A dispensary employee has complained about a colleague’s theft or maybe their behavior in the workplace. So now it’s time to start an investigation into what happened. Where do you begin?

Legal experts say you need to put dispensary employees at ease as you interview them, but you also need to move quickly and ask questions that drill down to the truth of the matter.

Here’s how to set the stage for a successful dispensary workplace investigation for anything from unlawful use of cannabis and diversion to inappropriate verbal communication.


Where and When

An HR professional investigating a cannabis dispensary complaint should schedule interviews for each witness at a convenient time and place and in a private location. You are more likely to get more information from the employee if they are comfortable.

In some cannabis businesses, meeting in HR’s office might offer the most privacy and confidentiality. But meeting in a neutral location like an out-of-the-way dispensary room or the employee’s office, if the dispensary worker has a private one, might make the dispensary interview less stressful for the witness.

Try to avoid having a large desk or table between the interviewer and the employee. Eliminating physical division and barriers can make the interview seem more relaxed and collaborative and less of an adversarial meeting.

Notice About Interviews

If the dispensary employee being interviewed is the complainant, don’t worry about giving them short notice of the interview. Both the business and the complainant will appreciate speedy action.

As for potential witnesses or alleged wrongdoers, HR should provide them with as little notice as possible. This prevents witnesses or alleged wrongdoers from calibrating their version of events. In addition, there is value in getting an interviewee’s initial, raw reaction to questions as opposed to letting them prepare answers in advance.

The HR cannabis dispensary staff member should notify the witness’s dispensary manager in advance that they will need to talk to the witness and that the employee will be away from work for some time. How an interviewee is notified about the interview can vary.

HR could send a short e-mail or stop by the employee’s office asking for a few minutes of the employee’s time without saying anything about the reason. HR may indicate a desire to get the employee’s perspective on an issue.


What the Employee Should Be Told

If there is no suspicion about a dispensary employee and he or she is there only as a witness, the HR professional should tell the employee right away that they are not in any trouble. This should put the employee more at ease immediately.

If the issue being investigated is a serious one, HR should convey the gravity of the situation by the tone of voice, facial expression, and choice of words. A witness often does not need to know all the details of what is being investigated.

Perhaps the employee is only relevant to a small part of the complaint. Moreover, you would not want to prejudice the interview by telling the employee what others have said, as that could affect his or her testimony. So it is recommended to share only that there is an investigation into an HR matter.

Staying vague about the specific allegations being investigated can elicit more raw, honest responses from interview subjects and may make it less obvious who made the complaint. It is recommended to ask open-ended questions about a broad topic at the outset of the interview and then narrow down question by question “until you get to the core issue.”

When interviewing the subjects of any complaint, it’s important to tell them the details of any allegation so they can defend themselves. Assure them that you are looking for the truth and the facts so that the complaint can be resolved fairly for all parties involved. It is also imperative to explain that the conversation will be kept as confidential as possible.

It is recommended to tell dispensary interviewees, “If you provide false or incomplete information, you will be [disciplined]. Don’t jeopardize your job or record by giving me any false or misleading information. OK?” But reassure employees that retaliating against those who participate in an investigation is prohibited.

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