Service Solutions | 10.26.22 | Show Me the Money – The Current State of Cannabis Lending

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

In this edition originally aired on Wednesday, October 26, 2022 we were joined by the experts from cannabis-focused financial institutions FundCanna, Safe Harbor Financial, and AVANA Companies to dive deep into the current state of cannabis lending with leading industry journalist John Schroyer of Green Market Report.

A decade after California and Colorado became the first adult use states, the regulated U.S. cannabis market encompasses over 70,000 cannabis-related businesses. Shockingly, most of those businesses still lack easy access to debt and other forms of growth and operating capital. From federal prohibitions and the impact of IRS regulation 280e, to state and local taxation issues, the costs of operating a regulated cannabis company continue to remain nearly unendurable.

Learn what may change in the coming six to 12 months so you’ll know how to access debt capital most cost-effectively in this ever evolving environment. No matter your place in the industry or the supply chain from cultivators, manufacturers, vendors, suppliers, distributors and retailers this conversation will provide the insights to meet your financial needs.

At the conclusion of the discussion our panel hosted a moderated Q&A session to provide NCIA members an opportunity to interact with leading minds from the financial services space, join today to contribute to future conversations!

Panelists:

Adam Stettner
Founder & CEO
FundCanna

Sundie Seefried
Founder and CEO
Safe Harbor Financial

Sanat Patel
Co-Founder and CEO
AVANA Companies

John Scroyer
Senior Reporter
Green Market Report

Session Chapters & Discussion Outline

00:00 – Session Intro

01:09 – Moderator Intro

01:45 – Panelists Intro

02:13Equity vs. Debt: With equity dried up, should cannabis companies be looking at debt financing to grow now?

07:28Equity vs. Debt: What do borrowers need to do before approaching a debt provider (vs. an equity provider)?

13:25Equity vs. Debt: What can cannabis companies or entrepreneurs do to improve their overall credit worthiness prior to seeking capital?

17:16 – How has the interest rate increases by the Federal Reserve impacted capital markets (and the industry at large) in 2022?

26:07Audience Q&A: “If there’s “no reason not to have banking” for your cannabis business how can I easily (and inexpensively) establish and maintain a compliant bank account?”

28:56Lending: What significant lending challenges are your clients currently facing within the industry?

33:56Lending: What advice can you provide business owners for evaluating lenders that you should (or shouldn’t) work with and tips for avoiding predatory lending practices?

39:05Cannabis Reform: What impact do you expect President Biden’s recent announcement will have on the industry?

49:32Audience Q&A: “Are your financial institutions planning to offer lending and banking services in New York, New Jersey and other new markets?”

51:42Audience Q&A: “With the mindset of “Investors are betting on the Jockey not the Horse.” What type of CEO or founding team would be a red flag or not a viable investment?”

55:19Audience Q&A: “How can I start to shift my retail company from being primarily a cash-only business?”

58:00 – Final Thoughts & Contact Information

1:01:24 – Session Outro & Upcoming Events

1:05:03 – NCIA Member Appreciation Credit Sequence

 

Sponsored By:

Member Blog: Payment Processing In The Cannabis Space

by Todd Glider, MobiusPay, Inc

There is a lot of confusion about payment processing in the cannabis space because payment processing is somewhat confusing to begin with, and because, in the cannabis space, ambiguity is a way of life. 

The title of this very blog post could, realistically, seem misleading to some. 

So, to be clear, when I say, “Cannabis Space,” I mean the entire industry — from plant-touchers (CBD included) to the ancillary businesses built up around it.

The passage of the 2018 Farm Bill marked an exciting new chapter for the industry. Suddenly, CBD, or, more specifically, any ingestible cannabis product containing .3% THC or less by volume, was classified as hemp. And since it is marijuana, and not hemp, that is defined as a Schedule I substance under the United States Controlled Substance Act, the Farm Bill, technically, made products like CBD as legal as cow milk — federally, anyway.

The upshot of this new classification is that now, at least some players in the cannabis space can market their products to a national base of consumers and clients, and they can do so by accepting credit cards as payment. 

However, the myriad Acquiring Banks across the United States have not exactly jumped for joy at the prospect of providing credit card processing in the form of merchant accounts to CBD retailers. Reticence rules. CBD is considered high risk, and four years on, only a handful of them have thrown their hat in the ring. 

Jargon Alert I: Acquiring Banks and Issuing Banks

In merchant processing parlance, banks fall into two categories: Acquiring Banks and Issuing Banks. Acquiring Banks, or, Acquirers, provide merchant processing accounts to businesses wishing to accept credit card transactions. Issuing Banks, short for Card Issuing Banks, are banks that offer branded payment cards directly to consumers. For example, if your bank has ever offered you a Visa card, it is an Issuing Bank (not that it couldn’t also be an Acquiring Bank, too).

Jargon Alert II: CBD is ‘High Risk’

CBD is deemed high risk by the card associations (i.e., Visa, MasterCard, American Express), and when the card associations deem a product or industry high risk, most Acquiring Banks tap out. This is because financial institutions are, by nature, risk averse (subprime mortgage crisis notwithstanding). 

So let’s talk for a minute about risk. High risk, that compound term, is a truncation of a longer phrase: ‘Higher risk of fraud or chargebacks.’

Why are CBD products at higher risk of fraud? It’s impossible to say for sure since the Visas and MasterCards of the world are publicly traded companies with their own trade secrets and IP, but there are several characteristics unique to CBD, or any cannabis product now federally legal, that likely figured into that decision.

Those FDA disclaimers that CBD retailers must print or paste on all product packaging and webpages are as good a place as any to start. They are mandatory because none of the benefits assigned to CBD have been clinically proven. There just isn’t enough data or testing at this point, and no big story there. That’s what happens when you demonize a plant for 100 years.

Consequently, from the perspective of the FDA, and the card associations, by extension, consumers are making CBD purchases with baked-in expectations based, exclusively, on word-of-mouth advice and anecdotal data. That’s a recipe for dissatisfied customers. And dissatisfied customers tend to charge back transactions.

The card associations, and the banks who provide merchant accounts, worry incessantly about fraud and chargebacks. 

Too Close for Comfort

Dissatisfied customers aside, there are onerous legal nuances that make the prospect of boarding cannabis merchants, even those selling products that are federally legal, daunting for banks. 

Selling a product with .31% THC across state lines is felonious. It is a federal offense. Violating a law like that could get a bank’s charter revoked, or, at a minimum, result in massive fines. 

On the other hand, selling a product with .30% THC across state lines is 100% federally legal. As stated above, safe as milk, federally.

That is a heck of a distinction. If any product contains more than .3% THC by volume, it is ‘marijuana’ in the eyes of the federal government. From the perspective of the banks, that’s a little close for comfort. Furthermore, banks don’t operate laboratories. They must rely on testing data presented to them in the form of third-party lab reports — Certificates of Analysis or COAs for short — to verify that the products being sold are federally legal.

The last thing an Acquiring Bank wants to do is violate a federal law EVER. It could result in a loss of their charter, lawsuits, and massive fines. And it’s important to keep in mind that the Acquiring Banks out there offering merchant accounts to CBD retailers are not giant, publicly traded institutions like Bank of America or Wells Fargo. They tend to be much smaller, and therefore, have infinitely smaller war chests for court cases.

Still, separating the federally legal Tier I cannabis product from the federally illegal Tier I cannabis product should be pretty cut-and-dry. If the product you’re selling is .3% THC by volume or less, it is exempt from the Controlled Substance Act (CSA). If that threshold is documented in the product’s Certificates of Analysis (COA), you ought to be able to sell it.

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. When bank underwriters look at percentages of Delta 8, Delta 9, and Delta 10 on the COAs that cross their desks, they’re frequently at sixes and sevens trying to figure the whole thing out. 

From the perspective of the 2018 Farm Bill, a cannabis product is hemp if it contains .3% Delta-9 THC or less by volume, but what everybody says is “.3% THC or less by volume.” Consequently, when the compliance officer at the bank is performing her due diligence by inspecting the COAs corresponding to each product, she may encounter a lot of crooked numbers, and she may blanch at the results.

Those results, often, look something like the following: 

00.195% D9-THC

52.475% d8-THC. 

Federally, the Delta-9 threshold is the only threshold that matters. The 2018 Farm Bill says as much, and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in California affirmed it in a ruling this past May. Therefore, in the example above, the Delta-9 threshold has not been crossed. It’s not even close. It is textbook HEMP, even if the Delta-8 threshold is off the charts.

However, if the compliance officer was provided the remit, “.3% or lower,” he’s likely to look at this and say, “Fail,” without realizing that the Delta-8 THC information is irrelevant as far as federal law goes. 

Complicating the underwriting further is the fact that there is, to date, no standard template for COA reports. Every lab presents them differently. Bank compliance officers rarely moonlight as scientists. Like most of us, these CBD COAs are probably the first lab reports they’ve looked at since high school chemistry.

Furthermore, the banks can set their own rules. They don’t have to board CBD merchants. Few do, and those few that do have their own standards and practices. 


Todd Glider has been an e-Commerce leader since the start of the Internet age. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Miami, and has served as CEO for small and medium-sized technology companies in Spain, Austria and the United States. As our Chief Business Development Officer, Todd introduces MobiusPay’s suite of award-winning financial services to new industries, and implements the development strategies and key partnerships needed to bring value to new customers.

MobiusPay, Inc. is a U.S.-based global financial services organization that is committed to empowering individuals and businesses. For more than a dozen years, MobiusPay has leveraged state-of-the-art secure billing technology, long-standing relationships with financial institutions and award-winning customer support to provide merchant processing and payment solutions to brick and mortar and digital businesses around the world.

 

Committee Blog: Four Tips for Cannabis Businesses to Maintain Cannabis Friendly Financial Services

by Kameron Richards and Steven Schain
Members of NCIA’s Banking & Financial Services Committee

Obtaining legitimate, cannabis-friendly financial services is among the cannabis industry’s biggest hurdles. Obtaining financial services is challenging for dispensaries, marijuana grows, and testing labs but it could also be an obstacle for non-plant touching businesses or individuals engaged in the cannabis industry. Without cannabis-friendly financial services, individuals and businesses related to the cannabis industry are deprived of simple financial solutions, like checking accounts, resulting in large amounts of cash being held at company facilities or the operator’s residence, posing significant risks.

Because only a small amount of insured banks and credit unions offer cannabis businesses financial services, finding cannabis-friendly financial services offered by FDIC or NCUA/CUNA institutions is challenging, and following a certain approach may fortify the longevity of a relationship with a financial institution.

Know Your Company Information and Banking Needs 

Thorough onboarding initiates the account opening process for cannabis companies seeking financial services. Cannabis-friendly financial institutions exercise enhanced due diligence at account opening for compliance purposes, which will be further discussed in this article. 

Financial institutions may require information on state licensing, corporate structure, and governance documents. Institutions generally collect information regarding the company’s underlying products and whether those products or services violate The Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”). Information collected during the onboarding process often determines the institution’s fee, risk-based categorization, and willingness to provide financial services to a particular cannabis company. 

During the onboarding process, cannabis companies should determine if the financial institution provides all services necessary for its specific operation. The services offered by cannabis-friendly financial institutions may vary based on its risk tolerance.

Know Compliance Requirements and Cannabis-Specific Programs 

Financial institutions serving the cannabis industry must comply with The Bank Secrecy Act’s (“BSA”) requirements set forth in the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network’s (“FinCEN”) BSA Expectations Regarding Marijuana Banking (FIN-2014-G001) (“FinCEN Guidance”). To mitigate the possibility of money laundering, institutions assemble extensive risk-based BSA programs centered around assessing the risk of each cannabis account and detecting and reporting “Red Flags” set forth by FinCEN Guidance. 

To understand the constraints under which financial institutions are forced to operate, cannabis companies should familiarize themselves with relevant cannabis industry regulatory guidance and, if possible, structure its operations to ease its financial institution’s compliance efforts. Further, cannabis companies should understand any contractual terms and operation of any specific cannabis programs required by its financial institution (e.g., participation in cannabis-specific programs to support loan approvals, liquidity management or the coordination of cash courier services).

Know the Risk-Based Approach

FinCEN Guidance requires institutions to perform enhanced due diligence on cannabis companies, because the risk category of each cannabis account is determined during the onboarding process, institutions are required to obtain corporate and state licensing documentation and detect any negative news on the potential account signers and the business.

Because there is no mandated risk-based structure for institutions to follow, it is critical that cannabis companies know its institution’s specific risk-based structure. Further, if a cannabis company is utilizing more than one institution, it should understand that each institution’s risk-based categorization may have specific factors or considerations. Some institutions use a tiering structure (which can vary by institution) or make this determination based on the direct or indirect relationship that the account’s source of funds has with cannabis prohibited by the CSA. An institution’s risk-based categorization could determine an account holder’s compliance obligations or eligibility for financial services such as lending, treasury services, payment processing, and 401(k)/retirement solutions.

Know What Could Cause Account Termination

After completing the onboarding process and placing cannabis accounts in the requisite risk profile (which may vary among institutions), institutions are obligated to conduct ongoing enhanced due diligence on cannabis accounts in accordance with the risk each account poses. 

This enhanced due diligence encompasses staying abreast of corporate changes, confirming that all licenses are up to date and conducting periodic negative news checks that indicate FinCEN Guidance “Red Flags.” It can also include a litany of happenings that cannabis account holders may not be aware of. While cannabis account signers may be compliant, without any negative news on them or their business, their institution could also close an account due to adverse information from tax and state licensing authorities or wrongdoing by employees or vendors. Cannabis account holders should also be aware of transactions prohibited by its institution’s policies and procedures like commingling funds between non-plant touching and plant touching accounts or transferring funds to and from vague accounts at unaware institutions unwilling to serve the cannabis industry. 

Cannabis account holders with multiple relationships should be aware that each institution’s closure protocol may vary in response to adverse information or conducting transactions prohibited by internal policies and procedures (account termination terms are often contained in the depository agreement between the institution and cannabis account holder). 

Conclusion 

Beyond assisting a business’ core functioning, maintaining relationships with legitimate financial institutions leads to strategic advantages for a cannabis company and its owners and operators, like financing or payment processing.  

Further, because FinCEN requires institutions to monitor and report cannabis account transactions and file a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) when a cannabis account is opened or closed or if “Red Flags” are detected; cannabis companies can protect their accounts and businesses by knowing applicable laws and regulations and their institution’s cannabis-specific programs’ policies and procedures. 

Member Blog: ESG Initiatives and Potential Impacts on Cannabis CRE

by Bryan McLaren, CEO and chair at Zoned Properties, Inc.

Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) initiatives are central to the evolving business landscape as more organizations dedicate resources to amplify their social impact, execute on purpose-driven goals, and ultimately create long-term value.  

Pressure from stakeholders and shareholders has been instrumental in transforming how organizations are planning for the future. In the Accenture Future of Work Study 2021, 65% of employees believe organizations should be responsible for leaving their people “net better off” through work and 71% of consumers believe ethical corporate practices and values are an important reason to choose a brand. But even beyond this shift in demand for company transparency and a more defined investment in communities from corporations, ESG reporting will soon be a necessity for public companies and a variety of financial organizations. 

The Securities and Exchange Commission’s climate-related disclosure earlier this year is a major shift in how companies will be structured requiring corporate entities to proactively integrate ESG into their business model. 

Though the proposed rules will most likely lead to legal challenges, accepting the realities of where global business stands today and the environmental issues communities are facing should be at the forefront of every cannabis business, whether they are public or private. There will also inevitably be opportunities that develop from these policies to engage with stakeholders and increase value. 

Recent data illustrate the positive results of adopting new standards and reporting methods. According to the Accenture Future of Work Study 81% of sustainable stock indices outperformed their peer benchmarks in 2020. ESG focuses on the Triple-Bottom-Line principles, which essentially advocates for a balance between people, profit, and planet when considering any program or project within an organization. Sustainability professionals who have been advocating for both ESG and Triple-Bottom-Line principles will likely not be surprised by these statistics, as their focus on a long-term, balanced approach to creating value can be less subject to the waxing and waning fluctuations that come with the single-bottom-line approach of focusing only on short term profit.

ESG in Cannabis Real Estate

It is essential for cannabis companies to make ESG initiatives a priority as more investors look to these frameworks as potential predictors for future success. Already some cannabis license applications are requiring environmental impact statements and state-level environmental compliance documentation. 

The cannabis industry also has a unique opportunity as a relatively young and emerging industry. Many cannabis companies already have the capacity and infrastructure to adapt swiftly to changing regulations. In the new era of ESG, cannabis corporations are in the position to make these principles a part of their core narrative early on and become more attractive to investors. 

In commercial real estate, here are some of the most relevant ESG initiatives to consider. 

  • ENERGY MANAGEMENT (e.g. Utility Installation & Efficiency)
  • WATER & WASTE WATER MANAGEMENT (e.g. Water Use & Treatment)
  • PRODUCT DESIGN & LIFECYCLE MANAGEMENT (e.g. Building Operations)
  1. PHYSICAL IMPACTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE. (e.g. Indoor Air Quality)  

These are based on the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board’s (SASB) materiality finder for real estate, which also provides insight across a broad range of industries for those interested in other sectors.

