2020 Senate Races To Watch

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

Photo By CannabisCamera.com

As you may have heard by now, Election Day is just around the corner! Let me take this opportunity to remind you to vote, to do so safely, and come up with an election plan! If you need help determining if you’re registered, or need more information about anything election-related, you can click here for some great resources.

Over the last two years, NCIA and the cannabis industry have had some success in Washington, D.C.: passing the SAFE Banking Act out of the House, passing the MORE Act out of committee (we expect a full House vote during the lame duck session!), and even getting the language of the SAFE Banking Act included in three proposed COVID-19 relief packages. But, the same challenge has remained: the upper chamber of Congress, the Senate.

This year, there are 35 Senate seats up for election, and the results will impact cannabis policy for years to come (remember, Senate terms last for six years). Let’s take a look at three races that could not only impact cannabis policy, but the makeup of the Senate as a whole.

Arizona

Incumbent: Sen. Martha McSally – Republican

Challenger: Mark Kelly – Democrat

The Details: Senator Martha McSally, Mark Kelly, and seventeen other write-in candidates are running in this year’s special election in Arizona. The winner will fill the rest of the 2017-2022 term that former Sen. John McCain (R) won in 2016. You may remember McSally’s name– that’s because back in the 2018 general election, McSally ran for Arizona’s other Senate seat and lost to Kyrsten Sinema (D) 47.6% to 50.0%. After the 2018 election, interim Sen. Jon Kyl (R) announced his resignation and Gov. Doug Ducey (R) announced McSally as Kyl’s replacement in December 2018. Easy to keep up with, right?!

On Cannabis: This year, Arizonans will vote on Proposition 207, which would legalize adult-use cannabis in the state. During a debate in October, the candidates were asked about the initiative. Mark Kelly responded, “I think I’m gonna vote yes. It has some provisions in there to decriminalize it and address some incarceration rates for marijuana offenses — I think that’s good. I think there’s a funding source there. So I’m probably gonna vote yes.” When asked if he’d support removing marijuana as a Schedule 1 narcotic were such federal legislation to come before him, Kelly replied, “Based on my vote here in Arizona, I would seriously consider removing it.”

Senator McSally, on the other hand, has been essentially silent and inactive on this issue since assuming office. Last month, when asked about the initiative, McSally said “I’ll let the Arizona voters decide that [Proposition 207].” During her time as a Congresswoman prior to being appointed to the Senate, McSally voted against several cannabis-related appropriations amendments. She has not co-sponsored any cannabis-related legislation in the Senate.

Colorado

Incumbent: Sen. Cory Gardner – Republican

Challenger: Former Governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper – Democrat

The Details: This race is one of the most contested in the country– both the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) and the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) have added it to their election target lists. The previous three U.S. Senate elections in Colorado—2016, 2014, and 2010—were decided by margins of 5.7, 1.6, and 1.7 percentage points, respectively. Gardner was first elected in 2014 after defeating incumbent Mark Udall (D) 48.2-46.3%. 

On Cannabis: Sen. Gardner has long been touted as one of the most pro-cannabis Republicans in the Senate. He has sponsored and co-sponsored a number of cannabis bills, including the STATES Act and the SAFE Banking Act. However, Sen. Gardner has been unable to convince his colleagues to bring SAFE Banking up for a committee vote, or even have a simple hearing on the STATES Act. That being said, if Republicans retain control of the Senate, but Gardner loses his seat, it may have adverse consequences for the cannabis industry. 

During his time as governor, Hickenlooper actively opposed cannabis legalization, even going so far as to unsuccessfully campaign against the state’s marijuana legalization ballot referendum. He then went on to implement it after voters approved the measure. During his last year as governor, he also vetoed proposals to add autism as a medical marijuana qualifying condition, to increase flexibility for investments in the cannabis industry, and to allow dispensaries to operate tasting rooms. But Hickenlooper has come a long way since then– his campaign website states, “As U.S. Senator, I will fight to remove cannabis from classification as a Schedule I drug.” Plus, he even responded to an op-ed penned earlier this year by NCIA’s own Social Media Manager, Vince Chandler, tweeting, “Yes, I support decriminalizing & descheduling marijuana. Colorado set the gold standard, and I’m eager to work with you and Colorado’s cannabis industry and entrepreneurs to get this done in Washington.”

Montana

Incumbent: Sen. Steve Daines – Republican

Challenger: Former Governor of Montana, Steve Bullock – Democrat

The Details: Incumbent Sen. Daines was first elected in 2014 with 58% of the vote. Bullock was first elected Governor of Montana in 2012 with 49% of the vote to his opponent’s 47%. His margin increased in 2016 when he won 50% to 46%. That same year, Donald Trump (R) won Montana in the presidential election with 56% of the vote to Hillary Clinton’s (D) 36%.

Both the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Senate Majority PAC, a Democratic PAC, have targeted the race. Prior to announcing his bid for Senate, Bullock joined the crowded Democratic presidential field before dropping out in 2019.

Implications: This year, there are two cannabis-related initiatives on the ballot in the Treasure State. Montana I-190, the Marijuana Legalization Initiative, is on the ballot and would legalize the possession and use of marijuana for adults over the age of 21, impose a 20% tax on marijuana sales, require the Department of Revenue to develop rules to regulate marijuana businesses, and allow for the resentencing or expungement of marijuana-related crimes. The second initiative, Montana CI-118, the Allow for a Legal Age for Marijuana Amendment, would amend the Montana Constitution to allow for the legislature or a citizen initiative to establish a minimum legal age for the possession, use, and purchase of marijuana, similar to the regulation of alcohol in the state constitution.

While neither Senate candidate has weighed in on the state’s cannabis initiatives, we do have some understanding of their views on the issue– Sen. Daines has consistently voted in favor of appropriations amendments related to hemp, medical cannabis, and banking. In 2015, he co-sponsored an industrial hemp bill. It’s important to note that all of these votes were more than three years ago. On the other hand, while running for president last year during July 2019, Bullock stated, “I think this [cannabis legalization] should be left up to the states. I think the federal government should get out of the way and this is a state-by-state decision.”

Now, remember to get out there and VOTE! Here at NCIA, we’ll be analyzing other initiatives, candidates, and what it all means for you and your business as we get closer to the election, and doing the same once we get the results! 

 

 

 

Driving High? Information From The CO Department of Transportation

Since Colorado became the first state to legalize recreational marijuana in 2014, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has used its unique position to remain on the forefront of traffic safety campaigns for marijuana-impaired driving. CDOT recently launched its new Drugged Driving Colorado website, DriveHighDUI.com, which features telling insights, current data, and a lengthy list of resources to help inform not only Coloradans but marijuana consumers and industry professionals nationwide. As communication shifts to a heavy online focus amid COVID-19, providing accurate and detailed information from a distance is more necessary than ever.   

Consumer Education

Consumer health and safety are important to all cannabis businesses, yet information on driving impaired can be hard to come by. CDOT’s website has educational resources that answer commonly asked questions and provide data and downloadable social media graphics, videos, and more. CDOT encourages the free use of its resources and information for in-store screens, website education pages, email blasts, blog/newsletter posts, or at conferences and trade shows. 

Frontline Employee Knowledge

Budtenders, manufacturing representatives, and trade publications are the voices most trusted by cannabis consumers. Educating all staff can help dispel false perceptions of cannabis-impaired driving and help change behaviors around driving high. Learn the basics and keep up with the latest news on the Featured News section of DriveHighDUI.com. If you have industry news or an article idea, please reach out to CDOT Traffic Safety Manager Sam Cole at sam.cole@state.co.us.

Community Relations — Be A Valued Resource

Building relationships with the communities in which they operate is crucial to the health and wellbeing of the cannabis industry. CDOT has partnered with health care organizations, nonprofits, universities, and neighborhood groups to communicate the dangers of driving high. Affecting change takes cooperation — and cannabis companies can use these resources to open a dialogue with local, state, or national organizations to help spread the word. 

Impaired driving from alcohol and/or other drugs is one of the leading causes of traffic deaths on Colorado’s roads, accounting for approximately one-quarter of all fatalities. This is an issue that affects all of us. CDOT hopes its ongoing efforts to educate cannabis consumers extend beyond Colorado’s borders and we encourage NCIA members and industry organizations across the nation to take advantage of the available resources so we can lead by example and keep our communities safe.

 

Meet The Team: Amy Rose – NCIA’s Business Development and Partnerships Manager

When I think about where I was 5 or 10 years ago, I would have never imagined that this is the career path I would be on. When I left college in 2013 with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, I considered so many options. Not one of them was working in the cannabis industry. I contemplated becoming a teacher. Maybe I should be a social worker? What about some sort of community outreach position? But before making any decisions on my career, I decided to take a huge step back and move my life across the country, with one suitcase, and with barely enough money in my pocket to survive more than a month. 

The transformation of my life began in February 2014 in Colorado. A one-way flight. Four winter jackets (that I wore on the plane so I didn’t have to pay an extra baggage fee), three scarves, and whatever clothing I could fit in my one checked bag. Life ahead of me was extremely uncertain.

Coincidentally, I moved to Denver right after Colorado legalized the adult use of cannabis. That wasn’t the reason why I moved, although it definitely was a perk. I moved because I wanted a fresh start. I’d spent my whole life on the East Coast. First in a New Jersey suburb of New York City. Then on the west coast of Florida. After I finished school, I lived for a short while with my mom in very rural central Florida. It was horrible. Not a place for a young person. But it gave me time to think about what I wanted out of life. I knew I needed a change.

Things didn’t really go as planned. I was working long 60-hour weeks in restaurants and at catering gigs and was able to provide for myself, which was enough at the time. I told myself that by the fall of 2014, I wanted to get a “real job” whatever that meant. And so I did. I started working an administrative job at a physical therapy company. I learned a lot, had good days, bad days, but it certainly wasn’t making me happy. After spending 2 years working there, I felt like I was at a dead-end. I didn’t see the growth in myself that I had wanted to see. And I was more miserable at work than anyone should be.

The summer of 2016 was when I took a huge chance. I remember calling my family to tell them I got a job offer as a budtender at a dispensary and them thinking I was absolutely crazy for even considering it. A few weeks later, I got another job offer as an inventory manager at a dispensary. To my family, that seemed like a “real job” since if it didn’t work out, I’d have skills that I could transfer to something else. I was scared to take the leap, but nothing was scarier than staying at a job I was unhappy at. 

My professional connection to the cannabis industry began in August 2016. I couldn’t believe it. Not only was I happier in my job, but I was making a living while working for a company in a relatively new industry that I truly believed in. I learned all about the retail and cultivation side of the cannabis industry. And I learned a whole lot more about myself. BGood Dispensary in Denver will always have a special place in my heart. I appreciate that they took a chance on someone new to the industry. Not to mention that they are long-time members of NCIA.

After spending a few months there, I decided to make my next move and work for a testing lab in Boulder, Rm3 Labs. I knew about cultivation and how dispensaries worked. My position at Rm3 Labs gave me the opportunity to understand the testing and regulations side of the industry. I was satisfied. But I wanted more. 

My working relationship with NCIA started in July 2017. The past three years, as I’ve learned so much, have just flown by. I’ve been able to experience things I never imagined. Things that can only happen when you totally believe in the mission of your organization completely. I have been able to educate myself and others about things that are important to me personally and which I believe are important to society as well. Each day is an opportunity to learn something new. I’ve gotten to travel and experience new things that have contributed to my growth as a person. Sometimes I try to imagine where I’ll be five years from now. With this industry, that’s hard to tell.

Committee Blog: Interstate Cannabis Commerce Will Benefit Public Safety, Consumer Choice, and Patient Access (Part 2)

By Sean Donahoe, Founder and CEO, Sungrown Developments Inc.
Member of NCIA’s State Regulations Committee

In Northern California’s legendary cannabis growing region of Mendocino, the elected county sheriff was recently a competitor at a homebrew festival, jovially pouring samples of his “Pretty Sour Powerful Sider” (jokingly referring to the “Public Safety Power Shutoffs” recently implemented by the electricity utility PG&E to prevent wildfires.) While this relaxed scene of neighbors bonding in the wake of shared inconveniences was not exceptional in itself, here, Sheriff Allman was posing for selfies with licensed (but possibly a few unlicensed) cannabis cultivators sharing the liquid bounties of harvest for the benefit of a local nonprofit.

For nearly a decade, the elected officials and staff of Mendocino county have worked together to normalize the local cannabis farmers by providing a pathway for medical cannabis cultivation permits, long before the state established a licensing system. This public policy process brought once-outlaw cannabis growers into conformance with every regulation of modern life: from building code standards to streambed alteration regulations to the quantification of gross receipts for tax collection. Bringing regulators onto these farms has curtailed previous practices that may have threatened consumer safety: pesticide and other chemicals are now tracked and regulated, while every gram can now be tracked back to its very plot of origin (in case of a safety recall or other concerns post-harvest.) This has been unquestionably difficult for and disruptive to many heritage and small farmers, but it has also allowed in these regions for simple scenes of social bonding and neighbors trusting neighbors again, as participants in the illicit sector were normalized into first their local county’s community then into a system of state license and next (hopefully soon) into a web of regulated interstate commerce. The process of bringing every farm into the regulated supply chain is far from complete, of course, and there are still illicit operators producing for consumers in urban areas in the state and beyond.

Rather than dwell on the incomplete success of California’s ongoing efforts to bring order to the world’s largest cannabis marketplace, it is essential to focus on the quality of life benefits from every cannabis operation successfully brought over from the traditional market to the regulated sector. Each licensed operation makes for one more safe workplace, one more source for lab-tested products for consumers and patients, and one more farm abiding by environmental regulations while providing stable employment and economic sustainability in rural communities. Under the previous medical cannabis paradigm, while there was certainly an abundance of responsible operators, there was virtually zero guidance from the state on matters of workplace safety, manufacturing standards, or environmental compliance. We are now several years into a robust legislative and administrative rulemaking process that has established a (mostly) clear set of rules of the road for commercial cannabis activities. It has unquestionably been a bumpy road for many of the legacy farmers to comply with new regulatory standards, but we are nonetheless able to say that there are now thousands of well-regulated cannabis farms in California (and southern Oregon) eager to sell their clean and craft quality products in a hopeful system of interstate commerce.

