Midsummer Movement: The Pre-August Recess Rush in D.C.

Photo By CannabisCamera.com

By Michelle Rutter Friberg, NCIA’s Deputy Director of Government Relations

As Congress gets ready to beat the D.C. heat and leave Washington for their annual August recess, there’s at least one thing on their minds: cannabis. 

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) along with Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced their much anticipated Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA), which is now the Senate’s only pending legislation that would provide comprehensive cannabis policy reforms across the nation.

The landmark bill would remove cannabis from the federal Controlled Substances Act and move regulatory responsibility from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and other agencies to protect public health and safety. The bill would also institute a federal excise tax of 5-25% on cannabis on top of the already-hefty state taxes imposed on the industry, concerning advocates for small cannabis businesses and equity operators.

The long-awaited CAOA was introduced after sponsors circulated a discussion draft last year. NCIA and other advocacy organizations provided comprehensive feedback to the bill’s authors last year. Notable changes to the legislation include:

  • Increases the permissible THC by dry weight from the current 0.3 percent to 0.7 percent and refines the definition of “hemp,” and consequently “cannabis” by taking into account the total THC in a cannabis product, rather than just delta-9 THC. 
  • Changes to the weight quantity to qualify a person for felony cannabis distribution or possession charge under the section from 10 pounds to 20 pounds. 
  • Provides that a court shall automatically, after a sentencing review, expunge each federal cannabis conviction, vacate any remaining sentence, and resentence the defendant as if this law had been in place prior to the original sentencing. 
  • Enables a noncitizen who has received a deportation order based on a cannabis-related offense to file a motion to reconsider that decision. If the motion to reconsider is filed within 30 days of the removal order, the motion may allow for the cancellation of the deportation order. 
  • Establishes a new 10-year intermediary lending pilot program in which SBA would make direct loans to eligible intermediaries that in turn make small business loans to startups, businesses owned by individuals adversely impacted by the war on drugs, and socially and economically disadvantaged small businesses. 
  • Removes the requirement to maintain a bond for any cannabis business that had less than $100,000 in excise tax liability in the prior year and reasonably expects excise tax liability in the current year to be below such amount. 
  • Incorporates rules similar to rules currently applicable to permitted malt beverage producers and wholesalers.

While the historic nature of the CAOA cannot be understated, the bill has a multitude of challenges ahead of it. Not all Senate Democrats support the legislation, making the 60-vote filibuster threshold nearly impossible. Plus, with only a couple dozen legislative days between now and the end of the session, time is also working against advocates. 

Dovetailing with the introduction of the CAOA, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Criminal Justice and Counterterrorism will hold a hearing titled “Decriminalizing Cannabis at the Federal Level: Necessary Steps to Address Past Harms” this Tuesday. While the witness list has not been made public as of publication, expect the hearing to focus on the newly introduced legislation and how it would affect communities most impacted by the war on drugs.

In other news, the House and Senate will vote on a revised research bill, the Cannabidiol and Marihuana Research Expansion Act, this week. The bill is expected to pass both chambers and be sent to President Biden’s desk for his signature. The Senate bill is sponsored by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and Brian Schatz (D-HI) and passed by unanimous consent in March. The House bill is sponsored by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Andy Harris (R-MD), and passed 343-75 in April. One of the notable areas of compromise? The House bill would have allowed researchers to do their studies on cannabis that’s actually being sold to consumers in dispensaries. That was removed during negotiations, meaning that researchers will still have to obtain their cannabis from the University of Mississippi’s cultivation facility.  

There’s still time before recess begins, so make sure you stay tuned to NCIA’s podcast, social media, and newsletter to stay up-to-date on all the latest from Washington, D.C.! Interested in making more of an impact? Don’t forget to register for our upcoming 10th Annual Cannabis Industry Lobby Days on September 13-14, 2022!


Service Solutions | 7.13.22 | Scarcity Shouldn’t be Scary – How to Fund Your Growth

NCIA’s Service Solutions series is our sponsored content webinar program which allows business owners the opportunity to learn more about premier products, services and industry solutions directly from our network of established suppliers, providers and thought leaders.

In this edition originally aired on Wednesday, July 13, 2022 we were joined by e2b Teknologies whose team of leading integration & technology experts discussed some easy steps to prepare your business for funding and accelerated growth. As you all know, competition was stiff for funding prior to 2022 but with the current economy and rising interest rates, capital is much harder to acquire today. You should be taking steps get noticed and get the MONEY you need to grow your business now.

Presentation Slide Deck: [View Here]

After viewing you’ll walk away with a better understanding of:

• How to leverage a team properly
• What’s most important – It may not be what you think.
• What’s necessary in terms of reporting, compliance, and record-keeping
• Evaluating potential technology partners

Sit back and settle in for an informative and timely program outlining the challenges facing operators and how you can position yourself for success with the right tools to help succeed at scale.


Joshua Gilstrap
Marketing Manager
e2b Teknologies

Mary Jo Mahood
Practice Manager
e2b Teknologies

Lynne Henslee
e2b Teknologies

Tyler Evinsky
Sales Manager
e2b Teknologies

Sponsored By:










Want to know more about the products and services offered by e2b Teknologies? Head to https://thecannasuite.com/ to learn more today!

Equity Member Spotlight: Banyan Tree Dispensary – Adolfo “Ace” Castillo

NCIA’s editorial department continues the Member Spotlight series by highlighting our Social Equity Scholarship Recipients as part of our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Program. Participants are gaining first-hand access to regulators in key markets to get insight on the industry, tips for raising capital, and advice on how to access and utilize data to ensure success in their businesses, along with all the other benefits available to NCIA members. 

Tell us a bit about you, your background, and why you launched your company.

My name is Adolfo Castillo. People who know me call me Ace. Before I started my first cannabis business, I had a 10-year career in the banking industry. I started in a call center as a customer service associate. I then moved into a traditional banking center where I learned sales and eventually became the assistant manager. It was at the end of my tenure in 2008 that my Tia Eloise was diagnosed with terminal cancer. At the request of my mother, she asked me to get some cannabis in hopes that it would help her sister eat. Although it did not cure cancer, it really helped her appetite and gave her a bit of relief. Unfortunately, my Tia Eloise lost that battle, but it was the relief that I was able to provide that helped bring me peace when she passed away. This all happened around the same time that bill SB 420 was signed into California law, establishing statewide guidelines for Prop. 215. This law paved the way for cooperatives and collectives to begin operating legally in my city. It was at that moment that my love for cannabis became a passion. I felt a need to help more people gain access to cannabis, so I partnered with a friend of mine who sold weed and I took what I had learned about business and applied it to opening my first medical cannabis dispensary.

What unique value does your company offer to the cannabis industry?

I named the dispensary Banyan Tree after an experience I had in Maui about 13 years ago. It was my first visit to Maui so I decided not to bring any cannabis products to avoid any problems at the airport. When I arrived, I asked a few locals where I could find some good smoke and they all pointed me to the Banyan Tree. It was true. As soon as I found the Banyan Tree, I could tell this was the place to be. The smell was in the air and I met some really nice Hawaiians who were happy to hook me up. I want our guests to have the same experience when they visit our dispensary. Banyan Tree is a destination. A place where friends can meet to find quality cannabis.

As a local native, I understand the cannabis culture in my town. The legacy market has thrived for so long in Fresno. One of our biggest challenges will be convincing medicinal users and cannabis connoisseurs to buy their cannabis from a licensed facility and not from the streets. In order to create the best experience possible, it starts with a well-trained, knowledgeable staff. I am lucky to have two educators on my team who have helped me put together a robust employee development program that will ensure that the Banyan Tree staff will be primed for success.

My goal for Banyan Tree is to be the #1 dispensary to work for. I truly believe that the success of your business relies heavily on its employees. I want our employees to have purpose and feel proud of the work they do. Banyan Tree was built upon the idea of helping our surrounding community achieve wellness and enjoyment through cannabis. When you come to Banyan Tree, you will not be rushed, you will feel safe, your questions will be answered, and the price you pay will not shock you.

What is your goal for the greater good of cannabis?

I am hopeful that I will see full legalization in my lifetime. As a cannabis business operator, I would like cannabis to be recognized as a normal commodity and not this taboo substance that has so much negativity around it and red tape. As a business owner, I would like cannabis commerce to transact and be accepted without any special rules in regards to banking and filing federal income tax. As outdated stereotypes are finally fading away, more and more consumers view cannabis as an integral part of their health and wellness routine. I’m confident that in 20 years we will look back at the history of cannabis and just laugh at all the nonsensical rules surrounding cannabis in the early 2000s.

What kind of challenges do you face in the industry and what solutions would you like to see?

Most cannabis operations are running all-cash businesses because mainstream, national banking institutions are not willing to support a federally illegal industry. A small number of state-chartered banks and credit unions have offered financial services to compliant operations, but establishing these relationships continues to be a significant challenge for operators. 

An equally frustrating financial challenge is IRS Tax Code 280E, which states that “no deduction or credit shall be allowed in running a business that consists of trafficking a controlled substance.” This archaic code impacts cannabis businesses across the nation, causing unnecessary fiscal and operational stress.

Why did you join NCIA? What’s the best or most important part about being a member through the Social Equity Scholarship Program?

I joined NCIA through the Social Equity Scholarship program to extend my network of cannapreneurs and to help develop best practices and guidelines that will shape the future of our industry. I would say for me, the best part of being a member of NCIA is the synergy. One of my favorite parts of the program is the “Power Hour.” Each week, Mike Lomuto hosts a zoom meeting dedicated to Social Equity members. It is where we have an opportunity to share ideas and find solutions to the issues we all face in our industry. I am very capable, but I recognize that by fostering relationships and collaborating with others in my industry, I can achieve far more than I could ever achieve on my own.


Member Blog: Cannabis Trends in 2022

by Jennifer Spanos, CannaBusiness ERP

As we approach the end of Q1 2022 and prepare to enter Q2, it’s become clear that this is going to be an important year for the cannabis industry. Cannabis business professionals and investors looking for signs of growth or stagnation in the industry will certainly be interested to see how things unfold. With that in mind, CannaBusiness ERP has put together a list of the top cannabis trends for 2022, and those trends appear to be pointing to more growth. However, it’s clear that difficulties for the cannabis sector are still imminent. 

Cannabis Trends for 2022

It almost goes without saying that the cannabis industry is complex and not without its fair share of challenges as the most highly regulated industry on the market. For businesses looking to grow, keeping up with complicated and evolving regulations can be stressful enough on a business in and of itself. Cannabis cultivators, processors, and consultants can look to cannabis industry trends to inform their operational decisions.

Increased legalization in the United States

Support for legalization in the USA continues to rise. In fact, a 2021 Gallup poll found that 68% of Americans are in favor of legalizing cannabis. Not only is this a record number of supporters, but this percentage also reflects a growing sentiment among Americans regarding the use of legal cannabis.

The changing tide towards legalization is clear – more states passed legislation to legalize cannabis either medicinally or recreationally in 2021, with several more introducing legalization bills in 2022. Because states operate independently of each other, every state will have its own policies as well as regulatory and compliance requirements, which can make things very confusing for cannabis businesses, especially multi-state operators (MSOs).

The National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) provides a map with state-by-state policies, which is one helpful tool for businesses looking to capitalize on expansion opportunities made possible as more states legalize cannabis. CannaBusiness ERP’s Guide to Expanding Into New Markets is another great resource for MSOs that provides state-by-state information, including Nevada, New York and Pennsylvania, and useful advice to consider when expanding into new cannabis markets.

Sales will continue to increase in 2022

Leading cannabis business experts are predicting strong sales growth this year due to the growth in legalized markets for cannabis. In fact, legal cannabis sales reached $19.5 billion in 2020, and experts are projecting sales to reach $30 billion in 2022. Washington State alone, which legalized cannabis ten years ago in 2012, is expected to generate $1.5 billion in sales, up from $1.2 billion sales in 2020. But Washington’s projected sales are small when you compare them to California’s projected sales of $7.6 billion. And as more states legalize cannabis, more sales will surely follow. 

Another contributing factor to increased cannabis sales is related to increased demand and a growing number of product types. More consumers are learning why cannabis can be beneficial to them, including more restful sleep, lowering stress, lessening pain symptoms, and recreational use. Additionally, with so many products on the market, cannabis consumers have many options to choose from, ranging from edibles to tinctures to topical ointments and more.

Cannabis experts are predicting a growth in cannabis consumption lounges – the cannabis equivalent of a bar or restaurant that allows consumers to use cannabis on-site. According to the Cannabis Industry Journal, the popularity of these lounges is growing because they provide consumers with a legal and safe space to consume cannabis. Just as with alcohol, the lounges are regulated according to laws set by each state. 

Increasing sales means cannabis businesses are at a critical junction and need to scale operations to meet the growing demand. One way cannabis growers and processors can capitalize on the demand is by streamlining the business end-to-end with cloud-based cannabis business management software. Otherwise known as Cannabis Cloud ERP, it manages production, cultivation, compliance, inventory, financials and traceability, sales, purchasing, and more, all in one system that lives in the Cloud.

Increased legislative bills and pressure for federalization

Under U.S. Federal Law in the Controlled Substances Act, cannabis is still considered a Schedule I substance. However, as the number of states legalizing cannabis either recreationally, medicinally or both has increased, so too has broader support for federalization in the U.S. government. In fact, there are several bills in the U.S. congressional houses that may positively impact the cannabis industry, especially with banking challenges.

Due to the Schedule I federal classification of cannabis, many banks will not work with cannabis companies, creating tedious banking hurdles that are difficult to solve. The National Law Review writes, “Yet, in comparison to other industries, legitimate licensed cannabis-related businesses remain hobbled by the difficulties they face in accessing traditional banking and financial services – largely due to the fact that ‘marijuana’ is still considered illegal on the federal level under the Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”). Currently, financial institutions (including federally insured banks) are hesitant, and oftentimes unwilling, to work with cannabis-related businesses due to fear of reprisal from federal banking regulators.”

Congressional representatives have introduced a decent amount of bills geared towards making much-needed changes to banking processes for cannabis, such as the SAFE Banking Act of 2021, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in April 2021. It is currently awaiting action in the U.S. Senate with broad support from both sides of the aisle. If it passes both chambers of Congress, the act will allow cannabis companies to have business-critical access to banking and financial services and would reduce their need to operate as cash-only businesses and remove yearly challenges with tax accounting and reconciliation.

In addition to the SAFE Banking Act, there are other bills like U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA), which is a push for federal cannabis legalization as well as an equity play. If passed, it is a measure towards ensuring small businesses and minority-owned businesses have access to financial services.

