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Selling cannabis

As local and federal governments across the globe move towards legalizing cannabis, more and more entrepreneurs are flocking to this budding market. Although legal marijuana for recreational purposes is still limited to 11 US states, that number is slowly growing with many business owners hoping for federal legalization on the horizon. Limited legalization isn’t stopping profits, however – legal marijuana in the US was reported to have made up to $23 billion in 2017 alone and is projected to reach $77 billion by 2022. Canada has also recently legalized marijuana across the entire country, both medicinally and recreationally, making the country a hot-bed for new online and brick-and-mortar cannabis businesses eager to enter the industry.

Although the cannabis market is still highly restricted, it also comes with an extremely passionate community that is easy to tap into. Weed enthusiasts are constantly seeking out the best legal marijuana to buy and try, making this industry a strong niche with a lot of potential to grow. So, if you’re located in one of the states/countries that has legalized marijuana, now is the time to enter it by building your own online cannabis store. With 3dcart, you’ll have everything you need to start and manage a unique and opportunistic business like one that sells cannabis. Gain access to a robust eCommerce toolset and get started designing a beautiful store, expanding your customer reach, building your brand and becoming a successful online cannabis retailer.

Understanding Cannabis
and Cannabis Products

The world of cannabis can be confusing to a newcomer – especially when learning all of the terminology for the first time. There are many factors involved that effect the growth, selling, use and legality of a cannabis plant. It all ultimately comes down to THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol. The THC compound is a cannabinoid that creates the “high” feeling most often associated with marijuana; the amount of THC in a cannabis plant regulates whether it’s illegal to buy or sell.

While it’s 100% legal to sell CBD products with little to no THC in the US, selling marijuana (medically or recreationally) is still highly regulated and federally illegal. So, it’s important to know the difference between different cannabis plants if you’re interested in selling it online. Let’s go through the main forms of cannabis that you may end up stocking on your online weed store.

What is typically referred to as “hemp” is a form of the cannabis plant that contains 0.3% THC or less. Hemp is usually grown in a way that maximizes size and yield and is widely versatile in its uses; it can be made into textiles, paper, food, building materials, body care and more. Cannabis retailers typically sell CBD products made from hemp, as it is legal across the entire United States and in most countries.

Legal Marijuana

In contrast to hemp, marijuana (commonly referred to as weed) contains more than 0.3% THC. Marijuana is bred to optimize certain characteristics of the specific breed or “strain,” such as higher or lower amounts of THC and overall CBD content. Grown and cultivated in controlled environments to produce the budding flowers from female plants, marijuana can be sold for either medical or recreational purposes (depending on local laws). The legality of marijuana is much more complicated, usually coming down to whether it’s being sold for medicinal purposes or not – even medical marijuana is only legal in 33 US states.

Note: To sell medical marijuana, you’ll need specific licensure that differs from recreational marijuana sales.

Cannabis Indica, Sativa and Hybrid

Cannabis comes in two main forms: cannabis indica and cannabis sativa. Buds from an indica plant are typically sold as medical marijuana to patients looking for a relaxant. On the other hand, buds from a sativa plant are usually sold as recreational because they tend to make the user “high.” When the two are crossbred, it creates a hybrid that may come with the effects of both types depending on which is dominant.

Summary of Cannabis Products & Accessories You Can Sell:

  • Cannabis buds/flowers
  • Dried cannabis
  • Cannabis capsules & soft-gels
  • Cannabis topicals & skin care
  • Cannabis oil & vaporizers
  • Hemp-derived CBD products

While this list doesn’t include every single cannabis product available to sell, they are the most commonly sold. There’s also a wide variety of accessories that can be sold alongside these items, including glass pipes and vapes. By building your cannabis eCommerce website with full-featured software like 3dcart, you can easily bundle your products with accessories and make it easy for customers to make repeat purchases; you may even want to add the option for a subscription plan or recurring order, so customers never run out of their supply.

How to Choose a Cannabis Supplier

Due to the relatively new nature of the legal marijuana market, regulation isn’t as comprehensive as it is in industries like food and makeup in regard to product quality and ingredients. But legality is also much more complicated in this case – more than almost any other industry in eCommerce. That being said, choosing the right cannabis supplier can feel like a balancing act; you need someone who follows the law and grows a quality product for you to sell.

When looking into your options for cannabis suppliers, be sure to do your research. Remember that both medical and recreational marijuana are restricted based on location and chemical content, so don’t let anything slip past you so your business won’t suffer from for legal repercussions. Here’s some tips on how to choose the right cannabis supplier for your online store.

