Cultivating Community in a City Near You: Announcing NCIA’s 2023 Event Calendar
It’s been a year of big change for NCIA. As we come to the end of 2022, we want to take a moment to send a message to our members and supporters about these changes, and most importantly, get excited for what’s next for the future of NCIA events.
The End of An Era
The events industry has faced unforeseen challenges these last couple of years, and NCIA was not isolated from these issues. Outside of needing to postpone our large tradeshows until late 2021, we also had to postpone a whole calendar of approximately 40+ events nationwide which was our primary way of connecting our community and meeting with our members face to face. Our team overcame these challenges by building our expansive digital presence and online events program to continue to provide education and exposure opportunities to our members, however this did still require a significant pivot in organizational strategy. Due to the residual hardships brought by the pandemic, we learned earlier this year that the Cannabis Business Summit & Expo was not going to be able to be produced on the scale or quality that we or our members had come to expect throughout the years. So, in tandem with our previous tradeshow co-producers, we made the difficult decision to dissolve our existing partnership and accepted an offer from them to acquire our tradeshow portfolio. For those who have been attending our tradeshows since 2014, we can’t thank you enough for your participation in those events and making them so impactful for the industry. There are too many good memories to revisit, and hope you take a moment to remember some of your personal highlights throughout the years as we look forward to coming together for new events in 2023.
Looking Ahead to 2023
For now, we will be taking a hiatus from the tradeshow space. This will allow our team to refocus our efforts into other impactful networking and educational opportunities. We’re excited to get back to our roots and focus our efforts on intentional and innovative gatherings that connect Main Street cannabis businesses with each other and with NCIA’s advocacy efforts.
We’ve listened to the feedback from our members, and know that in-person networking remains essential to building your business and growing your network. In these uncertain economic times, every dollar spent and any time away from your business impacts your bottom line. As the leading cannabis trade association representing small-business owners, we’re committed to making the investment to meet our members where they are, and to continue facilitating experiences where our members can make key connections with fellow business owners. Moving into 2023, we’re reinvigorating our events program starting with our regional Industry Social and Cannabis Caucus event series, leading into the cannabis industry’s biggest policy and advocacy event of the year: NCIA’s 11th Annual Cannabis Industry Lobby Days.
We invite you to move forward with us as we enter a new chapter in our history. Without further ado, we are excited to announce the lineup of events for the first half of 2023!
Join NCIA to Take Advantage of Complimentary Tickets
As always, NCIA members receive complimentary access to all of these events based on membership level. Looking to have an expanded presence at each event? Consider upgrading your membership today in order to include your entire team or prospective clients.
Huge thanks to the initial sponsors of these events which have made a significant investment in NCIA’s community building efforts moving into 2023! Learn more about each of these pioneering businesses helping drive our mission forward and reach out to schedule a meeting with their team surrounding the upcoming events.
Support These Events Through Sponsorship
Has your company had trouble breaking through the noise on a crowded expo floor this past year? Is your brand looking for quality B2B connections with market leaders? Want to play a larger role and align your business with NCIA’s community building and educational efforts?
Consider one of our affordable sponsorship packages, starting for as low as $500, which will allow you to reach thousands of leading cannabis businesses while supporting NCIA’s advocacy work on behalf of small cannabis businesses. Contact our team at email@example.com to learn more.
Over the years, the simple possession or use of cannabis has seen many lives upended by arrests and criminal convictions. Unfairly, racial disparities have determined that black and brown individuals suffer most of these convictions, arrests, and prosecutions, even though white individuals use and possess cannabis at similar rates. The resulting criminal records lead to individuals being denied fundamental rights to employment, housing, and education opportunities.
However, on October 6, 2022, President Biden made an announcement that could change the cannabis and criminal clemency conversation. The president asserted he would:
grant pardons to individuals with prior low-level federal cannabis possession offenses
change federal cannabis laws by reviewing the cannabis Schedule I rule.
The federal government’s classification of cannabis as a Schedule I substance puts it in the same category as more lethal drugs like heroin and LSD while drugs like fentanyl are not considered less severe than marijuana since it falls under Schedule II.
