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!
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 firstname.lastname@example.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
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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
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:
Incentivizes state governments to create social equity licensing regimes that emulate federal efforts
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.
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:
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.
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.
Those with experience may qualify, without the need of an educational provider, and each are evaluated for priority licensing according to the following priority:
Applicants with cannabis and business experience (most qualified)
Applicants with legacy experience but limited regulated business experience
Applicants with business experience but limited cannabis experience
Applicants with little cannabis or business experience (least qualified)
If qualified in both, the applicant goes first and can qualify for SBA funding fastest.
If they have limited experience in cannabis or business, then the applicant can take the coursework to qualify and apply for SBA funding.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Disposable gloves are standard issue for the medical, food, and yes – cannabis industry. But thanks to COVID and subsequent disruptions in the supply chain, the market for procuring disposable gloves has gone from routine to challenging. In fact, the demand for quality disposable gloves has skyrocketed, more than doubling since the global pandemic’s arrival, thereby creating an unpredictable cycle of availability. Demand for single-use gloves is expected to continue increasing in the coming years, as the health and safety of workforces across multiple industries – including medical, food, and cannabis-related operations – are required and dependent upon their usage.
Let’s examine the factors that have made disposable gloves both scarce… and pricey, as of late.
Global Glove Origination
Approximately 99% of all disposable gloves are manufactured in southeast Asia, most notably Malaysia and Thailand. But for these regions, compared to the U.S., lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID infections has a much more literal meaning. The restricted movement, as well as outbreaks, led to output at 60% of its normal capacity. In addition, most experts agree that there’s clearly a shortage of workers – many of whom were immigrants affected by travel restrictions. It’s estimated that an additional 25,000 workers are needed to restore full production capacity.
Supply and Demand
As the demand for disposable gloves increased globally, it put added stress on manufacturers and the supply of raw materials, driving up prices tenfold compared to pre-COVID levels. Though glove costs have recently dropped, prices have not reached pre-COVID levels.
Cost of Gas
The raw materials of nitrile gloves are primarily petrochemical based, subject to the volatile price swings in the oil and gas industry. Combined with the tenfold increase in shipping costs, disposable glove prices are not likely to continue dropping.
In the midst of this price spike, one of the top importers, Malaysia’s Top Glove, the world’s largest glove producer, was banned from importing gloves to the U.S. from July 2020 to September 2021, due to conclusive evidence of forced labor. However, this ban did not extend to other countries.
When the pandemic nearly doubled the demand for disposable gloves and other PPE components, several new manufacturers with little to no industry experience, assisted by dealers with nothing more than a financial incentive, flooded the market with cheap, counterfeit, and reject-quality gloves. Spotting these unscrupulous suppliers can be done by looking for a few common signs, as they’re often given away by their offering of discount or wholesale pricing, especially in bulk. It’s estimated that the market has already absorbed an influx of gloves of a defective and dangerous quality.
Safeguarding Your Operation
Currently, poor quality gloves continue to flood the disposable-use market. In business, it’s human nature to seek the lowest price for inventory, but saving a little now may cost you dearly on the backend. Cost is obviously important, but consistent quality will keep you from having to replace gloves that rip and tear too easily. When sourcing disposable gloves, seek reputable suppliers – those who have a clear ownership origin, quality web presence and active social media accounts. Taking it a step further, you can inquire about factory audits and HACCP compliance certifications. The cannabis industry has already dealt with at least one recall due to glove contamination. And recalls can have negative financial and brand ramifications. Lastly, always remember when dealing with a new vendor – you can conduct your own product trial before ordering.
Steve Ardagh, “The Glove Guy,” is the founder and CEO of 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. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Committee Blog: Everything You Wanted to Know About Cannabis Facilities But Were Afraid to Ask Field Guide – Part 2 – Extraction Facilities
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 Two, Extraction: Top Things to Consider When Planning Your Cannabis Extraction Operation
The extraction environment is akin to an industrial process and should be approached away from a safety and chemical handling standpoint. Here are some general considerations as you begin to plan your extraction operation that we often see assumed or overlooked resulting in major unanticipated barriers that significantly impact decision costs and timelines. Always remember to be compliant with all local rules and regulations.
Interior Building Materials
The walls and floors should be designed to be easily cleanable. In areas with solvent use, should have floors and walls made with the material, and ultimately the method for effective and ease of cleaning such FRP (Fiberglas Reinforced Panels).
There are many established standards from organizations like the NFPA and ICC-IFC which are commonly cited and required by Fire Marshalls with appropriate fire engineering controls, room interlocks, etc. Knowing which classifications are required based on the room type has a major impact on facility specifications (e.g. C1D1, C1D2, etc.) and the ultimate design. This requires knowing which solvents you will be using (and equally important, solvents you will not be using) as well as identifying all of the activities you will be doing in your extraction/processing facility (winterization, purification, bulk or final product packaging, and more) and whether the rooms will be wet and dry (how will you be cleaning these rooms?). How you answer those questions will help you and your team select the appropriate room materials and overall design.
Electrical Power Ideal Recommendations
Evaluate your utility power infrastructure, including street transformers and available power to your site when designing your facility. The power demand for a cannabis facility is significant and grid limitations can destroy or significantly delay the ability for a business to operate.
Losing power due to weather or events outside of your control are another major risk. When considering alternative power generation, consider a generator with auto-transfer switching and the appropriate fuel type, depending on location and local weather. Contact a local licensed professional. A generator can be an invaluable insurance policy as even a short duration power outage can destroy an entire crop and any products that must be maintained at critical temperatures.
Equipment Rooms and Maintenance Rooms
Appropriate space for equipment and dedicated rooms for maintenance is commonly needed. These all come with different combustion air requirements, venting requirements, air exchange rates, vacuum lines, and more. You may consider a room for spare parts and tools.
Appropriate Storage Area: Biomass, Volatiles, Raw Ingredients, and More
Separation of raw materials with appropriate and dedicated storage areas is needed for the various types of raw ingredients and materials utilized within a cannabis facility. Volatile solvents require extremely specific storage requirements, which will become part of your Chemical Hygiene Plan once you are operational. Refer to your local Fire Marshall for code considerations and from code organizations like the ICC and NFPA.
Cleaning and sanitation agents should be segregated from materials that are utilized in final product formulations (e.i food ingredients, oils, etc.) and raw materials ahead of the design is critical to ensure appropriate storage requirements are met whether indoor or outdoor. Biomass storage can vary based on whether wet or dry and often require controlled temperature and humidity. Finally, do not forget the dedicated space needed for finished good inventory.
Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) Safety
Do you know that shock you get when you are in your car in the winter or flipping on a light switch? Innocent in everyday life, but potentially lethal in an environment such as extraction rooms where highly flammable solvents could be present. Consider rated and non-rated clothing and other personal protection measures.
Food Grade Oil Considerations and Inspections
Extracted oils that will be used downstream in edibles and beverages are akin to ingredients that require Food Safety endorsements such as cGMP.
Before selecting equipment for use, evaluation criteria should be established based on your business needs and compliance. Some authorities having jurisdiction require extraction equipment to come with stamps, certifications, or endorsements from organizations such as ASME, UL, and NFPA as relevant to ensure equipment safety and fit for use.
Room Environmental Controls
Grinding rooms often need separate dedicated ventilation and filtration to be checked against grinding method/equipment and concentration of particulate (typically measured in parts per million (ppm) in the air. Dust collection systems for grinding equipment are effective ways to keep dust levels at manageable levels, reducing the need for time consuming cleaning procedures. Extraction and final product rooms may require additional ventilation considerations and monitoring sensors depending on the extraction method or final product type. Example: Solvents will require sensors and air exchanges located near the ground level since most solvent fumes tend to be heavier than air.
Designing your facility involves HVACD (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Dehumidification) management that considers airflow controls areas, airflow, and fire protection within control areas. Rooms may require positive and negative pressures with calibrated pressure indicators. You should aim at having a leveled constant environment.
Safety and Injury Handling
Facilities need to have sufficient accessible First Aid and Burn Kits on site. Safety and Emergency Showers are often determined by code and the type of extraction solvent in use at the locations. Eye wash stations may also be required.
Spill and Solvent Safety
In areas where solvents are or may be used, you will need to have barrier/spill kits specific to the solvents and extraction materials on hand. This barrier can be built in or hand delivered per emergency. Solvent storage locations, depending on the type of solvent and hazardous rating.
Having one or two dedicated people to run point on spills can be part of a comprehensive spill procedure that would include evacuation of the area, assessment of the spill and of the clean up technique, disposal method, etc. There are many materials that are not compatible or properties that make them volatile under certain circumstances so having dedicated people to evaluate the situation will save you time, money, and any possible mishaps.
Indoor and outdoor solvent storage are dictated by NFPA, ICC-IFC, and local regulations. Storage types and limits are essential to check before buying or building a facility. Fire professionals base these limits on several factors of flammability including class and volatility. You may also need to adhere to SARA Type III reporting depending on the solvent and storage amounts. Do not forget about solvent tank types, whether they need to be mounted or chained to walls, security access controls, and SDS requirements.
C1D1, C1D2 is needed for solvent use. The actual type of solvents (e.g. CO2, Ethanol, etc.), and volume of solvent will dictate the different requirements for enclosures. This section pertains to areas in which the solvent would be transferred, mixed, extracted, recovered, etc. The type of enclosure is dependent on the type and class of solvent. Most enclosures will have volume limits, containment, vapor detector, electrical and ventilation requirements.
Ensure wall switch and fast ventilation, automated ventilation when sensors are activated during spill of contaminate.Sensors to be located where appropriate for the substance in use. Coordinated with the fire marshall to meet local requirements through design with architect and mechanical teams.
Employee Access Control
Limiting door access, proper security labeling, and key sets for employees need to be part of your overall security plan. LThe idea is to prevent unauthorized personnel from accessing the extraction space compliant with the local regulatory body.
Equipment Regulatory Listing
There are requirements such as UL certifications/marks which are dependent on the actual device and intended use. Always contact your local code enforcement office and a licensed contractor.
Introducing 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 1, Cultivation: The Top Things to Consider When Planning Your Cannabis Cultivation Facilities
As you are planning to start your own indoor cultivation facility, there are some often ignored basic parameters that should be taken into account in the design and decision-making process. We have listed the key parameters that will ease the process of going live and may save time and money while you design your facility and the building process. Always remember to be compliant with all local rules and regulations.
Depending on your goals, building setting, and local requirements, you have many options for lighting, from HPS light to LED lights. Lighting standards are measured in watts per square foot. Recommendations may vary per state or other criteria. For example, Massachusetts recommends an intensity of 36w/sft for energy consumption.
Water Recovery: Minimum Percentage
Cannabis is a water-intensive crop, and consideration of effluent capacity can be inefficient, expensive, and an issue for municipalities. Depending on your cultivation practices, you should consider a water recovery system and what percentage you are able to capture. There are two types of water recovery – leachate, and condensate. An effective system will recover at least 70% of the water for utilization, significantly reducing your water and sewer expenses. Your irrigation and fertigation selection will have an impact on your water consumption.
Generator Capacity: Minimum Recommendations
Your area or your business model may dictate for a generator – which is a critical Business Continuity consideration as a power outage, even if for a brief period of time can destroy a crop. Make sure to calculate the minimum capacity requirements of your facility. Do you plan to have it for emergency or stand-by usage? Typically, 50% of your short lighting load capacity of cultivation, 100% for AHU (air handling), and some back-office and security system, including cameras, access, and server needs.
Carbon Dioxide Enrichment: New Versus Recaptured
You can consider 75% new tanked- or generated- natural gas and 25% recaptured sources, for cultivation rooms, gas-fired chillers, and gas-fired boilers.
Carbon Dioxide Alarms Levels: Cultivation and Common Areas
Carbon Dioxide monitoring is critical for worker safety. You should be monitoring common areas to ensure that you are below 3,500 ppm. Monitoring should be tied to the fire alarm system for building evacuation, with 2,000 ppm alarm levels for the cultivation area. 5000 ppm limits are required by NFPA/OHSA. Alarms should contain visual strobes, red/green room access indicator lights and/or possibly an exhaust system that is triggered by an alarm
Renewable Energy: Minimum Energy Production Percentage
To demonstrate a commitment to sustainability, a minimum target of 10% of your facility’s energy consumption should be from renewable energy production: i.e. solar power, wind energy, geothermal, biomass, and/or battery energy.
Refuse Disposal: Recycling and Composting
Consider certified disposal of horticulture byproducts with a minimum of 25% recycling or composting by volume; rendered unusable. You will want to establish and verify that your shredder or equivalent system is capable of breaking up debris to a specified size.
Airlock Doors for In-Between Uses
You should install an airlock barrier, or at a minimum an air curtain, between the business and the production side, for outside and inside egresses, to keep a controlled environment. Keep in mind considerations for ventilation systems and cascading airflow.
For best performance to mitigate biological hazards and contamination, depending on your region, recommend installing insulated metal panels, that are non-porous, solid core wall, insulated metal panels (IMP), with surface mounted devices.
Security Entrance: Facility Safety
Consider creating a separate mantrap style entrance to allow for better safety at the entrance point, monitor visitors, keep a controlled environment as well as avoid weather-related issues, i.e. wet areas due to rain or snow, or temperature variance due to extreme heat or cold.
