CannaBiz: Recreational cannabis industry looks to create a higher educational experience

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“This industry has been in the shadows for far too long,” Joel Krukar of Mountaintop Extracts said.

The cannabis products manufacturing company has created a series of educational cards explaining what cannabis is and how different strains or cultivars have different effects.

“Just trying to create the consistency in the language and the information that is conveyed to the consumer,” he said.

It’s a selling tool for many retailers, who think it’s a key to getting the industry to flourish and move outside pot-culture stereotypes.

Just as New Mexico’s burgeoning beer industry has its own vocabulary of different varieties of hops, malts and ways to bring them together to create a seemingly infinite universe of brews, the cannabis industry has a lexicon unique to its business.

There are cultivars and strains. Cannabinoids and the entourage effect. There’s cannabis sativa and cannabis indica – which tend to produce different effects from heightened alertness or focus to sedation.

“But what really distinguishes sativa and indica are the individual terpenes that exist in cannabis. The terpenes are what give it the flavor and the nuanced highs and experience,” said Krukar, stepping further down what might seem to some consumers like a bottomless rabbit hole .

It can be so overwhelming that Everest Cannabis Co. created its own spectrum of anticipated effects: elevate, discover, unwind, dream and relieve.

Montoya points to the color-coded key mounted on the dispensary wall: “For instance, we have separated them for the uplifting and then the sedating over here.”

Separating the effect from the pun-laden pot vernacular can be difficult for some consumers trying to differentiate between Pineapple Express and Bubble Trouble; like staring at a selection of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream flavors without being able to look at the ingredients.

That’s why retailers like from small-ish The Bad Company to the larger Everest are pushing education; Consumers asking how much they’d like to know about all those ingredients and what they do.

“We’ll be saying ‘How do you prefer to use? Do you want to use in the daytime? In the evening time?’ And we’ve got products geared to them,” said Everest’s Mark Gilboard, who heads the company’s retail strategy.

“Come in and talk about cannabis. Come in and talk about marijuana; what you’re going to be doing, what your lifestyle is like,” he urged.

At The Bad Company’s apothecary-themed vintage storefront, co-owner Anna Novak says she and her husband, Dan, have tried to create a welcoming experience. The company’s name pokes fun at marijuana’s outlaw reputation. In the lobby, there’s a playful social media siren: a pair of angel wings mounted under a neon sign bearing the company slogan: “I wanna be Bad.”

But the Novaks want to present an individualized experience with sales people – the industry calls them budtenders.

“Find that happy medium where it’s a non-judgmental space. You can come, you can ask questions…” said Anna Novak.”They can talk you through the process of what you’re looking for and they will either weigh it out or guide you to the best product for you.”

Dan Novak anticipates plenty of customers who know what they’re talking about when it comes to cannabis. But he sees the potential customer base as endless.

“Everybody that could possibly walk in from the street,” he said. “Even if it’s your first time smoking and you’re 80 years old and you’re just curious. We want it to be a really comfortable, safe experience.”