Member Blog: Selecting the Right Cannabis Extraction Approach for Your Needs

By Albert Iannantuono, Co-CEO, CMO at extractX Ltd.

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:

  1. Partner with a mobile extraction lab company to extract at your facility without having to build your own lab
  2. Build your own fully-compliant extraction lab at your facility
  3. 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.

Member Blog: What Every Cannabis Company Needs to Know About Compliance Now

By Nicole Cosby, Chief Data & Compliance Officer at Fyllo

Two Thirds of Companies in Highly Regulated Industries Such as Cannabis Say Compliance Is Key Barrier to Growth

Not long ago, the role of the General Counsel with regard to compliance in highly-regulated industries was largely about setting up sensible guardrails. The job was to ensure a solid approach focused on good reporting, defensible “best-effort” internal practices, and a rock-solid audit trail. The words “compliance” and “growth” wouldn’t be used in the same sentence.

However, according to a study Fyllo recently completed in partnership with The Harris Poll of more than 300 compliance leaders, nearly two-thirds of heavily regulated companies agreed compliance was the critical factor blocking growth. In fact, compliance issues ranked as a bigger barrier than having the right strategy or even capital to fuel growth. This belief was shared by companies as small as local cannabis start-ups managing rapid growth and global banks with deeply-experienced compliance leaders.

One of the biggest factors cited by compliance professionals is the inability to adapt quickly. Nearly two-thirds (61%) did not believe their organizations could adapt quickly to sudden changes in regulations, with 28% pointing to outdated technology as the cause.

Patchwork Legislation is a Significant Pain Point

When taking a look even closer, managing regulations across jurisdictions is a significant pain point for compliance professionals, with 76% citing that decentralization of regulatory information is a challenge. The majority of professionals discussed how complicated it is to decipher between local and state laws. More than half of respondents (51%) even went as far as to say that the number of regulations their organization needs to keep on top of is unmanageable. Moreover, the dynamic nature of regulations even has these leaders questioning their own compliance. 

For cannabis operators, even basic functions of marketing and advertising are so restricted by location that it would take a literal army of compliance officers to humanly tackle the problem on a day-to-day basis.

Among companies in highly regulated industries, data for privacy regulations (59%), product-related regulations (45%), and marketing or advertising-related regulations (44%) are the three most common areas where regulatory or compliance issues are the most difficult to balance with business processes.

What risks must General Counsel (GCs) guard against?

Growth risks Market expansion and innovation may be constrained
Opportunity risks A lack of awareness of pending regulatory shifts that may open new opportunities may leave your company unable to respond quickly enough
Reputation risks Companies with a poor track record may face harsher scrutiny from the government. In cannabis, this might make obtaining new licenses in new geographies slower and more difficult
Revenue risks Every compliance misstep risks delays in products getting to shelves, or worse, requiring product to be destroyed. Every delay and loss of product results in lost revenue.
Cost risks Keeping up to date with ever-changing regulations is costly and difficult, particularly for understaffed compliance departments

Compliance Missteps Go Beyond Financial to Reputational

While compliance citations have become the norm, with companies being cited on average 12.6 times for noncompliance over the past five years, the ramifications of those missteps reach far beyond fines.

Nearly two-thirds (73%) say that key stakeholders like consumers, employees, and regulators have lost trust in a company due to compliance issues, and almost half (49%) say it results in higher costs to attract new customers and investors.

Use Technology to Turn Compliance Into a Competitive Advantage

The emphasis on growth demands a different approach that encompasses both defense and offense. Fast-growing companies need to access new markets, develop innovative new products, and challenge the status quo — all while managing the challenges of dealing with an ever-changing patchwork of state, local, and federal legislation.

Compliance professionals need to redefine their compliance roadmap based on real-time intelligence which should take into account federal, state, and local laws and ordinances. In fast-paced, highly-regulated industries, the winners are the companies who know more and know it sooner. Leveraging technology can help.

Once GCs recognize that a compliance suite does much more than just protect a company from citations, they can begin to understand the true cost of non-compliance from a financial, operational, and reputational perspective, giving them a leg up in today’s most challenging regulatory environments.

Nicole Cosby, an attorney and ad tech executive, has an impressive background in digital advertising/data policy, brand strategy/licensing, and business alliance development across the advertising, media, fashion, and entertainment industries. After earning her bachelor’s degree at Tufts University and her JD law degree from Howard University, Nicole entered the fashion field in New York, working in licensing and business affairs for Donna Karan, Phat Farm, Anne Klein, and the Jones Apparel Group. 

Prior to joining Fyllo, Nicole was senior vice president, standards, and partnerships for Publicis Media. She has also held director-level posts in product management, ad product marketing, and partnership development for AOL, Kai Communications, and BET Networks. Previously named one of Cynopsis Media’s Top Women in Digital, Nicole received the Facebook/PMX Marisa Marolf Strength Award and earned a place in Campaign Magazine’s Digital “40 Over 40” for 2019.

The Fyllo Compliance Cloud is a suite of software and services that enable organizations to navigate today’s ever-changing regulatory landscape, streamline compliance and scale with speed. Mainstream brands also use the Fyllo Data Marketplace to target previously inaccessible cannabis and CBD consumers.

The PACT Act Final Rule Has Been Released Prohibiting the Mailing of Cannabis/Hemp Vaporization Products. Is Your Business Ready?

By Rachel Kurtz-McAlaine, NCIA’s Deputy Director of Public Policy 

After months of delay, the United States Postal Service (USPS) has released its FINAL rule enforcing the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking (PACT) Act, effective October 21, 2021, and unfortunately, they are indeed applying it to cannabis/hemp vaporization products. The PACT Act has now made it extremely difficult for anything related to vaporization to be mailed, either business to business (B2B) or business to consumer (B2C). Your business could be affected even if you are not mailing out products. Although this is a massive burden on the cannabis/hemp vape industry, there are ways to deal with it. NCIA remains vigilant in making sure the federal government understands this unnecessary hardship to the industry, and making sure our members are fully educated on this issue.

What is the PACT Act?

The Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking (PACT) Act went into effect June 29, 2010, applying strict regulations to the mailing and taxation of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products, effectively banning the mailing of cigarettes unless authorized by an exception. With the rise of e-cigarettes, especially their popularity among youth, Congress decided that vaporization products should be included in those provisions. On December 27, 2020, Congress modified the definition of “cigarettes” to include Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS), broadly defining ENDS to include nearly all vaporization products, regardless if they contain nicotine or are used for nicotine. Specifically:

“(1) any electronic device that, through an aerosolized solution, delivers nicotine, flavor, or any other substance to the user inhaling from the device; and (2) any component, liquid, part, or accessory of an ENDS, regardless of whether sold separately from the device.”

When the USPS issued their notice of proposed rulemaking, they received more than 15,700 comments, with many expressing frustration with the broad interpretation of ENDS, so the USPS delayed issuing FINAL rules while it considered the practical application to the unique cannabis and hemp industries. NCIA was proud to submit comments with a broad coalition and to issue an action alert to get our members to express their concerns. 

In the meantime, the USPS issued a guidance document (“April 2021 Guidance”) (86 FR 20287) to help prepare businesses for the final rule and what documentation will be needed to apply for an exception. The exceptions include:

  • Intra-Alaska and Intra-Hawaii Mailings: Intrastate shipments within Alaska or Hawaii;
  • Business/Regulatory Purposes: Shipments between verified and authorized tobacco-industry businesses for business purposes, or between such businesses and federal or state agencies for regulatory purposes;
  • Certain Individuals: Lightweight, non-commercial shipments by adult individuals, limited to 10 shipments per 30-day period;
  • Consumer Testing: Limited shipments of cigarettes sent by verified and authorized manufacturers to adult smokers for consumer testing purposes; and
  • Public Health: Limited shipments of cigarettes by federal agencies for public health purposes under similar rules applied to manufacturers conducting consumer testing.

18 U.S.C. 1716E(b)(2)-(6). These exceptions are the ONLY way to mail these products moving forward. Unfortunately, the USPS was not accepting applications for exceptions until the final rule was published, but now that it has been published, it is time to apply for an exception.

FedEx and UPS have already banned delivering these products, so they are out as an alternative.

How can it affect me?

If you manufacture, sell, or buy vapor products, you will be affected. Manufacturers and distributors who use the mail to get their products to stores for resale (B2B) will have to apply for an exception through the USPS Pricing and Classification Service Center. If you are a business receiving these products, you will have to work with the business that mails it to you to be included in their exception as a recipient. If you are a retailer who delivers vaporization products to consumers via the mail, such as online retailers (B2C), you will also need to apply for an exception. If you buy the end products as a consumer, expect an increase in price because of the extra costs placed on the suppliers.

What should I do?

If your business has ANYTHING to do with the manufacture, delivery by mail, or retail of cannabis/hemp vaporization products, including liquids, batteries, empty cartridges, etc., you should get familiar with this final rule that is in effect as of October 21, 2021. The USPS spends the time addressing potential issues or suggestions from the comments it received, so any questions of why they did something are probably answered there.

You will also want to read the guidance document the USPS issued in the Spring that details if you qualify for an exception and how to apply for it. This will require cooperation between the mailer and the recipient, so make sure you are working with your supplier/retailer to get all the necessary information.

What is NCIA doing?

NCIA remains committed to making sure our members understand all of the legal ramifications and how to continue operations despite this rule. We continue to work with our coalition partners to better understand the effects and best practices, and will share with you as much information as possible to ease the transition via blog posts and webinars.

I will be participating in a webinar on November 9, 2021, that will be diving deeper into the PACT Act, how your business can operate with it, and how, if any, the tax considerations of the PACT act apply to cannabis/hemp businesses: PACT Act Leaves Vaping & CBD Industries in a Fog: The Latest Tax and Legal Considerations.

As always, feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns.


Member Blog: Cautionary Tales of Cannabis Compliance

by Alexa Rivera, Assistant Marketer at PeopleGuru

As a member of the NCIA, you probably already know how difficult so many of the aspects of business are due to the nature of the industry. Unfortunately, sometimes it seems like the laws and regulations are never-ending, and frankly, it can cause quite the impact on the way operations are handled. 

As much as we hate to be the bearer of bad news, it is likely a good idea to be wary of these things, especially regarding compliance regulations.

Cannabis Compliance Regulations 

While numerous states have legalized cannabis, it remains federally illegal under Schedule I of the Federal Controlled Substances Act. While the hope is that cannabis will soon be federally legalized and decriminalized, we haven’t quite gotten there yet. 

Because of the state of our society and often the stigma associated with cannabis, not to mention the astronomical fines associated with being involved in the legal industry incorrectly, many financial institutions refuse to touch cannabis businesses. Yes, even when a client does everything correctly. 

As you can imagine, this creates a lot of problems involving transactions and payroll. In fact, as of June 30th, only 706 banks and credit unions were actively providing banking services to marijuana-related businesses. These banking issues lead many business owners to conduct mainly cash transactions, making things even more challenging to monitor. Around 40% of Colorado cannabis businesses lack bank accounts altogether. 

How are Canna Business owners coping? 

Cannabis companies constantly have to get creative with how they handle revenue –– which is enough to make any business owner pretty uneasy. Without banks, stores are often forced to take payment in cash and invest in ATMs for their shops while they’re at it. Holding so much cash means armored vehicles to collect the money and tremendous crime risk. Yikes, talk about a debacle. 

In an attempt to make things easier, some companies have opted to funnel cash through shell companies, but as you can imagine, that puts a big target on their backs. “It can start to look a lot like money laundering,” says businessman Tim Cullen. Despite complaints from states that collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash for taxes is troublesome (to say the least), little has been done to rectify the problem. 

A Cautionary Tale

A Massachusetts company running three cannabis dispensaries has found itself in quite the mess despite believing they were following protocol properly. After an eight-month investigation, the company has been ordered to pay $300,000 in restitution and penalties. 

This situation has resulted from unintentionally neglecting a state law requiring businesses to pay 1.2 times the regular hourly wage on Sundays and Holidays. The company has admitted that these errors have stemmed from difficulty in hiring a traditional payroll service provider. 

Avoiding Compliance Related Repercussions 

One way many owners are attempting to get around payroll and tax issues is to misclassify their employees as 1099 contractors to avoid many of the tedious payroll-associated hurdles. Sounds too good to be true? It is! The Department of Labor does not take this kind of infraction lightly, and if you think $300,000 for missing Sundays and a few holidays is a steep fine, buckle up, and fast. If the DOL suspects the misclassification was intentional, you can expect up to $1,000 in criminal penalties per employee and even jail time. So for some legal options…… 

A Promising IRS Initiative

The IRS has recently launched a program titled “Cannabis/Marijuana Initiative” with the hopes of implementing a strategy to increase voluntary compliance. This is fantastic news for the industry because, as was the case for the dispensary above, often, the breeches are simply a result of misinformation. Hopefully, with an initiative such as this one put in place, small business owners can grasp tax regulations before any compliance issues arise with the guidance of the IRS on the industry’s side.

A Helpful Hand

Another great option is investing in a software solution that supports the cannabis industry and won’t leave you hanging. With payroll support and full-service banking, HCM software can prevent issues that may arise by automating the systems that cannabis businesses spend a great deal of time on in avoiding any missteps. You must find a company that won’t leave you hanging with an unreliable banking service.