Limiting doors access and key sets for employees needs to be part of your overall security plan, with proper door labeling and authorization levels. The idea is to prevent unauthorized personnel from accessing specific spaces, for proper environment control and to be compliant with the local regulatory body. Remember to be compliant with local rules and regulations.
Security Camera: Minimum Area of Coverage
In most states, you will need security coverage for 100% percent of your faculty where cannabis products will be stored or displayed, with proper recording and monitoring. Keep in mind that your security room will likely need its own dedicated HVAC systems
Security Camera: Minimum Data Storage and Resolution
You will need to store all security camera footage on-site for a minimum of 90-days, or more depending on regulations. You may need to store the data offsite for five years for future legal needs. Footage quality may need to be shot in 1080p minimum. An ASTM International Standard Guide for Video Surveillance System provides additional parameters to utilize.
Security Alarm: Monitoring
Security alarm needs to be monitored by a reputable company. A service level agreement (SLA) or similar to ensure there are redundancies in the event of a failure should be considered, and redundancy or a backup system might be necessary.
Odor Control: Exhaust Air Management
Odor mitigation is a crucial part of all operations. All exhaust airflow must be oxidized or ionized. You also need a fogger system and carbon filtration. Refer to local municipal bylaws and regulations for more information.
For interior odor control and non-cultivation areas, consider cascading air flows from non-cultivation areas to provide a common method of control for pressurization control. Plan to control air flow and exhaust.
Fire Sprinkler: Maximum Bench Sizing
Sprinklers are designed to cover a limited surface area. When installed on cultivation tabletops wider than 48”, additional sprinkler coverage may be required.
Flooring Type: Continuous
Cultivation floors shall have continuous resin or epoxy coating with at least a four-inch lip onto the adjacent wall.
Energy Incentives: Minimum HVAC/D Efficiency Rating
Air Conditioning (AC) units should be no less than 16 SEER, High Point (HP) units no less than 9 HSPF. Incentives for this vary by state. Please check with your local utility company and regulatory commission for all available rebates.
HVAC Validation Requirements:
Bi-Annual Third Party Controlled Environment Validation using required Trend Data Metrics is the validation and calibration of control sensors, including temperature, humidity, CO2, and other devices such as scales, flow meters, integral valves, PPM sensors, EC meters, TDS meters, HVAC dampers and other applicable devices that may drift from factory or initial installation specifications.
Good Agricultural and Collection or Manufacturing Practices (GACP/GMP): Ready Versus Complaint
Your operation should be designed with documentation to prepare for GACP or GMP requirements. Depending on final product types, specific food-based GMPs with appropriate risk assessment programs (such as HACCP, and others referenced within the Food Safety Modernization Act) will prepare you for any federal or international trade opportunities in a federally legalized framework.
Employee Locker Access
Plan for gender-specific, male and female locker rooms, with six square feet per employee per shift expected to arrive at the facility at any given time. Employee supplied flock for locker or lock provided by the employer is a business decision. Keep in mind how you will keep the environment of your production facility under control. You might consider having locker access adjacent to the growing area with a proper gowning area.
Locker Room Type
Make sure your locker room is correctly set up for employees to be able to change in a safe way. Specifications for Locker Room and Gowning/PPE Areas should allow access to faucets for washing hands as well as bathrooms. Note gowning areas should be separate from the bathrooms directly off the locker room area.
Employee Shower Access
Per International Building Code (IBC) and State Plumbing Codes, calculate the number of employees and determine the number of showers based on code requirements as well as business policies. Having gender-specific showers is a recommendation as well as a business decision.
Emergency Eye Wash- Shower
For safety and based on OSHA standards, Integrated Pest Management (IPM), fertigation, and extraction operations must-have emergency eye wash showers. Eyewash stations need to be placed throughout the facility so that they are within 10-15 seconds walking distance from employees. Check local requirements for additional needs.
Note: in a facility where corrosives and skin irritants could pose harm to employees and require immediate remediations, you should consider emergency showers.
First Aid Kit Distribution
First aid kits should be available in all rooms where sharp tools and other hazardous materials are intended to be used. These kits need to be within 10-15 seconds of employee walking distances. Per OSHA requirements, first aid kits should be located in all trim, extraction, flower hallway, and shredding areas. This is overall a must-have in your facility.
Safety and Injury Handling
We recommend that you ensure that you have enough first aid and burn kits available throughout your faculty, based on your activity and the number of employees.
When it comes to the intersection of law, business, and technology, the legal cannabis industry is arguably at the center of all three. Relying heavily on creative, innovative technology to distinguish itself while continually analyzing profitability forecasts to take advantage of new business opportunities and having to monitor at the same time the changing data privacy regulatory landscape, it can all seem rather daunting when added up. Securing trade secrets and overseeing reputational management related to cybersecurity and data protection are some of the challenges rooted at the forefront of this industry, especially after last year’s stunning pace of mergers and acquisitions. Increasing consolidation of fragmented segments of the cannabis industry is foreshadowing a strategic, long-term business approach to achieving higher profits and revenue, leaning on market advantages such as relatively favorable interest costs for now and lower valuations.
Data security and past cyber events play a significant role in these transactions, as do regulatory compliance and data privacy laws. One of the primary, if not foremost, objectives of any deal involving a merger or acquisition is of course valuation. Poor cybersecurity practices, lack of a comprehensive security and data protection program, and digitally unsecured proprietary assets on the part of the target company could spell unforeseen financial, not to mention legal liability, headaches for the acquiring organization.
The business of legal cannabis is after all a highly unique industry because of the already intense regulatory oversight and the enormous amounts of data inherently built in and circulating throughout its diverse industry sectors. From cultivation and laboratory research to manufacturing that incorporates processing for global distribution and all the way out to consumer dispensaries, the aggregate value of such data is almost nothing short of priceless. Simply put, data equals money in today’s global digital economy. So when the acquiring organization fails to adequately perform its due diligence when it comes to cyber compliance, it may be in for a rude awakening post merger or acquisition, especially if this data has been unknowingly compromised.
Every company should first seek to identify and classify the type of data it is acquiring to determine regulatory compliance. Personally identifiable information (PII) and/or protected health information (PHI) and where either comes from, e.g., a consumer or patient, will go a long way to understanding whether state and/or federal laws have been violated. Next, discovery of a past cyber event or breach is critical. Compromised data from inadequate cybersecurity or failure to report potential violations of state data privacy laws to any of the corresponding state enforcement agencies could result in hefty fines and unexpected assumption of liability, not to mention the legal costs to fix it after the deal is done.
Almost every cannabis business knows from the outset it has very particularized regulatory requirements, but such knowledge does not obviate it from complying with additional regulatory data privacy and cybersecurity obligations. Regardless of the side of the transaction, businesses need to keep several key end goals in mind during an M&A deal. Questions include but are not limited to the following: (i) prior cyber practices; (ii) prior cyber incidents; (iii) documented cybersecurity and data privacy programs; (iv) whether those programs are operationalized or just “there” for window dressing; (v) whether there is cyber-liability insurance; and (vi) the nature and type of contractual obligations. All of these elements will help to determine the level of data privacy and cybersecurity maturity of a business which, in turn, affects the value of the data and practices of the targeted organization.
Poor data security and privacy practices can lead to a devaluation of the business calculus and create an unforeseen situation where an organization suddenly becomes a liability rather than the intended asset. In the current shifting legal and technological environment, ignoring or leaving cybersecurity and data privacy due diligence in an M&A transaction to the last minute can be a costly enterprise. In addition, the nature and type of contractual obligations in and around data privacy and cybersecurity can also create a potential for substantial liability if the organization has not operationalized its privacy and security program. Each part of this due diligence is interconnected and can wreak havoc if not properly assessed and, in some instances, immediately addressed.
Like water running downhill, any variation in terrain going forward will cause a parallel, and potentially unpredictable, directional shift.
All in, the industry is keenly aware of what consumers value – privacy. For example, trust in the product sold and confidence that their identity is secure topmost consumer surveys on the topic. Any cannabis business understands this fragile balance, and any path to growth in the industry must account for it. Same applies to trade secrets. Often the linchpin of a merger or acquisition will be the result of interest in innovative research or breakthrough technology developed by the target company. If it is discovered later that this proprietary work was potentially compromised or publicly disclosed, then the initial value used as the basis for negotiations could diminish exponentially if the work has been appropriated by a business competitor or industry rival looking for a market share advantage.
Due diligence is already part of the fabric of M&A deals. Reports suggest the large volume of global mergers and acquisitions overall is expected to continue this year from last despite worries over regulations and rising interest rates. But focusing on accounting and finances without spending time on determining past commitments to cyber readiness and compliance can unravel even the best of intentions. Valuation is a key calculus in these deals. Understanding the true value of what is being acquired or consolidated is essential to taking advantage of business opportunities for growth and return on investment for an industry primed for both.
Rebecca L. Rakoski, Esq. is Co-Founder and Managing Partner at XPAN Law Partners, LLP. Rebecca counsels and defends public and private corporations, and their boards, during data breaches and responds to state/federal regulatory compliance and enforcement actions.
Patrick D. Isbill, Esq. is also Co-Founder and Managing Partner at XPAN Law Partners, LLP. Patrick’s practice focuses on cybersecurity and data privacy compliance and enforcement, addressing the business needs and demands of highly regulated industries.
This article does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. The information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.
As we approach the end of Q1 2022 and prepare to enter Q2, it’s become clear that this is going to be an important year for the cannabis industry. Cannabis business professionals and investors looking for signs of growth or stagnation in the industry will certainly be interested to see how things unfold. With that in mind,CannaBusiness ERP has put together a list of the top cannabis trends for 2022, and those trends appear to be pointing to more growth. However, it’s clear that difficulties for the cannabis sector are still imminent.
Cannabis Trends for 2022
It almost goes without saying that the cannabis industry is complex and not without its fair share of challenges as the most highly regulated industry on the market. For businesses looking to grow, keeping up with complicated and evolving regulations can be stressful enough on a business in and of itself. Cannabis cultivators, processors, and consultants can look to cannabis industry trends to inform their operational decisions.
Increased legalization in the United States
Support for legalization in the USA continues to rise. In fact, a2021 Gallup poll found that 68% of Americans are in favor of legalizing cannabis. Not only is this a record number of supporters, but this percentage also reflects a growing sentiment among Americans regarding the use of legal cannabis.
The changing tide towards legalization is clear – more states passed legislation to legalize cannabis either medicinally or recreationally in 2021, with several more introducing legalization bills in2022. Because states operate independently of each other, every state will have its own policies as well as regulatory and compliance requirements, which can make things very confusing for cannabis businesses, especially multi-state operators (MSOs).
Leading cannabis business experts are predicting strong sales growth this year due to the growth in legalized markets for cannabis. In fact, legal cannabis sales reached $19.5 billion in 2020, and expertsare projecting sales to reach $30 billion in 2022. Washington State alone, which legalized cannabis ten years ago in 2012, is expected to generate $1.5 billion in sales, up from $1.2 billion sales in 2020. But Washington’s projected sales are small when you compare them to California’s projected sales of $7.6 billion. And as more states legalize cannabis, more sales will surely follow.
Another contributing factor to increased cannabis sales is related to increased demand and a growing number of product types. More consumers are learning why cannabis can be beneficial to them, including more restful sleep, lowering stress, lessening pain symptoms, and recreational use. Additionally, with so many products on the market, cannabis consumers have many options to choose from, ranging from edibles to tinctures to topical ointments and more.
Cannabis experts are predicting a growth in cannabis consumption lounges – the cannabis equivalent of a bar or restaurant that allows consumers to use cannabis on-site. According to theCannabis Industry Journal, the popularity of these lounges is growing because they provide consumers with a legal and safe space to consume cannabis. Just as with alcohol, the lounges are regulated according to laws set by each state.
Increasing sales means cannabis businesses are at a critical junction and need to scale operations to meet the growing demand. One way cannabis growers and processors can capitalize on the demand is by streamlining the business end-to-end withcloud-based cannabis business management software. Otherwise known as Cannabis Cloud ERP, it manages production, cultivation, compliance, inventory, financials and traceability, sales, purchasing, and more, all in one system that lives in the Cloud.
Increased legislative bills and pressure for federalization
Under U.S. Federal Law in the Controlled Substances Act, cannabis is still considered a Schedule I substance. However, as the number of states legalizing cannabis either recreationally, medicinally or both has increased, so too has broader support for federalization in the U.S. government. In fact, there are several bills in the U.S. congressional houses that may positively impact the cannabis industry, especially with banking challenges.
Due to the Schedule I federal classification of cannabis, many banks will not work with cannabis companies, creating tedious banking hurdles that are difficult to solve. TheNational Law Review writes, “Yet, in comparison to other industries, legitimate licensed cannabis-related businesses remain hobbled by the difficulties they face in accessing traditional banking and financial services – largely due to the fact that ‘marijuana’ is still considered illegal on the federal level under the Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”). Currently, financial institutions (including federally insured banks) are hesitant, and oftentimes unwilling, to work with cannabis-related businesses due to fear of reprisal from federal banking regulators.”
Congressional representatives have introduced a decent amount of bills geared towards making much-needed changes to banking processes for cannabis, such as the SAFE Banking Act of 2021, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in April 2021. It is currently awaiting action in theU.S. Senatewith broad support from both sides of the aisle. If it passes both chambers of Congress, the act will allow cannabis companies to have business-critical access to banking and financial services and would reduce their need to operate as cash-only businesses and remove yearly challenges with tax accounting and reconciliation.