As more states legalize the sale and use of cannabis, the classification of Schedule I no longer makes sense. Additionally, more direct research on the proper utilization of marijuana can develop suitable restrictive and preventative measures to protect against harmful outcomes of cannabis use.
The Biden initiative is crucial because it can begin to remove the burden of employment, education, and housing limitations often experienced by individuals with simple cannabis possession convictions. Besides, if marijuana is rescheduled to Schedule II, or as many advocates champion for a complete descheduling, it could mean the end of cannabis prohibition altogether.
Bipartisan support for this move is also high, with 74% of Independents, 84% of Democrats, and 58% of Republicans backing the proposal. At the state level, 68% of respondents support governors that want to issue pardons for people with low-level cannabis possession convictions.
Why This is Important
The expeditious review process requested by President Biden has the potential to open the cannabis industry to further changes, like the easing of banking restrictions for cannabis businesses. For instance, the call for action by governors is already inspiring many to rethink state and local relief for marijuana users. Kentucky, Colorado, and Kansas are three states already actively considering enacting the Biden pardons and drafting new reform bills for marijuana cases.
“The lack of safe banking and financial services for the cannabis industry in the State of Colorado has become a dire public safety issue for highly regulated cannabis businesses operating in compliance with state law,” Gov. Jared Polis’ office wrote to House and Senate leaders.
“Further, the lack of safe banking exacerbates the uneven playing field faced by small and minority-owned cannabis businesses, despite their serving the same communities and being subject to the same increased state regulation as other cannabis businesses in the State,” the letter said.
It’s true – over the years, the cannabis industry has dealt with a lack of financial and banking services because of the strict regulations and criminalization associated with marijuana. Consequently, this has resulted in severe public safety issues, even for cannabis businesses that operate within the compliance mandates of the state law.
Additionally, operators are disadvantaged because they lack funding or banking systems that support cannabis business processes. But following Biden’s pardon, many hope that Congress’ marijuana reform will pass the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act for the industry.
If passed, the protection against armed robbery will increase. Also, the SAFE Banking Act will support the minority, veterans, and women who own small cannabis businesses. This, in turn, is expected to improve public safety amid the growing use of cannabis and cannabis products while simultaneously creating jobs within states.
Ushering in the Era of Cannabis Banking and FDIC
Even though the SAFE Banking Act has been in the House of Congress seven times, federally insured banking services and modern digital banking solutions like electronic payment processing are still inaccessible to the cannabis industry.
The Act lags in the senate under Democratic and Republican control. However, the senate is said to be preparing to enact the reform for the SAFE Banking Act as part of the Biden marijuana proposals. And why not? There is significant support for the SAFE Banking Act.
For instance, National Association of State Treasures members have voiced their support for the SAFE Banking Act. Public policy also demands the immediate relief the ACT will provide cannabis businesses. Therefore, the expectation that leaders in the government will push for banking reforms for cannabis businesses is prevalent.
The SAFE Banking Act is an Advocate for the War on Drugs
Many believe that the baking legislation would advocate for the war on drugs because it would offer protection against the risk of robbery and violence. By denying cash-based cannabis businesses access to the traditional financial system, the state and local governments provide an invitation threat that has seen many victims working in cannabis businesses lose their lives or livelihoods.
On the other hand, the right to payment solutions, like credit cards, protects against armed robbery. Nonetheless, for the banking legislation to work, it requires the support of criminal reforms. This is where initiatives like predicant Biden’s pardon and marijuana schedule reform come in.
The SAFE Banking Act will solve the injustice associated with financial inequality, thus, providing public safety that protects customers, employees, and businesses in the cannabis industry. And with reduced invitations for armed robberies working in tandem with the use of mandated cannabis products, the war on drugs will ensue.
Cannabis Businesses Contribute Equally to the Economy
As such, it is only fair to provide them with the same rights and protections that other businesses, whether big or small, enjoy. Therefore, starting with the push to decriminalize and legalize marijuana, not just at the federal level but at the state level, is a solid place to start.