However, even with the tide of public opinion and legal momentum shifting in the industry’s favor, there remains a challenge with the U.S. tax code. Due to IRS Code Section 280E, if a business is trafficking certain controlled substances, like cannabis, that business is unable to deduct business expenses on their taxes. California has taken steps to address this by signing bills that help cannabis businesses overcome this code, but this is still a prohibitive factor for cannabis companies across the U.S.

Fortunately, cannabis companies that invest in a comprehensive Cannabis Cloud ERP solution with a reputable and experienced industry partner are better able to handle any hurdles that come their way.

Increased Merger and Acquisition (M&A) activity

Merger and Acquisition (M&A) activity has been steady in the industry and 2022 will see even more M&A activity. According to MJBizDaily’s article, “Marijuana M&A sizzled in 2021 and is poised for a hot 2022. Marijuana merger and acquisition activity proceeded at a torrid pace in 2021 – and could accelerate in 2022 – thanks to lower interest costs and pressure on larger companies to expand their footprints and boost revenue.”

Citing prominent cannabis acquisitions in 2021, such as Jazz Pharmaceuticals’ acquisition of GW Pharma (for $7.2 billion) and Trulieve’s acquisition of Harvest Health (for $2.1 billion), it is apparent that M&A is not going to slow down. According to Business of Cannabis, several deals are already taking place in 2022. Massachusetts-based Curaleaf acquired Arizona-based Bloom Dispensaries for $211 million, adding a total of 13 Arizona dispensaries and 121 dispensaries nationwide to Curaleaf’s portfolio.

For cannabis companies dealing in M&As and becoming Multi-state Operators (MSOs), it is essential to have a comprehensive, full-suite Cannabis Cloud ERP system that can run all the companies in one system. It is a crucial ingredient to manage their M&A transactions and handle their financial statements, compliance, business transactions, and more.

Most important of all, cannabis companies need to choose the right cannabis ERP.

Jennifer Spanos is the VP of Product and Vertical Strategy at CannaBusiness ERP. She has 14+ years of experience in cannabis and food manufacturing software and operations, working to maximize the efficiency and profitability of customers’ businesses.

CannaBusiness ERP: The Right Cannabis Business Management Software. Cannabis companies can grow their business with an ERP solution designed for the cannabis industry and for MSOs expanding into new markets. Learn how CannaBusiness ERP can set businesses on the right path. Manage financials, operations, quality, compliance, traceability, customers and more. 

CannaBusiness ERP is cannabis business management software that is built-in Sage X3 and configured by NexTec industry experts to deliver a complete cannabis business solution. Our specialization in developing solutions for the cannabis cultivation and processing industry has resulted in some of the most respected companies around the world managing their day-to-day operation using CannaBusiness ERP. 

To learn more about the fast-paced movement in cannabis legalization and how Cannabis Cloud ERP software can help your company keep pace, reach out to us. We’d love to show you what CannaBusiness ERP can do for your business. 



Member Blog: Tax Rules for Cannabis Companies

by Kaveh Newmen of Edlin Gallagher Huie + Blum

The cannabis industry has grown exponentially as an increasing number of states have relaxed state law prohibitions on the use of cannabis for medical and recreational purposes. However, under federal law, cannabis remains classified as a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). This means that the production, distribution, and possession of cannabis remains illegal on the federal level. 

Schedule 1 Status of Marijuana: State-Legal Cannabis Businesses and Application of Internal Revenue Code Section 280E

Cannabis businesses are treated differently from many other businesses for tax purposes. Under Internal Revenue Code (IRC) §280E (“280E”), which applies to a federal income tax filing, denies deductions and credits for amounts paid or incurred in carrying on the trade or business of cannabis. Cost of goods sold is allowable because it is not considered a deduction, rather it is a reduction of gross receipts (revenue) to arrive at gross profit.  

A report published in March 2020 by the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration examined California and found that over 50% of marijuana companies had likely underpaid the IRS under IRC§ 280E. The report confirms the IRS is preparing to increase marijuana industry audits nationwide in response. 

Currently, the method by which cost of goods sold may be deducted for producers is to use IRC §471(a). This provision discusses how to clearly reflect income by using an inventory method.  Therefore, cannabis producers have less of a 280E problem than retailers and distributors.

After the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), effective for tax years beginning January 1, 2018, a provision was passed in the IRC §471(c). There are various opinions with advisors in the industry on whether this code section and method can be used for retailers and distributors.  The idea behind IRC 471(c) is that “certain small businesses” can meet the gross receipts test of this subsection for any taxable year in which the corporation’s or partnership’s average annual gross receipts do not exceed $25,000,000 for the 3-taxable-year period ending with the taxable year that precedes such taxable year. Pursuant to IRC §448(c)(1), this type of small business may be able to use a “books and records” method for deducting all costs – rather than being limited to cost of goods sold only. In other words, if one uses 471(c)(1)(B) as an accounting method, in theory, they may also be able to deduct selling expenses and all other costs that were previously not allowed as deductions.  

For further discussion on this topic see the following articles: Bloomberg Tax – Cannabis Taxpayers Find Flaws in New Accounting Method Rules and The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act: A Comparison for Businesses

Assembly Bill 37, codified in §17209 of the California Revenue and Taxation Code

Each state in the U.S. is autonomous in that it has the authority to decide whether its income tax laws conform to §280E or not. On October 12, 2019, Governor Newsom signed into law AB 37, which overrides §280E through the following provision:

For each taxable year beginning on or after January 1, 2020, and before January 1, 2025, Section 280E of the Internal Revenue Code, relating to expenditures in connection with the illegal sale of drugs, shall not apply to the carrying on of any trade or business that is commercial cannabis activity by a licensee. – (CAL. REV. & TAX CODE § 17209 (2020).  CAL. REV. & TAX CODE § 17209 (2020).

However, AB 37 only applies to state filings with the Franchise Tax Board and is currently only available until January 1, 2025. AB 37 has no impact on federal tax filings, which is where a majority of cannabis entities pay their income taxes with effective tax rates as high as 25% for corporate taxes and up to 37% for individuals.  

The IRS Lacks Guidance for Cannabis Tax Payers 

The IRS has not published nationwide guidance to taxpayers and tax professionals in the cannabis industry. In addition, cash-intensive business issues unique to the cannabis industry such as IRS §280E and banking limitations will remain unresolved unless and until there is uniformity through federal legalization. As a result, compliance-related issues continue to grow and negatively affect cannabis business owners who operate legally under individual state law. 

Kaveh Newmen is an associate at Edlin Gallagher Huie + Blum who handles cannabis law general litigation, and trucking and transportation matters. Kaveh was admitted to practice law by the State Bar of California in 2021. Kaveh earned his J.D. from the University of San Diego School of Law in 2020, where he was a board member of the Criminal Law Society, the Immigration Law Society, the Middle Eastern Law Student Association, and served as an intern at the school’s Immigration Clinic. He is a first-generation Iranian-American and speaks Farsi.


U.S. Cannabis Business Conditions Survey Report Reveals Critical Concerns for the Cannabis Industry in 2022

by Beau Whitney, NCIA’s Chief Economist

As the largest national trade association of the cannabis industry, NCIA works to advocate for and advance the interests of hundreds of member businesses. The recent publication of the Whitney Economics U.S. Cannabis Business Conditions Survey Report offers a granular look at how respondents are feeling, and what they are worried about. 

Survey description

There were a total of 396 respondents to the Whitney Economics U.S. Cannabis Business Conditions Survey. Respondents were either licensed cannabis businesses or ancillary businesses to the cannabis industry, and were from 20 states across the country. According to the report, the objective of the survey was to “establish a baseline of data, and identify the successes and the challenges that operators in the industry are facing.” 

The survey examined policy, regulatory issues, industry successes, and overall industry sentiment using questions around demographics, questions intended to definitively answer a specific question, and questions with the opportunity to offer multiple responses or comments. We are pleased that NCIA members participated in the survey. Because this survey is intended to be conducted on a quarterly basis moving forward, we expect that a growing number of the NCIA membership will want to participate.

Key Takeaways From the Survey

  • Only 42% of respondents are turning a profit. Further, in terms of profitability, female respondents and non-white respondents are faring much worse than white, male respondents. 
    • While 58% of businesses overall are not making a profit (either breaking even or losing money), 62.5% of female-run businesses are not turning a profit and 67.8% of BIPOC businesses are not turning a profit. 
  • Lack of banking, market volatility, and state & federal taxation are the key issues facing cannabis operators. 
    • 72% of respondents stated that access to banking and other financial services was the top issue facing them.
    • Smaller operators are struggling by being pulled in two different directions. On one side is the competition from the illicit market that competes for the same customers as the smaller operators and the other side is the ever presence of big businesses looking to consolidate the market.
    • Taxation is an issue that impacts all businesses regardless of size. Cannabis operators run the risk of being taxed out of business. State policymakers are focused on state issues without considering the impact of federal policy and federal policymakers are not considering the state policy. This lack of a unified tax policy is creating strain on business operators. 
  • The concerns of the industry are weighing heavier on the minds of operators than are the successes, and this is impacting industry sentiment.
    • Business owners are quite proud of their accomplishments over the past year, from increasing opportunities for women and minorities, to doing more for their workers and educating an ever-increasing clientele.
    • Despite this success though, cannabis operators’ concerns far outweigh their feeling of success and this is impacting the overall sentiment.
    • The word cloud on the successes tells a compelling story.

We are very excited that we have now established a baseline of new data that reflects operator sentiment and business conditions. This can help support the narratives with data when having policy discussions at the state and federal levels and to help shape strategy for operators in this space.

“We are delighted on how this initial survey turned out and look forward to surveying the cannabis landscape regularly in the future. We really appreciate the support we received from leading national cannabis organizations such as NCIA.” – Beau Whitney

A Full Plate For Congress – Status Update for SAFE Banking, MORE Act, CAOA, and Veterans

Photo By CannabisCamera.com

by Michelle Rutter Friberg, NCIA’s Deputy Director of Government Relations

I’m not sure if you’ve seen the news, but Congress has had a lot on its plate recently: negotiations over infrastructure, the budget, the debt ceiling, reconciliation, not to mention the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic! And while the path to cannabis reform has been slightly overshadowed by some of these larger issues, for the time being, the NCIA team is continuing to work tirelessly and incessantly on your behalf to enact legislation that would help you and your business. Let’s take a look at some of the more recent developments from Washington, D.C: 

SAFE Banking:

Last month, the House passed the language of the SAFE Banking Act for the fifth time via the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). NCIA and our allies on Capitol Hill are always trying to be creative and come up with new, different avenues to advance our policy priorities, and the NDAA was a great opportunity that we were able to take advantage of! NCIA will continue to work with members of the Senate Armed Services Committee and other stakeholders to push for the SAFE Banking Act to be included in the final bill language. Stay tuned as the NDAA process unfolds throughout the remainder of autumn.

The MORE Act:

Also last month, the House Judiciary Committee passed the MORE Act out of committee by a vote of 26-15 but the bill still has a long journey ahead of it. It’s unlikely that committees like Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce will waive their jurisdiction again, and it’s critical to remember that the chamber actually became slightly more conservative following the 2020 election. Committee schedules are jam-packed right now, however, we continue to meet with those with jurisdiction over the MORE Act and encourage them to take up this important piece of legislation.


The discussion draft of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA) was unveiled back in July by Senate Majority Leader Schumer (D-NY), Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ). In the following month, NCIA worked diligently with our Evergreen Roundtable, board, committees, social equity scholarship members, and others to provide detailed feedback on various topics as requested by the Senators. NCIA continues to be a resource for the Sponsoring Offices and committees of jurisdiction, however, official bill introduction likely won’t happen until early-2022.


Last week, the House Veterans Affairs Committee: Subcommittee on Health held a hearing on a number of bills; among them H.R. 2916, the VA Cannabis Research Act of 2021. While this bill is not a piece of NCIA priority legislation, we applaud the committee, longtime sponsor and ally Congressman Correa (D-CA), and their teams for discussing this important topic. Of note is testimony from Dr. David Carroll, Executive Director at the Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). His testimony is only about a page long, but the gist is that the VA does not support this bill. I’d also like to highlight the statement Rep. Correa submitted for the record, which you can find here

Even though Capitol Hill’s bandwidth is stretched, NCIA will continue our work in Washington, D.C. to get these (and other) cannabis provisions enacted into law. Have questions or thoughts? Find me over on NCIA Connect! 

Take A Survey: U.S. Cannabis Industry Sentiment and Business Conditions

NCIA chief economist and his cannabis economics firm, Whitney Economics, are collaborating with NCIA to conduct a national survey of businesses and stakeholders in the U.S. cannabis industry. Below, please find a link to the Survey of U.S. Cannabis Industry Sentiment and Business Conditions. It examines the key issues facing the industry including what you are experiencing when doing business in the industry. The survey seeks to investigate what is working and what can be improved from the perspective of businesses and stakeholders in the cannabis industry.

The goal of the survey is to tabulate ancillary business and cannabis operator opinions on the state of the U.S. cannabis market. Responses are confidential and will be kept anonymous.

Your participation and insights will help policymakers understand the issues that face the industry from your perspective. The survey takes between 4–5 minutes to complete. Please complete the survey by Sunday, October 31.


The initial analysis will be made available to all participants later this fall.

If you have any questions regarding the survey, please contact Beau Whitney from Whitney Economics at Beau@whitneyeconomics.com

Thank you for supporting this survey.

Member Blog: How to Avoid Compliance Issues with Your Cannabis Business

By Jo-Anne and LaKia, Greenspace Accounting

All businesses must adhere to tax rules and regulatory compliance, but for cannabis companies, the laws are significantly more challenging to navigate. The cannabis industry has specific tax rules that differ from other sectors, and failing to follow them can result in severe financial and legal implications.

At Green Space Accounting, we know that managing your finances as a cannabis company can be much more complicated than the average start-up. Keeping a compliant financial system in place is not always easy with constantly changing state laws and regulations. 

Here are a few tips on how to avoid compliance issues with your budding cannabis business.

Have Your Business Documentation in Order

One of the first steps to staying compliant is to have all the appropriate financial information and licensing for your business on hand. 

Always be prepared with copies of your cannabis license, information from your seed-to-sale tracking system, and your point of sale software records. Having this paperwork, along with legal documents like operating agreements, Articles of Incorporation or Organization, and EINs will ensure that you have a fully compliant relationship with your bank, as well as local and state government. 

It’s also a good idea to have detailed records on all sales transactions within your business, especially ones dealing with cash. Cash is used more frequently in cannabis dispensaries than in other retail industries. Having proper cash-handling procedures in place can save you from theft and keep you ready for any unexpected auditing. 