In addition to the SAFE Banking Act, there are other bills like U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA), which is a push for federal cannabis legalization as well as an equity play. If passed, it is a measure towards ensuring small businesses and minority-owned businesses have access to financial services.
However, even with the tide of public opinion and legal momentum shifting in the industry’s favor, there remains a challenge with the U.S. tax code. Due to IRS Code Section 280E, if a business is trafficking certain controlled substances, like cannabis, that business is unable to deduct business expenses on their taxes. California has taken steps to address this by signing bills that help cannabis businesses overcome this code, but this is still a prohibitive factor for cannabis companies across the U.S.
Fortunately, cannabis companies that invest in a comprehensive Cannabis Cloud ERP solution with a reputable and experienced industry partner are better able to handle any hurdles that come their way.
Increased Merger and Acquisition (M&A) activity
Merger and Acquisition (M&A) activity has been steady in the industry and 2022 will see even more M&A activity. According toMJBizDaily’s article, “Marijuana M&A sizzled in 2021 and is poised for a hot 2022. Marijuana merger and acquisition activity proceeded at a torrid pace in 2021 – and could accelerate in 2022 – thanks to lower interest costs and pressure on larger companies to expand their footprints and boost revenue.”
Citing prominent cannabis acquisitions in 2021, such as Jazz Pharmaceuticals’ acquisition of GW Pharma (for $7.2 billion) and Trulieve’s acquisition of Harvest Health (for $2.1 billion), it is apparent that M&A is not going to slow down. According toBusiness of Cannabis, several deals are already taking place in 2022. Massachusetts-based Curaleaf acquired Arizona-based Bloom Dispensaries for $211 million, adding a total of 13 Arizona dispensaries and 121 dispensaries nationwide to Curaleaf’s portfolio.
For cannabis companies dealing in M&As and becoming Multi-state Operators (MSOs), it is essential to have a comprehensive, full-suite Cannabis Cloud ERP system that can run all the companies in one system. It is a crucial ingredient to manage their M&A transactions and handle their financial statements, compliance, business transactions, and more.
Most important of all, cannabis companies need to choose the right cannabis ERP.
Jennifer Spanos is the VP of Product and Vertical Strategy at CannaBusiness ERP. She has 14+ years of experience in cannabis and food manufacturing software and operations, working to maximize the efficiency and profitability of customers’ businesses.
CannaBusiness ERP: The Right Cannabis Business Management Software. Cannabis companies can grow their business with an ERP solution designed for the cannabis industry and for MSOs expanding into new markets. Learn how CannaBusiness ERP can set businesses on the right path. Manage financials, operations, quality, compliance, traceability, customers and more.
CannaBusiness ERP iscannabis business management software that is built-inSage X3 and configured byNexTec industry experts to deliver a complete cannabis business solution. Our specialization in developing solutions for the cannabis cultivation and processing industry has resulted in some of the most respected companies around the world managing their day-to-day operation using CannaBusiness ERP.
To learn more about the fast-paced movement in cannabis legalization and how Cannabis Cloud ERP software can help your company keep pace,reach out to us. We’d love to show you what CannaBusiness ERP can do for your business.
Committee Blog: Protect Against Corporate Identity Theft with Trademark Rights
A company’s brand is its identity. Branding elements – names, logos, colors, graphics, slogans – are how customers recognize a product or service as coming from a particular source. Done properly, brands can be as recognizable to consumers as a person’s face, name, and voice. In some cases, brands may be some of the most valuable assets a company may own. Protecting physical assets is common in the cannabis industry, but how do companies protect intangible assets, like their identity? Fortunately, there are bodies of intellectual property law designed to provide legal protections against others from using brand elements that are too close to your own. To take advantage of these protections, however, cannabis companies must understand how each one works and develop a branding strategy that leverages intellectual property laws.
This is the second article in a 3-part series about cannabis IP. The first article focused on patent law and can be found here. The series will culminate with a Q&A-based webinar on April 19th at 1:00 Eastern. Advance questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mechanisms of Brand Protection
Brands are protected most prominently by legal domains known as trademark and trade dress. Trademarks include a company’s name, logos, and slogans, as well as those of any individual products. In some instances, trademarks may also include recognizable elements like colors (UPS’s brown) and sounds (NBC’s chimes). Trade dress is a similar concept to trademarks, but applies to the distinct appearance of a product or its packaging. Trade dress can even be used to protect the unique look and feel of a retail establishment, such as a restaurant or dispensary.
Both trademark and trade dress is intended to reduce confusion in the marketplace as to the origin of a product or service. The idea is that the public is best served when they can reliably determine which company to associate with each product. Reliable product-company association increases quality accountability, facilitates safety controls, allows consumers to form powerful brand loyalty.
Companies that avail themselves of trademark and trade dress laws gain access to a set of tools to legally fence off others from using branding that is likely to confuse customers about the source of a product. And, unlike other forms of intellectual property, trademark rights can last indefinitely and even strengthen over time. Some of these rights arise automatically just by using a mark, others must be sought out through registration.
Principles to Consider When Selecting a Brand
Every company should consider trademark principles from day zero, when first selecting a name. U.S. trademark rights only apply to marks that are “distinctive,” meaning they are capable of distinguishing things bearing the mark from goods and services offered by others. The more distinctive a mark is, the stronger protections provided by trademark law. Names that merely describe the goods or services are non-distinctive and are typically not eligible for trademark protection.
There are five general categories along the spectrum of distinctiveness – fanciful, arbitrary, suggestive, descriptive, and generic – arranged from strongest to weakest.
Fanciful marks words that were invented specifically to serve as a trademark, such as Xerox or Nvidia. Because these words have no other meaning than to identify the source of goods or services, they are the most distinctive category of trademark and receive the greatest protections.
Arbitrary marks are the second most distinctive category of mark and include words that have alternative meanings, but only meanings in contexts unrelated to the goods or services being sold. These include Apple computers, Lotus cars, and Bicycle playing cards.
Suggestive marks are less distinctive than Fanciful and Arbitrary marks, but still considered sufficiently distinctive to receive trademark protection, though registration may be more difficult. Suggestive marks imply a quality or characteristic of the good or service the mark is used in connection with. Some examples of suggestive marks would include: Microsoft, a portmanteau of microprocessors and software; ChapStick, for a stick-shaped balm used on chapped lips; and Netflix, which is suggestive of an internet-based video service.
Descriptive marks simply describe the goods or services being offered and are, therefore, not distinctive. In some cases, however, descriptive marks can acquire distinctiveness and achieve a “secondary meaning” as a source-identifier through long-term use (usually +5 years), heavy advertising, or pervasive adoption. Examples of Descriptive Marks would include: International Business Machines (IBM Computers); Best Buy retail stores; and Sports Illustrated magazine.
Generic marks are terms that broadly identify the product or service being offered. Generic marks are so non-distinctive that they are not eligible for trademark registration, even if secondary meaning can be shown. The idea is that these marks are so fundamental to the product that it would be detrimental to consumers and the marketplace to allow a brand to have exclusive use of the term in connection with the goods. “Escalator” and “Dumpster” were once brand names but, because they were used widely to refer to all mechanized stairways and trash receptacles regardless of manufacturer, they lost all trademark distinctiveness.
Parody Does Not Apply – Avoid Famous Brands
A surprising number of cannabis companies have used trademarks that reference or parody famous brands. Gorilla Glue, Girl Scout Cookies, and many others have been used as names for cannabis products. Companies have used packaging that resembles well-known products such as Life Savers and Sour Patch Kids. This is a bad idea. While this practice seems to be increasingly limited to unregulated markets, a recently published (and ill-advised) application for the mark and logo MCWEED for apparel shows that not everyone has received the message:
Registration and Scope of Protection
Some trademark rights are established as soon as a trademark is used in commerce. But to obtain the full scope of legal protections available, trademark owners must register their marks, preferably federally. Federal registration stakes a claim to a nationwide priority date, increases protections available, increases potential damages, and embodies a definities property that can accrue value.
All trademark registrations begin as applications. Trademark applications must, among other things, identify the mark, the applicable dates of use. Applicants must also describe the goods and/or services the mark is (or will be) used with and select one or more classes from an international menu of product classifications. The classes selected and the description of the products can greatly affect the scope and validity of a registration, so it is important to consult with an experienced trademark attorney.
These applications are examined by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office to ensure they meet the statutory requirements. Typically, the USPTO completes examination within about 6 months, but currently the office is experiencing some delays and it is commonly taking 7-10 months for an application to be evaluated. If the examining attorney identifies any problems, they may issue rejections, to which the applicant will have an opportunity to respond.
If the USPTO approves the application, it will be published for 30 days (expandable to 180 days) to allow other trademark owners to oppose registration of the mark. Sophisticated trademark owners can set up alerts to be notified when any similar applications are published that may be concerning. At the close of that period the mark is recorded in the federal register and the trademark registration is complete.
A qualified trademark attorney can help guide you through the process and provide counseling concerning how to maximize your chances of registering your trademark without prejudicing your rights. Trademark application fees run $250-$350 per class of goods or services and a trademark attorney will typically charge a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending on their experience and the level of pre-application clearance. While trademark mills and self-guided applications are available, there are many pitfalls to avoid while preparing and prosecuting a trademark application, and applicants should be wary of attempting to navigate the process without legal guidance.
Applicants should also be aware that many companies mine the USPTO database to send unsolicited offers to trademark applicants. While these offers can look official and typically include some deadline to respond, they are usually scams. Nevertheless, it can be helpful to have an attorney review any correspondence relating to the trademark application to ensure that no important correspondence from the USPTO is missed.
Embrace the Zone of Expansion
There are a lot of benefits to registering trademarks, but registration is not available in all instances. Under federal law, registrations cannot be issued that cover goods or services that are federally illegal. But the same mark can be registered for other, legal products, and the trademark rights will extend to a reasonable “zone of expansion,” covering products that the trademark owner could reasonably branch out to in the future. This allows a brand owner to obtain the benefits of federal trademark registration and use it to provide some umbrella protection for their cannabis brands.
One option is to sell branded accessory products, such as apparel or smoking accessories, for which a trademark registration will pass muster. It is debatable, however, whether cannabis products are within the zone of expansion of t-shirts.
A final option that every cannabis company should consider is state trademark registration. State registration requirements are typically governed by state law and, therefore, state trademark registrations can often be obtained for cannabis products. State registrations are more limited than federal registrations, but can be a powerful tool in the current landscape of cannabis IP.
Products with CBD Can Be Trademarked, But You Can’t Trademark “CBD” Products
Companies that produce hemp products do not have the same problem with federal illegality as companies with high-THC products. Federal registration is available for trademarks that are used on hemp and hemp products. However, as most hemp companies should know, the advertising of cannabidiol or “CBD” is regulated by the Federal Drug and Cosmetic Act (“FDCA”), 21 U.S.C. §§ 321(g)(1), 331(d) and 355(a). Because CBD is the active ingredient in an FDA-approved drug (Epidiolex®), the FDCA prohibits marketing CBD products (absent a New Drug Application or Abbreviated New Drug Application). Though that may change. As of now, however, the USPTO will refuse to register marks that identify the goods as “CBD.” In re AgrotecHemp Corp., Serial No. 88979905 (issued Feb. 10, 2022) (finding that PUREXXXCBD for plant extracts should be refused registration).
Notably, the AgrotechHemp decision went further than previous USPTO decisions in that it also criticized the issuance of registrations for marks used on products “derived from hemp.” This may signal a crackdown on all hemp-related registrations, or it may be limited to registrations that explicitly identify the goods as containing “CBD.”
Where’s the Value in Trademarks?
It may come as no surprise that brands can be incredibly valuable assets. In some cases, a company’s brand can make up a significant portion of its balance sheet and brand-centric companies can fetch a premium when they are acquired, known as “goodwill.” Increasingly, specialized lenders are even willing to use secured IP as financing collateral. Nonetheless, the real value for many trademark owners is non-monetary.
When many people think about intellectual property, they recall headlines of jury verdicts with huge damages that can reach into the billions of dollars. The reality is that, absent intentional copying, trademark cases rarely result in large-dollar awards. More often, successful trademark suits result in an injunction preventing further infringement and some relatively minimal damages. The primary value of trademark rights is the ability to control your brand and how consumers perceive your brand in the marketplace. Trademark rights give you the tools to define your brand as a unique identity and preserve that identity in an increasingly crowded industry.
Video: NCIA Today – Thursday, March 24, 2022
NCIA Deputy Director of Communications Bethany Moore checks in with what’s going on across the country with the National Cannabis Industry Association’s membership, board, allies, and staff. Join us every other Thursday on Facebook for NCIA Today Live.
Member Blog: Trends in Cannabis Technology – Data Mining And Compliance
Cannabis businesses are looking for the best practices to enhance operations, with a primary focus on optimization and growth. So whether you are in the cultivation, production, manufacturing, or selling and marketing section of the cannabis industry, you need technology to steer your business into the future.
The cannabis industry is still growing, albeit faster than anticipated, with an increasing demand for products that continue propelling innovation. Data is driving this innovation because it’s the differentiating factor for long-term success and sustainability.