Has every cannabis farm in California transitioned? Of course not, but neither have the illicit cannabis economies been entirely supplanted by adult-use cannabis retailers in Colorado and Washington. Sensible and sustainable cannabis policy reform is a process, not a simple flipping of a switch from “illegal” to “legal,” and Americans should be realistic about the progressive and iterative nature of this process. This process, like most evolutionary processes, has already experienced several inflection points, transformative moments that noticeably shifted public opinion or opened up new frontiers in policy reform. While the earlier era of medical cannabis state laws certainly created a base of public opinion and laws, it was questionably the passage of adult-use ballot measures in Colorado and Washington which brought onto the global stage and accelerated the awareness that adult consumers could buy cannabis in clean, responsible retail locations rather than furtive or even dangerous transactions in the illicit marketplace

Throughout this policy process, we have established that licensed retail options can be scaled without negatively affecting public safety and are highly efficient competitive enterprises, offering consumers ample product selection and low prices. In both Colorado and Washington states (but also in later states) we have seen imbalances for some time as market forces, regulatory factors and new cultivation capacity coming online have all helped to create price fluctuations, product shortages, and other supply disruptions. These disruptions were not unique to these early states and will likely continue in every market as new in-state regulated options come online in fits and starts (but when interstate commerce becomes possible we should expect significant price fluctuations unlike any seen to date.) During these fiscally trying periods, we have often seen cannabis operators attempt to cut corners on compliance to make ends meet, which can lead to compromised consumer safety and public safety. The goals of consumer availability and cost competitiveness should be foremost in the minds of policymakers crafting cannabis policy reform nationwide, most notably in the anticipated markets of the Northeast. As these next anticipated adult-use states are designing the framework of their retail and distribution systems, strong consideration should be taken on the potential benefits of quickly and effectively scaling their programs by incorporating interstate commerce as soon as (politically) possible.

The Interstate Commerce Conversation

As the serious policy conversations about compliant interstate cannabis commerce begin, it is helpful to study how in our proverbial laboratories of democracy we can see that decreasing retail friction and shifting consumers from the illicit marketplace benefits crime reduction efforts and improves overall public safety. We should also note that retail cannabis sales have continued to grow in Colorado and Washington, even after the initial novelty and the surge of tourism waned, while legal sales have supplanted illicit sales. These early-adopting states have created models that are addressing consumer demand as national interest in cannabis for wellness and adult-use purposes are soaring and the cultural normalizing continues to occur on a global scale. Interest is high, consumer demand is real, and evidence shows that our drug reform policies should be crafted to bring every cannabis consumer transaction into the regulated supply chain in order to fulfill the demand while benefiting from increases in public safety. Interstate commerce could provide not only safer products but also a greater variety of quality and highly competitive offerings. For medical patients and wellness-oriented consumers, interstate commerce may be the only viable means of access for certain formulated cannabis products or cultivars, especially in smaller state markets. 

In addition to the above benefits, regulated interstate cannabis commerce system could provide a more robust and differentiated production and distribution network combined with the ability to rapidly scale retail sales and address insufficient cultivation capacity in new adult-use markets. Cannabis consumers are price sensitive and illicit market retail options continue to entice consumers in states with functional adult-use programs such as California (or Canada), where there is an insufficient amount of licensed retail options to address total consumer demand.  With the beginning of adult-use sales in Illinois and larger adult-use states yet to come, it is frankly a bit difficult to envision how total consumer demand will be able to be fulfilled in any near term by relying on licensed cannabis cultivated in-state alone.

The Safe Vaping Discussion

While moving to allow interstate commerce will best position licensed operators to compete with the prices available to consumers in the illicit sector, moving towards a borderless system of production and distribution will also increase safety and access for patients and consumers. Most prominent is the recent nationwide discussion on vaping and vaping-related issues, where tainted products and resultant injuries have been found in the unregulated, illicit sector (or in a very few instances from licensed but arguably under-regulated sources.) Notably, NCIA’s Policy Council established a Safe Vaping Task Force to work on these issues and has released a more comprehensive document advocating for the expansion of a regulatory approach for the safe manufacturing and distribution of cannabis products, whether vape cartridges or otherwise.

The issue of vaping extends to broader issues of product safety including educational campaigns, quality assurance, and testing programs, supply chain integrity, track and trace, and other reporting systems, and (when all else fails) a capable and sophisticated product safety recall system and these are all necessary components of a well-regulated marketplace. These consumer safety programs have already been carefully designed and stress-tested in Colorado and California and the insights from these systems and those in other states should be incorporated into the crafting of interstate cannabis policy (which will require significant harmonization of Certificates of Analysis and testing standards, packaging and labeling standards, etc., again all of which will benefit patients and consumers by offering greater predictability and reliability of their preferred products.)

Multi-State Coordination

In various forums, we have begun to see state regulators liaise with each other and we hope to see more coordination in the future and potentially an earnestness in harmonizing standards where statutorily possible. This multi-state coordination on product safety standards would be accelerated as part of the regulatory coordination efforts that are likely necessary for interstate commerce and, again, consumers and patients will benefit from safer cannabis and cannabis products, and we see NCIA as the critical player in this coming national conversation. In conclusion, moving to a system of regulated interstate cannabis commerce will have tangible benefits for the general public, for consumers and patients and I encourage forward-thinking members of the industry to participate and help manifest a system of interstate cannabis commerce with NCIA, its Allied Associations and other industry groups.


After studying Russian affairs and working as a political consultant, Sean Donahoe co-founded the California Cannabis Industry Association. He served as its Deputy Director through 2014 when he transitioned to consulting for investors and operators, communicating with public stakeholders, serving on local government committees, and advising industry trade groups. He holds an MSc in Government from the London School of Economics and is CEO of Sungrown Developments Inc., an advisory firm and holding company in Oakland, California.

Video Member Spotlight: AgriScience Laboratories

In this month’s video member spotlight, step into the cannabis and hemp testing labs of AgriScience Laboratories, based in Denver, Colorado. AgriScience Labs was created as a merger of two laboratories: CMT Laboratories and Terra Health Care Labs. CMT had been operating since 2011 and was known as a leader in science and customer service during that time. Terra Health Care Laboratories (THCL) was the first certified testing lab in the United States, and they were known for state of the art equipment, methods, and facilities. Learn more about the company’s testing methods and values from Frank Traylor, Founder & CEO, and Laboratory Director Claire Ohman.

Video: Member Spotlight – WonderLeaf

In this month’s video member spotlight, we headed to Aurora, Colorado, to visit with the family-owned team at the WonderLeaf facility, founded in 2015. WonderLeaf products feature full-spectrum cannabinoids and strain-specific extractions. Learn more about WonderLeaf’s values of educating the consumer through budtender education tools, including information about the terpenes and cannabinoid profiles of their products.

Member Blog: How To Build A Successful Hemp CBD Company

by Christie Lunsford, The Hemp Biz Conference

The legalization of industrial hemp in December, 2018, has opened the door to a host of new products and processes that have the potential to enhance health and technological innovation while being environmentally sustainable and most importantly, highly profitable.

Entrepreneurs who want to stake their claim in the hemp space face some of the same challenges as others starting a new business, but other challenges are unique. Like anyone starting a business, you must understand your market. Right now hemp’s “low hanging fruit,” cannabidiol (CBD), is gaining popularity. Established brands such as Bluebird Botanicals, Endoca, and CV Sciences – which recorded $48.2 million in revenue for 2018, an increase of 133 percent over the previous year – are taking off.

Growth like this explains why predictions for overall expansion in the CBD market are meteoric, with cannabis industry analysts The Brightfield Group predicting it could hit $22 billion by 2022. But in order to get on that ride you will need to understand CBD consumers, prepare to meet their needs, and plan to expand their awareness of ways your product or service can help them. You will also need capital.

Stand out to investors

Once you have a good idea of the market and demand, you will be ready to start thinking about funding your company. It used to be that a passionate founder with a good pitch deck could attract investors after one meeting, but times have changed. Investors want cold, hard data to back up your claims, and they will want better analysis than your gut feeling, and a larger sample size  than your friends and family.

Your pitch needs to not only support your market analysis with data, but differentiate your brand from others competing for the same investor dollars. The business model and differentiation need to encompass:

  • Revenue source
    • Where will you sell your product? Options include wholesale, white label, and retail through either online, brick-and-mortar store or a third-party vendor, or a combination of those.
  • Product category
    • Will you market your product as a cosmetic, pet supplement, nutraceutical, specialty beverage, functional food or something else? You will need specific information about the market for that product category and what roles CBD can occupy in them.
  • Product quality
    • What extraction methods are you using? Is your product purity third-party verified?
    • Are you using the highest grade of CBD isolate or distillate in your product line?
  • Product sourcing
    • Where does your hemp and raw materials come from?
    • How hands-on are you with your suppliers?
    • How stringently do you track your product from farm to consumer?
    • Vertical integration is increasingly seen as the optimal approach to CBD supply chain management. Producers such as Shi Farms in Colorado specialize in vertical integration.
  • Cannabinoid science:
    • Are your product and marketing firmly grounded in the best available science supporting the uses of CBD and other cannabinoids?
  • Product story
    • Do you have a compelling narrative that explains your personal investment in making the product available to consumers?
    • Does your marketing comply with FDA standards?

Some things you should not DIY

The issue of FDA compliance deserves special attention and professional support for CBD businesses. It is one of a few areas where hiring a consultant can make the difference between success and failure.

Your outward-facing communications will have to walk a line between including all the required elements without making any claims that violate FDA regulations. Cosmetic and nutraceutical labeling must list all ingredients, while nutraceuticals also need to provide a dietary supplement facts panel. Structure and function claims can be particularly tricky. CBD is not classified as a drug and therefore verbs such as treat, diagnose, prevent and cure are absolutely off limits. The language has to convey that some consumers use CBD in certain ways without employing medical terms or guaranteeing any particular outcomes. You can do your own research on compliance but it is always wiser to hire a consultant who specializes in this area.

As you get past the initial planning and push to get your business started, you will find there’s no substitute for long-term planning. Collecting ongoing data on the purity and potency of your product, the costs of raw materials and effectiveness of your marketing will enable you to make mid-course corrections in your projections so that your business and revenue grow.

Long-term planning based on robust data will ultimately make a huge difference for your business. I predict a failure rate of about 70 percent for CBD companies over the next five years. Whether they are underfunded, lack an effective management structure or are out of compliance with FDA standards, many new businesses won’t be able to compete with major players like Kraft, P&G and Unilever as they enter and begin to dominate in the CBD space. But some of those starting a CBD business now will not only learn how to stay afloat, they will prosper to the point that those major players will come knocking at their doors with generous offers to buy. Build in a pathway for your desired exit strategy and have all of your operating agreements and documents at the ready. If this looks like a possibility, or you want it to become one, you will need top notch, cannabis-savvy representation like McAllister-Garfield in your corner.

Learning and networking

If you want to make a deeper dive into starting or building a CBD or hemp concern, The Hemp Biz Conference is here for you. During symposia around the country you can learn about industry trends in an interactive forum, and get access to experts in discussion and workshop sessions designed for everyone from beginners to established professionals. Scheduled tracks – agriculture, processing, manufacturing, extraction, textiles, biofuels and plastics – allow you to focus your time where it matters most to you and your business. The Hemp Biz symposia attract the hottest hemp companies, investors and entrepreneurs in the industry so you will leave with connections that will help you grow for years to come.


Christie Lunsford, CEO, leads The Hemp Biz Conference’s charge into creating a sustainable hemp industry by bringing together the best experts, entrepreneurs, farmers and scientists in the cannabis space in the Hemp Symposium Series.

Before launching The Hemp Biz Conference in 2018, Christie founded Endocannabinioidology, a consulting firm providing cannabis science, FDA compliance support, technology and education management to businesses and individuals in the cannabis and hemp communities, where she successfully wrote or advised on winning cannabis license applications in several states. She has also overseen operations for a producer of horticultural LED technology, helped formulate and launch the first retail channel of CBD nutraceutical products derived from industrial hemp in the U.S,  and was named Cannabis Woman of the Year at the 2015 Cannabis Business Awards. In addition to producing The Hemp Biz Conference’s Hemp Symposium Series she is a regular contributor on the business of hemp for Green Entrepreneur.

Congratulations to Ean Seeb For His New Public Policy Role!

Photo By CannabisCamera.com

NCIA leadership and its Board of Directors are thrilled to be celebrating the transition of one of our very own cannabis industry leaders into a prominent public policy role for the state of Colorado. Please join us in congratulating Ean Seeb for his new role as Governor Jared Polis’ Special Advisor on Cannabis.

Throughout his career, Ean has been a tireless advocate for replacing criminal marijuana markets with a socially responsible and well-regulated cannabis industry and now he’s bringing that experience into the public sector.

Ean has served the cannabis community and industry for more than a decade, and now moves on from his role as co-owner and founder of Denver Relief and Denver Relief Consulting, as well as other endeavors including Manna Molecular which he represented on the NCIA board of directors. Ean was an active member of the NCIA board of directors for nearly seven years and chairman of the board for two of those years.

“I can’t think of a better person to advise Governor Polis on cannabis policy. During his tenure in the private sector, Ean has always demonstrated a commitment to justice, personal liberty, and corporate social responsibility,” said NCIA executive director Aaron Smith. “The people of Colorado are very lucky to now have him now putting his talents and passion to work for them.”

“Ean is a leader in the cannabis industry and we are thrilled to have him on our team. We welcome his incredible expertise and know he will help us continue Colorado’s leadership in this growing industry,” said Chief of Staff Lisa Kauffman.

“I’m incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to work with NCIA over the years to help promote the interests and best practices of the cannabis industry as a board member and citizen lobbyist. I entered the cannabis industry because I wanted to help people suffering under marijuana prohibition, and NCIA made it possible to that on a larger scale,” said newly-hired Ean Seeb.

It was through NCIA that I met then-Congressman Polis – at the very first NCIA event in Colorado in 2011, which eventually led to my new role in the Governor’s office. Now I have the chance to help even more people throughout the great state of Colorado and beyond in the coming years.”

Congratulations and best wishes, Ean!

