News and Best Practices

Effective Ways to Buy from Patients and Caregivers

August 12, 2016

If you’re in a state that allows or virtually requires you to buy from patients and caregivers, you may find that acquiring product can be as time-consuming and difficult as selling it. How can you control the process to ensure that you consistently get the best cannabis available, without disrupting your dispensary’s operation or taking too much of your time?

For most cannabis dispensary operators, that’s a common problem. Their product purchasing processes have evolved with their businesses. If that describes you, maybe it’s time to take a few minutes and design a new patient product acquisition process based on the needs and practices of your current operation.

Where to buy

Where you handle these transactions is a good place to start in redesigning your process. If you have space in your shop, delegate a small, private area for meeting and interviewing the grower or their representative, inspecting the product and negotiating what you’re willing to pay or trade for it. A separate room or office area is ideal. But if you don’t have the space, at least find an area away from the main sales counter. It needs to be a location where your conversations aren’t overheard by other patients so you can discuss product quality and pricing in confidence.

Also, make sure you have space for testing. Even if your state doesn’t yet require it, testing products should be performed on all incoming medicine. You also need a secure cabinet where you can keep files on all your vendors. This information will help you to keep track of test results over time, the details of your relationship and past purchase prices. Having this in or near your acquisition area will save you time.

What to buy

Testing is critical. In most cases, a grow operation that’s dialed in will produce near-exact test results for each strain from each growing cycle. If you notice the tests vary widely for the same strain from the same seller, it’s a good indication that there are problems in their production. This can affect the patient’s satisfaction as well as your ability to provide consistent medicine. Quantifying this data helps you deal with only the most professional and stable cannabis growers. Keep notes and always compare each test cycle with the last.

To ensure product quality, you’ll also need a microscope or another way to carefully inspect the product, as well as reference books to compare incoming product with standard buds of the same strain. Ideal references have photos and notes so you can compare the product with an expert’s take on what it should be.

When to buy

Unless you live near a cannabis farmers market, you will most likely meet vendors and obtain the majority of your products in your shop. Depending on your needs, you will buy once or twice a week.

Choose one or two days a week and post a sign in your lobby with the days and hours you set aside for purchasing. You may also want to allow patients to drop off samples at other times. If so, note that on the sign, too, and have an intake sheet (such as the one below) to record incoming samples.

Choose your vendor days based on your sales and an item’s popularity. On product acquisition days, put a signup sheet in the lobby for incoming suppliers. You can require an appointment or take them on a first-come, first-served basis.

Once you’ve established a relationship with a supplier, you may be able to handle quantity, price and timing by phone. But the best practice is to meet a representative from each patient or company and build a personal relationship from the ground up. This can make placing orders in the future much easier as well as keep things smooth, should something go wrong with a subsequent order.

How to buy

Meeting growers and producers helps you understand the knowledge, passion, expertise and consistency of each potential supplier. Ask questions, examine the products, check the test results and get a general understanding of each patient or company’s mission.

Ask new suppliers how and when they started growing, what their goals are and what their growing practices are. Some individuals and businesses will send representatives; these reps should be as knowledgeable and passionate about their products as the people they represent.

Inquire about the production procedures and the scale of the operation. Depending on the state, some growers are not allowed to process the product they grow, and the product must then be passed on to a processor and then to the final retailer. If this is how your state works, you will want to track the product from seed to sale. Do a little research on each company that had a part in the final product.

Knowing the availability for each item offered will help you stock product consistently. Smaller farmers and producers can struggle to meet your demands if they are providing exceptional products and your clients are attached to them. You will want to know if you can get product weekly, monthly or on another schedule. This knowledge will help you prioritize who gets the first call and if you can make this part of your daily deal.

As a store operator, you should make the time to visit the farm or tour the production facility. These visits can be useful for your further understanding of the products you offer each patient. Take notes, ask questions and understand what your vendors are using to create products.

When samples are dropped off

Most professional product makers or representatives know the importance of bringing by a tested sample a few days or a week before the initial meeting. When the products are presented for review, the best practice is to have a simple intake form filled out. This completed form will help you know what to expect from the product and the representative. This knowledge will make your first meeting more productive and product-oriented.

Below is a sample product intake sheet you can use as a basis to tailor one to fit your needs. Some states have intake forms they require to you use. Of course, you always want to follow all state guidelines. But if the state form doesn’t contain all the information you need, you may want to have a supplemental form for your store.

[Add your logo or company name]

Product Sample Drop-Off Form

Patient or Caregiver Name______________________________________________Date______________

Company Name_____________________ Your Role Rep___Owner__Other___________

Phone Number For Placing Orders____________________Business Hours____________
How Did You Hear About Us?  __ Leafly  ___WeedMaps___Dr Referral  Other_________

Is this your first time selling to this cannabis dispensary   Yes    No

Are you dropping off: Flower______ Concentrates_____ Edibles_______Other_______

Have these products been tested? ________Did you bring copies of the tests_________
If no, can you provide a web-link to the tests? __________________________________
(If Yes, please provide the link)

Product Availability- Always____________Sometimes____________Seasonal_________________

Delivery Days ________________ On Call Delivery______ YES_______NO
Use Space Below To List Products and Amounts Dropping Off Today

All information is kept confidential and answers are not mandatory, unless your state requires it.

By Eric Stone
Dispensary Management Today articles are for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal guidance or advice on dispensary operations. You should contact an attorney or a qualified cannabis consultant for specific compliance and dispensary/retailing advice.
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