Today, cannabis is a $25 billion business in the U.S. In fact, the 2022 Leafly Jobs Report found the legal cannabis industry supports 428,059 right now, a 33% increase over the 280 new jobs created per day, on average, last year.
We know all of this because of data, and it’s a critical decision-making factor in this industry. Without access to real-time information, cannabis companies can’t know where to invest or improve to remain competitive and compliant.
Here are the top 4 data and technology trends transforming the cannabis industry to keep in mind.
Laws and Regulations Software
Cannabis compliance is one of the most challenging yet vital factors to consider in the cannabis industry. Government mandates demand that cannabis companies provide cultivation, production, shipping, and sales information to help monitor the entire distribution process.
This makes sense because lack of transparency in other industries has caused several crises, likethe vaping crisis or theromaine lettuce E.coli outbreak of 2019. But collecting, tracking, and monitoring data is challenging for businesses, so is understanding the government regulations and ramifications.
With the emergence of cloud-based cannabis software, cannabis companies remain updated with these tight data restrictions. This software collects the appropriate data and analyzes business operations by checking the right boxes to ensure compliance.
With these industry-specific software solutions, cannabis businesses can establish and implement a standard of operations that comply with cannabis regulations. As an added benefit, these solutions offer convenient avenues for cannabis employees and business owners alike to understand the rules and regulations of the industry. Some also provide security against potential threats like cybersecurity threats.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML)
Cannabis plants usually require significant attention and fixed schedules because of their temperamental nature. As such, AI and ML are taking effect in the cannabis industry. Machine learning gathers data and provides suggestions on what farmers can change in the growing process.
The detail in machine learning makes it possible to collect, monitor, and track the growing cycle every hour, meaning cannabis farms use machine learning to improve these plants’ growing environment significantly.
For instance, farmers are using agricultural sensors to manipulate the growing environment to suit the needs of the cannabis plants. This is achieved by connecting the environment to growing systems with humidity sensors and controls, thermostats, and temperature controls.
These sensors ensure that cannabis is continually growing in optimal conditions. As such, the products cultivated continue to be of high quality.
Also, the machine learning sensors and tracking IDs make it easier to track cannabis products from seed to sale.
Artificial intelligence then automates these processes to make the entire growing experience easy for cannabis farmers. For instance, AI helps to automatically control the humidity levels as per the settings given by the farm moderator.
AI also automatically changes the light in the growing room since it affects the temperature needed for the plants to grow optimally. This continued innovation and adoption of AI and machine learning in the cannabis industry will lead to increased crop production and reduced manual labor.
Hybrid Cloud-Based Storage
Video data is a significant investment in the cannabis industry right now. Some government regulations outline the need for cannabis companies to have immediate access to video surveillance footage and on-demand. This need is driving the demand for storage spaces for the video footage.
While many cannabis businesses store data on-site, it is unpredictable and expensive. This is where hybrid cloud-based storage technology comes in. The technology is enough to hold video data until it is needed, like in the case of a cyberattack and the subsequent investigation.
It also gives cannabis businesses the choice to store data on-site and in the cloud. This enhances the flexibility, accessibility, and security of business files. Cloud platforms also make it easier to access business information from any location.
Traditionally, the cannabis industry is a cash transaction industry, especially in dispensaries where the majority of the cannabis sales take place. Additionally, many cannabis businesses find it challenging to work with banks since most aren’t legally allowed to work with companies in the industry.
There is also the matter of making secure payments and tracking transactions successfully. In a word, the cannabis industry is adopting blockchain technology for cryptocurrency payments and transaction tracking.
Blockchain is secure, and it has processes that make it easy to track and monitor transactions. But because using blockchain as an alternative to traditional payments methods is a relatively new trend, there is still the challenge of getting cannabis companies to agree on solutions that can standardize the trend.
Every business industry is now leveraging data by defining connections between the different data points and gathering actionable insights on processes. As such, you can optimize, strategize, plan, report, and identify problems using business data.
You can also better understand the consumer using data insights like your consumer consumption preferences. As such, data is crucial for determining where to invest, improve, and remain competitive and compliant in the cannabis industry.
What is the future of the cannabis industry?
The future of the cannabis industry is very bright… The cannabis industry is expected to grow by about 20 to 30 percent every year to a value of $50 billion by 2026.
How is technology influencing the cannabis industry?
Technology is propelling the growth of the cannabis industry quickly. Cannabis businesses use innovation and technology to identify downtime in workflows, streamline processes, and identify opportunities for success and growth.
What is the role of data in cannabis manufacturing?
Data is critical for improving all the cannabis processes from seed to sale. Decisions driven by data significantly improve the quality of the cannabis operations from cultivation through to marketing, sales, and customer satisfaction. As such, data is now an integral part of cannabis manufacturing.
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.
Member Blog: FDA Cites Multiple Violations for Selling CBD as Supplement, Food, Cosmetic, or Animal Food Ingredient
The FDA’s position on the use of CBD in dietary supplements and foods is steadfast. In 2021, five warning letters about CBD-containing dietary supplements and foods went out – three based on website reviews and two based on facility inspections. All cited violations relate to pain relief claims. The products are therefore unapproved new drugs. Two warning letters emphasize the FDA’s position that CBD does not meet the definition of a dietary supplement, from which it is excluded due to the authorization for investigation as a new drug.
In November 2019, the FDA published 15 warning letters in a “catch-all” effort regarding cannabidiol products. The products range from articles sold as dietary supplements, conventional foods, cosmetics, and animal food. The FDA sent out the 15 warning letters to companies in a number of states, including California, Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Oregon, New York, Florida, North Carolina, Arizona, and Kentucky based on the content of websites and social media sites. This was not the first time the FDA had sent warning letters regarding cannabidiol [CBD]. The first seven CBD warning letters were issued in March 2019, so attentive manufacturers could have been aware of t the FDA’s position and that enforcement actions might be taken.
In the 2019 warning letters, the FDA states that CBD in products sold as dietary supplements does not meet the definition of dietary ingredients in the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (321(ff)(B)(i)(ii)). This provision clarifies that a dietary ingredient cannot be a substance that has been approved as an active ingredient in a drug. The FDA has confirmed that CBD is an active ingredient in the approved drug Epidiolex.
Products containing CBD and sold as conventional food often worry the FDA even more, because they are often advertised for toddlers and infants. FDA clarified that CBD does not have an authorization as a food additive. Food additives need to be pre-approved by the FDA and there is no such regulation for CBD. CBD also is not a GRAS substance. This is based on the FDA’s review of publicly available data, which shows that CBD is potentially harmful and may cause liver injuries and interact with other drugs. Furthermore, studies in animals have shown that it might impair sexual behavior in males.
Similarly, the FDA states in relevant warning letters that CBD is an unapproved new animal drug because of the disease claims. The products are also adulterated animal foods because there is no animal food additive regulation that authorizes the use of CBD and there is no basis to conclude that CBD is GRAS for use in animal foods.
Besides the illegal status of CBD as a dietary ingredient, the warning letters regard the products as unapproved new drugs, because they claim that CBD cures, mitigates, treats, or even prevents diseases. Most warning letters are very long because the manufacturers cite numerous diseases for which CBD might be helpful. CBD is often depicted as a “cure-all.” Some of the popular disease claims involve pain relief, anti-inflammatory, diabetes, acne, anxiety, depression, and cancer. For example, one warning letter cites 45 diseases. Simultaneous to being unapproved new drugs, all products are regarded as misbranded drugs.
Most 2019 warning letters were signed by three FDA compliance directors from Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, Center for Veterinary Medicine, and Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. In some of the earlier warning letters, the FDA also involved FTC – Federal Trade Commission – because of unsubstantiated claims. Both agencies are concerned that some of the efficacy claims may not be substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence.
There are clearly more than 27 companies in the market selling CBD. My thought is that the FDA has picked some of the worst offenders with respect to claims to establish impressive examples. Throughout the years in articles and press notifications, the FDA has always stated the regulatory position that CBD does not meet the definition of a dietary ingredient. This position has been challenged by industry and is a controversial topic. Some plaintiffs’ lawyers have initiated class-action lawsuits on the basis that clients were harmed by buying an illegal product and paying too much for it. It appears that the FDA is currently only enforcing against CBD products with disease claims. So far, the FDA has not written warning letters solely because a dietary supplement uses CBD. All of the mentioned warning letters could have been written to any dietary supplement making obvious disease claims.
So, what can be learned from the FDA’s actions? The first and most important step for manufacturers would be to “clear” all web pages, social media pages, and third-party referrals of disease statements. A second approach should be to not use CBD as a food ingredient or as an animal food ingredient. As a regulatory strategy, this may buy some time until the controversy about the legality of use in dietary supplements is clarified. For dietary supplements – in a conservative regulatory approach – a next step could be not using CBD as a dietary ingredient, because it is an approved drug.
A possible alternative legal ingredient is a full spectrum hemp extract which contains all hemp components – not just isolated CBD. Hemp-derived ingredients are eligible for use as dietary ingredients by virtue of being “botanicals.” However, hemp-derived substances must submit a New Dietary Ingredient notification 75 days prior to first marketing the hemp supplement. A less conservative regulatory approach for dietary supplements could be to wait and see what the FDA decides under the pressure from industry and consumers. Hopefully soon, the FDA will clarify the legality of use in dietary supplements.
Gisela Leon brings in over 33 years of experience in international labeling. She is well-experienced in USA labeling requirements of food, dietary supplements and cosmetics, in European food laws and multi-language labeling. As a regulatory consultant, she focuses on a concise review process, having reviewed hundreds of labels for U.S. compliance and helped international products to come into compliance with U.S. regulations. Her international labeling background allows her to point out differences or similarities with other countries.
After receiving her Master’s degree in Food Technology Engineering, Ms. Leon received her DGQ Audit-Specialist Certification from the German Institute for Quality, and her Master’s in Business Administration from George Mason University. For over 20 years she worked at Schöller Lebensmittel GmbH & Co KG as Director of Quality Management and Labeling Compliance. Ms. Leon speaks English, German, and French.
EAS Consulting Group, as part of the Certified Group of companies, merged with Food Safety Net Services, (FSNS), to become the global leader in testing and regulatory solutions for the FDA and USDA regulated industries.
EAS’ network of 200 independent advisors and consultants enables us to provide comprehensive consulting, training and auditing services, ensuring proactive regulatory and quality compliance for food, dietary supplements, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, cosmetics, tobacco, hemp and CBD.
The merger of FSNS (FSNS.com) with the Certified Laboratories group of companies, (certified-laboratories.com), has created a leading, national testing and regulatory consulting platform. EAS can assist with your regulatory and quality requirements and challenges, while offering access to a robust scope of testing services to meet your organization’s sophisticated needs.
From regulatory strategy, auditing, training, FDA inspection preparation, 483 & Warning letter remediation, quality system implementation, labeling compliance, preparation of technical submissions such as GRAS, Food Additive Petitions, DMFs, NDIs, 510(k)s and more; to FSMA compliance, expert witness services and due diligence assessments, EAS offers the expert knowledge and experience your company requires to ensure compliance through accurate and timely assistance. With our vast expertise in FDA’s and USDA’s policies and enforcement, EAS is the proven choice for assistance with product testing and other regulatory and quality consulting solutions. easconsultinggroup.com
Member Blog: 5 Must-Have Features for Your Cannabis eCommerce Website
As the cannabis industry goes mainstream, eCommerce is increasingly becoming a necessary part of cannabis retail operations. But with a plethora of dispensary eCommerce solutions available, not all of these can help you build an online presence. With intense competition in cannabis retail, there are some things that you must not compromise on as a dispensary owner. The following five must-have cannabis eCommerce features will help you grow your dispensary business, differentiate yourself from competitors and establish yourself as a formidable brand in the online cannabis space.
Independent eCommerce Platform
When deciding how to sell cannabis online, retailers can either use a third-party marketplace or have their own eCommerce website. Using a marketplace may be the easier option, but in the long run, you will certainly benefit more from owning an independent eCommerce platform. Having your own cannabis eCommerce website gives you complete control over the design, product information, and branding, unlike a third-party marketplace that offers little room for customization. Another valuable benefit of an independent cannabis eCommerce platform is that you can market it directly to online visitors and existing customers and build brand loyalty.
Data Ownership For Building Relationships
To market your online cannabis platform directly to your target demographics, it’s essential to have access to their contact details, which is not possible when you use third-party marketplace platforms. With an independent eCommerce platform, you will not just own your website but also all customer information and other relevant data to help you create innovative marketing campaigns and offer a more personalized online customer experience. Through email marketing and loyalty program communications, you can keep your customers regularly engaged with your brand and grow your business by building long-lasting relationships.
Mobile and SEO-friendly Website
These days, consumers regularly use their smartphones to search the web and make online purchases. Hence, your eCommerce website must function properly not just on desktops but mobile devices as well. You must avoid using an iFrame embedded menu, employed by many third-party marketplaces, as Google won’t crawl or index your website. To ensure that your online cannabis store is discoverable, use an advanced native eCommerce solution that aids in building SEO authority. If your chosen solution offers the ability to create content, you can also capitalize on SEO best practices to improve the flow of organic traffic to your website.
