December 02, 2019

Cannabis and Dispensary Employee Handbook Best Practices

by McKenzie Swisshelm

In 2018, the cannabis industry saw a 44% gain, with 65,000 new jobs added to the market.

As of 2019, the industry had created over 200,000 full-time American jobs.

New jobs help the economy. And cannabis is a fascinating plant that continues to demonstrate new ways in which it provides for individuals and patients.

But with an abundance of new jobs in any sector comes things like training, procedure, and litigation. If you're running a dispensary, it's essential to have an employee handbook that covers it all.

When done right, a handbook establishes best practices and structure for employees. It should also protect you and your business. If done wrong or made too long, a dispensary employee handbook can cause frustration amongst your employees. It can even pose as a liability for you as a business owner.

If you want a handbook that protects and serves its employees here is a guide that will reveal the best practices to use in a cannabis employee handbook.


What's the Purpose of a Handbook?

The purpose of any employee handbook is to educate an employee on the business' operating procedures. Typically it's given to a worker on their first day of employment with the company.

A handbook provides the perfect opportunity to relay essential policies. It also protects the rights of both employees and employers. Often, it transmits legal information, such as workplace harassment policies, expectations for safety in the workplace, etc.

It provides a way for any company to lay down the dos and don'ts of their business. Plus, when workers understand what's expected of them, they're more apt to do their jobs well.

An excellent handbook will always begin with a warm welcome, followed by the mission and vision of the company, the goals of the organization, benefits, and compensation, hiring and firing procedures, and personal conduct, amongst other things.

A handbook must be clear and concise. If you write it too long, you run the risk of your guide getting skimmed rather than read, or tossed aside altogether.

Every industry demands its own expertise. And the cannabis industry is one that requires extra care and attention. Let's take a look at best practices to include in your California employee rights handbook.


The Guidelines and Expectations Are Different

Employees everywhere must know what is expected of them, and a useful employee handbook provides a uniform set of rules for employees to follow. 

Your handbook should cover everything from dress requirements to attendance requirements to harassment policies to drug use policies.

Greenleaf HR Webinar - Employee Handbooks: What Cannabis Employers Should Know

When it comes to drug use policies in a cannabis dispensary, be mindful of setting the tone early on, through your employee handbook. Just because you know and understand the medicinal properties of cannabis doesn't mean you want your employees smoking high-content THC flower during work hours.

While it's up to you what you decide, we recommend giving a concise set of ground rules to protect yourself, your business, your employees, and your customers.

Make sure your employees are aware of the consequences for stealing and other such offenses. 


Use It to Communicate Your Message

Being a "budtender," or simply working at a dispensary, are both coveted positions in the cannabis industry.

Many dispensary employees are knowledgeable, dedicated, and make a difference in customer and patient lives.

However, not every employee comes in with the same intentions, credentials, or characteristics; some might think it's a fabulous way to score some free herb. Others might be looking for a job that allows them to integrate their cannabis use into a position that's accepting of it.

Whatever your expectations are, it's essential to set them early. Use your employee handbook to detail exactly what your rules and regulations are. Use it to give your new employees a new perspective and understanding of what the position entails.

Use it to describe their relationship with cannabis and cannabis products, just like you would with any other product.


Establish Consistency Using Your Handbook

As an employer, you can't spend your time relaying and reinforcing your policies, procedures, and practices, without a written guide. While it's important to enforce that written guide regularly, it's challenging to establish best practices without it.

It all starts with every new employee reading the same centralized source of information. If it's relayed verbally, the chances are high that half of it won't be remembered.

It's essential for all employees, both new and seasoned, to have a book to refer back to as a refresher and a guide for being an excellent employee.

Plus, the employer must have written word that backs up their rules and procedures. When everyone is on the same page, fewer resources and time get wasted by handling various crises and conflicts.


Allow More Time for Cannabis Knowledge and Training

Nothing is more important than making sure the employees of your dispensary are doing their very best to help the patients and customers that visit your place of business.

While many people claim to be experts, there's always something new to learn. Plus, the cannabis industry is unique and forever changing, so it's vital that employers find the time to stay current with rules, regulations, and product knowledge and information.

When you opt to streamline your onboarding process through a fantastic cannabis employee handbook, you'll have more time to spend educating and training your team members about the products themselves.

Plus, retail industries often have high turnover. With a handbook, you always have the right tool to educate new employees on your policies, benefits, rules, etc. And you won't have to worry as much about anything getting left out.


Set up Your Workplace Culture with Your Cannabis Handbook

It's your job as a business owners to tell your employees what's expected of them - plus, it's the law. Well, in California, business owners are NOT required to build a handbook. However, if you do decide to make one, the benefits outweigh the potential cons to a significant degree.

If you do decide to write one for your dispensary, remember that there are REQUIRED policies to include.

Every business owner or manager has to babysit their employees to some extent, at one time or another.

But if you use your cannabis employee handbook to your advantage, it will establish your workplace culture exactly as you see fit.

Cannabis Employees & Hiring: Free Webinar from Greenleaf HR

It's written proof of what matters most. You get to welcome your employees using thoughtful verbiage, and it's the perfect opportunity to highlight and get them excited about the beauty of the company.

Are your cannabis products organic and 3rd-party tested? Are they derived from family-owned businesses? Are they making waves in the medical cannabis community? 

What do you want your employers to know about you and take pride in representing?

What kind of professionalism do you insist on establishing and how do you want people to treat each other?

From the day that you get every employee to read and sign off on your handbook, you'll build the environment that will encourage your dispensary to continue to thrive.


What NOT to DO in Your Employee Handbook

Every business is constantly evolving, as is the cannabis industry. Your expectations and policies might not stay the same from one year to the next.

Plus, as your company continues to grow, you'll need new policies. And as conflict and other crises arise, you'll have to learn from those situations and adjust your handbook accordingly.

If used correctly, a handbook of cannabis can be a powerful tool that'll keep your business running consistently and your employees acting accordingly.

Don't just hand it to new employees without going over it with them, as you'll immediately diminish the importance of it.

Use it to refer back to and stay consistent with enforcing those policies you've put into place.

Include an at-will statement in your handbook so that you don't inadvertently create a contract by giving out an employee handbook. You want your employees to understand that it's a guide, not a contract for their individual positions.

We advise building your handbook to be short and sweet as well as keeping the content fresh and easy to read. You want your new employees to get excited reading the breakdown of their new job venture. Their handbook should also be a resource for them to refer back to, should they have any questions regarding company policies.



Establish An Employee Handbook That You're Proud Of

When it comes to the cannabis industry, writing an employee handbook will take more attention and detail than versus other non-cannabis industries. It's essential to write one that caters to your industry and the many things that could come up as a result of working in an environment with cannabis products.

Use your employee handbook to establish best practices, and to get your employees excited about representing you. Keep it fun and informative, but make sure it's professional and clearly outlines the dos and don'ts of your business.

Do you want to free yourself for great work by getting help from the HR experts in the cannabis industry? Request a FREE Demo here!

Greenleaf HR Webinar - Employee Handbooks: What Cannabis Employers Should Know

McKenzie Swisshelm

McKenzie Swisshelm is the Marketing Manager for Greenleaf HR and Worklogic HR. She produces effective content like a fifth-year wizard but with a knack for strategic marketing, crafting digital strategy and, of course, Charms. In more wanky marketing muggle jargon, her specialties include setting metrics and reporting systems and then refining all of the above to impact an organization’s core business objectives and drive top line growth.

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