Committee Blog: Leveraging Business AI Tools for Scaling Cannabis Companies – Strategies and Implementation

Produced by: NCIA’s Retail Committee


The cannabis industry has experienced remarkable growth in recent years, as both regulatory landscapes and public perceptions shift. As the market expands, cannabis companies face increasing pressure to scale their operations while maintaining compliance and meeting customer demands. In this era of digital transformation, Business AI tools, such as ChatGPT, offer innovative solutions that can empower cannabis companies to streamline processes, enhance customer experiences, and drive growth. A tremendous benefit is it takes little skill to learn how to use AI for a beginner or one could work with an expert in AI. In this article, we will explore the potential of AI tools in the cannabis industry and delve into strategies for their effective implementation to achieve desirable business outcomes.

The Power of Business AI Tools in the Cannabis Industry

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is transforming various industries, and the cannabis sector is no exception. Business AI tools encompass a range of technologies, including natural language processing (NLP), machine learning (ML), and data analytics, all of which can be harnessed to address the unique challenges faced by cannabis companies seeking to scale.

  • Enhanced Customer Engagement: One of the critical aspects of scaling any business is effective customer engagement. AI-powered chatbots, like ChatGPT, can provide personalized, round-the-clock support to customers, addressing inquiries, guiding purchasing decisions, and even providing product recommendations. These chatbots create a seamless and responsive customer experience, fostering loyalty and increasing sales.
  • Data-Driven Insights: AI tools can analyze vast amounts of data to extract valuable insights that can inform strategic decisions. For cannabis companies, this could mean analyzing customer preferences, tracking market trends, reviewing internal operations management, and optimizing supply chain management. These insights enable businesses to adapt quickly to changing market dynamics and stay ahead of competitors.
  • Process Automation: Tedious and time-consuming tasks can hinder scalability. AI-powered automation can optimize inventory management, order processing, and regulatory compliance, allowing employees to focus on higher-value activities. This not only increases efficiency but also reduces the risk of errors.
  • Predictive Analytics: Predicting demand and optimizing production are crucial for scaling operations. AI can analyze historical data to forecast market demand, ensuring that companies can maintain sufficient inventory levels and avoid overstocking or shortages.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Navigating the complex and ever-changing landscape of cannabis regulations is a significant challenge. AI can assist in monitoring compliance by cross-referencing business practices against current regulations, minimizing the risk of legal issues.

Implementation Strategies for Business AI Tools

While the potential benefits of AI tools are clear, effective implementation is key to realizing those benefits. Here are some strategies for cannabis companies to consider when integrating AI technologies into their operations:

  • Identify Pain Points and Goals: Begin by identifying the specific pain points your cannabis company faces in its scaling efforts. Whether it’s customer service bottlenecks, inventory management challenges, or regulatory compliance hurdles, pinpointing these issues will guide your AI implementation strategy.
  • Certified Professionals and Agencies: Collaborating with certified AI professionals or agencies that specialize in your industry can provide invaluable expertise. These experts can assess your business requirements, recommend suitable AI tools, and tailor solutions to your unique needs. Their experience ensures a smoother and more effective implementation process.
  • Data Collection and Preparation: AI thrives on data, so ensuring clean, accurate, and comprehensive data is crucial. Collaborate with your AI partner to define data requirements, gather relevant information, and organize it for analysis. This step forms the foundation for accurate predictions and insights.
  • Customization and Training: Generic AI models can be a starting point, but tailoring these models to your cannabis business is essential. Work with your AI professionals to fine-tune algorithms, customize chatbot responses, and train the system to recognize industry-specific nuances.
  • Continuous Monitoring and Improvement: Implementing AI tools is not a one-time task. Continuously monitor AI performance, gather feedback from customers and employees, and refine your AI systems accordingly. This iterative process ensures that your AI tools evolve with your business needs.
  • Change Management and Training: Introducing AI into your company may require employees to adapt to new processes. Effective change management, including training programs and clear communication, can help employees embrace AI technologies and use them to their full potential.

Desirable Outcomes and Future Considerations

The successful implementation of Business AI tools can yield a multitude of desirable outcomes for cannabis companies:

  • Scalability: By automating processes and optimizing operations, cannabis businesses can scale their production, distribution, and customer base more efficiently.
  • Improved Customer Experiences: AI-powered chatbots provide prompt and personalized customer service, enhancing the overall experience and fostering brand loyalty.
  • Data-Driven Decision-Making: AI-driven insights enable data-backed decisions, reducing uncertainty and enabling proactive responses to market changes.
  • Regulatory Adherence: AI tools can help ensure compliance with evolving cannabis regulations, minimizing legal risks and potential setbacks.
  • Innovation and Competitive Edge: Embracing AI technologies positions cannabis companies as forward-thinking, innovative players in the industry, setting them apart from competitors.

As the cannabis industry continues to evolve, it’s important to consider potential future developments and challenges. These may include:

  • Ethical Considerations: As AI becomes more integrated into business operations, it’s important to address ethical concerns surrounding data privacy, transparency, and bias.
  • Regulatory Changes: The cannabis industry’s regulatory landscape is dynamic. AI tools must adapt to new rules and compliance requirements, requiring ongoing monitoring and adjustments.
  • Advanced AI Capabilities: AI technology is advancing rapidly. Cannabis companies should stay informed about emerging AI tools and consider how they can further enhance business operations.


In the ever-expanding cannabis industry, the integration of Business AI tools holds immense potential for companies aiming to scale their operations and achieve sustainable growth. From enhancing customer engagement to optimizing processes and predicting market trends, AI technologies like ChatGPT offer tangible benefits that can drive innovation and success. By partnering with certified professionals or agencies and following effective implementation strategies, cannabis businesses can navigate the complexities of AI adoption and position themselves as industry leaders. As the industry evolves, a thoughtful and strategic approach to AI implementation will be essential for cannabis companies looking to thrive in a competitive market.

Committee Blog: Navigating Cannabis Insurance – 10 Essential Insights for Buyers

Produced by: NCIA’s Risk Management & Insurance Committee

Contributing Authors: Stephanie Bozzuto, Cannabis Connect Insurance, Acrisure Partner | Merril Gilbert, Trace Trust | Shay Aaron Gilmore, The Law Office of Shay Aaron Gilmore | Matthew Johnson, AssuredPartners

Navigating the labyrinth of insurance coverage can be daunting for any business owner, especially within the emerging cannabis industry. Questions like “What coverage do I need?” and “How do I ensure my policy covers my exposures?” are common and crucial. The National Cannabis Industry Association’s Risk Management & Insurance Committee is here to guide cannabis business operators in protecting both personal and business assets.

Below are ten key insights and considerations to guide you when purchasing your next insurance policy. Whether you have a policy in place or are exploring multiple policies, it’s crucial to ensure they align with your intended coverage.

  1. Understanding Policy Forms, Endorsements, and Exclusions

Policy forms, endorsements, and exclusions are pivotal during a claim. For instance, some policies sold to cannabis companies in the US have outright ‘cannabis business exclusions’. It’s crucial to read and understand these documents to avoid jeopardizing your business.

  1. Compliance with Protective Safeguards

To ensure theft coverage response in a loss, understand and comply with the protective safeguards on your property insurance policy. For example, non-compliance with a Central Station Alarm Warranty can exclude coverage after a robbery.

  1. Landlord Insurance Requirements

Understand the insurance coverage required by your landlord before signing any contract. If a triple net lease is required, you, as the lessee, will need to insure not only your business but also the building, which can be costly.

  1. Local Insurance Requirements

Each city, state, and county permitting cannabis will have its own insurance requirements, often including general liability, product liability, commercial auto insurance, and workers’ compensation.

Some states have created specific requirements not present in other states (looking at you, Michigan!). Consult with an attorney to fully understand and meet these requirements.

  1. Facility Maintenance

Maintain and update your facilities, especially if they are older than 20 years, to avoid limited property coverage and being forced to buy an “actual cash value” policy versus “replacement cost.” Updates to your HVAC, plumbing, roofing, and electrical systems are well worth the investment.

  1. High-Risk Area Considerations

If your facility is in a high brush area, be prepared for limited property insurance options and a list of exclusions due to tighter wildfire insurance availability. Your insurer may offer expanded coverage if you’re willing to invest in wildfire defense systems.

  1. Evaluating Insurance Companies

Know the financial strength of your insurance company before purchasing. Consider whether the company is admitted or non-admitted and research their reputation and claims experience.

  1. Claims Experience

Inquire about the carrier’s claims handling experience, conditions of coverage, and the duration it takes to receive a payout from a covered loss. If your broker doesn’t have claims experience with a given carrier, feel free to ask someone on the NCIA’s Risk Management & Insurance Committee.

  1. Legal Concepts and Types of Insurance

Understand the legal concepts involved in property and liability insurance and familiarize yourself with the different types of property insurance policies available on the market. For instance – are you purchasing an admitted or a non-admitted insurance policy? Are you on an ‘all risk’ or a ‘named perils’ coverage form?

  1. Grasping Liability Insurance Distinctions

Liability insurance is crucial, acting as “third-party” coverage, contrasting with “first-party” coverage like property insurance, which protects against damage to one’s own assets.

  • Duty to Defend vs. Duty to Indemnify
    • Understanding the difference between the duty to defend and the duty to indemnify is vital. The former is broader, obligating the insurer to defend the insured in lawsuits, even if allegations are baseless. The latter only kicks in if the insured is found legally liable for damages.
  • Defense Inside/Outside the Limits
    • One should also inquire about defense inside versus defense outside the limits of a liability policy. A policy with ‘defense outside’ considers all legal costs separate from the total liability coverage, while legal fees will erode the total liability limit for a ‘defense inside’ policy.
  • Insurable Interest
    • An insured must have a direct financial interest in the preservation of the property and be exposed to monetary loss as an immediate and proximate result of its destruction. The interest must not be contingent or expectant. Interest in anything not founded on an actual right to the property is uninsurable.
  • Scope and Importance in Cannabis Industry
    • The scope of liability insurance, covering legal costs and payouts, is essential, especially in the cannabis industry, where legal landscapes and associated risks are continuously evolving. Adequate coverage is paramount to mitigate potential financial losses due to unique legal challenges and risks, such as product liability claims.


The world of business insurance, especially in the cannabis sector, can be quite complex. However, with the insights provided here, you can navigate your policy purchasing process with confidence and ensure your business is fortified against potential risks. By understanding policy forms, adhering to safeguards, and adapting to local regulations, you can lay a resilient foundation for your business’s growth and success.

The proactive approach advocated by the National Cannabis Industry Association’s Risk Management committee emphasizes the importance of informed decision-making. By evaluating an insurer’s claims experience, comprehending legal nuances, and staying attuned to industry developments, you can empower your business with robust protection, ensuring a resilient foundation for growth and success.

Committee Blog: Cannabis Cultivation Facilities vs. Cannabis Retail Facilities – Disparities and Economic Impact

Published by NCIA’s Cannabis Cultivation Committee (CCC)

The cannabis industry has experienced a significant transformation in recent years, with the legalization and decriminalization of cannabis in many regions around the world. This shift has led to the emergence of two distinct yet interconnected sectors within the cannabis market: cultivation facilities and retail facilities. While both play a vital role in the cannabis supply chain, they exhibit notable disparities that have a substantial impact on the economy.