Age-Gating and Compliance Features
If you’re selling products online that have legal age restrictions, then an age-gate on your website is a must. This is not just a compliance requirement, but it also demonstrates your commitment to not exposing cannabis to minors. Many regulatory authorities in the U.S. and Canada are mandating more robust online age-gating measures beyond a simple “Are you 21+ yes or no” pop-up, and it’s essential to choose a solution that offers the functionalities for you to comply with the laws. Your cannabis eCommerce store also must-have features that allow for compliance with legal purchase limits and any other online regulations within your state or province.
Integration with POS and Cannabis Ecosystem
Most importantly, your chosen eCommerce solution must integrate seamlessly with your POS system for efficient inventory management, transactions, and payment processing. Ensure that you are using an advanced cannabis POS system that syncs with leading cannabis tech ecosystem solutions so that you can streamline your online business and maintain a recurring revenue stream from it. For a seamless shopping experience, your customers should be able to browse the website, place an order, pay online and request for pickup or delivery.
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.
Allied Association Blog: Cal NORML Fights Ongoing Discrimination That Hurts Cannabis Businesses in California
Assemblymember Bill Quirk has introduced two bills sponsored by California NORML in this year’s legislative session that address ongoing human rights issues that are stumbling blocks for industry.
A pair of online surveys being conducted by California NORML is finding that up to 33% of respondents have been denied employment due to testing positive for cannabis, 19% have been denied prescription drugs by their doctor due to cannabis use, and up to 60% have stopped using cannabis because of drug testing by their employer or doctor.
This means as many as half of businesses’ potential customers aren’t buying cannabis products in California because of current laws. In addition, many Californians report they are underemployed because of their cannabis use, giving them less purchasing power at cannabis retailers.
The first bill to remedy this situation is AB 2188, which would end discrimination based on cannabis metabolites testing by California employers.
Testing or threatening to test bodily fluids for cannabis metabolites is the most common way that employers harass and discriminate against employees who lawfully use cannabis off the job. Cannabis metabolites are the non-psychoactive substances that can be detected in a person’s bodily fluids (mainly, urine and hair) for up to several weeks after they have consumed cannabis.
Testing positive for cannabis metabolites has no scientific value in establishing that a person is impaired on the job. When employers use cannabis metabolites tests to discriminate against employees or prospective employees, they are most likely discriminating against people who consumed cannabis when they were not at work.
Five other states (NV, NY, NJ, CT & MT) have passed laws in recent years protecting adult-use cannabis users’ employment rights, and 21 states protect those rights for medical marijuana users. Philadelphia, Washington D.C., and Atlanta also protect the rights of workers in their cities who use cannabis.
As in other states, the proposed California bill has exemptions for employers who are required to follow federal drug-testing mandates. Assemblymember Quirk’s bill does not bar employers from requiring that employees not be impaired on the job, and it does not prohibit other forms of testing, such as performance-based impairment testing or testing for THC, which may establish that a person has consumed cannabis in the past several hours.
Studies have shown that off-the-job cannabis use is not positively associated with elevated rates of occupational accidents or injuries, and that liberalized cannabis laws are associated greater labor participation, lower rates of absenteeism, declines in workers’ compensation filings, and higher wages.
The cities of Oakland and San Francisco have passed resolutions in favor of the employment rights bill’s language, and Cal NORML has been busy reaching out to unions and other stakeholders for support.
The second Cal NORML-sponsored bill to benefit California cannabis consumers — and the industry — is AB 1954, which seeks to protect the right of patients to medical treatment if they use medical cannabis, and the right of physicians and clinics to treat them.
Many physicians are under the mistaken impression that they can’t prescribe medication to patients who test positive for cannabis. The Quirk bill would clarify that physicians cannot be punished for treating patients who use medical cannabis, notwithstanding its illicit status under federal law.
A great many studies have shown cannabis is effective for pain and can help patients reduce their use of opiates. Cal NORML’s survey shows that 24-30% of respondents have increased their use of opiates or other medications due to drug testing by their doctor or employer. With an opiate overdose crisis continuing to affect California, we need to end policies that drive patients to use more dangerous and addictive drugs.
In Cal NORML’s membership polling, we have found that tax reduction is the #1 issue among our members. We are following and acting on 30-40 bills this year, including the various tax reform bills and other business-oriented proposals that have been introduced in the CA legislature this year, from a consumer rights standpoint.
Cal NORML has begun a Capital Campaign aimed at cannabis companies who do business in California to take us over the finish line on these important bills in 2022. We also offer business memberships with many perks, including discounts on NCIA memberships. We are always interested in hearing from our business members on how we can work together for cannabis consumers’ rights in California.
Ellen Komp is the Deputy Director of California NORML. Founded in 1972, Cal NORML is a non-profit, member-supported organization dedicated to reforming California’s marijuana laws. As the state chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, we lobby lawmakers, promote events, publish newsletters, offer legal and consumer health advice, and sponsor scientific research. Check out our website at www.CaNORML.org.
Member Blog: 9 Standard Operating Procedures Every Dispensary Should Have
by Tommy Truong, Director of Partnerships at KayaPush
Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are the documents, protocols, systems, and procedures that your cannabis dispensary should have in place to manage day-to-day operations. SOPs help dispensaries in many ways: From optimizing proper employeemanagement systems such as dispensary payroll and onboarding to ensuring compliance with regulations are consistently met, and more.
What are the top dispensary SOPs to use?
There are hundreds of dispensary SOPs that could be created, and they should constantly be evolving as your store grows.
Overall the goal of dispensary SOPs is to increase efficiency and help you become more profitable in the long run. That being said, these are the 9 types of dispensary SOPs we recommend you start with as you build and scale your dispensary store.
1 – Opening & closing procedures and SOPs
All brick and mortar retail stores should have SOPs in place for opening and closing the store. But especially stores that require high-security measures like cannabis retail stores. Opening and closing checklists for this special breed should include the following: Opening checklist:
Vibe check: Turn on lights, music, temperature, put out signs, clean.
Check for any signs of a break-in or forced entry every morning.
Make sure that all products in the display and stores are accounted for.
Put away any orders.
Turn on and start up all software systems.
Ensure you are in dress code (if applicable)
End of day checklist:
Check that the security cameras are working.
Lock all the doors and display cabinets.
Check and report any obvious security threats/ logbook.
Generate sales and compliance reports.
Closing the cash registers and POS system.
Turn off lights, music, bring in signs.
Clean and sanitize the store.
Lock all doors and perform security checks.
2 – Customer check-in procedures and SOPs
Many cannabis dispensaries violate their customer check-in procedures and end up facing fines and license suspensions by regulators. Due to this, it is crucial that you implement customer check-in SOPs to ensure compliance.
Customer check-in procedures include:
Proper budtender training on protocols beforehand.
Screen every customer entering the store to ensure they are of legal age.
Ensure customers have a valid license to purchase cannabis.
Scan the customer’s ID to make sure it is genuine and valid.
Check the customer’s age, and enter these details into your customer database or tracking system.
Check the system to ensure the customer has not already gone over their purchasing limit at a different store.
Follow proper serving protocols.
3 – Sales transaction process and SOPs
Sales transaction processes are crucial to the business because this is how the company generates its revenues. Keeping track of these is key. Do you have the following sales SOPs? Sales transaction processes could include:
Greeter procedures (first customer contact),
Boxing and packing procedures.
Answering customer product questions.
Recording product sales information into tracking systems.
Recording shipping information.
Processing various forms of payment.
Gathering sales tax to submit.
It would help if you integrated your SOPs with the technology you’re using, like cannabis-compliant POS systems.
4 – Delivery procedures and SOPs
Cannabis deliveries can get complicated as they tend to include strict guidelines around logistics. This is why it’s essential there are SOPs built around these logistics.
Delivery procedures could include:
Packaging and shipping guidelines with regards to the different types of products.
Procedures in place to pack and mark fragile deliveries — like glass bongs — clearly to ensure safe delivery.
Details and SOPs around third-party deliveries.
Sop’s around management tools or software.
Inputting data into the tracking software or POS system.
Proper accounting and documentation of the aforementioned.
5 – Security, accounting, and cash management protocols and SOPs
Cannabis retail stores face many challenges when storing and moving cash from the store to the bank. Since dispensaries are not legal at the federal level in the United States of America, they are limited in the services they can receive from banks. As a result of those limitations, dispensaries struggle with large amounts of cash being stored on the dispensary’s premises, so tight SOPs surrounding how to navigate these challenges are crucial.
Security and cash management protocols could include:
What employees are allowed in sensitive areas like stores and cash safes.
How long to keep security camera recordings and how to report a robbery.
How often armored trucks can pick up cash.
Who gives the cash to the trucks.
How the cash is stored while at the dispensary.
Who is keeping track of accounting and line items?
Who is keeping track of inventory management?
How are taxes being filed and accounted for, and by who?
6 – Track-and-trace & inventory management and SOPs
Track and Trace SOPs are important for every cannabis dispensary. In order to comply with the regulations, you have to adopt track and trace SOPs into your inventory management system.
These track and trace SOPs should cover:
Inventory management processes like procurement.
Transportation to store.
Track and trace software procedures that comply with local regulations.
Given how important track and trace SOPs are for compliance, you should automate this process if possible. Track-and-trace automation software can help you define the roles for each activity and integrate compliance checks.
7 – Quality assessment SOPs.
Quality assessment SOPs will make sure your product is up to the required standard by the regulators and that you are not violating any laws over what ingredients can be included in your products and how they are made. Failure to comply with these SOPs or pass a quality assessment could leave a dispensary owner at risk of losing their license. Quality assessment SOPs could include:
Purchasing products from verified sellers.
Ensuring products are tagged within tracking systems.
Ensuring you are selling products that you can legally sell within your geographic location.
Product feedback requests.
8 – Product recalls and emergencies and SOPs
Product recall SOPs will come into play when a defective product needs to be recalled from the market. This can be stressful for the team as it will lead to customers complaining, and management concerned about losses being recorded. One of the most valuable assets to have in this situation would be SOPs that guide your team on how to act in this situation without losing their cool or professionalism.
Recall SOPs could be:
How /who contacts purchasers.
Who is on top of product updates (do you have a compliance manager?).
Product recall script.
9 – Employee Management SOPs
Previously, these SOPs have been focused on inventory and store management, however, managing your staff is another large part of any dispensary operation.
How are employees’ performances reviewed, and by who?
These are the major SOPs that we believe you should have in place before opening or scaling, but don’t forget that enforcing them is just as crucial as implementing them!
The best way to run a compliant, systematic, and streamlined dispensary is to use great technology to help you succeed! Consider using a project management tool to help you stay on top of all your tasks, a people management solution for payroll, HR, time tracking, and scheduling, and a dispensary POS solution that integrates with track and trace technology and people management solution for the best results. By using the tools paired with standard operating procedures your dispensary is sure to succeed.
Author Tommy Truong is the Director of Partnerships 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.
Member Blog: Will 2022 Be the Year for Cannabis Consumption Lounges?
Key Questions & Considerations for Those Looking to Ride the Next Big Wave
In the ever-evolving and fiercely competitive cannabis industry, consumption lounges (a.k.a. social or smoking lounges) are generating big buzz. Innovators and proponents for their legalization see it as a prime opportunity to better compete in a saturated market, attract new customers and grow market share. Opponents throw up a heap of red flags, including drugged driving, crime, and the health risks associated with smoke exposure.
Whether this new retail business model blows up in 2022 or not is anybody’s guess. Nevertheless, our industry must prepare for this next big wave in cannabis consumption. As an insurance broker who specializes in the cannabis industry and works with a wide variety of cannabis, hemp, and CBD businesses in every state where marijuana laws are established, we’ve done a deeper dive into the opportunities, and risks versus rewards for businesses looking to ride the potentially next big wave in cannabis.
The concept of a cannabis consumption lounge is nothing new, really. Similar to a bar that serves alcoholic beverages, consumers at least 21 years of age can not only purchase flower, edibles, etc. from a budtender but also consume these products in a social gathering place. Amsterdam’s “coffee shops” serve as the inspiration and model for cannabis innovation in the U.S. In the Netherlands, however, coffee shops operate in a legal grey area with their products being supplied by an entirely underground cultivation market. Of course, here in the U.S., the burden falls on individual states since marijuana remains illegal at the federal level.
Analysts predict cannabis consumption lounges will be a budding business in states where recreational and/or medical marijuana is legal. This emerging business model is particularly attractive to states with more mature cannabis laws, like California and Nevada. Alaska became the first U.S. state to allow consumption lounges in 2019 and Nevada is the latest to announce plans for the first state-sanctioned lounges by mid-2022. In all, seven states including the aforementioned, as well as New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Illinois, are forging ahead with their plans to allow for consumption lounges in 2022. These states will likely serve as a blueprint for other states as their popularity grows.
Risks versus Rewards of Cannabis Consumption Lounges
State regulatory bodies are grappling with how to develop, implement and enforce the rules surrounding social consumption lounges. For example, what will the laws around consumption lounges look like? How will business mitigate the myriad of risks? From an insurance perspective, will there be a need for new products? Should coverages be similar to Bar/Restaurant/Lounge insurance (DRAM Insurance), as both types of businesses face similar risks?
They will also need to carefully address questions and concerns about public health implications. Could public consumption spaces cause people to over-consume? Will there be limits on how much cannabis a person is allowed to consume at a lounge in one visit? What is a “single serving” of cannabis anyway? These are all questions surfacing to the top.
