Shopping Tips Pt. 1 (pre-legalization)

Tune in weekly while we explore frequently asked cannabis questions!

Now is the time of transition. There is a good deal of unknown around legalization and what it means for businesses, such as us at FARM, and for our members, such as yourselves! This What’s Your Normal blog campaign continues to evolve so that we can provide the most relevant information that we have access to.

FARM’s has always focused on compliance. Up until recently, the only regulations we were offered to base our business decisions off of was the MMRU program Vancouver pioneered (more of a background on this can be found in our previous blog post New User’s Guide). Moving forward, with a whole plethora of new regulations, including the application process for non-medical cannabis retailers, we want to ensure that our business operations (both in relation to cannabis compliance and standard HR compliance) are fully in line with government standards. We believe that it is important to work with what we’ve been given and abide by all regulations as they continue to evolve and become known. This industry has come so far and it may not be perfect, but it’s progress!

This blog entry is titled Shopping Tips Part I. It will be the first of a two-part series outlining (1) tips for consumers at this current time of transition and (2) tips for consumers after October 17, 2018 when cannabis is made legal across Canada and new regulations fully come into effect. For those of us who’ve been purchasing in Vancouver’s boisterous cannabis culture, this will surely be quite the change!

Sales, sales, sales!

If you’re an avid cannabis purchaser, whether with us at FARM or at another local dispensary, you may notice an increase in sales. Wondering why? Well, one of the biggest changes during this transition towards legalization is a brand new supply chain.

Currently, products come from a range of distributors whose details retail storefronts are pretty private about. Moving forward, all provincially-licensed non-medical cannabis retailers will purchase products through the BC Liquor Distribution Board (BC LDB). The BC LDB will purchase all of its stock from various licensed producers, regulated at a federal level by Health Canada. For more information on the LDB and new supply chain check out the following link www.bcldb.com/cannabis. For those of us who are compliance-focused, we are winding down our current range in products in order to make space for products that will be allowed within the new regulations as of October 17th.

Everything must go! Fire sales are the way FARM is preparing to move out all current products for the new supply chain, but it’s also a point of entry to engage with our members about why we’re having these sales and to discuss how legalization may affect them. Come by our shop to check out our sales, talk to our service staff or stay tuned by following us on instagram @visit.farm.

Coming changes to how you purchase

Alongside changes in our product supply chain, there will be other regulatory changes that influence how consumers purchase their cannabis in BC. Some of these include:

  • No children on premises even with adult accompaniment.
  • A primary and secondary form of ID is required for proof of age (19+) similar to liquor regulations.
  • The government will provide us with information to inform customers of the risks of cannabis use that will appear around the shop (“Social Responsibility Materials”).
  • Intoxicated patrons (by cannabis, liquor or another substance) will not be allowed to enter or remain on the premises and it is the retailer’s responsibility to enforce this should they wish to remain in good standing with their license.
  • Samples are not allowed to be given to employees or customers.
  • Customers will only be able to purchase and carry 30g at any time.
  • Edibles and concentrates (such as shatter or budder) will be unavailable for up to 12 months after legalization.
  • There are new legal implications and a budget for enforcement coming into effect October 17th for those who choose to sell, buy or use cannabis products outside of the new regulations.
  • Regulations continue to unfold regarding how retail employees will be allowed to engage with customers when it comes to providing information regarding products
    • There is a regulatory divide between “medical” and “non-medical” cannabis which will influence the type of language and recommendations that cannabis service staff will be able to offer customers
    • This could be a bit awkward as we come to terms with regulatory limitations, but know that FARM is actively monitoring training options for our team to best meet customer needs!

Interview with a Budtender (ZOE)

At this time of significant transition, we are providing our leadership team and our budtenders with access to information so that they can help our members navigate the process that is legalization. But not everyone’s questions are the same and sometimes knowing the right questions to ask can be really beneficial in finding an understanding of how your own unique cannabis practice may be impacted.

Though we wish we could field all questions we’re asked, some don’t have a concise response yet. Some questions without clear answers as of the publishing of this blog are:

  • How many strains will you have available after legalization October 17?
  • What will the price range look like / what will the average price per gram be?
  • When will you have concentrates or edibles in stock?
  • Where else can I go if I don’t meet your requirements for ID, cost of cannabis, etc?