Cultivation Facilities: Nurturing the Green

Cannabis cultivation facilities are the backbone of the industry, responsible for the growth and cultivation of the cannabis plant. These facilities are typically large-scale operations that require advanced horticultural techniques, specialized equipment, and a controlled environment to ensure the optimal growth of cannabis plants. Cultivators must navigate various factors such as lighting, temperature, humidity, and nutrient levels to produce high-quality yields.

One of the most significant disparities between cultivation and retail facilities lies in their resource requirements. Cultivation facilities demand substantial capital investment for equipment, real estate, utilities, and staffing. High-quality lighting systems, advanced climate control mechanisms, and nutrient delivery systems contribute to the significant start-up costs associated with these facilities.

Beyond the financial aspect, cultivation facilities often face regulatory challenges. Licensing requirements, zoning restrictions, and compliance with state and local regulations add another layer of complexity to their operations. However, despite these challenges, cultivation facilities have a direct impact on job creation, local economies, and tax revenues. They provide employment opportunities in rural and urban areas alike, stimulating economic growth and revitalization.

Retail Facilities: The Consumer Experience

On the other end of the cannabis supply chain are retail facilities, where consumers can purchase various cannabis products, including flowers, edibles, concentrates, and topicals. Retail facilities offer a diverse range of products to cater to the preferences and needs of consumers, enhancing the overall cannabis experience. These establishments range from dispensaries to specialized stores and require a different set of considerations compared to cultivation facilities.

Unlike cultivation facilities, retail establishments tend to have lower start-up costs. However, they face their own unique challenges. Navigating a complex web of regulations regarding product labeling, packaging, and sales is crucial for compliance and consumer safety. Retail facilities must also provide a safe and welcoming environment for customers while ensuring age restrictions are strictly enforced.

Retail facilities play a pivotal role in shaping public perception and acceptance of cannabis. As these establishments become more mainstream, they contribute to the normalization of cannabis use and promote responsible consumption practices. This normalization, in turn, has implications for the broader economy.

Economic Impact: Cultivation vs. Retail

The economic impact of cannabis cultivation facilities and retail facilities extends far beyond the cannabis industry itself. Both sectors contribute to job creation, tax revenues, and local economic development. cultivation facilities often require a larger workforce due to the labor-intensive nature of plant cultivation and processing. These jobs span across various skill levels, from horticulturists and technicians to administrators and security personnel.

Retail facilities, while generally employing fewer people per establishment, create job opportunities in customer service, retail management, and education about cannabis products. Moreover, both cultivation and retail facilities contribute to the local economy through real estate demand, leasing agreements, and utilities consumption.

From a taxation perspective, both sectors generate significant revenue for local and state governments. Cultivation facilities are subject to cultivation taxes and other regulatory fees, contributing to state coffers. Retail facilities, in addition to sales taxes, often face excise taxes on cannabis products. These revenues can then be channeled towards public services, education, infrastructure, and social programs.

It’s All Economics

Having more cultivation facilities and fewer retail facilities can have detrimental effects on economic stability. The balance between suppliers and retailers plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy economy, and an excessive skew towards either end can lead to negative consequences as we are realizing in the current economic state.

A robust economy thrives on competition, which drives innovation, efficiency, and lower prices for consumers. When there are an excessive number of suppliers combined with fewer retailers, this can create challenges in distribution and logistics. Retailers act as intermediaries between suppliers and consumers, helping to streamline the flow of products and information. When there are fewer retailers, distribution networks can become strained, causing delays, inefficiencies, and potential shortages.

Economic stability relies on a balanced employment landscape. An overabundance of suppliers with limited retailers may lead to job losses in the retail sector, affecting consumer spending and the overall labor market. This can create ripple effects across various industries and reduce the purchasing power of consumers, ultimately slowing down economic growth.

Moreover, concentration of power among a few suppliers can lead to monopolistic tendencies, stifling competition and limiting consumer choice. Monopolies can dictate prices, control supply, and hinder market dynamics, negatively impacting economic stability.

Closing Thoughts

The disparities between cannabis cultivation facilities and retail facilities highlight the intricacies of the evolving cannabis landscape. While cultivation facilities require substantial investments in equipment and compliance, retail establishments focus on creating a positive consumer experience and normalizing cannabis use. Together, they form a symbiotic relationship that drives economic growth, job creation, and tax revenues.

As the cannabis industry continues to mature, it is crucial for stakeholders, policymakers, and entrepreneurs to recognize the importance of both cultivation and retail facilities. Striking a balance between these sectors will be vital for achieving a sustainable and prosperous cannabis market that benefits not only those directly involved in the industry but also the broader economy and society at large.

Committee Blog: The New York Cannabis Market Landscape – A Real Time Analysis with a Social Equity Call to Action

Published by NCIA’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee (DEIC)

The burgeoning New York State Cannabis Market has been able to launch in record time compared to more mature markets like California and Illinois. The time between state legalization and the actual opening of licensed cannabis medicinal retail and more recently adult-use dispensaries is within one year! This is a great feat to be proud of by any metric though we are in the beginning stages.

With an indelible New York State of Mind, cannabis industry advocates, ancillary technical/professional services stakeholders and regulators created well-informed introductory regulations to get the ball rolling. The New York Social Equity Roundtable examined the best and worst practices of other programs and weighed in on current regulations in our recommendations to the NY Office of Cannabis Management (OCM).

The New York Social Equity Roundtable is a diverse gathering of industry stakeholders along the cannabis industry supply chain with a mission to be a catalyst in the building of an equitable and inclusive cannabis that reflects the ethnic, cultural, social, and economic diversity of New York State. The Roundtable is committed to gathering and sharing valuable industry insights and invites collaboration with other advocacy organizations and individuals to develop solutions. 

This article is a followup to The Pathway to Greater Equity in New York’s New Adult Use Cannabis Market and serves as a compendium of the work this Roundtable has executed on over the past year since that article was published.

I would like to point out that while the news cycle has brought to light certain aspects of the New York market, the public should also be made aware of the ongoing, painstaking battle it has taken to fight for equity in New York. 

Below are snapshots of the NY market landscape and some of the major challenges facing current and aspiring cannapreneurs that will hopefully inspire further conversations on the matter. Our hope is that this article helps not only provide understanding of what it has been like in the Empire State, but also provides new states with an understanding of the massive undertaking that cannabis legalization requires in order to be executed upon equitably.

In this article:

  • Comments on the impact of unregulated smoke shops
  • Comments on bad faith lawsuits
  • Legacy Operator definition
  • A note on Supply Chain Opportunities
  • July 31st Public Comments on Adult Use Rules 
  • January & February Public Comments
  • Letter recommending an Advisory Board focused on Economic Inclusion & Expansion
  • Letter to the Governor urging Pardons for ALL Nonviolent Cannabis Offenders

Unregulated Smoke Shops / Grey Market thwarting the growth of licensed retailers

Frederika Easley, The People’s Ecosystem, MCBA Board Member: New York’s goal must be to create a regulated market that is so enticing and easy to navigate that operating in both the gray and legacy markets feels like unnecessary risk. The smoke shop owners who have decided to be greedy and harmful in many cases offering tainted products and appealing to the youth must receive consequences that educate, penalize and offer opportunity for redemption.

Stephanie Keeffe, Etain: Allowing smoke shops to operate without the appropriate licensure sets a dangerous precedent and undermines the efforts to establish a safe and legitimate cannabis industry in New York. It is in the best interest of everyone, including consumers, businesses, and the government to ensure that all businesses follow the appropriate licensure procedures and comply with regulations. Safety should always be paramount.

Tavian Crosland, Social Equity Empowerment Network: Gray market operators are a reality in any transitioning market and we don’t want to have a second wave of cannabis criminalization. We also want to give the people most impacted by prohibition a chance to profit from the plant. With priority CAURD licenses issued we have taken a step towards restitution and equity and without the step of enforcement we may be setting them up for failure. This is the most hostile environment a new business, in a new market could traverse. Enforcement doesn’t have to mean criminalization and we’ll miss our mark if we don’t reign in non compliant operators. We won’t get a second chance to get it right.

Scheril Murray Powell Esq, JUSTUS Foundation:  The MRTA is very clear that priority should be given to those who have been significantly harmed by the criminalization of cannabis.  The typical Grey market participant is not from these disproportionately impacted communities and have the financial means to open these storefronts.   The individuals that have not directly experienced the harm referenced in the MRTA should recognize that they are trying to skip ahead of those who qualify for equity and have been harmed.  There will be thousands of retail licenses in NY and plenty of opportunity for everyone to participate, but the grey market actors need to wait their turn.  This is not judgment, but an appeal to their moral compass.

Hawaii Mike: The grey market shops are causing the biggest obstacle on the pathway to a thriving legal market. The lack of clear laws and regulations make this an almost impossible battle without using extreme measures to force these businesses to cease operations. Until these shops are closed permanently there will be confusion amongst the consumers and unsurmountable competition to legal operators.

Raina Jackson, NCIA DEI Committee Organizer: NY needs an Advisory Board that is more representative of the cannabis supply chain as operators and ancillary providers with direct applicant/operator interaction. Too many assumptions are made about what operators want without a robust survey of what we say we actually need.  More than just money is needed. would help illuminate pain points and to keep the conversation focused on how to resolve unintended consequences arising from any venture this new under regulation. The current configuration does not represent stakeholders disproportionately targeted and excluded.

Lawsuits Attempting to Circumvent the Equitable Rollout of Cannabis Retail Licenses 

The recent CARCS lawsuit is reminiscent of lawsuits launched in Illinois by general market operators disregarding the need for the prioritization of those disproportionately harmed by racially motivated cannabis prohibition tactics. Guided by greed, their intentions are to use the courts to stall progress and eliminate competition.

Mike Lomuto (former Head of DEI at the NCIA): While New York has an uphill battle as it navigates the unregulated market and integrates Legacy operators into the regulated space, OCM has ensured that the first set of licenses in New York go to individuals deemed disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs. It appears as if this lawsuit is a tactic we have seen in other states, where the small handful of multistate licensees who were part of a highly exclusive rollout of the Medical market are attempting to push themselves into the Adult Use market, under the guise of promoting equity while in actuality furthering the harm of the war on drugs and continuing the exclusion of justice-involved licensees.

Raina Jackson, NCIA DEIC Organizer, Policy & Regulatory subcommittee chair: As a reminder to companies that have unloaded these spurious lawsuits against well intentioned cannabis programs, be on notice that we see you and have documented what you have been doing to undermine equity, progress, and fairness. When you end up on the wrong side of history, no one will buy your revisionist historical accounts. The influential Millennials and GenZ populations that you seek as customers demand a higher level of corporate responsibility and may not be so forgiving. Before it’s too late I hope you find that it’s more rewarding to cooperate and coexist rather than to try to conquer. It is proven that well run companies that prioritize equity, inclusion, and transformation reap the benefits in the bottom line, including employee retention and community goodwill, no matter what industry.