Many see the potential benefits of licensed social consumption lounges as ways to curb the illicit market, regulate public consumption, ensure consumption in a safe space and bolster the economy. A “Designated Consumption Establishment License” is particularly attractive to entrepreneurs looking to enter the cannabis market, but aren’t interested in growing, processing, or operating a traditional dispensary. Furthermore, cannabis consumption lounges are particularly attractive for their potential to attract tourism dollars. The masses of tourists buying cannabis products in states that have legalized recreational marijuana have nowhere to smoke it legally — not on the sidewalk and not in their hotel rooms.
What Lies Ahead?
In order for the cannabis industry to continue to thrive and expand, new retail models must be considered. We believe it is highly likely that social consumption lounges will become increasingly common, especially in major U.S. cities with legal adult-use cannabis programs.
If you’re thinking about opening a cannabis consumption lounge, it’s important to stay on top of your state’s specific laws since they do vary from state to state and are likely to change and evolve. It’s equally important to make sure you have the right insurance policies in place. Many insurance companies have exclusions in their policies that prohibit onsite consumption, meaning your lounge would not be covered if an unexpected event like a theft, fire, data breach, product defect, accident, or any other type of lawsuit occurs. It’s important to examine your current policies and make adjustments, if necessary. It all boils down to the THREE P’s: being “Proactive, Prepared and Protected.”
Eric Rahn, Managing Director of S2S Insurance Specialists, is a highly specialized insurance broker and risk management professional with over 30 years of experience providing C-Suite executives strategies and solutions that protect and safeguard their businesses.
A graduate of Babson College School of Entrepreneurial Studies, Eric has held several executive positions in the maritime and casino/gaming industries, including CEO of the largest privately own casino concessions company operating on cruise ships around the world. Eric transitioned his knowledge of corporate business practices in highly regulated industries into the burgeoning cannabis space, establishing S2S Insurance Specialists in 2017.
Eric has served on the National Cannabis Industry Association’s (NCIA) Risk Management Insurance Committee since 2016. He is also a national speaker on cannabis insurance and author of NCIA’s Risk Management and Insurance’s “Introduction into Cannabis Insurance.”
According to Grand View Research, Inc., the global legal cannabis market is expected to do two things: Reach USD 70.6 billion by 2028 and expand at a CAGR of 26.7% from 2021 to 2028. Support for federalizing cannabis and increased sales—during a global pandemic and a recession—have transformed the cannabis industry’s status as that of a relative newcomer into that of a seasoned player. As new markets begin to emerge, cultivators and processors are eyeing the possibility of becoming multi-state operators (MSOs).
The Who, What, Where and When of Expanding in New Cannabis Markets
Anyone ready and willing to take on the complexities of a cannabis-related business is welcome to do so. However, there are challenges. Investopedia provides a list of these challenges, including (but not limited to) competing against other more established industries, such as alcohol and tobacco, that are joining the fray; facing the stigma of selling, producing, and distributing a newly legalized drug; and complying with the differing laws on legality, use, distribution and growth in states.
If someone is ready to take the plunge, the guide offers a list of 10 states MSOs should focus their attention on, such as Nevada, New York, and Pennsylvania. It also highlights the pros and cons of each state’s legalization efforts. For example, here’s what it says about New York, which legalized adult-use cannabis this year:
“With adult-use cannabis officially legalized in the state as of March 2021, the New York market is predicted to be one of the biggest to watch for over the next few years. Sales in the state are expected to begin in 2022 and huge growth is expected in both the recreational and medical cannabis markets.”
For existing large-scale cannabis companies, these states represent expansion opportunities. To expand, they need to get a new license or acquire an existing cannabis company. Or do both.
However expansion occurs, challenges and benefits exist. For instance, a challenge for companies securing new licenses is the need to set up brand-new operations and production processes.
“Even if an MSO is successful in another market, rules around taxes, packaging, and serial numbers vary from state to state, so new business practices will likely have to be built from the ground up,” the guide notes. “On top of this, MSOs vying for new licenses will also need a mother plant, seedlings, equipment, people, and more to get the business off the ground.”
A benefit for companies going through the acquisition route is that they are acquiring a company that has licensing in place and has established processes for state rules and regulations.
The ‘How To’ of Successfully Expanding Into New Markets
With cannabis ERPsoftware, MSOs can juggle multi-site, multi-company, and multi-state requirements. But, as the guide cautions, they need to realize that not all ERP solutions have the width and depth of functionality that is needed to support MSO expansion. MSOs’ research and evaluation process should lead them to a full-scale, true ERP software solution that operates as a single, unified system.
The right cannabis ERP software provides finance, operations, and seed-to-sale capabilities. Here are some featural highlights to consider:
Robust Business Intelligence (BI) functionality
MSO cultivators and processors also should look for cannabis software that is flexible and adaptable to the changing needs of an expanding business, implementing only the features they need for their business now. As an MSO expands, such as adding a cultivation operation or purchasing an edibles manufacturer, the cannabis software’s built-in functionality will make it a seamless endeavor.
Jennifer Spanos is the VP of Product and Vertical Strategy at CannaBusiness ERP. She has 14+ years of experience in cannabis and food manufacturing software and operations, working to maximize the efficiency and profitability of customers’ businesses.
CannaBusiness ERP is a solution built in Sage X3 and delivered by NexTec industry experts. Over the past 25 years, their ERP and business process experts have helped organizations across North America streamline business operations and lower costs. Specializing in developing solutions for the cannabis cultivating and processing industry has resulted in some of the most respected cannabis companies around the world managing their day-to-day operations and delivering products off of the CannaBusiness ERP platform. CannaBusiness ERP by NexTec is the go-to answer for cannabis cultivators and processors seeking a software platform built to help you grow.
NexTec’s CannaBusiness ERP is the specialized solution for cannabis companies looking to grow. Contact us today to learn more about it. We’d love to chat.
Learn More About the Cannabis Industry and Cannabis ERP Software
At the NCIA Cannabis Business Summit & Expo next week, there is an all-day workshop on the topic of sustainability. As a member of the NCIA Sustainability Committee, representing the NCIA Human Resources Committee, I have been actively involved in putting this together. While this session will not directly address my specialty, employee compensation, there will be discussion of how broad the idea of sustainability is, and how it permeates every element and every decision in a business.
Not a day goes by that I don’t receive in my inbox one or more blogs, articles, or studies on introducing ESG metrics into executive compensation incentive plans. It’s all the rage. Consulting firms that published opinions only two years ago that this was “not a prevalent practice” and “not consistent with the current corporate governance environment” have been proven wrong.
I have been presenting on this topic, in the context of compensation, since 2014 – in London, Vancouver BC, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, and Seattle among other places and virtual spaces.
As recently as 2019 we still couldn’t figure out what to call it. CSR, ESG, Triple Bottom Line, etc. These discussions inevitably include reference to Conscious Capitalism as well. I went to my first Conscious Capitalism conference, in San Francisco, in 2013. The key concept of Conscious Capitalism is consistent and balanced treatment of all stakeholders, not just shareholders. Employees, customers, suppliers, the environment, the community.
But the discussions today are primarily about adding ESG metrics to existing executive compensation structures. There’s a lot of greenwashing going on there.
Sustainability is not just about metrics, as essential as good metrics are for measuring progress. Building a sustainable organization is about more than carbon emissions, recycling, water conservation, and biodegradable packaging. Sustainability is a risk management strategy.
A prominent risk factor in every business is people. Not just regulatory enforcement of labor laws, or risk of litigation from discrimination, or wage and hour law violations. Building a sustainable organization is reducing the constant churn of employees, avoiding destructive labor cost-cutting to pacify shareholders while extracting the funds from other stakeholders, and considering social justice goals when deciding how to pay people.
At that first Conscious Compensation conference for me, I was astounded that employee compensation was not mentioned once. Well, one speaker had one bullet point on one slide that said “employee ownership” – that was it. I returned from the conference and trademarked the term Conscious Compensation® because you can’t practice conscious business without considering how you share value with your employees. From the trademark grew a conceptual model and then dozens of conference presentations, gradually sliding in the sustainability theme while avoiding the appearance of a “save the whales” label.
Now it’s the core of my approach to compensation advisory services. I may not call it that, but it’s in there.
It fits perfectly with the ethos of the cannabis industry. If I was a speaker at next week’s Sustainability workshop, I’d be talking about all of this. In the meantime, check out my other blog this week on the session, Cultivating Your Workforce where we will be discussing compensation.
Fred Whittlesey is the Founder, President, and Principal Consultant of Cannabis Compensation ConsultantsTM, a Compensation Venture Group SPC company.
Fred is a member of the NCIA Human Resources Committee and the NCIA Sustainability Committee.
Fred is recognized by corporations, professional organizations, universities, media, and colleagues around the world as a compensation expert and thought leader. His ideas have been presented in numerous book chapters, journal articles, media interviews, conference and seminar presentations, and hosted blog postings.
Fred’s thought leadership in the field of compensation is evidenced by his delivery of more than 300 conference presentations, seminars, certification courses, webinars and podcasts. He has presented and taught in 26 US States, 4 Canadian Provinces, UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Turkey, and Indonesia.
He has authored more than 50 peer-reviewed journal and magazine articles, book chapters, white papers, and sponsored papers. He has been a paid writer for PayScale.com, Salary.com, InvestorJunkie.com, and SeekingAlpha.
Fred has been interviewed and quoted more than 100 times by more than 35 different media sources including Associated Press, Bloomberg, Business Week, Fortune, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Orange County Register, Seattle Times, San Jose Mercury News, and San Francisco Chronicle. He has been retained to conduct research to support investigative journalism for The Los Angeles Times and The Boston Globe.
Cannabis Compensation ConsultantsTM is a division of Compensation Venture Group SPC, a Washington Social Purpose Corporation. The company is a Green America Certified Business.
The firm specializes in compensation strategy, executive and director compensation, equity-based compensation, incentive design, and employee pay with a focus on sectors driven by innovation. We also provide expert witness and litigation support for civil litigation and regulatory matters. Our clients include Boards of Directors and executive teams of public and private companies, LLCs, S corporations, and foreign subsidiaries.
Our Canadian sibling consulting firm is Conscious Compensation Group Inc. in Squamish, BC.
Text messaging is the next wave of communication to customers. 98% of all texts get received. 92% are read within 5 minutes. And 45% receive a response, and if you think that your customers want to engage their favorite businesses this way, you’d be correct. 85% of people polled want text message marketing from their favorite companies.
But how do you get started? How does it work? Are there technology requirements? Etc. Here are some of the common questions we get to help you navigate this great communication tool for your business.
What are the technology requirements? An internet connection and a computer with a web browser are all that is required for most systems.
We’re not tech-savvy, is the SMS system difficult to use or learn?No, most systems are very user friendly and intuitive. Most systems work through your web browser and can be set up and used in minutes with little more than a user guide.
Can I use my existing business phone number? Yes, most platforms support text enabling your 10 digit business number. This helps people recognize who the text is coming from and build brand awareness.
What are some of the common features of an SMS system? Series (drip campaigns), Surveys (polls), Time-Texts (schedule now, send later), Contact Segments (Tags or Identifiers), Compliance tools, Reports, and Keywords (Text “Vegas” for a chance to win a trip to Vegas). Above and beyond these key features you may want to consider having 2-way chat and/or automations capabilities for your business to help answer any questions your patrons may have.
Who can I market to? Existing customers or those that have “opted-in” in some way to receive your promotions and communications. You may have new prospects or customers text a keyword to get opted in for example. However, if you acquire a list of telephone numbers for outbound communications they are considered SPAM under the TCPA and CAN-SPAM acts and you should not message these numbers.
Do I need to stay compliant?And how? Yes. Most systems (or at least the good ones) have some form of compliance automation and tracking to help keep you covered. At a bare minimum you need to have a “please reply stop to opt-out” message in each outbound marketing message.
What are the costs associated with an SMS marketing system? This is probably the hardest thing to compare apples to apples. Typically, an SMS system is a monthly charge either per text or as a package of texts. Some systems lockdown certain features and charge extra for them a’ la carte. Other systems are part of a CRM or POS system and either charge per text or a fee to unlock that feature.
What should my business have in advance of getting started with an SMS system?
1) Make sure you’re collecting phone numbers from your customers today.
2) Have a marketing disclosure statement that customers sign either electronically or physically so you are legally allowed to market to them.
3) Have said customers and phone numbers in or able to be exported to an excel or .csv file so you can upload them as contacts.
4) Have a plan. Don’t just set up a system and start sending texts. Understand why you want to text, how you will text your customers, and what you will be texting your customers.
So why is compliance so important? We’ve all received annoying texts we didn’t ask for letting us know we’ve won a cruise or there is a sale on cheap erectile function pills. The FCC and Mobile carriers are already working to put more measures in place to mitigate the number of robo-texts and SPAM that is being sent. This is called 10DLC Campaign Registry. 10DLC Campaign Registry is too much to cover in this blog but you can find out more here 10DLC Campaign Registry.
