal, state and local regulations, as well as assisting on transactional corporate and real estate matters. Scott is an accomplished attorney, author and public speaker, having spoke at CannaCon, Cannabis Industrial Marketplace, CannabisAid, and 420 Canna Expo, to name a few. He has also taught Continuing Legal Education on Marijuana business matters, meaning other attorneys see him speak to learn about the nuances of cannabis business law.