Stay up to Date with State and Local Regulations

It’s important to remember that regulations surrounding cannabis change over time, so monitoring your state legislature and all applicable state and local agencies is crucial to keeping your business compliant. By making yourself aware of the rules for the cultivation, manufacturing, and distribution of cannabis, you can avoid the risk of fines or legal action and build a better relationship with your local government, law enforcement, and, most importantly, customers. 

One way to stay up to date with regulatory compliance laws is to consume state and industry news surrounding cannabis daily. Not only do these publications keep you informed on business and consumer trends, but they also avoid complicated legal jargon, speaking directly to business owners in a way that’s easy for them to understand. 

Here are a few recommended industry news sources:

Another great way to stay on top of state and local cannabis laws is to network and build relationships with your local regulators. While maintaining compliance internally is the biggest goal, creating an ongoing relationship with the regulators in your area can help you better understand the changes within the industry and the steps you can make to conduct business more transparently.

Develop SOPs, Training, and Reporting Systems

Think of these SOPs as a set of rules that all employees need to abide by to keep your company’s production, sales, and accounting processes consistent and safe. Having a set of standard operating procedures can help you recognize potential compliance issues and fix them before they occur. These procedures can include an employee handbook on proper handling and storage of cannabis consumables to installing a seed-to-sale tracking system for inventory management purposes. 

The best way to stay on top of your SOPs is to create reports, checkbooks, and logs in all aspects of your operations to show regulators that you are a transparent business that has a complete understanding of your state’s compliance laws. Frequent compliance training sessions are also an effective way to educate your entire team on the legal and tax regulations associated with your business.

Cannabis Payroll

To avoid issues concerning payroll, installing time tracking software for employees is also a great way to keep your staff organized and stay on top of the 280E tax code. The 280E law denies cannabis businesses federal income tax deduction for operating business expenses, which means that the wages for some employees may be deductible, and some may not be. By introducing software where employees can specify the tasks they’re doing and track the salaries they’re receiving, you’ll stay compliant with the tax code and better understand the productivity your team is generating. 

Frequently Audit your Business

Hiring an outsourced accounting team to audit your cannabis business is a great way to avoid any potential risks regarding compliance. Auditors serve as an additional, unbiased set of eyes that will examine all areas of your organization and identity aspects that might need improvement. 

If you are looking to stay on top of the legal and tax regulations for your cannabis business on a tight budget, self-auditing your company is a great way to check whether or not your training, bookkeeping, and SOPs are being appropriately implemented.  

Entrepreneurs who belong to the National Cannabis Industry Association can receive discounted access to an acclaimed compliance management platform created by Simplifiya, which gives licensed operators a self-audit checklist that helps them identify, track, and mitigate potential issues before it’s too late. The platform also provides templates for creating SOPs customized for each license type and tied directly to your state regulations.

The Bottom Line

Whether you are a start-up, a growing business, or a multi-state operator, complying with federal and state compliance laws is essential. By following the above tips and staying transparent with your employees, partners, and investors, you’ll be ready for any audit that comes your way.

Whether you’re looking for cash flow management, business planning, or internal controls, our team is dedicated to helping you achieve peace of mind when it comes to your company’s finances and compliance. We understand that the financial side of your business can be daunting, complicated, time-consuming, and most of all: stressful. You don’t need to go through it alone. Our team is prepared to help you achieve your financial goals. Whether you’re looking to earn more revenue, scale your business or achieve a little peace of mind, you can trust Green Space Accounting to guide you.

Video: NCIA Today – July 9, 2021

NCIA Deputy Director of Communications Bethany Moore checks in with what’s going on across the country with the National Cannabis Industry Association’s membership, board, allies, and staff. Join us every Friday on Facebook for NCIA Today Live.

Registration to our Midwest Cannabis Business Conference in Detroit is now open with special limited-time super early bird pricing on tickets available, head to www.MidwestCannabisBusinessConference.com today!

Mid-Year Update on 280E and its Impact on the Cannabis Retail Sector

by Beau R Whitney, NCIA’s Chief Economist

The first half of the year was a strong one for cannabis revenues. After a strong first quarter, with $5.9 billion in revenue, cannabis retailers are experiencing continued growth in Q2 with preliminary results coming in at $6.2 billion to $6.5 billion.

If this trend remains in the second half of the year, the cannabis retail sales are projected to be $24.5 to $25 billion for the year. This would reflect another cycle of 35% year-over-year growth.

Source: Whitney Economics, Leafly


Strong growth in the first half of the year, does not necessarily mean huge profits for the cannabis industry.

While the industry has seen strong growth over the past year, this does not necessarily mean that the industry as a whole is in good shape. Retailers are struggling to make profits due in a large part to federal taxation. IRC 280E does not allow entities conducting business in federally illicit trade, such as cannabis, to write off common and ordinary deductions from their federal taxes. As a result, cannabis operators pay significantly more taxes than other businesses. This has long been an issue with the cannabis industry and organizations such as NCIA has been working tirelessly to address this, but as long as it remains a federal policy it will be negatively impacting the industry.

Cannabis retailers are taking the brunt of federal tax policy.

With over $12 billion in first-half revenues, cannabis retailers will be on the hook for $1.2 billion in federal taxes for the first half of the year alone. This is $756 million more than what “normal” businesses would pay. Cannabis retailers are forecasted to pay over $1.5 billion more in taxes in 2021 and, when combined with the rest of the supply chain, will pay over $2.2 billion in additional taxes in 2021.

280e Example of Impact on Retail Normal Business   280E Business Comment
Retail mid-Year Revenue  $12,000,000,000    $12,000,000,000  Based on data from Whitney Economics
Cost of Goods Sold (COGS = 50%) $6,000,000,000    $6,000,000,000   
Ordinary and Necessary Expenses (30%) $3,600,000,000    $3,600,000,000  Not allowed under 280e
Real Pre-Tax Profit w/o 280e $2,400,000,000    $2,400,000,000   
Taxable Profit $2,400,000,000    $6,000,000,000  Big difference in taxable rates
Fed Tax @21% * $504,000,000    $1,260,000,000  Retailers pay 150% more
Effective tax rate 21.0%   52.5% Some effective tax rates approach 60%-70%
Net Annual Profit (Before State Tax and Debt Service) $1,896,000,000    $1,140,000,000  A difference of $201,000 per year per retailer

Source: Whitney Economics
*Assumes taxed at C-corporation rates

The effective tax rate is forecasted to increase with corporate tax increases.

The effective tax rate increases significantly for retailers and in many cases exceeds 60% to 70%. The level of additional taxes that cannabis operators pay, over the course of the next five years, will increase by an average of $630 million per year for the industry if the business tax rates increase from 21% to 28%. Depending on how corporate tax policy negotiations are settled, things may go from bad to worse for cannabis retailers.

Cannabis retailers are struggling to make ends meet.

Based on sales data from 2020, there were over 7,550 licensed cannabis retailers in the U.S. with each retailer generating an average of $2.4 million per year. This is right around the amount of revenue required to be a sustainable retail business. In 2021, there have been roughly 1,000 more retailers licensed and even with an increase in sales, retailers are only forecasted to average $2.7 million per year.in sales. In fact, in 13 states, retailers are not projected to average the $2.4 million per year to remain viable. While retailers in some states may be OK, other retailers are not able to make ends meet. 

What do these numbers tell us?

IRC 280E will reduce cannabis retailers cash flow by $200,000 in 2021 and that $200,000 would go a long way in shoring up the finances and provide retailers with the breathing room they need to remain viable. 280E reform would allow retailers to pay for health care for more employees, hire more workers and expand their business. However, in the current environment, many cannabis operators will continue to struggle. 

The key message here is that retailers are under duress due to 280E and policy reform in the area of federal taxes may make the difference between success and failure. The time for reform is now, before it is too late.

Learn more in a recent NCIA Fireside Chat webinar with an all-star panel of accounting experts and operators to dive deep into all things 280E.




Video: NCIA Today – July 2, 2021

NCIA Deputy Director of Communications Bethany Moore checks in with what’s going on across the country with the National Cannabis Industry Association’s membership, board, allies, and staff. Join us every Friday here on Facebook for NCIA Today Live.

Registration to our Midwest Cannabis Business Conference in Detroit is now open with special limited-time super early bird pricing on tickets available.
Head to www.MidwestCannabisBusinessConference.com today.

Supreme Court of Cannabis?

Photo By CannabisCamera.com

By Michelle Rutter Friberg, NCIA’s Deputy Director of Government Relations

While it’s become commonplace to hear cannabis come up in the halls of Congress, and increasingly so in the White House, there’s one branch of government that has been quieter on the topic: the Supreme Court (SCOTUS). However, this week, conservative Justice Clarence Thomas changed that when the court actually declined to weigh in on a 280E case. 

Towards the end of 2020, a Colorado medical cannabis dispensary decided to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review a lower-court decision that allowed the IRS to obtain business records in order to apply the 280E provision of the tax code. (Fun fact: NCIA member Jim Thorburn, of the Thorburn Law Group, was actually the counsel on record for this appeal!) According to the filings, the IRS overstepped its authority and also violated the company’s Fourth Amendment privacy rights. Some of the questions the company took to the highest court in the land:

  • Does the Fourth Amendment protect taxpayers from having confidential information released to the IRS and federal law enforcement authorities?
  • Does the application of Section 280E to state-legal marijuana businesses violate the federal constitution? 

Again, while SCOTUS declined to consider this appeal, Justice Thomas took issue with the underlying state/federal discrepancy in the country’s cannabis laws and issued a searing statement. He specifically discussed a 2005 ruling by SCOTUS in a case called Gonzales v. Raich. In this ruling, the court narrowly determined that the federal government could enforce prohibition against cannabis cultivation that took place wholly within California based on its authority to regulate interstate commerce. Check out a few excerpts from Justice Thomas’ statement below: 

  • “Whatever the merits of Raich when it was decided, federal policies of the past 16 years have greatly undermined its reasoning. Once comprehensive, the Federal Government’s current approach is a half-in, half-out regime that simultaneously tolerates and forbids local use of marijuana. This contradictory and unstable state of affairs strains basic principles of federalism and conceals traps for the unwary.” 
  • “Given all these developments, one can certainly understand why an ordinary person might think that the Federal Government has retreated from its once-absolute ban on marijuana. See, e.g., Halper, Congress Quietly Ends Federal Government’s Ban on Medical Marijuana, L. A. Times, Dec. 16, 2014. One can also perhaps understand why business owners in Colorado, like petitioners, may think that their intrastate marijuana operations will be treated like any other enterprise that is legal under state law.” 
  • “As things currently stand, the Internal Revenue Service is investigating whether petitioners deducted business expenses in violation of §280E, and petitioners are trying to prevent disclosure of relevant records held by the State. In other words, petitioners have found that the Government’s willingness to often look the other way on marijuana is more episodic than coherent.” 
  • “This disjuncture between the Government’s recent laissez-faire policies on marijuana and the actual operation of specific laws is not limited to the tax context. Many marijuana-related businesses operate entirely in cash because federal law prohibits certain financial institutions from knowingly accepting deposits from or providing other bank services to businesses that violate federal law. Black & Galeazzi, Cannabis Banking: Proceed With Caution, American Bar Assn., Feb. 6, 2020. Cash-based operations are understandably enticing to burglars and robbers. But, if marijuana-related businesses, in recognition of this, hire armed guards for protection, the owners and the guards might run afoul of a federal law that imposes harsh penalties for using a firearm in furtherance of a ‘drug trafficking crime.’” 
  • “Suffice it to say, the Federal Government’s current approach to marijuana bears little resemblance to the watertight nationwide prohibition that a closely divided Court found necessary to justify the Government’s blanket prohibition in Raich. If the Government is now content to allow States to act “as laboratories” “‘and try novel social and economic experiments,’” Raich, 545 U.S., at 42 (O’Connor, J., dissenting), then it might no longer have authority to intrude on “[t]he States’ core police powers . . . to define criminal law and to protect the health, safety, and welfare of their citizens.””

Just to be clear, these statements don’t change the law of the land, nor do they indicate formal policy developments. They do, however, show that the constantly shifting public perception of cannabis is affecting the way we as a society think about marijuana, which will, at some point, translate into policy. It’s no small feat that one of the most conservative justices on the Supreme Court has weighed in so substantially on this topic. Continue the momentum and join the movement with NCIA!



Video: NCIA Today – June 11, 2021

NCIA Deputy Director of Communications Bethany Moore checks in with what’s going on across the country with the National Cannabis Industry Association’s membership, board, allies, and staff. Join us every Friday here on Facebook for NCIA Today Live.

Labor Supply Shortage Represents a Significant Risk to the Cannabis Industry in 2021

by Beau Whitney, NCIA’s Chief Economist

Supply tightness in the labor market represents a significant risk to cannabis operators heading into the summer months. With the potential of wage inflation adding to the costs of businesses, many operators that are struggling to make ends meet due to the economic stresses associated with 280E now face higher labor costs. This labor tightness and higher costs could not have come at the worst time.

The recent U.S. Bureau and Labor Statistics jobs report for May, published on Friday, June 4, 2021, indicated that there were 559,000 jobs added in the U.S. economy. This amount was lower than what analysts had predicted, but still strong nonetheless.

The report also showed that the labor force participation rates held steady which is a good sign that people are not getting too frustrated with their job search. The BLS data also indicated that there are still 9.3 million workers unemployed. Even with these higher numbers of displaced workers, this level is roughly 3.6 million workers higher than it was pre-pandemic when unemployment was at record lows. Considering that 1.1 million workers are on temporary layoff status, a remaining 2.5 million delta is a significant improvement relative to the 18.0 million workers displaced in April of 2020.

While there are differing opinions on policy on how to support the unemployed, the key point here is that the labor force is significantly tighter than what most believe and this could become a major issue for the cannabis industry.

Why should cannabis operators care about a BLS update on employment?

Ever since the great recession, there have basically been more workers than jobs. As a result, employers could pick and choose who to hire and offer them lower wages. This recent job report indicates that now there are more jobs than workers, so workers now have the upper hand when it comes to supplying their labor. This is resulting in wage inflation and labor shortages.

This should be a concern for cannabis operators. Labor is one of the highest costs for operators and if wages continue to rise, this will put a squeeze on already slim margins. Reduced labor availability is already being felt across the country and could become very acute as more labor is required to handle increased retail sales and as the outdoor cultivation industry heads into harvest season. Product manufacturers and retailers are already seeing spot shortages even in states where cannabis operators receive living wages such as in Oregon and Colorado.

Those with more resources can afford to pay higher wages.

In reaction to these labor shortages, some MSOs are offering incentives and sign-on bonuses in order to attract workers, even for positions not requiring highly skilled workers. Unfortunately, smaller businesses may not be able to afford these types of incentives. As a result, this will continue to create competitive advantages for MSOs and to generate opportunities that favor larger firms over smaller ones. 

