Andrew Zaferis

A Retailer’s Guide to Cannabis Dispensary Product Intake

After purchase, the first touchpoint for your product is the intake process at the dispensary. This is often an overlooked step and is crucial for ensuring you have a compliant product that is set up to be stored properly.

Having a plan for this process allows your teams to execute faster.

Remember, if a product isn't available to sell, then it's not going to sell. The quicker you can get your teams to bring in and get a product on the shelf, the quicker you can realize that revenue.

There are two main problems to solve with your intake process: compliance and speed of processing.

Let's outline how to start thinking about compliance during intake and improve your overall processing speed.

How to Think About Compliance During the Intake Process

Compliance during intake can be broken down into one simple problem – labeling. Labeling is how appropriate information, symbols, and messages are assigned to cannabis products.

Given that cannabis is a state-regulated substance, it's often on you to meet proper cannabis markers and state specific labeling requirements.

The major challenge teams face here is accepting or rejecting products based on misinterpretation of compliance labeling requirements.

For example, if you receive a product that doesn’t match how your dispensary assorts inventory, it can become overburdening, costly, and a risk to compliance down the road.

You won’t be able to easily track and manage received inventory, which can result in expiration or faulty sale due to oversight. Funny thing is it all starts with how you choose to label your products.

To set your teams up for a more compliant (and efficient) intake process, there are a few things you can put in place.


Create a standard checklist for each product category. Regulators will create labeling rules based on specific product categories.

By quickly highlighting those factors, creating a checklist, and having it available in the intake area, your team will know what inventory to reject or accept.  


Have a clear chain of command so when your teams do run into a question beyond the scope of your compliance checklist, they know where to find the correct answer and keep moving on their process.

This also allows for rightful decision makers to determine how to handle any unclear regulations.

How to Optimize Cannabis Inventory Processing Speed

Processing speed is how quickly can your team take in a product, identify its accuracy (count and compliance), and get it ready for sale.

This is a bit trickier for your dispensary team due to your delivery schedule, product audit, sale preparation, and storage.

Each processing step can vary significantly by store, so here are some best practices to help you standardize your process.

Here’s what to consider when it comes your inventory processing speed.

1. Delivery Schedule

The first step is knowing when deliveries will show up. If you have a product showing up on a Friday afternoon while all your staff must help customers, you are not setting your teams up for success.

It's important that you create a standard cadence with vendors on delivery times to ensure you have proper staffing.

This can be done through negotiations for a specific delivery day or implementation of a delivery calendar for each dispensary.

2. Product Audit

All packages coming in need to be verified, first by a quick check for compliance accuracy and labeling. Next a count to ensure the products coming in match your manifest.

Clear workspaces and checklists allow your teams to execute this faster.

3. Prep for Sale

Next is prepping the product for sale. Often products do not come with a universal barcode.

This means you are responsible for determining how your team is entering the product: Manually or Scanning.

Scanning will always be more accurate but requires you to label all products with labels created in-house.

Manual entry is less accurate and more time consuming. Although you save upfront labor time, you often lose out in that time at the point of sale and inventory investigation.

4. Storage

Once an item is ready for sale it will need to be prepared for storage. As most vendors are still defining their CPG offerings this means storage is often on your dispensary to solve.

A Few More Tips & Tricks for Product Intake

Define Spaces: Make sure each step of the process has a defined space for the items to live. You can create a standard production line by having waiting areas for your product to move into the next step of its intake process.

This strategy helps your team understand processing checkpoints for all your products.

Prep Work: Some intake work can be completed before products arrive at your dispensary. Once an invoice is confirmed, you can have teams prep labels, space in the storage area, and sometimes prep the creation of the products in the point of sale.

When your team can prepare more intake steps prior to delivery, they can process inventory faster and get products onto your shelves.

When you follow these steps to define your workspaces, prepare your teams with the correct tools, and set up intake work ahead of schedule, you turn complex processes around inventory management into simple tasks for your team.

The intake process is often one overlooked. But if it’s not properly set up, it can be one of your biggest pain points. In any dispensary, your three things of value are people, product, and profits.

By setting up an efficient intake process, you protect your people and prepare your teams to build your profits.

Andrew Zaferis is a former Retail Director for Cresco and General Manager of Native Roots. Follow him on LinkedIn. Like this post? Book a demo with Happy Cabbage to learn how our tool Happy Buyers can help you reduce SKUs and ease your intake process.