How To Draft A Successful SOP For The Cannabis Industry

Oct 21, 2020 | Small Cannabis Business

Almost every successful business starts with a clear and concise SOP. For those not hip to the acronym, SOP stands for Standard Operating Procedures – or, an outline of the daily tasks and steps to follow, necessary for a business to run smoothly and turn a profit. 

The Cannabiz is a fresh industry that is becoming legitimized while legalization and licensed businesses quickly increase. 

So, how do SOPs translate for this new market segment and how can you draft a successful plan to forge on a path to good gains? Here we’ll cover everything you need to know on cannabis industry SOPs and how to write operating procedures that work. 

Building a budding business with cannabis SOPs

The cannabis industry has come a long way from being homegrown operations whose main goal is to fly under the radar. 

Now budding businesses are setting a standard for the growing Cannabiz, implementing strong industry practices for profit and success. Like the standard operating procedures, cannabis industry licensees are now increasingly drafting. Not only for the purpose of becoming licensed in the first place but to ensure their structure is set up to run smoothly and beneficially. 

By definition, a standard operating procedure means ‘established or prescribed methods to be followed routinely for the performance of designated operations or in designated situations.’  So you can see why the document would be important for any business, especially in the unfamiliar marijuana market. 

To begin, cannabis entrepreneurs are faced with question #1 – What type of cannabis industry SOP works for me? The answer will lie in the type of business you’ll be branding, and what its main function or ‘operation’ is. 

For instance, if you’re opening up a retail storefront you’ll outline standard dispensary policies and procedures. If you’re starting a cannabis transportation service, you’ll draft business standard operating procedures like any other. For cannabis cultivation SOP’s, your SOP is likely to be more in-depth as strict and specific procedures must be followed for the health and growth of the crop that’s the sole producer of your business’ cash. 

In that case, there are a few categories you’ll want to make sure you clearly define roles and procedures for:

  • Compliance and regulations
    • Testing
  • Management and supervision
    • Training
  • Day-to-day operations
    • Seedlings, propagation, vegetative and flowering
      • Feeding
      • Watering
      • Nutrients
      • IPM
  • Safety, sanitation, and hygiene
  • Harvesting practices
  • Post- harvesting practices
    • Curing
    • Drying
    • Packaging for extraction, transportation, distribution, etc.
  • Waste management
  • Cash handling

How to write efficient SOPs for your Cannabiz 

To create an efficient set of standard operating procedures for any type of Cannabiz, you’ll want to incorporate any variable that your business could come across that would affect the procedures you set for functioning. 

You can do so successfully by conducting risk assessments, or by further including a HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) in your SOP. This step allows your business to achieve success even when hitting a bump in the road. As an example, outline the procedure that managers or grow techs would follow if aphids are suddenly present. 

REMEMBER: not only are your standard operating procedures required to become licensed (and will be scrutinized for safety and security) but they’ll set the stage for every employee and their optimal performance. 

That means beyond the initial drafting, your SOP will only be as successful as it is seen. Ensure every member of your team is equipped with one, and it doesn’t hurt to include appropriate sections, in appropriate areas of your business. Serving as a guide that contains all the pertinent information that one may need at any time, without halting production waiting for an answer from up-top. 

The DOs and DON’Ts of a successful Cannabiz SOP 

Even as new as the cannabis industry is, there is a group of pioneers that have blazed the way for successful cannabiz brands. And it never hurts to learn from the best. When setting out to craft your cannabis industry SOP be sure to follow these tips on how to successfully write operating procedures. 

1. DO Get To The Point 

Being clear and concise with your SOP is most effective for ensuring the procedures are followed. 

REMEMBER: standard operating procedures reflect on ‘how’ the business should be run, not ‘why’. Overflooding the document with unnecessary information, will only deter employees from actually sticking to the script. 

Make sure the tasks and procedures are in an easy-to-understand format, that often includes flow charts, lists, and graphics to better organize the information. 

