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Dispensary Systems Crash On 4/20, Pot’s Biggest Day—In Mass And Beyond

“Every few minutes, one of the cashiers would apologize that the system is down, and say they were moving as fast as they could.”

UPDATE (8:30pm EST, April 21): About three hours after we first published this article, Dutchie answered our request for comment on the 4/20 outage. The report below has been updated to include the company’s response.

After enduring three consecutive years of software malfunctions on the highest holiday in cannabis, clients of Dutchie—including the majority of dispensaries in Massachusetts—have come to expect the popular point-of-sale system to crash on 4/20 like a drunken uncle crashes Thanksgiving: inexcusably, dramatically, and without a sincere followup apology.

Pot shop owners and employees in multiple states where Dutchie operates complained of the company’s services failing this past Saturday, April 20. Per Dutchie’s site, the Oregon-based enterprise “has everything you need to easily run your cannabis business, all in one place.” It boasts, “From point of sale to ecommerce to payments, we offer user-friendly, integrated solutions to help you start—or scale—selling cannabis quickly in-store and online.”

But observers say Dutchie didn’t run so smoothly this weekend, especially when they needed it most. One customer we saw noting the situation was Scott Schultz, who happens to be a professional storyteller and founder of the speaking series BUSted. We asked him to break down the scene at his local dispensary:

I stopped by my neighborhood weed store to pick up one of their one-dollar premium .5 gram joints, which was one of the specials they were having. When I pulled out my ID for the doorman, he told me to stand by the ATM near the wall. It was the day of their biggest specials and the rain had just ended, and eventually, once inside the door, I found what would best be described as a very chill DMV line. There were at least 15 people, which is a lot for this place, and despite five registers being open, the lines were moving at a snail’s pace.

Every few minutes, one of the cashiers would explain and apologize to the line that the system is down statewide, and say that they were moving as fast as they could. A few people saw the line and immediately turned around and walked out. It was interesting to see the range of people in the line though, who came from various generational, gender, political, and economic groups. Despite the inconvenience, most were even-keeled, because half of us were already stoned, and nobody wants to be a 420 buzzkill when we’re all getting a dollar joint or a similar deal.

At the register, I could see that the cashiers had to write down every order into ledgers, because the computers weren’t working. They apologized, and I said there’s nothing to apologize for when you are basically giving away weed and the system is crashing for everyone.

Understandably, business owners (and a lot of other customers) have been far less gracious. Nathan Girard, a co-owner and the CEO of Bloom Brothers in Pittsfield, led the charge with a post on LinkedIn:

Hey Dutchie you are trash. 2 consecutive years my business on its busiest day loses thousands and thousands of dollars because we can’t appropriately process transactions and you can’t even have the decency to upgrade your infrastructure to satisfy your clients. 

This is my last straw with them without a doubt. I’ll be interviewing anyone / everyone else to see if there is a better option out there. After 4 years of working with Dutchie it’s pretty clear their service lacks in sympathy for their clientele and spending money in the right places. Instead of trying to be an insurance company, debit card processing company, back office company, [Metrc] integration company, and a marketplace, how about you focus on your actual business and just be a great damn e commerce pos system. You are the definition of POS but in the negative way.

Bloom Brothers management showed up nearly two hours early on 4/20. They had more than 80 pre-orders overnight, but none from the hour or so leading up to the store’s 9am opening, which indicated that something was wrong. The company uses Dutchie in three places—for e-commerce, to track and trace all sales according to state regulations, and for front-end point-of-sale transactions at the register. When they went to print and advance the 92 pre-orders that managed to process online before they opened on the holiday, Bloom Brothers got a timeout message, essentially saying their retail and inventory systems couldn’t communicate with each other.