What impact is there beyond higher costs?

Higher costs are not the only concern for cannabis operators. The heavy burden associated with paying higher federal business taxes due to 280E is already driving smaller operators out of the market or forcing them into consolidation with larger, well-financed firms. Smaller entities already have higher costs. The additional risks associated with labor shortages and higher wages could force more operators who are on the edge, into consolidation as well.

What should smaller operators do in response to higher wages?

Operators who cannot absorb the higher costs for labor, may need to find additional areas in which to cut costs. Unfortunately, this may involve doing more with less (fewer workers), bringing in automation, or reducing product offerings (lower inventory overhead). A common area of cost-cutting is also healthcare, but in an environment of high competition for a limited labor pool, reducing benefits may not be an option.

Federal tax reform would help considerably

While many other programs at the federal level have helped struggling businesses outside of the cannabis space, federal tax reform could be a simple, yet elegant solution that would provide widespread relief to struggling cannabis operators and free up cash flow to help offset wage increases. 

In the meantime, the anticipated growth in the overall market may decelerate slightly as the industry encounters headwinds as we head into the summer and fall. 

NCIA is working with members of Congress to highlight how critically important sound policy is to cannabis operators across the country and how tax reform makes good economic sense. Bringing the voices of cannabis business owners to congress is a very powerful tool in the effort to reform cannabis laws. Now it is up to Congress to act.

Member Blog: The Most Common Gotchas When Calculating Dispensary Sales Tax in California

by Daria Nagal, CPA, EA, at Red Eye CPA

California dispensary sales tax seems easy. After all, what can be difficult about sales tax? However, the cannabis sales tax formula is extremely confusing and contradictory. Cannabis accountants argue with cannabis attorneys about interpreting the CDTFA and California Code of Regulations.

But let’s start with the basics. Who pays dispensary sales tax in California, when is it paid, and how? You can manually set up the calculation of sales tax in your point of sale system. If the POS setup is correct, the dispensary customer ends up paying the correct sales tax. If the POS setup was done incorrectly, the client ends up paying the wrong amount and the responsibility for overwithholding or underwithholding lies on the cannabis dispensary. The dispensary is required to remit gathered sales tax to the CDTFA. The bill can be paid online, as long as the dispensary has a business bank account. The CDTFA will also accept cash. Depending on the size of the dispensary, the CDTFA sets up different payment plans. Bigger dispensaries are required to remit sales tax monthly. This arrangement is called the “prepayment plan.” The dispensary remits its tax each month, but files its tax return only a month after each quarter ends. Smaller dispensaries are not required to make monthly payments. They only need to pay four times a year to account for each quarter. 

The CDTFA welcomes phone calls. Anyone from customer service can look up your account and answer basic questions. You don’t need to have a power of attorney for informational phone calls. However, the CDTFA assigns individual tax specialists to all of their big cash cows. And if you are one of those successful dispensaries, you need to know that out there you have your own business tax specialist that overlooks your activity and watches your steps. Only that specialist can waive interest and penalties on your account. To talk to him or her, you will need a signed POA.

Before we get into the boring tax calculation rules, I want to let you know that I have already written about this topic in my blog. The blog has visual instructions and is much easier to digest. You can find it here: https://redeyecpa.com/blog/california-dispensary-sales-tax/

Now let’s get in the dirty tax work and figure out how the dispensary sales tax is calculated. The cannabis sales tax is levied on the product’s cash price plus its excise tax. So, you can’t calculate your sales tax unless you know the correct excise tax. Currently, the excise tax is 15% of the retail price. For example, if you sell your product for $100, your client would have to pay $15 of the excise tax. Your sales tax will be calculated based on $115 ($100+$15). There is also a minor detail: non-cannabis products are taxed with the sales tax but are exempt from the excise tax. This means that you may mistakenly over-collect the sales tax if your POS is set up to levy the excise tax on non-cannabis products.

Furthermore, another aspect of sales tax computation: cannabis sales with medical state cards are not subject to sales tax. However, if a customer shows a doctor’s recommendation letter, he or she is still required to pay sales tax. Only state cards allow waiving of the sales tax requirement. Also, make sure that your product is being taxed net of all discounts. Discounts bring down the product’s price, and we always base our tax calculation on what the customer pays out of pocket. You should consider all of this when setting up the dispensary’s point of sale system. Boring and complicated, right? We are not even close to being done. 

Now let’s talk about sales tax rates. The sales tax rate is determined by the zip code of the dispensary. Things get more complicated if you decide to deliver products to your clients. In case of the delivery, the sales tax rate will be based on the zip code of your customer. Therefore, you must update the POS with the correct sales tax rates for your delivery area. Also, according to Revenue and Taxation Code Section 6102, you must levy sales tax on delivery and safety fees if you charge those to the customer. As you can see, the home delivery option may jack up your customer bill. I recommend you inform your customer about his/her total bill price before delivery. Otherwise, you risk angering the person and losing them as a client.

Any mistake on the sales tax calculation lies on you, the cannabis dispensary. The CDTFA won’t chase unsuspecting customers. The agency will come directly to you, and you would have to provide reasoning for your calculations. If you under-collect from your customers, you will end up paying up the difference plus penalties and interest. If you over-collect the tax, you will end up remitting it to the CDTFA as well. You cannot keep over-collected cash. You didn’t earn this money, and should your customers or competitors find out, you will be at risk of a liability suit. 

Daria Nagal is an Enrolled Agent and Certified Public Accountant in California. She is the founder of Red Eye CPA, an accounting firm specializing in Cannabis accounting and taxation. When not reading NCIA blogs, she enjoys spending time with her family, walks on the beach, and baking brownies with Mary Jane.


Member Blog: Rolling Out Legal Cannabis in New Jersey – 15 Key Points from the Proposed Law

by Charles J. Messina, Esq. and Daniel Pierre, Esq. of Genova Burns LLC

Many are thrilled that the Garden State will finally allow recreational use of cannabis for adults aged 21 years and older. Before recreational use can become legal, however, we have to wait for Trenton to pass a law that will regulate New Jersey’s cannabis marketplace. Determined to get the ball rolling, Senators Nicholas Scutari and Stephen Sweeney recently introduced a 200+ page bill, S-21, to start the process for legalization. This article highlights major points from the bill you should know if you’re looking to join this emerging industry. 

  • Is adult-use (recreational) of cannabis currently legal in New Jersey?

No. Although New Jersey voters approved the referendum that amended the State Constitution to legalize the recreational use of cannabis for adults age 21 years and older, recreational use is not legal until New Jersey lawmakers pass a bill that regulates recreational use of cannabis.

  • When will New Jersey lawmakers pass the enabling law? 

It is uncertain when the enabling law will pass. But Senator Nicholas Scutari said he wants the bill to hopefully pass before the end of this month. Two days after the referendum passed in New Jersey, he and Senator Stephen Sweeney introduced Bill S-21 – “New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act.” If passed, the bill will legalize the personal use of cannabis for adults subject to regulation by the Cannabis Regulatory Commission. 

  • What is the Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC)? 

The CRC is a panel of five appointed individuals who will be responsible to oversee the development, regulation, and enforcement of use and sale of cannabis in New Jersey. The CRC will also implement the legislation that Governor Murphy will ultimately sign to legalize recreational use within the state.

  • Who are the CRC members? 

As of today, only two appointees have been named – Dianna Houenou, who will serve as the CRC Chair, and Krista Nash as a member. Although we are still waiting for the remaining three members to be named, we know that Jeff Brown – the Assistant Commissioner of the Department of Health, who currently leads the medicinal marijuana program in New Jersey – has been tapped to become the first Executive Director of the CRC. 

  • What are the CRC’s powers? 

The CRC has the authority to, among other things, adopt, amend or repeal regulations that control the cannabis marketplace. It can also grant, refuse, suspend, revoke, cancel, or take actions otherwise limiting licenses or conditional licenses related to cannabis. 

  • What are the different types of cannabis licenses contemplated in the proposed legislation? 

Currently, there are six classes of licenses:  

  1. Class 1 Cannabis Grower license – permits growing, cultivation, or production of cannabis in New Jersey. 
  2. Class 2 Cannabis Processor license – permits manufacturing, preparing, and packaging of cannabis. 
  3. Class 3 Cannabis Wholesale license – permits the storage and sale of cannabis strictly for resale. 
  4. Class 4 Cannabis Distributor license – permits the intrastate transportation of cannabis in bulk. 
  5. Class 5 Cannabis Retailer license – permits the sale of cannabis directly to members of the public. 
  6. Class 6 Cannabis Delivery license – permits delivery of cannabis from a retailer to the public. 

Also, the bill was recently amended to allow the CRC to create a new license category. 

  • Can individuals or small businesses apply for any of the licenses? 

Yes. Under the current version of the bill, at least 25% of the total number of licenses in each class are reserved solely for microbusinesses. “Microbusiness” is defined as a person or entity with business operations that employ no more than 10 employees. Reserving 25% of licenses for small businesses is intended to, among other things, prevent interstate megabrands from completely dominating the marketplace in New Jersey. 

  • Are there any restrictions placed on microbusinesses? 

Yes, in order to qualify as a microbusiness under the proposed legislation, you cannot process more than 1,000 cannabis plants each month, operate a cannabis establishment that occupies more than 2,500 square feet, or acquire more than 1,000 pounds of cannabis in dried form for retail, resale, or processing each month. 

  • Can I personally grow cannabis from my house for personal use or retail? 

No. There is currently no “home grow” component to the bill.

  • Can I hold two classes of licenses concurrently? 

As currently written, there are certain restrictions with respect to holding two classes of licenses concurrently. In particular, once retail sales of cannabis begin, there is supposed to be an 18-month limitation on the number and classes of licenses any one licensee may hold. During this 18-month period, the current bill prohibits a licensed grower, processor, wholesaler, distributor, or delivery service licensee to also become a licensed retailer, and vice versa. Also, a grower or processor may only concurrently hold two licenses – either another grower or processor license – for now.

  • How do I apply for a license? 

Not so fast…first, the remaining appointment of the CRC Commissioners needs to happen along with the promulgation of regulations by the CRC. Then at some point in 2021, an application round for licenses should be announced. Each application for an annual license to operate a cannabis business must be submitted to the CRC.  A separate license or conditional license will be required for each location where a cannabis establishment seeks to operate (or for the location of each premises from which a cannabis distributor or delivery service seeks to operate). Renewal applications for another annual license may be filed up to 90 days prior to the expiration of the establishment’s, distributor’s, or delivery service’s license.

  • What should I be doing now to prepare for obtaining a license?

Too much to write in one paragraph! But, after forming your application team and getting your corporate formation ducks in a row, one of the first things you should be thinking about is location. 

  • Does that mean municipal approval is required in order to open a cannabis business? 

Good guess. The CRC will require proof of local support for the suitability of the location of your proposed cannabis business. There were 70+ municipalities that were intending to ban canna-businesses. This number is likely to drop as municipalities should be able to charge up to a 2% tax on cannabis sales, which can help plug the deficit gap related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and further other social justice initiatives.

  • Speaking of taxes, how will cannabis be taxed once regulated?

According to the referendum, cannabis products would be subject to New Jersey’s sales tax (i.e., 6.625%), in addition to the potential local tax of up to 2%. As the bill is currently drafted, the sales tax revenue is supposed to be used to administer the cannabis program and reimburse police departments for training costs associated with enforcing the law. There may also be an additional tax imposed on cultivators, and that revenue would likely be directed to social equity initiatives.

  • Will the CRC prioritize applications based on location? 

Yes. The CRC is supposed to prioritize applications on the basis of impact zones, for which past criminal marijuana enterprises contributed to higher concentrations of law enforcement activity, unemployment, and poverty. The bill defines an “impact zone” as any municipality that has a population of 120,000 residents and ranks in the top 40 percent of municipalities in New Jersey for cannabis related arrests. 

Daniel Pierre is an Associate in Genova Burns’ Newark, NJ office and a member of the Cannabis and Labor Law Practice Groups. In addition to labor work, he likewise assists clients in the cannabis industry, from analyzing federal and state laws to ensure regulatory compliance for existing businesses to counseling entrepreneurs on licensing issues.

Charles J. Messina is a Partner at Genova Burns LLC and Co-Chairs the Franchise & Distribution, Agriculture and Cannabis Industry Groups. He teaches one of the region’s first Cannabis law school courses and devotes much of his practice to advising canna-businesses as well as litigating various types of matters including complex contract and commercial disputes, insurance and employment defense matters, trademark and franchise issues and professional liability, TCPA and shareholder derivative actions.

For over 30 years, Genova Burns has partnered with companies, businesses, trade associations, and government entities, from around the globe, on matters in New Jersey and the greater northeast corridor between New York City and Washington, D.C. We distinguish ourselves with unparalleled responsiveness and provide an array of exceptional legal services across multiple practice areas with the quality expected of big law, but absent the big law economics by embracing technology and offering out of the box problem-solving advice and pragmatic solutions.

Given Genova Burns’ significant experience representing clients in the cannabis, hemp and CBD industries from the earliest stages of development in the region, the firm is uniquely qualified to advise investors, cultivators, processors, distributors, retailers and ancillary businesses. 

Member Blog: The Conservative Argument for Banking and 280E Reform

Why philanthropy can be the most effective weapon in the fight for banking and 280E reform

by Kevin J White, Founder, Corporate Compassion, LLC DBA CannaMakeADifference

In a recent announcement by the IRS, they may allow deductions through Section 471, but it is still unclear this impact as of this writing is still unclear, so with that said, I am proposing this argument because of the impact needed TODAY to help in the economic recovery effort, given it is an election year, as well. 

Before I begin, please do not construe my argument as a Republican argument for legalization. When I say conservative, I am speaking from a purely fundamental belief and values perspective, not a contemporary political ideology. There is hypocrisy on both sides and I recognize this fact. 

Having a nonprofit background, most of my life has been spent hovering on the political lines, mostly policy, not parties. Liberals are traditionally more aligned with causes than conservatives, although conservatives have traditionally been more fiscally supportive of charitable causes. Why are conservatives more fiscally supportive of charitable causes? Conservative values.

The most undervalued weapon in the fight for legalization

In the fight for legalization, there appears to be a definite challenge from conservatives. 

I came into this industry four years ago and noticed a disconnect between the arguments from the industry and the conservative response. Although support is growing from conservatives, most of the arguments being discussed for legalization seem to be falling on deaf ears. 

Why is that? It is because the current arguments for legalization are being fed to conservatives in a language which they do not understand and are hearing as a direct challenge to their values. 

