Standard Operating Procedures, or SOPs, are the backbone to any retail cannabis store, especially ones that want to operate in a compliant manner in Toronto, the GTA, and elsewhere in Ontario. The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (or AGCO) expects you to run a tight ship with your store and their Registrar Standards actually requires stores to have written policies for matters such as ID identification procedures.
Therefore, it is essentially mandated that retail stores put together, or otherwise obtain and implement, standard operating procedures – particularly with respect to checking identification upon the customers entrance such that youth are not permitted on the premises, destruction, and monthly reporting.
Some stores may want to develop their own SOPs: And I’ll admit there are very good reasons for that! Read ahead as I answer some Frequently Asked Questions about Standard Operating Procedures with respect to running dispensaries in Ontario.
What are the very first steps to creating SOPs?
Obtain all the training manuals and materials from the tools that makes up your tech-stack that are available. That will mean you will need to obtain the support files available from your POS, which will typically be Cova or Greenline.
Second, obtain any of the help material from your non-POS technology tools, such as your pickup/delivery systems (Dutchie and Buddi). Lastly, collect all documentation from your payment processor, which will be either Moneris or Merrco.
Some of these tools may not have their help manuals online – it doesn’t hurt to reach out to them. The people behind these tools and systems are there to help retail stores like yourself.
Should my Ontario retail cannabis SOPs follow a template?
All SOP’s should be developed according to an SOP template and a sample cannabis retail Table of Contents containing each proposed SOP title. Standard Operating Procedures across industries actually share many similarities, due to the fact that it is of utmost importance that they stay. If you don’t have an SOP template yet, you can actually create one easily in Microsoft Word. You need to create a record control table that records any changes to the SOP, and the main part of the SOP document should be divided into a series of uniform SOP sections. One example of a uniform series of SOP sections is: 1) Purpose 2) Scope 3) Prerequisites 4) Responsibilities 5) Procedure and 6) Reference. Not every SOP will have information for each of the six sections.
The sample Table of Contents states the name of each SOP that will be in the binder. It is very important you know what parts of the cannabis store operation requires its own SOP. You can contact me for my firm for my 55-document sample Table of Contents for Ontario SOPs.
What are some things I need to look out for when drafting SOPs for my cannabis retail store?
Ensure each task is assigned to an individual working in the store. The main players in your store will be the Retail Store Agent, the Retail Store Manager, the Retail Store Operator/Owner, Security Guards (if you decide to have them – not required), and Delivery Agents (if you deliver to customers). Each worker should have their roles and responsibilities clearly laid out in SOPs and it should be clear in each of the documents who is responsible for each responsibility contained in the SOP.
How often should the cannabis shop SOPs be updated and by who?
All SOPs should be reviewed at a minimum of once every 3 months to ensure that they are accurately capturing store processes. Your SOPs will undoubtedly change over time: whether you draft them yourself or buy them from a third-party there will very likely need to be modifications made. The Retail Store Operator or Manager should review them. If any changes need to be made, record a new version number – V2 – in the chart of revisions.
Should I purchase a set of SOPs?
There are pros and cons to buying Standard Operating Procedures for your dispensary in the Greater Toronto Area or elsewhere in Ontario. Some pros include an extreme time-save as well as a huge weight off your shoulders. Cons include an inability to truly learn on the job for yourself – and almost all SOPs will require some modification for your store due to each store’s idiosyncrasies.
Should I create a COVID-19/pandemic/social distancing SOP?
YES! In fact, I have created one that is free to use by the cannabis retail community at large. Whether you are a retail store applicant or existing operator, I want to make this particular SOP available to everyone that wants it.
Please contact me via the form at the bottom of the website and leave a message with your email address. I will get back to you with the SOP.
Harrison Jordan is a Toronto-based cannabis lawyer and consultant focused on cannabis retail in Toronto and Ontario – having successfully assisted many current retail stores as mere applicants from point A to Z. He has developed a set of 60 SOPs available to his registered clients.