Member Blog: A Summary Of Colorado’s Publicly Licensed Marijuana Companies Bill (HB19-1090)

by Charles S. Alovisetti and Jason Adelstone, Vicente Sederberg LLC

On May 29, 2019, Governor Jared Polis signed HB 1090 into law, removing burdensome restrictions on who can own cannabis businesses in Colorado and permitting greater outside investment. The law, which goes into effect on November 1, 2019, drastically changes the regulations in Colorado by permitting public companies, currently prohibited from owning cannabis licenses, to own such a license in the state. Additionally, shareholders with equity interests below ten percent will largely be able to avoid the current extensive disclosure requirements.

Before industry participants rush to secure outside investments, there are important issues to be considered.

First, the rules and regulations promulgated pursuant to HB 1090 have yet to be drafted. While the new ownership framework is outlined in HB 1090, the actual rules that will govern Colorado businesses must still be written. Second, the law does not take effect until November 1, 2019. Regulators have previously penalized companies for hastily signing, or announcing transactions before a law takes effect or without first speaking with the regulators. This type of hasty action can put companies at risk of sanctions and hinder the application process. Lastly, this article is only a summary of HB 1090 and does not discuss the nuances of the law. Please consult a licensed attorney regarding specifics of any proposed transactions.

The signing of HB 1090 opens a new era for the Colorado cannabis industry. Where the old law prohibited public corporations from owning even indirect equity stakes, the new law allows certain publicly traded companies to own licensed cannabis businesses within Colorado. And where the old law required at least one owner to meet the one-year residency requirement, the new law only requires all individuals with day-to-day operational control to be Colorado residents. The new law also allows non-U.S. citizens to own equity in a licensed business.

What’s New

Many of the old categories of ownership have been scrapped. No longer are there Direct and Indirect Beneficial Interest Owners or Qualified Passive Investors. Where HB 1040 (the previous law that currently governs ownership) focused on any amount of control or ownership, HB 1090 generally requires more direct control or ownership to trigger disclosures and Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) approval. HB 1090 creates three new types of ownership classifications and defines “Acquire” and “Control” more effectively. Control is the direct or indirect possession of the power to direct the management or policies of the cannabis business, whether through ownership of voting securities, by contract, or otherwise. This is important because the control requirement now specifically addresses management agreements within the industry. A person “Acquires” a cannabis business not only through the acquisition of ownership interest, but also through the acquisition of direct or indirect control, voting power, or through the sole power to dispose of the owner’s interest through transactions, subsidiaries, purchases, assignments, transfers, exchanges, successions, or other means.

There are three new types of ownership classifications within HB 1090.

First, a Controlling Beneficial Owner, which refers to (i) a natural person, entity, or affiliate (a person that directly, or indirectly through one or more intermediaries, controls or is controlled by or is under common control with, the person specified) or a Qualified Private Fund, defined as a typical venture capital or private equity fund that, owns ten percent or more of a cannabis business, or a person who is otherwise in control of the cannabis business (including managers or others); or (ii) a Qualified Institutional Investor, which is defined as one of a list of entity types that largely reflect passive institutional investors, owning or acquiring at least thirty percent of the owners interest in the cannabis business.

Second, a Passive Beneficial Owner, which is any person holding any interest in a marijuana business who is not otherwise a Controlling Beneficial Owner or in control.

And, third, an Indirect Financial Interest Holder, which is a person that is not an affiliate, a Controlling Beneficial Owner or Passive Beneficial Owner, does not receive a percentage of the revenue or profits of the cannabis business as compensation and satisfies one of the following requirements: (a) holds a reasonable royalty in exchange for the cannabis business using its IP; (b) holds a permitted economic interest prior to January 1, 2020 in a cannabis business that has not been converted into an ownership interest; or (c) is a party to a contract with a cannabis business involving a direct nexus to cultivating, manufacturing, or the sale of cannabis. An Indirect Financial Interest Holder includes a person leasing equipment or real property for use in cannabis operations or cultivation; secured and unsecured financing agreements; security contracts; and management agreements.  

Disclosure Requirements and Change of Ownership Process

Controlling Beneficial Owners and Passive Beneficial Owners each have their own separate disclosure requirements under the law. But with reasonable cause, the MED can require any person to report most of the same information as Controlling Beneficial Owners. All Controlling Beneficial Owners and, at the MED’s request and based on reasonable cause, any other person disclosed under the “business owner and financial interest disclosure requirements” provision must submit for a Suitability Judgment from the MED or apply for an exemption from such requirement prior to submitting a cannabis business application. “Reasonable cause” is defined as just or legitimate grounds (based in law and in fact) to believe that the requested action furthers the purpose of the law or protects public safety.

All Controlling Beneficial Owners must submit disclosure and fingerprint-based criminal history checks as required by the regulations. The MED will review the Controlling Beneficial Owner to see if it shows a history of good moral character. Currently, there is no test for what will justify denial based on the background check.

All applicants for the issuance of a state license must disclose a complete organizational chart reflecting the identity and ownership percentages of its Controlling Beneficial Owners. If the Controlling Beneficial Owner is a publicly traded company, the application must disclose the public companies’ managers and any beneficial owner that, directly or indirectly, owns at least ten percent of the Controlling Beneficial Owner. If the Controlling Beneficial Owner is a Qualified Private Fund, then an organizational chart must be disclosed that identifies the ownership percentages of the Qualified Private Fund’s managers, investment advisors, and anyone else that would control the manager or operations of the marijuana business (this means that, barring extenuating circumstances, funds will not need to disclose their Limited Partners). All applicants (including individuals) must take reasonable care to confirm that its Controlling Beneficial Owners, Passive Beneficial Owners, Indirect Financial Interest Holders, and Qualified Institutional Investors are not prohibited under the law, and failure to do such due diligence can lead to penalties.  

For individual applicants, the natural person’s identification must be disclosed for persons that are both Passive Beneficial Owners and Indirect Financial Interest Holders in the cannabis business, any Indirect Financial Interest Holder that holds two or more indirect financial interests in the business or for persons that contribute over fifty percent of the operating capital of the business.

Despite specific disclosure requirements listed in HB 1090, the MED has discretion to mandate additional reporting. The MED may require an applicant or business to disclose each owner and affiliate and, with reasonable cause, may require a list of each non-objecting beneficial interest owner; business or Controlling Beneficial Owner that is publicly traded; Passive Beneficial Owners of the business; for any Passive Beneficial Owner that is not a natural person, the board members, directors, general partners, executive officers, and ten percent or more owners of the Passive Beneficial Owner; and all Indirect Financial Interest Holders of the cannabis business (including non-natural persons that own at least ten percent of the Indirect Financial Interest Holder).

The disclosure requirements primarily focus on individuals with ten percent or more interest in a cannabis business and those persons in control, but HB 1090 does include a strict prohibition on structuring any transaction with the intent to evade disclosure, reporting, record-keeping or suitability requirements, and any such action can lead to denial or revocation of an application.

Conclusion

Regulations for changes of ownership are still not known and will be clarified during the rule-making process. For most transactions, it appears that a new Controlling Beneficial Owner will need to be approved prior to submitting an application change of ownership for approval. HB 1090 will generate exciting opportunities for Colorado, but it is important to know the law, be patient while the MED promulgates regulations, wait until November 1, 2019 before initiating any outside investment transactions, and consult a licensed attorney regarding specifics of any proposed transactions.   


Charlie Alovisetti, Vicente Sederberg LLC

Charles Alovisetti is a partner and chair of the corporate practice group at Vicente Sederberg LLP based in Denver. He assists licensed and ancillary cannabis businesses with corporate legal matters, and he has experience working with clients on a broad range of transactions.

Member Blog: Advice for Surviving and Thriving in the New Era of Legal Cannabis From Those Who Have Climbed The Mountain (Part 1)

by James Schwartz, CEO of Cascade High Organics

Look to the past to see the future

The challenges facing companies pioneering a new industry where each state deals with its own issues are numerous. The importance of strategic business planning and the ability to predict future problems are essential to survival. Colorado, Washington, and Oregon have each dealt with their unique issues and challenges but there are also common problems that every cannabis business experiences: burdensome regulation, unfair taxation, and banking prohibition to name a few. Building your company and brand is dependent on your ability to maneuver your company through the obstacles that will arise in your state market while also planning for a future of legal interstate commerce through a change in federal policy. To place your company in a position to be successful, you should understand the past to predict the future. 

Quick Summary of Cannabis History

The history of cannabis is long and distorted, however a few basic points of what brought us to the current state of federal prohibition and individual state markets should be noted for context.

Cannabis use as medicine dates back to 2700 BC in China, and has been used throughout history. In 1850, it was added to the U.S. Pharmacopeia. Prior to state and then Federal prohibition, cannabis was an elixir/tincture used in many common household cough/cold syrups and other medications for stomach-aches, asthma, depression, and many others. In the 1930s, cannabis was regulated as a drug in all states, and in 1937, the passing of the Marihuana Tax Act regulated it federally. Then in 1970, the Controlled Substances Act determined cannabis to be a Schedule 1 drug meaning it has no medical benefit and a high risk for abuse. From 1970 to 1996 the manufacture, use, or possession of cannabis was illegal in all fifty states.

CALIFORNIA

In 1996, California became the first state to legalize the medical use of cannabis through Proposition 215. California was the first domino to fall and further background of the early days of California medical cannabis will be addressed in later blogs in this series focusing on California. Over the next twenty years, 37 states have joined California with medically legal cannabis, and nine states have passed and implemented legal “recreational” (now referred to as “adult use”) cannabis programs.  

OREGON

Oregon was the second state to pass medical cannabis in 1998 and that was the start of this author’s journey through the cannabis industry. Prior to 1998, Oregon had been a bastion of black market cannabis cultivation due to its climate and wide open spaces especially in rural southern and eastern Oregon. After 1998, the state “protections” offered by medical cannabis state law allowed the cultivation industry to flourish. However, as opposed to California the state was more focused on growing weed and selling it around the country rather than setting up a distribution system to the medical patients of Oregon. This led to some of the early challenges of the medical cannabis program in Oregon. At this time, the Oregon population was relatively small compared to the state’s cannabis production. Oregon was on its way to being one of the largest cannabis producers in the country. But because cannabis was so easily accessible there was little effort put into a healthy distribution system to Oregon patients. Most patients either grew for themselves or had a designated “grower” and that is where I started in the industry.  

OREGON: FORMATION OF RETAIL ESTABLISHMENTS

As a nurse who had self medicated with cannabis for ADHD, I began growing for patients because I wanted to provide others with access to the amazing health benefits of cannabis. This was the common way most patients accessed their cannabis. There were no dispensaries when the program started and patients who didn’t have a grower were relegated to barter trade types of acquisition. In 2005, the Oregon Legislature allowed growers to be reimbursed for the cost of production and in 2010, the first dispensaries began to pop up. However, it wasn’t until 2012 that legal retail entities were allowed. This lack of a retail access point for patients was one of the first impediments to the program and allowed states like Colorado and California to take the mantel on progress of a robust program of medical cannabis distribution.

COLORADO

In 2000, Colorado became the sixth state to allow medical cannabis with Amendment 20. Its medical program remained low key until 2010 when the Colorado Medical Marijuana Code was created, which provided for licensing of production and retail establishments. This change was a giant step to the progress of cannabis legalization.

Colorado followed the early model presented in California and began implementing licensed retail establishments for card carrying medical cannabis patients. Retails stores began to flourish and this laid the groundwork for the establishment of the Adult Use program. In 2012, Colorado became the first state to legalize what was originally referred to as recreational cannabis now called “Adult Use” cannabis, which allowed the sales of cannabis to all adults aged twenty-one and older and the boom began. Colorado’s medical program developed into a rapidly growing Adult Use system and with the new federal guidance of the Cole Memo in 2013 canna-businesses began growing rapidly.

COLORADO: SEED TO SALE TRACKING

The primary language of the Cole Memo highlights a “robust tracking system” of all products produced and sold. The Cole Memo did not provide protections for cannabis businesses but provided guidance that helped assure businesses of some safety from federal interference. With the advent and implementation of a tracking system we could now be assured of where products came from and be able to track them back to their origin.

COLORADO: LAB TESTING

Once tracking was in place, lab testing for the safety of the consumer came to the forefront of industry progress. This was one of the first problems Colorado realized it had with its blossoming industry. As opposed to Oregon which required all products sold through its immature dispensary system since 2012, Colorado had not required lab testing of all its products until 2016 after several large quarantines and destruction of unsafe contaminated products. Many Colorado producers struggled with new pesticide regulations and was an early sticking point to growth of the industry. Over the first years of Adult Use cannabis program, Colorado struggled with the infancy of a brand new industry and how to regulate it and consequently, businesses suffered.

Other early challenges that the first legal state dealt with were allowable dosages and changes to dosing, as well packaging changes and the look of products, specifically how or if the products were attractive or marketed to children. The obstacles of a new industry most directly affect the businesses and their bottom lines. These are important points to consider when strategizing your business model and planning for inevitable changes to regulations. The time spent preparing for a system that will change will go a long way to ensuring for success.

WASHINGTON

Now let’s talk about Washington.

Washington was the third state to approve medical cannabis but had problems with implementation due to legislative issues. As multiple pieces of legislation were offered, adopted, and repealed, the lack of clarity prevented the medical cannabis industry from launching. Washington passed its adult use cannabis program at the same time as Colorado in 2012. In Washington, the two major obstacles the industry faced were licensing issues and taxes. A previously existing strong medical program in Colorado allowed for a seamless transition to an adult use program, but that was not present in Washington and this added to difficulties with implementing an adult use program.

Because the industry was just getting off the ground, both states relied on their medical programs as a foundation to the adult use. However, Washington’s medical program was murky and disorganized which lead to complications, Washington also limited licenses and put unfair taxes on the industry.  These two factors aided in keeping the black market as the primary driver of the industry, rather than pulling people or businesses into a controlled, tracked, and regulated system.

280E TAX CODE

This provides a nice segue to one of the challenges all cannabis business face: unfair taxes in the 280E tax code. Internal Revenue Code section 280E specifically denies a deduction or credit for any expense in a business consisting of trafficking in illegal drugs “prohibited by Federal law or the law of any State in which such trade or business is conducted” which translates to only “Cost of Goods Sold” as the only deductible expenses. This means administrative costs, executive salaries, marketing and advertising, banking fees, etc., are non-deductible expenses for any cannabis business and subjects them to much higher taxes as most normal business deductions are prohibited. This challenge is one all cannabis businesses deal with and must be factored into financial modeling.