Following this pardon with an advocacy of the SAFE Banking Act will additionally provide cannabis businesses with the capability to carry out operations securely and optimally. But attention must be paid to the details pertinent to these reforms to ensure thousands of convicts get a better chance at life and cannabis businesses get opportunities to continue contributing to the economy.
What does President Biden’s pardon for marijuana possession entail?
President Biden’s cannabis reform initiatives are set to accomplish three things:
Pardon convicts with low-level marijuana possession offenses, thus, allowing them to get housing, education, and employment without prejudice
Reduce the marijuana Schedule level on the Controlled Substances Act from Schedule I to Schedule II, which lessens the seriousness of marijuana possession
Inspire governors to offer the same pardons at the state and local levels where most marijuana convictions are carried out
Is there support for President Biden’s announcement?
Yes. There is ample support from the public and bipartisan control for Biden’s pardon and advocacy for the marijuana schedule change in the Controlled Substances Act.
What would the pardon mean for cannabis banking?
The de-scheduling of the marijuana Controlled Substances Act would remove the many legal hurdles and fears of the financial institutions that keep them from supporting cannabis businesses. This would reduce the discriminatory risks associated with banking or financing cannabis businesses.
Joshua Gilstrap is the Marketing Manager for e2b teknologies, in addition to his marketing responsibilities Joshua leads business development for e2b teknologies emerging Canna Suite product line. A business graduate with a focus in marketing from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, he joined the e2b team in the Fall of 2019. Josh brought with him a wide array of business and practical experience in planning and execution. Since coming aboard he has led multiple projects including website hosting and theme standardization company wide, marketing automation streamlining the efficiency of the customer journey, and sales automation where he is changing the conversation from promotion to education, from pitching to catching, and from push to pull in order to keep up with the shifting tides of a digital transformation.
Video: NCIA Today – Thursday, June 30, 2022
NCIA Director of Communications Bethany Moore checks in with what’s going on across the country with the National Cannabis Industry Association’s membership, board, allies, and staff. Join us every other Thursday on Facebook for NCIA Today Live.
Video: NCIA Today – Thursday, April 7, 2022
NCIA Deputy Director of Communications Bethany Moore checks in with what’s going on across the country with the National Cannabis Industry Association’s membership, board, allies, and staff. Join us every other Thursday on Facebook for NCIA Today Live.
This episode of NCIA Today is brought to you by Senseon Secure Access, offering concealed protection, monitoring, and workflow management for dispensaries. Senseon is ready to provide you with an exceptional customer experience, plus improved efficiency and compliance, not to mention slim and modular aesthetics. Learn more about their security solutions and cost benefits at Senseon.com.
Equity Member Spotlight: YS Cannabis Delivery Services
NCIA’s editorial department continues the Member Spotlight series by highlighting our Social Equity Scholarship Recipients as part of our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Program. Participants are gaining first-hand access to regulators in key markets to get insight on the industry, tips for raising capital, and advice on how to access and utilize data to ensure success in their businesses, along with all the other benefits available to NCIA members.
Tell us a bit about you, your background, and why you launched your company.
Originally from Ecuador, Yadira Elizabeth Silva Leon, I came to the United States when I was only 16 years of age. I graduated with honors from Sheridan High School and Arapahoe Community College in Colorado. Then I graduated from the American Intercontinental University online, with a BA in Business Administration. I own my construction clean-up company, officially named YS Construction Clean Up Services.
As a single mother of two and minority business owner, I started to become more involved in the world of cannabis after two separate accidents, leaving me with a damaged spine. Doctors prescribed medications and pills that began to damage my nervous system and I started to lose sensation in my legs, inhibiting me from taking care of my children. It was around this time that Colorado legalized cannabis, and after becoming legally accessible, I decided to take advantage of the medicinal benefits of cannabis to calm my pain. Cannabis inspired me to begin a new career in the cannabis industry. Serving people who are in pain by bringing their medicine in the comfort of their home in a timely fashion became an interest and passion of mine.
What unique value does your company offer to the cannabis industry?