The values and language of the right are fundamentally different from the left in most ways. One value which is, in my opinion, grossly undervalued by the industry is philanthropy

Timing is everything

The health and economic ramifications of COVID-19 have caused us to look at the government and our nonprofit sector for help. The political discourse of our governments, from local to federal, unfortunately, is not helping to meet the needs of individuals or communities and thus someone has to step up. Something I haven’t heard many conversations about is our community-based nonprofits and how they are working to address the needs around COVID-19 and the economic challenges COVID-19 has manifested. Nonprofits, which are on the front line of meeting communities’ needs, from animals to veterans and every population in between, are fighting a battle from a deficit position.  

The COVID-19 pandemic has cut into nonprofits’ resources while increasing demand for their services.

According to the Stanford Social Innovation Review’s “Giving With Impact Podcast,” our community nonprofits, especially 501(c)(3) nonprofits, are being “…asked to do more with less money and reduced staff while taking on an expanding client population, and all of this at the same time that revenues from services have dried up and donations from their traditional fundraising activities have declined. Some have had to lay off staff and cut salaries and others have had to cut programs.” This is according to Amir Pasic, the Eugene R. Tempel Dean at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University and a professor of philanthropic studies. He also highlights that although disasters cause a spike in giving, which the pandemic did, in a recession, which seems to be a by-product of the political response to COVID-19, he states, “…we see the opposite effect… It took many years, several years, for individual giving, in particular, to recover. So in recessions giving does go down, simply because the resources that we have available go down, as well.”

Amir also states in the podcast that “…over 60% of nonprofits are anticipating significant decreases in terms of their fundraising ability. And I think many of them will be in crisis further, depending, in part, also, in terms of how federal help continues or does not continue going forward… So there is certainly a sense of crisis and pressure for many nonprofits because their services are increasingly… many of them in the human services, increasingly in need, and yet there is the sense that their sources of revenue are going to be under severe pressure at the same time.” 

In the same podcast, Mary Jovanovich, Senior Manager for Relationship Management at Schwab Charitable, states that clients involved with their donor-advised fund are actually giving 50% more at this time. Looking at this in the most simplistic way, those who can give more are giving more, but giving is being done by fewer people and thus still creating a deficit. 

Together we CANNA make a difference!  

Of course, those companies and people who are doing extremely well are the usual suspects. But what about a flourishing industry? One which is new and growing, and has been growing through a pandemic? An industry that is doing better than most industries and has the reach and means to impact the communities which they serve and beyond? What would be holding them back from coming to the rescue of the communities they serve and ultimately helping the entire nation?

Well, not to put too fine a point on it, but taxes! 

If you are a company with an effective tax rate of between 60 and 70%, you might need to hold on to your profit in order to make sure you and your employees survive in case something else is looming on the horizon. Say an election? 

Imagine a time when the cannabis community comes together to elevate those nonprofits which are providing the most impact on our economic and social recovery. The world is watching and in awe of the support being provided to tens of thousands of deserving nonprofit 501c3’s and the Senate is watching as thousands of the nonprofits in their states are participating, which is a statement that they are willing to accept support from the cannabis industry. This is the way you sway minds and hearts. 

The Conservative Argument for 280E Reform

Conservatives believe in free markets and thus less regulation, in the belief that the growth of companies and the economy will thrive and ultimately self-regulate as much as it can with limited governmental intervention. This needs to be applied to the cannabis industry as well. But not just for the reasons you may think. 280E reform needs to take place NOW so that philanthropy can be elevated and help address COVID-19 and economic recovery challenges. 

The effective tax rate is high specifically due to the IRS code 280E, which does not allow cannabis companies to write off typical business expenses, things like marketing, depreciation on equipment, and other expenses including charitable donations to 501c3 nonprofits! Just imagine what could be done if a cannabis company, many of which are already giving without the tax advantage, was given a tax incentive to donate? Everyone understands the taxes imposed by the states and municipalities for the legal purchase drive the cost of cannabis up. So the margins are fairly thin when compared to that of other companies that do not have to abide by 280E. 280E is government regulation. Conservatives tend to be for free markets. If, as we all know, even my fundamentalist Christian friends know, that cannabis will be federally legal eventually, why not take this opportunity to deregulate this industry allowing it to assist in addressing community resource deficits at a time when it is needed most? This argument also addresses the fundamental hierarchy, which conservatives believe should be the path of assistance, self, family, church, community, local government, and finally state government, in that order. 

I do not mention the federal government, because another value of conservatism is small government and that the federal government is there to protect the inalienable rights of humans as well as the right to property. Traditional conservatives believe in a helping hand, but only a temporary one as they understand many might not have all the support systems in place mentioned previously.

So the argument for 280E reform, in the context of nonprofits and helping with the health and economic crises stemming for COVID-19, addresses the conservative values of human rights, property rights, individual responsibility, free markets, lower taxes, and deregulation of businesses

The Conservative Argument for Banking Reform

Now, imagine that 280E was reformed or no longer applicable to LEGAL cannabis companies. There is still a problem. Even if 280E was rescinded for the cannabis industry, banks may still not allow them the same banking services because it would in effect still be federally illegal. If this is the case, even if a company chose to donate to a willing charity, the charity would fall under these very same banking laws and thus might not be able to deposit funds from the cannabis industry into their bank accounts, running a risk that their accounts could still be closed for accepting money from a federally illegal activity. So truly, banking and 280E reform are not just a cannabis industry issue, but a nonprofit sector issue, which needs to be addressed sooner than later! 

Now, we all know many charities will still not accept the funds offered from cannabis companies due to many factors, however, many of those most impacted by the pandemic and economic decline, such as those focused on food, housing, homelessness, veterans, mental health, senior citizens, and others, could benefit from receiving funds from cannabis companies as their own resources are diminishing. Therefore, the fight for our nation’s recovery needs to include banking and 280E reform for an industry which can make a difference for many! 

Because TOGETHER WE CANNA MAKE A DIFFERENCE (If given the opportunity)! 

Founder of Corporate Compassion, LLC and DBA CannaMakeADifference, Kevin J White is a social entrepreneur, nonprofit evangelist, volunteer activist, community engagement advocate, tennis player, golfer, BUCKEYE, and Avid shoe wearer. Kevin began his journey into social entrepreneurship after a 20+ year career in the nonprofit sector. Having started his career as a direct care counselor for at-risk children he advanced through the nonprofit sector, eventually moving to Colorado for a job with a major animal welfare nonprofit, overseeing 4 departments and over 100 staff and volunteers, eventually creating his own nonprofit 501(c)(3) public charity. With a strong background in nonprofit management and resource management, he began his cannabis journey through his Colorado-based, 501c3 nonprofit, having to identify the benefits and challenges of accepting support from the cannabis industry. He realized that there were some challenges for both sectors and decided to further his social entrepreneurship by consulting with cannabis companies looking to strengthen and develop their cause-marketing and philanthropic goals. This was the birth of CannaMakeADifference. 

CannaMakeADifference is a strategic consulting company created to assist purpose-driven cannabis companies with meeting their cause-marketing and philanthropic goals. He has co-authored two white-papers, one for cannabis companies and one for nonprofits, highlighting the benefits and challenges of working with each other. 

He also founded the Women of 420 Charity Calendar, highlighting causes supported by pro-cannabis women. 

Kevin also hosts a podcast called Together We CANNA Make A Difference which highlights philanthropy in the industry and companies making a difference from the cannabis sector. You can download the podcast on most major podcast platforms including Google Podcasts and Apple Podcasts. 

MORE Act Headed For Vote, SAFE Banking Still In Play

by Morgan Fox, NCIA’s Director of Media Relations

We asked, you answered, and your efforts are seeing results!

Over the past months, our Government Relations team in Washington, D.C. has been hard at work gathering support in Congress for the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act, and many of our members responded to the call to contact their lawmakers to urge them to support the legislation and bring it to a floor vote in the House. Well, our mutual work is paying off!

Last week, House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) announced that the MORE Act would be called for the vote! This was confirmed Monday as taking place during the week of September 21.

This legislation would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and do away with the continuing conflict between states with modern cannabis laws and the federal government. It would also expunge federal cannabis convictions, remove barriers to research, eliminate the current problems with the 280E tax code and lack of access to banking, promote more diverse participation in the cannabis industry, and establish funds to help undo the disparate harms caused by prohibition.

Make no mistake: this vote will be historic. This will be the first time that a bill to end cannabis prohibition has come up for a full vote in either chamber of Congress, and the results of the vote could determine the path of cannabis policy reform efforts for years to come.

This means we have just three weeks to drum up as much support as possible and show our elected officials where the vast majority of Americans stand on cannabis.

If your representatives are not among the 87 current cosponsors of the MORE Act, please contact them and urge them to join in showing their support for this momentous and necessary bill.



Meanwhile, our efforts to maintain momentum for cannabis banking reform have continued throughout the negotiations of the next pandemic relief bill. Despite a somewhat contentious public debate over the size and scope of the stimulus funds in general, hope is still alive for the SAFE Banking Act provision to be included in the final legislation if Congress can come to some agreements on the numerous other issues at stake.

What is not up for debate is that SAFE Banking is an absolutely necessary part of COVID-19 relief. This measure will improve public health and safety by enabling more social distancing and decreasing cannabis businesses’ reliance on cash transactions which can spread contagions and make them a target for crime. Most importantly, it will help thousands of small businesses – with hundreds of thousands of employees across the country – survive these difficult times while providing uninterrupted healthcare services. It doesn’t get more COVID-relevant than that.

While it is still uncertain when or how the House and Senate will arrive at a compromise for pandemic relief, we don’t have much time before the elections divert most of their attention.

Keep an eye out for updates on ways you can help get SAFE Banking passed this year.

We couldn’t do this work without the support and assistance of our valued members. If you are not yet a member, please support our work by joining today. If you already are a member, thank you for making our advocacy work possible.


Together We Can – Working To Achieve Legislative Victories  

by Madeline Grant, NCIA’s Government Relations Manager

Can you believe we are already coming to the end of August? 2020 has certainly not been what we were expecting – but we will persevere together. At NCIA, we want you to know we are here for you through these unstable times and now more than ever we will stand as a united cannabis community. As members of NCIA, we appreciate your dedication and contribution to continue the good fight to reach legislative victories at the state and federal levels. With your dedication to NCIA and our dedication to you, we can continue to achieve success through education and advocacy. 

As the Government Relations Manager, I want you to know we are still working continuously in D.C., with a unified message, to achieve legislative victories. Next month, the House of Representatives may vote to make cannabis legal and start repairing the harms caused by decades of failed prohibition policies. As the legislative session draws to a close and what is sure to be one of the most pivotal elections in history nears, there is a renewed effort in Congress to pass meaningful criminal justice reform before the end of the year. And this includes the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act

The MORE Act was introduced in the House last year by Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and already made history when it became the first legislative bill to be approved by the congressional committee (House Judiciary) in November.

This legislation would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, effectively decriminalizing it at the federal level and eliminating the ongoing conflict with effective regulated state cannabis markets. It would also expunge federal cannabis convictions, remove barriers to research, eliminate the current problems with the 280E tax code and lack of access to banking, promote more diverse participation in the cannabis industry, and establish funds to help undo the harms that have been disproportionately inflicted on marginalized communities by the war on drugs.

Now, a growing chorus of lawmakers are calling for it to receive a floor vote in the House in September, and we need your help!

Please call your member of Congress TODAY and urge them to support the MORE Act and help bring it to a vote this year. When you call your representative’s office explain to them how important the MORE Act is to you and your business. The staffer that answers the phone is there to pass along the message to YOUR representative so the more calls they get the better. 

NCIA Lobby Day, May 2017. Photo by Ben Droz

On another note, I’d love the opportunity to chat with you over the phone or zoom to discuss the challenges you are facing in the cannabis community. As we continue to meet with Hill offices virtually, it is important to relay your stories about the difficulties you face within the cannabis industry. Real-life examples help paint the picture of the reality our cannabis businesses face every single day. This is imperative to illustrate just how necessary legislative victories, like the MORE Act, are to us. So, if you have the time please send me an email to Madeline@TheCannabisIndustry.org and I will schedule a time for us. 

As we draw closer to the end of this legislative session, the NCIA team will continue to work hard to reach legislative victories. We are nearing the 10th anniversary of NCIA and have come a long way together, from legislative victories in appropriations to the SAFE Banking Act passing the House, and we will continue to reach more legislative success in the halls of Congress. We must not lose hope during these unstable times but propel forward more unified than ever before.  



Looking Back On #10YearsOfNCIA: 2016-2017

Photo By CannabisCamera.com

by Michelle Rutter Friberg, NCIA’s Deputy Director of Government Relations

Over the last month, I’ve been taking a retrospective look at the progress NCIA has made in the ten years since its inception. While it’s been fun to look back at those early years, this week I’m excited to look at a time when cannabis policy was getting really active: 2016-2017! While this timeline is by no means a comprehensive look at everything that’s happened in cannabis policy during those years, here are some highlights:

January 2016

District judge dismisses lawsuit against the Fed, filed by the Fourth Corner Credit Union, says Congress must fix the cannabis banking problem. The same month, President Obama announces that cannabis reform is not on his agenda in 2016.

March 2016

The Supreme Court dismisses Kansas’ challenge to Colorado marijuana laws. The 6-2 vote meant the nation’s highest court would not rule on the interstate dispute, and Colorado’s legal cannabis market remains safe. “Since Colorado voters overwhelmingly passed legal recreational marijuana in 2012, we have worked diligently to put in place a regulatory framework — the first in the world — that allows this new industry to operate while protecting public health and safety,” then- Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) said following the decision. “With today’s Supreme Court ruling, the work we’ve completed so far remains intact.”

An AP poll shows that 61% of Americans support legalizing cannabis. The most recent Gallup poll on the issue, published in October 2019, shows that approval number has risen to 66%.

April 2016

U.S. Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control holds a hearing titled “Is the Department of Justice Adequately Protecting the Public from the Impact of State Recreational Marijuana Legalization?” 

May 2016

NCIA holds its 6th Annual Cannabis Industry Lobby Day in D.C., garnering over 150 attendees and participating in more than 200 scheduled meetings on Capitol Hill. That same month, the Tax Foundation reports a legal marijuana industry could mean up to $28 billion in federal, state, and local tax revenues.

June 2016

NCIA hosts our 3rd Annual Cannabis Business Summit in Oakland with 3,000+ attendees. That same month, the U.S. Senate Appropriations committee narrowly approved a marijuana banking amendment. Ultimately, the amendment did not make it into law. The amendment has not passed this specific Committee since, though we continue to try! 

July 2016

Showing increased interest and momentum on this issue, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on the potential benefits of medical marijuana. The same month, the Democratic Party included reclassifying cannabis in the party’s platform. 

August 2016

This was an exciting month because we got to really see our efforts at work in the real world. Four years ago this month, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that due to the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, the Department of Justice cannot use funds to enforce federal law against state-legal medical cannabis businesses.

September 2016

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch says that marijuana is not a gateway drug, but that same month, FBI data showed that there is one cannabis arrest every 49 seconds in the U.S. The majority of those individuals are Black and brown and are arrested four to eight times more than their white counterparts.

October 2016

Members of Congress and the campaigns to legalize cannabis in various forms enter the final push. That month, a report also showed that Colorado’s marijuana industry had a $2.39 billion financial impact and created more than 18,000 jobs in the state.

November 2016

Five states (Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada) voted on ballot initiatives to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana for adult use. Four of those initiatives passed, and three of them passed by more than seven percentage points.

Four states (Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota) voted on ballot initiatives to create or expand legal medical marijuana programs. All four of those initiatives passed, with an average victory of 26.3 percentage points.

Of course, November 2016 is also when Republicans took control of both chambers of Congress and candidate Trump became president-elect Trump. 

January 2017

NCIA establishes the Policy Council to serve as the industry’s “think tank” in D.C., developing and publishing policy papers to educate policymakers and other stakeholders on topics relevant to the cannabis industry. The same month, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) begins his confirmation hearing to become U.S. Attorney General. He is subsequently confirmed, bringing uncertainty to the cannabis space.

February 2017

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that he expects states to see “greater enforcement” of the federal law against marijuana use, a move that would be at odds with a growing number of states’ decisions to legalize it. Spicer, taking questions from reporters at the daily briefing, differentiated between the administration’s positions on medical marijuana and recreational marijuana. Funnily enough, Spicer’s career lasted about as long as it takes me to smoke a joint. 

The nation’s first-ever Congressional Cannabis Caucus is formed by Reps. Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Blumenauer (D-OR) with help from friends Reps. Polis (D-CO) and Young (R-AK). In the 116th Congress, Rohrbacher and Polis left Congress and were replaced by Barbara Lee, a Democrat from California, and David Joyce, a Republican from Ohio, as co-chairs.

May 2017

NCIA’s D.C. team grew from two (myself and Mike) to three, with the addition of Maddy Grant, who was our Government Relations Coordinator at the time. Since then, Maddy has become one of my best friends and was even one of my bridesmaids! If you know Maddy, you know she’s the best and NCIA is lucky to have her!

NCIA held its 7th Annual Cannabis Industry Lobby Days in Washington, D.C., where 250 industry professionals coalesced on Capitol Hill to attend over 300 scheduled meetings. Following that, there was a substantial increase in the number of cosponsors on cannabis-related bills compared to the previous Congressional session. 

July 2017

The Senate Appropriations Committee voted on their equivalent of the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, sponsored by the committee’s vice chairman, Patrick Leahy (D-VT). That amendment passed on a voice vote and was the first time ever that a cannabis-related amendment passed in such a manner. At the end of July, the Senate Appropriations Committee also adopted an amendment that would allow the Department of Veterans Affairs to recommend medical cannabis in states. That amendment passed by a vote of 24 to 7 – the most votes this measure has ever received in the Senate. The veterans’ measure did not end up becoming law.

September 2017

The House Rules Committee held a hearing to discuss amendments to the upcoming appropriations bill that will fund the federal government for the upcoming fiscal year and chose not to vote on the amendment that protects medical cannabis businesses, patients, and programs. Since the protections for medical cannabis businesses were included in the Senate’s version of the budget bill but are not included in the House’s versions, it came down to a conference committee to negotiate its inclusion, and ultimately, the provision remained in law.

December 2017

Senate Republicans passed their tax reform package into law. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) introduced two amendments to the bill that targeted 280E, however, he withdrew both amendments before the final bill was voted on.

If you think reminiscing on all that was a lot, make sure you keep an eye on our blog and future issues of NCIA’s Cannabusiness Leader to learn more about 2018-2019 and the progress we’ve made more recently as we wrap up this series! 


Looking Back On #10YearsOfNCIA: 2009-2013

Photo By CannabisCamera.com

by Michelle Rutter Friberg, NCIA’s Deputy Director of Government Relations

As NCIA continues into our tenth year advancing the interests of the cannabis industry, all but three U.S. states have some kind of cannabis law on the books, 10 have regulated the commercial production and sale of cannabis for adults, two-thirds of Americans support national legalization, and Congress is closer than ever to making that a reality.

I started with NCIA nearly six years ago, so I’ve witnessed much of the progress we’ve made firsthand — especially the strides forward we’ve made in policy and in the halls of Congress! Let’s take a look back to the early years of NCIA (2010-2013) to see just how far we’ve come in the last decade. 

October 2009

The Ogden Memo is released by the Justice Department, directing prosecutors not to prioritize the use of federal resources to prosecute patients with serious illnesses or their caregivers who are complying with state laws on medical marijuana, laying the groundwork for a new national industry. Personally, I consider the Ogden Memo to be the mother of the now-rescinded Cole Memo.

November 2010

NCIA is formed as the cannabis industry’s only national trade association by long-time marijuana policy reform leaders Aaron Smith and Steve Fox.

March 2011

Six association members join Smith and Fox for NCIA’s 1st Annual Cannabis Industry Lobby Days in Washington, D.C. Now, Lobby Days brings hundreds of cannabis industry professionals to D.C. and includes VIP Day, receptions, and opportunities to mingle with over a dozen members of Congress and their staff. 

May 2011

The Small Business Banking Improvement Act of 2011 (H.R. 1984), which would exempt state-legal cannabis businesses from Suspicious Activity Report requirements, is introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by then-Rep. Jared Polis. This bill was the precursor to the Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act, which was the precursor to the SAFE Banking Act.

May 2011

The Small Business Tax Equity Act of 2011 (H.R. 1985), which would correct the unfair tax burden of Section 280E, is introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA). That bill has been re-introduced in every congressional session since 2011. Today, the Small Business Tax Equity Act (H.R. 1118) has 11 cosponsors (compared to over 40 last session), but don’t think it’s because 280E isn’t important– advocates and congressional staff have simply been focused this session on passing SAFE Banking.

June 2011

Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) introduced the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011 (H.R. 2306) with NCIA’s support. The bill would have ended prohibition and legalized cannabis at the federal level by amending the Controlled Substances Act. It would then transfer the authority to regulate cannabis from the Drug Enforcement Administration to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

November 2012

Colorado and Washington become the first two states to legalize marijuana for adult use and sales via voter initiative. NCIA, while an infant of an organization, proudly supported both of these initiatives even as some in the industry didn’t support full legalization at that time. In fact, our co-founder Steve Fox was one of the primary authors of Colorado’s Amendment 64 and our former Deputy Director, Betty Aldworth, was a campaign spokesperson just before joining NCIA.

April 2013

NCIA hosts conservative tax reform champion, Grover Norquist, at its third annual Cannabis Industry Lobby Days in Washington, D.C. While there, Norquist discussed Americans for Tax Reform’s (ATR) release of a white paper titled Legal Cannabis Dispensary Taxation: A Textbook Case of Punishing Law-Abiding Businesses Through the Tax Code. The paper discussed Section 280E of the tax code, which is still misapplied to legal cannabis businesses and creates an effective tax rate two to four times that of other small businesses. Norquist also announced ATR’s endorsement of the Small Business Tax Equity Act.

July 2013

Congressional cannabis champion Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) introduces the Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act of 2013 (H.R. 2652) in the House of Representatives. This bill was the precursor to the SAFE Banking Act which has been approved (twice) by the House of Representatives in the last year.

August 2013

James M. Cole, the Deputy Attorney General, issues new guidance regarding marijuana enforcement and banking, referred to as the “Cole Memo.” The memo indicated that prosecutors and law enforcement should focus only on the following priorities related to state-legal cannabis operations:

  • Preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors;
  • Preventing revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises, gangs, and cartels;
  • Preventing the diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal under state law in some form to other states;
  • Preventing state-authorized marijuana activity from being used as a cover or pretext for the trafficking of other illegal drugs or other illegal activity;
  • Preventing violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana;
  • Preventing drugged driving and the exacerbation of other adverse public health consequences associated with marijuana use;
  • Preventing the growing of marijuana on public lands and the attendant public safety and environmental dangers posed by marijuana production on public lands; and
  • Preventing marijuana possession or use on federal property.

September 2013

Sen. Leahy (D-VT), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee holds an oversight hearing on federal marijuana policy.  Both Attorney General Eric Holder and Deputy Attorney General James Cole testified. The hearing, titled “Conflicts between State and Federal Marijuana Laws” came just months after two states, Washington and Colorado, legalized small amounts of cannabis for personal use by adults over 21. At the time, twenty states and the District of Columbia had legalized medicinal cannabis.

November 2013

NCIA hires a Director of Government Relations in Washington, D.C., the first-ever full-time lobbyist on behalf of cannabis businesses at the federal level. That was the man, the myth, the legend: Michael Correia, who is still here nearly seven years later! The Washington Post even profiled the nation’s first full-time cannabis lobbyist.

Looking back, those early years of NCIA were without a doubt integral to where we are now in cannabis policy. Make sure you read next week’s edition to learn more about 2014-2016 and all the progress we made during those years!


Meet The Team: Jon Dinh – NCIA’s Membership Manager

Hello! My name is Jon Dinh and I work as the Membership Manager here at NCIA! I started my cannabis journey three years ago when I first tried cannabis legally in my home state of Colorado and completely changed my life for the better!

I grew up in Thornton, Colorado which is a suburban area north of Denver and didn’t have any interest in cannabis growing up. None of my friends participated in the cannabis culture so I didn’t have any influence growing up. Coming from an Asian culture, it was heavily looked down upon. When the laws changed in my state, I decided to try it and visited my first dispensary. I was amazed at the professionalism and knowledge the budtender provided. I ended up with an edible cookie as my first experience and took a bit much for a first time user. It’s crazy to think that moment changed my life and career path.

I was now curious about the war on drugs and drug policy reform and around this time stumbled upon NCIA. I was lucky enough to get hired as the Membership Coordinator and have learned a great deal about cannabis reform and how it affects people’s lives. I’m fortunate enough to try cannabis safely and legally and have no doubts that others will follow the same path for their first time experience. My scenario is much more common now with states legalizing and people having open access to cannabis. I just hope they’re more careful with their first dose than I was!

I’m now part of the mission here at NCIA to get cannabis businesses treated fairly like any other business in America and it has truly opened my mind to the struggles that face cannabis businesses now and what’s to come in the future. I hope to contribute towards the needed change of these laws and for better treatment of cannabis businesses. Cannabis businesses, even though legal, still exist in a world where the laws are not up to date and have caused issues like loss of profits and having to pay higher taxes.

I got to attend my first Lobby Days event with NCIA to talk about current cannabis issues and it was one of the most powerful experiences channeling my inner citizen lobbyist. I got to see firsthand how Capitol Hill works and what Hill meetings are all about. It’s an important part of how the government works, and it was great to see members of NCIA becoming citizen lobbyists too. This was my first time in D.C. and was blown away by the inner workings of it all. Thanks to NCIA for allowing me to be part of Lobby Days and hope other members of NCIA can join us in the future!

In the meantime, as part of my job duties, I hope to open the doors for others to experience cannabis in their home state and federal legalization in the future. I hope to change the world’s perception of cannabis and to open access to the plant.


Member Blog: IRC Section 471(c) of the TCJA May Mitigate the Curse of 280E for the Cannabis Industry

by Calvin Shannon, CPA, CVA, Principal at Bridge West LLC, and Nicholas J. Richards, Esq., Partner at GreenspoonMarder LLP

On March 30, 2020, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration issued a report titled “The Growth of the Marijuana Industry Warrants Increased Tax Compliance Efforts and Additional Guidance.” The 53-page report discussed several different topics, including that the IRS should conduct more audits under Section 280E, and this discussion focuses on Section 471(c).

The report states that certain qualifying cannabis taxpayers, who would otherwise be subject to business expenses being disallowed under Section 280E, could potentially account for their inventory under Section 471(c) using a method that would classify most or all of their expenditures as inventoriable costs and avoid Section 280E’s disallowance of such expenditures. Accordingly, as all the costs would be capitalized into inventory, they would then reduce taxable income as the inventory was sold. In other words, expenditures previously disallowed under Section 280E would be part of the cost of goods sold and allowed as a reduction of gross receipts. There was no public comment from the IRS in the report on the potential that 471(c) may eliminate 280E.

Before continuing to provide our additional comments, it is important to mention the impact of Section 471(c) on Section 280E has not been reviewed by the Courts and the Inspector General also stated that necessary guidance addressing 471(c) is lacking from the IRS. As such, the impact cannot be stated in certain terms. 

The curse of Section 280E on the cannabis industry cannot be overstated – some businesses actually end up paying more in tax than they make and Section 280E can turn an economic loss into a taxable gain. This seemingly unconstitutional result has been justified by the courts and IRS under a very old principle of taxation that “deductions are a matter of legislative grace.” New Colonial Ice Co. v. Helvering, 292 U.S. 435, 440 (1934) Legislative grace, according to these authorities, means the legislature has the power to deny all deductions, if they so choose, and it should be said that the limitation of such grace, under the 16th Amendment to the US Constitution, is that 280E cannot disallow costs of goods sold. With Section 471(c), however, legislative grace appears to be on the side of the cannabis industry because, as discussed below, Congress created Section 471(c) and it appears to allow inclusion of deductions into the cost of goods sold where they can’t be disallowed under Section 280E. 

The Code states that Section 471(c) allows a small taxpayer, one with less than $25 million in revenues, who is not a tax shelter or public company to account for inventory according to their applicable financial statements, or absent applicable financial statements, according to the actual books and records of the taxpayer. For a qualifying business that doesn’t have applicable financial statements, if their books and records include deductions in COGS, then these deductions may not be subject to 280E.

Question #1 – What are applicable financial statements, what does it mean to have them, and if a taxpayer does not have applicable financials statements what are the books and records of the taxpayer prepared in accordance with the taxpayer’s accounting procedures?

It is our opinion that under IRC § 451(b)(3) if a taxpayer is required to issue audited financial statements in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) for credit purposes, to owners, or for any other nontax purpose, they have applicable financial statements. It would seem that “any other nontax purpose” would include audited GAAP statements required to be issued to state regulatory agencies. As such, because GAAP requires accounting for inventory in a manner similar to Section 471(a), taxpayers who have Applicable Financial Statements appear to be precluded from adding costs disallowed under Section 280E into COGS pursuant to Section 471(c). Of concern are states that require license holders to provide their licensing agency with audited financial statements. However, if the state doesn’t require GAAP financials, then the “Applicable Financial Statements” provision shouldn’t be a problem.

If the taxpayer does not have applicable financial statements, then they are allowed to account for inventory for tax purposes in the same way as they account for inventory on their internal books and records. Thus, their books and records would have to mirror their method of accounting for tax purposes.

