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Implementation and Effectiveness of an Online Responsible Vendor Training Program for Recreational Marijuana Stores

Implementation and Effectiveness of an Online Responsible Vendor Training Program for Recreational Marijuana Stores

Since 2012, nine U.S. States and the District of Columbia (DC) have legalized recreational marijuana, and several other states are looking to follow suit in coming years. At the outset of the legalization of recreational marijuana, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) informed these states that they must put robust constraints into place that prevent youth access to marijuana. To accomplish this DOJ objective, Dr. David Buller and Dr. Gill Woodall from Klein Buendel (KB), and their co-authors created Train To Tend, an online responsible marijuana vendor (RMV) training program that aims to provide retail marijuana staff with the knowledge and skills they need in order to sell marijuana responsibly, and keep their communities safe. In a recent e-publication in the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, the authors report the results of the implementation and evaluation of Train To Tend and what these results could mean for future research and policy.

Train To Tend was created with input from state regulators and local law enforcement personnel, curriculum standards published by the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division, interviews with recreational marijuana store personnel (n=15), and usability testing of a prototype training with store personnel (n=19) in Colorado and Washington State. Of all the input from these various stakeholders, retail marijuana store personnel reported that comprehensive training in responsible sales practices was uncommon in the industry. Coupled with the DOJ objective of preventing youth access to marijuana, this finding demonstrated a need for RMV.

Once all stakeholder input was reviewed, Train To Tend was created, and the training ultimately contained five modules: state laws and regulations, ID checking, health effects of marijuana, customer service practices including recognizing intoxicated patrons, and rules of the trade.

In a randomized controlled trial, the training was tested using a random sample of state-licensed recreational marijuana stores (n=225) in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington State. One hundred twenty-five stores were randomly selected to receive Train To Tend, while the remaining 100 stores received the usual and customary training in their state. In total, 420 store employees completed Train To Tend in 2017 and 2018. Pre- and post-training surveys were administered to Train To Tend trainees to gauge their perceptions of self-efficacy toward RMV practices, as well as their ratings of usability for Train To Tend.

Results revealed that the training improved trainees’ ability to check IDs, use their state’s inventory tracking system, and spot intoxicated customers. Also, most trainees felt very confident using the training, rated the training as user-friendly, and thought that the information and skills learned in the training would help keep their communities safe.

Overall, trainees’ improvement in confidence to engage in responsible sales practices, as well as the high levels of usability for Train To Tend they reported, suggests that programs like Train To Tend are feasible and potentially effective at training staff in recreational marijuana markets. In addition, this randomized-controlled trial provides a solid foundation upon which future research into RMV trainings can be built. This type of research is imperative to ensure the safety of customers that live in early-adopting recreational marijuana markets like Colorado, Oregon, and Washington State. By conducting research like this when recreational marijuana legalization is in its early stages, many unforeseen problems can be mitigated before they grow too large, and ultimately the public can be kept safer.

This research was funded by a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health (DA038933; Dr. David Buller, Principal Investigator). Coauthors include Dr. Gill Woodall, Mr. Andy Grayson, and Ms. Mary Buller from KB, and Dr. Robert Saltz from the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation.