#CannaBizSummit 2020 – A Look Inside the Live Virtual Event
NCIA’s Annual Cannabis Business Summit & Expo, held virtually as the inaugural Cannabis Business Cyber Summit, was a great success! November 10-12, attendees took part in live programming and interaction, enjoying unmatched access to the cannabis industry’s leading experts, latest research, and most innovative products and services through the Cyber platform.
On Day 1, keynote speaker and GRAMMY Award-winning musician Carlos Santana gave an inspiring talk, where he discussed the benefits of cannabis, music, and the significant, personal mission behind his cannabis brand, Mirayo. “Mirayo is my being, my light, it honors my mother,” Santana said. On financial success, he says, “For me being profitable is if you have peace and joy, if you don’t have those two things, you are lost.”
The event featured exhibit halls on the first two days, where attendees could source, learn, and live chat with all participating exhibit sponsors. Participating sponsor, MJ Freeway, said, “We were thrilled to have the opportunity to sponsor and participate in NCIA’s Cannabis Business Cyber Summit. The sessions and speakers were impressive, and the platform was engaging. Our team made some new connections and followed up with some old friends.”
Other highlights from Day 1 include a cannabis cooking demo with Chef Travis Petersen and NCIA education sessions, “From Sweets to Scale: Edibles Innovation & Trends for Infused Products,” and “The Social Equity Dilemma: What Lessons Did We Learn from Illinois, and How do we Proceed?”
In the session, “Running for Office & Advocating as a Cannabis Entrepreneur,” Cody Bass of the Tahoe Wellness Center spoke on the importance of getting involved in local and national politics as a cannabis advocate. “We cannot continue to depend on politics as normal and think that things are going to change,” Bass said. “We have to become engaged to a point of not just lobbying, but really start to become the elected that represent our community.”
The CannaVest investment forum was also completely virtual and coincided with the Cannabis Business Cyber Summit, November 10-12. CannaVest included valuable sessions designed with the specific needs of the institutional investor and sophisticated accredited investor in mind. From timely roundtables like, “The Multi-State Operator Roundtable: A Look at Business Plans & Operating Models in a COVID World,” to panel sessions, such as, “M&A and Capital Raising: A Look at the US Public Markets,” there was something at CannaVest for all investment-minded attendees. CannaVest was supported by eight sponsoring companies who met with and showcased their products and services within the Cyber exhibit hall.
On Day 2, 2020 Presidential candidate Andrew Yang joined us as our Cyber Summit keynote speaker. In his powerful discussion, Yang discussed universal basic income, the recent presidential election, cannabis legalization, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and more. “The future is bright,” Yang said. “This is going to be one of the major growth industries over the next number of years. If you keep working, the market will be there for you.” Read this story on Marijuana Moment about Yang’s thoughts shared during his presentation about the prospect of cannabis legalization with Joe Biden as U.S. President.
Day 2 also featured a yoga session, the MediPharm Lab Tour presented by President and Director Keith Strachan, and educational sessions on topics like how to set a higher standard in manufacturing infused products, how to be a marketing leader in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and how to create a circular economy.
Attendees joined NCIA’s co-founder and CEO, Aaron Smith, on the final live day of #CannaBizSummit for a keynote presentation marking the 10th anniversary of the association’s founding and a discussion on where the cannabis industry stands today. Speaking on the success of five states – Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota – in legalizing some form of cannabis use in the recent election, he said: “This could not have happened if not for this legal industry setting an example for the world of what it looks like to replace prohibition with responsible cannabis businesses.”
Attendees also enjoyed valuable sessions featuring panels of experts, such as, “Cannabis Marketing Technology: Are you a Laggard or a Leader?,” “Breaking into New Markets: 4 Steps to Becoming a Successful MSO,” and many more. In “The Michigan Market and Beyond,” attendees heard from the state’s Marijuana Regulatory Agency on important issues impacting the agency. Andrew Brisbo, leader of the Marijuana Regulatory Agency, said, “I think it’s very important to be cognizant of the cost of doing business and not have regulation just for regulation’s sake. We want to make sure that Michigan is in the best position for the future we are seeing.”
All 150+ hours of this exceptional content are now available for viewing through the Cyber virtual platform through December 10, 2020, to all registrants. For those who did not register and attend the live days but are interested in participating, NCIA members and license holders can register through December 10 for free, with non-members paying just $49. A Cyber pass includes access to all recorded content as well as the virtual expo hall where you can visit sponsor booths and download resources for your business.
The vaping crisis was first reported in June 2019. In October 2019, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) coined a new medical term describing the cases of severe pulmonary disease that have occurred among e-cigarette and vape users, E-Cigarette and Vaping Associated Lung Injury, or EVALI. EVALI’s primary cause was determined by the CDC to be vitamin E acetate contamination, mostly in illicit market vaping products, although research into this condition continues.
By the early fall of 2019, the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) formed a Safe Vaping Task Force to respond to the crisis. Together with NCIA’s Policy Council, they released a white paper in January 2020 detailing information about vaporizer components, formulations, testing, governmental response, and recommendations for the industry.
As the COVID-19 health pandemic takes front and center stage on the world scene, vaping related issues and EVALI, becomes even more of a health concern as the novel coronavirus causes respiratory issues. While reported cases of EVALI are slowing down, this public health crisis still looms over us, and it’s been very challenging to fully solve this mystery illness associated with vaping e-cigarettes, and other electronic nicotine delivery systems (“ENDS”). Furthermore, it’s been more difficult to stop the primary root cause: the illicit market.
VAPING, EVALI, AND COVID-19
We’re experiencing a worldwide public health crisis with coronavirus and it’s also affecting the Marijuana industry, as we face “stay at home” orders, slower production or reduced access in some areas, and fear from the community about vaping related respiratory illnesses, EVALI, and death due to COVID-19. It begs the question: Is vaping safe and could vaping put you at greater risk of severe illness during this coronavirus pandemic?
Some health experts say vaping can increase the risk of developing COVID-19 complications and spreading the virus to others because many people share vaping devices. A Bloomberg articlewas published last month, stating the FDA says “vaping could compound health risks tied to virus.” The Attorney General of Iowa along with scientists sent the FDA a letter commenting that they should be more careful giving advice at a time like this, especially given “the pronounced difference in risk between smoking and vaping.”
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has supported both positions on vaping but now says there is a lack of evidence to support the worsening of health in conjunction with vaping and COVID-19, while also considering that underlying conditions could be the real culprit.
According to the CDC, those with chronic lung disease are at higher risk for severe illness. The conditions listed with the CDC do not include EVALI, but perhaps vaping behaviors should be considered when determining risk. I am a member of Doctors for Cannabis Regulation (DFCR), an organization that supports the legalization and use of cannabis. DFCR cautions against smoking and vaping during the COVID-19 pandemic because we just don’t have enough research yet.
After reviewing the limited literature, it must be noted that “e-cigarette use” and vaping have cardiovascular risks. Buchanan and colleagues reviewed the limited available preclinical and clinical data and concluded that “E-cigarette use is associated with inflammation, oxidative stress, and haemodynamic imbalance leading to increased cardiovascular disease risk.” Current evidence is available primarily from acute studies and the effects of chronic exposure remain an urgent research question.
PERSONAL PHYSICIAN RESPONSE
As an emergency physician, functional medicine specialist, and medical cannabis doctor, I’ve examined, certified, and managed patients for medical marijuana use in Michigan since 2014. As a cannabis physician, I routinely review cannabis-related science and research and its therapeutic effects, based on forms of consumption, frequency of use, and limited data on patient dosing. I evaluate patients for their therapeutic benefits and patient outcomes obtained by using marijuana in various forms of consumption, in conjunction with their other medications.
As a cannabis physician, I work very hard to get to the source of my patients’ medical issues or problems related to their medical need for cannabis. This also means giving them direction about the use of cannabis, cannabis products, and noting any side effects related to their method of consumption and use of marijuana, hemp, and CBD.
Perceiving the same thing as the general public, my patients frequently say, “I thought vaping was safe.” This is still the case even during this ongoing public health crisis with EVALI and now, COVID-19.
Pertinent health questioning should always involve asking patients about their forms of usage of cannabis, their daily intake, and noting if a person has any side effects related to cannabis usage or any other medications. Since vaping related illnesses were first reported, I continue to educate patients about the possible side effects of vaping. For some people, problems related to vaping may have been present since they started vaping, but were disregarded because they thought it wasn’t serious or of much concern. We need more research to better inform educational programs so patients and consumers can make better-educated decisions on which marijuana products they should use.
HEALTHCARE, THE CDC. AND COMMUNITY RESPONSE
“Do you vape? Do you smoke? Do you have an underlying lung disease such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD, e.g. emphysema), heart disease, or any respiratory problems?” These are the most important questions doctors and healthcare providers should ask patients who present with respiratory symptoms, especially during the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. All healthcare providers, whether on the frontlines or not, must change their assessment of patients to ask about their lifestyle and any respiratory-related health conditions (past and present). This includes addressing smoking, vaping, and potential side effects.
Patients often delay seeking treatment and the biggest challenge doctors face is that patients might lie about vaping out of fear they will be identified publically or criminally charged if they procured their vaping products from the illicit market. Doctors and other health care providers need accurate information to make a diagnosis and should maintain a non-judgmental attitude and confidentiality when asking patients about their lifestyle and social history.
Detailed information has been created by the CDC for ongoing updates regarding EVALI and related illnesses. Specific information for healthcare providers can be found here.
New tools for physicians include an updated algorithm for the management of patients with suspected EVALI and a Discharge Readiness Checklist. These documents are recommended for use by doctors, hospitals, clinics, and health care professionals and should be followed to help with systematic care and prevention. These tools have been used for EVALI. There have been major updates since the COVID-19 pandemic as of December 2019.
THE FUTURE OF EVALI: CONTAMINANTS AND CONSUMER RESPONSE
According to the CDC and available data, it appears that vitamin E acetate is primarily associated with EVALI, but there could be other substances that are responsible. We now know the illicit market is using vitamin E acetate to dilute their products, but they could use other harmful chemicals in the future. To reduce the risk of lung injury, consumers should purchase vaping products from the regulated market, where products are tracked and tested.
Because there is still so much research to be done, I recommend that anyone who continues to use e-cigarettes or vaping products should monitor themselves for symptoms related to EVALI and see a healthcare provider as soon as possible, especially if you are experiencing the symptoms below.
Patients have reported symptoms such as:
Respiratory symptoms, including cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain;
Gastrointestinal symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, or diarrhea; and
Nonspecific constitutional symptoms, like fever, chills, or weight loss.
Exposure to COVID-19, testing positive or hospitalized and placed on a ventilator
Some patients have reported that their symptoms developed over a few days, while others have reported that their symptoms developed over several weeks.
The American College of Cardiology also released Cardiac Guidelines for cardiac implications of COVID-19, which may mimic respiratory symptoms.
As I mentioned earlier, the FDA previously stated that vapers were at an elevated risk of developing complications tied to COVID-19. However, the FDA also admitted there is actually no “evidence” that vaping makes COVID-19 outcomes worse as noted in this article outlining the FDA’s stance on vaping and COVID-19.
So the jury is out and we are still waiting for evidence on the long term safety of vaping. Asa member of NCIA and the Scientific Advisory Committee, I believe that vaping and it’s long term effects due to acute and chronic exposure remains an urgent and ongoing research question. Is vaping safe, does vaping cause higher risk if you contract the novel coronavirus, and do synthetic flavorings, diluents, or possible contaminants within vaping devices cause harm? More research is warranted.
Committee Blog: Ending The Ban On Interstate Commerce (Part 1)
Oversupply and shortages, high prices and lack of choice for patients and consumers, illicit markets, tainted products, and the inability to access banking and capital all plague the burgeoning cannabis industry. While cannabis advocates and industry leaders are working on each of these problems, there is one solution that would ease the burden on all of them. Allowing for interstate trade between states with legal cannabis markets would improve each of these issues while supporting the individual solutions to each that the industry has been working on. This is the first post in a series that explores the benefits and barriers to setting up a legal framework for interstate trade, even before wholesale legalization at the federal level.
Since the beginning of legal, adult-use cannabis, when Colorado and Washington passed the first ballot measure allowing for adult-use, the industry was guided by the Cole Memo, which laid out the parameters for the federal government staying out of the states’ cannabis experiments. Among other things, the Cole memo stated that the DEA could crackdown on cannabis moving from states with well-regulated systems to states that do not allow cannabis. This statement has been interpreted conservatively to mean that no cannabis should cross state lines for any reason, ever, based on the fact that at the federal level, cannabis is still a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act.
Today, there are 10 states which have legalized adult-use, another 19 which allow for medical use, and six more which allow the use of CBD products only. Many of these states share borders, and producer states could serve several nearby markets without ever entering a state that does not allow cannabis in any form. Furthermore, the Cole Memo, which was rescinded by Jeff Sessions in 2018, has not been replaced by any guidance whatsoever. This means that each U.S. Attorney’s office is free to set their own enforcement priorities around state-legal cannabis activities, and there is no official overriding policy at the DOJ on interstate trade between states with medical or adult use. Corresponding guidance from FinCEN, however, remains in effect and similarly discourages the transfer of cannabis between states.
Cannabis markets vary widely from state to state with regard to the underlying market dynamics and challenges that they face. Some states produce too much while other states experience shortages. Meanwhile, new states pass legislation or have voter initiatives that allow medical or adult-use every year without any infrastructure in place to supply that state’s demand. In each new legal market, the vast majority of demand had long been met through illicit market supply, and generally from outside of the state’s boundaries.
The artificial boundaries around cannabis markets have far-reaching impacts for local economies, patient access, illicit market activity, and social equity. Later posts in this series will take a deep dive into each of these issues, and in this post, we will look at how this has impacted states, the industry, and consumers so far.
Washington State chose to take the strictest possible reading of the Cole Memo, and insist that not only must cannabis not cross state lines but also sources of funding must come from within the state. Combined with their high capitalization requirement for licenses, the result was a disaster from an equity standpoint: only wealthy and well-connected individuals in the state (which are overwhelmingly white males) were able to even attempt a license. This decision was based substantially on the fact that interstate trade was not allowed.
In Oregon, which has an ideal growing climate and a long tradition of exporting cannabis (albeit in the illicit market), the artificial boundaries created by the ban on interstate trade lead to a massive oversupply for its small population, which crippled the industry and tanked many small businesses. Despite the fact that Oregonians consume more cannabis per capita than any state, their climate and culture have led to growing massive quantities of world-class cannabis that cannot reach patients and consumers, even in neighboring states that might have under-supply issues. The result is that hundreds of small, mom-and-pop shops and family farms have gone out of business, eradicating millions of dollars of local capital, and accelerating mass consolidation of the industry into the hands of a few foreign corporations. Meanwhile, in medical markets like Illinois and Michigan, patients have had sporadic access to quality cannabis-based medicines.
When Nevada originally launched, due to the influence of local liquor distributors, it was almost impossible to get products to market, and the state’s dispensaries sold out on the first day of sales. After ironing out some of the kinks, sales are going strong, but the practice of growing thirsty plants indoors in the desert is of dubious value when the same plant can be grown with a fraction of the inputs in northern California and southern Oregon.
California’s legal system is a perfect example of how over-regulation fuels illicit market activity. Because of the structure of their regulatory framework and high taxes, the state is served by only 800 licensed dispensaries, whose prices are double and triple those found on the illicit market for similar products. This has led to the emergence of thousands of “pop-up” or unlicensed dispensaries, selling untested products tax-free in a thriving illicit market. The booming illicit market in California has also led to massive wholesale markets of hardware, branded packaging, and flavoring and cutting agents (all technically legal) to supply the illegal operators with everything they need to look legitimate. This is a major contributing factor to the wide-spread vaping related illness cases popping up all over the country, as many illicit market operators purchase their supplies in downtown Los Angeles.
The ban on interstate trade promises to continue to create new and novel problems as well. If New York, the 4th most populous state in the union, legalized adult-use (which seems likely in the near future), and interstate trade were still banned, it would require a massive investment, on the order of billions of dollars, to create enough indoor and greenhouse grow facilities to supply the demand created by its 19 million inhabitants. The recent legalization of hemp under the last Farm Bill has created a number of legal dilemmas as well, as some individual states that do not recognize any difference between hemp and cannabis flower have seized products and arrested individuals taking hemp legally grown in one state to a market where it is legal to sell.
Some suggest that these issues will be sorted in local markets, and in each state individually this approach might seem to make sense. When you add these problems together, though, a much more elegant, efficient, and obvious solution emerges: let states that have always exported cannabis send it to states that have always imported it. A set of different and seemingly unconnected problems become each other’s solutions.
Historically, people across the country have consumed cannabis, and the vast majority of it was grown in a few locations that are particularly well-suited to the plant. It is highly likely that a fully-matured nationwide legal market (one which must account for not only interstate, but also international competition) will ultimately be best served by the same general market dynamics. The only question is: how long will we allow the artificial market boundaries around each state to decimate local capital, curb access for patients and consumers, encourage investments that are attractive short-term but disastrous long-term, and prop up the illegal markets that pose a public health risk?
Interstate trade between states that allow some form of legal cannabis would provide much-needed relief on a number of fronts for cannabis businesses, and could be structured in such a way to support social equity efforts. With a little guidance on enforcement and thoughtful programs and agreements between states, there is a path to legal interstate commerce even before cannabis is removed from the Controlled Substances Act. The state of Oregon has already passed legislation allowing for the export and import of cannabis products provided that the Federal Government allows it. This could be either through legislation such as the proposed Blumenauer/Widen State Cannabis Commerce Act, or though DOJ enforcement guidance (whether from the Attorney General or the relevant local U.S. Attorney’s). There are multiple paths that can lead to the end of banned interstate trade, and it seems increasingly inevitable that we will see legal cannabis trade across state borders in the near future. For most operators in the cannabis industry, and for all patients and consumers, this will be a good thing, and can’t come soon enough.
Gabriel Cross is a Founder and CEO at Odyssey Distribution, LLC, a distributor for locally-owned craft cannabis producers and processors in Oregon. Gabe worked in the sustainable building industry for a decade before starting Odyssey and brings his experience with sustainability and systems thinking to his work in the cannabis industry. Odyssey manages logistics, sales and marketing for boutique producers so they can focus on creating great craft cannabis products for the Oregon market.
Watch The Webinar: Michigan’s Adult-Use Market – What Comes Next?
In case you missed the December 3 webinar: The Midwest is becoming a major player in the cannabis industry and Michigan is now accepting applications for its adult-use cannabis licenses with the launch date fast approaching. Join our expert panel as we provide insights into the Michigan adult-use market: an update on what has transpired so far, what potential operators need to know about this key market, and how Michigan’s market will compare to others around the country. It’s an exciting time for our industry with the Midwest on the verge of launching adult-use sales. Watch this webinar from NCIA’s State Regulations Committee as they explain what you need to know.
VIDEO: Member Spotlight – Om Of Medicine
In this month’s video member spotlight, get to know Om of Medicine, a cannabis dispensary based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Learn about their role in fostering a politically engaged and friendly community in their state of the art facility. Om of Medicine also collaborated with the University of Michigan conducting an IRB-approved pain study with hundreds of its patients which displayed a significant decrease in opioid use and an increase in quality of life.
Member Blog: Cannabis Retailers – Help Advance Cannabis Research
Medical cannabis retailers are in the unique position of having large amounts of data available to them in the form of medical cannabis patients. Four years ago, Om of Medicine partnered with researchers at the University of Michigan to develop an IRB-approved survey study examining medical cannabis patients and their opioid use. We conducted a survey of 244 medical cannabis patients in Michigan with chronic pain for 3 months. The goal was to collect data to examine if using medical cannabis for chronic pain affected one’s opioid consumption. We saw testimonial evidence of this every day in our consultation rooms and we wanted to quantify that evidence to elevate our patient’s voices and bring them to decision-makers.
The results of that study displayed a 64% reduction in opioid use and a 45% increase in quality of life. The Journal of Pain published this research in their 2016 edition and since, the findings have been used as a tool for engaging with medical professionals and elected officials. Additionally, the results have been cited in publications such as the 2017 edition for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s report: Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids. Soon after, the results were sited in Representative Earl Blumenauer’s Physicians Guide to Cannabis-Assisted Opioid Reduction. Blumenauer’s office took the initiative to put this document together and circulate it to his colleagues throughout Congress. These findings are intended to be a tool for advancing our advocacy for this movement and the patients we serve. You can find the study here and you are encouraged to use these findings in your lobbying and education efforts!
Currently, Om of Medicine is continually working to increase research around medical cannabis patient’s experiences. We now have launched our third IRB-approved study examining patient’s daily regimens, their knowledge on cannabis, and their relationship to their medical health care team. We are calling on the cannabis industry to help us increase our patient data set by circulating the IRB-approved survey to any networks you have with medical cannabis patients.
The survey is quick to complete and is completely confidential. The published work is intended to be used as a tool for all working in the industry and movement to use it as a piece for engagement with policymakers and doctors.
If you have any questions, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sending out sincere gratitude to NCIA and participants who take this survey to aid in the advancement of understanding this plant and its revolutionary potential.
Lisa Conine is the Community Outreach Coordinator for the Om of Medicine, a medical cannabis dispensary in downtown Ann Arbor. Lisa works to prioritize relationships with Om’s local community non-profits, businesses, medical professionals, and elected officials. Outreach at Om is based in social justice and forwarding the cannabis movement by uplifting the work of partnering community organizations, providing education on cannabis to the public, and engaging politically, on all levels, to create sensible policy. Lisa is also a member of the newly formed NCIA Retail Committee.
VIDEO: Member Spotlight – ArborSide Compassion
Based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, ArborSide Compassion is a medical marijuana dispensary that has been operating since September 2011. Founder and CEO Rhory Gould has been a cannabis activist for over 35 years. The staff at ArborSide services over 1,200 patients per week and has won over 22 HIGH TIMES Cannabis Cup awards. Learn more about their products and services, and how they are navigating the licensing changes for medical and adult-use cannabis in Michigan as new laws are rolled out.
As “4/20” Ends, Advocacy Ramps Up
This last weekend, cannabis advocates and supporters gathered in cities across the country to celebrate what is known as “4/20,” a cultural celebration of cannabis.
Michigan’s Hash Bash
In several states like Michigan, the celebration was particularly exciting because of recently passed adult-use laws. Earlier this month, NCIA’s Business Development Manager, Clarissa Kriek, attended the 48th annual festival in Ann Arbor called “Hash Bash.” Since 1972, activists have gathered on these grounds to rally and demand policy reforms. Considering this was the first Hash Bash since legalization, it was a particularly memorable occasion Clarissa gave an inspirational speech on stage about the long, hard battle to legalize cannabis in Michigan, which culminated in the passing of Prop 1 in November 2018. Approximately 15,000 people gathered to celebrate this historic event at the University of Michiganʻs Diag, including Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, who spoke about her late husband and how she believed he could have benefitted from cannabis to help treat his prostate cancer but that federal prohibition has stifled research.
National Cannabis Policy Summit
In the nation’s capital, advocacy was as prominent as celebration at the 4th annual National Cannabis Festival, which was preceded by its sister event, the National Cannabis Policy Summit. These events brought thousands of people from around the country to the District of Columbia to bring attention to the harms caused by prohibition but also to celebrate the victories of the movement in an atmosphere of cooperation, innovation, and culture. Dozens of lawmakers, industry leaders, and policy experts – including NCIA’s Michelle Rutter – shared opinions and advice about how we can make cannabis legal in a way that incorporates fairness and justice.
Advancing the reform of outdated cannabis laws is building in momentum, and public support for medical and adult-use cannabis is at its highest levels ever. In the halls of Congress, we’re seeing the reform measures that are important to our industry gain co-signers on both sides of the aisle. It’s an exciting time for ending the war on drugs.
Whether the date is April 20 or September 20, every day is an opportunity to be an advocate of the legal, regulated cannabis industry. From access to banking and tax reform, to social equity and veterans access, now is the time to speak up and tell your stories about how these key pieces of legislation will help your business thrive.
NCIA’s 9th Annual Cannabis Industry Lobby Days
While NCIA’s government relations team works year-round on the industry’s behalf to advocate for access to banking, fair tax policy, and states’ abilities to determine their own cannabis policies, for example, NCIA’s Annual Lobby Days is the most impactful opportunity to participate in democracy. As we prepare for hundreds of meetings on Capitol Hill on May 21-23, it’s crucial that cannabis industry professionals come together to send a powerful message to lawmakers. The industry is here to stay, and it is our industry’s responsibility to keep it that way.
WEBINAR: Michigan Voted to Legalize Adult-Use Cannabis – What You Need To Know Now
On Election Day, Michigan voters resoundingly approved Prop 1 to legalize and regulate adult-use marijuana under state law. It’s an exciting time with great possibilities, but what does this mean for the future state of Michigan’s legal cannabis landscape?
Watch this recording of the webinar from NCIA’s State Regulations Committee, presenting its first-ever interactive webinar designed to help you answer the pressing questions about Michigan’s new adult-use market.
Join NCIA’s State Regulations Committee members, including Chair Maureen McNamaraof Cannabis Trainers, Committee Vice Chair Michael Cooperof MadisonJay Solutions, and Barton Morris of Cannabis Legal Group, as they help us fill in the blanks for adult-use regulations in the state of Michigan. The webinar helps answer what we currently know about the laws, any key open questions that remain, and what potential market entrants should be doing now to get ready.
Watch the webinar “Michigan Voted to Legalize Adult-Use Cannabis: What You Need To Know Now” hosted by members of NCIA’s State Regulations Committee.
Top Five Memorable Marijuana Moments In 2018
by Michelle Rutter, NCIA Government Relations Manager
As 2018 draws to a close, our Government Relations team in Washington, D.C. is feeling especially thankful this year – both for all of our members, and for all of the strides forward that cannabis policy made this year! Before 2019 begins, let’s take a look back on marijuana’s top five most memorable moments of 2018:
Cannabis wins big at the ballot box
There’s no doubt about it: America experienced a green wave on election night as voters all over the country cast their votes in favor of reforming cannabis laws and electing candidates that share those values. Voters in Michigan cast their votes for the legalization of adult-use cannabis, increasing momentum of our movement. At the same time, voters in Missouri and Utah were successful in legalizing medical cannabis, becoming the 32nd and 33rd states to do so, and despite significant hurdles. In addition to the ballot initiatives that were passed, Democrats took control of the House of Representatives, while Republicans maintained their control of the Senate. While this development surely means that cannabis policy will progress further than ever in the House in 2019, it also means that anything passed through that chamber will face significant hurdles in the more conservative Senate.
Shake-up at the Department of Justice and the rescission of the Cole Memo
On January 4, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Department of Justice’s decision to rescind the “Cole Memo” and two additional memos related to marijuana enforcement policy. These memos, issued in 2013 and 2014, helped to clarify the Department’s response to state-legal cannabis activity. The rescission of the memo has not resulted in any major change in enforcement policy, rather, this continues to be a matter of prosecutorial discretion. On November 6, the day after the midterm election, Jeff Sessions resigned as Attorney General at the President’s request.
Congressional banking and 280E bills gain record co-sponsorship
As the momentum for cannabis reform grows, so has the number of cosponsors on marijuana bills in Congress. Most notable is legislation that would provide safe harbor to financial institutions that choose to service the cannabis industry. At the end of the 114th Congress in 2016, the House’s Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act had 39 cosponsors, while the Senate version had just 10. As we finish the 115th Congress, the House’s SAFE Banking Act (H.R. 2215) has 95 cosponsors, while the Senate version (S. 1152) has 20. That’s nearly a quarter of the House of Representatives and a fifth of the entire Senate! Bills to reform IRC Section 280E have seen a similar spike. At the end of 2016, the House’s Small Business Tax Equity Act had a mere 18 cosponsors, while the Senate version had four. Today, the Small Business Tax Equity Act (H.R. 1810) has 46 cosponsors, while the Senate’s version (S. 777) has six.
Canada implements adult-use cannabis laws
In October, Canada’s laws making marijuana legal for adults went into effect and licensed retail stores opened throughout the country. This move made Canada the second country in the world, after Uruguay, to formally legalize the recreational use of the plant. Canada is the first G7 and G20 nation to do so. Federal prohibition has effectively locked American cannabis companies out of legitimate financial markets and, in doing so, has provided a significant advantage to publicly traded Canadian firms. Changes to federal law are needed to enable American small businesses to compete on the emerging multi-billion-dollar global cannabis market. Without legislative action, U.S. cannabis entrepreneurs will miss out on opportunities to develop innovative new products, attract global investment funding, and expand their reach to capitalize on expanding international business opportunities.
NCIA’s 8th Annual Cannabis Industry Lobby Days
This year, 225 cannabis industry professionals descended on Washington, D.C. to lobby congressional offices on some of the issues they and their businesses are facing. In total, NCIA members met with nearly 300 offices on Capitol Hill! The cannabis industry has seen exponential growth in the mainstream support for regulated cannabis markets from both sides of the political aisle. This progress is a direct result of the uncountable number of personal stories told by our members each year at our annual Lobby Days events in Washington, D.C., so don’t forget to mark your calendars for May 21-23, 2019, so that you can join us for our largest event yet!
The 116th Congress will arrive in Washington, D.C. in January. With the change in leadership in the House of Representatives and the momentum at our backs, 2019 is shaping up to be one of the cannabis industry’s best years yet. Our Government Relations team looks forward to all of the opportunities we will be faced with in the new year, and we wish you a very happy holiday season!
NCIA’s 2018 Post-Election Webinar
Watch this webinar recorded on Thursday, November 8, for NCIA’s recap of the midterm elections and what they mean for cannabis policy reform nationally.
Hear from representatives of the statewide cannabis campaigns in Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota, and Utah to find out what went right, what went wrong, and what happens next for regulators, businesses, and consumers. NCIA and the Marijuana Policy Project discussed the next states to watch and key federal legislation to follow in 2019.
From The Ballot Box: Post-Midterm Election Analysis
by Michelle Rutter, NCIA Government Relations Manager
Last night, Americans all over the country let their voices be heard at the ballot box. Voters in Michigan cast their votes for the legalization of adult-use cannabis, increasing momentum of our movement. At the same time, voters in Missouri and Utah were successful in legalizing medical cannabis, becoming the 32nd and 33rd states to do so, and despite significant hurdles.
Appearing on the ballot as Proposal 1, this initiative passed by a whopping 55% and made Michigan the first state in the Midwest to legalize adult-use cannabis for those over the age of 21. The proposal outlined an excise sales tax of 10%, which will be levied on sales at retailers and micro-businesses, and then be allocated to local governments, K-12 education, and road and bridge maintenance. In the future, municipalities will be given the authority to to ban or limit cannabis businesses and establishments within their boundaries. Michigan’s prominent Midwest location, as well as the size of the projected adult-use market, make it a game-changing initiative to watch for cannabis reform. Michigan is the only adult-use state that also gave it’s electoral votes to President Trump in the 2016 election.
In North Dakota, Measure 3, or the Marijuana Legalization and Automatic Expungement Initiative, appeared on the ballot and failed by only receiving 40% of the vote. This measure would have made cannabis legal in the state of North Dakota for people 21 years of age or older and, unlike other initiatives, also created an automatic expungement process for individuals with convictions for a controlled substance that has been legalized. Advocates and policy organizations were initially stunned when the campaign submitted enough signatures to appear on the ballot, and immediately recognized the importance of a staunchly, dependably conservative state choosing to legalize the adult-use of cannabis. Both of the candidates who ran for Senate in the state, Rep. Kevin Cramer (R) and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) stated that they opposed the measure.
In Utah, the Medical Marijuana Initiative (Proposition 2) appeared on the 2018 ballot and passed with 53% of the vote. This initiative legalized the medical use of marijuana for individuals with qualifying medical illnesses such as epilepsy, HIV, and and multiple sclerosis, among others. In October, the proponents and opponents of the measure, Mormon church leaders, and elected officials met to discuss the possibility of passing a medical cannabis law through the state legislature– regardless of the result for Proposition 2, which it was determined, would remain on the ballot. State lawmakers plan to hold a special session to work out details for how to make Utah the next medical cannabis state. Utah is a perfect example of a traditionally conservative state choosing to reform their cannabis laws to be more compassionate — Utah has given its electoral votes to Republican presidents in every election since 1968.
In Missouri, three separate medical cannabis initiatives appeared on the ballot last night– including two proposed constitutional amendments and one statutory measure– with Amendment 2 triumphing with 65% of the vote. The other two medical cannabis initiatives failed. The winning Amendment 2, backed by New Approach Missouri, was favored by national advocacy groups such as NCIA, MPP, and NORML. The initiative legalized cannabis for medical purposes, creates a licensing system for cultivation, testing, and dispensing of medical cannabis and sets up a 4% tax on cannabis sales. State tax revenue garnered will be spent on healthcare services for veterans. Voters in Missouri also elected Josh Hawley (R) to replace sitting Sen. Claire McCaskill (D). Interestingly, Amendment 2 received over 300,000 more votes than Senator-elect Hawley — proving that cannabis is a winning issue across partisan lines.
OUTLOOK: 2019 AND THE 116TH CONGRESS
These stunning victories have implications in Washington, D.C. and set the stage for federal reform in the 116th Congress. In addition to the ballot initiatives that were passed last night, Democrats took control of the House of Representatives, while Republicans maintained their control of the Senate. While this development surely means that cannabis policy will progress further than ever in the House, it also means that anything passed through that chamber will face significant hurdles in the more conservative Senate.
This year’s midterm election was one of the most highly anticipated in modern American history.
Last night, the House of Representatives switched from a Republican majority to a Democratic majority: as of Wednesday morning, Democrats held 220 seats, while Republicans held 194.
Republican leadership in the House of Representatives over the last two years has blocked even popular reforms such as banking access from receiving hearings or votes. With a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, cannabis legislation will likely move at an unprecedented rate. Because Democrats have traditionally been more friendly to cannabis reforms, there is the possibility that hearings will be held, bills will move through committees, and even possibly be voted on and passed on to the Senate.
Most, if not all, of last night’s House races will have implications for cannabis policy in the 116th Congress. Notable cannabis opponent and chairman of the powerful Rules Committee Pete Sessions was defeated in a stunning victory by Colin Allred, who has stated his clear support for medical cannabis. At the same time, cannabis advocates saw the loss of longtime cannabis champion Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), marking the end of an era. While the loss of Rep. Rohrabacher will be felt by many, his challenger Harley Rouda has stated his unequivocal support for adult-use cannabis.
As polls indicated prior to Election Day, Republicans maintained their control of the Senate, and in fact strengthened their majority. As of Wednesday morning, Republicans had gained two members in the Senate, holding a total of 51 seats, with three races still in play. While the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives may be able to move pro-cannabis amendments and legislation through that chamber, anything that moves on to the more conservative Senate will face significant hurdles.
One of the most closely watched Senate races in the country was in Nevada, where sitting Sen. Dean Heller (R) faced Rep. Jacky Rosen (D). While Sen. Heller has signaled his support for cannabis reform in the past, he currently does not co-sponsor any pro-cannabis legislation in the Senate. Rep. Rosen, however, is a co-sponsor of multiple bills in the House, including the SAFE Banking Act (H.R. 2215), the Small Business Tax Equity Act (H.R. 1810), and the STATES Act (H.R. 6043), among others. In addition, Rep. Rosen replied to an NCIA candidate survey and stated, “I was proud to support Nevada’s marijuana ballot initiative in 2016 and our state has already seen the positive impacts of this industry, including thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue.”
With more on the line than ever before, political donations and investments in our industry are vital. NCIA’s political action committee (NCIA-PAC) is proud to have donated to 41 of the winning candidates on election night.
The 116th Congress will arrive in Washington, D.C. in January. With the change in leadership in the House of Representatives, cannabis policy and reforms will be able to advance in a way never seen before. At the same time, any pro-cannabis bills or amendments sent to the Senate will still face challenges, but as recent elections have proved, anything is possible.
Campaign Update From Michigan’s Coalition To Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol
NCIA recently spoke with two key figures in the state of Michigan to get an update from the boots on the ground about the efforts to legalize cannabis for adults this year. Mark Passerini is the founder of a medical dispensary based in Ann Arbor, Om of Medicine, and was also recently elected to serve on NCIA’s Board of Directors. Josh Hovey is the spokesperson for Michigan’s Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol.
Mark, how will adult-use legalization in Michigan affect your business and your community?
For the past eight years, we attempted to make all our decisions from the experience and perspective of a new patient that has never used cannabis previously. This translates to individual consultation rooms so patients may feel free to discuss their medical conditions, symptoms, and concerns in a private space rather than standing shoulder to shoulder at a retail counter.
We believe that when legalization is passed there will be many adults that may want to try cannabis but won’t know where to start, may be afraid, or unsure of the options and our unique consultation process may help them as much as it has helped our medical patients make the best choices for their health and their life. When cannabis is legalized, we plan to continue serving as a resource and education hub with a focus on scientific research.
What are the positive impacts of legalization in Michigan?
Positive change starts with one individual who shares with another who in turn shares with another and so on. Our communities have garnered a better understanding of cannabis, its history, medicinal use, and are actively rejecting the failed policies surrounding its use.
Locking people up for growing or consuming a plant is simply not the best use of critical and limited tax dollars. Many municipalities and states across the country have recognized this fact and passed decriminalization ordinances in order to use law enforcement resources on serious crimes. Communities and states that embraced legalization have also witnessed economic development through the creation of new jobs and much needed tax revenues.
Our research with the University of Michigan showed a 64% decrease in opioid use amongst patient participants. Continued research into the medical efficacy of cannabis will benefit not only the existing patient base, but the community at large.
By creating a whole new type of industry that operates in a responsible way and holds itself accountable to its community, everyone benefits.
Josh, how have you achieved success so far in the Coalition’s Michigan campaign?
True success will come when we pass legalization in November, but we’ve achieved some significant milestones. The first was creating a unified coalition of cannabis reform and social justice advocates to develop ballot language that borrows from the best practices used by the states that have legalized before us as well as Michigan’s medical marijuana licensing law. We also collected more than 360,000 signatures to place the issue on the November ballot. We’re proud of what we achieved so far, but the “vote yes” campaign has only just begun and there a lot more to do to make sure our initiative passes.
What do the prospects look like for the initiative passing this November?
Multiple opinion polls have shown that 60 percent of Michigan voters want to end cannabis prohibition and create a legalized and regulated system, so that’s a very strong starting position as we head into the campaign season. However, we know we can’t just rely on polls and we know the prohibitionists will continue to spread “Reefer Madness” era misinformation about the initiative.
That’s why we’re working hard to raise every dollar we can to make sure we can get the facts to voters across the state. We want to make sure voters know Michigan is wasting millions of taxpayer dollars on the failed policy of prohibition and that creating a legal and well-regulated marijuana market can raise hundreds of millions for three of our state’s most underfunded areas: roads, schools, and local governments.
Anything specific we should know about the program?
Full details of the proposal are available on our website at www.RegulateMI.org. But in short, our initiative learns from the best practices from other states that have gone before us while also borrowing licensing language established under Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Facilities Licensing Act. That law was passed with bipartisan support in 2016 and the first medical marijuana businesses are just starting to be licensed under that program. We believe our very reasonable and well-thought out business regulations combined with sensible personal possession limits will make Michigan’s adult-use law the new model for the country.
What is needed to ensure Michigan passes adult-use legalization?
We need people to get out and vote, plain and simple. Beyond that, there are a few other things people can do to support the campaign:
Make sure your friends and family are registered to vote and, of course, make sure they VOTE YES in November.
Share the facts about the initiative and about the need for legalization on your personable social media pages. You can find the campaign has pages set up on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Don’t allow prohibitionist misinformation to spread. Correct your friends and family (politely) by giving them the facts on the issue.
Donate to the campaign at RegulateMI.org/donate. We need to get our message out every way possible, including television, mail and social media. All of those things costs money and we can’t win without your support.
The Michigan Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol will host a fundraiser on October 17, 2018 in Ann Arbor, MI. For more information, please contact Robin Schneider, Finance Director.
Member Blog: The Future of Michigan’s Cannabis Industry
In 2008, Michigan voters voted to legalize marijuana for medicinal use. Since 2008, dispensaries have been regulated for operation on a city or township level, and the city of Detroit was more welcoming to the cannabis industry than any other city in Michigan. On the busy street of 8 Mile in Detroit it seems like the neon green cross is on every other building for miles. The dispensaries have not been allowed to apply for a business license and so were not paying state taxes. This put the dispensaries in a gray area with the state. Legal or not, the cannabis industry in Michigan and especially in Detroit has been very lucrative.
In September of 2016 a bill was passed to grant licenses to dispensaries, cultivators, labs, extractors and transporters. Due to this bill, the Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) is accepting applications on December 15, 2017 for business licenses. The state passing a bill to accept licenses is great news for both the dispensaries and the state. The dispensaries will no longer have to look over their shoulder in fear of being shut down due to operating without a license and the state will receive tax revenue from the industry. However, the honeymoon came to an end when LARA also required dispensaries to shut down their operations effective on that same date of December 15, 2017 or risk being denied a business license. Even still with this plan the licenses will not be granted until the first quarter of 2018. This leaves a potential 3 month gap where the dispensaries will not be generating any revenue and more importantly patients can’t get their medication.
A number of dispensaries have shut their doors already in an attempt to curry favor with the state. Most dispensaries are remaining open to try and make as much revenue as they can before being out of business for an undetermined amount of time. While being out of commission for a few months will temporarily hurt Michigan’s cannabis industry, it is very important that if you are looking to re-open or start a cannabis operation that you fully understand the regulations. Unfortunately many cannabis operations may not be granted licenses and for some dispensaries December 15th will be their last day in business.
On September 21, 2017 the state did answer a big question that many in Michigan’s cannabis industry has been asking since 2016 when the state passed the bill to grant licenses: can one location have multiple licenses?
LARA made the decision that a location is allowed to operate multiple licenses if it meets the following criteria;
The Department authorizes the licenses to operate at the same location
The facility must have separate working areas, entrances, exits, point of sale operations and record keeping systems in place for each license.
The co-location is in keeping with local ordinance or zoning regulations.
The licensees comply with all local and state regulations for building inspection, fire safety and public health standards.
This is great news for Michigan’s cannabis businesses. This means a business can buy just one building and as long as it fits the above requirements their whole operation with multiple licenses can be ran out of one location instead of multiple locations. This will reduce cost and increase profits making the industry more attractive to businesses and investors.
As the December 15th deadline approaches, it is slowly being revealed and realized how the future of Michigan’s cannabis industry will look. As chaotic and uncertain Michigan’s cannabis industry is presently, I am excited about the direction it is headed and the possibilities and opportunities it can provide to my home state.
Please be prepared and don’t wait until the last minute to enter into this exciting new chapter of Michigan’s cannabis industry!
If you are to apply to any of the five licenses, please make sure you review House Bill 4209.
Kefentse Mandisa is a broker at Mandisa Risk Advisors.MRA is an insurance agency and risk management consulting group that provides superior service and products to their clients.
As a specialized insurance agency they provide services to the cannabis industry. This includes dispensaries, cultivators, processors, landlords and physicians to name a few.
MRA being narrowly focused on the industries they have a strong expertise, allows them to better serve their clients.
2016: What’s Next?
by Michelle Rutter, Government Relations Coordinator
This year is arguably the most crucial yet for the burgeoning cannabis industry, especially as it relates to policy. Although NCIA primarily advocates for cannabis reform at the federal level, what happens in each individual state is vital to the stances Members of Congress take on our issues.
Members of Congress care deeply about issues that directly affect their specific state or district. It’s imperative that more states enact cannabis reform legislation so that more Members have a vested interest in protecting their constituents. While cannabis reform is sweeping the nation at an almost unprecedented rate, it takes time for politicians in Washington, D.C., to catch up with public opinion back home. If all of the federal lawmakers representing just the 15 states mentioned below were to vote positively on pro-cannabis legislation, it would add up to more than 180 Representatives and nearly 30 Senators.
Take a look below and see what’s coming up next in 2016. Remember that by becoming a member of NCIA, you are adding your voice to the coordinated and unified campaign at the federal level to allow cannabis businesses access to financial services, fix tax section 280E, and ultimately end federal cannabis prohibition.
The United States of Cannabis
Arizona activists remain ahead of schedule and have nearly gathered the 150,000 signatures needed to put the state’s Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol initiative on the November 2016 ballot. (The campaign ultimately aims to collect 230,000 in order to insure against signature drop-off.) It’s estimated that Arizona’s adult-use market could be worth up to $480 million.
With a multi-billion-dollar cannabis industry in California alone, passing an adult-use legalization initiative in the state is vital to ending federal prohibition. The most prominent full retail initiative gathering signatures for the November 2016 election is the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, which is backed by billionaire Sean Parker and the Marijuana Policy Project.
Legalize Maine and the Marijuana Policy Project have joined forces to legalize adult-use cannabis in 2016. Legalize Maine has already collected 80,000 signatures. Only 61,000 signatures are necessary to place the measure on a statewide ballot, but the organization’s goal is 95,000, to insure against drop-off. The deadline to submit signatures is February 1st.
Last August, a pair of cannabis advocacy groups separately filed paperwork to get adult-use legalization on the 2016 ballot in Massachusetts. The state recently confirmed that a measure to legalize recreational cannabis next year has enough valid signatures to force the legislature to consider the measure. If the legislature decides to pass, then the campaign will have to collect another 10,792 signatures to formally make the November ballot.
There’s no question that adult-use legalization will be on the ballot this year in Nevada. Initiative Petition 1, which would tax and regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol, has been certified for the 2016 ballot. Backers had previously collected nearly 200,000 signatures to either force legislators to enact their initiative or put it on the ballot. When state lawmakers abstained from voting on the issue, the measure was automatically forwarded to this year’s ballot for a popular vote.
In Florida, the group United for Care received clearance from the state Supreme Court for a 2016 ballot measure that would legalize medical marijuana. The group nearly succeeded in legalizing medical marijuana in 2014, garnering 58% of the vote but falling barely short of the state’s constitutionally mandated 60% margin needed to pass,
The nation’s capital continues to debate cannabis. In December’s federal budget bill, the taxation and regulation of marijuana in Washington, D.C., was blocked by Congress again, though possessing and gifting cannabis remains legal in the city.
This month, Hawaii will begin accepting applications for medical cannabis businesses. The bill signed into law last summer opens the door for up to 16 dispensaries on the islands.
It was recently announced that Illinois saw approximately $1.7 million in medical cannabis sales during November and December of 2015. There are already petitions being circulated in the state that would expand the law’s qualifying conditions.
Maryland will award cannabis cultivation, processing, and dispensary licenses this summer. Industry advocates were pleased with the amount of interest the state’s program garnered: more than 1,000 applications were submitted.
Officials in Michigan have approved language for three different adult-use cannabis legalization initiatives for the 2016 ballot. In order to have the best chance of passing, it’s important for these groups to coalesce behind one initiative.
At the end of 2015, New Hampshire began issuing medical marijuana cards to qualifying patients. It’s expected that the state will open medical dispensaries in 2016.
After a long and arduous journey, New York’s medical cannabis program became operational this month. The cannabis industry expects the program and the law’s qualifying conditions to expand this year.
In the first week of 2016, Oregon began accepting adult-use cannabis business license applications. The state has no limit on how many licenses they will decide to award.
Vermont may become the first state to legalize adult-use cannabis through the legislative process in 2016. The proposed bill would allow for up to 86 storefronts and five different business license types.
Bonus: Election 2016 – Yes, We Canna
As we all know, a new president will be elected this November, and with that a new administration will assume power next January. It is very crucial that Congress pass more pro-cannabis legislation before then.
It’s probable that Attorney General Loretta Lynch will be replaced in 2016 or early 2017. This is important because it is the Department of Justice that enforces and prosecutes federal marijuana laws.
Another possibility for 2016 is that the acting head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Chuck Rosenberg, could be replaced as well. Rosenberg is notorious for his gaffe last year when he called marijuana “probably” less dangerous than heroin.
On New Year’s Eve, officials from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration posted a notice on the Federal Register that calls for a report “presenting the state of the science on substance use, addiction and health” to be released in 2016. Industry advocates are hopeful that this report could be the first sign of re- or de-scheduling cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act.
During 2016, NCIA will continue working with D.C.-based public affairs firms Heather Podesta + Partners, and Jochum Shore & Trossevin PC to magnify our efforts to address the industry’s top federal priorities: access to basic banking services and fair federal taxation.
In addition to NCIA’s lobbying and advocacy efforts, NCIA exists to connect and educate our members on all facets of the cannabis industry. Our industry supports tens of thousands of jobs, tens of millions in tax revenue, and billions in economic activity in the United States.Our core mission is to ensure that our members are treated like businesses in any other American industry. Join NCIA today to get involved and be a part of the cannabis revolution!
NCIA recently had a chat with Mark Passerini, co-founder of Om of Medicine, a provisioning center and non-profit organization in Ann Arbor, Michigan, founded to assist their members in safely and securely obtaining medical cannabis in accordance with the Michigan Marihuana Act of 2008.
Cannabis Industry Sector:
Medical Cannabis Provider
NCIA Member Since:
How do you uniquely serve the cannabis industry?
The Om of Medicine uniquely serves the cannabis industry by offering a state-of-the-art members-only facility that provides an unparalleled experience of service, amenities, and information/education pertaining to all things cannabis. Located in downtown Ann Arbor, Om is where the art is, providing a place for local artists to display and make their work available for purchase. Om is a major participant in the Michigan medical cannabis movement by following and supporting local and state political issues affecting cannabis laws, lobbying on behalf of patients, as well as educating through social media. In a broader sense, the Om of Medicine is a cannabis headquarters for the community by staying up-to-date on new research, informing patients on political issues that require action, and by offering seminars from leading experts in the field. We offer a safe, enjoyable, and inspiring experience for our patients supplemented by free comedy shows, cultivation classes, political activism workshops, guest lectures, and much much more. The Om of Medicine is deeply committed to environmental responsibility and has implemented a robust sustainability action plan for the past four years of the facility’s operation. This commitment has included dedicating funds to energy efficient investments throughout the facility, as well as investments in off-site renewable energy generation to produce the state’s first and only carbon-neutral dispensary.
Why should patients looking for medical cannabis services go to Om of Medicine?
The Om of Medicine is not just an entity, it represents an ideal. Om was founded in 2010 in order to provide the safest and most secure access to the highest quality medicinal cannabis for qualified patients. Both founders and all employees subscribe to the underlying principle of compassion coupled with excellence.
We provide the optimal visiting experience for patients that are either familiar or new to cannabis by personalizing each visit to fit the individual’s medical needs. We offer a private, one-on-one consultation that ensures each patient gets the time and attention they deserve. Our selection of medicine is unparalleled and the variety of delivery mechanisms we offer are wide-ranging and ever-changing. Our knowledgeable staff welcomes and assists patients with any questions and provides aid with the state’s patient registration process. Our commitment to individualized healing combines lab-tested therapeutic remedies with patient-based research to achieve holistic lifestyle wellness. Our member lounge is enhanced by local art. Cannabis can inspire creativity and the Om of Medicine is a testament to this. There truly is no place like Om.
What is the medical marijuana community like in Michigan?
There are more patients in Michigan than in any other state besides California. Michigan was the 13th state to pass MMJ laws and now there are 23. Every state after Michigan has implemented some type of distribution/dispensary model yet Michigan State Legislature has been slow to act on this issue which leaves many patients without a safe place to acquire their medicine. The past six years have been difficult on the community due to some unfortunate court decisions as well as reductions in protections for patients. Despite several setbacks, the medical cannabis community in Michigan is a persistent bunch and we’re confident that the more we engage in the political process and educate and advocate for transparent, reasonable and accountable laws, the quicker patients will have permanently secure and safe access to their medicine.
Where do you see it going?
Over the past couple of years, with the help of several advocacy groups and our full time lobbyist in Lansing, there has been much progress. There are two bills awaiting passage in the State Senate. The first, HB 4271, will allow a local option for licensed dispensaries. The second bill, HB 5104, will provide alternative delivery methods other than smoking. Both bills overwhelmingly passed the State House 95-14 and 100-9, respectively. We have no doubt that the State Senate and Governor will do the right thing and pass these two important pieces of legislation.
You recently began helping to form the Illinois Cannabis Industry Association (ILCIA), a state-affiliate of NCIA. What led you to step up your involvement in this way across state lines?
Our experience in Michigan has made it clear that political involvement and education early on is key to moving this issue forward. The law narrowly passed in Illinois with 78 House and Senate members voting “NO” on HB 1 with the House only passing the bill by a marginal 4 votes. There is clearly much work to be done! In terms of state population, Illinois is the second largest [medical marijuana state] after California and has a chance to lead on this issue. The state has touted its medical cannabis law as the most restrictive and closely monitored law in the country. We want to make sure that the rights of the patients are not infringed upon and that the 4-year ‘pilot program’ becomes a permanent option for the patients of Illinois. As the state’s affiliate to NCIA, ILCIA will provide a voice for businesses, patients, and other key stakeholders by advocating for laws, regulations, and public policies that foster a healthy, professional, and accountable medical cannabis industry in our state.
Why did you join NCIA?
We joined NCIA because we realize that there is power in numbers. NCIA has been the country’s only industry-led organization engaging in legislative efforts to expand and further legitimize the legal cannabis market in the United States. The members we have met through NCIA and its leadership are second to none and we are confident that they will push this issue over the finish line. The work they are doing to reform tax laws and allow access to banking is of the utmost importance for our industry to survive. It is difficult work but in order to succeed, we must work together!