This Memorial Day, our country will honor military members who gave their lives fighting for our country. For some of us, this is a convenient extra day off filled with chores and grilling. But for others, their day is spent mourning, visiting graves, and reminiscing about their loved ones. This can be a stressful day for some of the bravest members of our society. That’s why having a dispensary that welcomes veterans is so vital to your business.
Among military veterans who reported cannabis use, 41% classified their use as medical – double that of the general population. Symptoms that were reportedly alleviated were chronic pain, anxiety, and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). In fact, out of 61,000 patients seeking medical cannabis cards in 12 states, 10% reported seeking cannabis to mitigate symptoms of PTSD (NORML).
To better understand the upward trending relationship between veterans and the cannabis industry, we spoke with Joseph Parra from Long Beach, California, a veteran who served for 5 years in the Marine Corps. Joseph, who currently works for Tropicanna, a cannabis dispensary in Santa Ana, California, spoke with BLAZE about the impact cannabis has had on his life after serving and why veterans can find comfort in the growing cannabis industry.
Blaze: Has your time as a member of the military encouraged your use of and career in cannabis?
Yes, for sure. Sleep problems, aches, pains, and bodily injuries from five years in the Marine Corps Infantry. I definitely have tried a ton of products that helps me out, so when people call and ask “Hey how’s this,” I’m able to tell them “Yeah, that’s good” or “that helps.”
Personally, I prefer it over other medications, especially pills. The VA gives some of us pills and it just sits at home untouched because it doesn’t really help us.
As a veteran, which products can be most useful or interesting?
As a veteran that’s dealing with too much noise in my head, I tend to stay away from things that amplify that and a strong indica will for sure get my mind to relax and see things through clearly.
I like the full spectrum oil from Cream of the Crop. I actually reached out to them after I tried it because it gave me the best night of sleep in a long time. Also flower, vapes, and other heavy indica products.
A buddy of mine told me the FSO helps with appetite. That’s something I have problems with as well. I tend to eat more at night and I’m not much of a morning person. The VA actually said that was a side effect of anxiety, depression, and PTSD. So I tried that again in the morning, and that opened up my appetite and I was able to eat. Because if I don’t, I’ll most likely feel nauseous and want to throw up and it’s hard to function like that. Things for appetite, pain, and hunger.
I’m also a barber as well so standing, cutting hair, working out and life dealing with my injuries, indicas help me relax and chill out and be present. It’s harder to be present with my family when you’re in pain. It’s a lot easier to be there with my family. I can actually walk around and stand in the kitchen with my daughters.
Does Tropicanna offer a veterans discount?
Yes! Tropicanna always has a 10% veterans discount going on.
Why Should Dispensaries Hire More Veterans?
I think the industry should hire more veterans because when it gets stressful here, it’s not that stressful. I’ve been in a lot of other situations that were way more demanding and stressful. With that experience (in the military), things start moving quickly and it’s not that big of a deal.
Not to mention, me, personally, I’m pretty good with my words. I know a lot of my peers in leadership positions in the military were really great speakers and have no problem being in front of a camera or a big group. I’ve given classes to my platoons all the time about different weapons systems and it’s nothing. It gives you the confidence I think companies would want. We’re very well-spoken, we take care of ourselves, and we’re very organized.
What would you want other veterans who are considering using cannabis to know?
I’d want them to know it doesn’t make you a dirtbag but helps you chill out. I’m friends with my higher-ups and a lot of leaders that clearly struggle with things are so against it. Get rid of that stigma that speaks to that. Be more open to it because a lot of vets that I know – they’re just more put-your-head-down and muscle through it. It’s alright, but I try to live a more chill life after serving and this whole cannabis industry definitely helps.
I just wanted to speak on mental health because that’s been my biggest battle and it’s a battle that led a few of my very close friends to take their life. It’s an ugly battle that a lot of people think we have to fight alone, but we forget that we were taught to be a Team and a Unit so this fight isn’t any different. It’ll take the whole squad to win.
