No matter where you live, you probably have access to weed. If you’ve been smoking for a long time, you’ve likely bought weed from a black market dealer, or maybe you still do. The cannabis industry has come a long way. It evolved from a limited medical marijuana program where growers and brands emerged, to a full-blown recreational market with thousands of companies competing for their slice of the pie.
Producers, manufacturers, retailers, and distributors are expanding taking advantage of this bustling market in the fight to end prohibition once and for all. What does the evolution of selling marijuana look like? Will there always be retailers, or will brands eventually shift to selling direct to consumer?
The Black Market Dealer
Prior to the legalization of cannabis programs across the U.S., the only way to sell marijuana was on the black market. While we certainly don’t recommend anyone to break any laws prohibiting the sale of certain substances, these were some of the best tips for selling weed back in the day:
- Acquire marijuana: To start selling weed, you would either need to grow a few marijuana plants or find connections who were able to provide you with a consistent supply.
- Know your market: Did your prospective customers want eighths of high grade nugs or half ounces of mids? Maybe you skip the retail market and wholesale pot by the pound. Plus no personal preferences — stock what they wanted.
- Weigh it | Bag it: Giving everyone a fat sack will motivate customers to come back. But it will also cut into your bottomline. If you wanted to make money selling, you had to measure your generosity.
- Put yourself (somewhat) out there!: The key to making a profit selling weed on the black market and surviving as a free human was to market aggressively to everyone who was cool — and no one else. Trusting the wrong person could bring your venture to an unfortunate end.
The Retail Dispensary
Opening up a licensed dispensary is no small feat. However, for those that do open up a retail dispensary, congratulations! You are now a tax-paying marijuana dealer.
To get into this area of selling weed, you will have to jump through some hoops before selling weed to the public:
- Do your research: Most states have a checklist for what it takes to get licensed to sell marijuana. Be sure you can check every box and have a plan in place before applying for licensure. Location is key, and isn’t as easy as renting an empty building. Simply getting ready can be a long process made easier with the help of a legal team. Hire one, it’s worth it.
- Get licensed: Once you have a location in mind that is suitable for a dispensary, you need to get a license to buy and sell marijuana. Double and triple check regulatory guidelines.
- Know the rules: Adhering to the rules to obtain your license is only the beginning. Compliance is the name of the game in legal cannabis markets. One slip up by you or your staff can lead to hefty fines — or worse — revocation of your license. Read the laws and subscribe to industry updates and make sure your team understands the rules inside and out.
- Study your strains and products: You can’t sell something you know nothing about. The illegal market wasn’t exactly hip to all the strain names, cannabinoid and terpene profiles, and benefits that marijuana offered. Take courses, hire a cannabis educator to train your staff, and ask your brand partners how best to sell their products.
- Marketing and networking: Conduct market research to understand what your target audience wants. Network by attending conferences, job fairs, and other cannabis industry events to meet others in the industry. Whether you are running your own business, or are looking for work as a budtender, networking is crucial to your success.
- Sell your goods: Hustle that herb! And remember, it wasn’t that long ago that dealing marijuana legally was only a pipe dream.
The Delivery Service
Cannabis delivery is weed on wheels. If you don’t want to tackle the task of opening up a retail dispensary, a delivery service might be right up your alley:
- Research and licensure: Just like starting a dispensary, a delivery service must also adhere to a strict set of rules and obtain licensure to operate. Where can you deliver, and what are the vehicle requirements?
- Obtain vehicles: This is a big part of owning a delivery service. You can’t just throw a tote of weed into the back of a Honda Civic. We’re talking secured vehicles with tinted windows, locked compartments, and temperature control.
- Hire a team: When entrusting someone to drive for your company, ensure that they have a spotless driving record. Delivery staff must also be extremely trustworthy — they are handling a lot of inventory and cash.
- Acquire inventory: Building out your portfolio is tougher than you might think. While you certainly want to offer a broad selection of products, you also want to have strong strategic partnerships with brands. Rather than having 100 gummies in your catalog, diversify your offerings to include multiple tiered products across each product category.
- Market: This is a competitive sector of the industry. If you do not market effectively and work on increasing your brand awareness, you will get overlooked time and again. Invest in your sales and marketing approach and prioritize superior customer service!
The Direct to Consumer Approach
Selling direct to consumer means cutting out the middleman — the retail dispensary. This option is for brands that wish to market and sell their products directly to their customers, with the help of a delivery service. To take advantage of the D2C approach:
- Know your customers: The most important factor for brands wishing to go to D2C is knowing what their customers want. Having relied on retailers to sell their products means that they’ve lost out on valuable information about who is buying their products.
- Direct marketing: Once you know who your customers are, it’s time to market to them specifically. Explore digital marketing strategies that target your audience, and entice them to buy directly from you. Use this data to create product offerings that they truly want to buy.
- Establish sales channels: This means having a way for your customers to buy from you with the use of an e-commerce website. Making it easy for them to buy will increase their brand loyalty and your sales.
- Secure delivery partners: Secure a partnership with a qualified, licensed delivery company. Find out who delivers to the regions where your customers are, and develop a strong relationship with this team.
Selling weed has changed dramatically over the last couple of decades and will likely continue to grow and evolve as we continue to fight for federal legalization of marijuana. If you are interested in selling weed in 2022 and beyond, remember to stay compliant, and always offer services with a smile.