Why Secret Shoppers are Becoming More Common at Dispensaries
With quality products and trained staff, cannabis dispensaries will get high scores on any secret shopper review.
With more states legalizing the sale of cannabis, it makes sense to find secret shoppers employed in the cannabis industry.
Most cannabis consumers rightfully assume the flower they buy from dispensaries is both safe and free from harmful pathogens but that’s not always the case. New studies and regulated secret shopper incidents are proving contaminated cannabis may be more widespread than originally expected.
In fact, previously ‘passed’ batches of available-to-consumer flowers have turned out to have harmful bacteria levels after sitting on the store shelf.
While a secret shopper visit might sound intimidating, it’s ultimately a good thing for the cannabis industry and for the health of the consumer.
What Secret Shoppers are Testing and Reporting On
With the rapid expansion of a relatively new market, best consumer health and safety practices are still being developed.
Secret shoppers are typically hired by cannabis consulting firms to observe, experience, and report on these practices. They’ll pop in for cannabis samples at random times and perform other reconnaissance services at their convenience.
Cannabis is a fickle plant. Whether it’s mold, mildew, or pests, there are plenty of opportunities for costly pathogens to contaminate a crop.
During a grow, cannabis can pick up mold, powdery mildew, salmonella, E. coli — all pathogens that are regulated to ensure the flower is safe for consumption. Cannabis secret shoppers will often send their “purchase” off for a lab analysis of cannabinoid content, processing chemicals, and microbial pathogens.
Besides product safety, secret shoppers may also be on the lookout for illegal activity at the business, the cleanliness of the facility, or the appearance of the employees. They can also be deployed to help a business improve and become more profitable.
(Webinar Archives: Beyond the Test: How to Ensure Proper Cannabis Remediation From Lab to Shelf)
Simple Strategies to Pass Your Next Secret Shopper Inspection
Owners and managers of cannabis businesses should always be ready to have their products and services verified or evaluated by a third party.
Dispensaries and cannabis businesses can avoid potential penalties, fines, or even “bad press” by taking proactive steps to ensure that they pass any such inspection with flying colors.
Carrying high-quality products that are safe to consume is one way a cannabis business can immunize itself from the repercussions of a secret shopper. Dispensaries should know what they are selling and be confident that any claims on the labels of the products they sell are true.
Cannabis businesses can do this by purchasing their own photonic decontamination equipment. This equipment treats cannabis products by irradiating them to standards required for food safety without affecting the integrity of the plant.
It’s an investment that will more than pay for itself by avoiding lost business because of health concerns, fines, or other legal actions.
Science-based Consumer Safety
Before you pass the joint, consider the risks of contaminated marijuana and methods for proper decontamination.
Instead of approaching the growing cavalcade of state-mandated testing with trepidation, cannabis businesses should embrace a science-based and healthy regimen with confidence.
It's far better to learn of any shortcomings internally and address them promptly than to find out from a third party. Cannabis is big business, and one way dispensaries can make sure they get their piece of the pie is by offering safe products.
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Written by Chris Bond | Certified Permaculture Designer, Nursery Technician, Nursery Professional
Chris Bond’s research interests are with sustainable agriculture, biological pest control, and alternative growing methods. He is a certified permaculture designer and certified nursery technician in Ohio and a certified nursery professional in New York, where he got his start in growing.