While more and more of America seems to be coming around to the idea of legal cannabis businesses being a legitimate industry, we still have some ways to go. In the meantime, covering all your bases and ensuring compliance is the best bet to ensure you don’t end up between a rock and a hard place — and as a result, spending a small fortune in fines and fees. Be sure to keep up with changing laws and consider your options for the best shot at easy and secure payroll and tax keeping.    

PeopleGuru develops and supports cloud-based Human Capital Management (HCM) software to help mid-market organizations in the Cannabis Industry attract, retain, and recognize their people and streamline back-office HR and Payroll functions. 

PeopleGuru HCM is a highly configurable, true single solution residing on one database that efficiently manages every stage of the employee lifecycle. Behind PeopleGuru’s best-in-class technology, is a team of Gurus who are passionate about helping clients meet their desired business goals by ensuring that they always have the tools and support they need to deliver on their strategic HR objectives, maintain tax & legislative compliance, and boost people productivity.

Alexa is the Assistant Marketer at PeopleGuru. With a B.A. in Advertising and currently pursuing an M.A. in digital strategy, Alexa has a passion for writing, content creation and branding strategy. Specializing in copywriting and unique niche positioning, the world of HCM Software is her latest and greatest challenge.

Find me on: LinkedIn



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

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

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

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


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

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

Thank you for supporting this survey.

Video: NCIA Today – Friday, October 8, 2021

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

Member Blog: Protecting Your Cannabis Business from Ransomware

by Eric Schlissel, CEO/CTO of Cure8

Ransomware is everywhere in the news lately. It caused the shutdown of the largest refined oil pipeline in the U.S.; disrupted the operations of the world’s largest meat processing company; and continues to disrupt operations at hospitals around the world, even as the pandemic has surged and waned and surged again. 

The question many cannabis businesses are asking themselves these days is – could I be a target, too? 

The answer is yes, since ransomware gangs target businesses of all sizes and in all industries, including cannabis. At the same time, there are a couple of reasons why many cannabis businesses are less likely to be targeted, which we’ll get into.

What Is Ransomware?

By definition, ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts your files so that they’re inaccessible and demands a ransom in the form of cryptocurrency in exchange for a decryption key to restore your data.

Ransomware is designed not only to encrypt the files on the device it infects, but also the files on anything that the device has access to, including other computers, servers, company file shares, and backups. You can run into a situation where literally all your company’s important files are encrypted before you even realize what’s happening.

Why Windows Is Key

Most forms of malware, including ransomware, are designed to target Windows devices only, mainly since it’s the most popular operating system (OS) in the world and the one that most businesses use.

Fortunately for cannabis companies, most of their actual operations don’t rely on Windows. Most cannabis point of sale (POS), enterprise resource planning (ERP), and cultivation software and industrial systems are non-Windows or cloud-based, though there are a few exceptions to this including BioTrack.

A lot of their most critical data – including track-and-trace and inventory and transaction records – are on these non-Windows platforms, and so are relatively safe from being encrypted by ransomware.

Still, a lot of them still use Windows PCs and servers in their back offices and headquarters. 

So while a ransomware infection might not be a complete disaster for most cannabis businesses – resulting in days and weeks-long outages and recoveries for the entire company – you still have to worry about critical administrative and other non-operations data being encrypted, as well as whatever damage hackers might do with access to your back office and HQ networks, including stealing intellectual property and banking info. 

Protecting Yourself from Ransomware


Network-level firewalls, the IT equivalent of a dispensary security guard checking IDs at the door, can protect you from ransomware by blocking traffic from unknown, suspicious, or blacklisted domains (keeping hackers from both entering your network and transferring data in and out); preventing users from accessing malware-laden sites like adult, gambling, and piracy sites; filtering out malware and spam; and alerting you to suspected intrusions.

Employee Training

The most common source of ransomware? Employees doing things they shouldn’t, like opening attachments in emails from people they don’t know, getting tricked into entering their passwords into phishing websites, visiting websites they shouldn’t be accessing at work, or setting passwords that are easy to guess. Make sure to train them on how to use IT securely when at work.

Secure Your Windows Machines

Including by protecting all Windows machines with strong passwords; setting up encryption (the good kind that prevents hackers from accessing your data); never giving users admin-level Windows access; requiring that users get permission before installing applications; giving users access to only the applications, files, and servers they need access to; applying security updates as soon they’re released; and installing antivirus or enabling Windows Defender.


Backing up your data won’t prevent a ransomware infection, but it will allow you to recover your data without having to pay the ransom. Just make sure your backups are isolated enough from the rest of your system that 1) your backups aren’t encrypted; 2) you don’t overwrite your backups with the encrypted versions of your files; 3) you don’t back up the ransomware itself.

Ransomware Isn’t Just a Threat, It’s a Wake-Up Call

We don’t know all the details about the Colonial Pipeline hack, but recall that it reportedly wasn’t actually ransomware that brought down the pipeline itself. Instead, ransomware affected some other areas of the company, and Colonial shut down the pipeline to be safe and determine the full extent of the hack.

So just because your most important applications and data are relatively secure from ransomware doesn’t mean you’re not susceptible to hacking in general.

Even if hackers break into your systems and can’t encrypt your files to hold them for ransom, they can still:

  • Steal credentials
  • Lock you out of your accounts
  • Steal sensitive data including intellectual property, banking info, customer data, embarrassing emails, etc. and leak this data on the internet
  • Use their access or stolen information to trick employees into wiring them money

So don’t view ransomware just as a threat in itself that may or may not affect your business. Cyber attacks existed before ransomware and will still exist after it, if they’re ever brought under control. 

View it as an opportunity, now that IT security is as on the top of everyone’s mind as it’s ever been, to take a serious look at your IT security and make the needed investments to protect yourself against both current and future threats.

Eric Schlissel is the CEO/CTO of Cure8, one of the world’s leading cannabis IT services providers. His company helps dispensaries, distributors, manufacturers, and cultivators throughout the U.S. and Canada to plan, install, secure, manage, and scale their IT.

He has been a featured panelist at many cannabis industry events, including those put on by the NCIA and CCIA. He’s also a respected IT thought leader outside of the cannabis industry, being quoted in publications such as Wired, the Los Angeles Times, InfoWorld, and Information Week. Outside of work, Eric can be found gardening with his two small children, trying to perfect the feat of growing a thriving basil plant and ripened tomatoes at the same time. He is currently developing in the fine art of bourbon tasting, enjoys travel, and is a foodie-wannabe.

Committee Blog: Don’t Wipe Out – Riding the Wave of Cannabis Standardization

by NCIA’s Facilities Design Committee

Staying ahead of the quick rollout of state, national, and international cannabis regulations is a huge and complex challenge. The patchwork of more than three dozen (and counting) different state regulatory regimes remains disconnected as cannabis remains federally illegal as a Schedule I drug. The framework of regulations and standards that guides allied sectors such as Foods, Dietary Supplements, Pharmaceuticals, or Tobacco is just beginning to take shape. Where do you look for guidance? How do you choose how to invest, how to design your operation, and how to produce?

There are a number of considerations and industry-relevant organizations to become familiar with when looking to conduct business in the cannabis space. In doing so, businesses can operate more successfully and mitigate risk. Risk should not be underestimated – many cultivation and manufacturing facilities will fall seriously short of the expectations of agencies such as the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration(OSHA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), if risk, both business and consumer health and safety, is not considered upfront. Market pressures will build quickly as brand-savvy companies with significant capital and operational expertise enter the field. One way to avoid wiping out – is looking to national and international standards, guidelines and regulations already in place. For a comprehensive list of relevant standards regulatory bodies, refer to our recent blog post here.

As standards continue to be developed by industry experts for adoption by regulators, businesses can be empowered to run their operations with more predictability and reliability knowing that they demonstrate compliance with approved industry guidelines. Laboratories will have access to valid test methods and reference materials. Equipment specifications will require globally accepted certification marks or labels (such as CE or UL) which ensures safety and longevity of operations.

What is the cost of not adhering to established standards?

A simple batch loss can easily exceed tens of thousands of dollars of lost product, let alone the damage to your brand, labor costs surrounding rework, and relationships with your clients. Crop and batch losses due to subpar equipment sourcing, processes that are not validated, and worse – risk of fines or losing your license are all symptoms of a business lacking standardization.

Credible standards – they are data-driven, go through a rigorous and transparent process. In most cases, these standards were developed with input and guidance from federal and international regulatory agencies.

Here is the snapshot today. Read it fast, because it may be out of date next month: 

The NCIA has several relevant committees sharing best practices and developing guidance for our industry.

ASTM International, one of the oldest and most recognized Standards Development Organizations (SDO) formed Committee D37 on Cannabis in 2017, and has already approved over 25 standards that provide guidance on key areas such as: 

AOAC International, another 100+ year old SDO has a Cannabis Analytical Science Program (CASP) where cannabis standards and methods have also been developed – principally in the area of product standard method performance requirements (SMPRs) and methods of analysis such as:

You don’t have to put your business at risk of wiping out! The resources that NCIA Committees continue to create have your best interest in mind. Stay tuned to ensure you have the latest resources and guidance!

Video: NCIA Today – October 1, 2021

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

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

By Jo-Anne and LaKia, Greenspace Accounting

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

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

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

Have Your Business Documentation in Order

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

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

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

Stay up to Date with State and Local Regulations

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

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

Here are a few recommended industry news sources:

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

Develop SOPs, Training, and Reporting Systems

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

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

Cannabis Payroll

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

Frequently Audit your Business

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

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

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

The Bottom Line

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

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

Member Blog: Want to Open A Dispensary In Oklahoma? Here’s What You Need to Know. 

by Tommy Truong of KayaPush

In Oklahoma, the cannabis business is thriving. Yes, the controversial plant that users were prosecuted for using so very recently, is on a roll. You could even say, there is a cannabis rush.

In this article, we will cover how you can go about opening a dispensary, including how to acquire a license, and some laws you should be aware of. And we will also touch on how to set up your dispensary operations and software!  Let’s dig in!

What do you need to open a dispensary in Oklahoma?

The process of opening a dispensary should go smoothly if you fill out an application form and follow the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority’s guidelines. Although the costs of opening a cannabis dispensary in Oklahoma are significantly lower than elsewhere, it is critical to have accurate information and to review some of the most relevant regulatory constraints.

Let’s start at the beginning, if you intend to learn how to open a dispensary in Oklahoma for commercial purposes, you must be at least 25 years old before proceeding. You must also make the following items available:

  • Proof of Oklahoma residency
  • A tax ID number, as well as a general business license
  • Valid identification documents 

You’ll need to assess your commitment after you’ve got everything in place. Not only must you be informed of current cannabis production and sales regulations, but also of proposed legislation and revisions that may shortly come into force. 

Now that you’re certain you’re ready to make this big move, it’s time to proceed to the next step: finding a suitable property. 

You should check the following:

  • Rent cost
  • Cost of license
  • Licensing application fee
  • Employee salary
  • Transportation and storage of product
  • Security

How to get a dispensary license In Oklahoma.

Licenses for growers in Oklahoma come in the form of a certificate and are issued through the OMMA website. The charge to producers, processors, and dispensaries for applying for a license is $2,500. You must provide the following to apply:

  • A business plan
  • A financial plan
  • An inventory control plan
  • Patient education
  • Record keeping 
  • Security plans 

There are distinct rules in every state in the United States about opening dispensaries. Each state sets its own standards. You will need to study the rules that apply in Oklahoma.

The general requirement for opening a dispensary in Oklahoma is that you undergo marijuana dispensing training and acquire a license. 

How to keep your dispensary compliant in Oklahoma.

You must abide by all of Oklahoma’s strict marijuana regulations to keep your dispensary compliant. These include:

  • Complying with Metrc
  • Operating under a recognized license
  • Enlisting compliance software’s assistance
  • Consider a compliance manager

Marijuana dispensaries in Oklahoma are prohibited from selling more than the following amounts in a single transaction:

  • Three ounces of cannabis
  • Concentrate of one ounce
  • 72 ounces of cannabis

Oklahoma dispensary owners, like any other legitimate business, must pay taxes and ensure that they give the following information:

  • All cannabis-related information with other permitted firms
  • Details of batch numbers that show the weight of cannabis acquired at wholesale
  • The number of plants that have been approved for relocation to other locations
  • Batch numbers showing the weight of cannabis sold
  • Record of all items that have become obsolete

Substantial fines are imposed for noncompliance. There is a $5,000 punishment for a first infraction while a second offense will result in license revocation. Because of this, you are going to need the assistance of technology to automatically update you if the OMMA cannabis rules change. 

Understanding Metrc in Oklahoma.

Metrc is an integrated system for tracking and tracing marijuana products in real-time. Every plant and its wholesale shipment has a unique tag attached by licensees. To uniquely identify each plant, these tags use readable text, barcodes, and radio frequency identification (RFID) chips for easy identification.

Metrc is already being used in Oklahoma following the state’s legalization of marijuana. The OMMA can only see and track inventory once it has been entered into Metrc by a commercial licensee.

To get started with Metrc in Oklahoma you should:

  1. Watching their training videos and schedule training.
  2. Request online access and complete the New Business System Metrc training with your dedicated Metrc Account Manager.
  3. Connect all of your employees with Metrc and make sure they have the permissions they need for their jobs.
  4. Request Metrc plant tags, package tags, and other UID tags and document the physical receipt of requested Metrc UID tags.
  5. Assign UID tags to your cannabis items.
  6. Access the Beginning Inventory Guide in Metrc for proper guidelines and references to other important factors.