There are many ways to begin monitoring and collecting data that will help provide a clearer picture of a cannabis facility’s operational efficiency. For facilities already existing in the cannabis ecosystem, property owners and operators should consider investing in eco-friendly waste management initiatives, repurposing materials when possible, and ensuring recycling capabilities at every operation. Utilizing technology platforms to track water consumption and overall environmental performance will allow an operation to investigate what opportunities exist to reduce energy use by replacing equipment or introducing more natural ventilation into spaces to reduce heating and cooling use. 

For those in the early stages of a cannabis real estate project, industry professionals should make ESG initiatives a part of their buildout strategy from the beginning. This means addressing the potential physical risks and impacts on a building where you’re looking to develop. Is the property in a flood zone and at risk of rising sea levels? Is the potential building site exposed to other natural disasters like wildfires?

Many of these environmental and climate-related risks also intersect on a social level. In cannabis real estate, companies should consider whether a building and its materials are safe for workers and the larger community. For example, due to changing weather patterns and increasing temperatures, air quality may decrease or there may be extended periods of drought. Planning ahead to mitigate some of these risks is essential, from considering the introduction of cisterns to collect rainwater during extreme weather that can be repurposed in drier seasons, as well as on-site green spaces and rooftop gardens that can generate cooler temperatures while providing a welcoming environment for employees.

The key to preparing for ESG requirements and ensuring that your organization is ready to tackle these issues is to incorporate these specific needs directly into project objectives and having experts on the project team that understand both short-term requirements and long-term opportunities.

Overall, cannabis real estate needs to be developed with geography and locality risks in mind. It’s not only a necessity to make energy-efficient and sustainable strategies a part of a facility’s infrastructure, but also consider where and how that property will be impacted in the future. 


Bryan McLaren serves as the Chairman and CEO of publicly traded Zoned Properties, Inc. (ZDPY). As a licensed Realtor, certified Green Roof Professional,and former City Sustainability Commissioner, with multiple Masters degrees focused specifically on Sustainable Development, Bryan has navigated state regulatory programs for environmental projects and cannabis commercial real estate projects nationally across hundreds of development projects.  

About Zoned Properties, Inc. (OTCQB: ZDPY):

Zoned Properties is a leading real estate development firm for emerging and highly regulated industries, including regulated cannabis. The company is redefining the approach to commercial real estate investment through its integrated growth services.

Headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona, Zoned Properties has developed a full spectrum of integrated growth services to support its real estate development model; the Company’s Property Technology, Advisory Services, Commercial Brokerage, and Investment Portfolio collectively cross-pollinate within the model to drive project value associated with complex real estate projects. With national experience and a team of experts devoted to the emerging cannabis industry, Zoned Properties is addressing the specific needs of a modern market in highly regulated industries.   

Zoned Properties is an accredited member of the Better Business Bureau, the U.S. Green Building Council, and the Forbes Real Estate Council. Zoned Properties does not grow, harvest, sell or distribute cannabis or any substances regulated under United States law such as the Controlled Substance Act of 1970, as amended (the “CSA”). Zoned Properties corporate headquarters are located at 8360 E. Raintree Dr., Suite 230, Scottsdale, Arizona. For more information, call 877-360-8839 or visit www.ZonedProperties.com.  

Twitter: @ZonedProperties

LinkedIn: @ZonedProperties

 

Social Equity Members Head to D.C. to Lobby for A More Inclusive Industry

by Mike Lomuto, NCIA’s DEI Manager

NCIA is proud to announce that for the first time, thanks to the support of our members, we have awarded nine Lobby Days Equity Scholarships to support our Social Equity members with travel expenses to attend NCIA’s Lobby Days in Washington, D.C., on September 13-14. These Social Equity applicants and operators from around the country are leaders and active contributors to NCIA’s Sector Committees, our DEI Initiatives (particularly policy-related ones), and to advocacy efforts in their local and/or state municipalities. 

Lobby Days provides the opportunity for NCIA members to come together to advocate for the issues most important to small cannabis businesses — from SAFE Banking to federal de-scheduling — and to share their personal stories with national lawmakers. 

Our delegation includes:

Dr. Adrian Adams, Ontogen Botanicals CBD
Ambrose Gardner, Elev8
LaVonne Turner, Puff Couture
Michael Diaz-Rivera, Better Days Delivery
Osbert Orduña, The Cannabis Place
Raina Jackson, Purple Raina
Toni MSN, RN, CYT, Toni 

We asked our DEI delegation why attending Lobby Days was important to them. Here are some of their responses:

“I want our elected officials to hear my story which gives a voice to so many others, who like me, grew up in areas that have disproportionately borne the brunt and weight of cannabis enforcement. Children and young adults, whose only crime was being poor and of color, faced the indignity of being stopped and frisked hundreds of times. Now after paying the ultimate entry price, we can not get in the door of the cannabis industry because of a lack of banking and lending opportunities that continue to shut us out of the cannabis market.

The de-scheduling of cannabis, the passing of SAFE Banking, or the repeal of IRC 280E all would immediately increase the opportunities for small cannabis businesses like mine to have a true opportunity for success, growth, and economic empowerment of our communities.” 

– Osbert Orduña, The Cannabis Place

 

“As the industry grows and moves towards federal legalization, our elected officials must hear constituents’ voices. It’s important that my energy, face, and voice are present, representing the need for safe banking, health equity, and policies that support federal legalization. As states continue to legalize adult recreational cannabis usage, there will be an increased need for cannabis health equity to address the social, political, and economic conditions in underserved communities.

I’m committed to increasing awareness of the importance of education, employee retention, and community wellness in these communities.”

– Toni MSN, RN, CYT, Founder of Toni
NCIA’s Education Committee & Health Equity Working Group

 

“I have begun to work on lobbying at a local level. Federal legalization, descheduling, decarceration, social equity, health equity, and safe banking are some of the areas that I would like to learn how to lobby for at the national level.”

– Michael Diaz-Rivera, Owner/Operator, Better Days Delivery

 

“We should not stop at using the SAFE Banking Act merely to provide legal and regulatory protection for financial institutions. That will enable, but not ensure, increased banking services for minority-owned cannabis and hemp companies.

As the regulatory gaps between state and federal governments are addressed, there must be mechanisms to prevent predatory practices while opening access to capital.”

– Dr. Adrian Adams, Ontogen Botanicals CBD

 

 

It is important to the NCIA, and its membership for Main Street Cannabis to continue to develop in as diverse, equitable, and inclusive a manner as we can achieve. As the industry has thus far failed at creating tangible Social Equity, it’s important to ensure our efforts this September to include these voices and the communities they represent. 

This is where the DEI delegation comes in.

As the official DEI delegation, the Lobby Days Equity Scholarship recipients will provide a foundational understanding of matters related to DEI in the industry for all NCIA members present at Lobby Days. The DEI delegation will ensure that there are members present speaking up on matters of DEI from within an important national trade association and within the context of Main Street Cannabis.

NCIA’s Government Relations team has organized a full day of meetings with Lawmakers and their Offices.  New citizen lobbyists will receive online training before the event and are grouped together with experienced industry leaders who can help them find their voice. There will be an opening networking reception for all attendees, and a closing event featuring some of NCIA’s most important allies in Congress.

We are still accepting sponsorships to fully fund Lobby Days Equity Scholarships to ensure our recipients have their travel and lodging expenses covered while in Washington, D.C. Contact MikeLomuto@TheCannabisIndustry.org for more information.

Let’s keep building a better industry together, as we bring our voices to Washington, D.C.

 

Member Blog: 4 Budtender Onboarding Tips To Help Keep You Compliant

by Tommy Truong, KayaPush 

A recent survey by Headset.io found that 55% of budtenders leave their jobs within the first year of employment.* But why? 

Some believe improper onboarding could be a culprit.   

First impressions matter – and improper onboarding can leave budtenders feeling underprepared and unappreciated. Moreover, budtenders who don’t receive proper compliance training might be terminated due to compliance infractions and could even be at personal risk for their errors. 

Luckily, by setting up solid budtender onboarding SOPs that put compliance first, you are more likely to keep great hires – and avoid compliance infractions.

The following information will help dispensary owners implement hiring and training strategies to increase retention, avoid compliance infractions, and simplify dispensary onboarding.  

1 – Look into legal before you hire.

Compliant onboarding starts with understanding your budtenders’ requirements to work at your dispensary.

Every state has unique requirements regarding background checks, legal age, and budtender certifications – so it is essential to research each of these elements before you begin the hiring process. 

Once you have established your hiring guidelines regarding legal requirements – you can take it one step further and set up an applicant tracking system that is customized to only reach out to applicants who qualify for your set terms. 

Using tools that automate these processes will make compliant dispensary hiring easy.

Social equity hiring initiatives in cannabis 

While we’re on the topic of hiring for your cannabis dispensary, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the importance of researching potential social equity programs for dispensary hiring opportunities. 

You can use these resources to find qualified social equity candidates for your dispensary based on the state in which you are located.

2 – Have an organized onboarding documentation process.

The next step to a smooth and compliant onboarding process is to know all the forms you need to provide and gather from your new hire. 

If you are an American business owner, the forms you will need to collect from your employee include:

  • W2
  • Criminal record check verification
  • 1-9 
  • State Tax Form
  • ID or Passport 
  • Social security information 
  • A void check 
  • A signed employer agreement 
  • Any certifications you have requested they acquire

The forms you will need to share with your new hire include:

3 – Use self-serve onboarding software. 

Business owners who don’t use employee onboarding software manage a lot of paperwork.

From chasing new hires around for signatures or documents – to figuring out the best way to store things – it’s a time-consuming headache, and it’s not ideal. 

With dispensary self-serve onboarding software, dispensary owners can eliminate 100% of their paperwork – and increase their compliance in many ways. 

Here’s how it works. When a new hire joins, a dispensary owner can share their onboarding link, where their new hire will upload digitized documents directly into the system for central storage. 

If any documentation is missing, the system will send a reminder to ensure they provide all the information needed for dispensary owners to stay compliant. 

4 – Provide compliance training for budtenders

Compliance training should be a critical part of the budtender onboarding process – but what does that mean? 

For budtenders, there are four main areas of compliance to master: How to sell products to customers and with a POS system, how to handle products, and overall regulations comprehension.

Selling products to customers training might include:

  • Learn how to greet guests in a compliant way 
  • How and when to properly ID guests
  • Knowledge of strains, potency, and effects
  • Understanding different types of products based on clients’ needs

POS training might include: 

  • Knowing how to input ID information 
  • Learning how to ring in products correctly
  • Understanding product limits per customer guidelines 
  • Knowing how to use and report sold products with a compliant POS 
  • Understanding the compliance factors behind customer loyalty programs and incentives

Product handling training might include:

  • How to properly package product 
  • How to showcase product
  • How to inventory product
  • How to handle products

Overall regulation comprehension might include:

  • Current cannabis laws in the state or city
  • Current compliant regulations 
  • Store opening and closing SOPs for compliance
  • Security SOPs for compliance 
  • How to use cannabis software tools for clock in’s and schedules.

What are other tips to stay compliant? 

Compliance is one of the most challenging aspects of running a cannabis dispensary – however, if you surround yourself with the right team, use cannabis software built for dispensaries in your state, and check in often on regulatory updates – you will be alright.

*(Headset.io, 2022 An analysis of employee turnover in cannabis retail)


Author Tommy Truong is the CEO at KayaPush; the cannabis software helping dispensary owners manage their employee HR, scheduling, and payroll. KayaPush also integrates with leading dispensary POS systems. Tommy loves hot sauce, fried chicken, and running with his Boston terriers

KayaPush delivers an innovative, unified compliance solution that meets payroll and HR needs without compromising speed and accuracy. Implementing KayaPush will save you time and money and help eliminate the financial risks associated with non-compliance.

 

Member Blog: How to Prepare a Winning Dispensary License Application

by Gary Cohen, Cova Software

The cannabis industry has come a long way in the U.S. Although we still await federal legalization, many new states have recently jumped on the bandwagon, and legacy states are awarding more social equity licenses. While New Jersey and Mississippi will be opening their first dispensaries by the end of 2022, New York has started accepting applications for CAURD licenses from justice-involved individuals. But scoring high points on your dispensary license application can be challenging, especially with all the stringent requirements. Here are some quick tips to help you stand out and prepare a winning dispensary license application.

Follow your State Cannabis Authority’s Guidelines

Every state in the US has different guidelines and regulations for a cannabis dispensary license. Do a thorough review of all the information available on your state cannabis authority’s website, and keep a look out for when they will start accepting applications. Most states accept only electronic applications, and you will likely have to create an account online on a designated website and link your company’s official information. For an application to be deemed complete, a response to each criterion specified must be included, along with the required documents. 

Ensure You Qualify and Apply for the Right Category

To be eligible to submit a cannabis dispensary license application, you must reside in the state where you are applying or must be registered to do business in that state. Many states are awarding conditional cannabis business licenses to social equity applicants first or prioritizing applicants impacted by the war on drugs to build an equitable cannabis industry. If you qualify for any of these categories, ensure that you apply for the right one to expedite the processing of your dispensary license application. 

Connect with the Community Where you Plan to Operate

Some states require your dispensary to be located in the municipality you live in, and you will be awarded a license only for a particular zone. Community reach and impact are also criteria laid down by some cannabis authorities, and you must establish connections with not just local and state officials but also other people who can help you understand the bigger picture better. For example, New Jersey and New York want you to explain the positive community impact your dispensary business will have. If you don’t connect with the community, you won’t be able to align your vision with their needs in your dispensary license application.

Fortify Application with a Business Operations & Security Plan

After familiarizing yourself with the license requirements and structure, you must dive into how you can prepare the best possible application to score higher points on every measure. For example, to obtain a conditional dispensary license in New Jersey, 40 out of 100 points are for your dispensary business plan, and another 50 points are for a regulatory compliance plan. One of the most crucial aspects of this is a dispensary operations plan that you must include in your application. This plan helps authorities understand how your dispensary business will comply with all cannabis laws and regulations and ensure safe access to cannabis for your customers.

Compliance is the Name of the Game

The detailed plans included in your cannabis dispensary license application must also mention the technology provider you intend to partner with, and choosing a compliant cannabis retail platform will help you fortify your application further. Prepare a winning dispensary license application by downloading Cova Software’s free template, Dispensary Operations and Security Plan, which will serve as a comprehensive guide to writing a winning plan for a successful cannabis retailer license application.


Gary Cohen is the CEO of Cova Software, the fastest growing technology brand in the cannabis industry. Cohen’s focus has been driving the company’s overall strategy, including its vision, go-to-market plan, and strategic development. Since joining the cannabis industry in 2016 and launching Cova commercially in 4q17, Cohen has led Cova to dominate the enterprise sector for dispensary Point of Sale, while forging client relationships with hundreds of single-store retailers across North America.

With Cova’s cannabis POS and its excellent integrations with eCommerce and delivery services, the online order automatically pops up for the budtender to tender the sales, and the POS system updates inventory once payment is approved. Cova offers multiple eCommerce solutions to choose from, as per your needs and budget, and you can legally sell cannabis online stress-free while staying compliant with strict government regulations.

 

Video: NCIA Today – Thursday, August 25, 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. This week Bethany is joined by NCIA CEO Aaron Smith to talk about the importance of having your voice heard on Capitol Hill at our upcoming 10th Annual Cannabis Industry Lobby Days on September 13-14. Join us every other Thursday on Facebook for NCIA Today Live.

 

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Member Blog: How Technology Can Ensure An Equitable Cannabis Industry

by Walter Moore, Cognitive Harmony Technologies CEO

The multi-billion dollar cannabis industry is coming to a town near you. With new states passing adult-use legislation every day, it’s only a matter of time before businesses begin opening their doors nationwide. 

In states such as New York, the first cannabis business licenses (CBLs) are being given to people who were impacted by the war on drugs and hemp farmers. The effort is a first-of-its-kind approach that is admirable in theory – a positive step toward righting the wrongs that have persistently and unfairly affected people of color – but still leave the door open for challenges in practice.

Simply put, the barrier for entry is too high for most individuals due to the complex and convoluted CBL application process. Between sifting through and submitting thousand-plus page documents and potentially spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to create a perfect, compliant application, new business owners are fighting an uphill battle against multi-state operators (MSOs) who have moved across the country as legalization opens state by state and have the process (and hundreds of thousands dollars needed to afford a dedicated application consulting firm) down to a science.

Legislators may have noble intentions in offering a head-start to people affected by the war on drugs in an effort to correct past wrongdoings and create a distribution of ownership that looks like the people most affected, but if the necessary regulatory framework of the application process is encumbered with more compliance to receive equity benefits, it will be even harder to complete a competitive application – leaving many potential new business owners without a license and the well-oiled machines known as MSOs first in line.

Not to mention the fact that the application process often plays out over years. States will frequently take half a year to review an application and only provide roughly 10 days to fix any deficiencies.

Technology is The Way

While the odds may seem stacked, the technology to close the gap exists and many CBL applicants are finding out how to compete against large MSOs and established players in the market. As someone who experienced everything that goes into the application process, and what is wrong with it, first-hand when I began my career in cannabis, I’ve realized that the only way to effectively compete is by working smarter. Through technology we can create greater access and a level playing field. 

There are several key areas where technology (i.e. “working smarter”) is already paving the way for true social equity while applicants embark on submitting a cannabis business license. Document generation, telepresence, language processing, machine learning, artificial intelligence and augmented reality are among areas of interest that savvy CBL applicants can implement into their strategy. By normalizing standard operating procedures (SOPs) across verticals and jurisdictions, companies can provide contextual SOPs directly in front of a user with a simple QR code. Imagine a world where a dispensary employee can access SOPs directly from each piece of equipment or area of a facility with minimal effort simply by scanning a QR code with their tablet.

