Best Practices for Operational Readiness for Your Cannabis Operation


Getting prepared for Operational Readiness in any type of Cannabis Operation is key, whether the license type is a Cultivation, Manufacturer, Testing Lab, Transporter, or Dispensary. Operations readiness should be part of any company's employee onboarding training program, whether it’s internally created or performed by a third-party provider. Moreover, in the newer emerging markets, owners and employees need the most context around compliance, regulations and operations due to the industry being in its infancy stage in that particular State. 

Preparing employees to be the gatekeepers of compliance, comes through the funnel of implementation of the correct systems and the appropriate training. Employees are the last line of defense in not only protecting the license operations from infractions or fines, but also in promoting public safety. There are many ways in which a company can prepare to open in a new market and build their overall infrastructure and train staff. 

5 tips for Cannabis Operators:

  • Provide in-depth employee onboarding and compliance training for every employee, this includes robust training materials. 
  • Create a compliance and safety program for each license type, this will outline the roadmap for compliance in your overall operations. 
  • Train employees on ALL Standard Operating Procedures (SOPS) at least quarterly, and ensure that SOPs are being updated regularly to align with the growth and/or changes in the business. 
  • Have an employee handbook and HR implementation before day one of operating. Even with a small team, Human Resources should be created and implemented at the inception of the business. 
  • Implement OSHA standards and requirements. Worker safety is not only important, but required under Occupational Safety and Health Administration. 

It’s important to get organized around creating the roadmap to a successful cannabis business. There are a lot of moving pieces and it can be easy to get overwhelmed when launching a cannabis business, especially following an intense licensing round to become operational. Our recommendation is never to eat the entire elephant at once and to break it down into smaller pieces. Here are some examples of Best Practices for Operational Readiness for Cannabis Operations: 

Creating the Culture of Compliance

Employee Onboarding

Employees in the Cannabis Industry need to be prepared properly for their roles, including understanding job descriptions, Cannabis rules and regulations that relate to the license operation, standard operating procedures connected with their roles and responsibilities. Employees, especially those on the retail side can be the last line of defense in ensuring products make it safely out the door and into consumers hands.  

Safe Product Handling 

Employees that handle any raw materials, the creation of products, packaging of products, and the product in final form, should take some form of Food Safety and Product Safety certification/training. Understanding how to handle, properly store, temperature hazards, cleaning and sanitation principles are vital not only to preventing the compromise of materials and/or products, it’s an additional layer in protecting consumers and teaches employees the basics in managing the cannabis supply chain in a safe manner.

Worker Safety

Employees need to know the hazards in their working environment, and have the proper protections in place to execute their job roles effectively and safely, such as having PPE (personal protective equipment) made available to them, safe working conditions, access to updated standard operating procedures and being properly trained. OSHA standards should be implemented in every cannabis operation, from a Cultivation, Dispensary, Manufacturing, Transportation, and Testing Lab. 

State and Local Operational Inspections 

Preparing for an Inspection

It’s important to be prepared for all types of inspections in a Cannabis operation, such as commencement, Health Dept., Fire Dept., Dept. of Health and Environment, annual regulatory compliance, Dept. of Agriculture, and OSHA. Operators can be proactive by having the correct systems in place to provide the proper support, having the business organized in a professional manner, ensuring the staff is properly trained and understanding rules and regulations and fully grasping the adherence of the rules and what is expected of you. It’s very important to not come from a reactive place when going through an inspection. 

Excellent Document Management 

Having excellent document management is vital in the cannabis industry. Knowing where every required document is located, how it is presented and that they’re completely aligning with the regulatory requirements can be the difference between getting an infraction or not. Simple management solutions can be documents stored on the cloud and ensure there are linked tables of contents that outline each document or SOP for all regulatory requirements. Record keeping best practices is having the ability to access documents more quickly. Lastly, organizing any physical documents on site in binders with tab dividers. Clear, accessible, and in compliance with the rules recordkeeping practices will set operators up for success.

Creating An At-Ease Inspection

It’s vital to come from a more collaborative stance with regulators, and one way to do that, is creating an at-ease inspection. Not only does this make a smoother experience for the regulators, but also for the operators. A smooth inspection comes from being prepared, having all of your ducks in a row, and understanding your operation - where everything is located in the business, being able to show compliance, and the ability to answer direct questions and an articulate manner. Being organized is key and also remembering the newer markets are learning this as they go as well. 

Working in a Regulated Environment

Proper Compliance Training and Knowledge

Arm employees by providing them not only with company onboarding training, but also quarterly training. Ensure employees in high level compliance roles, obtain certifications such as OSHA 10-hour General Industry, Seed-to-Sale training, or a Food Safety course. Employers are responsible that all employees meet Regulatory requirements regarding mandated training outlined in their State rules. Compliance training not only sets employees up for success but also creates a healthy culture of compliance. 

Security and Surveillance

Security Regulations vary from State to State when it comes to Cannabis Regulations. Never cut corners with security requirements and protect not only employees, customers but the overall securing of product and cash. Some best practices included performing bi-weekly audits of security systems such as: DVR retention, Cameras and ensuring there is no obstruction, keeping a well maintained visitor log, and accurate time-stamps. A safe environment is a healthy and thriving environment. 

Chain of Custody

Chain of Custody is an important standard in mapping out how Cannabis products move throughout the regulated supply chain. Each State has different requirements, but all require some type of Seed-to-Sale tracking system that follows barcoded or tagged materials and/or products through the life cycle from plant to final form from license to license operation. Whether it’s samples being sent off for testing, or products being transported to retail stores - it’s all tracked to protect not only the integrity of the product but also for public safety. A best practice for licensed operators is to audit your chain of custody processes and SOPS, ensure that public safety is at the top of the tier, secure products,  and maintain materials and/or product safety. Promote having full control of materials and products at all times during the movement throughout the different stages of creation. 

ICS Consulting specializes in Compliance based services, such as Third-Party State Regulatory Audits, State and Local License Application Support, Technical Writing, Standard Operating Procedures Development, Worker Safety, QMS, OSHA Compliance, Metrc Seed-to-Sale Support, Compliance Operations Training, Employee Retention Solutions, and Employee Onboarding. For more information on how ICS Consulting Service can help your Cannabis Business, book a free 30-minute consult and we'll help you map out your next steps to be successful in the Regulated Cannabis Industry