What are the dispensary laws in Oklahoma?

Cannabis laws in Oklahoma are the guidelines that every cannabis dispenser must heed while dispensing medical marijuana. Every prospective cannabis retailer will be guided by these same rules, and it is one of the first things you discover when learning how to operate a dispensary in Oklahoma.

Some of these rules include:

  • To legally sell cannabis, you’ll need a state-issued license, but CBD oil made from industrial hemp is permitted without one.
  • Patients must first obtain an authorized medical marijuana card to acquire and consume medicinal cannabis.
  • Possession of paraphernalia is a misdemeanor that carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a fine of $1,000.=
  • Individuals under the age of 18 are only allowed to enter a dispensary with an adult who has a valid medical card.
  • The sale of fewer than 25 pounds of marijuana is a felony punishable by a two-year prison sentence and a $20,000 fine. 

Who can your dispensary sell to in Oklahoma?

Only medical cannabis patients (or their caregivers) with valid patient licenses can shop at an Oklahoma dispensary. Medical cannabis is available to Oklahoma residents over the age of 18 who have a physician’s recommendation.

A physical medical marijuana ID card or the state’s database can be used to verify a patient or caregiver. Out-of-state persons or companies are not permitted to purchase medical marijuana from licensed dispensaries. Licensed processors can sell to other licensed processors and licensed dispensaries.

Oklahoma dispensary market size and opportunity.

Despite its accomplishments, the cannabis industry in Oklahoma is still in its infancy, and the environment is rapidly changing. Marijuana laws in the state are continually changing to make it more accessible. 

Another feature that distinguishes Oklahoma from other states is that it allows cannabis smoking and vaping anywhere that tobacco can be lawfully consumed, such as on the sidewalk or in a bar that allows smoking. As a result, Oklahoma has morphed into an industrial cannabis state with a variety of dispensary options. 

There are only a few challenges to overcome. Any sort of cannabis — from raw flowers to topical lotions, from oils and gels to vaporization and patches — can be sold by anybody who pays $2,500 for a dispensary license.

Cannabis legalization has resulted in a significant expansion in legal cannabis cultivation and distribution, as well as an explosion of related service providers in many states. Cannabis has become a lucrative business prospect for many inhabitants in the state.

What cannabis software do I need to run a dispensary?

To run a compliant dispensary in Oklahoma, you will need the following business software:

What should I look for in cannabis software? 

POS compliant system.

One of the most important technologies in a dispensary is a point-of-sale system. A compliant POS system will make sales transactions easier for your dispensary’s staff and provide the greatest payment options for customers. A POS can help run the following tasks:

  • Regulate inventory control and legal compliance
  • Manage customer check-in and ensure that your customers follow the daily sales tracking guidelines
  • Assists you in automatically rejecting transactions for people who are not authorized to buy.
  • Integrate with the Metrc system, and keep you compliant.
  • Integrate with your workforce management system and give you sales insights.
  • Integrate with your scheduling software and provide labor forecasts for scheduling.
  • Produce all sales and customer reports for the approval of cannabis authorities.

Dispensary payroll software.

Integrated dispensary payroll software will assist you in managing your employees’ pay. It manages all expenses and interfaces with other systems such as personnel administration and payroll tax deductions. It makes direct contributions to the IRS and compensates employees via direct deposit. 

Another benefit of using an integrated payroll system is that you can integrate your company’s payroll with the rest of your workforce management suite; performing tasks like approving clocked hours to payroll, and running payroll in the click of a button. Dispensaries who used this type of system report saving 5 hours per week on running dispensary payroll. 

Scheduling and time tracking software. 

Also known as workforce management software, integrated scheduling and time tracking software makes creating staff schedules, and managing staff hours very hands off. With this type of software, you are able to create schedules remotely, and staff can request shift swaps or time off. With time tracking, staff can sign into work using facial recognition technology, and staff-approved hours can be streamlined to payroll – so staff who clock into their shifts, get paid with the click of a button.

Dispensary HR software.

Recruiting, hiring, interviewing and onboarding can take up a lot of time. Especially when staff have important documents they need to sign, and criminal record checks that need to be completed. With dispensary HR software you can automate recruiting, and onboarding, by having staff onboard themselves and sign digitized documents. 

A Security system.

A good security software system with cameras to monitor what goes on inside and outside your dispensary should be paramount to ensure your dispensary remains compliant. You will need a system where you can monitor all the affairs of your dispensaries at one glance without being in different places at the same time.

Inventory management software.

You require some software to help you manage your inventory, and the process of placing orders and confirming inventory counts from your vendors. You’ll also need a system that will remind you when new orders are needed when it detects product shortages.


If you are in a state that allows e-commerce for dispensaries, a website should be a top priority for competing for top rankings in today’s market. Because of technological advancements, you may now open an e-store where customers can buy cannabis online and have it delivered to their doorsteps.

Your website should be able to collect KYC information from your consumers to verify their identities and eligibility to acquire cannabis products, so you can be confident you’re following the cannabis serving guidelines. If you deliver a cannabis product to someone who isn’t eligible for it, you’ll be breaking the rules guiding cannabis consumption, and this might be a huge risk for your new business.


Metrc, also known as Marijuana Enforcement Tracking Reporting Compliance is a regulatory compliance system and was built to keep track of cannabis cultivation, preparation, and packaging. Basically, Metrc is a database for tracking cannabis from seed to sale, and identifying it using RFID tags. 

In Oklahoma, you must submit data to Metrc to run a compliant dispensary. Reporting to Metrc can be done manually, however cannabis-specific POS systems are offering a Metrc integration, meaning it is done automatically for you as you sell your product. 

What else do I need to know?

Now that we have covered all the technical and operational bases, the rest is up to you.
Other key parts of opening a dispensary include considering where your store might be located, what your brand value and vibe will be, and how your product and store will look.

Marketing should also be a consideration, as well as staff training, and company culture.
Many new cannabis entrepreneurs hire consultants to help them navigate these areas.
For now, we hope this has been a helpful way to get you started.

Tommy Truong is the Director of Partnerships at KayaPush; the cannabis software helping dispensary owners manage their HR, scheduling and payroll all from one easy to use platform. KayaPush also integrates with leading dispensary POS systems, giving you an end-to-end solution.
Tommy loves hot sauce, fried chicken, and running with his Boston terriers.

Member Blog: Reducing Risks In Cannabis With Supplier Auditing

By Maria Lam, Marketing Director of Isolocity

Suppliers provide a product or service to a business and have an essential role in the entire product cycle – from sourcing materials to production. Cannabis businesses rely on and work closely with them to deliver the best product or service in the market. 

With a newly regulated product like cannabis, there is even more scrutiny and cost that operators will have to deal with when it could be a supplier that fails or makes a mistake. Your entire operation could be compromised. To prevent this, it’s important for businesses to conduct supplier auditing. 

What is Supply Auditing and Why Do You Need It?

A supplier audit evaluates the vendor’s competency to deliver the best quality raw materials or services. It’s the best solution to determine whether a particular supplier is contributing to the growth of your business. With a good system in place, it should streamline business operations and maximize productivity. 

A company with a good supplier can deliver high-quality products and services. However, as the company grows, the risk does too. Whether it is for nutrients, soil, or other raw materials a regular audit may be needed to ensure that the supplier continues to deliver products that are of high quality or with up-to-date certification in order to be used for production or manufacturing. 

You may perform an audit at least once a year or when a supplier needs to be monitored or evaluated. If your final product or service is not of the best quality, it could be because of the raw materials from the suppliers. In this case, it’s a must to perform a supplier audit. Otherwise, it could negatively impact your business. Keep in mind that it’s not only about your monthly or yearly sales targets. As a company, it’s your responsibility to take care of your brand. If you consistently deliver low-quality products, it could also affect your business as a whole. 

Regular Auditing Ensures Suppliers Meet Your Standards

How do you know suppliers comply with your standards or contributes to the company’s main objectives? By regularly auditing them. All of your department’s operations must align with the company’s sales goals and that includes your suppliers. Keep in mind that they help you deliver the best products to your clients so it’s only right to make sure that they also deliver what was promised to you – and that is by providing you only with the highest quality raw materials for all of your products or services. 

Regular Auditing is Cost-Effective

When a supplier fails to fully deliver, that could lead to a loss of a company’s revenue. A regular audit can help businesses prevent this costly problem. Supplier auditing can help them track whether the suppliers comply with level agreements. You can also identify potential problems and be able to remedy them before they could become costly business problems. Through supplier auditing, businesses can create contingency plans. By preventing a major problem, businesses won’t have to suffer a loss of revenue. 

Regular Auditing Contributes to Quality Improvement

One of the most effective ways to find out if your company is consistent in delivering high-quality products is to audit your suppliers. As much as possible, make it a comprehensive audit to ensure that you have checked everything. Having a supplier quality checklist can surely help. 

The supplier checklist will not be the same for all businesses. It can vary, depending on what industry you are in. Your checklist could include human resources, purchasing, delivery, production process, inspections, health & safety, risk management, quality control, regulatory compliance, supply chain management, food safety, control of materials, handling and storage, and KPIs. The checklist will serve as a guide for inspectors to evaluate all the important areas. 

How Beneficial is Improving Supplier Quality?

Having a good supplier relationship can help businesses collaborate better with the suppliers. It provides complete transparency to both the company and the supplier. Regular auditing makes sure that the manufacturer or the supplier continues to meet business objectives. Other benefits include:

Customer Satisfaction

A business can grow or thrive in the cannabis industry if they know how to create awareness for their brand, reach out to their target audience and achieve their sales targets. And this takes more than just marketing, your production or manufacturing team also plays a role. When a business consistently provides the best and innovative products and services, rest assured that it will satisfy the customers. Customer satisfaction can help your brand. You will get repeat customers. With regular auditing, you are able to detect areas that may affect customer satisfaction. Before the problem turns into something serious or damaging, you would be able to alleviate it. 

More Profits

Your end goal isn’t only to make your products or service known but to make your business more profitable. By being able to manage risks and quality through supply auditing, your company can maximize productivity and continue to deliver high-quality products to customers. 

Investing in Compliance Automation Streamlines Business Operations

Digitalization can help your business effectively manage supplier compliance through automation. A cloud-based quality management software can help your entire staff become more efficient and effective by allowing teams to collaborate and raise actions against suppliers. Easily notify suppliers to submit certificates as they become due while conducting audits regularly and ensuring documentation is up to date.

Maria is the Director of Marketing & Communications at Isolocity. She first joined Isolocity at its inception as a marketing coordinator and has played a pivotal role in expanding the companies brand awareness across multiple industries. In her current role, Maria has aided in the development of strategic relationships and communications for the company. With Isolocity, she has been able to help cannabis companies streamline their quality compliance processes through digitization. Prior to joining Isolocity, she has also worked independently as a marketing consultant and in the consumer electronics industry. Outside of work, she enjoys spending her time with her watercolors or settling down with her partner to watch comic book films.

Isolocity’s quality compliance software holistically integrates over a decade of experience using quality principles from internationally recognized standards such as ISO 9001:2015, GMP, and more. It harnesses the power of automation to reduce work and resources needed by up to 50%. Its secure cloud technology allows users to implement and comply with complex quality control measures – from anywhere.


Member Blog: Cannabis Commoditization

by Claudia Della Mora, Black Legend Capital

What would it take for cannabis to become a commodity? To answer this question, we must first understand what a commodity is. Commodities are often raw materials, such as mineral ores, petroleum, sugar, rice, corn, wheat, etc., traded in large quantities, with little restriction, with prices fluctuating based on supply and demand. These commodities are often traded on exchanges to facilitate transactions, as price and availability are the main factors, not product differentiation or branding. Thus, standardization of the commodity and minimum quality standards are essential to commoditization. Currently in the EU and UK, hemp raw materials and finished goods must be compliant with the Novel Food Regime to be sold. To be compliant, manufacturers must apply for Novel Food status which will then be approved by the Food Standards Agency. This is a perfect example of standardization beginning to take place. However, globally, there are ~800 recognized strains of cannabis, although realistically, that number is likely in the thousands. This is in comparison to most commodity markets which usually have less than a dozen different variations. We can break this down into three main sub-sectors: industrial hemp, medical cannabis, and adult-use cannabis, and the challenges to commoditization for each.

Industrial hemp is cultivated primarily for its seeds or fibers to make clothing, paper, biodegradable plastic, building materials, etc. Most CBD extracts also come from industrial hemp, so the hemp farmers can potentially be seen as commodity producers while the buyers, who then use the CBD extracts to produce their differentiated products, are not. However, one major issue is the lack of price stability and transparency for differentiation seen in other commodities. In the United States, prices for high-CBD cannabis biomass declined up to two-thirds in value in 2020 compared to the previous year.

Medical cannabis, which can be over the counter or pharma-grade, has various medical applications, some still yet to be discovered. On the pharma side, GW Pharma has the only cannabis drug that has been approved by the FDA, which treats different types of epilepsy. Cannabis is also being researched for its effectiveness in treating Alzheimer’s, cancer, eating disorders, mental health disorders, seizures, and many more. However, firms focused on medical cannabis often attempt to produce products with specific ratios of THC and CBD through crossbreeding and generating unique terpene profiles. However, for a company to develop pharma-grade products, the product must meet the minimum standards required by its prospective country. These are usually for a particular type of treatment, making commoditization difficult.

