It’s been over two years since recreational marijuana dispensaries first opened their doors in Colorado, but the regulatory environment around cannabis is still evolving. Dispensaries have been given the responsibility to stay informed of the latest in cannabis regulations, to keep their customers safe and their sales legal–but it isn’t always easy. Maureen McNamara, owner and founder of Cannabis Trainers, has made it her business to help them do it.
The cornerstone of McNamara’s business, Sell-SMaRT, is a training class tailored for cannabis store employees. The class was the first of its kind to be certified as a Responsible Vendor Program in Colorado, a voluntary program designed especially for marijuana dispensary owners and staffs. McNamara focuses especially on training budtenders–the women and men behind the counter who engage directly with consumers. That’s because budtenders, as she sees it, are on the front lines of the state’s still-new cannabis industry and more visible than most. “When cannabis is sold compliantly and safely, it shows the world that this can be done,” McNamara expressed. “If the budtenders and sellers are inspired to sell smart, to sell safely, they can really impact changing the way the world sees cannabis.”
“Rules and Regulations” is a critical component of the Sell-SMaRT training program. And at the moment, there are significant regulatory changes on the way that will impact the state’s cannabis sellers as much as anyone.
Perhaps the biggest regulatory change impacts what’s known as “sales limit equivalency.” Until now, the regulations have simply stated that a resident of Colorado can purchase up to one ounce of flower (28 grams) or its equivalent in infused product. The vague language was problematic. “That didn’t have a translation into, say, how many edibles is one ounce of flower,” said McNamara. “And how much concentrate is one ounce of flower?”
As a result, McNamara says many dispensaries were doing “straight math” to decide how many edibles or how much concentrate to sell to a customer. For example, some of her clients were selling up to 28 grams of concentrate to one person at one time. That’s a lot of concentrate.
In response last year, experts convened to make recommendations on all of the different potential equivalent measurements by which to translate the “one ounce of flower” rule into purchasing limits for edibles and concentrates. “What the MED (Marijuana Enforcement Division) moved forward with is that one ounce of flower is the same as 80-times-ten milligrams of infused product, and eight grams of concentrate,” McNamara shared. In other words, Colorado residents will be able to purchase either one ounce of flower, 800 milligrams (80 servings, at ten milligrams per serving) of edibles, or 8 grams of concentrate from a single dispensary. That’s just one-fourth the quantity of concentrates some customers may be accustomed to purchasing. For non-residents, the allowable quantities will be one-quarter ounce of flower (or seven grams), 200 milligrams of edibles or two grams of concentrate. This all takes effect October 1 of this year.
Also beginning October, 1, edibles will have to be stamped with the THC diamond symbol. “It will be on packaging and on the label, and for products that can receive the imprinting, it will be on there as well,” stated McNamara of the stamp. In the case of products like loose granola or beverages, the THC diamond will appear on just the label and package. This rule, which applies to both recreational and medical cannabis, is designed to prevent children or others from mistaking cannabis-infused edibles for a regular snack.
In a similar vein, starting October 1 it will be unlawful to use the word “candy” on edibles, in an effort to ensure they’re not appealing to kids. “An edible could be a cherry sucker, or cherry drop, or cherry lozenge for example, but not cherry candy,” McNamara said. She’s already coaching budtenders out of saying candy in reference to products for good measure.
Budtenders, McNamara feels, are where the regulatory rubber meets the road. “They need to be aware of and consistently educating themselves on products, and they have a responsibility to educate their consumers,” she stated. “They are setting the tone.”
Ultimately, translating regulations into training courses that lead to safe and legal practices is more than just a business for McNamara. (And Sell-SMaRT isn’t just for budtenders and industry professionals, anyone can take a course.) It’s her way of helping tackle the larger challenges cannabis still faces. “The more positive people’s experiences are with cannabis, the easier it is to end federal prohibition,” she said.