A Cannabis Industry for All

Laws that benefit a more equitable industry surely help, but in a new industry where the gap between the have and have-nots is already wide and growing rapidly, more steps need to be taken by regulators to eliminate the pay-to-play mistakes that have infested other state cannabis policies such as in my home state of Illinois. In Illinois, there wasn’t a fair cap on the number of CBL submissions for a company, leaving businesses with the most money with an opportunity to submit over 40 times and flood the application pool.

Thankfully, I’m pleased that regulators in New York and New Jersey are doing a better job in this regard, avoiding these unfair situations, but I foresee a highly political zoning situation in New York. Historically, companies that can afford to pay lobbyists and other influential people to get the deals and contracts done, are more successful. I’m not sure what short-term regulatory solution exists for this age-old, persistent issue. 

It’s encouraging to see the cannabis legalization movements around the country paired with well-meaning equity and restorative justice initiatives. However, there is still a high barrier to entry presented by the extensive and convoluted cannabis business license application process. Only through advances in technology will this barrier be taken down.


Walter Moore Cognitive Harmony Technologies CEO & CTO, is an accomplished software architect, financial engineer, and entrepreneur residing in the south suburbs of Illinois. He specializes in architecting elegant, compliant, and scalable solutions to complex regulatory environments in the AdTech, FinTech, Digital Assets, and Cannabis industries. He has a Masters of Science in Financial Engineering and undergraduate degrees in Theoretical Physics and Applied Mathematics.

Walter started Cognitive Harmony Technologies in order to support social equity teams and bring change to an industry which has historically whitewashed the past injustices served in its former prohibition, something which he has experienced firsthand in prior decades. As a cannabis business license owner, Walter knows just how difficult it is to put together a competitive application. He developed the CHT platform in order to help lower the barrier of entry for others willing to put in the hard work of assembling an application, but who would otherwise be priced out of the competition.

About Cognitive Harmony Technologies

At Cognitive Harmony Technologies, our proprietary CHT Accelerator platform is paving the way for true social equity in the CBL application process by developing a meticulous roadmap to create a complete and competitive automated application much like tax preparation software generates tax returns, providing live-support, and offering access to a helpful network of architects, realtors and a range of connections.  Additionally, we offer this for a fraction of the cost of what the hundred-thousand-dollar consulting firms that multi-state operators employ, and in some cases it is completely free.  Cutting-edge technology is the best tool that an everyday, aspiring entrepreneur can leverage to break into the industry, and make the cannabis sector’s leadership as representative and diverse as the consumers. 

Our mission is to open the doors for equitable cannabis business ownership by making the application process easy as filing personal income taxes online. The CHT Accelerator streamlines the entire application process into one easy-to-use software platform so you can create a complete and competitive application. Follow us on LinkedIn or visit our website.

Behind Closed Doors: NCIA at CANNRA’s June Conference

The discussion about the future of cannabis legalization is ongoing, to say the least. Recently, Cannabis Regulators Association (CANNRA) held a two-day conference in early June to gather Marijuana government regulators, trade associations, and businesses. The Cannabis Regulators Association (CANNRA) is a national nonpartisan organization of government cannabis regulators that provides policymakers and regulatory agencies with the resources to make informed decisions when considering whether and how to legalize and regulate cannabis.

Representatives from NCIA participated in the conference – NCIA Board Members Khurshid Khoja (Chair Emeritus) and Michael Cooper (Board Secretary), and we caught up with them in this blog interview to better understand the goals and outcomes of the event.


From a bird’s eye view, what was the overall goal of this conference? 

MC:  The conference was an opportunity for regulators from around the nation to hear directly from stakeholders on the current and future challenges that face these markets and different models of regulation to tackle them.  

KK: I’ll add that our own goals, as the current Policy Co-chairs for NCIA, were to better understand the priorities of state and local cannabis regulators across the country, and anticipate future developments in cannabis policy early on, so we could take that back to the NCIA membership and the staff – especially Michelle Rutter Friberg, Mike Correia, and Maddy Grant from our amazing government relations team.

Let’s talk about who was invited to participate in these panel discussions. From cannabis industry associations to those who regulate cannabis, who else was there?

KK: Michael and I each spoke on a panel. The other speakers included reps from federal trade associations, lobbyists, vendors, and ancillary companies who were helping to underwrite the event (along with NCIA). Given that CANNRA is a non-profit that doesn’t receive any funding from their member jurisdictions, and has a single paid full-time staff member, I thought they were still able to obtain a fairly diverse and interesting set of speakers at the end of the day – including NCIA Board and Committee alums Ean Seeb, Steve DeAngelo, Amber Senter and David Vaillencourt (representing the Colorado Governor’s Office, LPP, Supernova Women and ASTM, respectively), as well as folks from Code for America, Americans for Safe Access, and the Minority Cannabis Business Association, U.S. Pharmacopeia, NIDA, the CDC, and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, representatives of the pharmaceutical, hemp, tobacco and logistics industries, and public health officials.

Were there any organizations or sectors of the industry that were not in attendance, whether they weren’t invited or just didn’t participate, and why is it important to note the gaps of who was not represented?

MC:  No licensed businesses were invited. Instead, organizations that represent industry members were invited. As a result, we felt it was crucial to inform these discussions with the perspective of the multitude of small and medium-sized businesses otherwise known as Main Street Cannabis that have built this industry and continue to serve as its engine.    

KK: Sadly, we did not have an opportunity to hear from members of the Coalition of Cannabis Regulators of Color. I can’t speak to why that was, but it was unfortunate for us nonetheless. And while we had some public health officials there, I know that CANNRA Executive Director Dr. Schauer would have preferred to see more of them in attendance.

Across the spectrum of policy and regulations and legislative goals, what topics were covered in the panel discussions across the two-day conference?

KK: We covered a ton, given the time we had, including the federal political and policy landscape; interstate commerce; the impact of taxes on the success of the regulated market; social equity and social justice; preventing youth access; regulation of novel, intoxicating and hemp-based cannabinoids; the prospects for uniform state regulations; technological solutions to improve compliance and regulatory oversight; and delivery models.

What information or perspectives did NCIA bring to the panel discussions that were unique from other participants? What does NCIA represent that is different from the other voices at the event?

MC:  There really are a wide variety of perspectives on how best to regulate this industry. We felt it was essential that NCIA give a voice to Main Street Cannabis, the small businesses that so many adult-use consumers and medical patients rely upon. We emphasized, for example, that these are often businesses that cannot simply operate in the red indefinitely, but provide essential diversity (in the background and life experience of operators as well as in product selection and choice). NCIA wants to make sure that the future of cannabis isn’t simply the McDonalds and Burger Kings of cannabis. There are times when consumers want that, but there are also times when they want something unique and different. And it’s crucial that policy not destroy the small and medium-sized, frequently social equity-owned, businesses that provide those choices.

What else was interesting to you about this gathering of minds? Were you surprised by anything, or was there anything you heard that you disagreed with?

MC: There are a ton of different perspectives and approaches to cannabis, and that’s no surprise to anyone who has followed these issues closely because the tensions are very clear in the policy debates that are ongoing. 

As the voice for the industry, we sought to urge an approach grounded in reality. Americans want these products. That’s clear from the ballot box and public polling. The question should be about how to encourage Americans to purchase regulated, tested versions of these products. 

KK: There was definitely stuff we didn’t agree with – some of it from folks that we otherwise largely agree with. For example, our good friend Steve Hawkins of the USCC shocked a few of us in the audience when he seemed to indicate some receptivity to re-scheduling cannabis on an interim basis, rather than moving to de-scheduling immediately. I think that while rescheduling may benefit scientific research and pharmaceutical development, it could ring the death knell for Main Street Cannabis businesses. NCIA has consistently advocated for de-scheduling rather than re-scheduling.

After two days of panels, did anything new come through these discussions, or were any accomplishments achieved?

KK: I think there’s a growing recognition that addressing social equity solely through preferential licensing and business ownership for the few isn’t enough and that the licensing agencies and regulators that execute social equity policies have a very limited (and often underfunded) arsenal to comprehensively redress the harm caused by federal, state and local governments prosecuting the war on drugs. In my remarks, I said it was time for us to start discussing additional forms of targeted reparation and had a number of regulators approach me afterward to continue the discussion. Candidly, I expected my remarks to fall on deaf ears. They didn’t. That was very encouraging.

MC: There was definite progress. At the end of the day, these cannabis regulators are working hard to try to get this right. But in such a new area, and with so many competing perspectives and voices, their job isn’t easy. We were heartened to see the level of engagement from regulators on these points, including follow-ups to get more information on some of the pain points we identified for small and equity businesses in the industry. 

It was definitely rewarding to provide NCIA and our members’ perspectives in a forum like this, and we’re looking forward to continuing to further strengthen NCIA’s relationship with CANNRA and regulators around the country.  

Member Blog: Trials and Tribulations – Compliance for Banking

by Nicole Perry, DartBank

There are not a lot of financial institutions out there that support cannabis, so finding the right one is important. What is also important is to understand the ‘why’ behind what they are asking. Opening a cannabis bank account is not as easy as opening a traditional business bank account. With cannabis being federally illegal, banks, and credit unions must adhere to the rules and regulations set forth by our regulators, also tying in the respective state that the cannabis business is operating in.  

An initial phone call is often set up for the financial institution to learn more about the cannabis business, its owners, and signers. Knowing when the business will be operational and what their big picture looks like is fundamentally important. Questions could be asked about ownership, location, growth, licenses, and compliance. Some products and services are not fully available to the cannabis industry, because other players have not fully opted in (i.e., merchant processing and debit/credit cards). This makes the financial institution banking cannabis able to create a product suite that they feel comfortable with from a risk and compliance standpoint. Pricing out cannabis bank accounts is also something that differs from the traditional businesses being banked. 

Again, not every financial institution will support cannabis, and that is because it is expensive. It is expensive because those that support the industry have had to seek guidance from consultants, their respective regulator, their state, their local cannabis groups and associations and their board of directors. The initial onboarding of a cannabis customer, after pricing is accepted, takes longer as well. Background and credit checks, as well as risk reviews need to be completed at most financial institutions, along with an initial onsite audit visit. 

It is widely understood that cannabis businesses must go through an inspection with their operating state before they are licensed, however, financial institutions are still required to make sure they know what they are working with. Most financial institutions work closely with their compliance/BSA teams to develop risk profiles so that if questions are asked of them during an audit, they can answer to the best of their knowledge the transactions that are occurring and then prove that we understand what the cannabis businesses are using their accounts for. Many financial institutions have implemented the use of compliance software that allows their cannabis departments to review transactions, seed-to-sale monitoring, monitor licensing, insurance, onsite visits, and financial changes. METRC and Bio Track are the two main seed-to-sale tracking systems used throughout the United States. Most states have adopted using one or the other and few have implemented their own manual tracking. 

The seed-to-sale system your financial institution chooses to work with can integrate with your respective state’s seed-to-sale tracking system for financial institutions to monitor account transactions and seed-to-sale flow. It is common to have your financial institution reach out to you once you have been onboarded to integrate your API key (QR code that houses your cannabis licenses) into their respective compliance software to initialize the tracking component. Directly after this, the designated person at the cannabis business or CPA (to be determined by the cannabis business) will be asked to upload your financials into the compliance software monthly for tracking purposes. These systems correlate with most POS systems as well as QuickBooks for a seamless flow. Financial Institutions are often asked by cannabis businesses if this is something they can do in-house or if they can utilize an outside CPA firm to help. The answer is yes to both. It takes minimal time each month to upload your financials so doing it yourself is certainly feasible, however, there are many CPA firms out there who will do it for you, along with making sure your numbers make sense and your taxes are accounted for. Not to mention, the annual CPA attestation as well. 

Financial institutions are not asking you to do this to make your life difficult. It is simply because this is a new industry, one that is federally illegal at that, and verifying information to better understand how the industry works only helps to normalize it. It is also common for your financial institution to ask for invoices to accompany transactions such as wires, ACH, bill pay, checks, cash deposits, etc. We do this because auditors also ask us if we can, in fact, verify we know what this transaction was for and to whom the funds went. It also helps with fraud surveillance. Most financial institutions have experts in fraud or compliance who can help deter this from happening to you and your business. 

We have come a long way since inception and have learned a lot over the years. What is important to know is we are all a team. The cannabis business and the financial institution are working together to understand how they both complement each other. Together we are building the cannabis industry, so that one day, when it is stabilized and normalized, we can take that with us for the next big thing. Every industry out there was new at one point and had to go through the same trials and tribulations, and while most of us cannot remember or have never been a part of the ‘build out,’ it did happen at some point. When your financial institution asks you for something related to transactions or business, please understand that it is for the better of the industry.

We can work together to normalize and strengthen this industry. All the steps we are taking are learning opportunities. I believe everyone can say at one point they did not know how to do something, but through training, education, and a road map, we were able to develop a routine so that as we grew at understanding something we had not understood before, it became normal. 


Nicole Perry has been with Dart Bank since 2016 as the Office Manager and most recently VP/Senior Treasury Management Officer. She brings with her 20 years of financial services experience. Prior to joining Dart Bank, she worked for various financial institutions holding many different roles, specializing in business banking.

Nicole is an alumna of the Lansing Chamber of Commerce’s Lansing Leadership 2018 class and is part of the Perry School of Banking class of 2020. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Business Management with an emphasis in Human Resources from Davenport University and attended Central Michigan University for her Master of Science degree. In her spare time, Nicole enjoys attending Michigan State University football and basketball games and spending time with her family and friends at the lake.

Service Solutions: Taking Your Profits Higher – Navigating the Maze of Cannabis Marketing

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

In this edition originally aired on Wednesday, July 20, 2022 we were joined by Fox Rothschild LLP whose national cannabis team discussed discussed how agencies and companies can comply when marketing products.

A successful business relies on marketing and advertising to grow and bring in new customers. But what happens when those promotional efforts are heavily regulated or even restricted? These are questions and hurdles cannabis businesses face, but there are ways to navigate this maze.

Join our presenters Josh Horn, Bill Bogot and Vijay S. Choksi, as they discuss;

• How agencies and companies can comply when marketing products;

• Provide an analysis of state laws and regulations; and

• Identify trends in how cannabis products are being sold and advertised.

Session Chapters & Discussion Outline

00:00 – Session Intro

01:30 – Moderator Intro

02:05 – Panelist Intro & Company Background

03:10 – Conversation in Context

04:04 – How is marketing & advertising cannabis different than other industries?

07:45 – How is marketing & advertising for cannabis different from state to state?

13:40 – Are these state restrictions for cannabis OK under the First Amendment and do similar state constitutional free speech protections exist or apply here?

15:25 – Virginia State Board of Pharmacy & Thompson Case

16:26 – Central Hudson Case & The Four-Part Test for Commercial Speech

19:57 – Equal Protection Challenges on the Horizon

26:00 – California Cannabis Consumption Event Permitting Process

31:39 – How is marketing & advertising for hemp-based CBD products different than other industries?

37:28 – What is a curative healthcare claim and how can cannabis (or CBD-based) companies develop creative methods to comply while still distinguishing themselves?

41:40 – What trends and challenges do you see on how cannabis products are being advertised and sold?

47:34 – Telephone Consumer Protection Act Concerns

49:59 – Audience Q&A

52:44 – Are marketplace sites a way around the regulatory environment for advertising for these companies?

55:40 – Final Thoughts

56:13 – Outro

Sponsored By:

Want to know more about the products and services offered by Fox Rothschild LLP? Head to https://www.foxrothschild.com/cannabis-law to learn more today!

Committee Blog: Cannabis Lounges – Coming to a City Near You? 

By Jodi Green, Miller Nash LLP; Shay Gilmore, The Law Office of Shay Aaron Gilmore
Members of NCIA’s Risk Management and Insurance Committee

Although the concept of state-legal cannabis has been around in some shape or form since 1996, cannabis remains illegal to consume in most public places. In other words, legal cannabis consumption remains relegated to back alleys, derailing efforts to “normalize” cannabis use. Tourists visiting popular cities where weed is legal are caught in the unenviable Catch-22 of being able to purchase, but not publically consume, the product. And those who attempt to use cannabis in public still face criminal penalties in some states, with minorities three times more likely to be targeted for arrest, perpetuating racial disparities at a tremendous social cost. 

Enter the cannabis lounge. Cannabis lounges — also known as “consumption lounges,” cannabis cafes, or some variation on that theme — are in simplest terms the cannabis equivalent of a bar or restaurant. Depending on state and local regulations, lounges offer users the chance to congregate in a public place and smoke a joint, try out a $500 gravity bong, or sip on a cannabis drink. With any luck, consumers may enjoy their cannabis with a snack or dinner, but mixing with alcohol is typically not allowed. 

As with any “new” risks, some cities, states, and insurers are… concerned. Despite some obvious tax and social benefits, detractors cite a host of reasons to prevent lounges from coming to a city near you, including at the forefront: fears of public nuisance (odors, theft, and disruption) and overconsumption — especially because most states insulate cannabis cafes from liability for harm caused by obviously intoxicated or underage users, unlike dram shop laws for alcohol.

As another NCIA member recently pointed out, even in states that do allow cannabis cafes, regulatory bodies continue to struggle with how to shape the laws and regulations governing lounges to afford adequate consumer protection while allowing businesses to thrive. Moreover, without a better understanding of the regulatory landscape, some insurers — whose business model hinges on the ability to accurately price a risk — may be unwilling to play in this new cannabis lounge market.