The health and safety of our patients, customers, and employees is our top priority. We see the future where our company impacts the wellbeing of our drivers and the life of our planet. That is why YS Cannabis Delivery Services was created.
We specialize in transporting cannabis products business to business and business to customer. We also collect empty containers from customers to recycle properly, and return clean, disinfect, and sterile containers for businesses.
What is your goal for the greater good of cannabis?
Securing the life of carriers, and our environment. We are working on a new security system where we use AI (Artificial Intelligence) and VR (Virtual Reality) to deliver cannabis from business to business with efficiency and security. While we are expanding security to protect cannabis shippers and vehicles against prohibited intrusions, we are also making sure plastic containers get to the right place and be recycled properly.
What kind of challenges does the industry face, and what solutions would you like to see?
COVID-19 created many challenges for most industries, but the cannabis industry faced more threatening challenges such as violence and robbery. What we would like to see is the safety of cannabis employees become a priority. That is why we are looking into virtual reality as a security measure.
Why did you join NCIA? What’s the best or most important part about being a member through the Social Equity Scholarship Program?
I joined the National Cannabis Industry Association to collaborate in the development of my company at a national and international level. Because of NCIA, I was able to receive access to the resources my business needed to grow and thrive. I was able to speak with leaders, consultants, and other like-minded professionals.
February Hodgepodge: An Update from D.C.
by Michelle Rutter Friberg, NCIA’s Deputy Director of Government Relations
It may only be February, but the NCIA government relations team has been busy at work this year advocating for you and your business! Just over the last month, the SAFE Banking Act passed the House for the sixth time, we held our first mini-virtual lobby days, and Majority Leader Schumer provided an updated timeline for the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA). Keep reading to learn the latest:
Last week, Congressman Perlmutter (D-CO) followed through on his promise to attach SAFE Banking to any viable legislative package when he filed it as an amendment to the America COMPETES Act, which is a large manufacturing bill. Now, the bill is headed to a “conference committee” – a term for when House and Senate leadership, as well as committee chairs and other members of Congress get together to negotiate differences in the two chambers’ bills.
Congressman Perlmutter and the other lead offices of SAFE Banking are currently talking with leadership about the importance of enacting the provision, however, Leader Schumer and Senator Booker have been clear about their opposition to passing SAFE without broader equity provisions. During early February, keep your eyes on the news to see if SAFE Banking makes it into the final, enacted language!
Virtual Lobby Days
Due to NCIA’s Evergreen members’ investment in shaping policy for the cannabis industry, we have been able to take our Government Relations work virtual by hosting our first ever Mini-Lobby Days! As we continue to represent a value-driven, responsible industry, our main goal is to educate congressional offices on all aspects of cannabis policy reform, including social equity, banking, 280E, scientific data, and much more.
During the first week of February, NCIA’s Evergreen Roundtable members participated in more than 30 virtual congressional meetings, including time with Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH). Members also met with relevant committee staff and communicated the importance of holding hearings and markups on cannabis policy issues, as well as enacting reform while Democrats hold the majority in both chambers.
Back in September, NCIA and other stakeholders submitted responses to the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA) discussion draft, led by Leader Schumer (D-NY, and Sens. Booker (D-NJ) and Wyden (D-OR). Since then, the Senate’s focus has been primarily on passing President Biden’s Build Back Better Act, which has significantly slowed progress on the CAOA. While the bill hasn’t been formally introduced yet, the sponsoring offices have slowly continued to have conversations with committees of jurisdiction to tee things up behind the scenes.
In a recent press conference in New York, Leader Schumer announced plans to introduce the CAOA in April. Can anyone say 4/20?
This update just represents a small snapshot of all that NCIA’s government relations team has been working on in D.C. – make sure to keep an eye on the blog, find us on NCIA Connect, and follow us on our social media channels to learn the latest!
Video: NCIA Today – Thursday, January 27, 2022
NCIA Deputy Director of Communications Bethany Moore checks in with what’s going on across the country with the National Cannabis Industry Association’s membership, board, allies, and staff. Join us every other Thursday on Facebook for NCIA Today Live.
