If you’re reading this, you’ve made the right choice to launch an online weed dispensary. Thanks to post-pandemic protocols, online stores are fast replacing brick-and-mortar shops.

With the convenience, brand loyalty and increased profit that comes with running your weed dispensary online, it’s evident that this business trend will thrive even long after we conquer the pandemic

It is important to note that online dispensaries are a different ball game from traditional shops. Here you need to invest in an excellent website, learn how to set up your store, arrange products, and master how shipping, packing, and product delivery works.

Fortunately, in this article, we will take a deep dive into the shipping, packing, and delivery essentials you need for your online dispensary. Enjoy!

1. Compliance is Key

As an online dispensary, you need to be aware of the local laws that govern the province where you are looking to operate from or cover.

For instance, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) holds a firm stance about issuing licenses that enable the delivery of cannabis. This means that you can only offer cannabis delivery services if your online dispensary has been authorised to do so.

In addition, according to AGCO stipulations, third parties cannot deliver your products to customers, so the delivery agent charged with delivering your items must be a direct employee of your outfit. They are also expected to have CanSell certification.

It is also against the law in Ontario and some other provinces to leave items like cannabis in a delivery vehicle overnight, even as the window for the delivery of items like cannabis is limited to 14days. Per AGCO stipulations, you are also expected to conduct your sale and delivery of your online dispensary products between the hours of 9 am to 11 pm daily.

You must have a set of printed terms of sale which cater to the complexities of pickups and deliveries. These terms of sale (TOS) should display your stand on issues like delivery costs and what happens after a client who pre-paid does not show up for delivery or pickup.

Understanding local laws help you steer clear of avoidable legal issues. With a good grasp of these laws, you can also incorporate them into your SOP to improve your services.

Here’s a short compliance checklist to start with:

  • Ensure that you have all the required licenses
  • Only deal in products that meet requirements
  • Source products from legitimate, licensed businesses
  • You must have a third-party testing process
  • You possess documented results from your testing process

2. Get Your Online Inventory Right

A constantly updated online inventory is a vital aspect of your online dispensary. Most online customers are fickle, and very few will not be annoyed at a situation where they place an order online but can’t get it because it is out of stock.

Such situations are about the best ways to lose any trust or loyalty you have built with your customers, and you stand the chance of losing your customers to other online dispensaries with more stocks.

You can avoid situations like this by ensuring that your in-store point-of-sale software has an open API that can be integrated into any of the leading e-commerce platforms.

Getting an online menu on such platforms allows you to embed that menu into your online dispensary by simply adding a line of code.

Incorporating your point-of-sale system with an online menu already embedded in your site puts you in a position where you only sell products you have in stock.

The trick is that you must make the online menu one that is easy to find. Try making it a banner on your site if you don’t want to embed it as a link on your main site navigation.

Your online menu must comprise:

  • Category organisation
  • Lab result
  • Product descriptions
  • Reviews

Getting a real-time, online menu that is easy to find lets old, new and prospective customers quickly scan through the products you stock on your online dispensary. For example, Haute Health, a Vancouver-based MOM dispensary, offers a great online menu with products sorted based on their type.

3. Get SOPs That Works

SOP is short for standard operating procedures, and it is a critical aspect of how you handle your online orders. With the proper SOP, you get to homogenise your online dispensary’s order fulfilment process, fashion-out consistency for staff and customers. It also helps improve efficiency and sustain compliance.

  • Roles: who fulfils online orders?
  • Timing: when are your online orders fulfilled?
  • Tools: what tools should be used to fulfil online orders?
  • Procedures: What are the steps to be taken when fulfilling online orders?

4. Set Up the Right Payment Options

There is something of a snag with regular payment options for online dispensaries that deal with cannabis and other items on the law’s grey side.

Banking regulations make things difficult or near impossible, and credit card companies refuse to provide merchant services.

This is because most of these companies and financial institutions do not consider cannabis a legal product to order online.

In addition, according to specific regulations in Canada, all payments must be completed online or over the phone before delivery.

So, one way around this issue is for your customers to buy a prepaid credit card. This enables them to place an order via phone or the internet easily.

Here are some payment options that might work for you:

  • Cash: Let your customer know that you accept cash payments upon delivery
  • Debit cards: You could set up a payment option that lets your clients pay online via debit card. You could also facilitate payments via debit at the time of delivery.
  • Cryptocurrencies: Owing to the privacy and convenience that cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin offer, they are fast becoming the payment method of choice. There is zero involvement with banks, and the purchases are secure. You might want to look into this payment method.

