A lack of education creates apprehension in the product as well as the store
In 2017, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t know what THC is, regardless of age, location, or whether or not they have ever even smoked marijuana before. THC, or Tetrahydrocannabinol, is usually the first thing that comes to mind when you think of marijuana. While THC may be the ‘high’ behind marijuana and is thus usually the sought after ingredient, THC is actually only one of the 113 currently identified active cannabinoids found in cannabis and is currently losing ground to a new rising star. A popular trend in the United States retail marijuana market over the past couple of years has been for one of the previously lesser known cannabinoids, CBD.
So what is CBD and what does it do? CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of the most commonly found cannabinoids in marijuana, second only to THC. CBD can be quite helpful as an anti-inflammatory and is currently being researched for many more uses such as providing therapeutic relief for addiction, depression, as well as anxiety. Also, when used in conjunction with THC, it can even be quite helpful as a pain management solution. All of this newfound positivity towards CBD has unfortunately created a problem as patients flock to dispensaries to give it a try. While dispensaries are quick to stock and then sell CBD products to their patients, knowledge of those products hasn’t kept in line with the rise in demand.
Susan Marks, a nurse with more than 30 years of experience who now works in consulting with patients for personalized medical cannabis regimens knows this trend all too well. “The problem is, the only option that a patient has unless they find somebody like me, is they go to a dispensary. Nine times out of 10, the budtenders don’t have any kind of medical education, or certification or anything like that, and they often times give the wrong recommendation. More often than not, they are recommending way too much THC and not enough of the other cannabinoids. If a patient has a bad experience with their first exposure to medical cannabis they’ll say, “Oh, this isn’t for me, you know, this doesn’t work, blah, blah, blah” when it really could be something fantastic for them. That’s the problem, just that patient’s fall through the cracks because of the legalities. The federal government says it’s illegal, the state government says it’s legal, but most qualified physicians are afraid to talk to their patients about it.” The problem of the federal illegality of cannabis isn’t a new one, but when it comes to medical marijuana it is a problem that presents a unique opportunity to dispensaries. Doctors don’t want to lose their license to write prescriptions, and that hesitation gives shops the opportunity to become the front line for patients seeking information and create loyal customers for life.
Currently, however, the lack of education and direction from the staff at most dispensaries as to the CBD products that would be most beneficial for their specific ailments creates patient apprehension in using those products and in turn, erodes the very trust in the store that carries it. Unfortunately, that can snowball into consumer doubt about the dispensary’s knowledge of the other products it carries and, in turn, will hurt commercial viability for not only one of the single most important medicines on the planet but for the very store itself. With the single fastest growing demographic in the marketing being 50 years and older, a dispensary cannot afford to miss this opportunity.
Educating your consumer is key, as building trust creates loyalty for not only the product, but also the retailer that educated them on the product in the first place. “I recently visited a Nike store to try on a pair of running shoes. The sales staff wouldn’t let me buy a pair of shoes unless I got on a treadmill. They taped my running style and then explained what type of shoe would be best for me, based on my running tendencies. They played the video back for me, explaining how my foot fell on the treadmill and how that one movement translated to a certain kind of support. I was hooked into buying shoes — and coming back — because they’d taken the time to educate me.” This example from Business Insider was a consumer buying sneakers, but this concept easily translates back to the marijuana retail experience and a dispensary’s relationship with its patient. An educated retailer can easily give proper advice that will work for the patient, and thus create a patient that will keep coming back year after year purchasing with confidence.
Andrea, a mother who gives her daughter a daily CBD/THC treatment to combat the effects of the multiple operations and procedures related to her having Hydrocephalus, talked to us about her journey with medical marijuana dispensaries, “I’ve been to the local dispensaries where they’re just trying to give to sell your product… they make a suggestion on a strain to try, but that’s as far as they go. So we went home and started googling.” The problem with these recommendations is, they are often wrong and based on the perspective of pushing product, versus pushing consumer confidence in the product. Thankfully she was able to find a retailer in California who eventually was able to help her. “He’s (the shop owner) the kindest man ever. He’s not there for the money. He even said I don’t care about the money I just want to help people and everyone at that shop is the same way. Even when he hasn’t been there and I’ve gone in and it’s been other people there asking “How can we help? What’s going on?” They’re always trying to find a way to help my daughter. Instead of just selling us whatever.”
When asked how retailers could better help their patients she stated “A lot more information about how actually medical marijuana works, the different, more information on what it can help with, so people understand more.” Andrea’s story, unfortunately, isn’t a new one. Patients that feel a retailer will give them honest, credible, and heartfelt feedback and education earn loyalty that no marketing dollar can achieve. “We drive 90 miles one way to go to his dispensary and it’s always worth it.” This type of brand loyalty cannot be bought, only earned. Stay tuned for part 2 of our series in Spring 18 as we deeper in deeper to help give you and your retail staff the knowledge you will need to be the CBD resource guide in the industry for your patients, consumers, and the overall greater community.
Content Written By Nick Gaulin