BANKING

While we are on the the subject of taxes and non-allowable deductions, banking is the other major challenge all cannabis businesses face. Due to federal policy around an illegal substance, FDIC insured institutions force canna-businesses to operate in all cash for fear of prosecution under racketeering and money laundering laws. There are a handful of financial institutions, credit unions, or state banks that offer “Enhanced Monitoring Accounts” for cannabis companies. However, they are highly priced and rare. The average cannabis bank account is likely to run $1,000.00 a month, just to have access to banking services, not including additional fees. This $12,000 a year budget line item, while not only expensive, is not a tax write-off per 280E tax code.

One can quickly see from just these two major hurdles or challenges to the industry, normal operations can be difficult. These obstacles are not to be taken lightly; they can be addressed but it must be factored into operating procedures, financial planning/budgeting, and strategic vision.  

NOW BACK TO STATE SPECIFIC ISSUES

As Washington and Colorado dealt with its issues, Oregon voted to approve “Adult Use” cannabis in 2014. Using Colorado and Washington as a guide, Oregon implemented their system with more deliberation and vision based on what had been experienced in the first two states. But as was seen with the unique challenges in the first two states, Oregon encountered an entirely different set of problems. Oregon currently faces a massive oversupply problem which has affected all facets of business across the industry. In normal business and supply and demand economics, if an area is oversupplied, business move their products to where the demand is higher or the supply is lower. However, cannabis remains a federally illegal product and therefore interstate commerce remains illegal.

Oregon’s unique problem originated from two main issues:

  • Oregon had already established itself as a cultivation mecca
  • The regulatory authority decided against a cap on licenses

This lack of license caps has allowed the number of licensees to explode and thereby allowed the oversupply issue to occur and continue to grow. As stated, this is not a problem exclusive to cultivator/producers. Because of a 75% drop in value, cannabis attorneys, electricians, HVAC, security companies and other ancillary businesses are not getting paid. The oversupplied market and decreased revenue has reverberated across the industry and driven otherwise thriving companies into bankruptcy.  

As you can see, each state deals with its unique challenges when implementing its Adult Use cannabis program, while we all deal with some issues that affect us all. The key to thriving… or surviving is to prepare your company to deal with the current challenges shared by us all and predict the challenges that your business will face in your state while preparation is taken for a national and international market.


James Schwartz RN, BSN, LNC, is an experienced medical legal consultant and CEO of CascadeHigh Organics with 20 years experience cultivating legal cannabis. James is a self-described organic minimalist cultivating in the most sustainable manner. James believes in clean cannabis and its use as a wellness drug. His Oregon licensed cultivation, Cascade High, has been featured in Dope Magazine and on the cover of Oregon Leaf’s Sustainability issue (March ‘18). James was featured as the Inaugural Stoner Owner by OR Leaf in Dec 2018. He has articles published by Dope Magazine about Cannabusiness and the Pharmaceutical Industry (May 2017), as well as a medical cannabis article in the Jan. 2019 Healthcare issue of OR Leaf. James is currently on the NCIA Cannabis Cultivation Committee and has presented Cannabis topics to multiple audiences at conferences including Cannabis Science Conference, PDX Hempfest, Cannabiz Convention, CBD Expo and Webinar series, Cannabis Collaborative Conference(CCC), Cannabis Nurse Conference, NCIA and educational industry mixers. His business, legal, medical, and agricultural knowledge provides a unique perspective on the industry. James has lobbied for Cannabis on both the national and state level with Oregon Cannabis Association and is a fierce advocate for the plant and all who use it.

VIDEO: The Benefits of Legalizing Cannabis


In this third installment of NCIA’s animated educational video series, we explore the benefits of legalizing cannabis nationwide and beyond. Learn how ending federal prohibition can improve public safety and add economic opportunities to our communities, and how you can help.

Watch our other two animated videos to learn more about the cannabis industry banking crisis and the burdens of Section 280E of the IRS Tax Code.

VIDEO: Member Spotlight – Growcentia

Based in Fort Collins, Colorado, NCIA member Growcentia specializes in organically-derived microbial nutrients, as well as agricultural research and development in both outdoor and greenhouse cultivation. Meet some of the Growcentia team to learn more about their work in both the laboratory and in the fields, and the challenges they still face due to strict federal laws. 

Wrapping Up 2018 Cannabis Caucus Events, Introducing New 2019 Events!

October marked the last NCIA events of the year with Cannabis Caucus events in eight regions nationwide and an outstanding 2nd Annual California Cannabis Business Conference in Anaheim, California. As this year’s events comes to a close, we have so much to reflect on and exciting new events to announce!

During this quarter’s Cannabis Caucus events, more than 400 NCIA members, representing 250 member companies, totaling in more than 750 attendees turned out for our eight events nationwide. This means that although these events are growing increasingly popular, they are still small enough to make meaningful connections with other industry leaders in your region. Instead of just making small talk with someone in passing, you’ll get to to have real conversations with some of the most influential leaders in the industry. Year after year, we hear about people striking business partnerships, friendships and impactful connections at these events because they offer the time, space and opportunity to do so.

In the industry’s largest markets, Northern California, Southern California, and Colorado, more than 100 industry professionals turned out at each event. But, perhaps most impressive was the 75 plus attendance in the Midwest, maybe a harbinger of the positive momentum garnered by statewide reform initiatives in this year’s midterm elections!

Cannabis Caucus Highlights

A the Northeast event, attendees heard the latest news surrounding medical cannabis in Maine from State Sen. Eric Brakey (R-District 20), as well as Maine’s adult-use cannabis laws from David Boyer, Maine Political Director at Marijuana Policy Project.

The event in Northern California featured special guest speaker Heidi Mattos, a payroll tax specialist from the State of California Employment & Development Department, who shared critical insights into state payroll tax regulations. In Southern California, we heard a special presentation on “Understanding California Agricultural Labor Laws As It Relates to Cannabis Cultivators” from guest speaker Eduardo Blanco, Special legal Advisor from the CA Agricultural Labor Relations Board.

The Southwest event featured Ryan Black, Campaign Co-Chair for Anita Malik, Candidate for Arizona’s Congressional District 6, discussing federal cannabis reform. Lastly, in the Pacific Northwest, Lara Kaminsky, Executive Director of The Cannabis Alliance (an NCIA Allied Association), spoke about the latest developments in Washington state’s cannabis industry, including the current status of the edibles product ban.

See the full photo album on Facebook!

What Makes NCIA Regional Events Unique

As the largest national trade association in the U.S. and the only organization representing more than 1,700 cannabis-related businesses at the national level, we have pretty deep connections. We know that 70 percent of the individuals who attend our regional events have executive level decision-making authority and 30 percent have heavy decision-making influence. All of this is to say that the caliber of the meaningful connections you will make have the potential to benefit your business in very real ways and quickly.

We also know that these boutique events are frequently attended by industry pioneers and dedicated policy reform advocates, the movers and shakers of the industry, who have helped support the movement for decades. Repeatedly, we hear from event attendees that these events are their favorite because of the quality of the event, the attendees and the sense of community and camaraderie they foster.

What’s Next? NCIA’s New 2019 Regional Event Series Announced

NCIA has just published the 2019 event calendar! Due to popular demand for even more regional networking opportunities nationwide, NCIA is launching two new regional event series in 2019: Industry Socials and Harvest Celebrations and refreshing our well-known Cannabis Caucus Series.

NCIA’s Industry Socials are about cultivating regional communities of industry professionals, so that they can connect and learn from each other. Cultivating community is the most effective way to strengthen our industry and your business. Touring five cities in the West Coast, East Coast and Heartland regions, NCIA’s Industry Socials are the premier opportunity for cannabis professionals to harness NCIA’s extensive national network by creating meaningful connections with each other and with NCIA staff in a relaxed cocktail setting. Join us to expand your network and cultivate our community! Tickets to Industry Socials are complimentary to NCIA members and only $25 to non-members. Registration opens for the West Coast Tour on November 27!

NCIA’s Harvest Celebrations will be hosted in five cities in October to honor the cannabis harvesting season and celebrate the continued growth of our industry! Proceeds from NCIA’s inaugural Harvest Celebration events will foster support for NCIA’s federal lobbying work on behalf of businesses serving the industry and the industry at-large.

In light of these new 2019 NCIA events, we also have exciting new sponsorship opportunities to offer! Download the 2019 Event Sponsorship Deck or contact us for more information. Consider this your opportunity to get your brand in front of thousands of new businesses in diverse regions nationwide.

Continuing the Momentum – Q3 #CannabisCaucus Events Unite NCIA Members During Successful Summer

by Brian Gilbert, NCIA Events Manager

NCIA and our dedicated members have been keeping busy during the Summer months, and July was no exception as our acclaimed Quarterly Cannabis Caucus event series returned with numerous editions held across the country in both new and familiar locations.

We took these opportunities to further connect with and update our network on the incredible positive energy exhibited by our members and supporters throughout the summer including:

• The 4th Annual Cannabis Business Summit, our most highly attended & well publicized event to date. Read and watch more highlights from the #CannaBizSummit here.

• The 7th Annual Cannabis Industry Lobby Days, our most impactful advocacy-focused event. This Summer, following our trip to D.C., we have seen a substantial increase in the number of co-sponsors on cannabis-related legislation we focused on in May.

Huge thanks to our nearly 900 individual supporters, 400 member businesses, 8 sponsors, 5 guest speakers, and 2 state affiliates that joined us throughout July for our Quarterly Cannabis Caucus event series. Continue on to review event highlights from our Q3 events with photo coverage from our Colorado and Midwest events, and view the full album on Facebook here.

In our first week, NCIA’s hosted our first event in Maine, and it was a smashing success! Attendees were caught up to speed on how the landscape has been developing with implementation of the adult use initiative passed last November by David Boyer, the Maine Political Director of Marijuana Policy Project.

In addition, our Washington members and supporters were joined by guest speaker Rep. Roger Goodman (D- 45th District) who provided attendees with a Washington Legislative Update.

At the end of the week, we had yet another record setting event in Colorado! Just over 200 cannabusiness professionals joined us for an inspiring evening of networking and information sharing. The event was extra special as we were joined by newly elected members of our Board of Directors; Christie Lunsford of Pro MAX Grow and Endocannabinoidology, Sean McAllister of McAllister Garfiled P.C., and Shannon Fender of Native Roots Colorado.

In our second week, we hosted our Tri-State event in Brooklyn, NY where special guest Dylan Schwartz, Candidate for New York City Council in the 51st District of Staten Island provided a New York Legislative Update and explained the history and importance surrounding his cannabis friendly candidacy. In Oregon, we returned to Portland where we hosted Jesse Sweet, Administrative Policy & Process Director of Oregon Liquor Control Commission at ecotrust once again.

In our final week, we were excited to hold our first-ever event in San Jose, CA, at our Northern California Caucus, as well as officially welcome the new Executive Director of the California Cannabis Industry Association, Lindsay Robinson! In Southern California, we moved our caucus to San Diego and Josh Drayton, Deputy Director of the California Cannabis Industry Association provided attendees with an in depth update on the current status of MAUCURSA. We concluded our Q3 #CannabisCaucus series in the Midwest with an inaugural event in Columbus, Ohio where we also officially launched our newest state affiliate, the National Cannabis Industry Association of Ohio. In addition to an optional, pre-caucus tour of member business Apeks Supercritical, attendees were also treated to hearing from State Senator Kenny Yuko (D-25th), a lead proponent of the recently passed medical cannabis legislation.

We hope you join us for our final Quarterly Cannabis Caucuses of 2017 in October! As a show of appreciation for the continued support of these community building efforts, we’re pleased to announce that we’ll be offering an exclusive early bird rate for all those who register in the next week! Secure your spot before August 24th to receive 50% off admission, this includes non-member tickets and additional tickets outside of those allotted to current NCIA members businesses. See below for a full list of dates, locations & venues:

  • Washington – Georgetown Ballroom –  Seattle, WA – Tuesday, October 10 – REGISTER NOW
  • Northeast – Providence Biltmore – Providence, RI – Tuesday, October 10 – REGISTER NOW
  • Colorado – The Riverside – Boulder, CO – Thursday, October 12 – REGISTER NOW
  • Oregon – The Kennedy School – Portland, OR – Tuesday, October 17 – REGISTER NOW
  • Tri-State – [Venue TBD] – New York City, NY – Tuesday, October 17 – REGISTER NOW
  • So. California – [Venue TBD] – Los Angeles, CA – Thursday, October 19 – REGISTER NOW
  • No. California – Hyatt Vineyard Creek – Santa Rosa, CA – Tuesday, October 24 – REGISTER NOW
  • Midwest – The Robey Hotel – Chicago, IL – Thursday, October 26 – REGISTER NOW

As always a huge thanks goes out to all our sponsors, media partners, and event hosts that continue to support the growth of this thriving community and which made Q3 another success! Follow the links below to learn more about each of these amazing businesses or groups then reach out to see how they might be able to help you with your cannabis industry needs.

Member Spotlight: GENIFER M

This month, we’re highlighting long-time NCIA Member and cannabis advocate Genifer Murray, who recently launched her line of luxury cannabis-themed jewelry, GENIFER M, with the aim and intention to “elevate the conversation about cannabis through artisan jewelry.” 

Cannabis Industry Sector:
Accessories/Products

NCIA Member Since:
2012

Tell me a bit about your background and why you launched your company?

I launched GENIFER M to start the conversation about cannabis. With more than seven years of experience working in the cannabis industry, I have always been passionate about educating the public on the positive power and healing benefits of cannabis; GENIFER M is luxury cannabis inspired jewelry that aims to do just that through artisan jewelry.

My cannabis career started in 2010 when I co-founded one of the first cannabis testing labs in the U.S., CannLabs based in Colorado, where I was one of the first female CEOs in the cannabis industry. My passion and role as CEO became to be a champion for health and safety for patients. My mission with CannLabs was to provide safe and quality medicine to cannabis patients, which resulted in a bigger mission: to help others and the larger community that need this medicine through lobbying for its legalization. While lobbying, I wanted to better represent the cannabis industry and make a statement that illustrated cannabis in a non-threatening and elegant way. As a result, GENIFER M was born.