Equity Member Spotlight: Better Days Delivery Service
This month, NCIA’s editorial department continues the monthly Member Spotlight series by highlighting our Social Equity Scholarship Recipients as part of our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Program. Participants are gaining first-hand access to regulators in key markets to get insight on the industry, tips for raising capital, and advice on how to access and utilize data to ensure success in their businesses, along with all the other benefits available to NCIA members.
Tell us a bit about you, your background, and why you launched your company.
I grew up in Colorado Springs in a single-parent home, overcame poverty, violence, houselessness, and a felony for marijuana possession to get to the place that I am in today. I’ll never forget the immediately depressing feeling of knowing that I’d lost opportunities, let my mom, my family, and my community down when initially being charged with a felony for marijuana distribution. Thankfully my people reminded me that I am much more than this scarlet letter F represents. I did my time, paid my restitution, and kept on grinding. Now a father of two beautiful babies, their presence is a constant reminder that I can’t give up. Left out of the weed industry, I focused on community and education as a 5th grade teacher. I decided to leave the classroom to start this business because I wasn’t happy due to the politics and wasn’t feeling valued in my career. I have worked hard to break out of the cages/boxes that I was placed in. I have been turned down for housing, employment, and have had doors closed because of this felony but I keep the belief that when one door closes another opens and because of that I’m determined to succeed. The weed industry seems much more of a fit for me, I chose delivery because it was the easiest point of entry however I dream of one day being vertically integrated.
What unique value does your company offer to the cannabis industry?
Our company, Better Days Delivery Service, offers a community aspect that is sorely missing in the industry. In my opinion, most of the industry hasn’t done their due diligence to truly serve and build relationships with patients. We have partnered with the nurse network so that they are able to give true medical advice while we work on the discreet, quick, personable service that we have become known for. Safe, affordable, discreet service is mandatory, we offer luxury and frequent flyer convenience as well. By focusing on the customers that are often overlooked, I am confident that we can provide a service that will revolutionize all of the industry. We want to deliver weed with the personable service that existed before the industry existed, I want to remind people that it’s still possible. Who wouldn’t love a delivery company that reminds our customers that our worst days are behind us? “Better Days Are On The Way.”
What is your goal for the greater good of cannabis?
In the words of 2Pac, “better days got me thinkin’ ’bout better days!” My goal for the greater good of cannabis is to remind people of the healing aspects of the plant. I want to help free everyone that has been incarcerated or charged for anything to do with the plant. I want to contribute to scientific research that will help heal and help people live despite their ailments. I would love to see it totally decriminalized and if I am able to pay my bills and make it better for my family in the process even better!
What kind of challenges do you face in the industry and what solutions would you like to see?
The biggest challenge that I have is a lack of capital both financially and socially. It is not cheap to get into the industry and I have been bootstrapping and using my savings thus far. Having access to all of the money that I would need to reach my dreams and create generational wealth would be perfect. I’ve also noticed that in this industry, it pays to know people as a social equity licensee. I feel like the majority of the industry looks at us as if we’re begging for scraps. Because of that, I’ve worked to build relationships with powerful people who have a true commitment to equity and support for those who have less.
I’ve also begun the steps to make my business a social enterprise. The true challenge in being a business that works for social good will be to find a balance between profit, sustainability, and social impact. I aim to do exactly that!
Why did you join NCIA? What’s the best or most important part about being a member of the Social Equity Scholarship Program?
It was important for me to build a network and NCIA is just the trade organization to help me do that. NCIA has been a platform that helps me get into the doors that I usually wouldn’t be able to access. I am able to ask important questions about the development of my business to those with answers. The social equity program allows me to chat with those from similar upbringings while sharing the tools and resources to help us all succeed. The most valuable part has been the sounding board and emotional support that the group continues to provide.
As a nation, we have to be accountable for the “war on drugs” as everyone turns their eyes toward federal legalization. Without accounting for the harm that continues we’ll never get to the “better days” that the people deserve.
