Survey Says…Higher Learning Needed At Dispensaries

By Jason Barker for Weed News

Seed to consumption national quality standards also now exist for the medical cannabis industry thanks to the 2011 collaboration of Americans for Safe Access, the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), and the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia (AHP).



Do you trust budtenders at your local dispensary?

Many medical cannabis patients tend to rely on staff at a dispensary to offer recommendations on the best possible strain or cannabis product to treat their respective health condition. A new report finds that most dispensary employees actually have very little training on what they are talking about when it comes to connecting sick people with the right form of cannabis. Scientists have found that only 55% of dispensary employees, surveyed in the study, had received any formal training for their current positions. The other 45% hadn’t had any formal educational training on cannabis or cannabis products at all.

As a medical cannabis patient myself, I encountered this exact situation on Christmas Eve day while in a medical cannabis dispensary.  Witnessing a dispensary employee advising a medical cannabis patient of how there is no real medical value to dabs. Now here in lies the irony, I was placing my order for CBD BHO and some indica BHO and was pretty close to needing to use it on the spot…the dispensary provides a suggestion box and it was utilized.

The report just out, titled “Training and Practices of Cannabis Dispensary Staff“, this December in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, was conducted by California researchers and found that only 20 percent of the employees who received training were taught specialized medical or scientific information. But nearly all (94 percent) of staff gave dosage recommendations to patients.

The staff members studied worked at both medical or non medical cannabis dispensaries in Colorado, California, Arizona, Oregon, District of Columbia, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Maine. Only 20% have any medical background on the health effects of marijuana, and just 13% had received any education on the science of the medical cannabis, researchers have found. Furthermore, some of the dispensary employees in the study had made suggestions to people who were purchasing medical cannabis that wasn’t appropriate for treating their customers’ conditions, said lead study author Nancy Haug, a professor at Palo Alto University in California.

From the report, researchers have found that 13% of the employees studied said they had suggested types of cannabis that had high levels of THC to patients who intended to use the cannabis for anxiety treatment. However, previous research has shown that THC may actually worsen anxiety, Haug told Live Science. THC was also suggested by 7% to treat epilepsy, when studies have shown that CBD oil may work better, Haug stated.

Participants were asked by the researchers about their job duties and whether they had training related to their job, and what types of cannabis they usually suggested to people with particular conditions.

Research findings reveal more focus on sales training with 35% of the dispensary employees having had received customer service training and 26% had received business training. While only 20% had received medical training, and 13% had received scientific training. Another 20% had received some other type training that might have involved cannabis education. Almost 100% of the participants said that they had given advice to customers. That advice included suggesting which strains of cannabis they should use and offering advice to the customers on the benefits of cannabis for particular symptoms. The participants said the most common symptoms reported by their customers were chronic anxiety, pain, and insomnia.

Employees were also more likely to suggest cannabis with high levels of CBD and equal ratios of THC to CBD for people with epilepsy and muscle spasms rather than suggesting cannabis with high levels of THC. Results have shown that dispensaries should formally train their employees. This education should be based on findings from up-to-date scientific literature on cannabis, Haug stated. It’s not all bad news though.

In Washington, the state requires all licensed and medically endorsed cannabis retail stores to have a certified medical cannabis consultant on staff to work with patients. Many fully-accredited universities are now offering cannabis training courses. Schools like the University of Colorado, Oregon State University, Santa Clara University and The Ohio State University offer some cannabis courses that cover issues like cannabis business financing, cannabis economics, consumer demographics and job creation.

The American Cannabis Nurses Association (ACNA) and TMCI have collaborated to develop the first comprehensive online medical cannabis curriculum available.. Topics include the Endocannabinoid System, Dosing, Psychiatry, Medical Risks and Legal Implications. The curriculum features 12 lessons from 11 different authors available online by The Medical Cannabis Institute. Another great educational resource is by a company called Green Flower Media. It’s an online educational platform that provides courses people can take. Live streams of events, some really exciting work with summits. Their presentations are streamed all over the world, where people can ask questions and engage on an interactive platform.

Seed to consumption national quality standards also now exist for the medical cannabis industry thanks to the 2011 collaboration of Americans for Safe Access, the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), and the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia (AHP). This unique collaboration combines the expertise of ASA, the nation’s largest medical cannabis patient advocacy organization; AHPA, the principal U.S. trade association and voice of the herbal products industry since 1982; and the AHP, an organization that has developed qualitative and therapeutic monographs on Western herbs since 1994. The result is that patients, healthcare providers, lawmakers, regulators, and medical cannabis businesses now have the tools they need to ensure reliable, high-quality hemp, medical cannabis, and medical cannabis products.

The study concluded that employees were more likely to suggest cannabis with equal ratios of CBD to THC for people with PTSD, anxiety, Crohn’s disease, or Trauma rather than suggesting cannabis that have high levels of THC. This is in line with what experts suggested, the researchers stated.

Still, the main takeaway from the study is that a lot more work needs to be done in order to get dispensary workers trained to provide professional guidance to those looking for help. Educational standards can also play a key role in keeping dispensaries from over regulation and looking like the bland pharmacy at a grocery store.  The cannabis industry is the fastest growing industry in America, education and understanding of medical cannabis should be a cornerstone for business owners and their employees alike. “If you’re not actively making your community a better place, then you’re passively making it worse”, says Rachael Speegle, Registered Nurse and dispensary owner in New Mexico.