The worldwide COVID-19 / coronavirus pandemic has upended nearly everything we took for granted, including the ways we do business and conduct simple transactions. Because the current structure of the retail cannabis industry is cash-based and involves numerous small transactions, the potential implications for the health and safety of both customers and dispensary staff are huge.
Fortunately, there’s a silver lining: A number of states—including California, the largest legal marijuana market in the world—have designated dispensaries as “essential businesses.” But operators need to adapt quickly to take advantage of this unusual moment. And two of the most important steps are offering delivery or express pickup options. Here’s how they work.
Cannabis Dispensary Delivery and Express Pickup: State-by-State Legality
If you’re not already set up for online ordering, it’s a must. In “normal” times—that is, before a couple of weeks ago—online ordering was one of several important factors for customers deciding which cannabis dispensaries to frequent. Now, in the age of COVID-19 / coronavirus, it’s a must: An essential part of adhering to social distancing and other protocols designed to help keep customers and staff safe from a highly transmissible virus.
The first step is to determine whether your state allows online ordering. The current list includes:
- Alaska: No delivery or curbside pickup
- California: Delivery and curbside pickup allowed
- Colorado: Deliveries pending local approval; curbside pickup allowed; some municipalities have ordered the closure of adult-use dispensaries
- Illinois: No delivery; curbside pickup for medical cannabis only
- Maryland: No delivery, curbside pickup allowed
- Massachusetts: Currently only medical cannabis sales only; delivery limited to certain qualified license holders
- Michigan: Only delivery and curbside pickup allowed (no in-store sales)
- Missouri: Delivery for medical cannabis only
- Montana: Delivery and curbside pickup allowed
- Nevada: Delivery allowed; no curbside pickup
- New Hampshire: No Delivery, curbside pickup allowed
- New Jersey: No delivery; curbside pickup allowed
- New Mexico: Delivery and curbside pickup allowed
- New York: Delivery allowed, no curbside pickup
- Oklahoma: Delivery ratified but not yet adopted as law; no curbside pickup
- Oregon: Delivery and curbside pickup allowed
- Pennsylvania: No delivery, curbside pickup allowed
- Washington: No delivery; curbside pickup for medical cannabis only
Note: things are changing fast. Check with your regulating agency to see if things have changed in your state and petition them if need be!
If you operate in one of these states and you’re not currently set up with online ordering, it’s time to get that in place ASAP. Online ordering will help you manage this uncertain moment with greater surety, letting your customers know they’ll minimize human-to-human contact while getting the products they need in a safe, timely and trackable fashion.
If that sounds like a tall order, we can help: We’ve worked with countless dispensaries from small “mom-and-pop” operations to sprawling nationwide chains get up and running. Give us a call to learn more.
Express Pickup: Creating an Action Plan
Of course, setting up online ordering is only half the battle: Now you’re going to have to adapt a dispensary configured for maximum browsing and customer interaction into one set up for rapid processing and lightning-fast transactions.
Fortunately, this isn’t rocket science: It just requires a little forethought and planning. Consider an “express pickup area” in the dispensary, someplace that balances the need for customers to have minimal physical interactions with staff with the requirement for the safety and security of dispensary staff. This could take the form of a separate, roped-off desk and register, or it might mean that a single existing register is designated as the “Express Register.”
And as we’ve written previously, even in “normal” times paper money is notoriously dirty. If your staffing level allows it, consider detailing one or two budtenders at a time to handle all the cash used for transactions. Consider issuing them a face mask, and be sure to provide customers hand sanitizer or the use of the sink in the dispensary restroom after they handle cash and receive their (carefully sanitized) order.
Curbside Pickup: Balancing Convenience with Safety
Curbside pickup has come into its own in the current COVID-19 / coronavirus reality. Offering customers the convenience and peace of mind of staying inside their vehicles, it keeps human-to-human contact to a bare minimum while customers’ orders are fulfilled. While online ordering helps streamline the process—customers can even order while they wait at the curb!—strictly speaking, curbside pickup does not require dispensaries to be set up for click-and-collect order processing.
That said, there are safety considerations you need to take into account. Again, because of the retail cannabis industry’s current cash-only nature, dispensary staff will be exposed as they transit from curb to the cash register inside. Mandating exact change transactions will help reduce this critical exposure, but places an extra burden on customers. Ultimately, you’ll have to make these calls based on your physical location, your clientele, the availability of security staffing and other considerations.
Cannabis Dispensary Delivery: Staffing and Procedural Requirements
If nothing else, the COVID-19 / coronavirus pandemic has engendered a public acceptance of cannabis delivery as the future of cannabis transactions. Offering cannabis delivery requires a well-thought-out plan to keep deliveries on track and employees safe.
While you’ve already absorbed our post on staffing your dispensary, it’s extra-important to pay careful attention to hiring your delivery driver (or drivers). As you well know, the cannabis industry already imposes a large number of compliance requirements on all staff and personnel; when operating a motor vehicle gets added to the mix, the legal regulations only get stiffer.
Make sure your hire understands the legal landscape and is prepared to go the extra mile—no pun intended—to present a clean, friendly, informative, and fully legal face to your business, out in the world where you won’t be close at hand to monitor his or her interactions with the public.
You’ll also need to get up to speed on the dispatching side of the equation. Using tracking apps in conjunction with smart-dispatch software back at the dispensary will ensure that customers receive their orders in a timely and predictable fashion. Helpful features like real-time updates and notifications will be worth their weight in gold here; they’ll help you manage your workflow and work towards your ultimate goal: To ensure that the customers who rely on you for safe and speedy delivery of their cannabis in this challenging time will become loyal fans for life.
Starting a delivery service from scratch is a heavy lift in the best of times, but we can help make the job simpler and more intuitive with cutting-edge tools, best practices, and above all our years of know-how. We recently talked about marketing a marijuana delivery service in a free webinar. Catch the replay, then give us a call to learn what you should be doing right now.