My dad, Glenn Murray, a technically trained and internationally recognized gemologist, made me a 2.5 carat diamond pave indica leaf lapel to wear with my suits while I was lobbying with NCIA and the Governor’s Task Force for Amendment 64 (ending marijuana prohibition). I wore the pin everywhere and could see it was not only changing minds, but starting conversations with people that traditionally wouldn’t openly discuss or inquire about cannabis. The pin created a movement, creating a non-threatening space for educating consumers about cannabis and its benefits. GENIFER M is an extension of that conversation and was launched to change the way people perceive, interact, and experience cannabis through luxe style and handcrafted quality jewelry.  

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

Our company is extremely unique in the fact that we are using a lifestyle to start the conversation about cannabis. GENIFER M creates luxury fashion that empowers, educates, and elevates the conversation about cannabis and what it means to each person who wears a leaf. Each GENIFER M cannabis inspired jewelry piece is designed to open discussions about topics of cannabis in a non-threatening way; we aim to create a space in which you can fully express your beliefs, hopes, and passion for the healing properties of cannabis with the mission to make a difference in people’s lives. It shatters traditional perceptions of cannabis to reverse 90 years of the propaganda in mainstream culture.

Cannabis companies have a unique responsibility to shape this growing industry to be socially responsible and advocate for it to be treated fairly. How does your company help work toward that goal for the greater good of the cannabis industry?

As business owners in the cannabis industry, we each have a responsibility to move this industry forward in the best manner possible, which is why GENIFER M is the alternative to mass production and traditional cannabis perceptions. We believe in the higher side of purchasing power and style — and making a difference in people’s lives through cannabis inspired jewelry. At GENIFER M, we want to give you the power to share your story and lead you to a lifestyle that embraces what cannabis means to you while honoring the progression from “pot culture” to “cannabis couture.”

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

There are several challenges like no traditional banking, the 280E tax problem, and of course the stigma, which still has a lot to do with why people are hesitating in the decriminalization of marijuana. However, we need more science to overcome the myths and stigma surrounding cannabis! We need the studies, clinical trials, and research. Thankfully the U.S. is finally allowing some of that to take place. I also see pharma as a huge challenge. As a cannabis community we need to work together to help end the pharma era and provide people with natural and holistic medicine — not synthetically made or chemically compounded products. Ultimately, creating platforms for cannabis education is the key to overcoming the challenges this industry faces

Why did you join NCIA? What’s the best part about being a member?

I joined NCIA because we needed a national voice to be heard in D.C. I wanted to help educate lawmakers and the public about the issues challenging the industry, to help prepare for the issues that nobody knew about back in 2012. I also joined because the NCIA community and its members provided me support through my cannabis entrepreneurial journey; they knew exactly what I was going through and became a great network founded on the mentality of helping each other grow and succeed. We are all working together to pave the way for the industry.

For more information about GENIFER M, or to purchase its products and help start the conversation about cannabis, please visit www.geniferm.com.

CONTACT:
GENIFER M Facebook

Member Spotlight: National Grow Technologies

In this month’s NCIA Member Spotlight, we speak with the team at National Grow Technologies, who offer a variety of services and products to support the cannabis industry. Recently, NGT sold a cannabis flower batching and sorting machine right on the expo floor of NCIA’s Seed To Sale Show to fellow NCIA member The Clinic. 

National Grow Technologies_v5-2National Grow Technologies

Cannabis Industry sector:
Equipment and Consulting

NCIA member since:
The NGT founders have been members of NCIA since 2010 through different endeavors. National Grow Technologies has been a member since its formation in 2015.

Tell us a bit about your background in cannabis and how the team at National Grow Technologies came to fruition?

National Grow Technologies‘ background stems out of the formation of the Colorado medical and adult-use cannabis markets. Our team brings 25 years of combined experience in the regulated cannabis industry as well as 50 years of combined horticulture experience. This includes build-out, ownership, and management of multiple dispensaries and full-scale cultivation operations, originating in 2009. We have since been involved in multiple projects, in numerous regulatory states, both nonprofit and for profit.

NGT team: Scott Field, Shandra Carlton, Bruce Granger, and Bill Campbell
NGT team: Scott Field, Chandra Carleton, Bruce Granger, and Bill Campbell

From the beginning, the need for regulation was obvious, prompting our involvement at a legislative level. This includes involvement in SB 10-109 and HB 10-1284 as well as the Rule-Making Workshop in 2010. What an exciting, educational experience, helping create the first regulated cannabis market. If we only knew then what we know now.  

As you can see, our passion for the cannabis industry runs deep. Through that passion, NGT developed organically, just as we developed our own dispensaries and cultivations. We immediately became involved in the national cannabis market, traveling to cannabis-related events, meeting many people in the industry and trading knowledge. We have always held the belief that “helping someone else learn strengthens our own education.” Through that enlightening experience, our processes to bring a quality commercial product to market were developed. Since that time National Grow Technologies and its partners have been working to help new and exciting businesses develop and refine the quality of their process.

What unique value does NGT offer to the cannabis industry?

National Grow Technologies does not just sell best-in-class equipment such as the GVS Precision Batcher or the GreenBroz trimmer; we also use our extensive experience to ensure that this equipment works for our clients. As the cannabis industry has evolved, many new products have been developed. Not all have effectively executed the operation for which they were designed, or are capable of integrating with commercial processes. Through extensive testing and use of various industry specific machinery, we are able to choose the highest performing equipment on the market. We take great pride in not just supplying this equipment, but also providing the training, services, and process development needed for repeatability of success.

Our training and support is what distinguishes our company. For every piece of equipment we sell, we strive to create an environment capable of its full potential. We realize even the best equipment can have its effectiveness diminished if used incorrectly. That is why NGT offers training programs with every piece of equipment we sell. Once you have successfully completed training and operations begin, the equipment must remain functioning optimally. NGT also has service programs for every piece equipment we sell. We recognize that our success is only possible with yours.

NGT_Green vault
The GVS Precision Batcher, sold to The Clinic on the expo floor at NCIA’s recent Seed To Sale Show

While supporting our clients through the integration and implementation of new equipment, we are aware that changes in process produce ripple effects through other processes or even the Standard Operating Procedures of a facility. Since our inception, we have been fueled by a desire to increase efficiency of cultivation operations, while recognizing the limitations of each facility. We have the skills necessary to refine your process, review plans to assess proposed process, or put processes into SOP documents. We are here to help.

By viewing a facility systemically through its entire manufacturing process and integration of new equipment, NGT assists our clients to optimize production. We do not run cultivations. We help clients run cultivations more efficiently, allowing them to fast-track business execution, while minimizing their financial exposure, creating a quicker ROI.

Cannabis companies have a unique responsibility to shape this growing industry to be socially responsible and advocate for it to be treated fairly. How does NGT help work toward that goal for the greater good of the cannabis industry?

We at National Grow Technologies look to use our experience from helping create a regulated market to educate emerging markets on techniques proven to provide the safe access of cannabis for adults. It is the responsibility of everyone in this industry to engage in business practices that ensure a proper and clean seed-to-sale process designed with the health and safety of consumers as a core principal. Cannabis needs to be handled and processed in a way that is safe for human consumption. This is a process that can be clearly defined, which will align procedures that navigate an increasingly complex set of ever-changing rules and regulations, while remaining true to the value of safe access. Each and every one of us has the responsibility to move this industry to a safe and sustainable position in manufacturing and distribution of cannabis.

Why did you join NCIA? What is the best part about being a member?

Bruce Granger and Shandra Carlton
Bruce Granger and Chandra Carleton

In 2010, one of the founding NGT members, Bruce Granger, was at the meeting with Aaron Smith when he said that he was going to build a National Cannabis Industry Association. Bruce has been a member ever since, through multiple business endeavors and now with NGT. We have stayed a member of NCIA due to the symmetry of our business models. We are both committed to the education, support, and unification of the industry.

NCIA has always been a resource of knowledge for ourselves and many in the industry, keeping us informed through their newsletters, Quarterly Cannabis Caucasus, and informative speakers at every conference. They have supported the cannabis industry by taking a message of positive reform to Washington, D.C. We will only be able to continue and expand our industry with the education and enlightenment of our political system.

Reconnecting with our friends or meeting new members, the business opportunities abound. In fact, thank you to NCIA for bringing NGT and The Clinic back together at the NCIA Seed to Sale Show this past January 31 – February 1. The Clinic is now the proud owner of the first GVS Precision Batcher in Colorado, a state-of-the-art piece of equipment capable of precise weighting and batching cannabis flower. It is all of these memories of where we came from, and all of the possibilities the future holds that keeps NGT coming back to NCIA.


Note: NCIA member profiles highlight members and stories within our cannabis industry community. They do not constitute an endorsement or recommendation of specific products or services by NCIA.

 

Member Spotlight: Cannabase

In this month’s NCIA Member Spotlight, we speak with Jennifer Beck, co-founder and Managing Director of Cannabase, a wholesale cannabis marketplace and technology dashboard. Cannabase is headquartered in Denver, serving more than 75% of marijuana licenses in Colorado, with plans to expand nationwide in 2017.

Cannabasecannabase-green-470x150

Cannabis Industry Sector:
Wholesale Distribution, Technology

NCIA Member Member Since:
2014

Tell me a bit about your background in cannabis and why you launched Cannabase?

Cannabase co-founders, Chase Beck and Jennifer Beck
Cannabase co-founders, Chase Beck and Jennifer Beck

When my husband, Chase Beck, and I co-founded Cannabase, we had a background in technology and a passion for cannabis. Not only were we amazed by the incredible science surrounding medical marijuana, but we also believed that cannabis was a much healthier alternative to alcohol for general adult-use purposes. The idea of being part of an emerging industry – helping to shape the framework while increasing its validity and chances of survival – was a really exciting idea to us.

What unique value does Cannabase offer to the cannabis industry?

Cannabase is the oldest and largest online wholesale marketplace in Colorado, providing a safe and compliant platform for businesses to connect over wholesale bud, trim, extracts, seeds, and edibles. We represent over 75% of the licensees in the state in our intuitive, automated platform, streamlining wholesale purchases and aggregating the powerful market data that drives our market statewide. Cannabase will be expanding nationwide in 2017, and is the exclusive wholesale partner of BioTrackTHC and MJ Freeway point-of-sale systems, which makes Cannabase the only firm to have direct, non-self-report access to virtually the entire Colorado market’s real-time inventory.

Cannabis companies have a unique responsibility to shape this growing industry to be socially responsible and advocate for it to be treated fairly. How does Cannabase help work toward that goal for the greater good of the cannabis industry?

Cannabase TentCannabase was founded on the principle that legal cannabis was a statewide experiment, and the health of the industry was critical to that experiment being considered a success. As a result, we’ve treated compliance, transparency, and integrity as non-negotiable cornerstones of our company’s evolution and product development. We’re disciplined in our vetting of licensed businesses and ensuring that anyone using our product has a valid license with their state and uses the site appropriately. Similarly, we’re passionate about supporting industry groups like NCIA that are doing amazing work for the future of our industry. We believe that investing in industry groups is as important as ever, especially in light of the changing political climate.

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

We still see the ramifications of the overarching federal limitations and restrictions – primarily 280E (which squeezes capital industry-wide) and lack of banking. These roadblocks impede progress for all cannabis businesses, and make it more difficult for ancillary businesses to solve the critical day-to-day challenges faced by our customers.

Why did you join NCIA? What’s the best part about being a member?

cannabase_ownersWe love the work NCIA does to strengthen, connect, empower, and fight for the legal cannabis industry. In the three years we’ve been in the cannabis industry, we’ve never experienced anything short of total professionalism from the staff at NCIA. It’s a group that never under-delivers, and has been a pillar for community and our community’s future. We are proud to be a part of NCIA and look forward to seeing what 2017 brings!

 


Note: NCIA member profiles highlight members and stories within our cannabis industry community. They do not constitute an endorsement or recommendation of specific products or services by NCIA.

VIDEO: Member Spotlight with Shift Cannabis Co.

This month, we introduce you to Travis Howard, co-founder of Shift Cannabis Co., a cannabis consulting firm for cultivators and retailers based in Boulder, Colorado. Travis explains his company’s values surrounding corporate social responsibility with an emphasis on boutique business models.


Note: NCIA member profiles highlight members and stories within our cannabis industry community. They do not constitute an endorsement or recommendation of specific products or services by NCIA.

Member Spotlight: Rocky Mountain Business Products

In October’s monthly member spotlight, we touch base with Jay Tittman of Rocky Mountain Business Products, a long-time member of NCIA based in Colorado. Rocky Mountain Business Products (RMBP) is a story about a mainstream business that started 40 years ago, and over time evolved to meet the needs of the newly legal cannabis industry. We’re happy to have Jay as an active member of the cannabis industry and community.

rmbpcbdsidefade2016-2Cannabis Industry Sector:
Packaging and Labeling, Office Supplies

NCIA Member Since:
May 2012

Why did you open the Cannabis Business Division of Rocky Mountain Business Products?

Jay TIttman (center), with Denver Relief Consulting's Ean Seeb (L) and Nick Hice (R) at NCIA's 5th Anniversary Banquet
Jay TIttman (center), with Denver Relief Consulting’s Ean Seeb (L) and Nick Hice (R) at NCIA’s 5th Anniversary Banquet

Rocky Mountain Business Products was started in 1977 as an independent office products dealer specializing in office supplies, janitorial, custom printing, and promotional products. We are still a family-owned local business devoted to serving our customers in the Rocky Mountain Region and throughout the country. Beginning with the passage of Colorado Amendment 20, allowing the medical use of marijuana in Colorado, Rocky Mountain Business Products began supplying hardware and compliance supplies to the medical marijuana industry. Then with the passage of Colorado Amendment 64, we began to see an increase in the number of customers requiring our services. This explosive growth in the industry led us to devote an entire division of our company to the cannabis industry. The Cannabis Business Division was started in 2009 and is solely devoted to the support of the cannabis industry throughout the United States and abroad.

How does RMBP provide unique value to cannabis consumers?

Unlike cannabis producers and providers, we primarily provide our services to those companies that serve those consumers. Throughout the years, we have provided products and services to more than 400 producers and retail locations throughout the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, and Jamaica. We provide products and services that make it easy for a retailer, grower/producer, or product developer to serve their customers. It is important to make it easy to provide the best consumer experience possible, and we facilitate these transactions though compliance products, labeling, and hardware support. We pride ourselves in being a one-stop shop for retailers and producers. In addition to our 70,000 office supplies, janitorial/cleaning products, and technology products, we also offer dispensary supplies, CBD products, unique vapor products, hemp wick lighters, and over a million promotional products.