Discussion of the ASTM Legacy Operator Definition

Legacy operators have been maligned and misunderstood in the regulated The definition of Legacy is Definition – as an added layer to help readers understand the situation

ASTM Definition of Legacy Operator

  • “A Legacy Operator is an individual who:
    • 1) Commercially for the majority of their income, or sacramentally, or ceremonially distributed cannabis
    • 2) Outside of the Legal Framework
    • 3) During the period of Prohibition 
    • 4) For a minimum of 5 years before legalization”

Lack of Education on Supply Chain Opportunities and Licensing Timelines

We notice that the infrastructure focus on brick and mortar retail is often to the detriment of other license types that don’t get as much attention but are more financially attainable. 

  • Lack of education provided on license types within the supply chain outside of retail and cultivation, including ancillary opportunities without a need for licensure. There is a need for real or hypothetical case studies illuminating the financial and business steps and resources necessary to succeed. Expectations need to be tied to realistic timelines and financial inputs.
  • Resolutions and Opportunities. Need for heightened levels of Technical assistance and ancillary service/product providers

Public Comments Submitted on July 31st Regarding Adult Use Rules

The Office of Cannabis Management put out a request for public comments in May of this year, on its latest round of Adult Use rules. Over the course of several Roundtable discussions and countless hours of document review, comparison to previous Rules, and several debates over specific language, our Roundtable produced a set of public comments we are very proud of, that we believe if adopted would provide for a more equitable industry.

This is an excerpt of the full document, which can be found here.

Part 121 – Social and Economic Equity

§ 121.1 Qualifications for a Social and Economic Equity Applicant. (a) (b) 

(a) General Qualifications. To qualify as a social and economic equity applicant, an applicant shall demonstrate, through the mandatory production of documents and other information described in this Part:
       (1) that sole control of the applicant is held by:
              (i) an individual from a community disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of cannabis prohibition;
              (ii) a minority-owned business;
              (iii) a women-owned business;
              (iv) a distressed farmer; or
              (v) a service-disabled veteran owned business.
(b) If sole control of the applicant is held by a woman who is also a minority-group member or women who are also all minority group members, the applicant may qualify as a minority- owned business, a women-owned business, or both.
       (1) Applicants qualifying for both a minority and women owned business shall have extra priority status in processing  applications. 


We have added (b.1) because there needs to be a prioritization of Black, (Afro-Latin), and Indigenous women within women-owned businesses. Otherwise social equity disproportionately benefits White women, as selective affirmative action has often done in the past. 

Due to Prop 209 in CA, race could not be used as a qualifying criterion for equity. As a result in San Francisco, equity grant funds were distributed among an even number of Black and White applicants/operators. CA is unique because of the history of white legacy operators upstate yet this was not equitable funds distribution. NY should avoid the same mistake. 

Public Comments Submitted in January and February 2023

Earlier in 2023, our Roundtable also submitted public comments on an earlier version of OCM’s Adult Use rules, as well as its rules regarding marketing and packaging. Internally, our Roundtable faced the challenge of transitioning into a new year and a new committee term at the NCIA. The fact that our public comments were the most robust document we had completed to date was a testament to the resilience and collaborative nature of our Roundtable.

These documents can be found here.

And here.

Letter Recommending Advisory Board, Re-submitted to OCM September 2023

In September of last year, our Roundtable submitted a letter to OCM, recommending the creation of an Advisory Board that would be community-based and focus on Economic Inclusion & Expansion. This was modeled after a similar initiative that has produced successful in Michigan, with Eric Foster, M4MM’s National Policy Director, serving as the bridge between our Roundtable and the Michigan Social Equity Task Force.

You can read the full letter here.

Letter to Governor Hochul Urging Pardons for Nonviolent Cannabis Offenders

A very strong unifying factor of our Roundtable is everyone at the table’s commitment to the repair of the harm inflicted by the War on Drugs. With that in mind, we submitted a letter to Governor Hochul late in 2022 urging her to pardon ALL nonviolent cannabis offenders, effectively taking the lead of President Biden, but going an imperative step further to set New York as a leader to undo some of the harm it has itself inflicted. As this action has still not taken place, our Roundtable has resubmitted this letter to the Governor.

The full letter can be read here.

In Conclusion

This is just the beginning. Unfortunately, it is necessary for us to always remain diligent in our work for true equity, not only in cannabis but in society. At least until the overall momentum of society is moving in that same direction. Until then, we encourage you to keep going strong, to tap into collaborative groups doing the same work, to draw on one another’s strengths, as well as wisdoms, experiences, and collective resources.

The fight to create an equitable industry in New York and other states will continue on, and the members of the New York Social Equity Roundtable will be here until our mission is achieved.

Committee Blog: Production of Cannabis Infused Products – A Guide to Optimal Facility Design and Workflow

Published by NCIA’s Facilities Design Committee

The burgeoning cannabis industry continues to grow and diversify. One sector that’s seen significant expansion is cannabis-infused food production. In this industry, meticulous facility design is crucial to ensure product quality, worker safety, and regulatory compliance.

This article discusses key design considerations for creating an efficient, safe, and regulation-compliant cannabis food production facility.

Begin with the End in Mind

This may seem more philosophical than operational but adopting this mindset early in your design process can help you avoid common pitfalls that seem to plague even experienced cannabis professionals. So, what does it mean to “begin with the end in mind?” It simply means that you need to define a lot of aspects of your business before you begin design. A very simple example of this is: What product(s) do you want to produce in this facility?

This might seem like a simple question, but there is tremendous complexity lurking just below the surface. While a commercial kitchen in a facility such as a restaurant might be a very flexible space allowing for the production of multiple products using the same space and equipment, food manufacturing of shelf-stable products requires a bit more specificity. Let’s pick a single product as an example: Gummies. Here are a few questions and decision points that need to be addressed before diving into design specifics:

  • Do you have a recipe for your gummies?
  • Does your recipe require specific equipment for production? Does that equipment require ventilation (i.e., a hood)?
  • Have you set throughput and volume targets for production (i.e., how many gummies do you want to produce per hour/day/month, etc.?)
  •  How will your product be packaged?
  • Will more than one type of product be produced in this same room/area?
  •  If so, how do you plan to mitigate cross-contamination risks?
  •  Have you defined a facility workflow that maps a product’s process from component parts (ingredients) to processing to packaging to storage and delivery?

This is a very incomplete list but demonstrates the fact that a simple product decision comes with a multitude of related decisions that must be made to successfully implement the production process. For example, your decision on your facilities throughput goals directly impacts your equipment choices. Are you doing artisanal, hand-crafted gummies in small batches or are you producing gummies at scale for maximum throughput?

Do you plan to start with one product and eventually expand to other products? Knowing this in advance allows you to strategically plan for those potential line-extensions. The design of an area in your facility to produce one kind of product does not necessarily effectively translate to the production of a different product. The equipment, space-planning, and process-planning for the production of gummy products is very different from the production of baked edibles or chocolate edibles for example. Knowing what you ultimately want to do can help you strategically design for the future and avoid potentially costly retrofits. There is no “one-size-fits-all” cannabis kitchen design.

Another important consideration is the development of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). SOPs are a key component of developing Good Manufacturing Processes (GMP) which is becoming increasingly critical to manufacturing in the cannabis industry. Understanding and documenting how things should be done will give you key insights into what is needed in your overall facility design.

This mindset of working backwards from your goal can be applied to almost every aspect of your operation. This includes things such as labor schedules, purchasing guides, order scheduling, storage, packaging, delivery and more. Define your goals and outputs and then work backward from there.

Space Planning

The first crucial consideration is space planning. It is imperative to account for all operational aspects of the facility, from storage and production to packing and shipping. Ensuring there is adequate space for these activities contributes to the workflow efficiency and helps maintain a safe work environment.

Storage areas should be designed to accommodate raw materials, finished products, and waste materials separately. Temperature-controlled areas may be necessary for perishable ingredients or to maintain product stability.

Production areas need sufficient space to house specialized equipment for cannabis food production. These can include extraction machines, distillation other laboratory equipment, infusion systems, and commercial kitchen appliances for food preparation. The areas should also facilitate the movement of employees and materials.

Packing and shipping areas need to accommodate packing materials, finished product cases, and space for shipping operations. Depending on your scale, this may include room for pallets, forklifts, or other necessary equipment.

Workflow Design

An optimized workflow is critical for efficiency and safety. The design of the facility should facilitate a streamlined flow of materials from receiving to shipping. This ‘one-way’ flow can help prevent cross-contamination and reduce movement of personnel and materials.

Special consideration should be given to the workflow around extraction and infusion processes. These are complex and sensitive steps that involve precise control over temperature and pressure. The facilities should be designed to allow for these activities to be conducted safely and efficiently.

Equipment Planning

When planning for equipment, several considerations come into play. Firstly, understanding the power requirements for the extraction, infusion, and food production equipment is paramount. Adequate electrical infrastructure needs to be installed to meet these demands.

Drainage is another critical consideration. Extraction processes can produce significant waste that needs to be safely disposed of. Furthermore, commercial kitchen operations require a professional-grade drainage system.

Lastly, space must be set aside for regular equipment maintenance and potential upgrades. The rapid pace of innovation in the cannabis industry means equipment can quickly become outdated and need replacement.

Food Safety Best Practices

As a food production facility, following best practices for food safety is a must. This includes implementing Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) plans to identify potential hazards and establish procedures to mitigate them.

Facilities must ensure appropriate hygiene measures, including handwashing stations and employee changing areas. Special attention should be given to allergen management, considering the diversity of ingredients that could be used in cannabis-infused foods.

Proper ventilation is a key factor in maintaining air quality and controlling odors, which can be a significant issue in cannabis production facilities. An effective ventilation system will also help control humidity, which can impact both the quality of the product and the longevity of the equipment.

Putting It All Together

The design of a cannabis food production facility is a complex task requiring a clear understanding of the production process, equipment requirements, safety considerations, and regulatory compliance. Through thoughtful planning and design, producers can build a facility that not only meets these demands but is also flexible enough to adapt to the ever-changing landscape of the cannabis industry.

Committee Blog: International GxP Considerations When Cultivating Cannabis – Part 1

Published by NCIA’s Facilities Design Committee

As the global cannabis industry continues to expand, the importance of international GxP standards becomes increasingly vital. GxP is an umbrella term used to describe the various forms of compliance/standards available: GMP, GACP, GMCCP (Bedrocan), etc. While GMP is typically associated with the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals and other consumer products, it can also be applied to plant cultivation (GACP). These guidelines were developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2003; they help ensure the quality, safety, and consistency of products, fostering consumer trust and facilitating international trade. In this blog post, we will explore the key considerations and requirements for cultivating cannabis in accordance with international GxP standards, allowing cultivators to meet the stringent regulatory expectations across borders.

GMP vs. GACP: What’s the difference?

First, it is important to explain the difference between GMP and GACP: GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) is a set of quality management and manufacturing guidelines and regulations that ensure pharmaceutical, food, and medical device products are consistently produced and controlled according to quality standards. It aims to minimize risks involved in production and ensures the safety, efficacy, and quality of the final product. GACP (Good Agricultural and Collection Practices) is a set of guidelines and principles used in the cultivation and harvesting of medicinal and aromatic plants. It ensures that the plants are grown, collected, and processed in a manner that maintains their quality and prevents contamination, ultimately ensuring the safety and effectiveness of herbal products derived from these plants. 

GxP Best Practices for Cannabis Facilities

Generally speaking, GACP applies to the “cultivation zone” and is less expensive to implement; GMP standards should be used in all “post-harvest zones” and is considered pharmaceutical grade. Below you will find a set of considerations and best practices used in most compliant cannabis facilities. 

  • Compliance with Regional Regulations: Before embarking on cannabis cultivation, it is essential to understand and comply with the specific regulations governing cannabis production in a specific region. Different countries have varying laws and requirements surrounding cannabis cultivation/export, including licensing, permitted cultivation methods, quality control, and product labeling. Familiarize yourself with the applicable regulations (in the country you intend to cultivate in and the country you intend to supply) to ensure full compliance with international GxP standards. Then organize a meeting (pre-audit) with your local audit provider (e.g. ASTM) to develop a proper gameplan.
  • Facility Design and Maintenance: A crucial aspect of GxP compliance is having a well-designed cultivation facility that prioritizes cleanliness, efficiency, and product integrity. Considerations include proper airflow and cannabis specific HVACD systems (e.g. or Ceres GH Solutions), dedicated cultivation and processing areas, appropriate lighting, appropriate drying space, automation and adequate pest control measures. Maintaining a clean and organized facility with strict hygiene protocols is essential for preventing contamination and ensuring the quality of the final cannabis products. Water quality, flexible cultivation integration, and sustainability should be top priority when in the design phase of your project.
  • Crop Management System (CMS): Incorporating an all-inclusive CMS into your agricultural practices brings numerous benefits to crop monitoring and management. Real-time data collection, remote monitoring, disease detection, true seed-to-sale tracking, employee workflow tracking, certificate of growth analysis, predictive analytics, automated irrigation (based on real time plant weight), and historical data analysis collectively enhance a cultivator’s ability to monitor crop progress effectively. By making informed decisions based on accurate data and insights, cultivators can optimize crop growth, increase productivity, and promote sustainable farming practices. Embracing a good CMS (e.g. WeightSense Adapt), while leveraging the power of a Building Management System (BMS) is undoubtedly the best step forward towards advanced compliance, safer product and higher consistency/quality.
  • Seed and Genetics: Selecting high-quality seeds or clones with desirable traits is vital for successful cannabis cultivation. When sourcing genetics internationally, it is crucial to consider the origin and reputation of the supplier. Ensure that the genetics comply with regional regulations and are free from pests, diseases, and genetic abnormalities. Match phenotypes with your specific environment to naturally defend against some of these risks. Proper documentation and traceability of seed sources are essential for GxP compliance and product consistency. In-house tissue culture labs bring a host of complexity to your propagation department although provide true consistency and reduced disease if carried out properly.
  • Cultivation Practices: GxP-compliant cultivation practices focus on ensuring consistency, purity, and traceability (e.g. CMS) throughout the cultivation process. Considerations include standardized cultivation techniques, such as appropriate nutrient management, integrated pest management (IPM), water quality control, and sanitation procedures. Documentation of cultivation activities, such as crop inputs, environmental conditions, and pest management interventions, is essential for traceability and quality control purposes. As an example, under-canopy lighting (e.g. Thrive Agritech) can help reduce pests, disease, and labor input, all while increasing your yield and product quality.
  • Post Harvest Practices: GxP in post-harvest forms the cornerstone of ensuring the quality and safety of agricultural products after harvesting. These practices use a range of vital considerations, including stringent hygiene and sanitation protocols to prevent contamination, comprehensive worker training to uphold proper handling techniques, implementation of effective traceability systems for accountability, meticulous quality control measures for sorting and grading, and the maintenance of optimal storage conditions encompassing temperature and humidity control. The integration of pest and disease management strategies, robust packaging selection, documentation upkeep, and cross-contamination prevention further validate the post-harvest GMP framework. By focusing on these key principles, producers safeguard product integrity, enhance shelf life, and contribute to the overall safety of cannabis in the supply chain.
  • Quality Control and Testing: International GxP standards emphasize robust quality control measures throughout the cultivation process. Implementing comprehensive testing protocols for cannabinoid potency, microbial contaminants, heavy metals, residual solvents, and pesticide residues is crucial. Regularly analyze samples from each batch to ensure compliance with international quality standards and regulatory requirements. Establishing relationships with accredited testing laboratories can aid in obtaining accurate and reliable test results. Consider SAP analysis and run-off testing if you would like to maximize your situational awareness and plant health.
  • Documentation and Record Keeping: Accurate documentation and record-keeping are essential components of GxP compliance. Maintain detailed records of cultivation activities, including seed sourcing, cultivation inputs, environmental conditions, pest management, testing results, and batch-specific information via proper SOP (standard operating procedures) development. These records serve as evidence of adherence to GxP standards and facilitate regulatory inspections, product recalls, and traceability in the event of any issues. Most importantly, they help cultivators maintain a safe and stable facility.
  • Additional Considerations Include: Worker training, regulated plant-tracking system, inventory control, storage conditions, packaging, handling and cross-contamination practice, waste management and continuous improvement. 

In part two of this GxP blog, we explain the matrix between these interlocking subject matters and how/where they relate to GxP based on department (so keep a look out for part two). 

GxP Standards: Bringing It All Together

Cultivating cannabis in accordance with international GxP standards is crucial for ensuring the quality, safety, and consistency of cannabis products across borders. Adhering to regional regulations, designing and maintaining a GxP-compliant facility, selecting high-quality genetics, implementing standardized cultivation practices, conducting rigorous testing, and maintaining comprehensive documentation are all integral to achieving international GxP compliance. And of course, engage a local GxP specialist with experience in the cannabis field to help navigate your team to success. By prioritizing these considerations, cultivators can position themselves for success in the global cannabis market while meeting the requirements of regulatory authorities and ensuring consumer confidence in their products. It’s time to be a part of the solution, and help break the stigma that comes with cannabis cultivation and manufacturing. 

Committee Blog: Your Voice Matters – Advocate for Crucial Changes in the American Hemp Industry

Published by NCIA’s Hemp Committee

The Hemp Industry needs your help. The 2018 Farm Bill, which made it legal to grow and process hemp, was a big step forward for the larger Cannabis industry. After the bill passed, lots of growers, processors, and manufacturers started building the Hemp Industry. Like any new industry, it’s had its ups and downs. But there are some big roadblocks that Congress can remove to help the Hemp Industry grow and set the stage for better rules around all Cannabis in the future.

2023 is a crucial year for American hemp producers as the 2018 Farm Bill is due to expire. Congress is now drafting a new Farm Bill that will direct our agricultural and food systems for the next half-decade. During this critical period, the NCIA Hemp Committee is working tirelessly to rally support for amendments that will not only benefit the industry but also our customers. Our requests are as follows:

  1. Update the legal definition of hemp to allow for up to 1% Total THC: This would offer critical protection for farmers and processors, as the current legal limit can sometimes be exceeded naturally in the crop growth process, leading to crop loss and financial hardship.
  2. Support the Growth of the Hemp Industry by Encouraging Banking and Lending Services: The Treasury department should provide written guidance for banking and lending services to hemp-related businesses, removing barriers to growth in this burgeoning industry.
  3. Support HR 3755 for Non-consumable Hemp: By recognizing the distinction between consumable and non-consumable hemp products, we can encourage the development of a wide range of industrial applications for hemp, from textiles to building materials. 
  4. Prevent Misuse of THC by Teens and Young Adults: This requires comprehensive educational initiatives to provide accurate information about THC and its potential effects. In doing so, we can ensure that the growth of the hemp industry does not inadvertently lead to misuse of THC among young populations.

During the recent NCIA Lobby Days, we had constructive meetings with influential decision-makers, including members of the Agricultural Committee and their staff. Our team left these sessions with a sense of hope and determination, having shared our top four priorities and discussed other important issues. Now, we’re calling on you, the supporters of the Hemp Industry, to make your voices heard and contact your members of Congress to showcase broad support for these initiatives.

“NCIA Lobby Days provides the stage and podium, and you bring the voice. We meet with decision makers (congressional staff) who ARE interested in our real-life scenarios, and it educates them to educate their Senate and House of Representative leaders.  Education is power. It (Lobby Days) also provides an environment to meet like-minded people in the cannabis industry, share our stores, learn/educate, and collaborate.  I plan to attend each year as it is enlightening and empowering!” Jillian Johnson

How can you help?

Remember, members of Congress are elected to represent the interests of their constituents – that’s you. But they can only effectively do so when they’re fully informed about the issues that matter to you. Your voice is powerful and essential to our democratic process. By speaking up, you can provide important insights and help shape the future of the Hemp Industry.

  1. Send an email to your members of congress.
  2. Reach out directly to your Representative and Senators

Committee Blog: Why 1% Total THC Could Open New Doors for the Hemp Industry

Published by NCIA’s Hemp Committee

As we look forward to the 2023 US Farm Bill, there’s a substantial opportunity to modify the regulations around hemp cultivation and usage. Adjusting these regulations can stimulate the growth of the hemp industry while still ensuring consumer safety. The potential of hemp as an agricultural product is vast, with applications including food, fuel, fiber, building materials, grain, and medical use. It’s important to note that while cannabinoids often dominate the headlines, they make up only a small slice of the industry’s potential size.

Experts predict that incorporating hemp into cosmetics, construction materials, and textiles could catapult the industry to over $1 trillion in annual sales. However, the current regulations pose significant challenges to this innovative industry’s expansion, especially for conscientious farmers. The fear of having their crops destroyed because of slightly exceeding a set THC limit is a serious obstacle.

At present, the definition of hemp rests on a Total THC limit of 0.3%, a figure chosen in the 1970s for classification purposes, not for assessing the plant’s psychoactive effects. Bumping this limit up to 1% Total THC would have a negligible impact on impairment but could have a monumental effect on farmers’ operations.

Research from 2020 by the University of Illinois, University of Wisconsin, Michigan State University, and Purdue demonstrated that more than half of the common hemp varieties could surpass the Total THC limit under certain conditions. However, this research also revealed that only 4% would breach the limit if it were raised to 1%.

Growing hemp that exhibits desirable traits for industrial uses, like a long straight stalk, high fiber, or high seed yield, requires the plant’s full maturation. This maturation is often linked to higher THC profiles. Unfortunately, the current strict conditions and genetic variation restrictions severely limit the plant’s potential applications.

While responsible hemp growers are in favor of state-led regulations for cannabinoid extractions that can cause impairment, it’s clear that an unrealistically low THC limit isn’t the best approach. Other nations, such as Thailand, Mexico, and Switzerland, have already updated their regulations, defining hemp as containing up to 1% Total THC.

By making a small change to the legal definition of hemp, we can unlock the industry’s potential. It will allow farmers across the nation to make the necessary investments to keep pace with an industry set to grow from being worth billions to trillions of dollars. By encouraging this change, we can foster American innovation and boost rural economies, reinvigorating the manufacturing sector in the process. Now is the time to recognize and adapt to the potential of this versatile plant.

How can you help?

Remember, members of Congress are elected to represent the interests of their constituents – that’s you. But they can only effectively do so when they’re fully informed about the issues that matter to you. Your voice is powerful and essential to our democratic process. By speaking up, you can provide important insights and help shape the future of the Hemp Industry.

