By Becky DeKeuster
What’s one of the fastest-growing segments of the medical cannabis market? Hint: many of you are likely in it.
Baby Boomers are increasingly taking an interest in using marijuana as medicine and even seeking out employment in the industry, yet many dispensaries market to a much younger crowd.
As the median ages of their clientele and their workforces increase, cannabis businesses across the nation can make smart choices to welcome these customers – and potential employees – into the fold.
Some of your older clients never forgot the 60s and 70s—but many will be coming to you as a last resort for various conditions, such as chronic pain, and will be struggling to overcome stigmas and stereotypes about cannabis users that they have internalized for decades.
Providing these clients with a familiar, non-threatening environment will help them have a better experience with their medicine. That will, in turn, make them loyal, repeat visitors. To create this type of environment, focus on:
- Accessibility: It’s not enough to have an ADA-accessible facility, though that’s a good start. Check your floor coverings—the rug that sometimes catches your toe could be a much bigger obstacle for someone using a walker or wheeling an oxygen tank. Be sure to provide adequate and comfortable seating in waiting areas, including near the display case. You may want to invest in at least one bariatric chair, available from a number of office furniture providers. Install a stand or railing for canes at both the intake window and the dispensary counter.
- Music and ambiance: Consider the visual and auditory environment you present to a new client. Is the light bright and welcoming, or dim and dungeon-like? Check ambient noise levels and consider the music on your playlist—do they allow for conversation at normal levels?
- Product selection: The latest shatters and dabs might attract some users, but don’t forget that your older clients might be more appreciative of pre-rolls, tinctures, topical ointments, sugar-free edibles and capsules.
- Retail items: Offer a variety of delivery devices and related retail items in-store. This is a clientele that might not feel comfortable walking into the local head shop, and glass pieces in particular might not be the best choice for arthritic fingers or hands that tremor. Prepare your staff to help any client, senior or not, make the best purchasing decisions for their needs, including allowing a dry “test-drive” of the device in-store. Does that vaporizer have small pieces or require delicate maneuvering to clean? Are papers and a rolling machine really the best choice for this person?
- Printed materials: Use friendly fonts (serif fonts are easier to read than sans serif) and type sizes (12 and up) for your menus, signage, FAQs and other printed information. Make video and/or audio versions available for those who need them.
Smart cannabusinesses won’t just make their space more comfortable for older clientele—they will also recognize that a more-seasoned workforce can pay dividends as well. Though no workforce is entirely drama-free, your AARP-qualified employee likely has some practical perspective from past jobs that will not only keep them from becoming embroiled in the latest workplace soap opera—it may also provide valuable experience that your younger employees can learn from.
Here are two ways to attract more Baby Boomers to your staff and make them feel like a valued part of the team:
- Pay attention to unintended “age clustering”: Look around your workplace. Is everyone who has face-to-face interactions with clients in their 20s? Do your older employees all perform behind-the-scenes work, such as administrative or processing jobs? If so, think about why. Review your job descriptions and recruiting/hiring practices to ensure that you are able to identify and hire older talent across all positions.
- The staff that plays together stays together: Provide incentives unbiased by age. Using free Skrillex concert tickets as a productivity bonus might fail to inspire a hardworking segment of your team (in fact, they might not even know who he is!). Give thought to team selection, games and prizes used at company sponsored staff events, too. Consider how music selections in shared work spaces are determined.
With a median age of 43.5, Maine is the oldest state in the nation, and at Wellness Connection, our median patient age is 53.4 – which is within the Baby Boomer range.
We also get clients who are much older. One of our very first members was a 70-something great-grandmother who had not used cannabis for almost 50 years, and one of our most recent inquiries was from a 92-year-old. Of course, we also get a fair share of younger clients in their 20s and 30s.
No matter where you are in the country, creating an environment where old and young alike feel welcome and included makes good business sense.
Becky DeKeuster is director of community and education at Wellness Connection of Maine.