High Need for Education

The NACS pop-up event covered cannabis basics for retailers.

January 08, 2020

This is the third in a four-part NACS Daily series on the one-day NACS pop-up, “The Future of Cannabis in Retail,” held December 10, 2019, in Las Vegas. NACS gathered an exclusive group of 50 convenience and fuel retailers and suppliers for an up-close look at the nascent legal cannabis marketplace.

By Kim Stewart

LAS VEGAS, Nev.—The NACS cannabis pop-up event was all about education—from understanding the legal implications of selling CBD and cannabis products in stores to educating c-store staff to help answer questions about unfamiliar products when shoppers are more pressed for time than the typical dispensary consumer.

“Consumers crave guidance and information on CBD products,” said Melissa Vonder Haar, marketing director for iSEE Store Innovations and an emerging categories writer for NACS Daily and NACS Magazine. “Educating them is key to building trust. But c-store customers spend an average of three to four minutes total in the store and just 21 seconds interacting with our employees. At cannabis dispensaries, the ‘budtenders’ guide consumers through their purchases.”

In “A Cannabis Primer: Hemp, CBD, THC and More,” Vonder Haar used a chili bowl analogy to help explain the different components: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive compound in cannabis, versus CBD, a naturally occurring non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis; terpenes, scented molecules found in cannabis and other plants that add flavor and aroma; and flavonoids, which are groups of polyphenolic compounds that act as secondary metabolites.

In other words, Vonder Haar explained, cannabis is the chili, CBD and THC are the meat and beans, and terpenes and flavonoids are the spices and other secret ingredients that make for a delicious bowl.

Other trending cannabis ingredients to watch include:

  1. CBN is known as the “sleepy” cannabinoid, which can produce valium-like effects without intoxication.
  2. CBG is the holy grail of cannabinoids for a host of healing effects from bone growth to anti-seizure or potentially suppressing cancer cells.
  3. CBC offers similar effects as CBD but with higher antibacterial properties.

It’s important to note that varying doses of cannabis, like all drugs, don’t affect individual users in the same way. That’s because everyone has a unique physiologic endocannabinoid system of cannabinoid receptors and enzymes that synthesize endocannabinoids. No two endocannabinoid systems are the same, so no two people experience cannabis in the same way.

Dr. Nick Jikomes, principal research scientist for Leafly, a Seattle-based company that tests cannabis strains and operates a CBD and cannabis database and marketplace, walked attendees through the science of cannabis and how the lack of standardized testing and regulatory oversight has led to inconsistency when it comes to the quality, potency and makeup of CBD products in the market. Unlike alcohol or cigarettes, when people buy CBD products they can’t be sure of what they’re getting.

“If I go buy a pack of cigarettes I don’t have to worry about whether there’s nicotine in it because these products are highly regulated,” Jikomes said. “They’re mature, they’ve been around for a while, so you know you’ve got the consistency from package to package. That’s not true for cannabis products today.”

Leafly researchers found that about half of all CBD-containing products they tested from retailers across the country had CBD content close to what was advertised on the label—and half didn’t. In fact, 10% of products contained no CBD at all, Jikomes shared.

Jikomes said three principles should guide the future of cannabis retailing:

  1. Consumers crave guidance and information. A lot of this is very new to consumers; they don’t know a lot about cannabis or CBD.
  2. Education and transparency will lead to consumer trust.
  3. Prepare for tomorrow today with long-term thinking because there’s a lot of change coming in this industry and if you’re not prepared for what’s coming, you’re not going to be ready when it gets here.

If you want to experience the full learnings from the event, session recordings are available on-demand in a streaming video format for $295. Visit our online store to download. (Please note: Sessions by Rick Maturo of Nielsen, Dr. Nick Jikomes of Leafly and Jeremy Bergeron of Alimentation Couche-Tard aren’t included.)

Kim Stewart is editor in chief of NACS Magazine and editorial director of NACS.