When you spend a lot of time in cannabis facilities, you see a lot –

Great decisions, short-sighted decisions, over-built facilities, under-built facilities – the whole gamut.

It’s easy to walk into a facility and immediately start focusing on everything that could be improved, so we wanted to take today to celebrate the victories – things we see done really well with great foresight.

We tasked our team and extended community on LinkedIn to collaborate on this seasonally inspired post to help point out some of their favorite things they see people doing right.

View the complete chain of comments on our LinkedIn page.


The Prompt: 

You arrive on site to assess a vertical cannabis facility. Looking at the operation/facility through your subject matter expert lens, what’s something that if you saw it, you’d be so happy you might high five ownership for their foresight?

The Responses: 

From Brian Staffa:

From my perspective as an operator, things that I want to see start immediately at the door of the facility. 

Is there a checklist of questions that they ask me to verify it’s safe for me to enter the facility at all; things like, have I been in any other cannabis facility today? Have I been in any plant or vegetable garden or a store like Home Depot that contains many plants (and potential pests/pathogens)? And so on… 

Once inside the building and starting to look at the facility – the number one thing I want to see is an extension of the above – how seriously do they take contamination risk mitigation, PPE, and all of the procedures designed to protect the quality of the products being cultivated or manufactured or sold in the building? 

Do all guests/employees enter some sort of change-out / wash-off procedure before donning some type of PPE? Are masks and/or hairnets required? How strictly does everyone take these policies or are they jaded and cutting corners and pretending to go through the motions because they don’t think any of these precautions matter?

If I see solid procedures in place from the moment I arrive on site, that last throughout the entire operational flow of the facility and in every department and last until I leave the facility, I’ll want to high-five ownership. If I see all of this; all of the thousands of little things that add up and are required to be at the top of the market – it’s a sign of great leadership which typically means that the other most important piece that I’m looking for – operational flow – is also present.

From Austin Gray

Brian, I would have to agree that seeing good biosecurity procedures implemented is one of the first things to look for. I also like to see redundancy in HVAC equipment for cultivation rooms, as well as floor drains with pitched floors. There is also something to be said about seeing all the contractors and vendors getting their bills paid. It’s good to know a company is financially stable and takes care of their partners!

  • Brian Staffa Replying:

Austin – you know it’s crazy that the last thing you said has become so true… people literally just paying their bills and taking care of their vendors and their contractors!!

To your other points, redundancy in HVAC is a MUST – I don’t understand how so many survive without that and the floor drains you mentioned. Soooo many facilities didn’t think of drainage -> like how??!

From Jim Megerson:

I look for a lot but what really gets me excited is seeing the grower tracking their actual nutrient solution delivery. Like the photo shows, a graduated container with an emitter and a catch basin under a plant with the same emitter. The difference is the actual nutrient solution transpiring through the plant.


From GMP Collective / Bethany Moore / David Vaillencourt

This is a great question to consider. I spoke with David Vaillencourt about this to get his perspective from The GMP Collective.

Walking into a facility of any kind and seeing a board on the wall that recognizes employees doing the right thing is a wonderful way to show appreciation and foster a positive environment. At a facility where David once worked, they called it the “Caught Ya Doing Something Right.” Like a little Comments Box, there would be a box where employees could note the name of the individual and what they observed, and the Ops Manager would pick 1 a week which would be highlighted on the board.

A great incentivizer to build a culture of quality.

From Amber Staffa:

As a brand strategist, I love to see a shrine to brands produced by the operation. Product display is a natural part of a dispensary conversation, but I’d love to see more producers benefit. Having a powerful emotional display in the entry area of your production facility can:

1 – Subconsciously transfer a personal relationship on to the products. So for instance, Tom works at Green Gardens. I stop over biweekly to meet with him. Tom’s great, he’s my kinda guy. Without realizing it, I think, “Would Tom work at a place that didn’t align with his values? No way.” So for me, now Green Gardens products have taken on the same trust and quality that I associate with Tom.

2 – Instill pride, reminding every employee who walks in everyday what they’re working for. That they’re part of a big unified picture. It connects everyone to the end product, when not every employee may interact with it past their point in the process, especially in larger operations. Subconsciously it invites everyone on the team into QC culture and to be brand ambassadors.

