Colorado was one of the first states to legalize the medical use of marijuana and the very first state to allow recreational use in the United States.
The state’s legal framework used to regulate and develop a strong cannabis economy has been replicated across the United States to establish similar (if not the same) regulations to structure the industry in many newly legalized states.
As part of Colorado’s legal framework for the cannabis industry, the “Responsible Vendor Program Provider” was established under the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) initiative with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).
According to the Colorado Department of Revenue, MED website, “The Responsible Vendor Program provided for in MED Rules M 408 and R 407 is a voluntary program. Medical Marijuana Center and Retail Marijuana Store owners may elect to participate in the program to gain designation as a Responsible Vendor.”
The “Responsible Vendor” designation demonstrates a commitment to a culture of professionalism and responsible sales practices. It will be taken into consideration as a mitigating factor in the event of a violation and may result in rate discounts from insurance agencies that recognize the program.
An approved MED Responsible Vendor Program Provider must keep the core curriculum up-to-date, ensuring alignment with any changes to the medical or retail laws and their corresponding rules which occurred in between the program provider’s renewal period.
In January 2019, the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division released rules stating that for the first time, the Responsible Vendor Training Program was going to allow for an actual online course option.
Responsible Vendor Training Background
To promote the effectiveness and efficiency of the workforce in this industry, the Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) began the Responsible Vendor Program in 2015.
Owners of dispensaries and retail stores can optionally choose to participate in the program to gain the designation of “Responsible Vendor“.
Marijuana businesses who elect to complete this proactive training effort align with state licensing authority rule to grant “Responsible Vendor” designations to businesses whose owners and employees successfully complete a Marijuana Enforcement Division-approved Responsible Vendor Program.
The MED and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) will only review materials that are required in M 408 and R 407 and the accuracy of any additional value-added content is the sole responsibility of the program provider.
Though responsible vendor training is currently optional for Colorado marijuana businesses, it is an essential resource available for leading cannabis retailers to require all employees to take part in the program.
Training programs are offered by a range of accredited cannabis training companies throughout the state. Training programs must be approved by the MED and the CDPHE. This certification program covers:
- Colorado-Specific Regulations
- Checking Identification (ID)
- Educating Consumers About Safety
- Security and Surveillance
- METRC “Seed-to-Sale” Inventory Tracking
- Waste Handling
- Packaging and Labeling
- Avoiding Common Violations
Training, whether online or in-person, must be at least two (2) hours in length, though it may be longer, and this certification is good for two (2) years. MED regulations specify what should be included in the curriculum and require the provider to verify the identity of each student and certify completion of the training.
The Colorado “Responsible Vendor” training designation is assigned to the business and not the employee, so new hires must take the training within 90 days for that dispensary or store to maintain its designation as a Responsible Vendor. Students must pass the exam with a 70% or higher to complete training.
Providers will maintain training records for three (3) years that will be available for review by the licensing authority when they request them. In general, all employees at an establishment, (including the employees, owners, and managers) must complete the training and recertify every two (2) years to maintain the “Responsible Vendor” training designation.
This designation signifies that the medical marijuana center or retail store is committed to a higher level of customer safety and care. If MED pursues disciplinary or administrative action against a business that has “Responsible Vendor” status, this designation may mitigate penalties, fines, and violations.
Responsible Vendor Training Effectiveness
One important issue for these states has been how to implement training in responsible retail sales practices.
Examples of how to accomplish this task come from the Responsible Beverage Service training for selling and serving alcohol. A new study on the quality of online responsible marijuana vendor training has just been released.
The study used an online “Responsible Vendor” training that was developed in consultation with state regulators, store personnel, and local law enforcement in Colorado and Washington state.
The training focused on knowledge of state statutes and regulations, identification checking, the health effects of marijuana, customer service practices (including recognizing intoxicated patrons), and rules of the trade (similar to Alaska’s “Marijuana Handler Permit” compliance training).
The curriculum was developed for a randomized controlled trial to test its efficacy for staff recruited from a random sample of 225 stores in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington state. A total of 420 diverse store employees completed the online training.
Critically, the training significantly improved trainees’ ability to check identification and spot intoxicated customers as well as their confidence to use their state’s inventory tracking system. Then each trainee was given a survey about their experiences to gauge usability and trainee attitudes about the training. The results showed that:
- More than 75 percent of trainees found the training user-friendly
- Almost 70 percent were satisfied with the training
- Slightly more than 90 percent would recommend the training to another employee
Co-author, Dr. Robert Saltz of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, Prevention Research Center reported: “The online curriculum was seen very favorably by the employees, which is a good sign. We’re looking forward to seeing the results of the next phase of the research – a randomized trial to see if the training results in more responsible selling and serving behavior.”
The study concluded that online “Responsible Vendor” training was acceptable to retail recreational marijuana staff and that using it may improve responsible sales practices. Thus, the authors suggest that training should be considered for the recreational and medical marijuana market.
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