A Sampling of State Approaches to Cannabis Lounges

Alaska led the country in 2019 in licensing on-site consumption. A handful of states and localities have followed Alaska’s guide, and more are anticipated to join this year, including Michigan and New York. We compare a few regulatory schemes below and also consider the impact of dram shop legislation on risks faced by the industry. 

California

California, governed on the state level by the Medicinal and Adult Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act, delegates to localities the right to open consumption lounges. Put simply, cities have to affirmatively “opt in” to allow lounges. With a few contingencies — including that patrons must be 21 or older and no alcohol or tobacco can be sold on premises — “a local jurisdiction may allow for the smoking, vaporizing, and ingesting of cannabis or cannabis products on the premises of a” licensed retailer. See BPC § 26200(g)

To date, only a few localities have opted in to allow cannabis lounges, including San Francisco, Oakland, and Palm Springs. West Hollywood, in efforts to create an epicenter for canna-tourism, plans to allow up to 16 lounges within its jurisdiction. Because state law provides little regulatory guidance for lounges, localities generally provide more specific guidance. As an example, West Hollywood’s local municipal code requires security guards on site, as well as within a two-block radius surrounding the business during operation, and allows the sale of cannabis to an individual “in an amount reasonable for onsite consumption.” West Hollywood Municipal Code §5.70.041. Only one lounge is currently open in West Hollywood, the Artist Tree’s Studio Cannabis Lounge, which offers not only lounge access but cannabis yoga, live music, and comedy shows, along with a revolving selection of local art. The Woods, another West Hollywood dispensary with a soon-to-open courtyard lounge space, is also slated to open in 2022. 

Although California law significantly limits third-party liability for alcohol-related accidents, it does not afford cannabis owners the same protection. For example, California Civil Code §1714 explicitly states that furnishing alcohol “is not the proximate cause of injuries resulting from intoxication,” which has essentially absolved bars, restaurants, party hosts, and most others of potential liability for selling or furnishing alcohol to customers and guests with an exception for liability arising from the furnishing of alcohol to an “obviously intoxicated minor.” See California Business & Professions Code § 25602.1. Without similar protections for cannabis lounges, injured parties could attempt to sue under a negligence theory if a business or employee serves an intoxicated patron who causes harm.

Colorado

As of January 1, 2020, local jurisdictions in Colorado can opt-in to the state’s cannabis hospitality business license regime (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 44-10-609), and as of March of 2022, the City of Denver has approved cannabis hospitality businesses for operation. Denver operators include the first social equity applicant in Denver approved for a hospitality license, the Tetra Lounge, although from its website Tetra Lounge’s website describes itself as “a private lounge,” requiring a monthly or annual membership fee and a liability waiver to gain access.  

As to dram shop liability, although Colorado law authorizes damages against a licensee for willfully and knowingly selling or serving alcoholic beverages to a visibly intoxicated person, the Colorado Legislature caps liability at $150,000 (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 12-47-801 (3)(II)(c)). This damages cap improves (i.e., reduces) the ISO hazard grade, resulting in the improvement of insurance options available for liquor liability. The legislature has not adopted the same or a similar damages cap on liability for cannabis consumption establishments. 

Nevada

In June 2021, Nevada’s Governor signed Assembly Bill 341 into law, authorizing the Nevada Cannabis Compliance Board (“CCB”) to license and regulate consumption lounges across the state, subject always to local approval. The State plans to issue up to 65 lounge licenses (40-45 for lounges attached to existing dispensaries, 20 for independent lounges) with 10 reserved for social equity applicants. 

Most recently, on June 28, 2022, the CCB voted to unanimously approve a host of regulations for cannabis consumption lounges. Nevada’s extremely detailed state regulations prohibit the sale of “single use cannabis products” with more than 3.5 grams of “usable cannabis” and 10 mg of THC for edibles; prohibit the removal of any cannabis products from a lounge; require a mitigation plan for impaired driving and detailed employee training for overconsumption; and require consumer education and warnings to customers, among other things. As with other states, Nevada allows local jurisdictions to prohibit consumption lounges and to implement more stringent regulations than state law. 

Unlike other states, however, Nevada law carves out protections for cannabis lounge operators just as it does for alcohol. Nevada law already protects businesses that serve or sell alcoholic beverages from injuries inflicted by an intoxicated person. And while any person who knowingly furnishes an alcoholic beverage to any person under 21 years of age is guilty of a misdemeanor, the law provides only for criminal penalties, not civil liability. The Nevada Supreme Court has repeatedly refused to impose responsibility on vendors selling alcohol absent a legislative provision. See Snyder v. Viani, 885 P.2d 610 (Nev. 1994) (holding consumption is the proximate cause of alcohol-related injuries and dismissing the negligence claim against a tavern owner for alcohol service). The same rules will apply to cannabis operators. 

Illinois

Over two years after full legalization of adult-use commercial cannabis in Illinois, cannabis lounges in Illinois are still relatively rare, with the first Chicago-area marijuana consumption lounge opening on April 20, 2022. Like other states, the State of Illinois does not directly license lounges, but it allows local governments to opt in.

Illinois creates a cause of action against sellers for injury by an intoxicated person. § 235 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/6-21. The standards for liability under the Illinois dram shop law include: (1) sale of alcohol to any person who, while intoxicated, causes injury, and (2) any person owning, renting, leasing, or permitting the occupation of any building or premises with knowledge that alcoholic liquors are to be sold therein, severally or jointly, along with the person selling or giving liquor. In Illinois, the Dram Shop Statute provides the exclusive remedy for alcohol related injuries. See Charles v. Seigfreid, 65 NE.2d. 154 (Ill. 1995). The Statute also provides stringent limitations on recovery of damages. There is no equivalent in Illinois for cannabis entities. 

The Takeaway for Business Entities and Insurance Providers

As with cannabis law generally, lounge operators face a patchwork of state and local regulations that vary tremendously by jurisdiction. In most places, cannabis lounge owners are not protected by dram shop/gram shop laws that otherwise insulate bars and restaurants from liability for overconsumption. This means that companies must be vigilant in protecting themselves from liability by instituting compliance and risk-management procedures. 

In some instances, such as California’s West Hollywood, which has far fewer safeguards and guidelines than Nevada, operators are largely left to their own devices in implementing adequate risk transfer and risk management, compliance, employee training, and consumer education to limit risk of liability. While the West Hollywood municipal code requires lounges to limit cannabis sales of cannabis “in an amount reasonable for onsite consumption,” the “reasonableness” standard is rife with ambiguity and could lead to disputes regarding liability and assumption of risk if a patron overconsumes.  

Evaluating and preventing overconsumption and intoxication will be particularly difficult for cannabis when: patrons have varying experience levels with cannabis; products can be sold in more than a single serving, and no specific consumer education is required. Thus, even in locations that have more stringent regulatory oversight, companies would be wise to consult with experienced counsel and consultants to avoid or limit potential risks associated with regulatory uncertainty, civil liability, and government penalties for non-compliance. 

This brings us full circle to the question of insurance. Even in the states that allow consumption lounges, very few insurance companies provide coverage for on-site consumption (although some do). If an exclusion prohibits coverage, the company may not have coverage for important and sometimes catastrophic events, such as property damage by fire, theft/robbery, cyber events, sexual harassment or discrimination claims by employees or others, and bodily injuries to, or caused by, patrons (on and off premises). 

Most existing property, general liability, products liability, and other insurance policies — including those written for the cannabis industry — expressly exclude coverage for on-site consumption or bodily injury caused by intoxication. In fact, some existing cannabis insurance companies include a “health hazard” exclusion in their policies, which exclude coverage for any bodily injury arising in any way from the use of cannabis, including any health injury. Cannabis insurance policies may also exclude coverage for intentional or illegal acts, which some insurers may try to apply to any claim involving cannabis on the basis that the sale of cannabis violates federal law (the Controlled Substances Act), even if it is state legal. 

For current licensees that are planning to open an attached or adjacent consumption space, current insurance policies may not cover injuries arising in the lounge space. Further, any failure to identify a change in business type could prompt an insurance carrier to deny coverage for subsequent claims based on a theory of misrepresentation. 

In closing, cannabis owners should attempt to negotiate separate and/or broader coverage that carves out coverage for their cannabis-related activities, including on premise consumption, with their current insurer or seek to obtain coverage from a different carrier. Experienced insurance coverage counsel can assist with identifying reputable insurance brokers and negotiating policies that provide such coverage. Because of the limited options, companies would be wise to begin the process of identifying experienced insurance coverage advisors at the beginning of their licensing journey. 

 

 

 

Member Blog: PPE and Staff Efficiencies – How Much Do the Quality of Your Disposable Gloves Matter?

by Justine Charneau, Eagle Protect

Single-use nitrile gloves are a required necessity of personal PPE in the cannabis industry. But cheap, ill-fitting gloves can lead to workplace injuries, the most common of which include restricted hand mobility, occupational skin disease, and even reduced dexterity. Aside from promoting hygienic practices, quality gloves can reduce, limit, and even prevent repetitive motion stress injuries that can lead to further disorders and damage to the hands and fingers. 

In the cannabis industry, problems such as cuts, pinches, and sprains occur during the intricate trimming actions undertaken during the harvesting and processing stages. These hand-related cultivation stages typically include wet trimming, dry trimming, and pre-harvest trimming. While it’s true that machine-based automated trimming is a faster option, some cannabis cultivation operations prefer hand trimming, which they believe produces more attractive-looking buds and flowers for the final presentation. Speaking strictly from a hygienic perspective, gloves offer and provide two-way protection – helping to prevent cross-contamination from user to product. But quality gloves also protect the wearer from dermal exposure to THC, fertilizing chemicals, and pesticides used in the growing process. 

Below is a list of common disorders that the use of cheap disposable gloves can cause. 

Occupational Skin Diseases (OSDs)

Occupational skin disease, such as dermatitis, is one of the most common non-trauma related occupational illnesses in the U.S. Just how common are these concerns? Each year, among all industries, approximately 1.8 million American workers suffer from OSD at a total annual cost of up to $2 billion. The hand is the most common site affected by OSD, and protective gloves were found to be the most common primary cause. 

Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders (WMSDs)

As noted, the cannabis cultivation process includes worker safety considerations to prevent injury from awkward posturing, as well as the excessive, repetitive effort necessary during the trimming process. These repetitive motions can lead to strains of the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and even damage to blood vessels. These undesirable outcomes are all classified as work-related musculoskeletal disorders, or WMSDs. According to industry studies of on-the-job cannabis injuries, occurrences involving the fingers and hands happen with the most frequency. But these maladies aren’t just common in the cannabis industry. In the food industry, the median time away from work for repetitive-motion WMSDs associated with grasping, holding, carrying, or turning objects was 17 days. Considering all industries combined, $90 million in indirect costs (hiring, training, overtime, and administrative costs) are incurred annually in the U.S.

Other Common Hazards of Poor Quality Gloves

When cannabis cultivation operations select cheap disposable gloves over a more quality product, there are six primary hazards of concern. These include glove failures and inconsistencies such as ripping and tearing (a common complaint), glove contamination risk, glove waste/disposal costs, hand injuries, WMSDs, and even reduced productivity. At the heart of the issue is the inclusion of poor quality raw materials and cost-cutting in the manufacturing processes, both reducing the quality of products available to customers. 

The primary cause of OSDs, WMSDs, and other common hazards related to the use of poor quality gloves is directly attributable to the raw materials used in the glove manufacturing processes. Simply put, cheap toxins and chemicals in gloves can leave users more susceptible to skin irritations and dermatitis. In many cases, because these raw materials are so poor, the manufacturer must produce thicker gloves to prevent ripping and tearing. But in the majority of cases, the increased thickness won’t make much of a difference, and leads to glove bulkiness and reduced flexibility, causing unnecessary muscle stress and strain among users. 

What are the consequences of OSD and WMSD-related injuries? While the specific data isn’t as commonplace within the cannabis industry, workers in the food-handling industry with OSD take much longer periods to return to work than in other glove-wearing professions. It’s estimated that 40% of all worker’s compensation claims involve problems related to exposed skin. As much as 65% of those claims involve hands or upper extremities, with 25% of these workers affected missing up to 10-12 days of work annually. WMSDs account for one-third to one-half of all occupational injuries and illnesses and $15-20 billion in workers’ compensation costs each year.

Cannabis cultivation operations must put more thought and consideration into the gloves they purchase for their workforce. Rather than purchasing decisions based solely on pricing, disposable glove providers should be thoroughly vetted and reviewed. To reduce the risk of skin irritation, good quality gloves that meet the improved standards for low chemical and toxic exposure should be used. Due to the high quality of materials found in the new tech lightweight gloves, the wearer will find that they can be more durable than their thicker counterparts. In the end, the quality of glove you choose to purchase may end up saving you up-front costs but could wind up costing your product budget and staffing needs dearly on the back end. 


Justine Charneau is the head of cannabis industry sales at Eagle Protect, a disposable glove supplier dedicated to the responsible sourcing of quality products that ensure customer safety and impact reduction, ultimately mitigating customers’ risk. Eagle Protect is the only global PPE supplier that is a Certified B Corporation, a designation that a business has met the highest standards of verified performance, accountability, and transparency. She can be reached at justine@eagleprotect.com

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

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

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

Presentation Slide Deck: [View Here]

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

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

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

Panelists:

Joshua Gilstrap
Marketing Manager
e2b Teknologies

Mary Jo Mahood
Practice Manager
e2b Teknologies

Lynne Henslee
President
e2b Teknologies

Tyler Evinsky
Sales Manager
e2b Teknologies

Sponsored By:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Committee Blog: Everything You Wanted to Know About Cannabis Facilities but Were Afraid to Ask Field Guide – Part 5 – General

by NCIA’s Facilities Design Committee
Jacques Santucci, Brian Anderson, David Vaillencourt, and David Dixon

Continuing our five-part series on the behind-the-scenes workings of the legal cannabis industry. This series focuses on all of the inner dealings and industry advice from established professionals to craft this unlimited How-to-Guide to assist you in setting up your own facility. These articles cover cultivation, extraction, infused products, and retail facilities as well as support activities. In general, remember to be compliant with all local rules and regulations and contact a licensed contractor and industry expert. 

Part Five, General: Top Things to Consider When Planning Your Support Area for Cannabis Facilities 

All parts of a facility are important when you are planning and designing your project, including cultivation, extraction, and retail. And let’s not forget the general services and the core structure of the facility. Your design must account for safety and security as well as employee relations and administration. Listed below are a number of guidelines that an operator should consider from a general standpoint as they are in the process of designing their operation. Always remember to be compliant with all local rules and regulations. 

Employee Lockers

Production and facility lockers need to be separate for male and female and it will have a minimum square foot per employee requirement. Knowing your employee count and the number of shifts will allow you to calculate the minimum space needed.

Employee Break Room and Locker Space

Consider a break room that can host all employees for breaks and lunches, with a sink, fridge, microwave, and tables and chairs. This will help employee productivity and retention. Where the break room is located is important to keep employees separated from internal business practices while eating and resting. This area can also be a space for coat hangers and small bag lockers when a specific locker is not required or available. The gowning area is used as the dividing line in a mix-used facility. 

Employee Access Control

You need to limit doors access and key sets for employees as part of your overall security plan. Additionally, do not forget about appropriate labels for doors and the need for access to space only. The idea is to prevent unauthorized personnel from accessing the extraction space and complaining about the local regulatory body. 

Safety and Injury Handing

An adequate number of First Aid and Burn Kits should be fully stocked and readily available to all of your employees, at all times. Ideally, these kits will be within a 10-15 second walking distance from workstations. 

IT Rooms and Setup

Regardless of the facility type, you will need appropriate secured areas for servers, security equipment, and other IT racks, as well as camera systems with specific features for night, license plate reading abilities, and more. Specific HVAC might be needed for this room.

Safety and Employee Showers

Emergency showers are determined by code and the type of activities performed at the location. Eye wash stations may also be required or suggested.

Emergency showers are located in the facility where corrosives and skin irritants could pose harm to employees and require immediate remediation. It could be considered as a benefit to employees so they can eliminate any odors as they leave the facility. Calculate the number of employees and determine based on the code requirements for the number of showers needed.

Emergency Eye Wash

Eye wash stations are to be located within 10-15 seconds’ walking distance for a potential risk area. Check local requirements for additional needs.

Security Entrance: Facility Safety

Consider the flow at the entrance of your facility, to optimize not only security but also the comfort of the visitors and employees as well as environmental control. And think about the comfort of your employees as they enter the facility, such as awnings. Create a separate mantrap-style entrance to allow for better safety at the entrance point, to monitor visitors as well as avoid weather-related issues (i.e. wet areas due to rain or snow, temperature variance due to heat, etc.). Check for compliance with local rules and regulations.

Security Camera: Minimum Area of Coverage

You should have 100% minimum security coverage; any area where cannabis products will exist. And keep in mind it is best that the security room has its own dedicated HVAC system.

Security Camera: Minimum Data Storage

The basic security footage storage requires are 90-days of on-site storage, then five years of off-site storage. Off-site data storage for future legal needs is 1080p minimum. 

Security Alarm: Monitoring

Make sure a reputable company is monitoring your facility’s security. Redundancy might not be needed. In compliance with local rules and regulations.