  1. Send an email to your members of congress.
  2. Reach out directly to your Representative and Senators

Committee Blog: Banking in the Cannabis World

By: Shawn Kruger, Avivatech
Contributing Authors: Paul Dunford, Green Check Verified | Todd Glider, MobiusPay Inc. | Kameron Richards, Kameron Richards Esq.
Produced by: NCIA’s Banking & Financial Services Committee

The Landscape

With recreational marijuana legalized in 23 states, Washington D.C. and Guam, the public continues to broadly favor legalization for medical and recreational purposes. Why then, is it still a challenge for the cannabis industry to access financial services? The short answer: cannabis banking is risky for financial institutions (FIs), and bankers are committed to avoiding unnecessary risk. Historically, FIs have worked to keep funds associated with illegal activity out of their banks and credit unions, so FIs are sensitive to conflicting state and federal cannabis laws. For example, many FIs are regulated by federal agencies, but marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance.

Navigating the Challenges

However, there are many banks and credit unions that have taken this risk for a variety of reasons, including creating new sources of income, a desire to serve the unbanked in their communities, and supporting the social equity initiatives in the cannabis industry. These FIs are usually discreet about their cannabis banking programs, and it’s often hard to identify them through your typical approach: prowling websites, Google searches or even trade shows (although this has improved over the past 12 to 18 months). 

Fortunately, the best approach is also a well-trusted option: word of mouth. Contact lawyers, accountants and bookkeepers in your area. If they represent or work with other local marijuana related businesses (MRBs), they may know who they are banking with or know someone who does. You should also consider contacting the FIs directly, even if you don’t know if they are working with MRBs. You might be surprised to find that they do, and if they don’t, they might redirect you to another FI in the area. Finally, organizations like the PBC Conference team, provide resources to aid your search, including a Cannabis Banking Directory published annually.

Focus your search on credit unions, community banks, and regional banks. We are entering a new phase of cannabis banking with some FIs offering more than just a place to park your cash. A growing number now offer loans, payroll services, business insurance, etc., so take time to see what’s available, compare multiple FIs’ programs, and find the best match for your cannabis-related business’ (CRB) needs. 

Be Prepared

Every action taken by an FI, regardless of their location or asset size, is closely scrutinized by state and federal banking regulators, and law enforcement agencies. They want to make sure that banks and credit unions are only working with legitimate and legal state CRBs. Therefore, you can expect an FI to require a combination of the following:

  • Driver’s license or other acceptable state-issued identification for all account holders
  • Information on all beneficial owners of the company, not just those who own a percentage of the company above a certain percentage threshold (such as 20%)
  • Tax returns for the previous year for both the company and the beneficial owners
  • Financial information such as profit and loss accounts and capitalization tables
  • A copy of any required state licenses
  • Operational data such as projected annual sales and number of patients/customers
  • Corporate formation documents such as articles of incorporation and business plans
  • Sales transaction data (store reports or invoices) for the past thirty days

Behind the scenes of cannabis banking, FIs must do a lot to ensure that they are onboarding only legitimate CRBs; from collecting and analyzing market transactions to conducting reporting. This means that FIs often have additional staff to fulfill their compliance duties and they invest in software to automate some of their monitoring. FIs invest heavily in banking cannabis and account fees help offset those expenses. This means you can expect to pay account setup fees and monthly account maintenance fees to help cover these costs. Prices have come down in recent years. The days of paying $5,000 per month for an easy deposit account are long gone, but the fees will remain high as long as a lot of oversight and reporting falls on FIs.

Embrace the Journey

FIs are far savvier about detecting MRB activity among their existing customer/member accounts. At this point, it’s not a question of “if” your FI will find out you’re an MRB, but when. Few things are more disruptive to a business than getting a letter from your FI informing you that your account will be closed in thirty days. Don’t put yourself in that position.  Additionally, you may be missing out on vital financial and business services by staying “under the radar” and not having a transparent relationship with a bank or credit union.  Start looking for a cannabis-friendly bank or credit union today!

Committee Blog: Exploring Anti-Counterfeiting Packaging Solutions

The cannabis industry has seen success and achievement in recent years. However, with this success comes a challenge: counterfeiting. Counterfeit cannabis products pose serious risks to consumers and can damage the reputation of legitimate businesses. To preserve authenticity and protect consumer safety, solid anti-counterfeiting measures can be implemented. One crucial aspect of anti-counterfeiting efforts is using packaging solutions that are both secure and reliable. Let’s take a closer look at the types of counterfeiting and the packaging options available to protect brands and consumers. 

What is Counterfeiting?

There are two main types of counterfeiting that we’ll focus on:

Packaging Impersonation: Occurs when fraudsters recreate the packaging of popular and trusted brands. The aim is to deceive consumers into believing they are purchasing authentic products from a brand. Counterfeit packaging can closely mimic the design, colors, and labeling of genuine products, making it difficult for consumers to differentiate between authentic and counterfeit items. This poses a risk to a brand’s reputation if counterfeit products are being sold under their name because these fake products usually do not meet a brand’s standards for safety and quality. 

Product Tampering: Product tampering involves attempts to alter, manipulate, contaminate, or compromise cannabis products. This poses significant health and safety risks to consumers, especially if harmful contaminants are introduced or if the potency of the product is affected.

Anti-Counterfeiting Options

To combat packaging impersonation, there are a myriad of solutions available. Most solutions aim at making packaging replication difficult. Using holograms on packaging is one option that will increase the difficulty fraudsters will face when trying to duplicate packaging accurately. Holograms can also incorporate additional security features like microtext and unique serial numbers. This further increases the complexity and uniqueness of the package. The complexity, specialized equipment, and materials required to create convincing holograms may deter counterfeiters from even trying to replicate that specific package, as it increases the cost.

Additionally, color changing inks, specifically tamper-indicating inks, can provide a visible indication of tampering. If someone attempts to move or reposition a label, the tamper-indicating ink is triggered and will display a different color indicating that the product may not be valid. Another type of color changing ink technology is photochromic inks. This color changing ink technology can act as an invisible layer of protection. They are only visible under specific lighting conditions and fraudsters may miss adding these to counterfeit packaging. Lastly, digital watermarking is a great option to combat packaging impersonation. These are not visible to the naked eye, but are embedded within your packaging design, for example in your logo. When these watermarks are scanned with specialized software, devices or cell phones, it can allow for verification of authenticity. Not only do digital watermarks help with authenticity, but can add customer interaction as well. When a customer scans the watermark with their smartphone, they can be taken to the brand’s website, a special landing page, and more. To take the level of protection even further, with digital printing it is possible to put a different code in each package which creates unique IDs for one product. These watermarks can even contain important information such as batch numbers, production dates, and more to enable product tracing. 

To combat product tampering, a simple solution is using tamper evident bands on containers. Tamper-evident bands fit snugly around the closure of a container and are applied when the product is sealed. The only way the product can be opened is if the band is removed. Tamper evident bands provide visual evidence of tampering to the consumers and also help prevent the container from being refilled and sold. Similarly, tear notches on flexible packaging provide the same benefit that temper bands do. These are small indentations or perforated areas on flexible packaging that provide a visual indicator to consumers if a product has been opened. Both tamper bands and tear notches instill confidence in consumers by ensuring that the product meets brand’s standards for quality and safety. Lastly, using a tamper-evident seal which incorporates color-changing inks to indicate unauthorized access to a package. When the seal is intact, it will remain the original color, however if someone attempts to peel off or break the seal, the ink changes color providing evidence of potential tampering. This technology helps to safeguard products during storage, transportation, and distribution, providing assurance to consumers and protecting against counterfeit or tampered goods. 

Best Practices and Conclusion

In addition to implementing the anti-counterfeiting options above, brands in the cannabis industry should consider adjusting their labels and packaging designs to increase the difficulty for replication. Furthermore, educating consumers about the key elements to observe on a brand’s package or label can enable them to detect subtle indications of tampering. By protecting both the packaging and the product, the cannabis industry can preserve its reputation and ensure the success of legitimate businesses.

Committee Blog: The Best Way to Do the Worst Thing – Quick Tips for Demonstrating Empathy in Layoffs

Layoffs are unpleasant for all involved. Not only is it painful for a supervisor to part ways with someone they have hired and trained to be a productive part of the team, but jarring as an employee to suddenly learn that you are unemployed. Although there is no scenario where a layoff is a positive experience, here are some helpful ways to ensure you approach it with empathy and humanity.


Yes, we know it is business, but it is also personal (especially to the employee being laid off).

Think about each person individually and how to make the situation as comfortable as possible. If they work remotely generally, or have a significant commute, consider a virtual meeting. While in-person has generally always been perceived as better, in today’s flexible work environment some employees might be upset about being asked to come into the office, just to be terminated and then drive back home. Think about the physical location you have the conversation (if in-person), as you do not want to put the person in a position to walk past their peers on their way out and offer to ship their personal things to avoid the public packing of the box. Cater your choices to the person being impacted.

If possible, have HR present and give the employee time with HR after the supervisor delivers the news so the employee can ask specific questions about next steps that they may not feel comfortable asking while on the phone with their now previous supervisor. If your company doesn’t have a HR department, consider contracting with someone who can support you if the layoffs impact more than a few people.

Does your benefit plan run until the end of the month after termination? If so, consider planning the separation date toward the beginning of the month so the employee has access to benefits through the rest of the month. Not every company is in the position to provide lucrative separation packages. However, providing a week or two of remote transition time in addition to the severance paid, provides a better transition for the company and also gives the impacted employee more time to job search.

Start the conversation off with letting the person know the discussion will be a difficult one, as this will provide them the opportunity to prepare for the bad news. It can feel disingenuous to have dialogue about work projects, sports, or the weather, and then get into the topic at hand. It is ok to tell an employee who did a great job and contributed a lot, that you appreciate their contributions and that the layoff is not due to their performance. This can matter when they are later reflecting on what transpired.

The communication shouldn’t end after the termination conversation.

Anticipate that it is difficult to process the news that you’ve lost your job and retain what you’ve heard about next steps. Commit to immediately providing the details over email after the discussion so that they can review them whenever they are ready.

Have a separation package prepared that contains all the important information someone might need post-separation. They will want to know about accessing their W2, rolling over their 401k, how long their benefits are active until, how to use their Health Savings Account funds, how to access your HR or payroll system for pay stubs, etc.

Layoffs impact more than those who left.

Make it safe for employees to reach out to those impacted and offer their support and care. When informing stakeholders of the changes, let them know that you wish their colleague well and encourage anyone that wants to reach out, the opportunity to reach out and offer support.

Promises of safety usually cannot be made during times of uncertainty. Often employees will ask “Is that it? Are we done?” These are tough questions in times of uncertainty and caution should be taken when answering them. The worst thing would be to say that there will be no more layoffs, and then someone else gets laid off or terminated. Even if the termination was performance related, it can impact the credibility of leadership if employees feel like the promise was broken.

Encourage leaders to have personal conversations with their team members about how they are feeling. When you are feeling uncertain, you want to hear from the person you trust most. Of course, this needs to come with guidance and support from senior leaders. Senior leaders should role model this, and then their leaders should pay it forward. Tell your most critical players that their role and contributions are important to the organization. If appropriate, explain why the decision was made to reduce or eliminate certain groups so employees can understand the rationale and decide whether that provides them comfort in their position.