Product Selection

Weed enthusiasts are all about having a wide selection of strains, breeds and product types to choose from when they’re buying cannabis. So, keeping that in mind, it’s best to look for a cannabis supplier or wholesaler that carries a variety of products so that you can cover all your bases in your online store’s inventory. Be sure to stock several forms of legal marijuana (including indica, sativa, and hybrid) so that you have something that can appeal to any customer.

Location

Sale and transport of marijuana is highly regulated across North America. If your business is located in Canada, then you’ll want to exclusively work with Canadian cannabis suppliers. However, if you’re in the US, then you’ll need to make sure that you’re working with a supplier within your state – shipping cannabis through the mail is restricted, so you’ll need to either pick up your products or rely on a delivery service.

Growth & Cultivation

One of the most important factors in the quality and effect of cannabis is how it’s grown and cultivated. You’ll want to make sure that your cannabis supplier shows proof that its products are grown in controlled environments with non-toxic chemicals, so you know exactly what’s gone into the product you’re selling.

Legal Compliance

Since sale and use of cannabis is still highly restricted in many areas, it’s a good idea to ensure that both you and your supplier are abiding by local laws. Not only does your business need to be properly licensed with permits for cannabis sale, but your supplier also needs to be for cannabis growth and distribution. Check for evidence of compliance on your chosen supplier’s website or contact them to confirm that your business dealings stay legal.

Payment Processors for Cannabis Stores

If you’re selling legal marijuana, or any cannabis product, then you’ll need to work with a high-risk payment processor. Any industry that involves more legal requirements than normal or is at higher risk for fraud is classified as a high-risk industry. Not every payment processor is willing to work with a high-risk merchant, so it’s important to work with a processor that’s willing to accept any possible extra risk. 3dcart integrates with many high-risk payment providers that are ready and willing to work with your business to provide your needed payment solutions.

Fort Point Payments is a network of more than 30 domestic and international banks and acquirers that work to provide payment processing for high-risk merchants. Merchants using their payment processor will be able to accept all major credit cards, including Visa, Mastercard, Discover, and more.

eMerchantBroker, or EMB, is a payment facilitator that works mainly with eCommerce merchants within high-risk industries. Working at competitive rates, EMB is a well-known processor that specializes in getting high-risk merchants approved.

NETbilling supports eCommerce and brick-and-mortar stores in credit card & eCheck processing at low rates. They support multiple-currency transactions and offer 24/7 support all year via phone, live chat and email.

Maverick BankCard accepts a wide variety of payments with added fraud prevention, chargeback mitigation, detailed reporting and strong support. Located in Los Angeles, this leading merchant services provider is ready to support your business.

PayKings is a reputable payment processing company that’s well-versed in supporting high-risk merchants with unique needs. They offer low rates, accept all major credit cards, and offer fraud protection services.

High-Quality Cannabis Wholesalers

If you’d rather not grow and cultivate your own cannabis, then there’s several suppliers across North America that offer quality products for you to buy wholesale and stock on your online store. But, you shouldn’t just pick any cannabis supplier – you need one that’s right for your business needs that operates legally with quality products. As weed slowly becomes legal, more wholesalers are popping up that are worth your time.

Looking to start an online marijuana dispensary? Our website builder can help you start your online cannabis business and start selling marijuana products online

Five tips for growing and selling marijuana like a pro – from a university instructor

The developer behind a Canadian university’s online course for prospective cannabis professionals offers key advice for success in the newly legal business

A worker tends to cannabis plants. Growing marijuana for personal use or illegal sale is not the same as running a professional operation, warns Tegan Adams. Photograph: Abir Sultan/Corbis/Corbis

A worker tends to cannabis plants. Growing marijuana for personal use or illegal sale is not the same as running a professional operation, warns Tegan Adams. Photograph: Abir Sultan/Corbis/Corbis

Last modified on Wed 20 Sep 2017 19.44 BST

I f you’ve had enough of your nine-to-five’s wearying toil, perhaps a change of vocation is in order. The Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Vancouver can recommend an intriguing alternative starting this September: selling pot.

The shady-looking fellow on the corner will tell you that you hardly need a college diploma to sell weed for a living. But Kwantlen’s new 14-week online course will sculpt aspiring dealers into professionals in a robust – and newly legal – field.

The course promises to be a rigorous survey of the landscape of marijuana production and sale, educating prospective growers in everything from irrigation to marketing.

So what exactly makes for a good professional manager of marijuana for medical purposes?

I spoke with Tegan Adams, the programme’s developer and primary instructor, to get a clearer idea of what those eager for education in the discipline can expect.