Adult-use cannabis has seen tremendous growth and legalization in the past years; however, products differ between producers. While there are thousands of strains of cannabis, even the same strain can vary widely between producers depending on cultivation methods and conditions. Naturally occurring terpenes also allow for differentiation. It can come in a wide range of different potencies, even due to farming techniques, thus making it challenging to produce premium quality cannabis at scale consistently. At the same time, countries are beginning to implement minimum requirements for its products, like the EU and UK’s Novel Food Regime explained above. As countries continue implementing these requirements, the ability to differentiate products will decrease.

As you can see, the most likely to be commoditized would be industrial hemp, as standardization would be a massive obstacle for both recreational and medical cannabis. However, other factors need to be resolved before cannabis can reach commodity status, including price transparency and legalization. There are benchmark prices for commodity products that are easily accessible, and currently, a platform to publish these benchmark prices has not been fully developed yet. Regarding legalization, in the US, cannabis with a THC content over 0.3% remains federally illegal, despite individual states allowing growth, processing, and sale. Multi-state operators cannot transport THC products across state lines, preventing the national distribution of branded products. The problem with interstate commerce would disappear when cannabis becomes federally legal, but it is currently a challenge and simply put, for now, a surplus in California stays in California.

While there are still many hurdles for cannabis to become a commodity, many tailwinds could lead to its successful commoditization. Federal legalization in the U.S. would likely remove restrictions in transactions, allowing for the free trade of cannabis within the country. On a global scale, the real barrier to global trade centers around the United Nations Drug Treaty. In December 2020, the U.N. Commission on Narcotic Drugs transferred cannabis from a Schedule 4 to a Schedule 1 drug. Schedule 1 drugs are still prohibited substances but are seen as having medicinal value. For cannabis to trade freely, the United Nations must move cannabis to a U.N. Schedule II or III drug. This is because countries must be compliant with the 1961 U.N. Convention to import and export cannabis, which requires a narcotic license. Additionally, once regulators such as the FDA come out with specific rules, CBD will begin to act more like a commodity with significant supply and demand. One World Pharma, The Cannabis Mercantile Trading Exchange (CMTREX), Panexchange, and Canxchange have begun developing exchanges for cannabis to trade on, with One World Pharma even beginning to offer limited futures contracts. On the positive side, cannabis has a head start in testing to meet minimum quality standards. Most jurisdictions already require it, although the threshold levels needed to sell the product still vary between locations. The regulations between different countries vary greatly, as countries in South America and places like Canada and Israel are very open to cannabis. However, in others, such as most EU and Asian nations, there is still a lot of stigma surrounding cannabis, which will likely take much longer to gain widespread acceptance. While there are still many hurdles to cross until commoditization, the current Biden administration has shown a willingness to legalize cannabis federally, the first and most crucial step towards cannabis becoming a commodity.

Reference: Grower Talks

Ms. Della Mora is the Co-founder of BLC, a financial advisory and investment firm based in Los Angeles with satellite offices in Houston, New York, London, Hong Kong, and Melbourne. During her tenure at BLC, she successfully invested, assisted in the capitalization, and helped business develop small cap oil companies in Kentucky, Texas, Louisiana, Illinois, Colorado, California, Wyoming, North Dakota, and Alaska. She has also structured oil & gas partnerships in several U.S. states, and in Ecuador, Central America. Ms. Della Mora has been involved in many LNG (Liquid to Natural Gas) projects in the U.S., as well as many commodity trades worldwide. She has personally advised also Chinese conglomerates in their U.S. oil & gas investments.

Black Legend Capital is a leading Merger & Acquisition boutique advisory firm based in California with offices worldwide. Black Legend Capital was founded in 2011 by former senior investment bankers from Merrill Lynch and Duff & Phelps. We provide M&A advisory services, structured financing, and valuation services primarily in the cannabis, technology, healthcare, and consumer products industries. Black Legend Capital’s partners have extensive advisory experience in structuring deals across Asia-Pacific, Europe, and North America.


Member Blog: “Food Safe” Gloves Cause Cannabis Recall

by Steve Ardagh, CEO of Eagle Protect

A pesticide-free cannabis producer and processor from Washington was recently forced to issue a recall after the chemical o-Phenylphenol (OPP), traced back to their “food safe” gloves, was found on its products. OPP, listed under California Proposition 65 as a chemical known to cause cancer, was found in the food-safe gloves they were using to handle their crop.

In a statement announcing the recall, the company said, “Nothing ruins your day like testing your product, confident it will be clean, only to find it contaminated with some crazy, toxic chemical. The gloves were the last thing we tested, we just never imagined something sold as food safe could transfer such nastiness. The discovery was just the beginning… recalls are costly in more ways than one.”

Why “food safe” gloves can cause a recall

After initial approval, non-sterile FDA compliant food grade gloves are not subject to ongoing controls to ensure the reliability and consistency of raw material ingredients or quality processes during manufacturing. Opportunity exists for glove manufacturers to use cheap raw materials which lower glove durability and can introduce toxic compounds, which can transfer not only to products handled but also to glove users. 

Demand for lower costs from the end-user pressures glove manufacturers to sacrifice quality, and substitute other compounds to meet these demands. This can include increased levels of cyanide, fungicides, inexpensive phthalate plasticizers, or others on the Prop. 65 list of chemicals known to cause cancer.

Steve Ardagh, CEO of Eagle Protect, a specialist glove supplier explains, “People assume ‘food grade’ gloves are clean and toxin free, but that’s not necessarily the case. The actual FDA Compliance does not even require gloves to be tested clean or sanitary which surprises most people. Having tested 25 different brands of gloves, we’ve found everything from feces, fungicides, Staphylococcus, yeast, and mold,” says Ardagh, “due to putrid water sources and unhygienic manufacturing conditions.” 

Recalls & brand reputational damage

Single-use gloves, even those FDA compliant, can be a risk to product recalls and brand reputation. Peer-reviewed scientific studies have identified harmful toxins and contaminants in and on single-use gloves. These “food handling” gloves pose risks for companies producing consumer products, especially in industries such as organics and cannabis whose products must be clean if tested. 

Staff & consumer risks

In addition, staff wearing contaminated gloves are at risk of absorbing toxins, as are the consumers of products contaminated by gloves. The contaminants have often been identified as causing cancer, and reproductive and hormonal damage.

Mitigating glove contamination risks

Gloves are often purchased with little thought or foresight into their risks. Cost is commonly the determining factor in their procurement decision-making. However, sourcing gloves from established companies who partner directly with glove manufacturers to ensure consistent quality is essential for all cannabis companies. Gloves may seem trivial, but can cause fines up to $200,000, put consumers and staff at risk, and damage brand reputation. 

This is especially important currently in the post-COVID world as the glove market is being flooded with counterfeit and reject quality gloves. The new glove suppliers, traders, and brokers who came into the COVID PPE space with little or no experience, with an intention to simply trade and make quick money, are now bailing out of their poor quality junk gloves and dumping them into the U.S. market. Consider the following before purchasing gloves:

Is your glove supplier reputable, with a long history of glove sourcing direct from the manufacturer and proven quality control processes in place?

Can your glove supplier ensure your glove quality is consistently high through documented factory audits, HACCP compliance certifications and quality processes?

Have you undergone a commercial trial of products prior to committing to purchasing to ensure glove quality is consistently high?

After establishing Eagle Protect as an industry leader in New Zealand, where the company supplies approximately 80% of the primary food processing industry, Steve Ardagh relocated with his family to the U.S. in January 2016 and launched Eagle Protect PBC. Steve brought with him Eagle’s values of providing products that are certified food safe, ethically sourced and environmentally better. Steve is driven to keep consumers safe, one high-quality disposable glove at a time, and has been instrumental in developing Eagle’s proprietary third-party Fingerprint Glove Analysis glove testing program.

Eagle Protect, the world’s only glove and PPE supplier to be a Certified B Corporation®. Eagle Protect supplies disposable gloves and protective clothing to the food processing, food service, cannabis, medical and dentistry sectors in both the U.S. and New Zealand.

Eagle is implementing a proprietary third-party glove analysis to ensure a range of their gloves are of consistent high-quality, and free from harmful contaminants, toxins, and pathogens.

Video: NCIA Today – August 20, 2021

Committee Blog: Future-Proofing Cannabis Manufacturing Facilities

by NCIA’s Cannabis Manufacturing Committee

As the cannabis industry scales and more states legalize for adult-use, the demand for consumable cannabis products increases. To keep up with the demand, manufacturing facilities have to not only scale, but stay ahead of the curve as far as conserving resources, constantly innovating facility design to meet regulations and third-party compliance, e.g., ASTM Cannabis Certification Program and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).

Here are a few areas of environmental, product quality, and worker impacts to consider when planning for the future of your manufacturing facility. 


As with any manufacturing facility, cannabis manufacturers pull power from shared electrical grids, meaning there is increasing pressure to reduce energy usage as they scale their operations. There are many design strategies for facilities to consider, whether they retrofit or build new, to reduce environmental impacts and position their operation for a sustainable future. One example for the cannabis industry is to recapture and repurpose heat generated from the processing equipment used for manufacturing products. Another example is incorporating climate control technologies to reduce the amount of energy required in extreme environments. More and more energy companies are starting to incentivize cannabis operations to reduce their energy usage and offer guidance on how to do so. Furthermore, regulators are beginning to enforce energy usage requirements for manufacturing facilities. 

There are many ways to reduce your facility’s energy usage from efficient lighting to control system maintenance and making sure your odor and emissions control systems are designed to your facility’s specific emission load and mechanical design. Whenever possible, installing cloud-based smart systems with the ability to capture energy usage and system maintenance data will help to improve your facility’s energy efficiency. More areas of impact and best management practice guidance can be found in the NCIA’s Environmental Sustainability Report, released in October 2020.

Air Quality

Manufacturers of Infused Products, or MIPs, are Colorado’s manufacturing facilities, which is one example of a market segment facing regulatory enforcements for air quality control. The large-volume use of solvents for extraction leads regulators to monitor the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted from the use of these solvents, as VOCs are contributors to low-level ozone formation, poor air quality, and public health issues. These solvents are also potential contributors to water contamination if wastewater is not discharged properly from the facility and are consequently on the radar for regulators to tightly monitor. The EPA statesthe main concern indoors is the potential for VOCs to adversely impact the health of people that are exposed. While VOCs can also be a health concern outdoors, EPA regulates VOCs outdoors mainly because of their ability to create photochemical smog (or low-level ozone) under certain conditions.

Luckily, smart technology such as cloud-based platforms using the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) for control equipment is increasingly being installed in manufacturing facilities, allowing for the collection and monitoring of facility data, such as emissions. Furthermore, the same technologies that are used for odor mitigation, such as molecular filtration systems (aka carbon scrubbers) also remove VOCs in the facilities’ air space from both the products and the solvents in the facility. The ability to prove this removal to regulators with real-time data will help reduce facilities’ contributions to VOC emissions when regulators require reporting.

Worker Health & Safety

In addition to environmental impacts from VOCs, along with other emissions inside of a cannabis manufacturing facility, there is also the issue of indoor air quality and worker health. There is not a lot known about the potential impacts of the processing of cannabis on indoor air quality. What is known is that terpenoids that are emitted in the cultivation and processing of cannabis can contribute, through a series of atmospheric reactions, to the production of known air pollutants. Terpenoids, such as monoterpenes (C10H16) and sesquiterpenes (C15 H24), are highly reactive compounds with atmospheric lifetimes ranging from seconds to hours. These compounds on their own are non-toxic. However, the atmospheric reactions they participate in can result in a range of low volatility products that create aerosols or ozone. These two compounds have clear implications for indoor air quality and thus occupational health. 

Uncertainty remains as to the extent of the formation of these pollutants since previous studies have been hampered by a lack of reliable data and are predicated on conditions and practices prevalent in illicit operations. Given that the methods employed in these illegal operations are driven by different needs, the methods currently used in legalized facilities may produce vastly different conditions. This speaks to the urgent need for rigorous new scientific research and evaluation to aid this new industry and relevant regulatory bodies in assessing the current occupational environmental threats of marijuana processing and provide solutions to mitigate those impacts.

Quality by Design

The competitive licensing process, regulatory requirements, and lack of knowledge on scaled cannabis production has contributed to facilities that were not designed to properly ensure control of environments, the process flow that minimizes risks of cross-contamination and the adequate storage for the many types of raw materials, work in process, and final products. The result is an inefficient operation that may have been spared significant Capital Expenses (CapEx), but requires significant Operational Expenses (OpEx) to maintain.

The concept of Quality by Design (QbD) was first developed by the quality pioneer Dr. Joseph Juran. It posits that quality should be designed into a product and recognizes that most quality issues are a result of poor initial design. It is supported by long-standing evidence that increased testing does not necessarily improve product quality. 

Currently, there is an overarching emphasis on final product testing as the determinant of whether cannabis products are safe for release into the marketplace. This has pitted labs, regulators, and producers against each other, leading to accounts of lab shopping, exclusive contracts, and other nefarious activities. This approach does not serve anyone, and is in stark contrast with the concept of Quality by Design.

