By Jill Ellsworth, MS, RDN
Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche famously noted that out of chaos comes order. His theory has proven true time and time again. One day, it might even apply to the cannabis industry. For now, we are a work in progress. Currently we have inconsistency among our state regulations, continual and confusing updates within state safety standards, and significant conflict with the federal government.
But we can’t blame all our unsteadiness on outside forces. We bear some responsibility as well, starting with how we attract customers and deliver a consistent and exceptional customer experience. No longer hampered by our full-fledged fight for legalization, we have an opportunity to market our businesses and products in a new and transparent way.
Inviting storefronts, bold signage, an online presence—these are the hallmarks of organizations ready to broaden the industry’s reach and appeal to a mass audience. Greater collaboration between businesses will also benefit our customers. The more we share ideas, welcome new approaches and look for opportunities to partner with one another, the greater the chance that we’ll continue to innovate and expand rather than compete for the same customer.
Another step we should take is to invest in operational practices that produce as safe and clean a product for our customers as possible. Today, we lean too heavily on state regulators to determine if our cannabis is passable for dispensary shelves. As we transition into a customer-first industry, we should do better than to accept merely passable standards.
When choosing what standards to set for ourselves, we may want to consider regulations similar to food-related industries that monitor the production, procurement and handling of products at every turn and that set safety guidelines for the manufacturing, distribution and consumption of their finished product.
Other operational standards that could help us produce a safer and cleaner product include conducting regular analysis of critical control points like storage, packaging and distribution areas, similar to HACCP plan standards in food production; instituting a contamination kill-step once cannabis harvesting is complete; designing a “clean room” for certain points in production, namely during the trimming, packaging and storage steps; and implementing sanitary processes—including always wearing gloves when handling the plant—to reduce or altogether prevent cross-contamination. Treating our facilities the way we would want to have our food treated is a concept we must adopt.
Inevitably, there are financial costs to shoring up our operational practices, but with investment comes opportunity. Consider that there are literally thousands of strains of cannabis being sold today. While there are significant differences among these plants at the genetic level, other than potency, none may be as compelling to the consumer as knowing that the product they are purchasing is among the cleanest and purest on the market.
Ultimately, our ability to grow and be sustainable for the long-term will depend on our commitment to putting the customer first with each and every business decision we make. That can either be a burden or a welcomed responsibility. For an industry that has already come as far as we have, there is no reason to think that we won’t welcome an opportunity to grow. As we do, we’ll know that we’re playing our part to drive the cannabis industry a little further away from the chaos and one step closer to order.