If you’re soliciting anything to your existing customer base you must have consent, see the TCPA and CAN-SPAM acts. The best practice for this is what is called a “double opt-in”. A double opt-in is having the customers’ consent twice. The first form of consent is typically in some marketing waiver that is signed or checked during the buying process, it’s no different than getting consent to call or email promotions. The second opt-in is during the texting process. Typically, the first text received will have a message that asks the customer to reply “YES” to continue to receive texts. You usually see this with keywords that ask the person to text a word to a specific number, when that happens an automated message will then ask the person to reply with “YES” to continue to receive messages.
Another form of compliance is opting out. You must always have a “please reply “STOP” to stop receiving texts…” message in your messages. The first question you should ask about any SMS/texting solution is if this is built into it, meaning if someone replies back with STOP at any time, does it remove them from your marketing list even if you don’t have the wording in the text? If the answer is no, it’s not a system you want to use. Once again the TCPA and CAN-SPAM acts mandate that you give the consumer a way to opt-out of receiving messages from your business. And you’ll want a system that captures and can report on this as well.
Something to understand is that certain things are still illegal to promote via text, i.e cannabis. Mobile carriers (the companies that transport the SMS messages) like ATT, TMobile, and Verizon have filters that are looking for hot button or trigger words. So words like cannabis, marijuana, weed, edibles, and ganja are going to get flagged. This doesn’t mean that you can’t still use text message platforms. It just means that instead being obvious about what you text out you become a little more vague. Your customers will still know there is a sale on edibles if you say something like “2 for $20 on ABC brand yummy treats this week”.
Compliance doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. Make it fun. The most successful businesses do an initial promotion or giveaway to get folks to opt-in to their text marketing. Another great tip is to put your business’ name at the front of the text with a colon so everyone knows who the text is coming from. i.e. ACME: Acme widgets on sale this week 20% off! Remember your customers want to hear from you, they want to stay informed of any new products or promotions… that’s why they’re your customers. They just don’t want to be bombarded with SPAM on their personal devices at all hours. So be courteous and make sure the number of text promotions is not too much and are being delivered at appropriate times.
Additional Use Cases
By now most folks are aware of the two most prominent use cases for business texting, 1) marketing and 2) appointment reminders. But there is a wide world of other use cases for texting that you may not have even thought about. And these use cases can help separate your business from others by delivering a “wow” customer experience.
Instead of phone calls, why not answer questions about your product or service using texts? The advantages of using text for customer service are:
Customers don’t have to wait on hold for the next agent
There is always a record for that customer to refer to
Your employees can handle multiple chats at one time unlike voice calls
You can automate answers to the most frequently asked questions.
Yes, this is different from marketing because marketing is one-way. With two-way texting you can interact with your customers the same as you would in-person or via a phone. Your sales force can provide the presales support that your customers expect but with the convenience of a text or picture message.
If you’re in the business of deliveries or in-home service these are a must for a great customer experience. Send pictures of your delivery driver in advance. Let your customers know when their package will be or has been delivered.
During the COVID-19 lockdown, almost every business’ processes changed. Masks needed to be worn, social distancing observed, and a lot of businesses went to calling or texting when a customer or patient could be seen. The businesses that had an SMS platform ready to go didn’t miss a beat. There were signs like “Text our main number to let us know you’ve arrived” for things like veterinarian offices, healthcare, retail stores, and restaurants.
Business SMS is still relatively new, but the use cases continue to grow. Communication has moved to a person’s mobile device now and we don’t check or pay attention to email like we used to. People expect real-time alerts and notifications on their phones. Leveraging business SMS in multiple ways can provide a memorable customer experience to your patrons which will, in turn, create repeat customers.
Matt Hostacky, Regional Sales Manager, Flex IP Solutions/Cannabiz Text
Matt Hostacky, an IT and telecommunications industry veteran, takes a consultative approach to solve real-world business challenges with technology solutions. He serves as Regional Sales Manager for FlexIP Solutions Inc., a provider of managed communications services customized for businesses of all sizes and optimized for best value and performance. Hostacky advises customers on communications and collaboration strategies that leverage solutions, such as Cloud PBX, Unified Communications as a Service, Contact Center as a Service, Collaboration as a Service, SIP Trunking, Secure SD-WAN, Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery, and Business Text Messaging.
Video: NCIA Today – Friday, November 19, 2021
NCIA Deputy Director of Communications Bethany Moore checks in with what’s going on across the country with the National Cannabis Industry Association’s membership, board, allies, and staff. Join us every Friday on Facebook for NCIA Today Live.
Member Blog: Why an Efficient Dispensary POS System is Crucial for Cannabis Retailers
Running a cannabis dispensary isn’t like running any other type of business. You don’t only have the stress of inventory, expenses, a demanding customer base, and sales to worry about, but also incredibly stringent state, county, and city laws. State compliance is at the core of keeping your storefront running, but automating reporting with software can alleviate some of the stress associated with compliance.
Selecting a cannabis software that fits your business model is crucial to scaling your business. Here are five essential things to look for in an efficient dispensary POS system and how they will benefit your cannabis operation.
Improving Customer Experience
Customer retention will make or break your business. Building a base of happy customers is imperative for your dispensary to survive and thrive. There are lots of ways to create a memorable and positive experience for your customers. Seamless transactions, loyalty rewards, and employees that understand buying habits make it enjoyable for customers to shop. A premier dispensary POS system will give you control over all of these. Checking out customers quickly and efficiently, while utilizing a rewards program to incentivize them to come back is what customers expect and not all POS systems deliver on these expectations.
Another sign that a POS system is worthy of your business is one that has a strong user base and an active support team. Frequent engagement with their users and regular help center articles are a good indication that the POS provider is actively working with their community to solve issues and create a better experience.
Furthermore, the software provider should provide multiple training sessions when you come on board. This gives you, your staff, and management team the knowledge and know-how to use the software proficiently. A good POS provider will also help you develop standard operating procedures that best work for your business and their software. Implementing your software in tandem with best practices will maximize the efficiency of your dispensary. After all, POS systems aren’t always cheap, so you should expect a “white glove” approach by their team.
Optimizing Cannabis Inventory
There is very little room for mistakes in the cannabis industry. Inadequate cannabis ERP systems can cause issues with inventory discrepancies which can easily lead to compliance fines, penalties, and even your license being revoked. A reliable POS system provides accurate, real-time data that seamlessly allows you to manage your stock and improves customer shopping experience.
Better inventory management also helps in team day-to-day operations. When your staff can easily audit inventory and use reports to see what is selling, they can make informed decisions when purchasing stock to keep your customers coming back. This results in high customer satisfaction, repeat business, and more sales. You want to optimize your inventory ordering so you can have enough of the right products at the right times to meet demand and offer a superior customer experience.
Automating State Compliance
Compliance is the x-factor for cannabis businesses. Few other industries deal with regulatory restrictions as stringent as the cannabis industry. That’s why it is so important to have cannabis POS software that is integrated with track-and-trace programs selected by the state. Metrc and BioTrack are the most commonly used track and trace systems. You’ll want to make sure you dispensary ERP automates compliance reporting to avoid any risk of human error.
Real-time compliance integrations with Metrc and BioTrack will report sales accurately as they happen. There are no shortcuts when it comes to compliance so your cannabis POS needs to factor in all the required taxes as well. Additionally, it should enforce customer purchase limits and verify age. These are two regulatory rules that can quickly cause easily get your shop shut down if not strictly followed.
Useful and Seamless POS Integrations
Be wary of POS systems claiming to be all-in-one solutions. These tend to be masters of none. A great POS will integrate with other leading softwares to bring you a well-rounded platform. Look for one with a wide range of integrations that help with things like marketing, e-commerce, loyalty, analytics, etc. Finding a dispensary POS that supports your current tech stack will save you time and headaches.
It’s also useful to do research on software review sites to see how these integrations hold up. Just having integrations isn’t enough. These integrations need to work seamlessly with your POS system and be as easy to utilize as the platform itself.
Cannabis Software That Scales
The last thing you should look for in a POS system is one that has the ability to handle your business as it scales into multiple locations or a delivery fleet. Not all dispensary software can support a multi-storefront or delivery. It really comes down to the features and functionality. Is there a master inventory catalog that can categorize inventory across multiple stores?
Does your dispensary POS also offer built-in dispatch and delivery functionality? Evaluate which software can serve you best long-term versus a short-term fix. Look for one that broadcasts its new features, integrations, bug fixes, and improvements. This will give you a good idea of how the POS is keeping up with the pace of new industry advancements.
How to Decide on a Dispensary POS
Looking for these five things will give you a solid understanding of what your POS platform should have and steer you in the right direction when it’s time to buy. There are a few additional ways to evaluate potential cannabis software providers. It never hurts to come prepared with specific questions during a demo that are relevant to the workflows utilized in your dispensary. This will give you a clear understanding if the dispensary POS system can seamlessly integrate with your current SOPs or if you’ll need to adapt your internal procedures.
Before making the big decision, inquire about the migration plan, the onboarding process, and any additional hardware that might be needed. These are important factors to consider so you can avoid future roadblocks. Lastly, call their customer support line just to test their response time. Waiting to be connected to a support agent can be frustrating if something does go wrong. It’ll give you more confidence in your decision if you know that the support team is easy to contact and capable of resolving issues quickly.
Steven Lynn, a California resident since 2011, has dedicated his career to destigmatizing and legitimizing the cannabis industry through technology. Steven started his career in cannabis as the Director of Marketing at IndicaOnline in 2017. He now serves as the Director of Marketing at BLAZE® responsible for driving all marketing strategy, brand development, and lead generation programs. His professional background in early-stage B2B cannabis SaaS startups has made him adept at executing scalable, impactful, and sustainable strategies to achieve exponential growth. Steven received his BA in Communications from the College of Charleston in 2006 and is a seasoned marketing professional with over 10 years of experience working in both the entertainment and canna-tech industries.
Founded in 2017, BLAZE, a VC-backed California technology company, offers unified seed-to-sale software and apps for the cannabis supply chain. Developed by tech entrepreneurs and former cannabis company operators, BLAZE makes tech simple with an easy-to-use frontend powered by an enterprise backend for dispensaries, delivery services, distributors, and cultivators. Customers can be more profitable and productive while creating a better user experience for end customers and employees. The company’s software ensures compliance with local laws and taxes. BLAZE offers full APIs and integrates seamlessly with over 40 technology vendors in the cannabis industry.
Member Blog: How Can Hemp Businesses Better Self-Regulate?
The hemp industry is still in its early stages, especially when it comes to emerging products like delta-8 THC. While there is some regulation for hemp products, it’s much less than for legal cannabis, and this gives companies some freedom in terms of how they operate and what they do. For the most part, this is a good thing, but there is a downside too. Our report into the industry found that 76% of delta-8 THC products contained illegal quantities of delta-9 THC. This is terrible for consumers, but it also poses a risk to the industry: if you keep raising red flags, the government will eventually swoop in and take action. This is why self-regulation is a crucial concept for hemp businesses going forward.
Self-regulation is crucial for hemp businesses because of the scrutiny the industry faces and to improve consumer confidence. Although CBD is generally accepted, this is especially important for companies selling something like delta-8 THC, which attracts more scrutiny because of its psychoactive nature. With states like Texas attempting bans on the substance and the findings of our report showing that the vast majority of products break legal limits for delta-9, the industry is in serious danger of attracting the attention of more lawmakers who may opt for an outright ban. In fact, there are already 18 states with some form of ban or restriction on the substance.
Jayneil Kamdar, PhD from InfiniteCAL Labs commented to us that: “The current delta-8 THC products on the market are very concerning because there is no regulatory body monitoring the safety of these products.”
In our report, we also found that companies tend to undercut customers on delta-8, that only 14% of companies perform substantial age verification checks and that two-thirds of companies don’t test their products for impurities.
It isn’t that self-regulation would be a cure-all, but if companies opt to act responsibly, it is much less likely that they will attract attention from lawmakers. In addition to this, though, self-regulation sends a strong message to consumers that you care about them and that they will get what they wanted when they buy your products. When this doesn’t happen,people will tell others about it.
The more the industry can mirror the regulations of regulated cannabis companies, the better things will go in the long run.
How Can Companies Better Self-Regulate?
However, “self-regulation” can’t just become a vague, catch-all term for generally responsible business practices: clear recommendations are essential in making this goal a reality. Luckily, our in-depth investigation of the delta-8 industry and other similar investigations into the CBD industry have revealed some key areas companies can focus on.
Provide Transparent Lab Reports with QR Codes
Lab reports are a vital part of building consumer trust, and you should ensure there is a QR code on the report so it’s easy for consumers to verify the report on the lab’s website.90% of CBD companies already do this, based on our industry analysis.
Offer a Lab Report for Every SKU
Many companies, however, only offer a COA for the base distillate, rather than every specific type of product it produces. If you sell vape cartridges, for instance, you should have a report available for each variation in flavor, strain, and potency.
Choose Credible Labs for Your Report
Not all labs are equal. If you get a report from a questionable or unknown lab, savvy consumers will still be wary of your product, and in some cases, the results may be unreliable. It’s best to choose a lab with a strong reputation, such as ProVerde, Anresco, SC Labs, InfiniteCAL, and CannaSafe.
Test for Impurities
With two-thirds of delta-8 companies not lab testing their products for impurities, this is a good way to stand out in the marketplace as well as good practice in general.
Verify Customer’s Ages
With most CBD companies not performing robust age verification checks, using a credible age verification system such asAgeChecker is a great step towards self-regulation. They stay up to date with FDA requirements, state laws, and merchant account policies, so you can set it up and then continue basically as normal. This is especially important for delta-8, but it’s also crucial for higher-strength CBD products too.