Transitioning from a Quality Control Approach to Quality by Design

Transitioning from our current processes into a proactive Quality by Design approach requires an understanding of Good Manufacturing Practices or GMPs. The first set of GMPs for finished pharmaceuticals were established for enforcement by the United States FDA in the Federal Register in 1963. Since then, GMPs have been created for and adopted globally for nearly all products that can be consumed or applied for human and veterinary use –- categorized under dietary supplements, food, cosmetics, and of course, pharmaceuticals. GMPs represent the minimum sanitary and processing requirements to ensure safe and consistent products. Consider the road map and cross-over between major FDA cGMP (current Good Manufacturing Practices) by industry sector.

GMP regulations are written by the FDA and adopted in the code of federal regulations under the authority given to the FDA by various laws. Almost all of these regulations are performance standards. There are dozens to potentially thousands of substantially different products regulated under each category of GMP standards. It is up to each manufacturer to ensure their unique processes meet the GMP standards. In this way the regulations are flexible yet force all manufacturers to operate with a minimum level of rigor that includes programs that proactively mitigate risks that can lead to product failures and cannot be controlled simply through final product testing. They take a holistic approach to facility operations, starting with the facility culture, design, layout, placement, and selection of equipment, along with ongoing training, supplier qualification, environmental monitoring, and executive commitment.

The current status quo of manufacturing facility design has been built on a quality control approach. Most facility owners believe cannabis will be assigned a cGMP category based on the final product type and have been trying to build compliant facilities under this assumption. Some States have incorporated by reference the federal GMP regulations. However the competitive application process and focus on final product safety via testing has created an environment in which facility owners feel compelled to do as much if not more than the other facilities in order to meet regulator expectations and all focus is on the final product, not the process. In order to win the application, businesses want to look ‘better’ than the other applicants so they tack on as many hazard controls as they can think of. This has given regulators unrealistic expectations as to the best practices required to operate responsibly. Instead of quantifying hazards by collecting data and making informed decisions as to how to best eliminate risks, facilities are simply copying hazard controls they have seen used in other industries with hopes they meet the regulators’ expectations of what a GMP facility looks like. This culture of adding as many hazard controls as possible is a quality control approach focused on the final product, not a Quality by Design approach focused on the process. As a result, envelope in an envelope style facilities in which the manufacturing process is entombed in layers of energy and resource consuming hazard controls are commonplace.

There are other ways of designing compliant facilities; ways that could be more efficient and use less energy and resources. With a Quality by Design approach, these options become explorable. With quantified hazards the process can be approached holistically and significant design questions asked, e.g.. how much energy goes into the outer envelope and how much product quality/safety is gained from that?

In the Southwest deserts, there is consideration given to opening canopy/atrium style extraction spaces that would use less energy while providing the safety of unconstrained open atmosphere ventilation. The important question to ask when considering alternative facility designs is – How much energy/resources goes into containing human contamination versus the likelihood and the actual consequences? Perhaps manufacturing facility workers can wear long sleeves, pants, and hair restraints and that will be sufficient versus wearing a full body gown?

Quantification of Risks

Quantifying the processes and proven hazards of the cannabis manufacturing industry will allow for more informed design and operational choices versus prescriptive solutions that may potentially over-mitigate the risks and possibly introduce additional risks. Moreover, this data would provide validation that the design and operational choices made are in fact the best practices. Instead of scrambling to follow each standard in a quality control approach, Quality by Design considers the whole process, how the 10 principles of GMP standards apply and focuses on finding the most efficient strategies to eliminate risks.

A Way Forward

Training is vital for the manufacturers to know the next steps and why they are critical for the future of cannabis extraction and post-processing. Knowledge is required to put valuable technology, tools, and equipment in place with the least operational downtime. Further, it is necessary to accept guidance from verified knowledgeable support, such as from a vetted supplier. Lastly, risk mitigation education is necessary to highlight the reality of long-term savings and sustainability versus the common short-sighted tendency for immediate cost savings, which can result in significant consequences for a business such as TerrAscend Canada’s 2021 recall of infused gummies due to mold contamination.


Committee Blog: Re-Thinking Cannabis Track and Trace Models – How State-Mandated Track and Trace Integration Capability is Failing the Cannabis Industry

by NCIA’s State Regulations Committee
Contributing authors Jennifer Gallerani, Erin Fay, and Elise Serbaroli

This is the second in a three-part blog series. The first part can be read here.

Highly regulated industries typically require key information to be readily available to regulators related to the production, movement, and sale of products, which is the case in the cannabis industry. The two main reasons for “seed-to-sale” record keeping are (1) to reduce the diversion of cannabis products to the unregulated market and (2) to protect consumer health with an efficient track and recall product method. 

However, cannabis operators are facing many challenges with the state-mandated track-and-trace requirements, causing their business operations to suffer inefficiencies, delays, and sometimes even interruptions, which can ultimately impact consumers and patients. This is the second blog in a series highlighting the issues that cannabis operators and regulators are facing with the current centralized state-mandated track-and-trace model from NCIA’s State Regulations Committee, Technology and Compliance Sub-Committee. 

The point of frustration begins with the method in which the track-and-trace requirements are implemented. Most U.S. states with some form of legal cannabis sales (medical and/or adult-use) have selected a single mandated technology platform that all operators must use to track and trace their cannabis seeds, plants, and products. The track-and-trace system selected by the state is independently configured to match the adopted cannabis regulations for that region. Because each state has adopted different cannabis regulations, there are variations in what can and cannot be accomplished within the selected track-and-trace systems, even within the states that have selected the same technology provider.  

What is an API?

While the definition of an API may seem complex, at its most basic level, the API is the communication pathway between two systems. API stands for “application programming interface,” which means that it is a software intermediary that allows two systems to “talk” to each other, meaning communicating and sending or receiving information. The communication pathway is intended to be two-way, with third-party business management software being able to retrieve (“GET”) information in the track-and-trace system, as well as send (“PUT”) updated information back into the system.

Let’s turn to an everyday example of an API integration that most consumers would be familiar with: travel booking applications that aggregate flight information. Let’s say you are planning a flight for a summer vacation and you have two options: go directly to each airline website to search for and compare flight options, or use a third-party travel booking application to simultaneously access all flights across all airlines within your search parameters. The ability to search and review all the available flights, across many airlines, is because of the airlines’ and applications’ APIs.  When you use the travel booking application, it sends the search parameters to the airlines it is connected with via the API. The airline API then sends available flights, seats, and prices to the travel booking application. In the more sophisticated travel booking applications, you can also purchase the ticket for your flight through the travel booking application, which then also utilizes other APIs for your secure banking/payment information. If all of the APIs are open to send and receive data between the systems, then the transaction is seamless, and all of the required information (identity verification, payment method, etc.) is shared with the airline for your booking.

Understanding API Limitations in Cannabis 

State regulators intend for the cannabis track-and-trace technology to serve as a way to accurately collect and record information about the flow of goods in the cannabis industry from seed to sale. What is consistent across all states, regardless of the track-and-trace technology selected, is the acknowledgment from regulators that the mandated systems are not intended to serve as an operator’s compliance solution or business management software system. The state-mandated track-and-trace systems are not built in a way that would allow a business operator to manage day-to-day operations and transactions between operators and retailers to consumers.

This acknowledgment of the business management limitations within the track-and-trace systems and the need for interoperability with operators’ own software is often stated outright by regulators and policymakers and/or codified in regulations, such as in California’s Business and Professions Code (Clauses (b) and (c)). Instead of directly managing operations within the track-and-trace systems, cannabis businesses utilize third-party software that has been vetted and certified to connect with and communicate important transaction details to the state systems. Cannabis operators are then relying heavily on third-party software and API integrations for the communication and transmittal of that important information and data. 

State-Mandated Software Providers Set Regulators And Operators Up To Fail 

Now let’s think about how cannabis businesses utilize APIs on a regular basis: for example, point-of-sale (POS) software. Regulations require that the cannabis retailer record all sales in the central, state-mandated track-and-trace system, but the actual on-site transaction is conducted through POS software at checkout. The retailer is therefore encouraged to use POS software that provides the necessary sales tools and controls that make running the business manageable for all employees, while also providing API integration with state-mandated track-and-trace systems.

Without the API integration, a retailer would be forced to manually enter all of the details of all of the POS transactions into the track-and-trace system on a daily basis. Hundreds of daily sales without an API integration means many hours of data entry and countless opportunities for human errors in the track-and-trace system. Opportunities abound for inaccurate reporting in the track-and-trace systems with manual entry. Regulators rely on the track-and-trace system they selected to ensure compliance and consumer safety, although operators are essentially utilizing third-party software to communicate with the track-and-trace system. This is exactly why it is important that the cannabis industry has an open and operating track-and-trace system API at all times. Any time the track-and-trace API malfunctions (limited in communication pathways, delayed in responding to POS requests for information, or just completely down), the cannabis retailer operations are severely impacted, if not altogether halted.

In current situations where the state has mandated a specific software provider, the vendor approves specific POS and other software vendors, but the agreements the vendor has with the state does not allow for direct support to the approved vendors. This causes challenges as a licensee’s POS vendor cannot talk directly to the vendor to get API issues resolved. There is also no direct line of communication to the approved vendors about changes happening in the state-mandated software provider’s system that affects the API. These types of issues can cause the licensee (cannabis operator) to be out of compliance without even knowing it.

From The Operator’s Perspective

Imagine that you are a budtender trained on your employer’s POS software, compliance and track-and-trace requirements. Very rarely will you access the statewide system directly because the POS is fully integrated with the track-and-trace API. You are working during your daily shift processing retail transactions through the POS, but unfortunately, the track-and-trace API is experiencing high call volumes from all of the other retailers in the state, and the API is not responding to your POS requests. You cannot complete the transaction in the POS as usual, so you are forced to complete and track the transaction manually. Later on, you have to spend hours manually entering which unit of product came from which box in the back storeroom, along with all of the customer’s information and time stamps. This takes hours of labor and could lead to mistakes (hey, we’re human!). As we stated, manual records and entry invite human error. Now the inventory listed in your POS software does not match the statewide track-and-trace system. You spend many more hours trying to find and correct this mistake. The circle of conducting sales transactions, recording and tracking it manually, and fixing errors, widens, all putting your cannabis business at risk.

Because cannabis businesses at every point of the supply chain (i.e., cultivation, manufacturing, distribution, and retail) rely on third-party software to manage their operations effectively and efficiently, a hiccup in the track-and-trace API has ramifications for an entire statewide industry at once. While this sounds like a “perfect storm” scenario that only happens every once in a long while, in reality, track-and-trace API performance issues happen on a regular basis.

In California, a group of third-party software integrators reviewed track-and-trace API performance over a period of six months (April 2020 through October 2020) and found that the API was generally up and fully responsive approximately 91 to 98 percent of the time. While an API performance ranking in the high nineties may seem acceptable, the technology industry considers 99.999% uptime as the standard for high availability. An availability of 94 to 98 percent means 2-6% downtime, which is effectively 3 to 8 hours of downtime per week. More recently, the California Metrc API (CCTT-Metrc) experienced consistent outages for approximately 17 consecutive days (February 16, 2021 – March 5, 2021). This extensive outage caused all third-party software integrators serious Metrc-sync issues for packages, transfers, and more. Operators were forced to keep their staff on extensive overtime for more than two weeks in order to manually enter and/or correct information that was entered into the system while sync issues were occurring. As a result, cannabis businesses suffered as operations were interrupted, additional labor was required, and additional costs were incurred that had to be absorbed by the business.

From The Regulators’ Perspective 

Cannabis is a highly regulated industry and regulators are very concerned about the path from a cannabis seed to final sale to a consumer. The perceived public safety concerns are immense, which is what prompted the implementation of, and requirements, around track-and-trace. Put simply, regulators rely on the track-and-trace system they selected and the system is only as good as its uptime.

Many regulators focus on the track-and-trace server uptime reporting from their technology providers as an indication of how well things are running. If the server is up, then an operator can still access and update the track-and-trace system manually, and that is where most regulators stop in their understanding of the issues. API connectivity and performance is just as critical as track-and-trace server uptime in order to ensure business continuity and accurate data; and accurate data is the entire intent of the state’s mandated technology platforms. It is important that regulators assign key technical leads with the sole responsibility of reviewing track-and-trace API limitations and performance issues for their regulated industry.

Without skilled technical staff on the state’s side, when the track-and-trace API has issues, no one is aware of the problem besides technical teams at third-party software providers. The onus is on the software providers to notify all operators and inform the regulators. This leads to a delayed and fragmented flow of information to operators who are scrambling because their third-party business platforms are shut down. The responsibility of transparent notification around API performance should be on the state-mandated system provider, and no one else. The current lack of transparency on API performance and downtimes also leads to complete blind spots for the regulators, having also not been timely notified that cannabis operations in their state have halted due to API connectivity. The operators and the state should know the health of their track-and-trace systems at all times so that they can attempt to mitigate the amount of damage an outage inflicts on businesses. As with many other online platforms with APIs (i.e., SAP, Twitter, Intercom, etc.), this is typically done through the establishment of an API status page. At this time, there are no current API status pages for key track and trace vendors and, as stated above, performance issues are largely tracked and reported to regulators by the operators. In California, there are currently no performance reports required of Metrc for their system’s API availability (not including general server/equipment uptime).


