What The Cannabis Industry Can Learn From Food Safety: A Conversation With Maureen McNamara

by Rachelle Gordon

Maureen McNamara knows a thing or two about what it takes to prepare and sell cannabis products the right way. The Colorado-based Founder and Chief Facilitator of Cannabis Trainers, McNamara spent several years in food safety and compliance as well as serving the state’s Liquor Enforcement Board prior to the “Green Rush” wave of legalization began less than a decade ago. However, it didn’t occur to her that the newly emerging cannabis space could benefit from her skills until one day in 2013 when her destiny changed forever.

“I was teaching a food safety class when somebody was really hesitant to tell me what restaurant they worked at because she (actually) didn’t work at a restaurant — she super discretely whispered, ‘pot brownies,” Mcnamara told Green Flower. “We were just months out from being one of the first states to launch adult-use cannabis on January 1, 2014. So I got the idea to transform those years of experience in compliance training for a different industry to the cannabis world.”

Smart Approaches To Selling & Serving Cannabis Emerge

Cannabis Trainers, which offers training on the “safe, responsible sale of cannabis” was born soon after that fateful class. McNamara immediately dove headfirst into helping her home state develop its brand-new recreational marketplace.

“I helped co-design the actual first state-responsible vendor program,” she explained. “There was a group of maybe 20 people in addition to the Marijuana Enforcement Division. We created the curriculum requirement for a responsible vendor program, which is our program called Sell-SMaRT.”

Sell-SMaRT (short for Safe Marijuana Retail Training, now powered by Green Flower) focuses on teaching operators how to dispense cannabis in accordance with local regulations while also highlighting how to help educate consumers on responsible buying and consumption without offering medical advice.

“Sell-SMaRT is an acronym, but the meaning of that is to be a dispensary agent that is really aware, tuned in and can be a great guide, while never ever ‘playing doctor,’” McNamara said. “Being able to adjust and be flexible in our approach to how we guide or coach the variety of people that are shopping with us is really important, in addition to knowing all the rules.”

McNamara also developed Serv-Safe in order to meet demand for operators like the inspirational ‘pot brownie’ maker from her past.

“Food safety training has been required for edible manufacturers pretty much in every state, and that’s something that I’ve been teaching since the 1990s,” she explained. “I was able to do some research, educate myself, and talk about food safety as it relates to the creation of edibles.

“The industry is too important to maintain safe access to have a mistake, unintentional or intentional.

Training Benefits Entire Vertical From Producers To Consumers

As McNamara mentioned, the benefits of completing the Sell-SMaRT and Serv-Safe courses are vast. The education speaks for itself but it’s the willingness to go the extra mile that offers the most ROI.

“It shows the employees, the community, investors, regulators, and law enforcement that we are committed to excellence,” said McNamara. “We know that working with cannabis is done with integrity and professionalism, and we are committed to knowing the rules and playing by the rules.”

Cannabis Trainers has seen the popularity of their programs continue to increase. Officials in Massachusetts recently selected the firm as one of the providers for the first state-required cannabis vendor training program. McNamara added that the company also has scholarships available for social equity and economic empowerment license holders in order to increase educational access. Cannabis Trainers also donates a percentage of profits to organizations within the space including Last Prisoner Project, Cannabis Doing Good, Minorities for Medical Marijuana, and the Minority Cannabis Business Association.

McNamara Points To Alcohol For Ideas On Where The Cannabis Industry Will Go Next

With nationwide legalization seemingly inevitable, the team at Cannabis Trainers is often asked how compliance will shift. McNamara, pulling from her past experience with the Liquor Enforcement Board, believes the marijuana market will echo that of alcohol.

“I think our rules are going to continue to strengthen, and then once prohibition ends nationally, we will still have state-by-state rules. Alcohol rules vary state by state, and so will cannabis.”

Once the decades of prohibition are behind us and the retail floodgates open across the country, it may just be people like McNamara the industry will have to thank for keeping us all safe — along with the mysterious pot brownie maker who first inspired her journey.

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1 comment

Alaine Black October 1, 2020 - 3:05 pm

The question I have is cannabis CPG?
Enlighten us on this topic please.

Reply

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