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How to Create A Dispensary Standard Operating Procedures PDF (SOP)

Updated: 6 days ago

If you’ve made it here, chances are you’re wondering if you should even be concerned about how to create a dispensary Standard Operating Procedures PDF (SOP).

A Standard Operating Procedure document can be invaluable to your business and employees, if done correctly. There’s no standard format for an SOP - no matter the industry, so it’s advisable to gather all of the information you can before creating one!

The Purpose of A Dispensary Standard Operating Procedures PDF (SOP)

SOPs can be complex, and unfortunately, they’re not created by simply typing up a few processes training-manual-style and dispersing them to your team.

As SOPs are unique to every business, they carry explicit instructions so that your team has the tools they need to thrive while on the job. SOPs for the cannabis industry in particular can be a valuable resource, as they can outline regulations and special procedures that may otherwise be unclear.

The sole purpose of an SOP is to outline processes and procedures for all levels of your team. This boosts both internal efficiency and the customer experience. A strong SOP should also be directly in line with your company values, voice, and brand.

In relation to dispensary operations, SOPs can prove to be one of the greatest resources in managing your team - no matter its size.

There are many benefits to creating an SOP, but a few of the main points are included below:

Elevate teamwork by setting clear expectations.

With a clear SOP in place to define key roles and responsibilities, your team can better understand expectations and how their roles will fit into the greater picture. Rather than having “too many cowboys and not enough indians” and the like, a strong SOP defines all expectations and establishes duties within your team.

Setting specific expectations for each role (i.e. budtenders, store management, etc.) will also help your team to work together more efficiently. A strong SOP provides a cohesive flow of processes that are easily understood, no matter who reads them.

Establishing workflows within your SOP also eliminates confusion and sets expectations on the final outcomes of each task.

Boost efficiency, so all projects and tasks are completed successfully.

As processes are followed repeatedly by your team through the use of an SOP, it’s easy to understand why they can help your team become more efficient in their responsibilities.

As time goes on, each defined process and role will become more easily completed, and more standard. Thus, efficiency is increased, saving your business both time and resources.

By creating a clear and editable version of your SOP, you also pave the way for more timely completion of projects. As your team members grow more comfortable with the processes you’ve outlined, it’s only natural that they become more successful at completing them through practice.

This not only boosts the overall efficiency of individual team members, but can boost efficiency and time spent on tasks across the board. This is because employees will have a better picture of how their individual roles will affect the entire workflow.

Better identify gaps in training and procedures.

Once your final SOP PDF has been dispersed, it’s very important to be open to questions and feedback from your team. This not only provides your team with a voice, boosting morale, but it also allows management to identify pain points and bottlenecks in daily operations.

Once pain points have been identified, it’s very important to implement the changes within your SOP as soon as possible. Discussing changes with management, and refining processes as necessary is absolutely essential to eliminating any confusion.

In creating an SOP PDF, version control is key.

As changes are made to your final SOP, it’s very important to include a version date and even a sign off section for upper management.

It is unnecessary to keep every old version of your SOPs, however. Once the latest version has been finalized and dispersed, there should be clear instruction on how to eliminate any older versions to avoid conflicting information.

Cannabis Operating Procedures and the Customer Experience

The benefits of an SOP for internal operations is immense, but a successfully implemented SOP can also benefit your customers and clients as well.

Think of an SOP that may be used for budtenders. With Point of Sale processes more clearly defined, the checkout process can become more efficient and easy for the customer and the budtender alike.

Your SOP for checkout processes can even include expectations on how to handle customer communication. By defining the process of handling customer queries for your budtenders, you can establish your company values and brand on a sale by sale basis.

Setting Service and Sales Goals

SOPs can surely divert away from bland step-by-step instructions as well. The freedom is yours to customize your SOP to be in line with your brand and your company voice. You may even consider adding a section regarding customer service guidelines, to help your team heighten the customer experience.

In doing so, goals for each customer interaction can be clearly set. This not only benefits your customers, but it can boost your sales. Establishing sales goals within your SOP is surely a possibility, but it’s no secret that putting great service first naturally brings in better sales.

It’s true that not every customer can be kept happy. However, by establishing goals in how your team handles negative customer interactions as well, you can provide peace of mind within your team and greatly lessen negative experiences and bad online reviews.

Things to Note Regarding Dispensary SOPs

Before creating your dispensary SOP, there are a few key points to keep in mind regarding its structure.