Office Space

Do not forget that your employees, at least at the management level and above will need space to do paperwork and hold staff meetings. Plan to have a minimum of 90 square feet of office space available for each manager and meeting space. Try not to underestimate the need for administrative space (i.e. payroll, human resources, accounting, marketing, etc.) and plan for general storage space. Your basic corporate services need the appropriate space to run the business efficiently, in a confidential manner.

Parking

When it comes to parking, consider the flow of the employees and your customers as you design your facility so you have adequate parking for all, in a safe and secure manner. Remember to reserve spaces for handicapped drivers as well as motorcycles.

Janitorial and Facility Maintenance

Keep in mind how you will keep your facility clean and in working order at all times. Avoid dusty surfaces, standing water, and all environmental and other hazardous issues. Consider enough storage for janitorial and facility maintenance items, including a workbench if necessary.

Landscaping

Remember considerations for the environment around your facility. Certain plant types and species are known to both harbor insects and pests that may be beneficial or harmful to cannabis plants. This will result in long-lasting effects on your plant health. Proper considerations of landscape design can become beneficial to your overall integrated pest management program and to your operation. Material used around your cannabis facility will also have an impact. We recommend using crushed stones around a building for example. 


Check Out These Related Articles for More Top Things to Consider When Planning:

Part 1 – Cannabis Cultivation Facilities
Part 2 – Cannabis Extraction Facilities
Part 3 – Cannabis Food Production Facilities
Part 4 –Cannabis Retail & Dispensary Facilities
Part 5 – Cannabis Facility Support Areas

 

Positioned for Success – Highlights from the Insights & Influencers: NY Opportunity Tour

Any cannabis insider knows that New York is poised to become the next cannabis epicenter since legalizing last year. As such there is naturally incredible interest in learning about the business opportunities, how to best position yourself for success, as well as networking with potential future partners and clients. To meet these needs for our members and supporters, NCIA hosted the “Insights & Influencers: NY Opportunity Tour”, a weeklong series of events across New York featuring stops in Rochester, Albany and Brooklyn in partnership with founding members Canna Advisors, a trusted advisor to cannabis entrepreneurs who are starting or expanding a cannabis business.

(C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc.

Returning with our first in person events of the year, we couldn’t have been more thrilled to meet face-to-face with nearly 150 attendees who were either current or prospective business owners operating in New York and interested in expanding their operations or trying to break into the industry. With stops in Rochester, Albany, and New York City, the events brought together attendees from across the Empire State to not only learn about the developing regulatory landscape and opportunities to get involved with the burgeoning cannabis industry, but also the latest developments with NCIA’s work on federal cannabis policy.

(C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc.

Speakers were NCIA CEO and co-founder Aaron Smith and representatives from Canna Advisors including ​​Bob Wagener, Vice President of Real Estate Development; Sumer Thomas, Director of Regulatory Operations; and Vincent DiMichele, Regulatory Content Manager. During the hour long presentation, numerous topics were covered that were relevant to business owners in the cannabis industry such as:

• The possibility of federal legalization and the work NCIA is doing to ensure small — or “main street” — cannabis businesses have a seat at the table as legislation is written

(C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc.

• Benefits of starting the license application process early and the importance of community engagement efforts

(C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc.

• Understanding zoning requirements and ensuring your business can operate in the best location possible

(C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc.

• Developing staffing needs and protocols so the team behind your operations is positioned for success and growth

• Engaging in public comment periods including the New York Office of Cannabis Management’s (OCM) current 60 day comment period open now through August 15 surrounding regulations for packaging, labeling, marketing, advertising, and laboratory testing of adult-use cannabis

Throughout the tour, representatives from the OCM were on-site to chat with participants, answer questions that attendees had, and generally get to know those interested in owning or operating a cannabis related business in the state. We are proud to facilitate those connections at our events time and time again, so that regulators and business owners alike can meet in person to build relationships which in turn helps break down the barriers to communication down the line.

Nevillene White, Manager of Community Relations and External Affairs for OCM, joined our Albany gathering right next door to The Egg performing arts venue located inside of Empire State Plaza. Throughout she was able to supplement the presentation by providing comments directly to crowd feedback during updates on the licensing process in the Capitol.

(C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc.

Trivette Knowles, Press Officer and Manager of Community Outreach for the OCM, was present in Brooklyn and commented ”We need more events like this to show people that cannabis touches all walks of life,” he said. “It’s part of the culture.”

(C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc.

NCIA’s Aaron Smith closed out each of the events with a final call to action for everyone in the room: Contact New York’s U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand to urge them to support the SAFE Banking Act and bring it to the floor for a vote. As the Majority Leader in the Senate, Sen. Schumer has the power to allow the legislation to be voted on but has not done so, stating a preference for more comprehensive legislation. Smith also discussed the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA), which addresses federal legalization on a broader scale. A final version of that bill is still yet to be introduced however, and passage of the SAFE Banking Act would provide protections to financial institutions working with cannabis business and would have a positive impact on the cannabis industry while support for CAOA and comprehensive reform builds in Congress.

Of course we encourage anyone reading to take this call to action even further, and plan to join NCIA at our upcoming 10th Annual Cannabis Industry Lobby Days from September 13-14 in Washington, D.C. Find out more details and register online here.

We can’t thank all our members and supporters who attended the events on our “Insights & Influencers: NY Opportunity Tour” enough, as well as our co-hosts, Canna Advisors, for making these events possible!

 

 

For additional coverage, be sure to check out the piece published by Honeysuckle Magazine, our exclusive media partners for the events.

(C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc.
(C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc.
(C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc.
(C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc.
(C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc.
(C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc.

Interested in attending our next in-person event this Summer? Register now for the Colorado Industry Social taking place on Thursday, July 28 in Denver, CO.

Want to know how you can sponsor events like these? Please contact our Events Team at events@thecannabisindustry.org to explore possibilities.

Member Blog: The 6 Technology Tools Every Multi-Location Dispensary Needs

by Tommy Truong, CEO at KayaPush

As a multi-location dispensary owner, you know that the industry is expanding quickly. With more people choosing to buy and enjoy cannabis and there’s no sign of this trend slowing down. And as the demand increases, so does the opportunity to scale single-store dispensaries, into multi-location establishments. 

Dispensaries like Tokyo Smoke and Cookies now have multiple locations in different countries and states, and lesser-known Mom and Pop cannabis retail stores are here for the expansion and boom as well, but if you own or operate a multi-location dispensary, you will need specialized tools to stay compliant, lean and effective.

What is a multi-location dispensary? 

A multi-location dispensary is a marijuana dispensary with at least two locations. In other words, it’s a chain of dispensaries. 

Multiple dispensaries serve more people by increasing convenience and accessibility. These dispensaries have branches in other cities, states or countries, or even different locations in the same city.

The benefits of having multiple locations over traditional single-location dispensaries are numerous. You can: 

  • Offer your services to more people
  • Increase your brand awareness by being present in more places 
  • Streamline processes like billing and payroll across multiple locations
  • Reduce overhead costs by not having to maintain as much human capital in each place

What are dispensary technology tools?  

Dispensary technology tools, or dispensary software, are the software and hardware that help dispensaries manage their business.

This could include inventory management, an e-commerce website, POS systems, and finally, people management tools like dispensary payroll, HR, scheduling, and time tracking to manage their employees and staff. 

Why do you need unique tools when running a multi-location dispensary?

When you’re running a multi-location dispensary, it’s more important than ever to stay organized. You need tools that can help you manage people and systems, inventory, and finances in a cohesive way.

It’s also helpful to benchmark things across your locations and gain insights into each market’s uniqueness.

For example, let’s say you have two locations – one in California and one in Colorado. You can use your analytics tool to see which products are more prevalent in each state or even which days of the week are busier for each location. 

You could also compare how much inventory you have at each location and see if there are any patterns between them. Maybe one place sells out of product more quickly than another? The information will help you make better business decisions about where to open new dispensaries or how to improve existing ones.

Here are the top 6 tools we recommend for any multi-dispensary operator. 

1 –  A POS system that works across multiple dispensary locations.

 A POS system that works across numerous dispensary locations allows you to manage your business from a centralized location rather than log into each place individually. With the system, you can track inventory across your sites and make sure everything stays in sync.

And while most POS systems have some level of integration with other applications, here are three key integrations to look for:

  • Track and trace: The ability to track a product from origin through distribution, so you know exactly where it is at any given time.

  • Dispensary workforce management: The ability to view employee hours and schedules across multiple locations. The feature will ensure that everyone is working as efficiently as possible.

  • Dispensary payroll software: A payroll application that integrates with your existing POS system so that employees can clock in from anywhere with just a few clicks!

What is a dispensary POS system?

Dispensary POS systems are the backbone of any multi-location dispensary. They help you track inventory, manage employee hours and shifts, and keep track of customer purchases.

They’re also the first step in creating a successful business by enabling you to do things like:

  • Track product inventory across multiple locations
  • Manage employee pay, hours, and shifts
  • Keep track of customer purchases in real-time (to see what products people buy)

Many dispensaries use POS systems to track medical and recreational marijuana products and their sales metrics. A good dispensary POS system will keep track of inventory levels across all your locations. It will also monitor customer traffic at each location.

What to look for in a POS for multi-dispensary locations.

When you run a multi-location dispensary, it’s crucial to have a POS that can handle the unique needs of your business. Here are some of the most important things to keep in mind when shopping for a POS.

Easy to learn

When running a multi-dispensary location, you need software that’s easy to learn. It should be intuitive, with clearly labeled buttons and a simple interface. There are many options out there that meet this requirement. Some even come with a training program or video tutorials.

Compatible with the current system

You will want to make sure the new POS software is compatible with your current system. It saves you the additional work of switching over. The POS software should integrate with your existing POS hardware and provide real-time data transfer between devices.

Integrates with a payment processor

A good POS will be able to integrate seamlessly with your payment processor. It should have features that process transactions quickly and easily without any hassle from either the seller or buyer.

Customer support

When you have multiple locations, it’s vital that your customers can quickly call or email customer support if they have an issue—and that the support team is responsive and helpful.

Support for multiple currencies

If you’re operating in multiple countries, you’ll want to find a merchant solution that supports multiple currencies so you can accept payments from overseas customers with ease.

2 – Consistent payment systems.

Consistent payment systems are one of the most important things to have in place for a multi-location dispensary. The first thing you need to do is decide the types of payments you will accept. 

The payment system can be as simple as cash or debit card, or it could include ACH transfers and cryptocurrencies. The key is to choose available options in all of your locations, so customers can pay no matter where they are.

It also helps to ensure that all locations have the same system for accepting payments. If one accepts cash-only, but another accepts debit cards and credit cards, this can create confusion and frustration for customers who travel between locations.

Finally, it’s essential to ensure that each location has access to its accounts to process its sales and deposits without having to go through a central office or owner each time there’s an issue.

Here are some examples of options for consistent payment systems:

  1. Cash: some dispensaries only accept cash as a payment method. If you only accept cash at one of your dispensaries, then make sure there is an ATM nearby because it may not be convenient for customers to drive elsewhere to use an ATM.

  2. Debit/Credit Card: Debit and credit card transactions are fast and easy for customers because they don’t have to wait for their bank account balance to transfer into their checking account before purchasing.

  3. Cryptocurrencies: Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH) are often used by dispensaries because they offer high levels of privacy, security, and anonymity for users worldwide. Because these ‘coins’ don’t require any middlemen to oversee their transactions, they are ideal for businesses that want their payments kept secret from third parties.

  4. ACH transfer: This electronic system allows you to transfer funds from one account to another without physically moving money or checks through the mail. It’s usually an automated process, so you don’t need any specialized training or experience with the system to use it effectively.

  5. Point of banking: A Point of Banking system allows you to accept credit cards through a single point of sale (POS) terminal located at each location. This means that your customers can pay with their credit card wherever they go — no matter which place they visit.

3 – HR software for multi-location dispensaries.

Dispensary HR software is vital for hiring, onboarding, and retaining great people.

It is essential for multi-location dispensaries as they often hire across multiple locations. It’s necessary to have an HR for multi-location dispensaries that helps you manage your hires to make sense and keep everyone on the same page.

To keep track of employees, you might want to find out who has worked at which locations during a particular period. This information will help you keep track of your company’s workforce and ensure that former employees are not applying for jobs at new locations.

Another benefit of this type of software is that it will help you share information more efficiently among managers by storing essential documents like applications or resumes in one place. 

Finally, with dispensary HR tools, you can utilize systems like applicant tracking tools to hire for one dispensary, and not the other. You can also set up alerts when someone applies for your dispensary who has previously worked at a different location, and was let go. 

4 – Workforce management to save time and money.

Workforce management software can save you a lot of time and money by allowing you to manage your staff at each location better. It allows you to track your employees’ performance, schedule shifts and vacations, view employee information, send messages, and more.

Here are other reasons you need a workforce management software for your multi-location dispensaries:

  1. Dispensary scheduling software will integrate with your point-of-sale system to forecast your schedules via machine learning. It helps you better plan for staffing needs in the future.
  2. Scheduling software can integrate with facial recognition time tracking technology, providing alerts to business owners when employees clock in outside of assigned work hours. 
  3. Scheduling for multi-location dispensaries with a lot of employees is complex. However, scheduling software can easily sort out staff on multi-location shifts, so that they show up at the right place at the right time.
  4. Easy toggling between locations to manage staff: if you use integrated multi-location dispensary technology, it’s easy to manage many locations, and time clocks, from the same laptop by toggling between locations.  Providing you with a birds eye view and helping you automate your operations. 

5 – Inventory management that is consistent yet flexible.

Inventory management is a crucial component of the success of any multi-location dispensary. It’s vital to track what’s happening at each dispensary location. 

However, you should be able to review items that sell better at specific locations and see how they’re performing overall. This way, you can ensure you’re not stocking too many (or too few) of each item. With this feature, your customers will have the best possible experience no matter where they go.

Inventory tracking software is one of the essential tools that any dispensary needs. It’s a great way to ensure that all locations use the same naming conventions for their products. It helps you offer your customers the best possible experience no matter where they go.

For example, suppose you have an edible called “Banana Bread” in one place and “Cinnamon Roll” at another location. It may be difficult for employees or customers to know what they’re getting when they order the product by name alone.

The best inventory management systems take into account the needs of your business and your customers. They can be used on a small scale or scaled up to manage massive amounts of products across multiple dispensaries. 

6- Payroll software for multi-location dispensaries.

Managing payroll for multi-location dispensaries is a tough nut to crack. You need to keep track of all the employees at each location, their hours worked and paid, benefits and compensation, and their taxes.

The good news is that there is specific payroll software built for cannabis dispensaries that can help you manage all those details without too much trouble. 

One recommendation would be to choose a payroll provider with service in all the geographic locations you have your dispensaries. This way, you can pay staff across the board instead of manually. The automation will help ensure your payroll tax and overtime calculations are accurate.

Many companies are turning to dispensary payroll software that integrates with HR, time tracking, and scheduling software, to help streamline processes and save time.

What do the experts say?

The most important thing to consider when choosing a dispensary solution is how you want to run your business. However, many multi-location dispensary experts advise keeping it simple. A simple system lets you track sales and inventory. As time goes on, you can add more features.

The best way to simplify your dispensary operations is to use a dispensary POS system that integrates with your dispensary payroll, HR, and workforce management for streamlined operations.

In addition, choose a technology that works for everyone in your organization. Make sure everyone is comfortable with whatever product or service you choose before moving forward with implementation plans.

For more tips on choosing a tech solution for your multi-location, check out the key things that the owners of 100 dispensaries recommend.


Author Tommy Truong is the CEO at KayaPush; the cannabis software helping dispensary owners manage their employee HR, scheduling, and payroll. KayaPush also integrates with leading dispensary POS systems. Tommy loves hot sauce, fried chicken, and running with his Boston terriers.

Optimize your operations with KayaPush. We hope this article has helped you learn about different dispensary software tools and tech for managing multiple locations and the different ways you can overcome the challenges with multi-location dispensary management systems. If you are looking for a compliant and integrated solution to manage your multi-location dispensary chain, check out KayaPush. 

KayaPush delivers a more innovative, unified compliance solution that meets payroll and HR needs without compromising speed and accuracy. Implementing KayaPush will save you time and money and help eliminate the financial risks associated with non-compliance.

 

 

Member Blog: Reflections On Banking Reform For Cannabis Operators

by Joshua Gilstrap, e2b teknologies

Isn’t it crazy to think that the legal cannabis industry could be worth $57 billion by 2030? Or that nearly half of the country’s adult population (49%) has tried marijuana, the largest number ever recorded.*

At the time of this article, nineteen states, two territories, and Washington D.C. have legalized cannabis for adult recreational use. With more than two-thirds of U.S. states that have legalized the sale of both adult-use and medical cannabis and nearly half the population of potential cannabis consumers – it’s safe to say the cannabis industry is thriving. 

But can it continue to grow without banking reform? 

Cannabis businesses have a hard time accessing traditional banking options because the plant is still federally illegal. This means that banks are hesitant to work with cannabis companies for fear of retribution from the federal government.

This lack of banking options creates a difficult environment for cannabis businesses to operate in. Since they can’t deposit money or write checks, they have to operate on a cash-only basis, which can lead to security problems.

Cannabis operators also have a hard time securing financing because most traditional lenders are unwilling to work with them. This leaves them struggling to get the capital they need to grow and scale their business.