On top of back-end pains, their site crashed and customers began calling the landline, with some asking if the shop was open on 4/20. Girard called his contact at Dutchie on their private cell phone around 9am, and was told the company was looking into it. Answers didn’t come fast enough though, and for the first hour-and-a-half of operation, his full team of 26 employees hustled to fill orders using handwritten receipts as all three of the store’s parking lots filled and bigger lines formed. Their site came back online around 10:40am, and by 11:30am they were able to process the backlog, but around noon the system crashed again—this time for more than four hours, leaving the staff inundated and behind.

Girard said he’s been using a hot-pepper scale to explain just how bad the situation was, comparing the meltdown to prior years when Dutchie flamed out on 4/20. If 2023, when “it crashed for 90 minutes,” was a mouthful of jalapenos that caused some moderate but nevertheless substantial discomfort, April 20, 2024 “was a habanero scotch bonnet fuckup.” And to make matters worse, Girard added, Dutchie “never accepts responsibility for anything,” instead blaming servers and other integrated elements that help power their tech stack.

Following our initial posting of this article, Dutchie provided the following statement from CTO Chris Ostrowski: “This year’s 4/20 was a record setting day for the majority of Dutchie powered dispensaries. Our systems powered over 2 million transactions, representing $165 Million dollars in retail commerce – a 50% increase from 2023 4/20. While Dutchie and our partners prepared extensively for this year’s 4/20, a group of customers local to a specific instance of our POS system experienced serious issues that impacted their ability to transact. Dutchie is committed to stability and will be continuing to invest heavily to provide a reliable platform for all customers.”

For many stakeholders, such pledges and concessions may not be enough. (On Monday afternoon, Dutchie told us, “While it was a significant event for those impacted, less than 20% of all customers experienced any performance issues.” At the end of last year, the company announced that it provides services to more than 6,000 dispensaries nationwide, so more than 1,000 shops were impacted.) Other users shared their sentiments from all sides of the customer experience, as well as from other states where Dutchie fell down on its face. Andrea Doyle, who works at the Ashe Lounge Cannabis Consumption Club in Detroit, posted a poignant statement from the sales floor perspective:

Yoooo Dutchie – I know you’ll be doing damage control with all the owners and operators and the big important people this week. But y’all need to at least apologize to all the employees. 

We took on a lot yesterday. We had to listen to customer after customer say “this is ridiculous” under their breath. We had to watch people walk out without tipping because they were in line so long. We had to give away extra freebies to keep people happy. 

It took one man at least a hour to buy two bags of gummies. He wanted more, but I couldn’t get into the back office to get him what he wanted. We were calculating sales tax and discounts on scratch paper at one point.

I know things happen. And people just suck sometimes. But this happens every year, so I feel like y’all can improve? Dutchie and customers alike. Dutchie – Instead of sponsoring events and panels for absurd amounts of money, maybe you should be investing that money into your infrastructure.

Customers – be patient. You chose to shop on the busiest day of the year. And for the love of god, tip your budtenders. We gave the best service we could yesterday and the tips do not reflect how hard we worked.

While some companies reported not having problems with Dutchie on 4/20, many managers and owners expressed their hope to find an alternative, if their company hadn’t already. Nkosi Scott, the director of sales for Coastal Healing in Westport, wrote: “PSA for all retail operators, if you use Dutchie I urge you to look into different systems such as [Blaze] [Treez] etc. with new retailers coming online, saturation of retails in certain markets, and lack of overall exposure to area’s 4/20 is day to gain trust with your community and have them feel the story/ message behind your dispensary.”

We reached out to Treez, which provides point-of-sale “technology, insights and support to streamline operations, increase revenue, and drive profitability,” to see how its systems held up on 4/20. Despite being inundated with sales leads from potential clients looking to jump from Dutchie, a spokesperson got back to us.

“We did see a large increase in volume across our customer base, and we handled it well with no downtime,” they said. “We have internal processes to monitor and ensure our system is running efficiently throughout and triage across our customers by both region and individual instance if need be.”

At the time of this writing, Dutchie has neither updated its homepage nor its social media accounts with any information about its performance on 4/20 or how clients can seek restitution.

Some businesses that use Dutchie are reportedly considering lawsuits. This story is developing.