Below we conducted an interview with one of our passionate budtenders, Zoe. Zoe has been with FARM for about a year and her compassion for our members and her engagement within the industry never ceases to impress us! We invited her to speak with us about her experiences with customers at this time- what are they asking? What are their concerns? How do we navigate so much unknown together, ensuring that our strong connections don’t fragment at such an important time? Read on!

What’s your favourite part about budtending?

“I really like being the point of contact for everyday people who are looking to develop their own best cannabis practice. Also, given the nature of our community there are those who use cannabis informally for harm reduction and nothing makes me happier in my job than hearing from someone that cannabis has saved their life from fentanyl.”

What questions are members regularly asking you during this time of transition?

  • “Will you still be open?”
  • “Will concentrates still be available?”
  • “How much is weed going to cost?”
  • “What’s the quality going to be like in comparison to what I have access to now?”

How do you find customers are receiving the information we’re offering regarding the coming changes?

“People are really shocked. It is clear there is a lot of misinformation going around. They’re surprised by how little we know at this point and there’s only about a month left until legalization. People have shown signs of being upset, confused or even feeling blindsided. They want answers we can’t offer yet.”

What about legalization excites you?

“For me, my biggest excitement is that legalization will open doors for greater scientific research. Also, legalization may entice those who wouldn’t have otherwise tried cannabis, especially those from an older generation who can benefit from developing their own cannabis practice with the fear of doing something illegal. I’m also excited to have more access to consistent information on terpene profiles!”

What about legalization concerns you the most?

“Accessibility! I’m worried for our community. For those who want to purchase less than a gram, or who use cannabis for harm reduction, for those who come in intoxicated because of their personal circumstances, or for parents without regular daycare who can’t bring their children in with them. I’m worried about what the lowest gram price will be and that they’re letting lower income individuals slip through the cracks. I’m also very concerned about C-46 and information I’ve heard about roadside testing and what constitutes impairment, but that’s a whole other story.”

What do customers seem most concerned about?

“Price and accessibility are top concerns. Quality is also up there because they lack trust in the quality of products that will be immediately available. And of course, concentrates.”

What are your thoughts about the sales transaction and changes to language due to the medical and non-medical divide?

“Budtenders are going to have to get their point across in a groovy and above-board manner. Customers are going to have to get use to more vague answers to their questions if they’re medically related. We’ll all have to learn a new language to navigate these regulations. For example, maybe you cannot say “this is good for muscle relaxation” but you can say “this is good for after the gym”. We might have to sacrifice clear recommendations to our customers in order to remain compliant. Information sharing and experiential information is what we rely on now- so it will be key for people to talk to their friends and build their communities until regulations make space for budtenders and consumers to freely share information as they please.”

If you had the ability to decide, what vision would you have for legalization from a retail perspective?

“I would want to see accessible, high-quality bulk product (I’m talking as low as $4 per gram) as well as concentrates and edibles. I’d like to see a retail shop that could be more than just a place to express purchase your products but that could also include information sharing, workshops and resources. Maybe there could be cannabis consultants to help you customize your own practice in order to build relationships with community members beyond the basics of a transaction. More than a ‘dispensary’ but also a community space. On a side note, I’d like legalization to mean amnesty for anyone convicted of minor cannabis-related charges!”

What’s one thing the public might not know about being a budtender that you wish to share?

“I LOVE answering your questions!! You are not an inconvenience, I am here to serve you. I love my job, come here, I will take you under my wing and I will find you what you need! You are not expected to know everything, talk to us, it’s what we’re here for! Also, THC percentages aren’t everything, there are so many factors that influence how a strain affects you specifically including environmental context, mental states and body chemistry.”

Farm is interested in educating the public on "the new normal"

What IS normal?

We want to find out and that includes YOU!

It’s not often that we experience a cultural shift like the legalization of cannabis.  Guiding the public to understand how this will affect them requires cannabis leaders to be ambassadors to “a new normal”.  For reference, think about all the bad etiquette that came with cell phones and social media. Now imagine legal and unregulated public cannabis consumption – yikes!

What can we do?

We can agree upon a shared Code of Conduct and produce a culture that is balanced across our Four Pillars of Wellness.  This offers us as a team (as well as the public!) a foundation to reference for what legal, recreational cannabis could look like.  On top of this, we can continue to develop our unique and special cannabis practises knowing that we are grounded in a shared set of values.

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