5. Keep Your Communication Channels Clear

Clear communication is critical when running an online dispensary because it keeps your clients better informed about the status of their orders.

Thus, ensure that you always have clear communication channels that keep your customers in the loop about your operations.

For example, your online orders may not be incorporated with your loyalty programs. So it is always a great idea to let your customers be clear about the total and estimated costs that they may have to pay for at the time of delivery.

A great way to do this is via SMS or text updates that keep your customers informed on the go.

Shipping Products For Your Online Dispensaries

It is illegal to ship cannabis outside of Canada since it is designated a Schedule I substance in Canada. But most recently, the shipping of such items has been boosted with Health Canada’s addition of cannabis extracts, cannabis topicals, and edible cannabis to The Cannabis Act.

So logistic companies can now ship these products as long as they comply with Health Canada’s strict regulations on the delivery of cannabis. Thus, Canadians can now order cannabis products online and have them shipped directly to them.

That said, abiding by shipping carrier requirements is one thing. Ascertaining the legality of shipping such products from their place of origin to their destination is another. Your shipment of cannabis and cannabis-related products must all times comply with federal, provincial and municipal regulations.

Once your brand is compliant, then you should have no issues shipping your products to legal locations.

Here are some tips you should have at the back of your mind when you are looking to ship your products within Canada:

1. Get a Legal Team

Hire and consult with a legal team before shipping your products. They will have insights that can help you avoid legal issues.

2. Ascertain the Legitimacy of Your Suppliers

Always run checks on your suppliers to ascertain that they do not violate any shipping regulations.

You can ship your cannabis to and fro most provinces in Canada except Manitoba and Quebec, which prohibit marijuana plants and seeds.

For other provinces, however, you can ship up to four plants per household. You can also ship up to 30 times a client’s daily prescription for medical cannabis and up to 30 grams of recreational cannabis to customers across provinces in Canada.

Proof of age (at least 25 years) is a requirement that must be met before cannabis products can be delivered to clients. An adult signature is also required. Mailing cannabis products in Canada is also prohibited.

Packaging Requirements

Packing is a vital aspect of every successful online dispensary. That is why you must adhere to the packaging requirements that are unwritten laws in the industry.

Always ensure that you use odour-proof, tamper-proof and leak-proof inner and outer packaging that is as anonymous as possible.

That’s not to say that the product must be blandly packaged, though. Find a nice balance between luxury and simplicity.
Some of the best materials for packaging weed products are:

Envelopes: These are great options for products encased in plastic material or are on the small side. It is a sturdy and very cheap option.

Boxes: Boxes are great for more oversized products, especially where liquids are involved. The reason is that they can quickly be reinforced with padding materials like packing peanuts, bubble wraps and foam packaging to ensure that the products being packaged remain in good condition for as long as possible.

Before opting for the packaging option, it is great to factor in the climate while shipping the products.

Some products handle heat better than others, so you want to minimise the risk of damage when shipping some of your products
Health Canada has stipulated specific packaging and labelling requirements. To stay on the good side of the law, comply with the following requirements:

  • Your products must have child-proof packaging
  • Your products must have an excise stamp attached to the packaging as evidence that you paid the stipulated duties to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). The excise stamp can also double as a security seal
  • You must apply a security seal to the product
  • Your shipment packaging should be as anonymous as possible

Substandard product packaging might be held back, so to avoid any complications that might occur, you want to stick to the packaging requirements described above. Some of the best delivery providers offer recommendations that help you comply with the shipping regulations for your products.

Stick with Platforms Built for Cannabis eCommerce

This is arguably one of the best ways to manage an online dispensary that deals in cannabis products. These platforms are often tailored to the industry, offering freeware that is easily incorporated into your existing website.

This way, your customers can easily place their orders with you, and you get to provide delivery options. The trick is to stick with a platform that is 100% compatible with your online dispensary’s needs.

A great way to go is to opt for a one-stop shop like Sway that allows you to create your in-house delivery service within a day without having to worry about technicalities.

Ensure that the platform you opt for has affordable pricing that comprises hardware and software solutions and real-time inventory management that syncs data across your devices.

Takeaway

Running an online dispensary could be very tasking. But guess what? You don’t have to do it all by yourself!

You could easily offer your customers a first-class dispensary experience with the help of sway. We are a leading technology solution in the cannabis delivery space.

At the core of our services is providing lightning-fast deliveries, customer satisfaction and ultimately help you get the most from your business.

This guide section is a goldmine of information to help your brand stand out in this competitive niche.

However, you can get in touch with us if you need further help running your online weed dispensary.