The performance deficiencies of track-and-trace API’s are burdensome to the entire legal cannabis industry because it can cause third-party inventory management applications to collapse. Then operators are forced to duplicate and/or correct entries directly in the track-and-trace system. This amounts to countless hours lost and perpetuates inaccuracies of the data being entered into the system. Ultimately, the effectiveness of the track-and-trace system diminishes with any amount of downtime. Unfortunately, downtime and interruptions are all too common and the cannabis industry’s needs as a highly regulated industry demand a much higher success rate for its systems.

In our next blog in this series, we will compare the current centralized state-mandated track and trace model with the alternative distributed model.

Interested in joining us in establishing an effective and scalable track and trace framework for regulators and operators in the legal cannabis space? Click here to stay updated on the State Regulations Committee, and the efforts that its Technology and Compliance Subcommittee are taking to improve and advance track and trace nationally. Let’s close the information gap between operators and regulators, and help the entire industry move forward together.

Stay tuned for the next blog post in our multi-part series!

#cannabisindustry #legalcannabis #trackandtrace #wearethecannabisindustry #cannabiscompliance

Video: NCIA Today – August 6, 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.


August Action Alerts for NCIA Members: CAOA and SMS

by Rachel Kurtz-McAlaine, NCIA’s Deputy Director of Public Policy

STOP what you’re doing and ask yourself 2 questions:

  1. Have I read the discussion draft or summary of the Senate bill to legalize cannabis at the federal level and now have an opinion on how NCIA should approach the bill? (Tell NCIA.)

  2. Has my SMS/text messaging service gotten more expensive, become unwieldy with rules, or been taken away altogether? (Tell NCIA.)

If you answered yes to one or both of these questions, please take a quick moment to let us know! Click on the unique link next to the relevant question. If you want to learn more about either issue, keep reading.

Senate Legalization Bill Discussion Draft: Your Thoughts?

Hopefully, by now you’ve had a chance to read the discussion draft of the Senate bill released a few weeks ago, detailed in Michelle’s last blog post, Crazy for Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA). If not, at least read the summary so you understand what is happening with this potentially historic legislation.

We are at the precipice of federal legalization, but as you know, in such a highly regulated industry, how legalization gets implemented can have a significant impact on your business. So it’s important that your voice is heard when these laws and regulations are being discussed. We’ve created this simple form for NCIA members to easily give us feedback on the CAOA. If you’re a committee member, you can provide feedback through your committee as well.

Text Messaging Service Disruptions: the Cannabis Industry Can Fight Back

You may remember reading my article, Text Messaging (SMS) Crackdown Impacting the Cannabis Industry, published back in May, written when we were first learning the scope of the issue. Although many companies seemed to be able to move on with workarounds, we’re hearing even workarounds are disappearing. And even when businesses are still able to operate, they get charged high fees or are severely hampered in what they can do with the messages.

Because this issue has been affecting so many of our members in one way or another, we want to help, but we need to hear from you. This isn’t a law that we can lobby to change, it is a convoluted policy that telecommunications giants are enforcing on their customers, ostensibly to cut down on customers complaining about spam, but in some cases, they are applying blanket bans on cannabis companies.

As an industry, we can fight back. We are organizing a working group to take on the telecommunications giants, including a potential class-action lawsuit. If you want to be part of this or learn more, please email me.

Those workarounds going away, or extremely expensive and cumbersome. It can seem overwhelming to fight back.

At this point, time to organize and use strength in numbers against giant telecommunications companies.


Committee Blog: Cannabis Auto Insurance – Best Practices, Claims Processes, and More!

by Jesse Parenti, Programs Director of Nine Points Strategies, Stephanie Bozzuto of Cannabis Connect Insurance Services, Matthew Johnson, Vice President of QuadScore Risk Services, and Helkin Berg, CEO of Strimo
Members of NCIA’s Risk Management and Insurance Committee

If your company has an “auto exposure” such as delivery, distribution, or employees simply running company errands, your company needs a robust risk management program.

Managing a fleet is essential to ensure drivers are given the necessary tools to be safe and responsible while on the open road. Implementing a vehicle maintenance program is also a necessary component of fleet management.

Proper automotive risk management starts with driver guidelines on how you hire your drivers and what is required to qualify to be employed by your organization. Best practices on age, driving experience, motor vehicle reports, and training make for a great start. Even though your employees may think they are only delivering or transporting cannabis, they are commercial drivers, and they need to take that duty very seriously. Morbid as it may sound, death is not the worst thing that can happen…

Here are some best practices:

  1. Drivers should ideally be at least 25 years old with five years of driving experience. For the best insurance pricing and experience, you should hire drivers that are between 35-55 years old. Note that commercial drivers over a certain age will face increased pricing from insurance companies much like their youthful counterparts. Keep that 22-year-old with four speeding tickets off your policy, even if they are the business owner’s relative!

  2. Only hire drivers with squeaky clean driving records. Experienced drivers with a clean record are more likely to continue to drive this way when working for your organization. If you hire drivers with violations or points on their records, expect this level of driving to continue when working for you. Drivers don’t often change driving habits just because of their employment status. Note that age and driving records directly affect commercial auto rates.

  3. Set up an Employee Pull Notice Program or Motor Vehicle Report pull program through the DMV. A “pull program” ensures that you are aware of your drivers’ violations in real-time, whether the violations happen during or outside of work. Suppose a driver is out of compliance based on your insurance carrier guidelines. In that case, your insurer can deny a claim based on your driver’s record or violations that happened while employed by your organization, even if the violation occurred outside of work. If you are not monitoring your drivers, you would never be aware of these concerns or problems. Secured motor vehicle records (MVR) storage is also crucial to protect your employee’s personal information. Make sure you backup all your records in the cloud or a protected server network. Identity theft can happen quickly, and unprotected data will create cyber liability exposures if not protected correctly.

  4. Take cell phone, texting, or distracted driving violations very seriously. Distracted driving is the #1 cause of death and accidents since 2012 and is increasing yearly as time goes on. The NHTSA reports that an estimated 1.6 million accidents in 2020 were caused by distracted drivers too busy eating, texting, smoking, etc., to keep their eyes on the road. Suppose one of your drivers has a distracted driving violation. In that case, you can rectify it by having them take a distracted driver class to understand the gravity of such infractions. Then put that driver on probation with consistent monitoring of their MVR for 18-24 months to ensure they don’t continue to have these violations.

  5. Onboarding driver training must include how to drive defensively, what to do if you are held up for a robbery, and what to do if you are pulled over by the police. This training makes a world of difference when or if any of these take place. In addition to robust onboarding training, training needs to continue over time as safety never stops, and good practices always need to be reinforced.

Here are some examples of claims to give you an idea of what could happen to you:

  1. A large distribution company hires a driver and has them complete some training in a large, empty box truck. This training helps the driver understand how to drive and brake with a(n empty) truck. The next day the driver goes out with a full load of cannabis flower and concentrates in their truck. The driver notices that the truck is handling differently than when it was empty. A wind picks up just as the truck is taking a turn. The truck rolls onto its side and totals the box on the truck, damaging the product inside. The company could have avoided this accident had they trained their driver in real-life experiences, with actual loads.

  2. A driver is delivering cannabis to a customer’s home. While en route, the driver accidentally hits a pedestrian crossing a sidewalk on a poorly lit street. The driver did nothing wrong, but the accident still caused permanent disability to the man who was the head of the household, and the insurance company paid out over $7M. If the insured didn’t have the $10M in auto liability, they would have had to close their doors. 

You and your employees can do everything right, but accidents can and will still happen. That is why culture, safety, and accountability are essential when working in the transportation and delivery space. If you don’t take this seriously, your company will pay the price. To avoid these costly mistakes, work with your legal team, insurance providers, and software vendors to ensure ideal policies, training requirements, and data storage.


Nine Point Strategies is a national risk management firm specializing in all forms of commercial auto for the cannabis industry. We can help you with anything you need concerning hiring, training and maintaining all your required driver compliance you need to be a safe and profitable organization. Contact us to discuss how we can better protect your cannabis auto exposures.

QuadScore Insurance Services is the nation’s leading insurance provider for marijuana businesses. QuadScore offers comprehensive property & casualty solutions as well as a full  suite of risk management services for large cannabis companies around the United States.

The Strimo™ team is comprised of industry veterans. We are both practitioners in cannabis and long-time experts in software. We have supported companies in rapid growth and deeply understand that your software needs to grow with you. Strimo is the leading enterprise cannabis SaaS platform.

Cannabis Connect Insurance is a specialty division of Bozzuto Insurance, an insurance firm serving businesses since 1978 and part of Acrisure, LLC the 4th largest insurance brokerage in the United States. We specialize in connecting cannabis business owners with custom built insurance programs.Cannabis Connect was founded on basic principles of honesty, integrity, and trust. We are actively involved in the cannabis industry on both a local and state level. We are involved in multiple cannabis associations and continue to remain informed on policy forms and legislative changes to ensure our clients best interests come first. 



House Rules Committee Weighs In On Cannabis Appropriations Amendments

By Morgan Fox, NCIA’s Director of Media Relations

The process of approving the federal budget is moving full steam ahead, with the House Rules Committee considering several amendments related to cannabis to a series of funding bills this week. Amendments that pass this committee move on to a full vote on the House floor.

In terms of overall cannabis policy reform, the most prominent amendment is one that would prevent the Department of Justice from using funds to interfere with state adult-use and medical cannabis programs or target people and businesses that are in compliance with state cannabis laws. This amendment was offered by bipartisan congressional cannabis champions Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Tom McClintock (R-CA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Barbara Lee (D-CA). The amendment was ruled in order Wednesday and will proceed to a vote, possibly as soon as this week.

Even though the DOJ has generally been respecting state cannabis laws in recent years, passage of this amendment in the final federal budget would add the force of law to that policy for the next fiscal year, providing peace of mind for tens of thousands of regulated cannabis businesses and millions of consumers across the country. This would also add significant momentum to congressional efforts to remove cannabis from the schedule of controlled substances and regulate it at the federal level in separate stand-alone legislation.

Provisions to prevent the DOJ solely from targeting state-legal medical cannabis programs and providers have been approved by Congress every year since 2014. With public support for medical cannabis at roughly 90%, these protections have become mostly a non-issue in Congress and have been included in the original base language of the relevant House appropriations bills since 2019.

The amendment extending those protections to state adult-use programs was approved by the House in the budget votes in 2019 and 2020. Unfortunately, it did not receive the same support in the Senate and was not included in the final funding packages approved by the previous Congress.

An amendment that would remove the renewal of medical cannabis program protections from this legislation, flying in the face of long-supported policy and unnecessarily taking up lawmakers’ time, was also introduced by Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) and ruled in order.

Rep. LaMalfa, a staunch prohibitionist, has also introduced several amendments to appropriations bills to increase DEA funding for eradication efforts. He made headlines recently when his office released videos of him joining law enforcement in bulldozing outdoor cultivation sites in Siskiyou County, California while grandstanding for the camera and ripping off quotes from the film Apocalypse Now. These sites were located in primarily Hmong communities, a Southeast Asian ethnic diaspora that alleges that the county has prevented its members from obtaining cannabis licenses and prevented water shipments to their communities with serious harm to the quality of life there. LaMalfa’s behavior in these videos is particularly offensive given that many Hmong fled their homes to settle in the United States during and following the Vietnam War after facing persecution for supporting America in that conflict.

Unfortunately, some positive cannabis amendments were ruled out of order by the committee this week and will not be voted upon in this legislation. Delegate Norton offered a pair of provisions that would have prevented the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development from using funds to punish residents of federally assisted housing for state-legal cannabis use in adult-use and medical states, respectively. These reforms are incredibly important, as people living in federal housing can be and are frequently evicted from their homes if they or anyone in their household exercises their legal rights or uses the medicine that works best for them. This leaves many people with no place to legally use cannabis, leading to increased public consumption in low-income communities and continued racial disparities in arrests and citations.

On the positive side, an amendment from Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) to highlight the need for the Food and Drug Administration to establish regulations for CBD products was also ruled in order and approved.

Last week, another bad amendment, introduced by Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ), to remove language from the original legislation that would allow federal funding for universities that are conducting cannabis research was ruled in order but voted down in the House.

The House appropriations bills have a broad range of other cannabis provisions related to topics like banking reform, research, law enforcement funding and grant programs, federal employment guidelines, and allowing the District of Columbia to finally regulate cannabis after it was legalized by voters in 2014. We’ll get into these in more detail in the coming weeks as we get closer to a full vote in the House. Stay tuned!

Crazy for Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA)

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

Last week was undoubtedly one of the most exciting weeks in federal cannabis policy ever! On July 14, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), along with Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR), unveiled long-awaited draft legislation that would remove cannabis from the schedule of controlled substances while allowing states to determine their own cannabis policies. Let’s take a look at what we know:

What is it?

You’ll recall that back in February, the trio of Senators announced that they were working on a comprehensive cannabis bill. Since then, NCIA and other advocates have (im)patiently been waiting to see what shape that would take – I was calling it the best-kept secret in Washington! However, at long last, the discussion draft of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA) was released. 

A discussion draft is exactly what it sounds like – prior to introducing this language as formal legislation, the Senators have shared it in this form, allowing stakeholders, the public, and others the opportunity to weigh in and provide their expertise and feedback.