When cannabis businesses lack financing options for basic business growth, a banking system more ideal for cannabis operators is needed.

The Federal Law Guides Everything

Despite the growing opportunities in the cannabis industry at the state level, many prospecting business owners are stalled by a lack of capital. Businesses in the cannabis industry might celebrate legalization in their respective states but still deal with the challenge of accessing banking services.

Cannabis dispensaries that run cash-only operations are forced to confront security challenges in a new way. Online ordering, credit and debit card processing, taking business loans, and accessing other revenue-driving financial services are denied to cannabis businesses due to their federal status.

This shows an immediate need for financial reprieve in the cannabis industry.

Getting Financial Reprieve

The House of Representatives has passed several bills supporting the cannabis industry. Some of these bills include:

  • Bill to decriminalize marijuana
  • The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act
  • Legalization of adult-use cannabis
  • Legislation for medical marijuana programs
  • Legislation to reduce barriers to cannabis research
  • Approval of measures for adult cannabis use

One such bill that focuses on banking reform is the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which aims to reduce the banking services challenges in the cannabis industry. If the SAFE Banking bill passes in Congress, financial institutions can open their services to cannabis businesses without the fear of violating anti-money laundering (AML) laws.

In return, cannabis businesses reduce the risk of theft and employee welfare by transitioning from cash-only services to banking services. However, this financial reprieve doesn’t address the cannabis tax code that prevents cannabis businesses from deducting business expenses from the gross income as per the Controlled Substances Act

Nonetheless, the SAFE Banking bill is a step in the right direction. The remaining concern is whether these financial reprieves will pass in the Senate and legalize cannabis businesses at the federal level.

Another financial option expected to reform the cannabis industry is crypto. The authenticity and security of blockchain currencies like Bitcoin are becoming a lucrative consideration for financial reprieve in the cannabis industry.

Currently, there are cryptocurrencies like PotCoin and CannabisCoin mined to cater to various needs within the cannabis industry. However, the uncertainty in the crypto world makes it challenging for the cannabis industry to settle on using crypto as a financial banking solution.

Granted, some crypto technology like blockchain technology is used to transact sales in the cannabis industry, where buyers make cashless payments, and the dispensaries convert this into crypto. But these transactions are not fully transparent.

Notwithstanding, there is hope for the cannabis industry as the number of banks willing to work with cannabis businesses increases. This could result from the increasing support of cannabis banking reform at the state and Congress levels.

But Is The Banking Industry Prepared For This Reprieve?

Financial institutions are gathering more courage when working with the cannabis industry. In 2021, 755 banks showed working relationships with cannabis clients. However, this comfort is more prevalent at the state level than at the federal level, where cannabis is yet to be legalized.

But since support from the federal government is anticipated, banking institutions must equally prepare for the capability to host cannabis businesses legally. Banks must stay compliant with the anti-money laundering (AML) laws.

Banks should conduct due diligence on cannabis businesses that want to use their services. Since federal legalization of cannabis is still pending, some cannabis operations might be illegal. Therefore, it is prudent for banks to start preparation by ensuring any new partners are not lawbreakers.

This means checking for legalization and registration licenses and conducting due diligence on employees and angel investors. Business transactions are also an excellent indicator of whether a cannabis business is involved in illegal activities.

For instance, a cannabis business in a state that frowns upon international shipments shouldn’t have any international transactions. Avid AML monitoring controls should quickly identify legitimate cannabis businesses.

In a nutshell, every business that partners with a cannabis business should be prepared to support its decisions with factual claims. In case of any suspicious activity, the bank should be ready to give an account of their due diligence procedure and the findings.

Creating relationships with federal regulations is also prudent since they help make the regulation process easier. Regulators also help ensure that banks remain compliant with the Federal cannabis laws, which protect their banking operations.

Cannabis business owners must also prepare for the possibility of using open and traditional banking services for their operations. If, or when, cannabis is Federally legalized, the cannabis industry will streamline its operations throughout the U.S.

This means added investments in research, cultivation, marketing, production, and sales of cannabis and cannabis products, whether medicinal or recreational. And the added boost of a legal banking system would further increase employment and boost the economy.

Cards On The Table

Does the cannabis industry need a banking reform? Absolutely. The challenge, however, is that, despite the willingness of the House of Representatives to support the SAFE Act bill, among other proposed banking reforms for the industry, approval in the Senate is still in question. Cards on the table, bank financing in the cannabis industry will propel businesses into more growth, which, in turn, should pragmatically influence the overall U.S. economy. But this starts with active congressional action.

FAQs

What is the current cannabis banking system?

The current cannabis banking system is not ideal for cannabis businesses because the lack of Federal legalization keeps banks from offering traditional banking services to cannabis businesses for fear of violating anti-money laundering (AML) laws.

What are the challenges of using non-FDIC banking options?

Non-FDIC banking options are not secured by the FDIC, meaning businesses that operate under these banking services are not protected by the Federal laws against theft or failure.

What can a banking reform do for the cannabis industry?

A banking reform allows banking institutions to offer cannabis businesses the same banking services they offer other businesses, like capital loans, online bill payments, and debit and credit cards. 


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 project’s 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.

Committee Blog: Do’s and Don’ts of Cannabis Influencer Marketing on Social Media

By NCIA’s Marketing and Advertising Committee,
Helen Mac Murray, Mac Murray & Shuster LLP, and Dan Serard, Cannabis Creative Group

The requirements and restrictions surrounding paid advertising on social media are hardly a secret. Cannabis businesses have to tread carefully to avoid getting shut down or banned completely from online platforms.

However, there is one popular way to leverage the power of social media without risking your account: Influencer Marketing

An influencer is any public figure, celebrity, creator, or individual that has the power to affect the purchasing decisions of others because of their authority, knowledge, position, or relationship with the audience. Influencers are typically content creators that actively engage in a select niche online, such as Lifestyle, Fashion, and even Cannabis.

Influencer marketing is a fantastic way for cannabis brands and dispensaries to leverage the power of social media without getting tangled up in the mess of rules and regulations. However, that doesn’t mean there are no rules and regulations for influencer marketing. 

Here are some do’s and don’ts of cannabis influencer marketing on social media:

DO select your influencer partners carefully.

Marketers and business owners can be quick to forget that influencers are not just marketing tools, but rather, people as well. In that regard, influencers are their own brand. Their entire digital presence is curated carefully to align with their unique values and interests.

This means that when cannabis brands are interested in working with influencers, they have to be extremely careful who they choose. Not only does their character reflect on your brand, but also because it’s going to cost you a pretty penny.

Therefore, focus on building meaningful relationships with influencers and popular creators. Add value to their community and don’t view them as a tool in the toolkit. When you manage these relationships the right way, you turn one-time influencers into long-time brand ambassadors.

If you are partnering with someone who will be making claims about your brand or promoting your product in any way, be sure to:

  • Examine their credentials
  • Make sure they actually use and love your product
  • Evaluate whether their values align with your brand’s values
  • Check that their engaged audience is your target audience

One of the biggest benefits of influencer marketing across industries is that it is a relatable way to sell products. If your influencer partners or brand ambassadors do not actually use and love your product, the partnership will lose its value. Both your brand and the influencer will lose credibility.

When selecting influencers to partner with on campaigns, take time to do your research. Observe their regular social media activity as a follower, be patient during the agreement phase, and understand that this is a long-term partnership. 

DON’T run or re-run any paid influencer ads without consent.

After the Borat debacle in Massachusetts, cannabis brands have (rightfully) become paranoid about using influencers or celebrities in their marketing campaigns. 

While memes on social media are perfectly fair game, a disclaimer or two never hurt anybody if you want to cover your tracks. However, paid ads are a completely different ball game.

For those who are wondering what you can and can’t do when it comes to using a celebrity or cannabis influencer’s image or likeness, here’s a general rule to keep in mind: Do not run or re-run any paid advertising with a public figure without express legal consent. 

When it comes to influencers, this means you need to be very specific on the terms of your engagement. For instance, if you are simply looking for a one-time product endorsement on their own channels, you can share these assets from their account to yours. However, you are not allowed to take those assets and use them in future campaigns, especially paid ones, unless you have explicit permission from the influencer. 

In other words, if you want to be able to run any cannabis advertising campaigns with partner content, be sure to let the influencer know during the agreement phase, and prepare your budget accordingly.

DO make sure your influencer partners disclose your relationship with their audience.

Disclaimers are extremely important on social media and other marketing platforms when working with influencers. They provide your audience with transparency and protect all parties from any legal backlash. 

If you have any relationship with a cannabis influencer of any kind (celebrities, bloggers, etc.), make sure they disclose that to their own audience when engaging in formal partner campaigns with your brand. 

These disclosures should be clear and unambiguous and made directly within the endorsement content. Some ways they can do this are by:

  • Using a descriptor in the caption or image, like #ad
  • Disclosing any paid travel, stay, or product exchanges
  • Add disclaimers in both the text and the media

Disclosing material connections with a brand is an important requirement for influencers, but brands are also liable for influencer posts that violate the law. You never want your cannabis brand to be associated with anyone that might find themselves in hot water, so be sure to make these terms clear when partnering with influencers.

DON’T run ads without proving your product claims.   

This may go without saying, but when it comes to paid advertising in cannabis, throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks isn’t really a good idea. When you’re running ads – whether it is on a traditional medium, like a billboard, or a digital medium, such as pay-per-click ads – it is important to do your due diligence.

Don’t wait to prove your product claims until after the ads have run. Not only will this get you in trouble with the FTC, but you will appear deceitful to your customers and quickly lose their trust. 

Instead, ensure you have third-party lab testing, credible experts (like cannabis doctors or budtenders) able to speak to your specific product, and/or the receipts to back up your claims if challenged. 

DO be cautious when using consumer testimonials about your product.

Existing customers are the best marketers for your brand. Using reviews to show social proof of your product is a great idea. In fact, any cannabis marketing professional will tell you that it is encouraged to show off testimonials on social media, websites, email lists, and more.

However, do be cautious when using these testimonials to sell your product.

Only use the words of your customers if you have express permission to use them on other channels, or if they are already posted in public forums, such as Google Reviews. 

It is also highly recommended that you only use testimonials if they reflect the results of most of your customers. You can’t use consumer testimonials if you do not have substantiation that the endorser’s experience is representative of what consumers will generally achieve unless the advertisement clearly and conspicuously discloses the generally expected performance in the depicted circumstances, and the advertiser must possess and rely on adequate substantiation for that representation.

While it’s always helpful to highlight benefits that real people have experienced, disclaimers should always be made if anything sounds too close to a health claim. For instance, if a customer comments on an Instagram post that your product has made their anxiety disappear, you’ll want to gain express permission from them to use their words as a testimonial, and you should add a note when posting that such claims one customer’s unique experience and can’t be interpreted as medical advice. 

DON’T bring on a marketing company only for damage control.

Cannabis marketing agencies are a powerful tool for a brand or dispensary. From social media and email marketing to search engine optimization, branding, website design and development, and more, these companies are experts at crafting a digital presence for your business.

However, good marketing only goes so far. Even the best cannabis marketing professional or influencer can’t cover up for false information, a bad product, poor customer service, or just bad business overall. 

Additionally, even when marketing companies have industry-specific expertise, they are not lawyers. As a brand, ​​you can’t rely on your agency to know the exact letter of the law. 

Instead of using social media or your marketing efforts as damage control, be intentional about building a high-value brand and bringing on a marketing agency that can make you stand out from the crowd in good conscience. 

That means, start from the ground up, provide accurate information, and protect yourself and your brand from any liability by being cautious of any cannabis advertising and marketing rules and regulations.

Using cannabis influencers for your social media marketing campaigns

Developing a strong presence on social media isn’t just impressive, it’s important for your audience and potential customers to buy into your brand. Whether it’s paid or organic, influencer marketing is a great workaround to some of the more harsh realities of social media rules and regulations for cannabis brands and dispensaries. 

When you harness the power of these public figures and their engaged communities online, you can take your brand to new heights.

Member Blog: Three Reasons Why Cannabis Business Owners Outsource Their Accounting

By LaKia Bourne and JoAnne Williams, Green Space Accounting 

Every entrepreneur knows that staying ahead of business demands is challenging and time-consuming. Unless you have access to enough capital to hire a large team of dedicated employees, you’ll probably have to juggle a wide range of tasks. From promotional marketing to financial forecasting, it seems cannabis business owners always have their plates full.

With this being said, it’s important to understand that taking on too many tasks at once can have negative consequences. The quality of your work is likely to suffer, and you could end up making mistakes that impede your ability to drive growth. Not to mention, doing everything on your own can leave you feeling tired and burnt out.

Unlike companies in many other industries, the cannabis industry is closely regulated, meaning entrepreneurs have to conduct rigorous administrative work. Failure to stay on top of state regulations could result in reputational damage, lost revenue, and even the loss of your business.

So, what’s the solution? Whether you’re a grower, manufacturer, or dispensary owner, outsourcing your accounting burden could significantly lighten your workload. As well as ensuring your accounts are accurately maintained, enlisting the services of a reliable firm will free up time for other important jobs, such as product and vendor management, marketing and promotion, partnership-building, and much more.

Of course, you shouldn’t rely on the first accounting firm you stumble across to look after your financial affairs. As an entrepreneur in the cannabis industry, you must find an accounting firm with knowledge of the sector – and, of course, a non-judgmental approach to hemp and cannabis sales. 

This article will explore three key ways working with a cannabis-oriented accounting firm could significantly improve business outcomes. 

1. You’ll Maximize Profits by Knowing Your Numbers

To see long-term success in your business endeavors, it’s important to know your numbers forwards and backward. Your financial records tell the story of how your company has evolved from start to finish. If you don’t have a comprehensive understanding of your business’s story, you’re not getting the full picture. 

By hiring an accountant, you can rest assured knowing that you have someone on your team to oversee all of your accounting and record-keeping initiatives. An accountant will keep track of tax costs, payroll expenses, retirement plan costs, office equipment purchases, marketing & promotional fees, and much more. This means you can avoid unnecessary expenses and ensure your business is as fiscally responsible as possible. 

If you’re overspending, they’ll help you cut back and offer valuable advice about maximizing profits while fulfilling key business goals. If you’re prone to overspending or don’t feel confident with complex mathematics, hiring an accountant could represent one of your smartest business moves.

2. You’ll ensure your business remains compliant with state and federal laws

The rules and regulations surrounding cannabis sales can be confusing and hard to follow. While many states have legalized the sale of medical marijuana, the substance remains a class 1 substance under federal drug laws. Because of this, there is uncertainty surrounding whether banks should service clients working in the cannabis industry and how to handle the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) tax regulations surrounding “illicit substances.” 

By selecting a skilled accountant with knowledge of the cannabis industry, you can avoid such confusion and avoid penalization. By hiring the services of a company like Green Space Accounting, you can ensure the following:

  • That setting up your bank accountant is quick and easy: An accountant will know which documents to bring when setting up a new bank account, including your marijuana license, information about your sales tracking system, legal documents about operating agreements, Employee Identification Numbers (EINs), Articles of Incorporation, and more. Failure to present such documents could slow down the process. 
  • That you remain compliant with tax code 280E: This rule states that taxpayers cannot claim deductible expenses related to the sale of illicit substances such as cannabis. Given that cannabis remains illegal on a federal level, it can be tricky to get around this law and make the most of business-related write-offs. Fortunately, you can write off expenses related to the cost of goods sold (COGS), an exception that your accountant will help you navigate to ensure you hang on to as much profit as possible. 
  • That you maintain a healthy relationship with your bank: Hiring an accountant will help you maintain an open and honest relationship with your bank, as they will know precise details about your incoming and outgoing expenses. Failure to provide accurate numbers or meet regularly to discuss the details of your accounts could make your business seem untrustworthy. In the long term, this could lead to legal issues or the closing of your account.

3. You’ll have time to focus on core business tasks

One of the primary reasons entrepreneurs outsource tasks is to make time for the creative aspects of growing a business. Driving business growth requires much more than smooth day-to-day operations and well-maintained accounts. It also requires the ability and motivation to set your business apart from competitors and present customers with dynamic new offerings. 

Doing the creative work involved with entrepreneurialism is tricky if you’re faced with a pile of administrative tasks. By enlisting the help of a professional accounting firm, you’ll enhance the quality of your business’s accounting work while freeing up plenty of time for other tasks, such as:

  • Expanding your product line or service offering
  • Selling your products across new platforms
  • Investing in customer acquisition
  • Conducting industry research
  • Researching new business tools
  • Drawing up a growth plan
  • Generating new business models

The Bottom Line

Managing the financial side of your business can be daunting, complicated, and most of all: stressful. If you own a business in the cannabis space, it’s wise to consider outsourcing your accounting initiatives to an industry professional. 

Whether you are a start-up, a growing business, or a multi-state operator, specialized firms like Green Space Accounting can help you with intimate knowledge of cannabis rules and regulations.


Green Space Accounting is one of the leading cannabis accounting, tax, and advisory firms in North America. Our client service philosophy has helped forge an excellent working relationship with dispensaries, grows and ancillary businesses in the space. From accounting and tax services to business consulting and financial planning, we possess the knowledge and experience needed to assist you with your current and future needs.

LaKia Bourne has 20+ years of experience as an accomplished and trusted accounting professional. As a women-owned and minority-owned accounting firm, LaKia has a passion for working with other small businesses and engaging in the local community, and her values drive her overall career goals and mission to uplift businesses and encourage financial competency through reliable accounting services.