2. DON’T Rush The Content 

You can’t walk into an industry or business, thinking you’re an expert when the chances are, you’re not. So don’t rush the content of your cannabis industry SOP even if you have an extensive business background or successful start-ups in the past. 

Every new venture holds variables that will differ from another, and rushing an SOP just for license sake can do more harm than good in the long run. Spend time doing the research, and having a hands-on approach to operations before you outline your SOP to ensure you’re not writing a guide that’s reminiscent of the blind leading the blind. 

3. DO Set Up Recording and Performance Measures

With that said, even with all of the planning, drafting, and research put forth towards an SOP, there has to be a way to record and measure performances and certain variables. Or else, your business won’t know where to adjust to being more successful, or what was done exactly, to actually be successful. 

Make sure that your cannabis industry SOP sets up a simple system to track, record, and measure the success of the procedures you set into place. For example, for a cannabis cultivation SOP, this would include a tracking and monitoring system for the nutrients fed to crops. Ensuring the amount, times, and method used, is recorded to measure performance when necessary. Or, to help identify and pinpoint any issues if crops were to go awry for one reason or another. 

4. DON’T Leave Out Responsibilities 

Some business beginners craft their SOP without taking managing roles or supervision positions into consideration. This neglect can cause a lack of responsibility when a procedure isn’t followed correctly, or leave a void on who to turn to when something goes awry or wrong. 

Although you might think drafting a separate employee manual, or guide would be more beneficial (which you should have separately too), don’t leave responsibilities out of your SOP. This can also help the approval of your license, as the regulators responsible for approving will see a clear chain-of-command to keep your business on track and accountable

5. DO Address Compliance & Security 

Speaking of regulators, it should go without saying that your cannabis industry SOP directly addresses compliance measures and security. In the cannabis industry, hitting the mark for testing, track and tracing, packaging regulations, and other compliance factors are vital for being successful. 

Disregarding regulations can literally make or break a product or brand from the beginning. Not only will the licensing committee want to see what procedures your business has in place to ensure compliance, but the SOP will set up the framework for employees to easily and regularly do so. 

Security is also key not just for approval or licensing sake, but for the protection of your inventory, employees, equipment, and of course, cash. 

6. DON’T Overlook Cash 

Last but not least for our tips on how to write operating procedures, don’t overlook including cash handling procedures in your cannabis industry SOP. Especially considering cash is king in the market. 

Even with validated and licensed pot brands, many banks and credit card processing companies remain hesitant to offer accounting solutions. Tracking and tracing how cash is handled will help prevent fraud, stolen or lost income, and clearly manage who handles, counts, and properly stores the flow. 

Give your SOP room to grow 

To finish, every effective SOP typically ends with a ‘change control’ section that allows your operating procedures to be fluid as you grow. This area of the SOP will not only track when and where changes were made but should also outline a procedure for how to make, verify, and distribute the changes when revised

This includes making improvements along the way, as you notice and identify areas that aren’t functioning as optimally as you planned. Keep in mind, your cannabis industry SOP is there as a framework for success but shouldn’t be so strict that it can’t be improvised when necessary. 

Planning for pot success with a winning SOP 

Starting a business is always like diving headfirst into futures unknown. But, with a well-thought-out plan, like standard operating procedures, it can make the new journey that much easier to navigate. Especially in an unfamiliar and still emerging Cannabiz industry. 

So, now that you know how to draft a winning cannabis industry SOP – what are you waiting for? Put these tips and tricks to the test, and set up your future Cannabiz for success, now.  

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About The Author

<a href="" target="_self">Courtney Trzos</a>

Courtney Trzos

To Courtney, it’s always 420 somewhere… After attending Michigan State University and working in communications for over 10 years, she took her passion for cannabis, professionally. In 2017, Courtney began freelancing as a writer for cannabis brands across the globe, promoting the therapeutic and recreational use of the plant, while helping her partner cultivate crops full-time, and learning more about the industry from a seed-to-sale perspective. Get in touch with her and follow her journey at