Generally, position reductions result in the remaining employees picking up additional tasks. Handle this with care. Have conversations with employees about their workload and include them in the process of solutioning how to cover the tasks.
Unfortunately, “what not to do” lessons are generally learned the hard way when it comes to layoffs, however, through research and reading employee feedback, you can learn a lot from others’ mistakes. If you lead and plan your layoffs with empathy and compassion, you are more likely to avoid major pitfalls.

Committee Insights | 7.13.23 | Know Your Hazards – Occupational Health and Safety Considerations in Cannabinoid Ingredient Manufacturing

NCIA’s #IndustryEssentials webinar series is our premier digital educational platform featuring a variety of interactive programs allowing us to provide you timely, engaging and essential education when you need it most.

In this edition of our NCIA Committee Insights series, originally aired on July 13, we were joined by members of NCIA’s Cannabis Manufacturing, Scientific Advisory and Hemp Committees for an in-depth discussion highlighting the occupational health and safety considerations to make during the manufacture of cannabinoids and provide recommendations for mitigating risk.

There is no mistaking that manufacturing cannabinoids is here to stay. It is more and more prevalent to see historically plant/naturally derived bulk ingredients being manufactured in a controlled environment in the lab or through innovative processes like precision fermentation. It is likely that bulk ingredient manufacturing of cannabinoids will go this route too.

For cannabinoids like HHC, that do not exist naturally in the plant or in high enough quantities to be commercially viable for extraction, it is most certainly the case that manufacture of these compounds will occur in the lab. To produce these compounds safely, we can luckily look toward existing regulations and occupational health and safety guidelines for producing novel ingredients for use in foods and non-foods.

Learning Objectives:

• Recognizing common occupational safety hazards associated with manufacturing cannabinoids and recommendation to mitigate these hazards

• Learning the different occupational safety considerations between isolation and purification of naturally occurring cannabinoids and the manufacture (synthesis) of cannabinoids in the lab

• Understanding the special safety considerations that processes like hydrogenation and others have and why these are critical to mitigating liability for your business


Jacob Enslein
AJ Cannabis Consulting

Rhiannon Woo
Co-Founder & CSO

Tenay Woodard
Director of Safety & Security
KIVA Brands, Inc.

Tucker Holland
Co-founder, CFO and Processing Director
Entourage Cannabis

Keith Butler
OP Innovates / Naturia+™

This is the fourth of five in a multi-part series of #IndustryEssentials webinars. You can watch Parts I-V at the links below.

Defining the Conversation: Minor, Novel & Synthetic Cannabinoids (Part I):

Meet the Minors (Part II):

From Lab to Label: Safeguarding Consumers in the Cannabinoid Product Landscape (Part III)

Know Your Hazards – Occupational Health and Safety Considerations in Cannabinoid Ingredient Manufacturing (Part IV)

Concepts for Regulatory Consideration – Shifting the Conversation from “Cannabis vs. Hemp” to “The Cannabinoids” (Part V):

Committee Blog: Defining Legal Hemp – It Isn’t Always Simple Math

By: Todd Glider, Chief Business Development Officer, MobiusPay Inc.
Contributing Authors: Paul Dunford, Green Check Verified | Shawn Kruger, Avivatech | Kameron Richards, Kameron Richards Esq.
Produced by: NCIA’s Banking & Financial Services Committee

If you are a cannabis-related business, and are looking to accept credit cards, it is only possible to do so if you are selling a product that is defined as legal hemp by the 2018 Farm Bill. 

 The 2018 Farm Bill provides that:

“The term ‘hemp’ means the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.”

For the most part, it’s pretty cut-and-dry. Marijuana is a schedule 1 drug. Hemp is not. If your product has less than .3% Delta-9 on a dry weight basis, it’s not marijuana, it’s hemp. And since it’s hemp, it’s federally legal. And since it’s federally legal, it can be purchased with checks, credit cards, or debit cards. Hemp products are, reductively, as incendiary as a stick of butter.

Of course, there is the law and there is how acquiring banks—banks that offer merchant accounts—interpret the law. Across the U.S., there are hundreds of acquiring banks. Of those, only six or seven offer merchant accounts to hemp businesses.

That’s it, plus payment service provider Square.

The immediate problem for the few acquiring banks that have, laudably, said, “Yes,” to hemp is, “how do we distinguish products that are .3% Delta-9 or less (and therefore, yawningly legal) from those that are over .3% Delta-9 (and therefore, illegal as angel dust)?”

Enter the Certificate of Analysis, or COA, or lab report. While there is nothing in the law stating that COAs are required to prove that a product is within the federally legal limit, their role is sacrosanct during the boarding process. For every hemp-derived product, there must be a corresponding COA proving that the product being sold is hemp, and not marijuana. 

Fortunately, there are labs across the nation. The U.S. Department of Agriculture website lists 85, as of May 2023. Manufacturers and businesses ship their samples to these labs. The labs run their tests and the COAs are issued. 

Simple, right?

Not really.

There are no standards in place for these reports. No templates. Every laboratory’s COAs—while substantively providing the same information—look a little different.  Furthermore, most bankers haven’t seen a lab report since high school chemistry, and you’ve got a recipe for confusion or misunderstanding (frequently both).

This COA, when it was initially presented to the bank, was rejected. To the underwriter, it was an open and shut case. 

When the bank opened its door to offering acquiring to hemp businesses, its policy was to reject anything with greater than .3% Delta-9 by weight. 

The top of this COA showed an instance of Delta 9 that read .189%. That passed muster, certainly. However, when he delved further into the analyte detail, he noted additional Delta-9 figures in excess of the .3% limit:

  • 10.368 in the mg/unit cell
  • 1.892 in the mg/g cell

It was not clear to the bank’s underwriter which of the two—per-unit or per-gram—corresponded with the by-weight percentage he was to be mindful of, but both were certainly over the .3% limit.

So, open and shut case: DECLINED

The salesperson that brought the merchant to this bank was surprised by the rejection. He hadn’t looked at the COAs very closely, but it seemed unlikely that this merchant had been selling products on her website that were in excess of .3% Delta-9.

Why? Because if the merchant had been selling products on its website in excess of .3% Delta-9,  it would have been engaging in egregious felony drug trafficking. The salesperson doubted that was the case.

The salesperson did something he didn’t normally do: he took out his calculator.

He wanted to know why it read .189% Delta 9 at the top, but 10.368 in the analyte table. He noted the unit size at the bottom of the page was a gummy weighing 5.480g. 

For the sake of simplicity, he multiplied that by 1000 to convert it to milligrams. That made it 5480 mg

Then he entered the onerous 10.368mg from the mg/unit figure in the analyte table and divided it by 5480mg. The resulting calculation netted the following total: .0018919. 

Next, he converted it to a percent, and found that the result was .189%, which matched the figure at the top of the COA, exactly.

The next day, the salesperson presented the COA to the bank, with the markings and The Equation just as shown here.

It was an open and shut case: ACCEPTED

This situation is an example of why banks and credit unions unknowingly reject compliant hemp businesses from merchant processing solutions. As stated, a simple mathematical calculation was the difference between being accepted or rejected for necessary merchant processing services. Without proper merchant servicing not only are cannabis businesses’ profitability affected because they can only take cash; cash is also not as traceable or auditable as electronic transactions.

In general, businesses providing services to the cannabis industry are often challenged with disentangling legal risks with the benefits of their necessary services providing more transparency. With enhanced knowledge of the cannabis industry and its parameters, the cannabis industry will recognize a greater participation by all businesses necessary for the life of the industry thereby enhancing cannabis businesses’ likelihood to succeed but also enhancing the legitimacy and regulation of the industry.

Committee Blog: Optimizing the Cannabis Dispensary Experience – An In-depth Look at Terpenes, Cannabinoids, and THC for Superior Customer Service

Image of cannabis retail dispensary

By: Pete Longo, Founder & CEO, The Phinest Kind
Contributing Authors: Larina Scofield, Sweed POS | Nicole Rivers, Northern Light Cannabis Co. | Richard Fleming, Altered State Cannabis Company
Produced by: NCIA’s Retail Committee 

The cannabis industry has experienced rapid growth in recent years, with more and more states legalizing its use for medical and recreational purposes. As a result, cannabis dispensaries are becoming increasingly popular, with many people visiting them for the first time. For dispensary owners, managers, and budtenders, it’s essential to provide a positive customer experience to build brand loyalty and attract repeat business. This blog will discuss the importance of focusing on the customer experience at cannabis dispensaries and how understanding terpenes, cannabinoids, and THC percentages can improve the overall experience for both new and experienced users.

Understanding the Customer Experience

What makes a great customer experience at a cannabis dispensary?  A positive experience can be characterized by:

  • Knowledgeable Staff:

    Budtenders and other staff members should be well-trained and able to provide accurate and easily digestible information on various cannabis products, including their effects and appropriate dosages.

  • Welcoming Atmosphere:

    Dispensaries should be clean, well-organized, and aesthetically pleasing, making customers feel comfortable and at ease during their visit.

  • Product Selection:

    A wide variety of high-quality cannabis products should be available to cater to the diverse preferences and needs of customers.

  • Personalized Recommendations:

    Budtenders should be able to make personalized recommendations based on the customer’s preferences, desired effects, and level of experience with cannabis.

Terpenes, Cannabinoids, and THC: Key Components of Cannabis

To provide an exceptional customer experience, it’s essential for dispensary staff to understand the key components of cannabis, including terpenes, cannabinoids, and THC percentages. These components play a significant role in the overall effects of cannabis and can help staff make tailored recommendations for customers.

  • Terpenes:

    Terpenes are aromatic compounds found in many plants, including cannabis. They give each strain its unique aroma and taste, and they can also have therapeutic effects. There are over 100 different terpenes in cannabis, with some of the most common ones being myrcene, limonene, and pinene. Understanding the terpene profile of a specific strain can help staff recommend products based on the desired flavor and aroma, as well as the potential therapeutic benefits.

  • Cannabinoids:

    Cannabinoids are the chemical compounds found in cannabis that interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, producing various effects. Many Cannabis products advertise “full-spectrum” CBD, meaning that the product not only contains CBD, but can also contain the other cannabinoids as well as terpenes, essential oils, and up to 0.3% THC. There are over 100 different cannabinoids in cannabis, with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) being the most well-known. THC is responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis, while CBD has various therapeutic effects without causing a “high.” Dispensary staff should be familiar with the different cannabinoids and their effects to help customers choose products based on their desired experience.

  • THC Percentages:

    The THC percentage of a cannabis product indicates the concentration of THC, which largely determines the psychoactive effects of the product. Generally, higher THC percentages lead to more potent effects. However, it’s important to note that the overall effects of a cannabis product are influenced by other factors, such as the terpene profile and the presence of other cannabinoids. Dispensary staff should be able to explain the significance of THC percentages and guide customers in selecting products with appropriate potency levels.

Educating Customers and Tailoring Recommendations

Dispensary staff should prioritize educating customers about terpenes, cannabinoids, and THC percentages to help them make informed decisions about their purchases. By understanding these components, customers can better tailor their cannabis experience to their preferences and needs.

