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Is Your Business Ready for 420?

How to prep your dispensary for the biggest day in cannabis.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

This year more than others retailers will begin to know the full weight of what April 20th means as behemoth California enters the legal retail market for the first time. More established states such as Colorado and Nevada are fully prepared to take on the brunt of the holiday crowds. Wherever your retail operation is, the editors at Marijuana Retail Report (an industry publication for cannabis retailers) want to make sure you are ready for the biggest shopping day of the year for the cannabis industry by taking you through a step by step guide to 420 with to top level to do lists for each stage of your preparation.

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Here your precheck stages one and two related to making sure you have enough product and staff on your shelves, as well as making sure that your preset promotions are doing what they are supposed to be doing.

Related: 5 Steps for Dispensary Owners Thinking of Partnering With a Franchisor or Licensor

How much inventory to stock

One of the hardest things for a new dispensary, or a dispensary in a newly opened market, is trying to gauge how much inventory to stock and how much staff to have on hand at any given time. Too much, and not only do you hurt your business by spending more than necessary, but you may create a flow bottleneck in your operations of workers used to a larger flow space now bumping into each other as they try to move quickly. Too little, and you run into severe operational limitations and a genuine possibility that your 420 might run a bit short not only of your expectations but also that of your customers. To figure out your “magic number”, it’s most useful to assume 420 will run your operational stressors twice as hard as any other of your busiest days of the year. On average, customers will spend 80-90 percent more than they normally do and are sold much easier on convenience upsells. Today is also the day when you can easily pull in new customers that are actively seeking deals. This is a retail trend found in traditional sectors during Black Friday and it translated beautifully to the cannabis industry.


  • Stock accessories. Even if it’s an add-on giveaway in a gift bag, this cannot be stated strongly enough. Papers, lighters, blunt wraps, pipes, ext.. be your customers one stop shop for all things cannabis this holiday and ensure that they will not have to travel anywhere other than you to supply their needs.
  • You should already have your inventory stock for 420 for THC active products but ask your distributors about possible emergency shipments during the holiday if stock levels get low due to unforeseen popularity in certain brands or items. Don’t expect it, but it never hurts to ask. During the festivities don’t overload your shelves by getting excited and wanting to show a display, keep track of your inventory levels and refill as appropriate to ensure freshness and security.
  • Staff levels can be a nightmare for a first-time operation on 420 so making sure you don’t burn out your staff during crunch time is imperative. Everyone will be working a long day, but asking everyone to work 15 hour days is a bit insane. Schedule out your open/close crews appropriately giving everyone adequate prep time and clean time depending on the size and scale of your operation. Assume you will need at least double your active staff if you are in a high traffic area. During downtimes, use the overage staff to restock shelves, and supply support roles to ensure smooth transitions during peak times and in-between shifts.
  • If your dispensary offers delivery, make sure you have plenty of available drivers able to rotate orders to keep churn high.
  • Keep your security guards, front desk, and budtending staff vigilant. During pre-prep training ensure your security is aware of any banned individuals and best practices for handling issues. Make sure there is tight communication between your operational staff and that there is a backup in place if a piece of technology fails.
  • Call your POS provider and make sure all systems are go for 420. Ask about downtimes and offline modes, and make sure you are all set in case the worst happens. Being over prepared means that the “worst case” never gets truly bad.

Related: 7 Facts About Starting a Cannabis Dispensary in 2019

Ensure promotions are executing properly

Double checking your work is not a redundancy if it eliminates issues before they become true problems. Finding your stride if it is your first 420 can take time, but even old-school retailers can always learn a trick or two from new school trains of thought. The business concept of “set it and forget it” or “autopilot marketing” is a mentality that cannot be more destructive than blindly throwing darts at a dartboard and hoping the outcome is favorable. The more tried and true concept of “trust but verify” is always a better methodology to work under. Not only will this save you headaches during your 420 activities, but it will ensure solid data capturing throughout which will enrich your ability to make more cost-effective decisions on future campaigns. You will receive no better sample size for your campaign runs than on 420. Expect to only outperform your competitors, if you are able to outshine them amongst the marketing noise and chaos of the day. Compliance is also big with 420 festivities. If you are going to have a big footprint on the holiday, expect to have a big target on your back for regulators. Ensuring you dot your i’s and cross your t’s when it comes to following the rules is imperative to having a great holiday weekend. Nothing will hurt your reputation more than having a great party with an amazing turnout, only to have to shut it all down because of some missed paperwork or other oversight.


  • Check to ensure each promotion has a separate and unique identifier attached to it to help you make clearer datasets against your initiatives and goals in future campaigns. I.E. The postcard for 50% off all purchases over $200 from Shelly’s SmokeShop for Dave’s Dispensary has a different identifier (code, design, ext..) than an online printout and bring in promotion would have on a website such as WeedMaps.
  • Ensure promotional mailers (Mailchimp, Constant Contact, Campaign Monitor, ext…) are double checked prior to launch for any link, language, or image errors. Test, and then retest each campaign you plan to send.
  • Make sure 10 minutes after each digital promotion is supposed to go live leading up to 420, that it actually does. Ensure all datasets are feeding into proper channels. For example Google Analytics with site/blog-based promotions feeding back to your website.
  • If you are hosting a party, double checking permits, rental agreements on equipment, and giving proper notification to your surrounding businesses are all good common practice. Ensuring compliance and good standing is the first step to marketing as non-compliance not only means effort and capital wasted but potential future headaches and backlash.
  • Rotating promotions to ensure the strongest sales at your weakest times (example: If your dead zone is from 1-2pm, offer an additional 15% off select popular items during that time) is key to keeping customers from bottlenecking. If this is your first 420, it can be understandably hard to pinpoint this. Make sure your POS system takes good timestamp analytics and sales trends so that your next 420 you can plan your promotions accordingly.

420 doesn’t have to be a terrifying experience for an entrepreneur new to the industry.