7 Ways Dispensaries Can Attract More Veterans
Show Your Appreciation
Always remember to show appreciation to our military veterans who visit your dispensary. By simply giving thanks and showing your appreciation, you’re encouraging the customer to visit you again. Don’t just thank them for their service, but for shopping at your dispensary as well. Exemplify that your dispensary welcomes veterans and encourages their business through thoughtful and polite interaction.
Target Veterans with Personalized Campaigns and Emails
One of the best benefits of having a sophisticated dispensary POS system is that it lets you compile valuable customer data. When customers sign up with BLAZE, their contact info such as their phone numbers and email addresses are kept in a customer database. Use this contact information to create personalized emails for Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and more. Send them deals your dispensary offers on brands and products that are popular amongst veterans. By doing this, BLAZE creates a customer experience that will drive repeat business.
Fact: Data compiled by Headset shows that Memorial Day cannabis sales grew by $60.5 million last year in 4 states where cannabis use is legal (California, Colorado, Nevada, Washington)
Offer and Promote a Veteran’s Discount
Some dispensaries, like Tropicanna, offer a 10% discount on purchases at all times. This is a great way to not only attract veterans to your dispensary but show your appreciation for their service. Offering a discount to veterans makes them feel welcome, seen, and comfortable. It can entice them to make a return visit. Promote your veterans discount on as many channels as possible including social media so that all customers can be aware.
Listen First, Sell Later
Many veterans, who make up 3% of cannabis consumers, seek cannabis to alleviate symptoms of PTSD and chronic pain from injuries. Not only can a dispensary be a new and uncomfortable environment for them, but confiding that information may not be easy. To help veterans feel comfortable this Memorial Day, ask your budtenders to listen, recognize their needs and make recommendations based on that information. Create an environment in your dispensary that feels open and welcoming. Sales data and analytics are cool and useful, but sometimes nothing beats personal human interaction.
Donate To Veteran Charities and Organizations
For Joseph, the mental toll of his time in the Marines has largely encouraged using cannabis to fight his demons.
“The therapeutic value it has for facing demons…I had to just shove them down in my mind when they first happened. I never really dealt with them. But being able to unwind with herb, I can face my thoughts and come out a better person after the session.”
Other service members aren’t as fortunate as Joseph, however. Roughly 22 veterans commit suicide per day in the United States. This is caused by trauma, PTSD, and adjusting to life after their service. Charities like The National Veteran Foundation, The Wounded Warrior Project, The Gary Sinise Foundation, and The Semper Fi Fund all welcome donations to help veterans all over the country ease back into life or recover from critical injuries. For Memorial Day, consider donating to a non-profit veteran organization. You can raise money through deals on certain products, ask customers for donations, or donate or volunteer your time with your staff. Raise awareness and bring attention to organizations dedicated to helping veterans.
Promote Products That are Useful for Veterans
Last year, sales of edibles were up 13.75% while infused beverages went up 10.4% on the weekend leading up to Memorial Day. More so, Leaflink found that sales on flower jumped 14.13% for the same weekend. Use this and similar data from your dispensary POS to find out which products are most popular around this time and among veterans. With BLAZE Promotions Version 2, you can create bundles, BOGO deals, and more for Memorial Day on products popular with veterans. Use this opportunity to sell products that alleviate pain, like transdermal patches, CBD, and topicals.
Hire More Veterans
Veterans have a treasure chest full of transferable skills that make them charismatic, organized, and professional. They’re reliable go-getters full of purpose and meaning that bring life into your dispensary. Having budtenders who are veterans can also be inviting and encouraging to prospective veterans.
Joseph, a husband, and father of two girls exemplified in our discussion that being a veteran gives him a sense of conviction when recommending products for pain and relief. He, like many veterans, has a propensity for finding those who need help and offering solutions. And the skills he learned in the Marines – like public speaking and teaching – continue to help hundreds of customers like himself experience a better life with cannabis.