For example, a customer looking for a relaxing experience may be interested in a strain high in myrcene, a terpene known for its sedative and relaxing effects. In contrast, someone seeking a more uplifting and energizing experience might prefer a strain with a higher concentration of limonene, which is associated with elevated mood and increased energy. Additionally, customers with little to no experience with cannabis may prefer strains with lower THC percentages to avoid overwhelming psychoactive effects.

When assisting customers, dispensary staff should ask about their preferences, desired effects, and experience level with cannabis. Based on this information, they can recommend strains and products that align with the customer’s goals while considering the terpene profile, cannabinoid content, and THC percentage. This personalized approach can help customers feel more confident in their purchases and lead to a more satisfying experience.

For HR Professionals: Training and Development

To ensure that dispensary staff can effectively educate customers and provide tailored recommendations, it’s crucial for HR professionals to invest in comprehensive training and development programs. Training should cover a wide range of topics, including:

  • Cannabis Fundamentals:

    Staff should have a solid understanding of cannabis basics, such as the differences between indica, sativa, and hybrid strains, and the various forms of cannabis product, methods of ingestion and their varying timing of effects (e.g., flower, edibles, concentrates, tinctures, and topicals, vaping, eating, and drinking).

  • Terpenes, Cannabinoids, and THC:

    As discussed earlier, staff should be well-versed in the role of terpenes, cannabinoids, and THC percentages in determining the effects of cannabis products.

  • Customer Service Skills:

    Staff should be trained in effective communication, active listening, and empathy to better understand and serve their customers.

  • Compliance and Regulations:

    Dispensary staff should be knowledgeable about state and local regulations regarding cannabis sales, as well as safety protocols and best practices for handling cannabis products.

By providing thorough training and development opportunities, HR professionals can ensure that dispensary staff are equipped to deliver an exceptional customer experience.

The Role of Technology in Enhancing the Customer Experience

As the cannabis industry continues to grow and evolve, technology is playing an increasingly important role in enhancing the customer experience at dispensaries. In this section, we’ll explore several innovative technologies and tools that can help dispensary owners, managers, and staff provide an even better experience for their customers.

  • Point-of-Sale (POS) Systems:

    Modern POS systems designed specifically for cannabis dispensaries can streamline the sales process and improve the customer experience. These systems can track customer preferences, manage inventory, calculate taxes, and ensure compliance with state and local regulations. By investing in a robust POS system, dispensaries can provide a more efficient and personalized service for their customers.

  • Digital Menus:

    Instead of relying on printed menus that can quickly become outdated, dispensaries can use digital menus to display their product offerings. These menus can be easily updated to reflect current inventory, and they can also include detailed information about each product, such as terpene profiles, cannabinoid content, and THC percentages. By providing customers with easy access to this information, digital menus can help them make more informed decisions about their purchases.

  • Online Resources and Mobile Apps:

    Dispensaries can enhance the customer experience by offering online resources and mobile apps that provide valuable information and tools related to cannabis consumption. For example, they can develop educational content about terpenes, cannabinoids, and THC percentages or create interactive tools that help customers determine their ideal dosage based on their preferences and experience level. By providing customers with access to these resources, dispensaries can support them in their cannabis journey and help them make more informed decisions.

Customer Engagement and Community Building

Another crucial aspect of providing an exceptional customer experience at cannabis dispensaries is fostering a sense of community and engagement among customers.

  • Events:

    Hosting events such as product launches, tastings, and guest speaker sessions can provide customers with an opportunity to learn more about cannabis, sample new products, and connect with other like-minded individuals. These events can also help establish a dispensary as a trusted source of information and a hub for the local cannabis community.

  • Educational Workshops:

    Dispensaries can offer workshops that focus on various aspects of cannabis, such as understanding terpenes, cannabinoids, and THC percentages, cooking with cannabis, or cultivating cannabis at home. These workshops can help customers gain a deeper understanding of cannabis and its various uses, ultimately improving their overall experience.

  • Social Media:

    Actively engaging with customers on social media platforms can help dispensaries stay connected with their audience, provide real-time updates on products and promotions, and gather valuable feedback. Dispensaries can also use social media to share educational content, answer customer questions, and participate in industry-related conversations.

  • Loyalty Programs:

    Dispensaries can implement loyalty programs that reward customers for their repeat business, encouraging them to return and further engage with the dispensary. Loyalty programs can include discounts, exclusive promotions, or early access to new products, and can be an effective way to strengthen the customer-dispensary relationship.

Focusing on the customer experience at cannabis dispensaries is crucial for building brand loyalty, attracting repeat business, and maintaining a competitive edge in the growing cannabis industry. Dispensary owners, managers, and budtenders must prioritize educating customers about terpenes, cannabinoids, and THC percentages to help them make informed decisions and tailor their cannabis experience to their preferences and needs. HR professionals play a key role in ensuring that staff receive comprehensive training and development, enabling them to provide exceptional service and create a positive customer experience. By investing in the customer experience, dispensaries can set themselves apart and thrive in the competitive cannabis market.

Committee Blog: Searching Through the Weeds – Identify, Attract, and Retain the Top Employment Prospects

By: Richard Fleming, Founder & CEO, Altered State Cannabis Company
Contributing Author: Tony Trinh, Royalty Grown Consulting
Produced by: NCIA’s Retail Committee 

Cannabis is one of the most heavily regulated industries, which brings a few more challenges that increase the difficulty locating prospects. This can make finding people who have the right skills and experiences a tricky endeavor, often fraught with risks. Small startup endeavors, vertically integrated companies and even MSO’s can run the gamut in terms of who is doing what day to day. Since we do not yet have the type of standardization that exists in more mature industries, it can be challenging to figure out who to hire, and with what titles.

Here are some tips, tricks, and best practices to attract the best prospects and hire suitable candidates that will bring value, commitment, and success to your business.

Try Not to Rush

Whether creating a new position, replacing an employee, or even expanding operations, the tendency is to want to fill a job with someone competent and available as soon as possible. But in order to find the best person, to not only perform the duties of the job but also enhance your workplace culture, grow, and evolve with your business, it takes time.

Clearly Define the Position

When posting a job listing, include more than a simple description of the duties to be performed. Instead, clearly define what the job entails, include what qualities a viable candidate should possess, and outline the culture and values of your business that you believe a potential hire should share. This structure will allow candidates to grasp a complete understanding of the job and match their strengths and interests to the description of the ideal candidate. Producing a clear understanding for both employer and employee about what is expected and how to excel.

Recruit Through Multiple Channels

Since so many qualified candidates could come from a wide range of other industries, it is vital to cast a wide net when searching for potential applicants. There are job boards that specialize in the cannabis industry, such as Viridian Staffing. Others like Indeed are effective places to get a lot of traffic on your job listings. Using social media like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn can raise your visibility and reach those already in the job market. You could also connect with those that may be open to changing their career path but are not aware of the many opportunities available in the cannabis industry. Also, networking through cannabis-related events and membership associations such as the NCIA can also yield knowledgeable and ambitious candidates.

Looking at Comparable Industries and Transferable Skills

Business owners and recruiters can benefit from looking within a highly regulated sector to find talented employees with a solid knowledge base. The banking, pharmaceutical, alcohol, tobacco, and gaming industries have been around much longer than regulated cannabis. Recruiting talent from these comparable industry models can provide your business with relatable business perspectives and best practices that can benefit your workplace and complement your staff.

Much like the consumer-packaged goods industry, the cannabis industry sells products to the public and needs to hire talent in areas including sales, marketing, retail/distribution, HR, finance/accounting and legal/compliance. Some cannabis companies have often recruited and hired professionals who developed their skill sets in other industries.

Perform Pre-employment Screenings

In any industry as highly regulated the way cannabis is, having stringent pre-employment screenings and background checks is essential to ensuring your business remains compliant with all state laws and restrictions. Hiring unqualified employees can result in fines, penalties, and closures, so it is paramount that your business put procedures in place to screen any potential candidate. Pre-employment screenings should include:

  • A criminal and civil records search.
  • Restricted party search.
  • Professional license investigation.
  • A National Sex Offender Registry search.
  • A National Record Locator search.
  • A review of any previous compliance issues at past cannabis-related businesses.

Human Resources

During the recruiting process, identify candidates who have an established personal brand and who differentiate themselves. Employees will need to have a robust work ethic, attention to detail, able to work effectively in a team environment and possess the ability to merge their ambitions with the goals of the team and the company. Identifying and targeting candidates with and without cannabis industry experience can lead to recruiting success. This approach can broaden your recruiting net, differentiate your cannabis company, and provide the ‘edge’ you need to stand out from other potential employers.

Wages, Benefits, and Culture

One of the most essential steps is to ensure that your base salary, bonus structures and benefits packages are current and comprehensive is critical to attracting talented professionals that can take your business to the next level. Cannabis companies should look for candidates who understand the importance of your company’s specific goals and demands.

Training and Engaging

Your core employee onboarding compliance training package and continuing education plan offers a foundation to build upon. Significant areas of the industry are grappling with high turnover rates, particularly among those who do not succeed in the first few months of employment. Employee training and onboarding will help stem those departures.

A safe environment is created by assessing risk and using proper equipment, policies, and procedures to reduce or stop events or situations that could happen. As a security professional in the cannabis market, you will need a solid knowledge of security systems. Understanding the cannabis marketplace and the required security is essential to running a problem-free operation.


Remember that most people who are being hired don’t have any cannabis experience, or have very limited cannabis experience, or have legacy market cannabis experience. These individuals don’t yet understand all the compliance nuances and requirements that are needed to operate in a licensed business. Sometimes it’s the soft skills, personal qualities, and cultural fit that may make a candidate a better fit for a role than someone with more regulated cannabis-specific experience. A unique approach, clearly defined roles, a wide recruiting strategy, and transferable skills are the name of the game.

The Equity Workshop Tour: Impactful Conversations with Regulators

by Mike Lomuto, NCIA’s DEI Manager

Part 1 of a Blog Series Recapping the Equity Workshop Tour – Spring 2023

I believe that the cannabis industry needs intimate and dynamic events, particularly if we are to build in an equitable and diverse fashion, and that’s why I embarked on the Equity Workshop Tour, navigating countless obstacles along the way.

After completing the four workshops that comprised the Tour, that belief has been validated, with several additional takeaways.

As part of each workshop, we conducted panel discussions with representatives of state and city regulatory agencies and advocacy organizations.

These conversations were especially illuminating for me, as I got to witness firsthand the ways in which regulators and advocates have been working together in each of these states, with the same mission of equity front and center.


In New Jersey, the Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) recognizes the need for input from stakeholders, and our intimate panel discussion, with a high level of audience participation, offered exactly that. 

Hearing the “origin stories” of CRC Vice Chair Samuel Delgado and CRC Commissioner Charles Barker is a large part of why I believe we have a chance at an equitable industry. Because at the end of the day, we have solid allies within the halls of government, who share our mission.

I was very encouraged to learn about a state that appears to be outpacing other states in the drive to stand up an equitable industry. There does, however, appear to be a lot of work that needs to be done on the municipal level. This is where advocacy organizations, like NCIA, and stakeholders must work together to educate local regulators in order for expeditious and equitable permitting processes to unfold. I believe that NCIA’s committees can provide support in this area, as we have previously, by providing written or verbal testimony on specific matters that municipalities are still unaware of.