What’s in it?

As I mentioned above, the CAOA removes cannabis from the list of controlled substances, effectively legalizing it at the federal level while still allowing states to set their own policies. According to the bill’s detailed summary, it has a few goals:

“… [it will] Ensure that Americans – especially Black and Brown Americans – no longer have to fear arrest or be barred from public housing or federal financial aid for higher education for using cannabis in states where it’s legal. State-compliant cannabis businesses will finally be treated like other businesses and allowed access to essential financial services, like bank accounts and loans. Medical research will no longer be stifled.”

The bill also includes:

  • Restorative measures for people and communities who were unfairly targeted in the war on drugs. 
  • Automatic expungements for federal non-violent marijuana crimes and allows an individual currently serving time in federal prison for nonviolent marijuana crimes to petition a court for resentencing. 
  • An “Opportunity Trust Fund” funded by federal cannabis tax revenue to reinvest in the communities most impacted by the failed war on drugs, as well as helping to level the playing field for entrepreneurs of color who continue to face barriers of access to the industry. 
  • An end to discrimination in federal public benefits for medical marijuana patients and adult-use consumers. 
  • Respect for state cannabis laws and a path for responsible federal regulation of the cannabis industry. Like with federal regulations on alcohol, under CAOA, states can determine their own cannabis laws, but federal prohibition will no longer be an obstacle. Regulatory responsibility will be moved from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF), as well as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to protect public health. 
  • A federal tax structure – CAOA would impose an excise tax on cannabis products in a manner similar to the tax imposed on alcohol and tobacco. The general rate of tax would be 10 percent for the year of enactment and the first full calendar year after enactment. The tax rate would increase annually to 15 percent, 20 percent, and 25 percent in the following years. 

What’s next?

The discussion draft comment and feedback process will be ongoing until September 1. Until then, NCIA will be working with our board, Policy Council, committees, and our members (particularly our Evergreen members!) to solicit their expert input on some of the areas the Senators have expressed interest in. After that deadline, the Senators will take their time to review submissions and subsequently formally introduce the revised language later this year. Stay tuned via our newsletter, blog, and upcoming events to learn the latest on this and how you can actually submit your thoughts to us! 

Member Blog: Does Your Cannabis Brand Need Social Media? Yes, But Not For the Reasons You Think

By Aaron Rosenbluth, Hybrid Marketing Co

Every cannabis brand needs social media. But, the reasons to be on social media, and how you should approach your accounts might surprise you.

Social media is a powerful tool for all businesses today. Even in the cannabis industry, where most paid advertising opportunities – including paid social – are off the table. 

It’s an effective way to communicate with customers directly. Social media lets your cannabis brand or dispensary start meaningful conversations – it’s a place to develop and nurture a community. But should you look at social media as a primary business driver? Probably not; hear me out. 

Five years ago, when I started managing social media accounts for cannabis brands, organic engagement wasn’t easy, but it was easier than it is today. Marketers (like me) remember the era of chronological Instagram feeds and simplified Facebook algorithms fondly. Five years ago, getting organic attention from your followers was more straightforward. It was also easier to build an audience quickly. 

Strict regulations are a constant battle for cannabis businesses marketing on social media. We’re violating every platform’s terms of service and community guidelines just by being there. Every cannabis brand wants social dominance. I’m here to deliver unfortunate news; social media dominance is off the table for most of you. 

Today, you can only expect to reach about 3% of your audience on most social media platforms. And that’s if your content is excellent. But even with amazing content, algorithms are your enemy, and hashtags only get you so far. 

It can feel like an impossible challenge. We’re tasked with bolstering brands but walk a tightrope of rules to keep posts and accounts from getting the boot. 

Do cannabis brands still need to be on social media? Yes. Here’s why. 

You can access a limitless direct-to-consumer digital platform if you can manage to grow and maintain a social media following. But, of course, it’ll take time to build an engaged community (for many of you, it’ll take years of hard and consistent work), and you need to be realistic – don’t put all of your cannabis marketing eggs in the social media basket; there are other ways (email and programmatic advertising for example). 

Still, social media is a business necessity today, just like printer cartridges or desk chairs. You must be there – even if the task is seemingly impossible. 

What makes excellent social media content? 

Every marketing “expert” on the internet will tell you the key to social media success is excellent content. And that’s true. But, what makes for awesome content is relatively subjective – it’s not for you or me to decide. So, who gets to decide what makes terrific content? Your customers, that’s who. 

How do you determine if your customers think your content is excellent? They’ll reward you with engagement. And engagement is virtually the only thing almighty social media algorithms care about. 

Maybe your customers love ridiculous memes; perhaps they prefer higher-brow lifestyle content. If you run a dispensary, your customers might love seeing their favorite budtenders highlighted on your feeds. If you’re a cultivator, your customers probably think drool-worthy strain content is excellent (be careful, Instagram is advanced enough to find flower images, and that violates TOS and community guidelines). 

Here are a few social media post types you should consider:

  • Expert Budtender Recommendations 
  • Cultivation Behind-the-Scenes
  • Aspirational Lifestyle Imagery and Content
  • Humorous Memes for Cannabis Enthusiasts
  • General Cannabis Education
  • Product Education
  • Consumption Tips and Guidelines

You need to deeply understand your customers (that’s why we’re persona development sticklers) and craft a content strategy explicitly designed for engagement. Of course, I’m vastly oversimplifying this process – it takes time and a lot of testing to determine what will work best for your cannabis brand. But the results are often worth the work. Let your customers tell you what they want. 

Even with excellent content, you need to be realistic. 

I’m going to break some hard news to you – even with genuinely excellent content, you can still really only expect to reach around 3% (as I mentioned earlier) of your total audience. So whoever told you that organic engagement on social media is easy lied to you. 

Most people think there’s one overarching algorithm controlling what we see on our social media feeds. But, in the case of Instagram, for example, several algorithms work together, making tiny decisions in real-time to determine the posts you see. 

Adam Mosseri (head of Instagram) talks about how their algorithms work in a recent blog

“One of the main misconceptions we want to clear up is the existence of “The Algorithm.” Instagram doesn’t have one algorithm that oversees what people do and don’t see on the app. We use a variety of algorithms, classifiers, and processes, each with its own purpose. We want to make the most of your time, and we believe that using technology to personalize your experience is the best way to do that.

When we first launched in 2010, Instagram was a single stream of photos in chronological order. But as more people joined and more was shared, it became impossible for most people to see everything, let alone all the posts they cared about. By 2016, people were missing 70% of all their posts in Feed, including almost half of posts from their close connections. So we developed and introduced a Feed that ranked posts based on what you care about most. 

Each part of the app — Feed, Explore, Reels — uses its own algorithm tailored to how people use it. People tend to look for their closest friends in Stories, but they want to discover something entirely new in Explore. We rank things differently in different parts of the app, based on how people use them.” 

Instagram wants to personalize content for users, so it’s constantly making small decisions to reach its goal. Your job (and ours, as marketers) is to understand our customers deeply enough to create unique personalized experiences (I prefer to use the word experience over content in this scenario). Still, the algorithms pose a challenge which is why you need to understand that it’s going to take a lot of time, a lot of trial and error, and more content than you think you can possibly create in a lifetime to build and manage a loyal – and engaged – community. 

It’s not impossible, but it’s not easy – many of you will fail. But still, you must be there because your customers expect you to show up for them in the places they hang out digitally. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have the support of an experienced social media marketing team.

Aaron is Hybrid Marketing Co‘s Content Director, and he loves to write blogs. He’s written so many blogs that he’s lost count. And beyond his skills as a copywriter and storyteller, he’s an obsessive reader and researcher. Aaron writes on subjects ranging from cannabis to collaboration, social equity to HR software, interior design to cybersecurity. His words attract, engage, educate, and convert. Btw, Aaron hates the phrase “content is king” (even though content is king – and queen).

Hybrid Marketing Co is a Denver-based branding and marketing agency that specializes in building custom strategies that supercharge growth and drive revenue. Working with brands and businesses across the U.S. and Canada, Hybrid’s partners run the full-spectrum of the cannabis world including dispensaries, manufacturers, cultivators, and ancillary businesses. Visit to learn more about the Hybrid approach. 


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

by Beau R Whitney, NCIA’s Chief Economist

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

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

Source: Whitney Economics, Leafly


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

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

Cannabis retailers are taking the brunt of federal tax policy.

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

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

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

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

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

Cannabis retailers are struggling to make ends meet.

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

What do these numbers tell us?

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

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

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




Supreme Court of Cannabis?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Member Blog: Cannabis Compliance – 6 Tips To Avoid Dispensary Fines

by Tommy Truong, KayaPush

Cannabis Compliance is one of the things to which every cannabis dispensary must pay attention. Not only does compliance ensure that you have the legal right to carry out your cannabis-related operations but it also helps keep your business from unnecessary fines and sanctions.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has stipulated various regulations for cannabis-derived products at the federal level. In addition, there are regulations at the state level. Violating any of these regulations can land your cannabis business in trouble that could potentially lead to revoking your license.

Also, people generally have greater trust in regulation-compliant businesses, so compliance is healthy for your business reputation. It is important, therefore, to structure your business operations to align with the cannabis dispensary guidelines and regulations operational in your area. 

In this article, we will cover 6 tips and tools to help you keep your cannabis dispensary from incurring any fines or lawsuits, let’s dig in!

1 – Digitization of licenses and renewal

In an industry as critical as cannabis dispensing, unauthorized operations constitute a serious offense and may attract severe penalties. The reason should be obvious—cannabis and its products can pose a raft of risks when handled by the wrong people.

This is why your dispensary must be properly licensed by the appropriate government body to be fully authorized for cannabis operations. Your cannabis business is at the risk of heavy fines, suspension, or even total shutdown if you operate without a license.

Different states may have different requirements for obtaining dispensary licenses. There may also be local laws and regulations within the state. You need to ensure that you discover and comply with all the requirements applicable to your locality.

For instance, the State of Colorado requires that employees in the cannabis industry must possess a MED (Marijuana Enforcement Division) license. This means that if your dispensary is in Colorado you not only need to get licensed as a business but each of your employees must also obtain licenses.

You must also ensure that your business license and those of your employees (where applicable) are up to date.  The requirements for licensing evolve with changes in cannabis regulations and you will need to stay abreast with information about license requirements in your area in order to maintain your cannabis compliance.

Tracking your licenses and their renewals can be quite a task. But you can save yourself hassle and stress by using a digital HR system to store and manage your licenses.

With HCM software, you can manage your employee profiles and ensure that every worker has the necessary licenses to work in your company. This way, you minimize the risk of operating without a license and violating cannabis compliance regulations.

The software also lets you store and track your licenses and set up reminders to alert you when a license is coming due for renewal. This feature makes it easy for you to maintain up-to-date licenses and renewals. 

2 – Use state traceability with a seed-to-sale integrated POS.

One of the major concerns in the wake of the increased legalization of cannabis is the ability to monitor the product from seed to sale. From the top of the production and supply chain to the bottom, traceability is crucial to cannabis compliance.

Monitoring and tracking every single step of this supply chain helps to ensure that cannabis and its products do not fall into the wrong hands — and this goes a long way to ensuring that the product is not abused in any way.

Cannabis and its products can be exposed to contamination with toxic chemicals and other harmful substances via pests or unhygienic processes. Such contamination may pose serious health risks if not prevented or properly managed. With well-detailed traceability, you will be able to track each step to be sure all necessary safety measures are in place.

 Your license proclaims that you can be trusted with handling a product as sensitive as cannabis. One of the ways you can demonstrate this is by accurate accountability — and this comes naturally with good traceability. You should be able to give a proper account of every single cannabis product offered by your dispensary in case of audits or investigations.

Implementing adequate traceability is not as difficult as you might think. Compliant POS software that has this feature enables you to automate traceability with relative ease.

This type of software is integrated with the required traceability systems such as Metrc, BioTrackTHC, and Leaf Data Systems. With these, you can rest assured that your data reporting complies with the requirements of the U.S. government.

3 – Time clock software that uses facial recognition technology

Staying compliant in the cannabis industry requires that you commit your operations to qualified employees. Given that cannabis is a highly sensitive commodity and can easily be abused, you must establish a means of regulating who gets involved in your processes.

A time clock software product will help you keep track of your employees, their clock-ins, breaks, meal times, and other important indices. You can restrict and regulate who gets access to what, where, and at what time.

For instance, an underage person might attempt to clock in for a friend and get involved in your cannabis business operations. Also, chances are that someone in your company might attempt to punch in for a shift when it’s not their time. 

These buddy punching practices can sometimes land you in serious compliance violation trouble. Using software with advanced face recognition technology will help you control unauthorized employee clock-ins by granting access only to the right person in the right place — so you can be sure you are staying compliant as your workers have minimal chance of violating labor codes. 

Time clock software not only protects you from cannabis compliance risks but also from violating other laws that might lead to severe consequences. For example, violating the California labor codes — part of the laws in California — can lead to a lawsuit that may eventually cost you a fortune.

The California labor code provides that employees are entitled to a 30-minute meal break per five hours of work. This means an employee can potentially sue you with a PAGA lawsuit claiming that they have been deprived of meal breaks — a violation of a labor code. As trivial as this may sound, the lawsuit may eventually attract serious penalties to your business.

