Quick Hit: Cannabis Ecommerce Basics for Dispensaries

Cannabis e-commerce feature image

Ecommerce is an important and necessary part of most retail operations, including cannabis brands. The cannabis industry doesn’t have the same ecommerce opportunities or solutions as other industries, but it’s still a lucrative and viable option.

In this post, we’ll guide you through the basics of dispensary ecommerce, including whether you can sell legal cannabis online and compliant ecommerce software.

What is cannabis ecommerce?

Cannabis ecommerce means your dispensary inventory and merchandise is listed on an online store on your website, public marketplaces, or mobile app. Ecommerce allows customers to search and order cannabis products online instead of visiting your store.

Customers who place their order online can either pick up their order at your dispensary or receive it via delivery where allowed.

This is where cannabis ecommerce differs from traditional retail: Shipping (UPS, FedEx, USPS, etc.) is not currently available for cannabis products. Orders must be either picked up or delivered.

According to Flowhub data, the average online cart size on 420 was $103.88, compared to only $88.93 for in-store transactions.

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Is it legal to sell cannabis online?

Yes and no. Online sales, meaning allowing customers to place orders online, are legal. Shipping cannabis is not.

Most states allow customers to place an order for legal marijuana online. The actual transaction (or payment processing) is often completed in-person, either when the customer arrives at the cannabis dispensary to pick up their order or when it’s delivered to their home.

Some cannabis ecommerce platforms allow customers to pay for their purchases online, but because of cannabis banking limitations, this is not always an option (yet).

One notable distinction: Dispensaries can sell and ship products across state lines that are derived from hemp and contain less than 0.3% THC, like certain CBD products. Any cannabis product with more than 0.3% THC, or any product derived from a cannabis plant containing more than 0.3% THC, is considered marijuana, making it illegal to ship across state lines.

Hemp vs. Marijuana

  • <0.3% THC

    Hemp

  • >0.3% THC

    Marijuana

What is a cannabis ecommerce platform?

Cannabis ecommerce platforms host your inventory online for customers to shop, as well as check out.

These menus usually live on the ecommerce platform site, but you can also embed that menu into your dispensary’s site to provide a more personal experience to customers visiting you online.

Integrating your cannabis POS with your ecommerce platform gives you real-time insight into your sales and inventory and provides a seamless experience for customers.

Common cannabis ecommerce platforms

Here are a few common cannabis ecommerce platforms. It’s recommended to list your dispensary on more than one site to increase brand awareness and reach more people.

  • Blackbird: provides marketing tools and transport solutions for cannabis businesses.

  • Dutchie: online menu and ordering platform that offers a built-in product library for easy creation and management of pickup and delivery orders.

  • Jane: the industry’s first online marketplace hosts strictly ecommerce listings (no education) and provides shoppers the option to filter cannabis companies into categories like “women-owned,” “veteran-owned,” and “Bipoc-owned.”

  • Leafbuyer: marketing technology company that provides dispensaries customer acquisition, retention, and analytics tools including online ordering.

  • Leafly: the worldwide platform for cannabis ecommerce, information, and news.

  • Olla: ecommerce platform that allows you to fully customize your store menu on your website so you’re not listed next to other cannabis retailers or displayed with Olla’s branding.

  • STRAIN: mobile app platform offering white-labeled dispensary apps and facilitating easy mobile online ordering.
  • Weedmaps: offers online listings as well as a place for consumers to learn, order delivery, and review businesses and products.

What is cannabis delivery?

Cannabis delivery means dispensing cannabis to your customers through a courier.

Cannabis delivery isn’t allowed in every legalized state, so before you set up a delivery process, make sure to check your state regulations. As of April 2021, the below states allow cannabis delivery.

How to Start Cannabis Delivery

Recreational and medical marijuana delivery states

Recreational states allow delivery to adults 21 and older. Medical states only allow delivery to approved medical marijuana patients or caregivers who are registered to the state.

State and local laws around the delivery service and who can order delivery vary. The actual marijuana delivery service may need to be registered separately with the state, and delivery time and possession limits may apply.

  • Alaska

  • Arizona

  • California

  • Colorado

  • Florida

  • Maine

  • Maryland

  • Massachusetts

  • Michigan

  • Nevada

  • New Mexico

  • New York

  • Oregon

  • Rhode Island

  • Vermont

  • Washington

What else can dispensaries sell online?

You can sell and ship non-cannabis products, including branded merchandise like t-shirts, mugs, and lighters, and other accessories like books, stickers, art prints, etc.

You can offer non-marijuana items for in-store pickup and delivery orders, but you also have the option to ship them anywhere since they don’t contain marijuana.

Ready to get started with cannabis ecommerce?

Cannabis ecommerce solutions provide your business with another sales avenue outside of your physical location. This opens the door for more customers and more sales.

Listing your products online won’t reduce foot traffic to your local dispensary, it actually provides your customers with more ways to shop. Ecommerce also allows customers to shop your cannabis retail store anytime, not just during business hours.

Want to learn more? Check out these 5 tips for setting up dispensary online ordering.

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Angela Schweers

Cannabis Advocate and Flowhub Blog Contributor

Angela Schweers is a freelance copywriter in the cannabis industry. With almost 10 years of writing and marketing experience, she’s spent the last two focused solely on cannabis in an effort to debunk propaganda and inform the canna-curious. Connect with her on LinkedIn or check out her work at highstandardcopy.com.