Question #2 – Could a small cannabis company, who is not issuing applicable financial statements in accordance with GAAP and is subject to 280E, establish a method of accounting for inventory in which they consider all or most expenditures of the company to be inventoriable costs? If so, does characterizing these otherwise nondeductible costs as inventoriable costs change the nature of the expenditures from non-deductible business deductions to deductible costs of goods sold when the inventory is sold?

As noted above, there is currently no guidance from the IRS regarding this question and, we should assume, that the IRS will not acquiesce to the position that 471(c) eliminates 280E. So, let’s consider the arguments the IRS might make. First to consider is the Service’s conclusion in Chief Counsel Memorandum Number 201504011 regarding Sec 263A. Early on, cannabis taxpayers attempted to use Sec 263A to capitalize general and administrative costs, otherwise subject to 280E, into inventory and then deduct them as part of COGS. This does sound somewhat similar to the approach we are looking at under 471(c).   

The IRS concluded in CCA 201504011 that Sec. 263A would not allow an expense disallowed under Section 280E to be added to COGS because of “flush language” added to Sec. 263A(a)(2) in a subsequent congressional amendment. The flush language states: 

Any cost which (but for this subsection) could not be taken into account in computing taxable income for any taxable year shall not be treated as a cost described in this paragraph.

The U.S. Tax Court agreed with the Chief Counsel memo in several opinions including Patients Mutual Assistance Collective Corporation d.b.a. Harborside Health Center v. Commissioner.

However, where this language was fatal to the cannabis industry’s attempt to use Section 263A to its benefit – it may help in the case of Section 471(c). It appears to have been necessary for the U.S. Congress to add the Flush Language to Section 263A to prevent the inclusion of otherwise disallowed expenses into COGS. There is no equivalent language added to Section 471(c) and so the argument is that in the absence of an equivalent provision, Section 471(c) can be used to include expenses disallowed under 280E into COGS where they can be used to reduce taxable income. 

Another argument the IRS may make is that Treas. Reg. § 1.61-3(a) prevents the inclusion of deductions into cost of goods sold because the regulation states that Gross Income is determined without subtraction of “…selling expenses…” However, Section 1.61-3(a) is part of the Treasury Regs defining gross income and its reference to the non-inclusion of “selling expenses” is from the regulations under Section 471(a). Section 471(c) specifically states that Section 471(a) does not apply (which include the regulations) and a taxpayer’s method of accounting for inventory under Section 471(c) does not fail to accurately reflect income. And, Section 471(c) is a higher authority than the regulations. Thus, it appears that Section 471(c) trumps Treas. Reg. § 1.61-3(a).

Question #3 – Should a taxpayer, eligible to use 471(c) to account for inventory file their tax return taking positions regarding 471(c) as described in this article?

Every taxpayer is different, and accounting for inventory under Section 471(c) is not right for everyone in the cannabis industry. It is also important to understand that it may not work and for taxpayers who use the method to do so with caution and understanding. However, below is a list of issues to discuss with your tax professional:

What is your tolerance for risk and a legal dispute with the IRS? Such a dispute could be time-consuming and costly.

If 471(c) is proven not to eliminate 280E – how will you manage additional tax, interest, and possibly penalties?

Should the position be disclosed as part of your tax filing?

Does the entity have applicable financial statements?

Is the cannabis business a tax shelter?

How aggressive does management and ownership want to be regarding the position?

How will management accomplish the necessary accounting and records to support such a position?

In summary, 471 (c) has left the cannabis industry with several questions and definitive answers are probably not immediately available. License holders should work closely with their advisors as they navigate these questions. But, there is a possibility that Section 471(c) eliminates Section 280E for qualifying taxpayers. Cannabis businesses should take the necessary steps to understand it and protect their ability to benefit from Section 471(c) if it does work.

The Bridge West and GreenspoonMarder teams work tirelessly to understand the tax and accounting issues facing businesses in the cannabis industry and provide the best possible solutions to their clients.

To discuss any of the questions within this article please feel free to contact Calvin Shannon, Nick Richards or any of their team members.

Calvin Shannon is a Pricipal of Bridge West and has over 17 years of experience providing tax, audit, estate planning and trust services. Calvin is skilled at understanding client’s challenges and working with them to develop and implement innovative and unique solutions. Assists organizations to address the industry’s unique and ever-evolving issues. He enjoys having the opportunity to work with cannabis clients to understand their business needs, and to provide timely solutions

Calvin can be reached at: cshannon@bridgewestcpas.com and 651-287-6327.

Nick Richards is a Partner in the Tax practice group at Greenspoon Marder LLP. He represents individuals and businesses in tax audits & trials, M&A, in managing tax debt, and he advises cannabis companies, owners and investors regarding tax and regulatory compliance matters. Mr. Richards has been a tax attorney for more than twenty years beginning his career with the IRS where he was a leading trial attorney, a Chief Counsel advisor, and a Special Assistant United States Attorney.

With his broad experience and understanding at all phases of the tax system, from reporting and assessment through appeals, court, and tax debt resolution, Mr. Richards achieves successful legal solutions tailored to his individual client’s needs. Mr. Richards also teaches tax attorneys and CPAs throughout the US and he is an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Denver, Graduate Tax Program, where he teaches State and Local Tax and Civil and Criminal Tax.

Nick can be reached at: nick.richards@gmlaw.com and 720-370-1169.



From The Hill: The Emergency Cannabis Small Business Health and Safety Act

by Morgan Fox, NCIA’s Director of Media Relations

Legislation to give legal marijuana businesses, which have been declared essential in a majority of states with regulated cannabis markets, access to resources being made available by congressional COVID-19 emergency response packages was introduced in the House of Representatives last week by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO). 

The Emergency Cannabis Small Business Health and Safety Act would stop cannabis businesses and those that provide services to them from being excluded from further federal relief funding provided through the Small Business Administration (SBA).

Specifically, this bill would impact the following programs: Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL), and EIDL emergency grants. It would also protect SBA employees from prosecution for administering relief funds to cannabis businesses.

The full text of the bill is available here.

Under current policy, businesses that deal directly with cannabis production and sale, as well as many that provide services to them, are ineligible for most SBA programs. And the definition that the SBA uses to define which ancillary businesses are eligible is very vague. You can find a useful primer on federal relief eligibility from our friends at Vicente Sederberg LLP.

Let’s be clear: the fact that many cannabis businesses have been permitted to remain operating during this difficult time will not be enough to sustain the industry or allow for an effective and timely recovery once this nightmare is behind us. Lack of access to federal funds is just one of the many stressors facing cannabis businesses, which is why it is vital that we become eligible for relief as soon as possible.

Many indirect businesses have not been declared essential and have been forced to close. Cannabis businesses that have remained open must contend with declining sales, supply chain disruptions, onerous tax rates, lack of access to banking services, and the costs incurred by implementing additional health and safety measures to protect employees and customers.

Thankfully, the chorus of voices calling for fair access has been steadily growing. Earlier in April, Rep. Blumenauer and nearly three dozen of his colleagues sent a letter to House leadership urging them to make cannabis businesses eligible for SBA programs. Senators Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) along with eight co-signers sent a similar letter to Senate leadership last week. They have been joined by cannabis industry advocates, the Marijuana Justice Coalition, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, state officials including Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, and others.

NCIA and our allies will continue to put pressure on Congress to treat cannabis businesses fairly during this crisis, but we need your help.

Please email and then call your congressional representatives today and ask them to support the legal (and essential) cannabis industry during this critical time. Talking points and instructions for calling your representatives are available on our website.

Email My Representative

Call My Representative

Here is a sample script you can use:

“Hi, I am calling/writing today to ask that you co-sponsor Congressmen Blumenauer and Perlmutter’s recently introduced Emergency Cannabis Small Business Health and Safety Act. This important piece of legislation would stop cannabis businesses and those that provide services to them from being excluded from further federal relief funding provided through the Small Business Administration. This current lack of access will undoubtedly lead to unnecessary layoffs, reduced hours, pay cuts, and furloughs for the workers of cannabis businesses who need support the most. As your constituent, I ask and urge that you sign on as a co-sponsor for this Act as soon as possible. Our industry, our businesses, and our employees cannot wait.”

The situation on Capitol Hill is extremely fluid as you might imagine. This bill could move forward as standalone legislation or could be incorporated into the next round of federal relief funds, which is being called CARES 2. Stay tuned for updates and be on the lookout for additional ways you can help us protect our essential industry.


Member Blog: A COVID-19 Guide For Cannabis Entities

by Henry Wykowski, Wykowski Law

As the fallout from COVID-19 ripples through the economy, cannabis businesses are once again faced with a plethora of conflicting information and uncertainty. As counsel to the NCIA and in service to its membership, Wykowski Law has put together a guide to the most common issues facing cannabis businesses in the wake of COVID-19. The guide focuses on national issues and focuses in on some issues specific to California.

Please check out the guide for more details, but here is a quick rundown of what you need to know as a cannabis business in the age of COVID-19:

As we’ve unfortunately become accustomed to, cannabis has largely been left out of relief efforts, particularly where the federal government is concerned. Like with anything cannabis, this means that we have to dig deeper and be more creative to survive.

What sort of help can cannabis businesses get from SBA, PPP, and EIDL? Are there alternatives?

Generally, the Feds are not going to let MRBs touch these funds. But don’t despair. There are potential alternatives at the state level (in California at least) including CalCAP, IBank, and JSLP. Of course, these programs present their own challenges for MRBs, but they do not categorically rule out lending to the cannabis industry.

What about taxes and tax relief?

Unfortunately, when it comes to the Feds we continue to live under the spectre of 280E which makes so many of the tax credits and relief potentially unavailable. There may be some strategies to take advantage of some of these programs, but they are largely dependent on your individual situation. Check with your tax expert!

Some of these regulations just aren’t practical during a pandemic. Are we really expected to comply? 

There’s good news and bad news on that front. In California regulatory agencies are making some allowances including regulatory variances and allowing curbside pickups. But you have to get approval. Double (and triple) check what sort of regulatory relief your state is offering before deviating from any SOPs.

The bad news is that as an essential service in the age of COVID-19, many cannabis businesses are subject to additional health and safety requirements. California OSHA for instance has put out stricter standards for all businesses and we expect there might be more to come due to the nature of cannabis.

Times are tough, but not hopeless. And, all of the above is just the tip of the iceberg. The full guide goes into deeper detail. Of course, the information you obtain here and in the linked guide is meant to be informational only and is not, nor is it intended to be, advice legal or otherwise. For that you will need to talk to your lawyer and/or accountant.

Stay well. Stay safe. Stay sane.


Photo By CannabisCamera.com

Henry Wykowski is the founder of Wykowski Law a national cannabis law firm based in San Francisco that has represented the industry since its inception and successfully defended it in multiple landmark cases.

The Importance of PACs and Political Involvement

by Madeline Grant, NCIA’s Government Relations Manager

Like the Olympics, we only have a presidential election every four years. Usually, this means more voters are engaged and paying attention to the political process than normal. It’s more important now than ever for voters to get involved, and there are many ways to do just that. Some people campaign by making phone calls and knocking doors to get out the vote, others simply vote on election day. Some choose to make financial contributions to candidates or issues-based PACs (political action committees) that they care about.

As a trade association, NCIA has a PAC (the NCIA-PAC) that collects and contributes funds to candidates that support cannabis reform on Capitol Hill. In recent years, you may have heard that PACs are considered “special interest” or part of the “D.C. swamp.” Some candidates go so far as to not accept contributions from PACs to their campaigns. However, many small PACs, like the NCIA-PAC, are misrepresented by these characterizations and are fully funded by the hard-working members of their associations. The NCIA-PAC gives our cannabis professionals a united voice in the political process. Keep reading below to learn more about NCIA’s PAC and how you can get involved

There is a common misconception that political contributions buy votes, however, the reality is that political contributions gain access. Of course, a politician’s goal is to get elected or re-elected and campaign contributions are a vital component of that goal. The NCIA-PAC helps support our champions and politicians that will fight for us on Capitol Hill so that they can continue fighting for our industry in D.C.

Another common misconception people have is that a one-time contribution will get you a friend for life, but unfortunately, that is not always the case. As long as a member stays in office, they will continue to ask for financial support. Think of it like this: supporting the NCIA-PAC lets us support elected officials who support the cannabis industry, and it’s imperative that they continue to be re-elected! Even the smallest donations make an impact.

At this point, you may be asking yourself: why should I support the NCIA-PAC? Well, your dollars support candidates who understand the cannabis industry’s concerns and who focus their attention on issues important to NCIA. A donation also affords you opportunities to collaborate with other concerned and politically active members to ensure our industry’s involvement in the legislative process and provides engagement, support, and information that is helpful to you, our cause, and your business.

NCIA’s government relations team works year-round to build relationships on Capitol Hill and represent the cannabis industry. As a team, we reiterate the importance of access to banking, fixing the 280E tax provision, the necessity of descheduling cannabis, and ensuring that our industry is diverse and equitable, among other issues. Our efforts here in D.C. make an impact, but members of Congress and their staff also need to hear from you. So, we hope you will consider joining us and NCIA’s PAC Leadership Circle at our 2nd Annual VIP Day in Washington D.C., on May 19. 

Through a donation of $1,000 dollars or more, you will participate in an exclusive day including briefings, a luncheon and meetings with members of Congress, meetings with committees of jurisdiction, complimentary entry to the NCIA-PAC Fundraiser, and networking with NCIA’s most politically active members. Additionally, you will receive even more benefits all throughout the year, such as complimentary registration for our annual conferences, prominent listing and link to your company website featured on NCIA’s PAC page, customized branding opportunities at NCIA’s Cannabis Business Summit & Expo, and much more. If you are interested in attending VIP Day or hearing more about the NCIA-PAC, please fill out an interest form here or contact Maddy Grant at Madeline@TheCannabisIndustry.org.



Member Blog: 9 Cannabis HR Trends In 2020

by Heather Smyth, Director of Marketing at Würk

2019 was an incredible year of growth for the cannabis industry; mergers and acquisitions, multi-state expansion, new state licensing, and an explosion of new jobs created. Operationally, more businesses began adopting best practices from the retail and hospitality industries and implemented technology systems to connect all facets of business for stronger insights. There have been focused efforts on hiring, engagement, and training to improve employee retention. Plus, the momentum for widespread acceptance of cannabis legalization is truly unstoppable.

These favorable advancements haven’t come without a variety of challenges, including continued banking access stalls, compliance hurdles, and environmental tragedies. While most legal markets in the nation are struggling to keep up with the demand for qualified talent, select California enterprises laid off an average of 30% of their workforce due to numerous obstacles. Most notably, the vaping crisis shed light on the need for consistent regulation and testing. Additionally, lack of access to capital has significantly slowed down business growth nationwide.