First, consider creating multiple SOPs, depending on your team’s size and their needs.

If you have a large management team and an even larger team on the front lines, multiple SOPs may be needed. For example, you may consider separate SOPs for:

  • Upper management regarding hiring procedures,

  • Store management regarding training procedures, and

  • Budtenders regarding daily tasks, closing/opening procedures, and customer interactions.

Visualizing your SOP’s structure before beginning the first draft is highly recommended. Elements such as workflows, notes, feedback, and observations are key to understanding what should be included in your SOP.

When it comes to sophisticated, highly-technical procedures, owners, managers, and outside consultants should always collaborate to ensure the accuracy of each procedure.

Consider This #1 Rule When Structuring Your SOPs.

One of the top rules in writing a strong SOP is avoiding long-winded, hard-to-read, technical jargon. Avoid the “bland HR language” that many have grown accustomed to in corporate training manuals.

Creating your SOP to be more human, more team oriented, and more understandable for your crew is the best way to go. Inclusive, yet professional and simple language is all you need to establish your processes effectively.

After all, the sole purpose of an SOP is to centralize expectations and duties so that anyone - no matter their background or role - can easily understand them. The voice of your SOPs should always be well-organized and clear.

Using language that is too technical and confusing can defeat the entire purpose of creating an SOP, so it’s best to avoid reinventing the wheel. If you're uncertain on how to present information, simply explain things in the same way that you would if you were standing next to the trainee in person.

The Initial Setup of Your SOP PDF

Before getting started, it may be helpful to touch base with your team to determine which processes and expectations need revisited. It’s also greatly helpful to know what processes they think should be included in the SOP as well.

Of course, it’s best to leave the door open for your team to suggest changes and ask for clarification once the SOP has been dispersed.

Some key questions to ask yourself before beginning your SOP file could include:

  1. Are there any errors that seem to be repeating themselves?

  2. Are there any processes that need to be explained multiple times?

  3. Which processes have I most been asked for clarification on?

  4. Who exactly is responsible for the completion of this task?

  5. Which processes take the longest to complete, and how much time should be allotted to them?

In determining which processes to include, we cannot stress enough that gathering feedback from your team is invaluable to a successful SOP. Helpful data may also be gathered before beginning the document, such as:

  • Flow charts of roles or tasks

  • Work flow charts covering specific processes

  • Team surveys

  • Customer feedback

  • Field observations

Now that you’ve gathered data and feedback, it’s time to move forward with the initial structure of your dispensary SOP PDF.

Begin by writing a simple checklist.

Once you’ve gathered all data and you are ready to begin, start with an outline and checklist of the procedures that will be included within your SOP. This list may include specific details of each procedure as well.

Next, organize your list.

Consider the order by which the procedures will be completed by your team. For example, you may include daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly tasks for upper management. Or, you might consider covering all morning, day, and nightly tasks for budtenders, plus customer experience guides.

The better the organization and flow of the procedures in your SOP, the more easily it can be understood by all members of your team.

Once you have organized the procedures to be included, congratulations! You now have the basic outline for your Table of Contents.

Elements to Include in Each Procedure

Of course, each procedure outlined in your dispensary SOP should include clear, step-by-step instructions on how to complete them. All instructions should adhere to common language, and should always include the purpose of the project to make it clear on how it will fit in relation to other roles and processes.

Keeping the instructions as straightforward as possible will help to eliminate confusion and encourage “by the book” implementation as well.

When outlining the steps of each procedure, you have the freedom to be as serious or as casual as you like. However, considering your audience and who will be referencing the material is essential for an effective SOP.

You might even consider adding extra elements to each procedure to better define roles and outcomes. Key information points can include:

  1. A header defining the process being explained. This can be the title of the procedure, a document number, and the version date.

  2. A short intro explaining the purpose of the project. In one or two sentences, define the intent of the project and what it is aimed to accomplish.

  3. A short description of the project’s scope. Here is where the procedure can be assigned to specific roles. If limits to the project’s scope need to be identified (say, if at the completion of the project some final steps are needed and therefore it must change hands to management) it’s best to mention them here. The scope of the project should be no more than a paragraph long.

  4. References and resources. Should there be accompanying documents or references needed to complete a procedure, here is where they can be referenced.