Label Your Products Accurately
What you claim on the label should be what’s in the product. Lab reports help you verify that this is the case.
Warning and Caution Labels
Only about 55% of hemp delta-8 companies use a warning label, but this is another key part of self-regulation. Suggested verbiage includes:
This product should be used with caution when driving motor vehicles or operating heavy machinery.
Use this product under the guidance of a physician if you have a medical condition, are pregnant or lactating.
Keep out of the reach of children.
This product was manufactured from hemp material that meets federal requirements for hemp products; however, consumption may be flagged by some drug tests.
This goes hand-in-hand with the above, but also, having your products that looklike a bag of Cheetos or anything along these lines is not a good look.
Avoid Medical Claims
Although many people opt to use delta-8 and CBD for medical purposes, if you’re selling the products, making medical claims that might not meet official organizations’ standards of proof is simply a terrible idea. Leave it to your consumers to determine.
Get Industry Certifications
Getting certified by an organization like theU.S. Hemp Authority is a great way to show your customers that you’re one of the responsible companies.
Self-regulation really just means taking a few basic steps to establish to both customers and politicians that you’re running a legitimate business which does what it claims to and is socially responsible. It might increase costs in the short-term, but over time and especially as consumer knowledge increases, it will pay off many times over. And the next time there’s a situation like what happened recently in Texas, the industry will have a much easier time defending its practices.
Lee Johnson is a writer at CBD Oracle who has been covering science, vaping, and cannabis for over a decade. He focuses on research-driven deep dives into topics ranging from medical uses for CBD to industry and user statistics, as well as general guides and explainers for consumers. He is a passionate advocate of both CBD and cannabis, and a strong believer in informed choice for consumers.
CBD Oracle is a consumer research company working to improve the safety and transparency of cannabis products, producing in-depth statistics on CBD and cannabis, detailed research pieces and analysis of social and legal issues.
Video: NCIA Today – Friday, November 5, 2021
NCIA Deputy Director of Communications Bethany Moore checks in with what’s going on across the country with the National Cannabis Industry Association’s membership, board, allies, and staff. Join us every Friday on Facebook for NCIA Today Live.
On the latest episode, Bethany announces the keynote speakers at #CannaBizSummit this December in San Francisco, shares a bit about Exspiravit this month’s Member Spotlight recipient, and covers compliance and extraction.
Registration to the Cannabis Business Summit in San Francisco is now open with special limited-time super early bird pricing on tickets available, head to our website for more information today.
Member Blog: Selecting the Right Cannabis Extraction Approach for Your Needs
With demand for THC and CBD distillate products steadily increasing on a global scale, it’s never been a better time to be a cannabis cultivator, processor, or product formulator. When entering these industries, an often overlooked yet critical step in the planning process is choosing the right cannabis extraction solution.
What are your options for cannabis extraction?
Depending on the amount of cannabis biomass you plan to process each year and the type of distillate you are trying to produce, you have three main options for meeting your extraction needs. You can:
Partner with a mobile extraction lab company to extract at your facility without having to build your own lab
Build your own fully-compliant extraction lab at your facility
Hire a 3rd party processor (often called a “toll-processor”) who can manage extraction for you at their facility
Is a mobile cannabis extraction lab right for you?
A mobile extraction lab is a fully-certifiable clean room that has been retrofitted with ready-to-use extraction equipment. Built off-site to GPP, cGMP, and EU GMP standards, they are delivered and installed at your facility, staffed and operated on contract by the partner company. They allow for scalable production and help you avoid some of the pitfalls and obstacles of building your own extraction lab, keeping you focused on cultivation, product development, and sales & marketing.
Mobile labs allow you to extract at your own facility without having to build your own lab, outlay a large capital expenditure (CAPEX), or use a lot of floor space. You can leverage the expertise of the best engineers whose main priority is to create labs that produce the highest-quality distillate. Labs can be operational at facilities anywhere in the world within 4-6 months, and remove the burden of selecting the right extraction process and sourcing the right equipment.
Mobile extraction lab partners are a great fit if you’re processing 50,000 lbs. to 2 million lbs. of biomass each year and want to outsource the lab CAPEX and ongoing staffing, SOPs, maintenance and upgrades to a trusted partner. These labs can also be incredibly useful if you want to test the market for new products, or want to expand into isolate or THC-free products through remediation and separation processes.
[Check out this video of an extractX mobile lab being delivered to one of their partner’s facilities.]
Should you consider building your own cannabis extraction lab?
If you have your products perfected, biomass sourced, and have a strong existing customer base, building your own extraction lab may be the right decision. If you’re processing over 1 million lbs. of biomass each year and have the facility space and financing secured, building your own lab can put you in a very competitive position in this emerging market.
It’s important to understand that building an extraction lab is no small undertaking. You’ll need to hire engineers to design the right process and source the right equipment for your needs. You’ll need to meet regulatory requirements and hire experienced staff. The entire process can take 12-24 months (or more) and cost $3 million to $7.5 million before you’re able to start processing, depending on the size of the lab and type of distillate you’re producing.
Building the lab is also just the beginning. Since the extraction industry is evolving so rapidly, new technology is constantly emerging that continues to improve production efficiencies and distillate quality. If you’re willing to commit to the massive undertaking of building your own lab, you must also be willing to commit to the ongoing compliance certifications, maintenance, and upgrades required each year to ensure your lab is keeping up with advancements in the industry.
When is toll-processing a good option?
When processing smaller amounts of cannabis biomass (less than 50,000 lbs. per year), a toll-processor may be your best option. A toll-processor is a company that has built a large-scale extraction lab which they rent out to other companies. You would be able to load your cannabis biomass onto a truck, deliver it to the toll-processor, and then receive your distillate back from them.
It’s crucial that you ensure this contractor is operating a fully-compliant facility, following GPP, cGMP, or EU GMP standards. You should check their references, certifications, and quality assurance promises before engaging with them, as you could be held responsible for the quality and contents of the processed distillate. Based on their capture rate and processing costs, you can gauge whether the toll-processor is right for you, or if you need to seek out another partner.
This option is great for small cultivators and processors as it allows you to avoid the major costs of building your own lab, and helps you get to market quicker and test the market viability of your products. It’s important to consider that challenges can occur if there are production delays, transportation issues, or issues with quality control.
Weighing your options
Image caption: [Since high-quality cannabis distillate has never been in higher demand, selecting the right extraction option is crucial to the success of your business.]
When examining these three extraction options for your business, it’s important to consider the immediate and future goals of your company. Do you hope to expand your production capacity over the next few years? How quickly are you trying to get to market? Do you have the resources and technical expertise to go it alone?
These are just a handful of questions to consider when exploring which extraction solution is right for you. Thankfully, the emerging industry is constantly creating new options to meet your needs.
A pioneer in integrated marketing technologies, Albert established his first successful business in 1986 and went on to build a solid track record as an entrepreneur that helped shape the digital industry. A talented leader whose business ranked among Canada’s fastest growing companies for several years running, Albert has assembled the strong management team that will drive extractX business forward. His keen business development approach has resulted in early adoption of extractX labs in global markets.
extractX Ltd. designs, builds, and operates turnkey pharma-grade hemp and cannabis extraction laboratories at facilities anywhere in the world. These fully mobile, purpose-built facilities fit into established industrial-scale operations and scale to meet the needs of cannabis and hemp cultivators and producers. Labs require no lab CAPEX to install, and produce the highest-quality THC and CBD distillate while meeting all GPP, cGMP, and EUGMP requirements and standards.
Equity Member Spotlight: Exspiravit LLC
This month, NCIA’s editorial department continues the monthly Member Spotlight series by highlighting our Social Equity Scholarship Recipients as part of our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Program. Participants are gaining first-hand access to regulators in key markets to get insight on the industry, tips for raising capital, and advice on how to access and utilize data to ensure success in their businesses, along with all the other benefits available to NCIA members.
Tell us a bit about you, your background, and why you launched your company.
My name is Michael Webster, and I am the Founder & Managing Member of Exspiravit LLC, a licensed Michigan cannabis company. I earned a bachelor’s degree from the Harvard Extension School in Liberal Arts, and a master’s degree in Composition and Rhetoric from New York University. As a native New Yorker, I tried to wait patiently for cannabis legalization at the state level, but Michigan represented a unique entry point to the regulated market.
Like many NYC kids, my introduction to cannabis occurred at an early age. It was part of the local culture. However, it wasn’t until my late teens that I indulged. And it was even later, when my mom – a fierce cannabis advocate – was diagnosed with breast cancer, that I was introduced to the medicinal benefits of cannabis. I went on to write my graduate thesis on this very topic. From there, I embarked on my cannabis career path.
I launched Exspiravit for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which was to access a burgeoning market that held such promise for the creation of generational wealth. But as a frontline victim of the war on drugs – a simple possession charge of less than a gram of cannabis that temporarily derailed my academic pursuits – I saw an opportunity to educate and destigmatize this amazing plant, that, up until about 80 years ago, had been a staple commodity in human society.
What unique value does your company offer to the cannabis industry?
We are currently deploying our Cannabis Event Organizing license for consumption events throughout the state of Michigan – both large and small – while we raise capital for the build-out of our solventless extraction lab. We believe in clean plants and derivatives and are working closely with the Cannabis Certification Council on securing the “made with organic flower” seal. The event organizer license has proven the perfect complement to our other ventures, as it has allowed us to redefine what “an event” really is, and to take our show on the road. We also offer consultancy to other social equity and small operators, with a focus on regulatory compliance, helping to share what we’ve learned on our journey.
What is your goal for the greater good of cannabis?
When it comes to our company values, Exspiravit advances a unique position on social equity. For far too long, social equity has been considered a gift or non-transactional offering. We at Exspiravit believe equity – social or otherwise – is earned and therefore OWED. Most current social equity initiatives in the cannabis industry broadcast messages of handouts and favors. This is the wrong message. When accessing the equity in your home, or other assets, neither you nor the bank treats those transactions as gifts. Social equity represents a debt owed from those who have weaponized their racial or class privilege to monetize a commodity market that was built on the willful destruction of black, brown, poor white, and otherwise marginalized communities. Debts are owed. Debts are to be paid. And their payment represents the satisfaction of an obligation and not a benevolent gesture.
Quite the opposite, those tapping equity are claiming what is rightfully theirs. Again, equity is earned, accrued, developed, and owed, but certainly not to be asked or begged for. Exspiravit plans to use its voice to correct this adversely impactful interpretation of social equity, in hopes of realigning access to resources in the regulated cannabis sector. In addition to our work on the social equity front, Exspiravit’s goal for the greater good of the cannabis industry is to advance the for-purpose market. We believe that flower and euphoria only represent the tip of the iceberg when it comes to products and outcomes. We envision an ultra-specific and ultra-targeted market that features purpose-driven derivatives for a highly informed consumer.
What kind of challenges do you face in the industry and what solutions would you like to see?
Like many social equity cannabis operators, accessing capital has been our greatest challenge. And this challenge is intrinsically linked to our greatest criticism of social equity initiatives –- the lack of social equity funding. For social equity applicants, the process can be grueling. And for those of us who make it through to licensure, being greeted on the other side by predatory investment opportunities exacerbates our challenges. Social equity initiatives MUST feature a robust social equity fund. Without it, social equity operators are being positioned for failure. Diversion of existing tax revenue or special taxes levied against large and multi-state operators can easily address these challenges. Too, we would like to see more collaboration than competition. Regulated cannabis markets should be rolled out in ways that foster greater opportunities to collaborate. Support for collectives, and other similar strategies, are low-hanging fruit when it comes to solutions.
Why did you join NCIA? What’s the best or most important part about being a member of the Social Equity Scholarship Program?
We joined the NCIA for a variety of reasons. Firstly, it was accessible. Through its outreach, the NCIA met us where we were and provided us a robust package of resources that weren’t intended to lure us into paid membership, but rather to help us stand up and be able to recognize the benefits of such association. You can’t effectively inform a starving, homeless, injured person until you have fed, housed, and rendered aid to them. And that appears to be the NCIA’s philosophy – meet the immediate, pressing needs of social equity operators, positioning them to then effectively and efficiently access industry resources. The perfect example of this strategy is NCIA’s decision to offer one year of complimentary membership to social equity operators, including access to the national and regional conventions. The value here, to one’s first year of operation, is immeasurable. These events have provided the opportunity to forge important and lasting connections with other industry stakeholders that have made all the difference for us. Without question, we would not be enjoying such forward progression without the genuine efforts of the NCIA.
Video: NCIA Today – Friday, October 29, 2021
NCIA Deputy Director of Communications Bethany Moore checks in with what’s going on across the country with the National Cannabis Industry Association’s membership, board, allies, and staff. Join us every Friday on Facebook for NCIA Today Live.
On the latest episode, Bethany announces the keynote speakers at #CannaBizSummit this December in San Francisco, checks in with some spooky, chilling tales of compliance gone wrong, and checks in with NCIA Deputy Director of Public Policy Rachel Kurtz-McAlaine about some serious slowdowns in the vape sector.
Registration to the Cannabis Business Summit in San Francisco is now open with special limited time super early bird pricing on tickets available, head to our website for more information today.