Across the Country – State Cannabis News and Movement
by Madeline Grant, NCIA’s Government Relations Manager
As the deadline to submit feedback for the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act approached last week, our Government Relations team worked tirelessly to submit a detailed analysis and recommended improvements on behalf of the legal cannabis industry. The full comments and an executive summary can be downloadedhere.The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA), submitted in July by Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), would remove cannabis from the schedule of controlled substances, create a regulatory structure and federal guidelines for cannabis products and state-legal markets, and is intended to support restorative justice for the people and communities that have been disparately hurt by prohibition while ensuring fair opportunities in legal cannabis markets for small businesses and marginalized communities.
The introduction of the comprehensive draft language was a pivotal moment for the United States Senate and NCIA will continue to do whatever we can to ensure value-driven policies for the cannabis industry. Meanwhile, we continue to see movement at the state level as support for cannabis legalization efforts continues to grow. Here are some important updates happening at the state level.
California officials announced that they are soliciting proposals for a program aimed at helping small marijuana cultivators with environmental clean-up and restoration efforts. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) Cannabis Restoration Grant program will release applications this fall and remain open through spring 2023. The $6 million in potential funding, which comes from cannabis tax revenue, must go to government agencies, California nonprofits, or Native American tribes who would then work with cultivators on environmental efforts.
The newly inaugurated governor of New York says she wants to “jumpstart” the implementation of cannabis legalization. Governor Kathy Hochul took a major step by making two key regulatory appointments to oversee the state’s cannabis market. Soon after they were quickly confirmed by the Senate during a special session. Former New York Assemblywoman Tremaine Wright (D) will serve as chair of the Cannabis Control Board, and former Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) staffer Christopher Alexander will be the executive director of the state’s Office of Cannabis Management.
Ohio activists can begin collecting signatures for a 2022 ballot initiative to legalize marijuana in the state. The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CTRMLA) launched its ballot effort last month. The new initiative is a statutory proposal and if supporters collect 132,887 valid signatures from registered voters, the legislature will then have four months to adopt the measure, reject it, or adopt an amended version. In the case of lawmakers not passing the proposal, an additional 132,887 signatures will be required to place the proposal before voters on the ballot in 2022.
Another adult-use legalization proposal has been filed. Legal Missouri 2022 submitted the latest measure to the secretary of state’s office, and it will now go through a review period before potentially being certified.
The Cannabis Control Division announced applications are now open for businesses interested in legal cannabis producers licensed by the state of New Mexico. After an application is submitted, regulators will have 90 days to issue a determination.
Colorado voters will decide on an initiative in November that would raise cannabis taxes to fund programs that are meant to reduce the education gap for low-income students. The secretary of state confirmed that the campaign behind the measure collected more than the required 124,632 valid signatures to make the ballot. The measure would give low and middle-income families a $1,500 stipend to have school-aged children participate in afterschool programs, tutoring, and summer learning programs.
As states continue to legalize medical and adult-use cannabis, be sure to check out our state policy map for updates. Our Government Relations team will continue to educate congressional offices as states move forward. It’s vital to have accurate information and resources for members and Congress and staffers on Capitol Hill. With advancements at the state level, we continue to relay the importance of cannabis legalization at the federal level. Please stay tuned for more updates from our Government Relations team.
Supreme Court of Cannabis?
By Michelle Rutter Friberg, NCIA’s Deputy Director of Government Relations
While it’s become commonplace to hear cannabis come up in the halls of Congress, and increasingly so in the White House, there’s one branch of government that has been quieter on the topic: the Supreme Court (SCOTUS). However, this week, conservative Justice Clarence Thomas changed that when the court actually declined to weigh in on a 280E case.
Towards the end of 2020, a Colorado medical cannabis dispensary decided to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review a lower-court decision that allowed the IRS to obtain business records in order to apply the 280E provision of the tax code. (Fun fact: NCIA member Jim Thorburn, of the Thorburn Law Group, was actually the counsel on record for this appeal!) According to the filings, the IRS overstepped its authority and also violated the company’s Fourth Amendment privacy rights. Some of the questions the company took to the highest court in the land:
Does the Fourth Amendment protect taxpayers from having confidential information released to the IRS and federal law enforcement authorities?
