If you’ve been hired or are planning on working in a cannabis retail store in Ontario, you should know that your responsibilities go way beyond a conventional retail employee. To work in one of the 25 cannabis retail shops in the province, all staff are required to take Lift & Co.’s Cannabis Retail Training Certification program called CannSell.
Developed with MADD Canada, the four-hour course reviews the biology of cannabis, the legal framework of cannabis legalization, best practices for selling cannabis, and associated risks of regular consumption. Certificates are granted after achieving 80% or above on the final exam and participants get two chances to pass.
The course material is straightforward and if you’re attentive, you should have no problem passing the test. Passing the online test is just a formality though, as the real test happens on the shop floor.
The requirements for working in a cannabis store far exceed the requirements for all LCBO employees, who don’t need to be certified. Like the Smart Serve certification required to serve alcohol, the objective of CannSell is not to promote or discuss any benefits of using cannabis, it actually is the complete opposite.
The curriculum focuses heavily on the risks and consequences of the irresponsible sale of cannabis and uses plenty of intimidating language and scare tactics to ingrain this information. By the end of the course, it’s hard not to feel like you’re selling something extremely toxic and dangerous, and clearly that’s the point.
While it is largely assumed that most people working in the industry have used or consumed cannabis at least once, some of the content makes you question if this program is intended for that audience.
Course takers have unlimited time to review each slide before proceeding. You can only advance to the next slide by manually pressing ‘next’. While there is total control on how slow or fast you want to digest the information, CannSell interrupts the course, on three separate occasions, to advise participants to take a 15-minute break. Why? According to CannSell, it’s because they’ve “earned it”.
This ‘advice’ comes across as redundant and patronizing. Perhaps CannSell thinks they’re being accommodating to cannabis users, who are wrongly type – cast as lazy and stupid.
Stereotyping cannabis users is still commonplace, but to experience it in a training video that was designed in collaboration with Lift & Co., one of Canada’s largest cannabis tech companies, is extremely disappointing. They should be (and usually are) committed to removing the stigma, rather than perpetuating it.
CannSell’s strong emphasis on assessing intoxication, sheds light on how intimidating the experience of buying cannabis at a retail store can be for consumers. If you plan on visiting one of Ontario’s cannabis retail stores, make sure you’re not fumbling with your words or spilling your change on the counter as these are deemed reliable signs of impairment. Should you be denied a sale, your interaction with retail staff won’t end when you leave the store.
Employees are trained to act like pseudo police officers and must intervene if they refuse a sale to any customer suspected of driving. When a customer is refused a sale, staff are instructed to follow them to their car and make a report to the police. Preventing an accident is extremely important but following someone to their car is an intense measure when you’re relying on vague signs of intoxication.
CannSell provides a list of physical markers of cannabis intoxication. Selling cannabis to a customer exhibiting signs of intoxication is strictly prohibited. The issue with this rule is that, compared to alcohol, cannabis intoxication is not as easy to spot and physical markers such as red eyes, excessive sweating, or tiredness, can simply be the result of a health symptom.
The worst part about this is that CannSell assumes individuals with disabilities will identify themselves to avoid misjudgement. Given the harrowing experience of visiting a shop where everything you do is analyzed, it’s hard to imagine anything more violating than having to prove you’re not too stoned by disclosing your mental or physical disability.
The CannSell certification program and the extremely high standards imposed on cannabis retailers and their staff, reinforce misconceptions about and prejudice against cannabis users. There may not be as much research on the risks of cannabis abuse but the bulk of evidence suggests that alcohol is way more susceptible to misuse. Hopefully this inequality will shift as more evidence on the benefits and low risks of cannabis are understood.
After taking the course the general message about cannabis is that it’s okay to use it but not to the point of being stoned and customers exhibiting signs of impairment will not be allowed to purchase cannabis. The laws on retail sales are very strict and CannSell’s training is forced to comply with these laws. Eventually, CannSell’s curriculum will have to include information on edibles and concentrates, which will become legal by the end of 2019. When this happens, MADD Canada and Lift & Co. will hopefully pay more attention to the fact the the language they are employing, negatively portrays cannabis consumers and the cannabis industry as a whole.
Photos source: CannSell