3 – Serve as a ‘free’ billboard for every person who interacts regularly with your building. I know there’s no such thing as ‘free’ square feet in any building, but compared to traditional ad rates, why wouldn’t we capitalize on our most highly visibility space for partners, contractors, regulators and everyone else who enters the building? You will absolutely recoup the cost of your display materials even though there may not be a direct KPI for this.

4 – Ya know who I hear consumes a lot of cannabis? Industry folk who hang out in cannabis buildings. ? And over the long term, all those repeat visuals generate a comfort paradigm. And as humans we get called into that comfort paradigm anytime we feel remotely triggered or unsettled – like when we’re in a Dispensary and we just want something reliable we recognize and that feels safe.

A unique approach to take this to the Nth degree would be to show an evolutionary line of your product skews. Nostalgia is a powerful connector. By doing this you can leverage additional comradery among employees who have been there through several iterations together, like parents who look at their child together and say “my look how they’ve grown…”

From Terry Line:

A process to verify they are using clean starting material each grow.

  •  Brian Staffa Replying:

 Such a great point. Too many people assume that what they’re buying is “clean” – this really strikes a chord with me

From Jason Davidson:

Reheat, color coded scout flags, Aroya, an active owner, and power bills marked as paid.

From Adam Guilbeault:

So many good points in here that need to happen for grows. Brian’s point of biosecurity is critical! With visitors, but especially temp labor that moves from one grow to the next, walking in the next door with the same apparel.

I’ve seen Austin’s HVAC redundancy mostly as an afterthought once a system repeatedly fails and compromises a whole grow. Love the floor drains too. I’ve seen planned but poorly installed drains that part water.

Jim’s note about checking nutrient delivery at the table is not only good practice, but great preventative maintenance for large scale delivery. Even with regular cleaning, fertigation components can fail to deliver input nutrients to the desired output levels.

Jason mentioned scouting, it’s easily put off to the next day when things can be too far gone. Unless you got caught doing something right as Bethany noted. For me, Terry’s note hits closest to home. Too many times, I’ve seen a grow invest large scale capital, once the lights are on and the permits are go, there’s enormous pressure to get started. Too often, that’s the day you see an easily avoided mistake. No proper intake or quarantine period, no clean stock. Just roll the dice and risk months of trouble.

From Michael Zartarian:

Happy Employees. Cannabis production is a team oriented, labor intensive process. More than anything else when the team is happy, well taken care of, valued and listened to the garden reflects it. I’ve seen terrible production systems operated to their full potential by great teams, and brand new state of the art facilities fall into total chaos/disrepair with poor leadership and near 100% turnover rates.

THIS! Michael Zartarian hits it on the head per usual. 

For me cleanliness says a lot when you walk into a cultivation or manufacturing facility. Back to Mike’s point, if the team is happy they will always keep it clean!\

  • Brian Staffa replying:

Well said – you’re so right. When you walk into a building filled with unhappy employees you can physically feel the angst, discomfort and dread and conversely when people are humming along and enjoying themselves because they’re happy and (usually) well-taken care of – it’s a joy to be there. You want to keep going back. Having been one of the employees on the end line way back when, having a good camaraderie with your team makes the day that much more enjoyable – and all of that starts with leadership. Really appreciate this one as it really hits home.

From Xavier G:

Dehumidifiers galore or a super HVACD system, as well as airflow

From Trevor Morones:

We commend people for their active engagement and recognize what works. 

When leadership is on the floor communicating to identify team needs, we have identified a positive team culture. It’s clear when someone is blowing smoke. 

Often, people openly share many details before we engage in conversations.

From Matthew Arkin:

MSDS documents available on display for all employees, and clean PPE ready to go. Love to see when a company cares about the health and longevity of their staff. A healthy crew = a healthy crop.

From Andy Hidalgo:

I really enjoy seeing things like solid compliance measures, a tidy setup, smart workflows, mixing own nutrients, plants that look happy, a well-organized harvest and drying process, and of course, a team that knows their stuff inside out.


Thank you SO much to everyone who took the time to add value here. We appreciate you! 

Align Ops Group – The Cannabis Deep Divers.

Partners in Planning, Expanding & Troubleshooting for Competitive Cannabis & Hemp Operations. We exist to de-risk cannabis start-ups and empower under-performing operators to achieve high performance metrics, with best in class leadership.

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