With her exceptional credentials and years of accounting experience, JoAnne Williams is a leader in every area of accounting and business consulting. Driven by a deep commitment to client satisfaction, JoAnne has helped non-profits and businesses of all sizes across various industries. Client satisfaction is her number one goal, making her a leader in every area of accounting and business consultation.

Committee Blog: Everything You Wanted to Know About Cannabis Facilities but Were Afraid to Ask Field Guide – Part 4 – Retail

by NCIA’s Facilities Design Committee
Jacques Santucci, Brian Anderson, David Vaillencourt, and David Dixon

Continuing our five-part series on the behind-the-scenes workings of the legal cannabis industry. This series focuses on all of the inner dealings and industry advice from established professionals to craft this unlimited How-to-Guide to assist you in setting up your own facility. These articles cover cultivation, extraction, infused products, and retail facilities as well as support activities. In general, remember to be compliant with all local rules and regulations and contact a licensed contractor and industry expert. 

Part Four, Retail & Dispensaries: Top Things to Consider When Planning Your Cannabis Dispensary and Retail Operations

Retail and dispensary design presents challenges that are distinct from the other areas of cannabis production and manufacturing. The biggest difference is that the design must now account for customers as well as employees. Listed below are a number of issues that an operator should consider as they are in the process of designing their retail or dispensary operations. Always remember to be compliant with all local rules and regulations. 

Security Camera: Minimum Area of Coverage

Most states require a hundred percent minimum security coverage in any area where marijuana products are stored, displayed, or sold. Designing a camera system and placements to avoid “dead spots’ ‘ (i.e. areas with no camera coverage) can be challenging, especially if the operation is taking over an existing space, as opposed to building a new facility from scratch. 

Bonus Consideration: Think about having an HVAC system specially dedicated to your security room. Security rooms for video monitoring and storage can sometimes be an afterthought. But these locations should be treated more like computer server rooms as opposed to standard office space. And with the amount of technology placed in a (typically) small space, things can overheat rather quickly. This can lead to damage to the system and ultimately, you could be out of compliance for video storage and retention.

Another Bonus Consideration: do not forget about placing security cameras to cover the entrance and exit points to the parking lot. Think about the field of view around doors, especially if the door is near the corner of the building or if there are other obstructions that can block the camera’s view of the area. Multiple cameras may be needed for this critical function. Contact a licensed professional. 

Security Camera: Minimum Data Storage

Video storage and retention requirements for cannabis facilities are fairly stringent. Typical requirements include 90-days of on-site storage and up to five years of off-site storage. Off-site data storage is required for future legal needs. Many states require a minimum video resolution of 1080p. The video storage needs for even a moderately sized facility can amount to petabytes of data. For this reason, many facilities outsource this function at least in some measure. If you do decide to handle this all yourself, you should be sure that you have the technical expertise on your staff to handle this potentially complex technical issue.

Security Alarm: Monitoring

Like it or not, retail cannabis facilities will probably always be targets for crime. Having a security system probably seems like a no-brainer. But simply having an alarm system isn’t typically enough. You will need a system that is actively monitored. This allows the company to initiate actions on your behalf depending on the alarm status (e.g., call the police or fire department in response to a remote alarm). Your alarm should be monitored by at least one reputable company. Redundancy might not be needed, but check to be sure that you are in compliance with local rules and regulations. Talk to your licensed professional.

Security: Line of Sight

Customers should only see the public retail area of the location. Customers should not see the back-of-house operations. There is no need for them to see how business is conducted other than at the sales counter. Similarly, there is no need for customers to be able to view the offices, inventory areas, working areas, employee break room, etc. Keeping these areas private helps to avoid bad actors from learning operational routines that might make it easier for them to exploit.

Safety and Injury Handling

This is an easily overlooked area but can definitely get your dinged upon inspection. Be sure you have the appropriate amount of first aid kits and burn kits onsite as reunited by local regulations. Pay particular attention to the regulations about the placement of these kits as they are sometimes required to be within visual distance of specific rooms within your facility. It can be a hard pill to swallow to not be able to get your operation certificate for forgetting such a simple item, but it happens all too frequently.

Employee Access

Having a non-customer door or access point is a best practice. Non-customer access points are where employees and products are brought into the facility without customer line-of-sight. In some states, this is a requirement so check to be sure your facility is in compliance with laws and regulations. 

Product Delivery

Getting cannabis products into a retail facility is a critical part of the merchandise flow and one of the most vulnerable points for theft. For maximum safety and control, consider the use of an air-lock/man trap/sally port door arrangement. If not possible due to location or architecture, planning for business hours separation and process can keep customers separated from deliveries. 

Employee and Counter Safety

The counters where transactions occur in a cannabis retail setting can pose some risks especially since most facilities are cash-based operations. An open style counter can open up opportunities for theft. Consider a security barrier counter. The idea is to attempt to prevent customers from having access to products, cash, or employees where possible. 

Security: Egress

Customer flow can be somewhat challenging, especially in facilities that have a registration lobby that is physically separated from the retail sales floor. Having separate entry and exit doors for customers can help with the flow of customers. Not a requirement but potentially a good customer experience design.

Customer Environment

Dispensaries and retail locations can be busy places at times. In COVID times, this can be a big issue. But even under non-pandemic circumstances, there may be a need to control the number and spacing of customers for both safety and privacy. Social distancing- the process of limiting the number of customers for the available space within the building- can be enhanced through various design elements. These can range from the use of rope and stanchion barriers, to signage and floor stickers.

Lobby design for restricted access – if access to the sales floor is restricted to registered customers, a secure lobby space should be provided with a separated check-in space and access-controlled doors both for customer entrance and egress.

And do not forget bathroom access for customers. You can have a single facility that is unisex but it should also be ADA compliant.

Environmental Consciousness

Unfortunately, like most other retail spaces, cannabis retail still generates a significant amount of waste. And much of it may be recyclable. Business recycling bins should be provided. 

Energy-saving considerations can also be important for retail facilities. Motion detecting light systems can reduce energy consumption in non-occupied spaces. At the very least, interior lighting switches should be located in the same area for easy use upon space exit. HVAC systems should have an occupied and unoccupied night setback capability. 

Parking Lot

Depending on the total number of employees and customers you anticipate visiting your business at its peak times, you will need to design a minimum number of accessible parking spots. 

If curbside pickup is legally allowed in your area, be sure to map out and reserve spaces exclusively for this activity. It should be close to the exit door where the product will be delivered to the customer. Remember to keep parking spaces for handicapped people and even maybe for motorcycles.


Check Out These Related Articles for More Top Things to Consider When Planning:

Part 1 – Cannabis Cultivation Facilities
Part 2 – Cannabis Extraction Facilities
Part 3 – Cannabis Food Production Facilities
Part 4 –Cannabis Retail & Dispensary Facilities
Part 5 – Cannabis Facility Support Areas

Video: NCIA Today – Thursday, June 2, 2022

Happy PRIDE! 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.

Make the investment, take the time, and do the work to position yourself for success in the Empire State!

Join us on the “Insights & Influencers: NY Opportunity Tour” coming to Albany, Rochester, and NYC next week!

U.S. Federal Appeals Court Legalizes Delta-8 THC, Setting Precedent for the Cannabis Industry

By Sadaf Naushad, NCIA Intern 

Thanks to the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Bill), hemp is now federally legal, permitting U.S. farmers to cultivate, process, and sell hemp. Since its passing, however, businesses in the hemp industry have found themselves in a legal gray area. 

With the 2018 Farm Bill eliminating restrictions on the psychoactive cannabinoid delta-8 THC, the companies deemed their delta-8 THC products within legal guidelines. Several jurisdictions disagreed, calling for clarification on the status of delta-8 THC. 

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit addressed the dilemma, claiming delta-8 THC products as federally legal. 

Let’s consider what delta-8 THC legalization means for the future of the cannabis industry. 

Because recreational cannabis use remains federally illegal, delta-8 THC products continue to gain popularity nationwide. Manufacturing developments have led to enhanced consumer products, in which cultivators safely extract delta-8 THC cannabinoids from hemp plants. 

While delta-9 THC constitutes a major psychoactive cannabinoid in the marijuana plant, delta-8 THC appears in trace amounts of the plant. Its psychoactive properties grant consumers gentler side effects compared to delta-9 THC. 

On Thursday, a three-panel judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals published their opinion regarding delta-8 THC, ruling products containing the psychoactive ingredient as federally legal. According to the panel, delta-8 THC qualifies as a legal substance under the present federal definition of hemp. Federal law outlines hemp as “any part of” the cannabis plant, in which “all derivatives, extracts and cannabinoids” with less than 0.3% delta-9 THC by weight are allowed.

Had U.S. Congress unintentionally created a loophole leading to the legalization of delta-8 THC, the U.S. Federal Appeals Court stated that Congress should be responsible for resolving the issue. The panel specified that they would not replace its own judgment with Congress’ policy rulings. In the meantime, the Court defines the federal hemp law as “silent with regard to delta-8 THC.” 

According to a Politico article, “Members of Congress have proposed fixes to federal hemp laws that would close this loophole. Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) introduced a bill in February to limit hemp and hemp products by calculating the total THC rather than focusing on Delta-9 THC. At the same time, state hemp regulators are voicing for a similar change advocating for the 1 percent total THC definition of hemp. Meanwhile, some states have moved to ban the sale of Delta-8 THC products or to regulate them similar to recreational marijuana.” 

NCIA takes a strong position that Delta-8 products and any other psychoactive cannabinoids must be restricted to adults over 21 and regulated by the states so that these products are subject to the same testing requirements, track-and-trace rules, and excise taxes as other adult-use cannabis products.

Furthermore, if you are interested in learning more or getting involved with NCIA’s Government Relations work please contact Madeline Grant at madeline@thecannabisindustry.org to schedule a call. As the oldest and largest trade association, our Government Relations team has been hard at work for over a decade educating and working with congressional offices. NCIA held its Virtual VIP Lobby Days last week, May 16-19 on Capitol Hill. NCIA’s Evergreen members participated in congressional meetings all week long to advocate and educate members of Congress(s) and staff on the importance of cannabis policy reform. We discussed the importance of keeping the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking in the America COMPETES Act and descheduling cannabis at the federal level. You can read more about cannabis and banking from last week’s blog HERE.

NCIA members were able to share their personal stories about being in the cannabis space and relay their expertise to further understanding of the struggles and hurdles cannabis businesses face every day. There is never a time more important than now to support NCIA’s efforts for cannabis policy reform. 

 

 

Member Blog: What in Tarnation? North Carolina Stepping In The Wrong Direction

By Bethany Niebauer, Axial Compliance Consulting

North Carolina, one of the last holdouts for any kind of marijuana program, is finally considering a medical bill. As a North Carolinian, I always thought that I would greet this news with joy and pride. Instead, I feel disappointed at the regressive and paternalistic bill my home is likely to pass. 

To give a little bit of context, the state has about 11 million residents. Famous for its tobacco production, the state is quickly becoming a leader in STEM jobs. In 2020, the capital of Raleigh was ranked the third best city in the country for technology, due to the rapid growth of that sector. Meanwhile, Charlotte remains a leader in banking. After New York City, it is home to the country’s second largest financial services hub. North Carolina has a reputation for being regressive, or even backwards, but its residents are at the forefront of some very progressive industries. 

Despite all this progress, the proposed medical marijuana bill is a shining step in the wrong direction. North Carolina’s SB 711, also known as the NC Compassionate Care Act, was originally brought forth by Senator Bill Rabon (R- New Bern), in April of 2021. The bill is strangely modeled on Utah’s medical program. Utah has one of the highest rates of prescription drug abuse outside of the rust belt. Yet with a population of just over three million, state regulators licensed a mere 14 dispensaries. This is insufficient to meet the needs of a large, rural population. Still, Utah has 17 qualifying conditions for patients seeking entry into the program. 

North Carolina recognizes only 14 conditions and chronic pain is not among them. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a qualifying condition so long as the patient can prove, (with evidence) that he or she experienced a traumatic event. The bill includes a presumption that if a servicemember served in an active combat zone that he or she experienced a traumatic event. North Carolina is a service dense area, but not every veteran will serve in an active combat zone. Many service members will be precluded from accessing the medicine they need. Furthermore, the bill is vague about what constitutes evidence. If a college student is raped at a fraternity party but doesn’t report it to the police, will there be sufficient evidence to qualify under the rules? The bill is unclear. 

The bill requires vertical integration at a time when most states are moving away from that model. An application fee is a whopping $50,000. The bill seeks to award 10 licenses and each license will have the ability to cultivate, process, and dispense, (with up to four dispensaries per license). The bill currently requires 10% of gross revenue paid to the Department of Health and Human Services as a monthly fee. Clearly, this bill is designed to suit the interests of multi-state operators. No one else will be able to participate, much less survive, in such a costly environment. 

By now, most states see the value in social equity. New York and New Jersey both made strong strides in promoting diversity amongst license holders. The North Carolina bill fails to mention social equity or even diversity. Sensible South, a lobbying group that claims to promote the interests of future North Carolina patients is working hard with some of the largest MSOs, including Cresco, PharmaCann, and Columbia Care to set the playing field in their favor. When I asked Garrett Perdue, the group’s founder, if there was any room for small operators in this legal framework, he shrugged his shoulders and said “I really don’t know.”

North Carolina is contemplating legalizing medical marijuana while looking down its nose at patients and the cannabis industry in general. Anyone in North Carolina interested in a more equitable program should contact their state legislators and make the following requests: (1) broaden the list of qualifying conditions so that more people can access the medicine they need, and (2) permit separate license types so that smaller operators have a chance of success. 

 


Bethany Niebauer is the CEO and Founder of Axial Compliance Consulting. Based in Denver, Colorado, Axial Compliance assists clients across the country with all aspects of license management, including new license applications, renewals, modifications, and transfers. Bethany grew up in Greensboro, NC.

 

Video: NCIA Today – Thursday, May 19, 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.

This week’s episode of NCIA Today is brought to you by Senseon Secure Access.

Committee Blog: Is American Cannabis Still the Wild West? 

by NCIA’s Risk Management and Insurance Committee
Matthew Johnson, Quadscore Insurance Services

Cannabis is America’s riskiest business. 

Cannabis itself is a highly valuable commodity, but cannabis businesses also deal largely in cash – making them a prime target for thieves across the country. Recent headlines have reported a rash of unsolved robberies in the Bay Area and Washington State, not to mention the seizure of cash from Empyreal’s fleet of armored transport vehicles (fortunately, that cash has now been returned by the police). 

This is a national problem, which begs the question… What should cannabis businesses do to stay safe during these trying times?

There are many different means of minimizing the risk faced by your modern cannabis business, but we’re going to focus on the big three today – security, technology, and compliance. Through careful consideration of these three tenets, cannabis businesses can take significant steps to mitigate risk and protect their employees. Appropriate investments can yield tenfold savings in the form of fewer stolen assets, lower insurance premiums, peace of mind, and safer employees. 

SECURITY

Let’s start with the topic that gets the most attention during a crime spree – security. In cannabis, security means a number of things… video cameras, man traps, motion sensors, hardened glass, ID checks, and more. When building or retrofitting a facility for cannabis operations, it is crucially important to consult with security experts like Sapphire Risk Advisory Group or Cannabis Compliant Security Solutions. 

“In many areas, it’s not a question of ‘if’ a cannabis business will be robbed – it’s ‘when,’” cautions Chris Eggers, CEO of Cannabis Compliant Security Solutions. With 13 years of experience as a law enforcement officer in the Bay Area – including several years working as an undercover narcotics officer – Chris is uniquely qualified to address the ongoing issues in Oakland and other areas along the West Coast. “There’s a question of how you navigate and survive an incident, but beyond that, how you ensure that your business will survive too.”

There’s an important distinction between security consultants like CCSS, security integrators, and vendors. To achieve best results, cannabis businesses should work with a security consultant who can identify ways to protect the business – without being tied to commission-based sales contracts or a specific ‘brand’ of security solutions. 

TECHNOLOGY

Physical security aside, there are a number of high-tech security tools that can help cannabis business owners protect their operations. For example, let’s take a look at the biggest security company you’ve never heard of – an organization called 3SI Security.

3SI Security began their journey over 50 years ago as the original producer of dye and smoke packs intended to deter bank robbers in the 1970s. Technology has evolved over the years, and so has 3SI’s product offering – now, their GPS tracking tech is ubiquitous throughout banking, pharmaceuticals, luxury retail, and telecommunications.

As VP of Business Development for 3SI, Carlos Casas works to connect cannabis businesses with this tech to protect their assets and employees. “According to a Forbes report from July 2020, an estimated 70% of cannabis businesses are cash-based. This is a staggering statistic which shows the real risk to the industry is on an upward climb.” With the SAFE Banking Act still in the works, savvy business owners have to explore alternative solutions like 3SI’s technology to ensure their business stays safe.

Apart from 3SI, there are a number of technology companies that provide technology to make the cannabis industry a safer place. ADT Security has recently launched a cannabis-focused divison of ADT Commercial to provide critical security technology to cannabis businesses around the country. After spending three years keeping HERBL’s fleet secure on the west coast, Andy Fleet now leads ADT’s efforts to provide security solutions to the cannabis industry. 

According to Andy, “Security planning is critical for any cannabis organization. Take the time to evaluate all the risks within your establishment and build a robust plan that ensures all areas of physical safety and security are considered and protected.” Underscoring the points above, Andy continues, “Working with a licensed, experienced consultant will ensure adherence with all relevant regulations and help keep your employees safe while having technology do the heavy lifting for you.”