1. Don’t rely on past experience

There were, of course, “various growers doing it long before it was legal” but even pot veterans find their expertise distinctly lacking. “People have done the best they can given the resources,” Adams says – but growing marijuana for personal use or illegal sale isn’t the same as running a professional operation. “I’ve noticed that there is a pretty big labor shortage in the marijuana industry,” says Adams. “That’s one of the major problems we’re facing right now: there’s no training anyone can take.”

She continues: “A lot of people have been growing for 20 years. That’s great. Chances are they are very knowledgeable about growing the plant. But when it comes to regulations, financials and everything to do with exchange, they have no idea how that part works.”

That’s where Adams and the programme come in. “Having a standardized education system is going to be important to the licensed producers and anyone doing it legally going forward.”

2. Get to know the logistics

Growing and selling marijuana the proper way is rather more difficult than simply popping a plant under a black light in your closet. Doing it right means planning to grow on a large scale – and planning to deal with large-scale problems.

“As with any agricultural crop,” Adams says, “there are going to be ongoing issues with pest management that you need to look at.” Energy consumption, too, poses challenges few people consider. “Indoor facilities especially have huge electrical bills,” Adams points out. “For a four- to five-thousand square foot place you’re looking at around $30,000 a month. That’s a lot. That’s $360,000 a year for the lights in just a small facility.”

A marijuana field. Photograph: Stephanie Paschal / Rex Features

Preparing for such eventualities is a key part of any business plan. “If you were going to grow any crop, you would sit down and make your production plan. You would look at how much money you would spend on different input, and also look at how your production and labour are going to work within regulations.” Of particular importance is the MMPR – the Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations, which govern the production of pot for legal use and sale in Canada.

Then there are “environmental monitoring and sanitation issues” unique to the growing of weed. “I think the main challenge,” Adams concludes, “is that marijuana is an agricultural or horticultural crop but it’s being regulated from a pharmaceutical perspective. One of the major challenges is joining the agricultural and pharmaceutical ways of doing things.”

3. Build a client base – and keep them

“A lot of people are buying marijuana,” Adams says. “There’s no doubt about that.” But does that mean the would-be marijuana seller has a built-in clientele? Not necessarily. “It’s going to be quite competitive,” she warns. “There are conglomerates who have already joined. There’s some big money involved. And I think you’re going to see a lot of it move more in that direction.”

The solution? “We need to focus on consumer satisfaction. How do you get your messaging out to your patients? How do you retain them, make them happy, answer their questions? How do you get their loyalty?” Answering those questions, Adams says, is “how you’re going to stay in business in the end”.

One advantage the educated and licensed pot purveyor has over his illegal competitors is consistency. “With legal products you know exactly what you’re getting,” Adams says. “There are pesticide tests to make sure there are no residues on the plants. If you get it from an illegal supplier, those guys aren’t allowed to test their products. You have no idea what they’re putting on their plants. You don’t know how they’re handling it. If you get it from a licensed producer, you know that it’s clean and a lot safer.”

4. Build a boutique brand

With so much money in the marijuana game, it may be difficult for the independent supplier to stand out – unless independence is seized upon as a virtue.

“The main thing that’s important is to make a boutique brand rather than a mainstream one,” Adams says. “As long as that mom and pop store is able to market to its local consumers, it will stay in business. And people in its area may even buy more than they would from, say, Advil because they know them and trust them and like their brand.”

Legal in Canada … for medicinal purposes. Photograph: Alamy

But in the end, it comes down to loyalty and marketing: “With beer and wine the marketing and branding is important but the flavours really contrast. Marijuana strains vary, but in terms of actual flavouring there may be less variation. So it has to do with branding.”

If you’ve got a good product, you’ve got to get it into your customer’s hands and have them come back.

5. Be a well-rounded grower and seller

“I’ve done a lot of consulting work,” Adams says, “and one of the main issues that I see, especially in startups, is that there’s a knowledge gap between the marketing guys and the people on the ground. The people who work in the facility really need to be able to communicate with the patients and marketing side of things, and vice versa. It’s important that both sides understand each other.”

For the prospective grower that means knowing both the production side of the industry as well as the sales: you’ve got to be as good at producing pot as getting someone else to pay for it and smoke it.

For Adams, it’s about a union of personal assets. “You need to be someone who is able to balance technical abilities and social and communications skills,” she says. “Maybe understand numbers and look at finance and know what they need, but can you then go and talk to an upset customer and know what they need, too. That’s the key. Having both skills is necessary.”

The developer behind a Canadian university’s online course for prospective cannabis professionals offers key advice for success in the newly legal business ]]>