It was also illuminating to understand the role that service-disabled veterans play in the industry, as pointed out by Osbert Orduna (of NHCC and SDVICA). Nichelle Santos (M4MM) also contributed valuable insights to this panel discussion.


Illinois is a state that has drawn the ire of many. While the legislation was the first to include equitable provisions, the implementation has been challenging, and many people have lost a lot. 

That said, as opposed to the nascent and scattered approach of advocacy I witnessed here a few years back, it’s very encouraging to see advocacy organizations working together on the same page, developing a collaborative working relationship with one another and the regulators. A big shoutout to Cannabis Equity Illinois Coalition (CEIC) for their role in this. (check out this recent Catalyst Conversation to learn more about their work)

It seems that a consolidation of Cannabis oversight into a singular agency with its own power to regulate the industry is needed. There are currently 17 agencies with a role in Illinois’ industry, and the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Oversight Officer serves as a limited version of a centralized agency, without the power to enact the implementations everyone seems to know are needed.

I encourage you to tap in with CEIC, SEEN, and ULCIA to learn more about how you can help with the priorities they’ve identified are necessary to create an equitable industry in Illinois.


In New York, there is a need for more transparency, which it seems the Office of Cannabis Management recognizes and is headed in that direction. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it here. OCM has a difficult job, balancing the directives from those above it, with the needs of the stakeholders. As Tabatha Robinson, OCM’s Deputy Director for Economic Development Policy and Research, pointed out during the panel, OCM is made up of several dedicated people who go above and beyond because they believe in creating an equitable industry. As advocates, our challenge lies in balancing the above understanding while also ensuring that the government is held accountable for its promises

Shanduke McPhatter, a CAURD licensee who represented the NY CAURD Coalition on the panel, said it best when he advocated for greater transparency in the process. He reminded us that patience is not the issue for those who have served time, as they’ve learned patience the hard way already. But while being patient, there is a need for greater transparency from the state. A large part of this has to do with the major lack of transparency from the Dormitory Authority of the State of NY (DASNY), which also impacts OCM and their ability to operate properly. It seems like it’s time for Ruben McDaniels and DASNY to stop playing games, but I’m not stating anything that everyone in New York doesn’t already know. 

Lastly, I appreciated Dr Adrian Adams (M4MM) and Scheril Murray Powell (JUSTUS) pointing out the importance of the industry to work together to find creative solutions. These types of discussions are a great starting point, but it’s how we collaborate on action items moving forward that will define our path forward.


In Detroit, our panel included NCIA Board Member Rebecca Colett, who has founded the Detroit Cannabis Project (DCP) as a mentorship group to support cannapreneurs on their journey. Thus far, that journey has mostly consisted of staying relevant and advocating properly while the myriad of municipal challenges have unfolded.

What stood out to me was the way in which Kim James and the City of Detroit’s Homegrown Cannabis Office have partnered with DCP, recognizing the need to support mentorship from the municipal level. As Detroit comes online, and as capital markets open back up to fund these new cannapreneurs, the participants in Detroit’s cannabis program will have a leg up on where they would’ve been without this type of holistic support.

Another interesting topic of conversation was led by Scheril Murray Powell, who provided an update on the work to support Legacy operators being conducted by ASTM and the JUSTUS Foundation. This includes advocating for a universal definition of “Legacy operator”, of which NCIA’s DEI Program is very supportive:

“An individual who: 1) Commercially for the majority of their income, or sacramentally, or ceremonially distributed cannabis; 2) Outside of the Legal Framework; 3) During the period of Prohibition; 4) For a minimum of 5 years before legalization.”

As part of the beginning of what will hopefully be a robust dialogue on this topic, NCIA Cultivation Committee member Joseph Smith pointed out the potential challenges for adopting such a standard in the state of Michigan, which had a caregiver program for a decade or so prior to legalization. 

I can’t wait to get back out to Michigan to see this constantly-evolving program.


My biggest takeaway is that no matter how many of these types of conversations we have, we need to continue having them and to continue pushing the ball forward. Cannabis is going to take several years to stand up properly, and equitably, so dialogue between advocates, business owners, and regulators is invaluable at this stage in the game. 

And the more cannabis entrepreneurs realize the importance of advocacy at this early stage, the more an equitable industry is possible.

My hope is that these panels, in the setting of the workshops, provide a forum for the right type of conversations, as well as inspiration for business owners as to how to advocate for themselves and others in a successful manner.


Special shoutout to our partner organizations, all of whom are working tirelessly to advocate for a more equitable industry. This includes: Cannabis Equity Illinois Coalition; Minorities 4 Medical Marijuana; JUSTUS Foundation; National Hispanic Cannabis Council – Tristate Chapter; NYC NORML; Social Equity Empower Network; Service-Disabled Veterans in Cannabis Association; United Latino Cannabis Industry Alliance; Detroit Cannabis Project; NY CAURD Coalition; and Minority Cannabis Business Association

And big thank you to our sponsors, who understand the importance of creating these intimate conversations, for the sake of a resilient and equitable industry. Platinum Sponsor Dao Mastery; Gold Sponsors Grow America Builders and Etain; and Silver Sponsors Zenco Payments, Indiva Advisors, Cova, Jeffrey Hoffman & Associates PLLC, Mary Jane Consulting Group, Illinois Equity Staffing, Mackewich Legal Counsel, and Cannas Capital

Equity Member Spotlight – Back to D.C. for Lobby Days

by Mike Lomuto, DEI Manager

For the second time in nine months, NCIA’s DEI Program organized a DEI Delegation as part of our annual Lobby Days on Capitol Hill. 

The DEI Delegation consists of some of the foremost advocates for Social Equity from across the country. Their leadership within their state and local communities, as well as within NCIA’s Committee structure, greatly bolsters the lobbying efforts of our organization as a whole, all year round.

Our Delegates weighed in on the organization’s talking points ahead of the event, and then provided an important perspective on the Hill.  As part of NCIA’s lobbying on behalf of the industry, our members focused on SAFE Banking, 280E Reform, Comprehensive Legalization, Veterans Affairs, and more.

Thanks to TILT Holdings and Evergreen Market for sponsoring this very important initiative. 

As stakeholders in the cannabis industry, it is important that we learn how to also properly advocate for ourselves and for others from diverse communities around the country.

We’ve already begun raising funds for next year’s DEI Delegation. If you want to ensure the return of this initiative, while also receiving year-round recognition, reach out to

2023’s Lobby Days DEI Delegation:

Raina Jackson, Purple Raina; DEI Committee Organizer and Policy & Regs Subcommittee Chair
Dr. Adrian Adams, CGO at Northeast Extracts; NCIA’s DEI Committee; M4MM’s NY State Director
Vanessa Valdovinos, HUSH; NCIA’s Marketing & Advertising Committee Organizer
Anthony Jenkins, Next Level Edibles; NCIA’s Cannabis Manufacturing Committee


This is your first year as a Delegate. Why was it important to you to participate?


Participating in Lobby Days allowed me to contribute my personal experiences, expertise, and insights as someone running a small business in a highly regulated market. I wanted to have a voice in shaping legislation related to crucial topics that are important to me like providing an equitable pathway in the cannabis space. By being present at Lobby Days, I could truly contribute to the development of policies that would essentially help shape policies that promote a safe, inclusive, and thriving cannabis industry for the benefit of all.

You were a member of last year’s Delegation. Tell us why you chose to return this year, and how your experience last year influenced your game plan for this year.

Dr. Adrian:

Last year was more about figuring out who in each office was the one driving the cannabis policy car, if you will, meeting them where they were, and schooling them up. This year we did a better job as a small group in each office using each of our bios to tell an impactful story regarding the impact of SAFE Banking and 280E, and tying it to what some offices have done in their home district.


It was a wonderful experience to participate in Lobby Days 2023, especially after attending last September for the first time and learning so much. I appreciate that this year’s meetings were extended over two days, following in-person training at the glorious Michael Best Strategies office penthouse.

Like last year, I found that most Congressional staffers are quite open-minded and seek to understand our points of view to correctly convey them to the lawmakers they serve. I learned that we don’t have to agree on every single detail to come to a compromise, especially since the People have spoken and demand some form of safe cannabis access and decriminalization nationwide. Bipartisan efforts must match public opinion.

What were the main takeaways from your experience on Capitol Hill?


Most staffers were not familiar with 280E and how it disproportionately burdens cannabis businesses with paying upwards of 50 to 70% of revenue towards federal, state, and local taxes without the tax write-offs other industries enjoy at a 30% standard rate.The new proposed Small Business Tax Equity Act eliminating 280E for cannabis businesses would greatly improve the economic landscape, while still representing a net gain for the national economy. This credit would allow more businesses to stay afloat and continue to pay taxes at a more equitable rate over a longer period. Everybody wins!

Dr. Adrian:

SAFE Banking could potentially happen sooner than I thought if it originates from the Senate side. 


My main experience in Capitol Hill taught me that with planning and footwork, it is possible to reach elected officials, even highly ranked officials like US Senators.  And from the feedback we received from both Democrats and Republicans, most representatives are on board with all 3 (hemp updates, 280e reform, SAFE Banking).


One of my main takeaways from this experience was the immense value of hearing personal stories that shed light on the diverse perspectives within a highly regulated market. By listening to the struggles and triumphs shared by individuals, I gained a deeper understanding of the challenges we all face on a day-to-day basis. I also realized that by sharing our own truths and insights, we can provide invaluable perspectives that others can learn from. Personal stories have the ability to bridge gaps in understanding and create empathy, which are crucial for the progress of any industry.


An important component of Lobby Days is the in-person training session. This year, Reggie Babin provided some great insights. As the former Chief Counsel to Senator Charles Schumer, who worked directly on the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, his words resonated throughout the room and our lobbying efforts over the ensuing two days. One thing that stuck with me is when Reggie compared the ten years it had just taken to get reform through on a non-cannabis issue. That bill had strong sentimental support and near-unanimous public opinion on its side. Given that context, it made it clear that we’re on schedule for SAFE Banking. It also means we need to be pushing on other legislation that may likewise take many years to push through.

He also pointed out how any one conversation that we have could be the one that flips the vote that is the final domino on passing legislation. That’s why our stories are so important.

What did you learn from your experience that you’d like others to know?


As NCIA DEI Delegates we must control our own narratives and help illuminate the state of our industry by putting names and faces to our stories and sharing our triumphs and pain points. I’m glad we are revisiting the SAFE Banking Bill, which is vital to public safety and economic growth along the supply chain. It is paramount that the bill is passed in any version initially, with room for amendments to weave PLUS equity initiatives into the fabric. 

Dr. Adrian:

The circle of leaders at the top of the cannabis industry is relatively small and many of those folks attend the lobby days of groups like M4MM and NCIA. Your attendance is good for business as well as for the creation of informed public policy. 


Another important lesson I learned was the significance of building relationships. Engaging with lawmakers directly and sharing my own personal experiences and insights was a driving force for me. It was inspiring to witness their genuine interest in hearing directly from industry professionals. Establishing meaningful connections with policymakers is key so that our industry is properly understood and represented.


I learned that an impassioned personal message goes a lot further than you think. Which is why we need you next year. