KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Dennis Turner could feel his anxiety escalating as he stood at the counter of a Harrisonville medical marijuana dispensary.
An employee accused him of opening the seal of a product prior to purchase, something Turner insists he didn’t do.
“The manager would not let me have the product until, and she literally said, ‘No, you’re not getting this until I’m done talking,’ and she was like raising her voice at me, basically yelling but not screaming,” he said. “Yelling at me and saying I do nothing but cause problems and I’m not allowed there anymore, just going off on me.”
Turner said he was forced to pay for the broken product. He also said one of the managers asked a security guard to escort him out of the store.
He said the incident triggered his anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder.
“There needs to be training out there that they (dispensary employees) know how to deal with people that have mental impairments, that have mental disabilities, things like that,” Turner said.
James Yagielo is the CEO of HempStaff, a company out of Florida that trains marijuana dispensary workers.
“Missouri you know, they put it (training requirements) in their laws, and they haven’t done much since then,” Yagielo said in an interview.
He said Missouri had the right intention after voters approved the legalization of medical marijuana nearly four years ago, but training workers currently in the industry has gone by the wayside. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is the group tasked with starting up recreational marijuana if voters approve Amendment 3 on Nov. 8.
“We do require that dispensaries train their employees in certain areas, but we do not provide the training,” a spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services said. “They are responsible for complying with that requirement by providing the training themselves or identifying appropriate training.”
Because the state doesn’t do the training, that’s where companies like Yagielo’s come into play.
“It becomes a little more difficult (in a recreational market) to properly give them (customers) the right product,” Yagielo said.
“So training really becomes key in recreational, because you really got to know your products, so you can describe them specifically to someone who’s not really giving you all the information on why they’re there.”
Yagielo said workers already in the medical industry shouldn’t have any problems.
“But what happens with recreational is, you get exponentially more volume, some two, three, four times more volume than the medical marijuana market,” he said. “So therefore they have to hire a lot more employees that have never worked in a dispensary before, and that’s where things can get a little hectic.” Yagielo said if a dispensary is not properly staffed and trained by the time recreational marijuana becomes legalized, it risks losing customers.
“In a recreational market, a lot of times, it gets inundated so quickly that the training kind of goes by the wayside and then they start to get complaints, people start to say, ‘Oh, that dispensary’s not very good,’ and in the long run, it actually hurts their business instead of helping it.”
The spokeswoman for the Department of Health told us last week the earliest you could buy recreational marijuana if Amendment 3 passes is February.
Turner said he is grateful for the opportunity to use medicinal marijuana and hopes dispensaries vigorously train employees in preparation for a potential recreational market.
“Just care,” he said. “Be compassionate.”
“You’re in an industry that needs compassion.”