We Took Alberta’s Mandatory Training for Cannabis Workers. Here’s What We Learned.

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Alberta is one of the first Canadian provinces to launch a mandatory “safe selling” course for employees of its soon-to-be-legal retail cannabis industry.

To work in cannabis retail sales, a citizen must be included on the province’s list of “qualified cannabis workers.” To get on the list, a citizen must take and pass the SellSafe course.

The program, called SellSafe Cannabis Staff Training, is required for Albertans hoping to work in cannabis retail sales.

To attain such a retail job, a citizen must be included on the province’s list of “qualified cannabis workers.” To get on the list, a citizen must take and pass the SellSafe course.

To get a closeup view of the knowledge that Alberta’s looking to instill in its retail cannabis workers, I signed up for Alberta’s SellSafe program. Here’s what I learned.

First of all, the course material and 30-question test do a good job illuminating the sales practices that will be found in the hundreds of private dispensaries planned for the province later this year. Prospective employees will learn about the cannabis plant, specifically the compounds THC, CBD, and the concept of terpenes.

A key component of the training concerns the actual sale of the product to customers, particularly with respect to the prohibition on serving intoxicated people and minors.

A key component of the training concerns the actual sale of the product to customers, particularly with respect to the prohibition on serving intoxicated people and minors. In fact, minors are not even allowed in cannabis stores, and those taking the SellSafe program are told to look for minor-revealing clues, such as avoiding eye contact with workers and nervous fidgeting. Trainees are also told to be on the lookout for youth hanging around a store’s parking lot, who might be angling for an adult willing to buy them the forbidden flower.

Not surprisingly, retail staff can’t be under the influence of liquor or drugs while on duty, and they can’t give anything that resembles legal or medical advice to patrons who come in. That will mean that patrons that use cannabis for a medical purpose won’t be able to ask which strains help certain ailments, but will rather be told to consult with their health care practitioners.

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Entrances must be monitored for youth and intoxicated patrons, and those with signs of intoxication must be escorted out of the store. Employees should arrange safe transportation for an intoxicated individual and must not let them drive.

Some of the material definitely seems like it was copied over from a course designed to teach about alcohol consumption.

Some of the material definitely seems like it was copied over from a course designed to teach about alcohol consumption. “50 Signs of Intoxication” lists “boisterous,” “aggressive,” and “inappropriate sexually aggressive advances” as potential signs of intoxication, all of them phrases more readily associated with booze consumption than cannabis.

Of note: The SellSafe materials report that “hashish is not available for sale in Canada.” While it’s true that only dried and fresh cannabis flower (and decarboxylated, liquid cannabis oil) will be available for sale once the Cannabis Act passes, Canna Care, the federally licensed producer of medical cannabis, has released a concentrated dry-sift kief that somehow technically qualifies as “dried cannabis.” We may see such products permitted on a case-by-case basis in the non-medical market as well.

At the end of the course material comes The Test, featuring 30 multiple-choice questions. To obtain a SellSafe certificate, you must correctly answer 80% of the questions, which is 24 questions or more out of 30. There’s also a time limit of 45 minutes, so you’ll want to make sure you give it your undivided attention.

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According to the SellSafe website, the course requires 4 -6 hours of studying and reviewing materials before the test. But if one really knows their cannabis, they could realistically get through all the content in an hour. And it’s not that hard to get 100%. (I did.)

Paul Dhillon is the founder of Cultivated Solutions, a consulting firm that helps its clients set up legal retail cannabis stores in Alberta. Dhillon said he was happy with the content of SellSafe program.

“I think they did a good job of focusing on the social responsibility of the cannabis worker,” said Dhillon. “It’s reassuring that the AGLC is stepping and in saying that if someone who has medical problem comes on they should go to medical clinic. It’s refreshing for them to say medical and recreational is different.”