According to a survey Wurk sent to leading enterprise U.S. cannabis businesses, the largest human resource challenge in 2019 was managing rapid growth and scaling the workforce to meet demand. Managers felt pressure to ensure hiring plans were strategic, yet could meet the constant change of the industry, and many learned that employee turnover was directly related to a lack of training and effective performance management practices. 

2019 tested the resiliency, patience, and commitment of many in the industry. As 2020 begins, consider this: this is a passionate community that has the experience, determination and gumption to persevere no matter the roadblocks. As pioneers in cannabis HR, leaders are responsible for providing the right support and resources to the people of the industry, so momentum continues. 

In 2020, recognize these 9 trends in cannabis Human Capital Management:

Employee Training & Performance Management

While more than half of the US has some form of cannabis legislation in place, the industry still lacks a standardized education and training program for employees in each vertical. Compliance and risk management programs have been developed by vendors like Cannabis Trainers, and states such as Massachusetts are mandating that operators take part in these sessions. A portion of marijuana businesses have created internal training programs and will invite producers in-house to offer product education to budtenders. 

Although there’s been progress in this category, the industry is still a long way away from providing consistent, reliable education to employees. In the coming year, HR leaders will have self-developed or outsourced courses on compliance, at a minimum. More and more operations will expand their employee development to include product and plant specifics, responsible selling best practices, and even positive psychology coaching.

Reducing employee turnover will remain a focus for cannabis HR leaders in 2020. Operators will take a fresh look at how performance management is handled and whether it aligns with company culture. One approach to replace the annual review will be “continuous performance management,” where frequent one-on-ones are scheduled to improve communication, address issues fast, and ensure employees are engaged in the organization. HRIS platforms can support these conversations with people data so managers can combine the human interaction with trending evidence in order to spot at-risk employees before they jump ship.

Employee Experience 

People are a business’s largest asset, which means not only can they be the most substantial expense, they are also the biggest revenue generator. The Employee Experience (what people encounter, observe or feel over the course of their employee journey) will begin to be a part of cannabis HR strategy into the new year. By gathering insights about this unique workforce through surveys, interviews, and conversational documentation, cannabis businesses will start to define an Employee Experience that parallels the company’s mission, vision, and values. 

Forbes recently included “tending” people as an HR trend to be aware of in 2020. The idea is to cultivate employees and support their growth, rather than manage them. This intentional relationship-building practice evokes a sense of community and wellbeing. Harvard Business Review notes that tending goes a long way in mitigating the “workers as machines” phenomenon. If crucial talent feels they are just a cog in the Multi-State Operator machine or an unseen hourly inventory manager, the likelihood of them voluntarily departing the business will rise.  

Standardization vs Customization

Recognition must be given to leadership in 2019 for leaning on other industries for processes to effectively manage a mostly hourly workforce. While cannabis businesses are still in start-up mode, there are labor tasks and procedures that mirror those in the fast food, hospitality, and agricultural segments that can help shape standards. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel, but it’s obvious that the intricacies involved with the seed-to-sale process require customization.

In 2020, HR will balance enforcing best practices and the need for agile, tailored decision-making. When it comes to talent acquisition, for example, a hiring manager may draft a job description that includes vital soft skills, like reliability, communication skills, organization, adaptability, and leadership. In new cannabis markets, following a cookie-cutter model won’t generate the talent pool needed to build a business. 

Being innovative with tried and true methods will allow leadership to solve bottlenecks today, not in the future. 

Data-Driven Decision Making 

According to Deloitte’s 2018 Human Capital Trends report, 85% of companies see people analytics as a high priority, but only 42% believe they are either ‘very ready’ or ‘ready’ to meet expectations. Over the years, cannabis executives have taken action to implement a technology foundation that supports compliance, streamlines processes, and reduces cost. Yet, there is still a lot of runway left to cover.

The focus will shift from technology as a ‘nice to have’ to technology as a major transformational driver in the years to come. Organizations will recognize the benefit of all-in-one solutions that enable better business decisions based on data. Human Resources will remain on budget by comparing actual spend per department, location, and cost center to predicted payroll spend. Managers will rely on people analytics to identify what elements impact turnover and employee engagement. Even in the most fast-paced, ever-changing industry, HR professionals will have the ability to predict future trends for talent, finance, and workforce planning. 

Managing Rapid Growth

Massive expansion has created immense pressure for all positions in the cannabis vertical, notably for HR professionals. With most companies growing through M&A activity, not organically, the structure of business is evolving faster than most can realistically manage. This surge will only continue in 2020, demanding the expertise of the HR department to effectively discern new opportunities and build the workforce of the future.

According to the PwC CEO survey, 77% of CEOs believe the biggest threat to their business is the lack of availability of key skills. With CEOs so concerned about talent, cannabis HR managers will shift focus to increasing productivity of their existing workforce as opposed to hiring additional staff. Data will help inform HR professionals on who the top performers are and what conditions are supporting their success. 

Outsourced HR Solutions

Employee relationship management should be made a priority for every business, but in-house cannabis human resources may not be an option for all. Small businesses may wait until they reach 40 or even 75 employees before bringing on a full-time HR manager. Constantly evolving labor laws and the risks involved with cannabis payroll will drive some business owners to outsource HR services to cannabis-specific partners. 

From employment taxes to employee benefits to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), there are many aspects of workforce management that owners may not have the resources or experience to maintain. In an industry already strapped for financial support, one mistake in adhering to the work and pay rules for a specific municipality can amount to a hefty fine. The risk involved with managing cannabis people is high and this liability will drive licensees to depend on cannabis-friendly HR and Payroll partners.

Diversity and Inclusion

Key states had strict requirements surrounding diversity initiatives in the cannabis application process in 2019 and this focus will only grow in the decade to come. HR departments will develop stronger D&I plans with innovative ways to recruit, to communicate the importance of unique perspectives and to support peers across the organization.

Sadly, the industry saw a decline in the number of women execs at the end of the decade. Vangst found that of the 38.5% of employees that self-identified as females in the industry, only 17.6% of these women held a “Director” or “Executive” role. This compares to 82.4% for self-identified males.

As momentum gains, the industry will continue to attract like-minded, experienced professionals from mainstream, big box corporations. This past year, KushCo Holdings appointed former Nestle and Cetera Financial Group HR Executive, Rhiana Barr, as their Chief People Officer and Harborside brought on a female HR leader from big pharma. This trend will progress as the industry continues to prove legitimacy through international acceptance and financial opportunity. 

Corporate Social Responsibility

Giving back to the community has been a challenging push for cannabis businesses as many non-profit organizations and volunteer programs are still hesitant to partner with plant-touching operations. Thankfully, this trend is taking a turn in a positive direction. Take for example, Cresco Labs, who launched the SEED initiative in 2019 to “ensure that all members of our society have the skills, knowledge and opportunity to work in and own businesses in this industry.” Companies all over the nation are contributing to those most affected by the War on Drugs by donating to non-profits like Last Prisoner Project or collaborating on expungement events. 

Human Resources will attract a wider talent pool and increase employee satisfaction in 2020 by providing thoughtful opportunities for employees to be involved in CSR efforts. 

Wellness and Benefits Offerings

For years, marijuana businesses have had to worry about basic employee resources, like ensuring they have access to banking and can receive a direct deposit. Although this will remain a hurdle for many, more doors have begun to open for managers to offer benefits, and even 401(k). Insurance and 401(k) brokers that are transparently serving the industry are becoming more and more prevalent into the new year. While Section 280E hinders employers from offering a 401(k) match, some production-focused entities may be able to deduct contributions to their employee benefits plans, where dispensary entities may not be able to—even when they’re owned by the same parent company.

Partnering with cannabis-friendly brokers and financial advisors will only benefit HR professionals as these offerings are still difficult to obtain and execute. 

They say a year in cannabis is like 7 dog years… The industry has made it this far, not without flaw and frustration, but certainly with grit and determination. Organizations have the strength to power through 2020 with a solid foundation, the right toolset, and the best people around. 

Heather is an experienced marketing professional with a demonstrated history of work in cannabis technology and digital strategy. Skilled in customer relationship management, online marketing, immersive experience design and communications, Heather brings a unique combination of creative ideation and project management. As Director of Marketing for Wurk, the first workforce management company designed specifically for the cannabis industry, Heather develops key messaging to inform the market about effective human resource management and to support the advancement of the industry. With previous experience at MJ Freeway, the leading provider of seed-to-sale software solutions for marijuana businesses, Heather brings a unique understanding of cannabis chain of custody and the various challenges operators face in this highly regulated space. Heather earned a bachelor’s degree in communication design and marketing from Metropolitan State University.  

Designed specifically for the cannabis industry, Wurk allows employers to protect and streamline their operations, while providing an environment where people are a priority every step of the way. The intuitive, all-in-one solution automates the most complicated and risk-prone processes associated with hiring, scheduling, and paying employees. Learn more at enjoywurk.com.

Webinar Recording: 280E Mitigation – What You Need To Know

Watch this webinar recording in case you missed the live presentation from December 17.

Legal cannabis has been spreading across the United States for over 10 years now. How has the industry been viewed in the eyes of the IRS? The cannabis industry has consistently lost in tax court against the IRS. Can these businesses be profitable on an after-tax basis? Do management companies help with profitability? Jim Marty and Cory Parnell of Bridge West LLC, CPAs and Consultants to the cannabis industry will explore these questions in light of recent tax cases.

Learning Objectives:
1. The session will help attendees understand the implications of recent Tax Court decisions that involve IRS Code Section 280E.
2. Learn how to avoid double taxation with related party management companies.
3. Explore the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution regarding excessive fines and penalties. Hear the arguments that conflict with 280E.
4. In light of the above, learn how C-Corporations can help protect again personal liability for dispensary income taxes.



Member Blog: What To Know About Cannabis Business Valuations

By Melissa Diaz, CFO, Rebel Rock

The rapid growth and ever-evolving nature of the cannabis industry has resulted in wild and hyperinflated business valuations, making it extremely difficult for companies to zero in on a fair valuation as they seek to acquire or be acquired in the up-and-coming field. 

What can cannabis companies do to counter overinflated valuations as they pursue an exit or acquisition strategy? The best approach is to better understand what investors are looking for when they evaluate a company for a potential merger and acquisition deal.

Many Ways to Determine Value

Pinpointing the value of a business is not an exact science. Investors rely on a variety of methods and evaluation techniques to help them land on a fair valuation. Let’s break down some of the most common methods.

  • Discounted Cash Flow: A Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) analysis attempts to determine a company’s value today based on projections of how much money it will generate in the future.

  • Market Transaction: This method estimates a company’s value by comparing the business to similar companies in the marketplace. This approach works really well with publicly traded companies.

  • Adjusted Net Asset Method: A company’s value is determined by analyzing the net value of its assets minus any liabilities.

  • Revenue Multiplier/EBITDA: A company’s value is determined by dividing its revenue multiplier ratio by its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA).

Unique Cannabis Challenges 

Because of the unique nature of the cannabis field, each of the above-mentioned valuation methods come with their own challenges when applied in the industry.

  • Discounted Cash Flow: Because cannabis businesses’ operating costs are so high and their margins are so slim, a DCF analysis will likely produce a more modest valuation than some of the eye-popping ones seen throughout the industry in recent years. But that doesn’t mean it’s unfair or wrong. DCF analyses take into account the current realities of U.S. tax code and the impact it has on costs and earnings.

  • Market Transaction: A market method should not be used by cannabis companies in pinning down a valuation because cannabis companies that have gone public — most notably in Canada — have not been able to sustain their sky-high IPO values, which raises concerns that they were overvalued. Also, public cannabis companies north of the border have seen their values plummet in recent months because big promises of heady market growth don’t seem to be coming to fruition.

  • Adjusted Net Asset Method: While this method can be beneficial for certain cannabis businesses with a lot of assets (cultivators, for instance) one potential downside is it assumes the value of the company is simply the value of its assets and does not take into account any potential for future earnings.

  • Revenue Multiplier/EBITDA: This is currently the most widely used valuation method in the cannabis industry and is likely going to be used in tandem with another valuation method. That’s because EBITDA eliminates the impact of tax restrictions under IRS tax code 280E. It allows investors to look at a company’s hypothetical profitability for when those tax issues are eventually resolved. Most professionals in the cannabis industry agree those tax and legal issues will be eliminated in the next five to eight years. The risk or challenge with this method, then, lies in if that timeline ends up being longer than expected.

Other Valuation Considerations

Evaluating a company’s valuation is a multifaceted approach. Investors often rely on a hybrid approach, using more than one of the standard valuation methods. But they also take into consideration other metrics that have little to do with the bottom line. Some of those include:

  • Management Team: Who’s on your board? Who are your top executives? Investors take a look at management before any other metric. Because of the industry’s legal haziness, investors want to see legitimate industry expertise on boards and management teams.

  • Brand Loyalty: Brand loyalty is big in cannabis. If buyers find a strain they really enjoy, they are more likely to try other strains from the same brand when the preferred product is out of stock. Investors will look at how companies measure brand penetration as part of their due diligence.

  • State of Financials: How quickly are you able to produce them? Is your accounting managed through a cloud-based system? Are your company’s financials messy? Unbalanced? Clear and organized financials are important, as is responding to investor requests in a timely manner. Otherwise, an investor will get the impression that you are disorganized and don’t truly understand your business — which can have a huge impact on any potential valuation.

Be Your Own Advocate

Whether a cannabis business operator is pursuing an acquisition or an exit, it’s important to understand the standard approaches investors take when evaluating such opportunities. Also, don’t be afraid to suggest a particular valuation method or approach to potential investors. Ultimately, nobody knows your business better than you — it’s vital to be your own best advocate.

Advocating for your business and having a better understanding of the valuation process will go a long way toward landing on a fair valuation for your business.

Melissa Diaz is a co-founder and CFO of Arizona-based Rebel Rock, which provides cannabis businesses across North America with specialty accounting solutions, income tax services (U.S. only), CFO and controller services, and business system implementation. She guides companies of all sizes through GAAP compliance, financial modeling, financial reporting and general financial accounting inquiries and functions. 

In addition to leading Rebel Rock, Melissa co-founded Rebel HR, which provides cannabis companies with technology-based HR solutions. She is also a partner in High Rock, a likeminded accounting firm focused on cloud technology integration. Melissa has additional experience as a financial statement auditor with a large international accounting firm, providing audit services for domestic and international businesses. Further, Melissa has experience overseeing global revenue and receivables for a Fortune 500 company. 

Melissa earned a bachelor’s degree in Accounting from University of Arizona and a master’s degree in Accounting from Arizona State University.  

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