Why is supporting the industry so important to you?

Jay Tittman, Rocky Mountain Business Products

During our nearly 40 years serving our customers, we have seen a massive change in buying habits. Beginning with the office products superstores and continuing though the current trend of online buying, we have remained an independent supplier focusing on community and providing unparalleled service in our industries. We understand that our customers can purchase the same products from other vendors; however, many of these vendors do not have the best in mind for our industry. In fact many of them provide support to causes antithetical to the cannabis industry. Not only do we provide superior service and knowledge to our customers, but we also actively participate in the cannabis industry though our memberships with organizations like NCIA, and support activism within the industry. This is not only our business; it is a passion and we know that it can only get better by supporting independent business and individuals with like-minded goals.

Why did you join NCIA? What is the best part about being a member?

The work NCIA does in this industry is vital to its success. We joined to become a part of a community devoted to the success of business and individuals that are just as passionate about this as we are. Without organizations like NCIA providing guidance to our industry, we would struggle to unify around common goals and ideals.

Also, we enjoy working with like-minded individuals engaged in building awareness for this industry. It is vital to the success of our industry to not only provide great products and services, but also to educate and inform the public of the amazing benefits of cannabis.

Rocky Mountain Business Products Website
Rocky Mountain Business Products Facebook
Rocky Mountain Business Products Twitter

Guest Post: Rock The Greener Vote

by Emmett Reistroffer, Denver Relief Consulting

The GREEN TEAM is proud to announce our upcoming voter registration drive, in partnership with New Era Colorado, which launches on National Voter Registration Day, Tuesday, September 27th

Over 2,100 businesses, organizations, election officials, schools and civic groups are joining together to celebrate National Voter Registration Day across America, and the GREEN TEAM is excited to be an official 2016 partner for the event. In part, the GREEN TEAM is asking all sponsor businesses and volunteers to participate by signing up as a participating voter registration location or as an individual volunteer. Over 600 voter registration events will be hosted nationwide as part of this year’s National Voter Registration Day, and we would like to increase that number significantly by signing up additional cannabis dispensaries.

The GREEN TEAM and New Era Colorado will provide the volunteers and materials needed for the voter registration drive. This nonpartisan event is an easy way for your business to support civic engagement. Simply sign up your business’s location, and let us know which dates/times work for you, and we will take it from there!

CLICK HERE to sign up as a participating voter registration location!

Participating Locations Details:

The GREEN TEAM and New Era Colorado are searching for more locations for the 2016 voter registration drive volunteers. We are not asking your staff to take on any of the responsibilities, as we will supply the volunteers and materials needed as long you can provide us with access to your waiting room or front doorway area. The form above allows you to select the dates and times that work best for your business.

CLICK HERE to sign up as an individual volunteer!

Volunteer Details:

Our volunteers will hit the streets beginning Tuesday, September 27th, to register new voters, help current voters update their addresses, and provide information about mail-in ballot deadlines and polling locations.

(Volunteer training is provided)

We are beginning the voter registration drive on National Voter Registration Day, Tuesday, September 27th, and continuing the drive until Tuesday, October 11th.

National Voter Registration Day Details:

The day was founded in 2012 in response to over six million Americans reporting that they didn’t vote as a result of missing the registration deadline or not knowing how to register. On August 6, 2016, President Obama announced the White House’s official support of NVRD during a speech marking the 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, joining with state election officials of the nonpartisan National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) that has been championing the holiday since 2012.

NVRD is led by a diverse, non-partisan group including the Bipartisan Policy Center, League of Women Voters, Bus Federation, Rock the Vote, Vote Latino, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), Fair Elections Legal Network, Nonprofit VOTE, and National Association of Secretaries of State represented by Secretary of State John Merrill (R- AL) and Secretary of State Steve Simon (D -MN). Also lending their support of the day include iHeartRadio, Tumblr, Univision Contigo, Pandora, Americans for Tax Reform, Headcount, and The Skimm. The National Voter Registration Day is a nonpartisan event.

CLICK HERE to register to vote!

Guest Post: Changes to Colorado Residency Requirements

By Charles Alovisetti, Senior Associate at Vicente Sederberg, LLC.

This is article is the second in a series, which will provide a general overview of the laws that impact raising money in the cannabis industry.

Introduction

welcometocoloradoColorado currently has the strictest residency requirements for ownership of marijuana establishments in the United States, imposing a two-year residency requirement for any owner of a licensed business. In addition to the constraints imposed by such a lengthy residency requirement, the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division (the “MED”), which is the regulatory body concerned with the marijuana industry, takes a broad view of what constitutes ownership (e.g., guarantying the debt of a licensed entity can constitute ownership). Earlier this year, on May 11, 2016, in order to address the funding difficulties created by the strict residency requirements (note that because the changes to the residency requirements apply to both medical and retail marijuana businesses, this article will not distinguish between the two when discussing the legislative changes and will simply refer to licensed entities, which shall mean both medical and retail licensed entities), the Colorado Senate passed Senate Bill 16-040, as amended by the House, commonly referred to as the “Residency Bill” (the “Bill”). The Bill was subsequently signed into law by Governor Hickenlooper on June 10, 2016. The Bill, which goes into effect on January 1, 2017, will radically change the residency requirements imposed on licensed businesses. These changes are addressed in detail below. This article, with limited exceptions, only addresses the changes explicitly described in the Bill and does not address the further complexities raised by draft rules promulgated by the MED regarding the Bill since these rules are not yet final.

Current State of Colorado Law

As noted above, in addition to requiring that all owners of a licensed business be at least two-year Colorado residents (and must also meet certain background requirements), Colorado takes the view that a person or entity that has a beneficial interest in a marijuana business and/or substantial control over a marijuana business is considered an “owner.” A beneficial interest has been informally defined as being paid based on profits (whether gross or net). In determining if a person or entity has an ownership interest in a marijuana business, the state considers a non-exhaustive list of factors, including whether a person or entity 1) bears risk of loss and opportunity for profit; 2) is entitled to possession of the licensed premises; 3) has final operational decision-making authority over business; 4) guarantees the businesses’ debts or production levels; 5) is a beneficiary of the business’s insurance policies; 6) acknowledges tax liability for the business; 7) acts as an officer or director of the business; 8) is contracted to manage the overall operation of the business; 9) has a licensing agreement with the business (note that it is possible to structure licensing agreements so as to avoid triggering the determination of ownership, but this can be complicated); 10) has ownership of shares or other equity interests of the licensed business; 11) has a secured interest in furniture or fixtures directly used in the manufacture or cultivation of marijuana; or 12) has a secured loan with the business. In addition, any security interest in the furniture, equipment, or fixtures used directly in the manufacture or cultivation of marijuana or marijuana product may be considered ownership depending on the circumstances. Given the thoroughness of the foregoing list, it’s not difficult to understand why licensed entities have had difficulty raising capital from out-of-state investors.

However, Colorado laws do allow for out-of-state residents to invest in marijuana businesses through a permitted economic interest (“PEI”). A PEI is a financial interest in the form of an unsecured debt instrument, option agreement, warrant, or any other right to obtain ownership interest in a marijuana business, provided the conversion or transfer right is contingent on the holder qualifying as an owner and obtaining licensure as an owner by the MED – this could be upon the occurrence of either the holder meeting the two-year residency requirement or a change in law (which the Bill represents). A PEI may only be held by a natural person who is a U.S. resident. Holders of PEIs are subject to fingerprinting and criminal history background checks and must disclose financial and personal information with the MED in their applications. As of today, PEIs remain useful to licensed businesses since they allow them to accept out-of-state investment in advance of the Bill going into effect. On January 1, 2017, PEI holders will become eligible to have their interests converted into equity holdings in licensed businesses. After the Bill goes into effect, any kind of option, warrant, or similar convertible instrument will still be required to take the form of a PEI.

New Residency Bill

Before delving into the specifics of the Bill, it is worth noting that the summary attached to the Bill contradicts the actual law, as it was written prior to the passage of the final version of the Bill, and it should be ignored.

The Bill adds a number of new defined terms. Understanding these new terms is the key to understanding the Bill:

Direct Beneficial Interest Owner: Prior to the Bill, there was only a defined term for “Owner”; that concept has now been split in two – Direct Beneficial Interest Owner and Indirect Beneficial Interest Owner. Under the existing system, any level of control that the MED, using the 12-factor test outlined above, determined rose to the level of ownership resulted in the entity or individual being listed as a zero percent Owner (e.g., an individual who guaranteed the debts of a licensed entity might be considered as a zero percent Owner of that business, despite owning no equity in that entity). The term Direct Beneficial Interest Owner is meant to cover existing Owners who directly hold equity in a licensed entity. Direct Beneficial Interest Owners are subject to residency requirements and full background checks (except for Qualified Limited Passive Investors, a type of Direct Beneficial Interest Owner described in detail below). A Direct Beneficial Interest Owner must be either a resident of Colorado for at least one year or a US citizen. Publicly traded companies are explicitly barred from holding licenses.

Indirect Beneficial Interest Owner: The second new category that was previously included in Owner is Indirect Beneficial Interest Owner. No residency requirement exists for an Indirect Beneficial Owner. An Indirect Beneficial Interest Owner includes the following individuals and entities: (a) a holder of a PEI, (b) a recipient of a commercially reasonable royalty associated with the use of intellectual property by a licensee, (c) a licensed employee who receives a share of the profits from an employee benefit plan, (d) a qualified Institutional Investor (defined below), or another similarly situated person or entity as determined by the state licensing authority. The Bill does not explicitly state what kind of background check will be required for an Indirect Beneficial Interest Owner. Currently, the draft rules set forth an identical set of criteria to determine suitability to those for Direct Beneficial Interest Owners, but this may change in the final rules.

Institutional Investor: Up to 30% of a licensed business can be held by an Institutional Investor, and the Bill does not contemplate any residency requirement for an Institutional Investor since an Institutional Investor will be considered an Indirect Beneficial Interest Owner and residency requirements only apply to Direct Beneficial Interest Owners. The Bill sets out a list of entities that meet the definition: banks, registered investment companies, ERISA funds, and any other entities to be identified during the rule-making process. The current draft rules do not list any types of entities not specifically identified in the Bill. While not discussed in the Bill, the draft rules and legislative history make it clear that an Institutional Investor must be passive and may not have any control over a licensed company beyond voting its shares (meaning that the minority protections present in a typical non-control transaction cannot be present).

Qualified Limited Passive Investor: This is defined as a natural person who is a U.S. citizen and is a passive investor owning five percent or less of the equity of a licensed business.

New Residency Rule

In place of the existing rule that requires all Owners to be at least two-year residents of Colorado, the Bill now allows an entity to be either (i) held by an unlimited number of Direct Beneficial Interest Owners, each of whom must meet the one-year Colorado residency requirement, or (ii) if one or more Direct Beneficial Interest Owners do not meet the one-year residency, then the following conditions must be observed: (a) At least one officer of the licensed entity must be a Colorado resident of at least one year, (b) all officers with day-to-day operational control over the business must be Colorado residents of at least one year, and (c) there must be no more than 15 Direct Beneficial Interest Owners (this limitation is measured by natural persons on a look-through basis). A licensed business, whether wholly held by Coloradoans meeting the residency requirement or held by one or more Direct Beneficial Interest Owners who do not meet the residency requirement, may also have up to 30% of its equity held by qualified Institutional Investors.

Reasonable Royalties Now Allowed

coins-in-hand-1559x893One additional major change in the Bill is the allowance for commercially reasonable royalties to be paid to Indirect Beneficial Interest Owners. As the law currently stands, a royalty would be considered a form of ownership by the MED (as the royalty would likely be based on the profit of the licensed entity) and would thus make the recipient of the royalty subject to residency and other ownership requirements. In addition, the current system requires all of the Owners to be present at MED meetings—which presents a major obstacle to the operator of a licensed business who wants to enter into multiple licensing agreements since any licensor could potentially put a license at risk by refusing to attend a meeting or by committing a bad act. However, Indirect Beneficial Interest Owners, while still subject to background checks, are not subject to residency requirements or the limitation of 15 natural persons (as is the case for Direct Beneficial Interest Owners when one or more equity holders does not meet the one-year Colorado residency requirement). It may also be the case, though we will need to wait for the final rules, that removing an Indirect Beneficial Interest Owner is easier than removing a Direct Beneficial Interest Owner from a license.

Conclusion

As noted above, the MED is granted authority to promulgate rules pursuant to the Bill, and final analysis of the Bill will require careful study of these new rules. The MED is currently accepting written comments to the draft-proposed rules in advance of a formal, public hearing regarding the permanent rules on Friday, September 2, 2016. In addition, as with any other change in a regulatory regime, we will need to pay close attention to how the Bill plays out when actually put into practice.

This information is educational only and shall not be construed as legal advice. Please consult your attorney prior to relying on any information in this article.


Charlie Alovisetti, Vicente Sederberg LLC
Charlie Alovisetti, Vicente Sederberg LLC

Charlie Alovisetti is a senior associate and co-chair of the corporate department at Vicente Sederberg LLC. Prior to joining Vicente Sederberg, Charlie worked as an associate in the New York offices of Latham & Watkins and Goodwin where his practice focused on representing private equity sponsors and their portfolio companies, as well as public companies, in a range of corporate transactions, including mergers, stock and asset acquisitions and divestitures, growth equity investments, venture capital investments, and debt financings. In addition, Charlie has experience counseling portfolio and emerging growth companies with respect to general corporate and commercial matters and all aspects of compensation arrangements, including executive employment and consulting agreements, stock option plans, restricted stock plans, bonus plans, and other management incentive arrangements. Charlie has experience in both U.S. and cross-border transactions, and has advised clients across a range of industries including cannabis, technology, manufacturing, software, digital media, energy and clean tech, healthcare, and biotech. He holds a Bachelor of Arts, with honors, from McGill University and a law degree from Columbia Law School, where he was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar. Charlie is admitted to practice in both Colorado and New York.