  5. Steps of the procedure. In formulating the steps of each process, only include the major steps that are needed to complete the task, stated clearly and succinctly. Each major step should carry individual action steps that lead to its completion. The transition between each step should also be cohesive, and clearly defined.

Other Helpful Tools

In establishing each step, it may also be helpful to include notes or warnings regarding the process being explained. For example, if the completion of the task requires that it changes hands to management for approval, including a note about why and when to transfer the final results can greatly benefit your team.

You may also consider adding a section in your SOP for:

Appendices. Flow charts outlining processes and/or specific roles can prove helpful to members of your team that prefer visual learning over text.

Definitions. Should there be a need for more complex technical terms, or references to safety regulations or laws, adding a section within your SOP defining these can prove extremely helpful to your employees as they use your SOP.

Revision history. Rather than keep all old file versions each time a change is made to your SOP, limit conflicting information by adding a page for revision history. This ensures the document’s accuracy and provides an up-to-date reference for your team as well. You may even consider adding a sign-off portion for management here, to guarantee the document is up to date.

Finalizing Your SOP PDF

Obviously, any word document can easily be converted to a PDF. For SOPs in particular, PDF formats are beneficial as they are not as easily edited as a word document. They are ideal for sharing with large groups and provide a more solid means for accurate version control.

With your structure in place regarding all processes and sections, it’s time to begin drafting your dispensary SOP. Start with your organized list of the main procedures to be included. Add your content to effectively explain, step-by-step, how each procedure should be implemented.

This is the most time consuming process in creating your SOP. Collaboration on any uncertainty regarding your processes may be key. When in doubt, always revisit workflows and order of the tasks as they will be completed. Remember that keeping steps organized and clear is most important for a strong SOP.

Cover Page and Table of Contents

Once all processes and content have been created, you might include a cover page with the most recent version date. The cover page may also state which team members the SOP applies to (i.e. budtenders or managers).

The next page, however, should be your table of contents. A table of contents is most easily added once all other content has been created, you are able to add specific page numbers and references. Here, you're able to use your initial outline to formulate the table of contents.

It’s important to note that depending on which word processor you are using, a table of contents is set up differently from platform to platform. For example, setting up a table of contents in Microsoft Word can be very different than setting one up in Google Suite.

If you’re unsure how to create a table of contents, simply conduct a Google search or use the help feature located within your software. The same principle applies to converting your document into a PDF file.

The Completion of Your Dispensary SOP

You’ve now edited and completed all sections of your SOP, and you’re ready to share the first draft! Before sending however, it’s important to keep the original word document on hand at all times as a running, editable template.

Once you’ve downloaded your SOP as a PDF, be sure you establish where the SOP can be found by team members, and include these instructions in the initial email. What's more, you'll want to leave communication completely open regarding any changes or errors that may be found once they’ve reviewed it.

Post-SOP Procedures

Once your SOP has been sent and is in effect, be on the lookout for “gaps” in procedures, and recurring errors as tasks are completed. If the same error comes up repeatedly while your team is utilizing the SOP, chances are there is a step in the process that needs clarified or revised.

As always, it’s best to be completely open to suggestions. As your team implements the procedures, they may have valuable information on new processes that may need to be included. They may also be able to provide valuable feedback on how the SOP is structured and which processes need clarification.

Consider Team Checklists to Monitor Progress

If you’d like to monitor which team members are completing tasks, you might consider using a team management app or program separate from the SOP. This is especially useful for new hires as well.

Some examples of project and team management programs include Asana, Trello, Hubstaff, Monday, and the like. Using a platform such as this can help your team to manage more complex tasks.

These can also be an excellent way to establish responsibility and monitor progress. Most of these platforms allow integrations as well, so you are able to add resources for your team, such as your SOP document, for easy reference.


The usefulness of dispensary Standard Operating Procedures PDFs (SOPs) can be easily overlooked. Especially in the cannabis industry where dispensaries do not operate the same way as other businesses, sometimes it is easy for many dispensary owners to believe they are unnecessary.

The initial setup of a cannabis standard operating procedure can be time consuming. However, establishing an SOP can greatly benefit your team and provide them with a voice. It can boost your team’s efficiency, and their understanding of their responsibilities within your business.

Dispensary SOPs can provide your customers with a more positive and streamlined experience, as your employees have clear guidelines on how to instill the voice, values, and brand of your business within every sale.

In actuality, establishing an SOP for your dispensary can prove invaluable, and provide your team and business with workforce stability well into the future.

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