COMPLIANCE & COVERAGE

Next up, everyone’s favorite topic: compliance. In this sense, we’re not talking about adhering to the myriad regulations imposed on cannabis businesses wherever they operate – but rather, making sure that your operation complies with the protective safeguard requirements in your insurance policy. Non-compliance with or material misrepresentation of your active protective safeguards could result in an uncovered or denied claim – and could even cause problems with your investors. If you’re buying insurance, you want to make sure that your policy will pay out when stuff hits the fan!

Theft Sublimit – Most cannabis insurance policies will only cover theft losses up to a certain ‘sublimit’ depending on the quantity of cash/cannabis being stored, the physical location of the cannabis business, and any relevant losses that the insured business may have sustained due to theft. Make sure that you are comfortable with the sublimit provided and, if you aren’t satisfied, work with your insurance broker to see if you can secure higher limits.

Protective Safeguards – Virtually all cannabis insurance policies carry some warranties around protective safeguards that can impact your coverage in the event of a claim. Make sure to read the Protective Safeguards endorsement and check that all of your security systems are functioning in compliance with these requirements.

Motor Truck Cargo – Similar to the protective safeguards warranty, make sure that you study your policy to ensure that any requisite safeguards are in place. For transportation operations, these safeguards are likely to include vehicular telematics, buddy systems for drivers, GPS tracking, and possibly even an escort vehicle to accompany the transport unit. 

Security guards – When hiring security guards, it is recommended to employ a third-party guard service that carries appropriate limits of insurance. Make sure that your business is listed as an additional insured on their insurance policy to ensure coverage in the event of an altercation at your business!

Financing – Lenders and VC firms will often stipulate that the companies accepting their funds will need to adhere to certain requirements, like securing Directors & Officers insurance for the officers and executive board. Beyond insurance, it’s important to make sure you are actually doing what you promised to do in terms of safeguarding the property and not just so that you may be eligible for coverage, but also so that you are not held liable for losses suffered by third parties, such as lenders and investors. 

Joseph Cioffi, chair of the Insolvency+Finance practice at the Davis+Gilbert law firm in New York advises, “Operators typically make certain representations to investors, lenders, and other capital providers, and undertake certain activities intended to preserve asset and collateral values. The operator is looking at default if it’s in breach of contract, but worse, the operator and its principals could be sued for misrepresentations made in obtaining funding – and be held liable for losses that flow from those misrepresentations.” 

CONCLUSION

Like an onion, there are many layers to a risk management program for cannabis businesses. Through careful implementation of security measures and protective technology, many businesses will be able to prevent damage to their business with proper planning. In case all security measures fail, a comprehensive insurance policy should be able to help make a business whole again after a claim. Make sure to work with the proper insurance, security, and legal experts when building or restructuring a cannabis operation!

 

Committee Blog: Social Equity Perspectives on Interstate Commerce – Part 3

by Mark Slaugh, iComply LLC
NCIA’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee

Previously, in part 1 and part 2 of this series, the DEIC examined the problems inherent in existing social equity programs and the merit for federal social equity in regulating interstate commerce. The DEIC also examined the key components of a proposed framework to address these challenges, how to define social equity federally, and the merit of determining the types and numbers of permits to be issued. 

Sadly, as written currently, all proposed federal bills fail to meet the critical objective of creating as much NEW generational wealth for the most number of those disparaged from participating in the legal cannabis industry because of the socioeconomic impacts of more than 80 years of federal marijuana prohibition and due to the barriers to entry created amid state regulatory regimes.

To conclude this policy framework proposal, the DEIC will look at the key considerations for a federal program to ensure it functions as designed and how this framework can create social equity technical assistance, qualification, and a phased approach of implementation to ensure that social equity operators have ample time to qualify, have adequate funded, and are set up for success with an equal starting line in the new interstate commerce industry.

Qualifying Social Equity Operators –  Federal Technical Assistance Program

It is imperative that any federal social equity framework helps the industry and their new partners, by ensuring permit holders are qualified in both cannabis and business backgrounds, and by helping them bring financing to the table to start a permitted interstate commerce cannabis business that can be as ready, as quickly as possible, to help import, export, and transport cannabis between the States.

To carry out these provisions in the policy, we recommend that amendments to any federal act include:

  • Requiring that qualified social equity interstate commerce permit holders:
    • Have a path to educational qualification (training and development)
    • Can qualify with equivalent experience
    • Can pre-qualify for the SBA’s funding once they obtain education or equivalent experience (funds issued upon state licensing approval)
    • Obtain the majority of initial permits offered for interstate commerce (95%)
  • In alignment with how long and at what percentage the current industry has been dominating the ownership of licenses
    • Entities should have 51% or more verifiable ownership and control by a social equity qualified applicant.
    • Advisory Committee to determine how to verify the 51% social equity ownership
  • Providing social equity qualified permit holders exclusivity for at least 5 years to ensure the qualifying process takes place equitable to the average time in which the industry developed for adult use without considering social equity. 
  • Mandating laboratory testing as national permitting for interstate commerce to work. 
  • Ensure parity amongst states and tribal nations such that tribe-to-tribe trading and interstate trade routes can be protected.
  • Avoiding overly limiting interstate commerce permits, but also giving them value by not making them unlimited either.

    • DEIC suggests 1,500 permits as a starting point divided among the three primary types as a fair balance initially.

These pillars of federal act amendments will proactively resolve interstate commerce concerns that are inherent in descheduling cannabis. Further, pre-qualifying permit holders based on their experience, education, as well as federal financing for their business (contingent on state licensing), will accomplish two primary concerns:

  1. Incentivizes state governments to create social equity licensing regimes that emulate federal efforts
  2. Reduces “predatory” operating agreements that use “token” social equity applicants who do not participate in the business license, contribute little to no financing, and are thereby diluted by existing operators and investors

We believe the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is best to handle collaboration efforts to define this new “Minority Cannabis Business” (MCB) certification program for both program providers on the educational side and for pre-qualifying federal funding for qualified applicants. 

Through this qualification, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) and (SBA) would issue an interstate commerce permit to be tied to state licenses, and only then would funding be issued to the applicant by the SBA. All funding issued is contingent on obtaining a state licensed facility or partnership with an existing operator in any given state.

Phased Approach:

We believe it is also important that the amendments clearly lay out a multi-phased approach to the rollout of interstate commerce permitting to ensure those most qualified operators proceed first, and to then qualify others with enough time to do so. Encapsulating the proposed amendments, we envision the following steps to ensure a smooth transition that maximizes the opportunity for social equity applicants to succeed:

  1. Initially, establishing the advisory board for the regulatory agencies and mandates to allow for education providers to apply and be approved to provide the educational qualification to social equity applicants. These education providers may also be prioritized based on social equity and curriculum requirements designed in collaboration with cannabis business experts and diversity, equity, and inclusion advocates in cannabis.
  2. For those who lack the experience in operating an interstate commerce permitted business, but who are impacted by the war on cannabis, approved educational programs are invaluable to overcoming the barriers in not knowing how to operate a regulated cannabis business.
    1. Those with experience may qualify, without the need of an educational provider, and each are evaluated for priority licensing according to the following priority:
      1. Applicants with cannabis and business experience (most qualified)
      2. Applicants with legacy experience but limited regulated business experience
      3. Applicants with business experience but limited cannabis experience
      4. Applicants with little cannabis or business experience (least qualified)
    2. If qualified in both, the applicant goes first and can qualify for SBA funding fastest.
    3. If they have limited experience in cannabis or business, then the applicant can take the coursework to qualify and apply for SBA funding.
  3. During this time, it is also crucial to increase community education efforts so that communities impacted most by the war on cannabis can be made aware of the opportunity to qualify, be trained/educated, and approved, and get access to the information necessary to pursue the opportunity along the above pathways.
  4. Provide an education fund for state and municipal governments to promote the benefits of cannabis social equity, responsibilities, and risks of cannabis.

Access to financing is critical for social equity applicants and must be made available through the qualification process for social equity qualified businesses. Once qualified on education or equivalent experience, the SBA may pre-approve funding for qualified applicants. By achieving these qualifications, applicants have access to *reserved* funding appropriated by the federal act. Pre-approved financing in the form of grants and low-interest business debt instruments that are contingent on successful completion of course requirements and other “qualifying” factors for a Minority Cannabis Business is critical to ensuring success for operators and the federal government. 

These government loans say how one qualifies and is “pre-approved” so that applicants can negotiate with existing industry license holders as valuable partners and receive federal funding contingent on state licensing approval. The idea is to promote partnership and participation between the existing industry and newly established social equity entrepreneurs while ensuring equal opportunity for social equity operators who do not choose to partner with the industry.

Follow Through

To ensure the program functions as designed and that the advisory committee is provided with as much data as possible to improve upon these suggested amendments, the Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee (DEIC) recommends a final amendment in the form of a best practices study, along with collected data from participating states, to be instituted and reviewed annually for the first five years and subsequently every three years. 

The intention of this study and report is to ensure the enforcement of laws, standards, and programs and to monitor that the activities of social equity operators are in alignment with the intention of the program in benefitting the social equity entrepreneurs permitted, that policies against predatory operating agreements are being enforced, and that policies are truly beneficial to creating social equity in the cannabis industry. The study will provide evidence of the benefits and challenges of the program, as well as possible improvements at federal and state levels

Conclusion

It seems obvious that unless any social equity partner can “bring more to the table” to balance a “mega player’s” contribution, be educated in all aspects of their chosen field in the industry, recognize predatory agreements, and otherwise be positioned more equally to meaningfully participate in the cannabis industry, social equity programs will continue to fall short of meeting the goal of creating new generational wealth. 

History has shown that as long as there’s an opportunity for inequality to be wielded as a weapon for those in power, it will be. No amount of good intention can change that fact. 

Social equity requires empowerment opportunities for social equity candidates to bring more to the table as equals with “mega players.” We recognize partnerships can be an ideal path forward when the power dynamics within them are balanced and fair. The DEIC proposes these amendments to any federal act to serve as solutions to the traditional problems of inequality, exclusion, and gatekeeping that once spurred prohibition in the first place and that continue to prevail in the inequity the cannabis industry is still experiencing and to solve the shortcomings of social equity programs thus far. 

We recognize that the role for the federal government in these federal act amendments is to even the odds in interstate commerce permitting. Their role is to oversee the fairness in qualifying candidates, to ensure a meaningful value for the permits issued, to give permittees the chance to catch up to the privileged few already in the industry with lockout periods for non-social equity applicants, limited licensing, and to provide access to financing for those traditionally locked out of access to financing or wealth as aa result of systemic oppression caused under prohibition.

Interstate commerce permitting seems like the last true chance for America to atone for 80+ years of marijuana madness and its detriment on our society. It is also the last chance for the industry to search for its soul to balance the impacts prohibition has had on these operators in excluding their participation in legal cannabis initially – born as a result of systemic discrimination overall and colonized on by those with clean records.

In doing so, a more equitable federal act can create the bold ideas and incentive to bring traditional wealth and experience into partnership with underprivileged social equity operators and their expertise/culture to form partnerships that truly represent the intent behind the policies intended for social equity and to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive industry for all.

Committee Blog: Everything You Wanted to Know About Cannabis Facilities But Were Afraid to Ask Field Guide – Part 3 – Extraction

by members of NCIA’s Facilities Design Committee
Jacques Santucci, Brian Anderson, David Vaillencourt, and David Dixon

Continuing our five-part series on the behind-the-scenes workings of the legal cannabis industry. This series focuses on all of the inner dealings and industry advice from established professionals to craft this unlimited How-to-Guide to assist you in setting up your own facility. These articles cover cultivation, extraction, infused products, and retail facilities as well as support activities. In general, remember to be compliant with all local rules and regulations and contact a licensed contractor and industry expert. 

Part Three, Food: 10 Things to Consider When Planning Your Manufacturing of Infused Products (MIPs) Operations

Food safety and handling practices are an issue for any industry working with or processing products for human consumption and often come with strict guidelines that need to be followed. In the cannabis industry, edibles and other processed or infused products Manufactured Infused Products (MIPs) are ready-to-eat foods, so many states are regulating them as foods under the cGMP requirements of 21CFR117. We feel this is likely the approach that will be appropriate when cannabis becomes federally legal. These 10 things should be considered as you begin to plan your facility.  Always remember to be compliant with all local rules and regulations. 

Sanitary Design and Operation

A production room is straightforward, conceptually: design the space so walls, floors, and ceilings can be washed and sanitized, then verified (ATP swabs) to confirm the cleaning process is effective. To facilitate cleaning, everything needs to be pulled away from the walls, the ceiling needs to be solid and the walls need to be sealed. Insulated metal panels (IMP) are a cavity-free construction that is seeing wide acceptance in the industry. To keep the space clean during operation, slope the floors to spot drains, install coves along with the floor/wall interface and avoid ledges and traps for water or dust.

Employee Hand Washing

A stringent internal process for sanitation and washing of hands is crucial. Make sure that lavatories are available throughout your facility for proper sanitation. Confer with the municipal board of health for locations and quantity. Generally locate any place where employees are handling consumable products or encounter the potential for microbiological. 

Boot Washing

Sanitation includes making sure all boots/shoes are free of contaminants. Employee captive corporate footwear programs prevent contamination potential from non-business-related employee activities.

Cart Washing

For carts that transport ingredients and materials, it is important to prevent floor debris getting transferred from one area to another. Two areas of concern; are wheels and cart shelves. Either wheel or shelf area can be addressed from multiple washing devices specific to each type of cart used.

Product Storage

Food safety temperature and humidity separation of products are an important factor. The purpose is to store food products at such a temperature and humidity level to prevent the growth of undesirable bacteria.

Allergen cross-contamination

Make sure to arrange products to avoid cross-contamination of open and unopened products. Keep the first pallet off the floor at a height of 6” AFF to avoid picking up contaminants. OHSA SHARP may apply how to organize products. 

You can design barriers to keep contamination from entering a room.

Limit contamination by having and always renewing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), since the adjacent hallways may transport raw biomass. Test all ingredients, including THC, to ensure that everything is microbiologically safe. Wipe down, or unpackage ingredients, materials, and supplies before bringing them into the ‘clean environment’ room. Wear specific scrub, clean boots, and wash off any carts entering the room.

Employees entering the food production space

Contaminants can enter via the employees.  It is essential to have all employees and agents clean up before entering the food production space. You must provide facilities to wash and sanitize hands as well as boots. Continuous training of employees and monitoring adherence to the procedures is important. Your procedure will include how sanitation is necessary, where are smocks hung, how are shoes cleaned, etc. Typical controls are in the FDA Food Code for jewelry, open sores, illness, etc.

Food Safety Inherent in the Recipes

Complete a Food Safety Hazard Analysis to know if you need to implement an upstream preventative control, such as for chocolate, or if you need to manage a thermal kill-step such as cooking the gummies mass. Low water activity, high acid, or a natural biocide additive, can all be considered. 

Control for Allergens

MIPS often contain soy, flour, eggs, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, coconut, and perhaps others. Each has special considerations for allergen separations and allergen cleaning.

Ware Washing and Clean Parts Storage Room

Don’t Underestimate the Ware Washing and Clean Parts Storage Room. Adjacent to your MIPs production room, consider building a washroom with a commercial dishwasher for utensils, kettles, wetted parts, trays, molds, etc. You might install a three-compartment sink. And make sure to safely store clean items, so they dry and do not get recontaminated prior to use. This room is maintained at negative pressure to the MIPs production room.

Plan for the Pantry

Store ingredients, materials, and supplies in a pantry off the MIPs room can be considered. It is much easier to clean the MIPs room if such items are stored outside production. If you pre-weight, or decant in the pantry, cardboard and plastic are kept out of production. It is a great idea to provide a door also to the adjacent hallway to drop off ingredients, then your staff can enter from the MIPs room. Special care is taken when storing opened products.

Keeping Final Products Food-Safe

The best practice might be to put products such as chocolate bars into primary film envelopes or fin-seal gummies while still in the MIPs room. Often, subsequent packaging is done where there are other possible contaminants such as open bud, pre-rolls, chipboard or corrugated, etc. If the food products are already protected by primary packaging, you will greatly reduce the risk of recontamination. 

HVAC, Humidity Control, and Filtration

HVAC, Humidity Control, and Filtration are critical. The MIP production room should be air-conditioned and filtered to at least MERV 14. Cook kettles may be a source of humidity that could be placed under a commercial hood. Cooling and tempering of chocolates and cooling and drying of gummies/jellies have their own special considerations. And consider provide enough HVAC capacity to dry out the production room after a heavy cleaning. 

Airlocks and Room Pressurization

Airlocks and room pressurization should be planned properly based on your goals, budget and facility. The MIPs room pressure should be positive to all other adjacent rooms: washroom, pantry, extraction, corridors, lab. There are a wide variety of approaches to airlocks, from a pharma approach with air showers down, to just a door with sufficient air supply to the production room to ensure that it is always positive to the adjacent hallway.


Check Out These Related Articles for More Top Things to Consider When Planning:

Part 1 – Cannabis Cultivation Facilities
Part 2 – Cannabis Extraction Facilities
Part 3 – Cannabis Food Production Facilities
Part 4 –Cannabis Retail & Dispensary Facilities
Part 5 – Cannabis Facility Support Areas

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