Member Spotlight: Cannabis Consumers Coalition

In the cannabis industry, the life cycle of growers, retailers, extractors, and infused product manufacturers would not exist were it not for the consumers. As we move toward self-regulating our industry from the inside out, it’s important to consider all views and perspectives in those decision-making processes. This month, we check in with Larisa Bolivar of Cannabis Consumers Coalition to talk about the work she’s doing to protect the interests and concerns of cannabis consumers. cannabisconsumerscoalition

Cannabis Industry Sector:
Advocacy

NCIA Member Since:
April 2016

Tell me a bit about you and why you founded Cannabis Consumers Coalition?

I have been in the cannabis industry/movement since 2001 when I moved to Colorado as a medical cannabis refugee, and I have been a cannabis consumer for 25 years. I helped to establish safe access for Colorado patients through my organization called Caregivers for Safe Access, which became the Colorado Compassion Club and the first dispensary in Colorado prior to 2009. After several years on hiatus from the front lines of the movement, and spending time consulting on policy, business and communications in the emerging industry, I saw a need for more consumer-focused advocacy and that what was missing was a consumer protection agency. Much of the conversation had been focused on the needs of the industry, and that continues to play out today. It is my mission to change that. I believe that consumers are who drive the economy.

I believe my background is perfect for the task of playing watchdog for the industry. I have worked in startup and corporate environments in multiple emerging markets, including software, dot-coms, clean tech, and cannabis. My work in clean tech and software really prepared me for working in a tightly regulated environment. The clean tech company that I worked at, GridPoint, a billion-dollar-valuated startup with successful launch and exit is a smart grid company focused on energy management in the utility space, one of the most regulated industries in our country. When working in software, I worked as a technical recruiter staffing sensitive, high-level technical contracts mostly in defense, which is also highly regulated. I understand highly regulated environments really well, and it is easy to forget the consumer when trying to jump through so many regulatory hoops. I believe that with a strong consumer voice, we will eventually have fewer regulations.   

Larisa Bolivar, Executive Director of Cannabis Consumers Coalition.
Larisa Bolivar, Executive Director of Cannabis Consumers Coalition.

How does CCC provide unique value to the cannabis industry and movement?

The mission of the Cannabis Consumers Coalition is to provide cannabis consumers with a voice in the growing cannabis industry, and to ensure consumer rights and ethical behavior on behalf of cannabis-related businesses. The biggest value we provide is giving consumers a powerful voice and helping them to realize the purchasing power they have with their dollar in helping to hold the industry accountable to operating in an ethical, consumer-centric model. We provide consumers with a powerful voice, and have been very effective in changing laws to protect consumers. This occurred recently when we obtained and released the names of pesticide violators in Colorado. We quickly made a lot of enemies, and good friends, in the industry. Some business owners have called us anti-industry, which is quite the contrary. I risked my life trailblazing medical marijuana and laying the foundation for the launch of a billion-dollar industry in Colorado. This was pre-regulation, prior to when moneyed interests got into the game and created the framework for regulations. The industry began with blazing the path to create that possibility, breaking ground for the foundation to be laid. As such, I feel personally accountable for it, along with many of my peers and supporters who were also trailblazers and pioneers.

Consumers deserve the right to know that the cannabis they are purchasing is indeed the quality that is being marketed. They also need a strong voice to fight for their rights, and that is what I myself provide, especially with my history of activism, along with the support of our legal team at Fox Rothschild LLP. An Am Law 100 law firm, they have nearly 750 attorneys spanning multiple practice areas and across multiple industries, and have a reputation for working with nonprofit organizations and community groups.

Another value we provide is in helping businesses strive to provide the best consumer experience and high quality products. Quality end products in the cannabis industry are multi-faceted, starting with how a plant is grown, how it’s positioned in the market, to the consumer experience at retail outlets. All of it is so interrelated.

Here in Colorado, the issue of public consumption is hot and there are a couple of initiatives in the works this year to address that need. Can you tell me more about that and how you’re involved in this effort?

Indeed this is probably the hottest issue Colorado. Voters voted for the right to use cannabis legally, yet there are no places to consume. This also poses issues for cannabis consumers visiting the state. There are bed and breakfasts and some hotels that allow for consumption, but there are no places to consume and socialize. There are two initiatives in consideration.

There is the Responsible Use initiative put forth by Denver NORML, which is a private club designated license that requires people to become members, bring their own cannabis and allows for permitted events. The other initiative, The Neighborhood Approved Cannabis Consumption Pilot Program Initiative, will give permission to businesses, including bars, to allow cannabis consumption. Either one will be good for consumers. One is more exclusive, and by requiring membership it keeps things manageable and accountable by limiting the amount of people who can join, it does alienate neighborhood groups and businesses. My concern with the initiative permitting businesses to allow consumption, including bars, is that tourists new to cannabis consumption and consuming alcohol, can easily over-consume the two if they are not “seasoned” cannabis consumers.

Why did you join NCIA?

We joined NCIA after careful research into industry trade groups and selected the one that was the most diverse, influential, and had an ethical and inclusive industry. It is our desire to see a successful multi-billion dollar industry built on a foundation of integrity and inclusiveness, and NCIA offers that. While we may not align with the philosophies of all members, the organization pushes integrity in all that is does, and what I like the most is that it has organized councils that are really committed to creating an exemplary foundation for the entire industry, not just its members. You can see this in their Minority Business Council, where the discussions are always industry and community focused. I also like the networking available, especially meeting other passionate cannabis business owners across the country and having dynamic and energizing conversations.  

Colorado Cannabis Cultivators: Participate in an Energy Use Case Study

cannabisconservancyThe Cannabis Conservancy (TCC) is inviting all types of growers (indoor, greenhouse, and outdoor) in Colorado to participate in an Energy Use Case Study for the Colorado Energy Office (CEO). Growers can choose to be named and celebrated for their participation or remain absolutely anonymous. Participation is requested as soon as possible, and no later than July 31, 2016. If you are interested, contact Jacob Policzer, President of TCC, today.

The Study
TCC has been contracted by the Colorado Energy Office to conduct a research report on energy use in the marijuana cultivation industry. The purpose of the report is to understand where the industry is developing in Colorado, how energy (and water use) by the industry is impacting our grid (and water supplies), what is feasible and available to the industry in terms of operational and technological efficiencies and funding, and to create a baseline for the industry with accurate data. As part of this study, TCC is required to conduct case studies and work with growers of varying operational types (outdoor, indoor, and combination) in the state to track interval load data to create a baseline for the industry.

Grower Involvement
Growers will be required to have smart meters and sub meters installed at their operations and participate in an individualized on-site participant energy workshop. TCC will pay for the installation and maintenance of the meters as well as compensate growers for workshop participation. The choice to participate anonymously or publicly is absolutely at the discretion of the participant.

The individualized participant energy workshop will include: document reviews, building envelope analysis, grow system analysis (based on TCC Sustainability Standards), interviews, and meter installation.

What are the Benefits to Growers?
By participating in the case study, growers will learn very detailed information about their energy consumption, which is the first step in system optimization, leading to higher yields and cost savings. Growers will also receive energy and water use consultation services from TCC for system optimization and are one step closer to Sustainability Certification. If growers choose to be named in the case study they are demonstrating their industry leadership and commitment to sustainability.

What is the Colorado Energy Office (CEO)?
The CEO’s mission is to improve the effective use of all of Colorado’s energy resources and the efficient consumption of energy in all economic sectors, through providing technical guidance, financial support, policy advocacy, and public communications.

What is The Cannabis Conservancy (TCC)?
TCC’s mission is to empower and assure that the regulated cannabis industry achieves environmental, economic, and social sustainability.

Inquiries
For more information or to sign up today please contact:
Jacob Policzer, President
The Cannabis Conservancy
Jacob@cannabisconservancy.com
https://cannabisconservancy.com
Office:  +1.888.464.5515
Cell:     +1.954.254.6535
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Guest Post: Making A Case For Edibles

By Jaime Lewis, Founder and CEO, Mountain Medicine

I began my career as a professional chef at high-end, Michelin Star restaurants in San Francisco. I worked with phenomenal chefs, and I always had the goal of being a James Beard award-winning chef. Cooking was my passion, and I learned from the best about sourcing ingredients and creativity in the kitchen.

Action Shot_08_Jennifer OlsonWhen I was cooking, the Bay Area was home to a new sustainability movement that focused on local ingredients. Pioneering chefs like food activist Alice Waters led a sustainable revolution that spread across the country. Local, seasonal cooking has replaced elaborate neo-classical cuisine. Diners want to know where their ingredients are from, and why the chef has chosen a specific preparation. Our cooking at home is more aware too.

I was thinking about ingredients and recipes a decade ago, when I got involved with cannabis edible products. A friend approached me about making edibles when his father, a cannabis patient living with HIV/AIDS, could no longer smoke. Pharmaceutical medications prescribed to patients for wasting syndrome and other complications from HIV/AIDS caused nausea, and cannabis proved an effective counterbalance.

I started getting positive feedback on my edibles’ effectiveness for pain, nausea, sleep problems, stress, depression, and end-of-life transitions for those in hospice. I remember a call from a patient who was on the edge of tears because cannabis allowed them to enjoy breakfast. I saw what a beautiful thing it is to ease people’s suffering, and I was all in from that point on.

Pie Bars w Fruit Package_Jennifer Olson (1)At a recent event, I spoke with a woman about her catering services, a service that pairs fine dining with smoked flower. When I asked about using cannabis as an ingredient, psychoactive or not, she said it was “too dangerous.”

I realized that even though Colorado has had adult-use cannabis for more than two years, and medical cannabis for longer, there’s still so much fear about edibles. Media attention on a few bad actors is keeping consumers away from a cannabis product with incredible potential for good.

Edibles producers are waging a constant battle against misinformation. Legislators react to perceived public concern by over-regulating our sector. Regulation is relentless: new measures take shape before we have time to measure existing rules’ effectiveness. Edibles companies struggle for survival as new, hastily crafted, fear-based regulations are enacted.

Over-regulation has become counter-productive. Our concerns about restrictive standards for marking, stamping, and packaging limit our ability to be creative with ingredients and presentation. As a chef, it’s disheartening.

Honey Sticks with Jar_Jennifer Olson (1)Mountain Medicine recently became the first edibles company to co-brand with a mainstream (non-cannabis) food manufacturer. On my constant hunt for the best local ingredients, I discovered Highland Honey, a beautiful, locally sourced raw honey from Boulder. I was lucky that the owner aligns with my values and beliefs about local ingredients and cannabis as medicine. Sadly, regulatory hurdles, liability, and image concerns keep exciting partnerships out of reach for edibles producers and the industry as a whole.

It’s frustrating to create a great product and make it bend to regulations that prioritize fear over food quality. As legislators attempt to protect consumers, edibles are treated more like poison than food, and patients lose access to quality products.

As I expand my business, I’m often advised not to mention edibles. Cannabis is normalizing, but there’s still a huge stigma attached to edibles. Irrational fear keeps consumers away from the healthiest, most controlled way to consume cannabis. I’ve seen first-hand the incredible impact edibles can have on quality of life, but I worry that patients won’t have the chance to experience it themselves.   

Activists have endured a difficult, decades-long battle for any access to cannabis. The fight we are facing now for access to edibles will be just as difficult.

As cannabis enters the mainstream, our entire society is beginning to understand the many positive effects of cannabis. We fought for decades to bring the truth about this amazing plant to light, but current perceptions about edibles make it clear that it’s not over yet. Our challenge now is to shape the conversation about these products and the relief they bring. The freedom to consume cannabis is critical, but the fight for access to quality products will shape this industry’s future for many decades to come.


JaimeLewisJaime Lewis has more than nine years of experience managing the production of medical marijuana-infused products (MIP), as well as all facets of managing and operating a medical and recreational marijuana dispensary. A California Culinary Academy graduate, she’s worked in many highly acclaimed kitchens, including serving as the executive chef of a Michelin-rated three-star restaurant in San Francisco. She began creating medical marijuana edibles for HIV/AIDS patients in California in 2006 as part of a Compassion Co-op.

In 2009, Jaime moved to Colorado and founded Mountain Medicine, a medical marijuana-infused product manufacturer. Mountain Medicine supplies high-quality medical and recreational marijuana edibles and products to a number of dispensaries throughout the state. As the founder and executive chef, Jaime designed the commercial kitchen and supervised its start-to-finish construction. She developed recipes leading to a variety of product lines to meet patients’ individual needs and developed product packaging that favors discreet design on behalf of patient confidentiality and safety.

Jaime is responsible for strategic planning and business development, policy development and governmental affairs, marketing and serves as the community liaison to demonstrate good corporate citizenship.

Jaime is an active member of the cannabis community. She is one of the founders and serves as the Chair of the Cannabis Business Alliance, as well as chairing the board of the National Cannabis Industry Association. Jaime takes great pride in changing the conversation around safe and responsible cannabis use both in the state of Colorado and on the national level.

 

Guest Post: Mr. Seeb Goes To Washington

by Ean Seeb, Denver Relief

Editor’s Note: In January, Ean Seeb, who serves on the Board of Directors for NCIA and is co-founder of Denver Relief and Denver Relief Consulting, coordinated with NCIA’s Director of Government Relations Michael Correia to arrange personal meetings with congressional offices in Washington, D.C.

Ean Seeb speaks at NCIA's Policy Symposium in 2015
Ean Seeb speaks at NCIA’s Policy Symposium in 2015

In December, while planning for a January business trip to Washington, D.C., I realized that I should take the opportunity to use some downtime to lobby Capitol Hill offices on issues affecting the cannabis industry. I reached out to NCIA’s Executive Director Aaron Smith and Director of Government Relations Michael Correia and announced my intention. I was amazed at their responsiveness and support for my idea.

The whole planning process was quite easy. I let them know the date I was available and the focus of my trip and let the D.C. office coordinate logistics. Denver Relief Consulting has business interests in Hawaii and I wanted to focus on that state’s Congressional delegation. My goals were to update offices on medical marijuana implementation in Hawaii and ask these offices to co-sponsor The Small Business Tax Equity Act of 2015 (S. 987 & H.R. 1855), which amends Internal Revenue Code Section 280E to allow cannabis businesses in compliance with state law to take standard tax deductions and credits relating to business expenses.

