Building a Patient-Focused Cannabis Dispensary, Episode 2: First Impressions

Last Friday, I was going through my nightly routine after the kids went to bed which includes walking our family dog, Sumo. After putting on his leash, I hastily stepped out of my house and proceeded to land my foot awkwardly, rolling my ankle outwards in the process. After a few choice curse words and the realization that I couldn’t get up on my own volition, I was forced to call my wife to come help. Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation, an NSAID…. I’ll be fine in the morning right?

Last weekend was also special because it was Mother’s Day… Happy belated Mother’s Day to all the wonderful moms out there. It was even MORE special because I got to spend time with both my own mom as well as my mother-in-law in the same weekend effectively doubling the persuasive, persistent (read: nagging) powers that be to get my ankle evaluated by a doctor. After wallowing in self-denial for a bit that I’m not the same young, spry spirit I once was in my 20s, I bitterly accepted my circumstances and proceeded to do the right thing.

On Sunday afternoon, the first thing I did was whip out my phone, hit Google Maps, and proceed to type in “middle-aged retirement home urgent care near me”. The closest place was about a mile down the road, so I clicked in. The website was professionally made, and the UX/UI was extremely easy to navigate and follow along with as well. The seamless process allowed me to register as a new patient, fill out required paperwork and agreement forms, upload ID/insurance cards, book an appointment, and be in and out of the facility within an hour and a half. The facility itself was extremely clean, and serviced with warm, inviting staff.

Welcome to 2021, the land of digital convenience.

Besides an annual physical from my primary care physician and biannual dentist visits, my experience with in-person medical office visits is minimal. The scenario that I played out in my mind had mounds of physical paperwork, an endless wait in a crowded sitting area, and medical assistants that begrudgingly pick up their head to slide open the small glass window to answer questions. My expectations for service and convenience from this urgent care were not only met, but blown out of the water. 10/10 would sprain their ankle again to get the same experience…. J/K.

First impressions are crucial to all consumer-facing operations, but should be highlighted even more so with medical cannabis dispensaries because there is no current expectation of service. A patient’s initial perception of a medical cannabis facility visit will be extrapolated from their experience with other traditional medical practices and that’s where the bar should be set. Do you want your patient’s experience to resemble a trip to the liquor store or a visit to a medical facility?

Do you want your patient’s experience to resemble a trip to the liquor store or a visit to a medical facility?

There are usually 3 types of patients that will show up to your facility: those who have absolutely zero exposure to cannabis, those whose last exposure came from the underground subculture of the 70s/80s, and those who are well versed frequenting the legacy market or other adult-use states. What are some best-practices to provide an exceptional first impression, fully servicing all members listed above while simultaneously maintaining compliance standards of a highly regulated industry and adhering to basic business principles?

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  • What type of identity would you like your dispensary to portray? Who is your target demographic/audience?
  • Is your UI/UX easy to navigate to get the patient where they need to go?
  • Are you providing enough educational/informational resources for a prospective patient, eliminating some of the FAQs and providing a more efficient use of time spent with the patient at their dispensary visit? Are you sourcing this information from reliable origins?
  • Is your contact information prominently displayed for patients that have additional questions to reach out?


  • Are you saving resources and making a positive environmental impact by utilizing paperless registration?
  • Are there any state-specific compliance regulations that need to be followed with patient data collection and how will you adhere to them? What physical forms of ID are required to be kept on file and uploaded?
  • Does your staff understand HIPPA compliance and what constitutes protected health information for patients? Are you aware of the penalties for compliance violations?
  • Has your intake form been reviewed by a professional legal team? Does it comprehensively lay out detailed items such as refund/exchange policies, patient expectations, and liability limitations?


  • How will you train and educate your staff about maintaining professionalism through digital, virtual, and verbal communications?
  • Do you have SOPs and scripts available so every single staff member has access to uniform information for your patients?
  • How do you ensure that the highest quality of customer service can be displayed every step of the way from the first point of contact in order to build long-term sustained relationships?

Compliance is a centerpiece of holding any cannabis license and must be treated with upmost priority. Review your state’s regulations above all and ensure that your operations and marketing comply with all aspects to maintain a positive relationship with the local governing body.

Uniformity and standardization of information are heavily needed as the cannabis industry matures. Having access to universally accepted, peer-reviewed information is difficult to come by currently, but there’s no reason why your staff can’t be on the same page with basic information. Developing a quick handout of FAQs for your receptionists, marketing team, and dispensary members will go a long way in streamlining the patient experience. To build patient/consumer confidence, information needs to be consistent and reliable.

Customer loyalty and retention is imperative to retail business operations. Provide a stellar first impression through impeccable professionalism paired with a seamless (but well thought out) intake process and properly-trained staff, and you’ll be on your way to building a patient for life. These are just a few questions to get the ball rolling on how to build a patient-focused dispensary. As we dive into more topics, keep in mind that many of these themes will be recurring. The prevailing motif is to take care of the customer needs first, and everything else will fall into place.


P.S. This is Sumo. He’s a goof, but we love him anyway.

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