In this scenario, you can avert such lawsuits by providing proof that the employee clocked in and out for their meal breaks so gathering such evidence won’t be an issue. You can also automate your payment system to sort out necessary employee payments to ensure you stay compliant.

4 – Select POS software with purchase limit alerts and built-in ID

As part of cannabis regulations, different states in the U.S have different purchase limits. This means that you are not legally allowed to sell more than a stipulated amount of cannabis and its related products to a customer within a stipulated time.

For instance, both medical and recreational consumers can only purchase one ounce of cannabis per transaction in the state of Alaska. The limits are different in California where medical cardholders are allowed up to eight ounces per day, while recreational buyers are constrained to just one once daily.

If your dispensary does not pay attention to these purchase limit regulations, there is a high risk that you will be found to be violating the law and face dire consequences. Since it cant be difficult to manually track transaction limits, you can leverage POS software to set up purchase limit alerts.

Using POS compliance technology provides you with this very important feature. You can customize your system settings to alert your dispensary whenever a transaction goes beyond the stipulated purchase limit for a customer so, it becomes easier to set up your system to maintain your cannabis compliance anywhere you are in the United States.

Using a system with built-in ID features can also help you combat looping. Looping occurs when cannabis buyers purchase up to their limit, lay it off somewhere, and return for another purchase. It is usually done as a way to bypass the transaction limits.

With the built-in ID feature, you can link a customer profile to the transactions carried out by that customer. That way, you can easily detect the number of products a particular registered customer has purchased and set purchase limit alerts on their profile. So, no matter how many times they come, you will not be able to sell more to them if they have already reached their limit.

5 – Create customizable clock-in surveys

Clock-in surveys can help you ascertain some important details that enable you to maintain a compliant working environment. You can customize your clock-in surveys to obtain different information from different employees for different analyses and purposes.

For example, you can customize a clock-in survey to confirm that a new employee understands and remembers the compliance regulations applicable in your company. You can automate the survey to run for an employee’s first week at work to help them get accustomed to the regulations.

You can customize another clock-in survey to ascertain that your employees are up to date with the most recent legislative changes in cannabis compliance rules. This kind of survey can be automated to run at intervals, say once every 3 months.

Such clock-in surveys help you ensure that you leave nothing to assumption or chance. It goes a long way in keeping the consciousness of cannabis compliance very much alive in your dispensary.

6 – Hire a compliance manager

Given how important compliance is in the cannabis industry, it makes sense for you to prioritize ensuring that your dispensary is as compliant as possible. One of the most effective ways to do this is by hiring a compliance manager.

Notwithstanding, it is great to automate your operations to ensure compliance, it is also not a bad idea to employ a compliance manager to oversee your compliance-related issues.

Part of what a compliance manager does is to help you develop, implement, and review your internal operational policies to ensure they match the current compliance demands. In case any changes are made in compliance regulations in your area, your compliance manager will be devoted to enforcing those changes to keep your dispensary from violating the new rules.

Stipulating policies and regulations might not be sufficient. You may need someone who is committed to enforcing these policies among your employees. This is where employing a compliance manager can pay off.

With a compliance manager in place, you can focus on your business, its growth, and development while you can rest assured that you are not at risk of dispensary fines as a result of violating cannabis compliance regulations.

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: How Cannabis Dispensaries Can Navigate The METRC System

by Gary Cohen, Cova Software

Cannabis dispensary owners must bear in mind that this industry operates under strict laws and regulations that set their business apart from conventional retail operations. State governments must balance public health and safety with the business needs of the regulated community, and that requires complete tracking of all marijuana products from seed to sale. Most states have already switched to METRC, the largest traceability system helping dispensaries from coast to coast stay compliant with the law. The goal of METRC is to easily retrace the steps from sale to seed and facilitate transparency in the legal cannabis industry. This post will help you understand better why METRC is required, how it benefits everyone, and how can you navigate the system while using the right technology to stay compliant.

What is METRC & Why it is Needed?

Marijuana Enforcement Tracking Reporting Compliance (METRC) is a cloud-based, state-mandated platform used by 15 states in the U.S. It facilitates real-time tracking and tracing of cannabis plants and products from seed to sale. METRC was first adopted by Colorado and early reports in 2014 indicated that this regulatory monitoring technology allowed for accurate quality control and ensured that the safety of the end consumer was prioritized.

In all METRC states, cannabis stores and dispensaries must use the system either directly or integrate it with their POS. All data about your dispensary is safely stored in the cloud and is only accessible by you or the state regulatory authority. State regulatory authorities use data inconsistencies in METRC to detect any diversions from the mandated regulations and if they find any discrepancies, they could conduct an investigation and impose hefty fines.

How to Prepare for METRC?

To gain access to the METRC system, all employees working at your dispensary must get certified. The process involves training, studying the terminology and workflows, and then taking a 40 questions multiple-choice test. METRC uses RFID tags as unique identifiers to recognize and monitor all transactions, these are not reusable and must be purchased in batches or bulk by dispensaries. 

Every dispensary must incorporate its own solution to work with METRC. One can navigate the system manually but it is a risky and time-consuming process, as it involves countless hours of data entry, auditing, and reconciling processes to deal with the errors that inevitably pop up. The most convenient way to implement METRC is to automate as much of the process as possible. Investing in a robust point-of-sale solution that integrates seamlessly with METRC will ensure complete compliance with state regulations.

What are the Daily Obligations?

METRC’s cloud-based software requires only an internet connection and computer or tablet to access and use it, and an advanced POS system can automate the whole process for you. METRC tracks all plants and products with Radio Identification Tags. The plant tag is used to track each plant from its immature phase through to the harvest, while package tags are available for harvest batches or packages of one kind of product. All these activities must be recorded by dispensaries and reported to state regulatory authorities on time.

METRC charges $0.45 per plant tag and $ 0.25 per package tag. The tags can be ordered directly from METRC’s online software system, and are custom-printed for each dispensary. These can not be returned once the printing process has begun, are non-refundable, and cannot be reintroduced into the supply chain. Recreational cannabis plant tags are blue while medical marijuana plant tags are yellow.

Manual or Automatic Reporting?

METRC is simply a reporting tool – an application that allows you to send data to the state to maintain compliance. In most states, reports about all activities must be submitted to METRC no later than midnight on the day they occurred. A cannabis-specific POS can facilitate reporting to METRC while providing a user-friendly interface. To get the best compliance solutions, look for a POS that offers 2-way integration. This ensures that reports are sent to METRC in real-time, manifest intake is automated, and inventory adjustments are automatically synced with the traceability system.

Manual reporting will require you to log in to your online METRC account at the end of every business day to enter all data from every single transaction and activity that occurred. This is a time-consuming option that can also result in errors, increasing the risk of compliance infractions, fines, or worse, loss of retail license. Automated reporting with a cannabis-specific POS solution will make your life easier as it integrates seamlessly with METRC and automatically sends all your inventory adjustments and sales transactions as they occur in real-time. Also, if there are ever any connectivity issues, all saved data automatically sync once you are back online.

METRC has standard operating procedures in all states, and dispensaries don’t have a choice but to comply with them. But dispensary owners do have the option of selecting the right POS system that can help their employees navigate the METRC system more efficiently. Download your free copy of ‘A Complete Guide to METRC Compliance for Marijuana Dispensaries’ by Cova, to learn in-depth about the different levels of POS integrations with METRC, how to work best with the system, and state-specific METRC differences.

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.

In solutioning the POS platform, Cohen & the Cova team have met with over 1,900 operators and leveraged expert knowledge to provide retailers the support they need to get a license, pass inspection, launch a store, and improve operations. Cohen leads seminars on retail technology, compliance, business operations, and cannabis banking laws at the industry’s largest events, including the NCIA and MJBizCon. As Cova has become the predominate thought leader for cannabis retail tech, Cohen has established himself as a leading voice educating cannabis entrepreneurs as they build their own successful brands.

Committee Blog: The Asset We Wish We Knew Before 2020 – HACCP

by Trevor Morones, Darwin Mallard, Liz Geisleman
NCIA’s Cannabis Manufacturing Committee

Read on for insight and guidance for the vitally important topic of preventing, eliminating, or reducing microbial growth in cannabis edibles and packaging. 

It all starts with the HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) Principles. Gather your team to share the five preliminary steps of HACCP and develop a plan (figure 1). This management system was launched by Pillsbury along with NASA and the U.S. Army for food safety in space exploration in the 1960’s. Quality, safety and efficacy is obtainable and sustainable with the HACCP discipline. 

The objective is to PREVENT packaging from being a failure point and inhibit microbial growth in edible products. We know moisture (water activity), temperature, pH, and oxygen levels are primary microbial growth drivers. 

HACCP is an asset, not an expense. Food is medicine for some, and cannabis products are medicine for many. Resin cannabis products (RCP) must be safe, consistent, and reliable products continuously. To generate those results, learn the HACCP mindset. Practice being an advocate with HACCP discipline displaying the actions written in the programs. It’s a system for cannabis safety that encourages operations to have Emergency and Business Continuity plans before disruptive events occur, e.g., natural disasters, pandemics, etc.

  • Resin cannabis product – Any product, whether finished or a work in progress, containing or comprised of cannabis flowers or resins or both and includes, but is not limited to, the cannabis flowers and resins themselves, extracts/concentrates/derivatives thereof, and preparations therefrom.
    • And can be further classified as Adult-Use or Medicinal-Use and subclassified as Topical-Use.

Creating such a plan is important because exposure to microbes may result in allergic symptoms such as sneezing, coughing, wheezing, nasal congestion, and watery or itchy eyes. Consumers using cannabis products as medicine, such as cancer patients on chemotherapy, are even more susceptible to harm caused by microbes. Thus, it is critical to ensure your products do not have microbial growth. 

This is not only a health concern, but the financial impacts can be detrimental. How much did the February 2021 Canadian infused gummy recall cost? More than 330,000 packages of THC infused gummies, worth approximately 8.2 million Canadian dollars, were lost. Overhead costs go above and beyond. The global cannabis industry must learn from industry events such as this.

Effective HACCP management system ensures control. Empower your team through education and training on discipline of HACCP. Take the infused gummy recall from February 2021 as an example where cross-contamination, improper employee hygiene, and package permeability were failure points that led to loss of control. Lack of control during transport of the initially sterile packaging also contributes to contamination. Personal clothing worn by team members or visitors are also known sources of pathogenic fungus. 

Best practice is to address preventive controls and reducing/mitigating risks. For example, consider installing two-way humidistatic control devices in packaging, such as desiccant packs, to maintain water activity (Aw) in acceptable ranges to mitigate microbial growth. Reducing moisture prevents powdery mildew caused by Golovinomyces Cichoracearum (figure 2)

A great resource to mitigate risks can be found in the ASTM D37; Standard Guide for Cleaning and Disinfection at a Cannabis Cultivation Center; Aw ASTM Standards for Cannabis Flower: D8196 – Standard Practice for Determining Water Activity in Cannabis Flower; and D8197 – Standard Specification for Maintaining Acceptable Water Activity Range for Dry Cannabis Flower.

 Sanitary environments are critical from seed to sale.

Figure 2, Right. Powdery mildew development on leaves, stems, and flower buds of Cannabis sativa, caused by Golovinomyces cichoracearum. 2

Use the principles of HACCP to guide and maintain the integrity of your work. Each principle builds on the next to create a solid foundation to build and operate a safe and consistent management system. Establish storage conditions in your control and transport; determine the temperature and humidity for each product type (gummies do not tolerate heat, and certain ingredients are sensitive to humidity which could change the potency). This includes evaluating the stability of each of the ingredients when in final product form (how long do they remain potent). 

Depending on the ingredients used, i.e., the formulation, gummies can take on or reject water. Most typically let out the water, then that water has nowhere to go (trapped in the packaging), and the product molds. This is why commercially produced gummies are coated in wax, literally to trap the water inside the product. Inadequate gummy formulations lead to water permeability; change in cannabinoid content is the least of the concerns.

General chapter 659 on Packaging and Storage requirements published by the USP (United States Pharmacopeia and the National Formulary, USP–NF) is a great resource. Though not all cannabis products may be for the medical market, using the standards of excellence from the USP is the best way to minimize product failure and help ensure consumer safety. Packaging 659 states that packaging materials must not interact physically or chemically with a packaged article in a manner that causes its safety, identity, strength, quality, or purity to fail to conform to established requirements.

Empower your cross-functional team to apply and implement HACCP through your organization. In doing so, you will have the discipline and tools to mitigate risks and prevent costly downtime. Your consumers benefit by having safer, consistent, and quality products. Finally, collect the data and share the story. We all need to drive improvement and produce safe consistent products for our consumers. HACCP systems are a tried-and-true tool to achieve this.

Please note that prerequisite programs such as current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPs) are an essential foundation for the development and implementation of successful HACCP plans. This article is intended to level up your current manufacturing processes and mitigate your exposure to potential recall or unsafe products in the marketplace.

For resources on how to establish an effective HACCP system and other quality management related tools, consider adopting the best practices defined in ASTM D8250 – Standard Practice for Applying a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) System for Cannabis Consumable Products and/or following the guidelines provided in ASTM D8222 – Standard Guide for Establishing a Quality Management System (QMS) for Consumer Use Cannabis/Hemp Products and ASTM D8229 Standard Guide for Corrective Action and Preventive Action (CAPA) for the Cannabis Industry.


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