The trip went very smoothly. I met up with Michael the evening before our meetings to discuss issues and logistics. Although I am well-versed on issues affecting our industry, it was really informative for me to sit down with him and discuss our focus, strategy, and talking points. We were joined by NCIA Member Tae Darnell, CEO of Sensi Media, whose background on cannabis reform in Hawaii goes back many years and was a great asset to our meetings.

 

 

We visited offices in both the Senate and House of Representatives, and each office was very informed about cannabis issues, was responsive to our concerns, and asked insightful questions. I remember back in 2013 when NCIA held its 3rd annual member lobby days. During those meetings, staffers would drop their jaws and say “You’re here to talk about what?” It was almost humorous because, back then, staffers were still in shock that cannabis issues were being brought to them. This time, one of our meetings lasted a full hour! The reception from congressional offices has evolved significantly over the past five years, and that can be attributed to the work NCIA has done on the ground.

 

The National Cannabis Industry Association's 5th Annual Lobby Days in Washington, D.C.
The National Cannabis Industry Association’s 5th Annual Lobby Days in Washington, D.C.

Although our meetings were with Democratic offices, who tend to be supportive of our issues, they were still not co-sponsors of legislation that would solve our 280E tax problems. The offices really appreciated tying the issue to Hawaii and answering questions specifically related to the state and how 280E will negatively affect their constituents. Each of the offices will discuss co-sponsoring legislation in the future, and our D.C. office will continue working with them to gain their support.

I did my homework with information provided by NCIA through newsletters, packets, and the website. An hour’s worth of studying on the front end made for some really powerful and effective meetings. As an NCIA member, it was personally and professionally fulfilling to be able to leave the Capitol thinking, “Today, I made some good progress on our issues, and for our industry, through the work done with these folks.”

 

I wholeheartedly encourage other NCIA members not only to go to NCIA’s 6th annual Member Lobby Days in May — but also to go to D.C. on your own. The NCIA Government Relations team will be there with you every step of the way.

As I was leaving, Michael said, “Please tell other members who happen to be traveling to D.C. that we are available for any NCIA member, at any time, who wants us to coordinate personal meetings with congressional offices.”

If you are interested in contacting NCIA’s Government Relations department to schedule meetings with Members of Congress in Washington, D.C., please email Government Relations Coordinator Michelle Rutter at michelle@thecannabisindustry for more information. 


 

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NCIA’s High-Impact Quarterly Cannabis Caucuses – Q1 Photos and Feedback

Last week we wrapped up the first quarter of our newly established event series, the Quarterly Cannabis Caucuses. Thanks so much to the nearly 500 members, speakers, supporters, and volunteers that engaged with NCIA’s federal advocacy work at caucuses in twelve cities across the country!

Take a look at these photo highlights and member testimonials from the first quarter and get registered for the Q2 Cannabis Caucuses, coming in April!

The National Cannabis Industry Association's First Quarterly Colorado Cannabis Caucus



“Last night we attended the National Cannabis Industry Association meeting and were reminded about the crucial importance of advocacy in this election year. The continued reform of our drug laws and the nation’s growing access to cannabis is not a given.
Kiva Confections


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“I had the pleasure of attending both the Denver and Las Vegas NCIA caucuses and can’t begin to say enough good things. The content, location, and format were on point. I got to catch up with lots of colleagues, who were able to introduce me to prospective customers, and I was also able to meet several new entrants to the industry. I made amazing business connections and was able to set up 5 meetings for the following day.”
Amanda Ostrowitz, Co-Founder & Chief Strategy Officer, CannaReg§



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“Last night at NCIA’s Quarterly Cannabis Caucus, I opened it up by expressing the importance of national advocacy. We all know the importance of local and state advocacy but the biggest threat to my business is 280E. This is the IRS tax code that does not allow dispensaries to write off ANY expenses. We just want to be treated like every other small business in America. This tax theft will happen every year until the tax code changes. Simply put, the IRS has robbed me and my patients. This is just one reason why federal law MUST CHANGE. Get involved, get active, and join the National Cannabis Industry Association.”
 – Aaron Justis, Buds & Roses



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Looking for downloadable versions of the information we provided at the first round of Cannabis Caucuses? Check out our Cannabis Caucus Resources page.

The next events in the Quarterly Cannabis Caucus series will come to you in April. So check out the dates below, mark your calendar, and register online now by visiting the NCIA Events page!

Q2 QCC CalendarHave any feedback from an event you attended? Want to suggest a particular topic you would like covered at our next Cannabis Caucus in your area? Fill out our short attendee survey to provide us with valuable feedback we’ll use to improve future events.

Interested in sponsoring an upcoming Cannabis Caucus in your area or a series of events across the country? Check out our Cannabis Caucus sponsorship guide which outlines pricing and benefits, as well as discounts on packages for our third annual Cannabis Business Summit & Expo taking place this year in Oakland, June 20-22.

See you at the next Caucus!

Guest Post: Supplementing Greenhouse Lighting in Winter Months

By Shelly Peterson, Vice President, urban-gro

urbangro3As the seasons change, so does the amount of light that enters into your greenhouse. Summer months may offer an abundance of natural light; however, the longer nights of winter require supplemental lighting for growers to achieve the best yield possible from their crop. Some greenhouse facilities shut down during the winter months due to natural lighting restraints, but there are easy solutions that can mean more harvests and bigger profits for growers. The first step is to target a daily light interval (DLI) number for each facility and design the supplemental light accordingly. This ensures optimal light intensity and uniformity in the facility year-round.  

On Site

Recently, Colorado marijuana cultivators have begun to move into more efficient greenhouse structures. With proper planning and execution, these growers are experiencing as much or more success as indoor gardeners. It does take proper planning to get through the short days of the winter, and owners are turning towards horticulture companies to help them succeed. Based on the sun’s position in the geographical region, high tech control systems with DLI sensors can be installed to measure when the natural light falls below a certain level and the supplemental light is needed to optimize growth.

urbangrogreenhouseFor example, at urban-gro, once we know the facility’s DLI and obstructions within the greenhouse structure, we begin the planning process and consider technical factors for the layout of the lighting system. Ensuring optimal lighting layout for the grow facility is the top priority. Incorporating lights into the structure so they create minimal shadowing is critical; this ensures that the crops are getting the optimal amount of natural light when the sun is shining. 

Today, most grow facilities use 1,000-watt DE HPS light fixture, which is the most efficient light source on the market for the plant canopy. Once the lighting system is installed, it is essential that the correct intensity is aligned with the crops’ growth stage, which ranges from veg to bloom. We schedule a gradual increase of light intensity so yield is maximized and never harmed.

End Result

With supplemental lighting, cultivators can guarantee the correct amount of lighting and environmental controls for the winter months to ensure yields and profits. 


Shelly Peterson serves as Vice President of Sales for urban-gro for the last three years. Shelly manages the company’s sales force located across the country. Her passion for eco-friendly solutions and creating a sustainable environment ensures that the commercial cultivator is provided with a lighting plan that utilizes the least amount of equipment. Further, her skills learned in the commercial lighting industry have enabled her to work with regional electrical providers to maximize available utility rebates for urban-gro’s customers. Urban-gro is a Sustaining level member of NCIA since November 2014. 

 

Announcing NCIA’s January – June 2016 Events Calendar

As we head into the new year, we wanted to share with you our upcoming event calendar for the first 6 months of 2016! This includes the Q1 and Q2 events in our new event series, the Quarterly Cannabis Caucuses, a fundraiser for our federal PAC where members of our Board of Directors will be present, our 6th annual Federal Lobby Days, and our 3rd annual Cannabis Business Summit.

Click on the images below for more information on the upcoming events.

Quarterly Cannabis Caucuses

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6th Annual Federal Lobby Days
Cannabis Business Summit

So what are you waiting for? Register for an upcoming event today!

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Do you have questions regarding any upcoming events in your area or others across the country? Reach out to events@thecannabisindustry.org any time with your questions, comments, or concerns.

Interested in sponsoring one or a series of events in a particular region throughout the year in order to gain valuable exposure for your company to our nationwide network of established business owners? Please contact Brian Gilbert at brian@thecannabisindustry.org for more information on series rates and associated discounts for packages.

Interested in speaking at the upcoming Cannabis Business Summit? Please contact brooke@thecannabisindustry.org for more information on remaining opportunities.

Video Newsletter: 5 Years of Advocacy, Education, and Community

Even if you couldn’t attend NCIA’s 5th Anniversary Banquet held in Las Vegas on November 11th, you can still reflect on five years of industry advocacy, education, and community with a few of our founding members in this video presentation.

We are proud of the nearly 1,000 member-businesses that have come together as the unified voice of the cannabis industry.

Not yet a member of NCIA? It’s never too late to get involved in paving a prosperous future for the cannabis industry — join today!

Special Thanks to:
Christie Lunsford, Jay and Diane Czarkowski, Brian Vicente, Ean Seeb, Erich Pearson, Étienne Fontán, Julianna Carella, Jill Lamoureux, Rob Kampia, and Steve DeAngelo.

Guest Post: Raising Money 101 – What’s an Offer and Why Does it Matter?

by Charles Alovisetti, Vicente Sederberg LLC

This is article is the first in a series, which will provide a general overview of the laws that impact raising money in the cannabis industry.

Any business owner planning to raise capital should consider the federal Securities Act of 1933, commonly referred to as the “Securities Act.” In addition to federal law, each state has its own set of laws that regulate securities sales, commonly referred to as the “Blue Sky Laws.” Both the Securities Act and any applicable Blue Sky Laws must be complied with in connection with the sale of securities – a security being proof of ownership or debt that has been assigned a value and may be sold (stocks and bonds are examples). Both the Securities Act and the Blue Sky Laws regulate the sale of securities by prohibiting the offer and sale of unregistered securities (other than pursuant to specified exceptions) and requiring companies to provide investors disclosure of all material facts concerning the securities for sale.

Ecrivains_consult_-_Texte_4_mainsCrucially for business owners, it’s not only the actual documents to raise money that are governed by the Securities Act: so are those initial business plans and executive summaries that might be circulated to gauge interest. Ensuring that your business plans are not violating any securities laws is the focus of this article.

In analyzing whether a transaction or communication is in compliance with the Securities Act and Blue Sky Laws, it’s helpful to think through the following questions:

  • Does the transaction or communication constitute an offer or sale?
  • Is the offer or sale of a security (as defined in the Securities Act and the Blue Sky Laws)?
  • If there is an offer or sale of a security, is the security properly registered with federal and state authorities?
  • If there is an offer or sale of a security and the security is not registered, does the transaction fall within one or more of the specified exemptions to registration?

As you assess your materials for compliance, begin by asking whether an offer has been made. If a transaction or communication does not constitute an offer, then compliance with state and federal securities law is not a concern. However, if an offer is unintentionally made – a common mistake – it may trigger a violation of securities law since it is unlikely that the unintentional issuer will have taken into account the necessary disclosure items and determined the relevant exemption to registration. Note that in the context of securities law, “issuer” means any company that issues or proposes to issue a security.

What, then, is an offer, from the federal standpoint and from that of the state of Colorado? Section 2(a)(3) of the federal Securities Act defines “offer” as “every attempt or offer to dispose of, or solicitation of an offer to buy, a security or interest in a security, for value.” Under the Colorado Securities Act, “offer to sell” includes any attempt or offer to dispose of, or solicitation of an offer to buy, a security or interest in a security for value and “offer” means an offer to sell or an offer to purchase. What constitutes an offer, furthermore, may be a matter of perceived intent rather than explicit proposal: the SEC has noted that “[t]he publication of information and statements, and publicity efforts, generally, made in advance of a proposed financing, although not couched in terms of an express offer, may in fact contribute to conditioning the public mind or arousing public interest in the issuer or in the securities of an issuer in a manner which raises a serious question whether the publicity is not in fact part of the selling effort.” As a practical matter, these definitions, as well as the SEC’s guidance, mean that many communications that would not be considered offers under contract law may well be considered offers for purposes of state and federal securities law.

From a practical point of view, then, how should an entrepreneur approach an action that might be considered an offer – distributing information about a new company, for example? To mitigate risk of a securities violation, consider the following factors before circulating information about your business:

  • Include Appropriate Disclaimers: If you do proceed with distribution, any documentation provided to potential investors should contain disclaimers that clearly indicate that the provided information is not an offer or a solicitation of an offer to buy securities. Note that such disclaimers do not necessarily mean the document will not be considered an offer.
  • Require Further Information: Any documentation should also state explicitly that further information about a purchaser will be required before an offer can be made.
  • Minimize Details: Generally speaking, the fewer details provided about a potential security, the better. Even high-level details can result in a document being considered an offer.
  • Ensure Accuracy: Make absolutely sure that any information provided is correct and not misleading (i.e., do not claim that cannabis is legal in the United States, note that it remains illegal at the federal level). Avoid selective disclosure and be prepared to stand behind any claims made.
  • Follow Best Practices: Every communication should adhere to best practices regarding offerings in general (e.g., avoiding general solicitations, keeping track of distributed documents, etc.)
  • Seek Legal Counsel: When in doubt, speak to a qualified securities attorney. It’s always easier to do things right the first time, whereas it may not be possible to fix certain mistakes.

This information is educational only and shall not be construed as legal advice. Please consult your attorney prior to relying on any information in this article.


Charlie Alovisetti, Vicente Sederberg LLC
Charlie Alovisetti, Vicente Sederberg LLC

Charlie Alovisetti is a senior associate at Vicente Sederberg LLC. Prior to joining Vicente Sederberg, Charlie worked as an associate in the New York offices of Latham & Watkins and Goodwin Procter where his practice focused on representing private equity sponsors and their portfolio companies, as well as public companies, in a range of corporate transactions, including mergers, stock and asset acquisitions and divestitures, growth equity investments, venture capital investments, and debt financings. In addition, Charlie has experience counseling portfolio and emerging growth companies with respect to general corporate and commercial matters and all aspects of compensation arrangements, including executive employment and consulting agreements, stock option plans, restricted stock plans, bonus plans, and other management incentive arrangements. Charlie has experience in both U.S. and cross-border transactions, and has advised clients across a range of industries including technology, manufacturing, software, digital media, energy and clean tech, healthcare, and biotech. He holds a Bachelor of Arts, with honors, from McGill University and a law degree from Columbia Law School, where he was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar.

*Currently only admitted in New York

 

 

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