Does the application of Section 280E to state-legal marijuana businesses violate the federal constitution?
Again, while SCOTUS declined to consider this appeal, Justice Thomas took issue with the underlying state/federal discrepancy in the country’s cannabis laws and issued a searing statement. He specifically discussed a 2005 ruling by SCOTUS in a case called Gonzales v. Raich. In this ruling, the court narrowly determined that the federal government could enforce prohibition against cannabis cultivation that took place wholly within California based on its authority to regulate interstate commerce. Check out a few excerpts from Justice Thomas’ statement below:
“Whatever the merits of Raich when it was decided, federal policies of the past 16 years have greatly undermined its reasoning. Once comprehensive, the Federal Government’s current approach is a half-in, half-out regime that simultaneously tolerates and forbids local use of marijuana. This contradictory and unstable state of affairs strains basic principles of federalism and conceals traps for the unwary.”
“Given all these developments, one can certainly understand why an ordinary person might think that the Federal Government has retreated from its once-absolute ban on marijuana. See, e.g., Halper, Congress Quietly Ends Federal Government’s Ban on Medical Marijuana, L. A. Times, Dec. 16, 2014. One can also perhaps understand why business owners in Colorado, like petitioners, may think that their intrastate marijuana operations will be treated like any other enterprise that is legal under state law.”
“As things currently stand, the Internal Revenue Service is investigating whether petitioners deducted business expenses in violation of §280E, and petitioners are trying to prevent disclosure of relevant records held by the State. In other words, petitioners have found that the Government’s willingness to often look the other way on marijuana is more episodic than coherent.”
“This disjuncture between the Government’s recent laissez-faire policies on marijuana and the actual operation of specific laws is not limited to the tax context. Many marijuana-related businesses operate entirely in cash because federal law prohibits certain financial institutions from knowingly accepting deposits from or providing other bank services to businesses that violate federal law. Black & Galeazzi, Cannabis Banking: Proceed With Caution, American Bar Assn., Feb. 6, 2020. Cash-based operations are understandably enticing to burglars and robbers. But, if marijuana-related businesses, in recognition of this, hire armed guards for protection, the owners and the guards might run afoul of a federal law that imposes harsh penalties for using a firearm in furtherance of a ‘drug trafficking crime.’”
“Suffice it to say, the Federal Government’s current approach to marijuana bears little resemblance to the watertight nationwide prohibition that a closely divided Court found necessary to justify the Government’s blanket prohibition in Raich. If the Government is now content to allow States to act “as laboratories” “‘and try novel social and economic experiments,’” Raich, 545 U.S., at 42 (O’Connor, J., dissenting), then it might no longer have authority to intrude on “[t]he States’ core police powers . . . to define criminal law and to protect the health, safety, and welfare of their citizens.””
Just to be clear, these statements don’t change the law of the land, nor do they indicate formal policy developments. They do, however, show that the constantly shifting public perception of cannabis is affecting the way we as a society think about marijuana, which will, at some point, translate into policy. It’s no small feat that one of the most conservative justices on the Supreme Court has weighed in so substantially on this topic. Continue the momentum and join the movement with NCIA!
2020 Senate Races To Watch
by Michelle Rutter Friberg, NCIA’s Deputy Director of Government Relations
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.
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.
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.”
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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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)
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.)
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
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:
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.
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.
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?
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.
Are your product and marketing firmly grounded in the best available science supporting the uses of CBD and other cannabinoids?
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!
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)
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’s Industry Socialsare 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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?
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.
Cannabis Industry Sector:
Wholesale Distribution, Technology
NCIA Member Member Since:
Tell me a bit about your background in cannabis and why you launched Cannabase?
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 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?
We 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.
Cannabis Industry Sector: Packaging and Labeling, Office Supplies
NCIA Member Since:
Why did you open the Cannabis Business Division of Rocky Mountain Business Products?
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?
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.
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.
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.