Medical marijuana sellers navigate the training landscape

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Gage Cannabis is selling medical marijuana like Verizon Wireless sells phones — if handheld electronics sales required HIPAA privacy compliance, that is.

Jessica Savaya, a former Verizon general manager, is retail and marketing director for the Troy-based cannabis company that’s among the dozens of retailers in Michigan shaping the customer-facing side of the rising industry.

Without widely used national standards for cannabis provisioning center “budtenders” or salespeople, individual companies must devise strategies for training their staff to sell a drug that some see as taboo and others are used to getting through less formal channels. It entails walking a fine line — one that must tie together an innovative retail strategy with medical care practices and government compliance.

“I came from an environment where, basically, we used a process called ‘earn the right,’ which I’ve migrated into the medical marijuana space here with Gage,” Savaya said. “It’s basically making a connection with the patient, making a discovery (about their interests) based on their needs, then making a recommendation … to me it was easy to migrate it and make it very similar.”

Gage has three medical marijuana shops in Adrian, Ferndale and Detroit, with plans to open 10 more across the state.

Its training program, dubbed Gage University, brings employees under its corporate culture umbrella, makes them brand ambassadors and follows them through a mentoring process as they learn compliance, dosing and other industry specifics.

Another medical marijuana chain, House of Dank in Detroit, crafted an approximately 10-page manual that gets updated as practices and regulations change, said Lavia Yousif, a House of Dank manager and registered nurse. She is also owner of Taste Buds, a Detroit dispensary in the process of converting into a House of Dank franchise. New hires train with a veteran employee for 21 days, and the mentor and manager must sign off on a checklist of abilities.



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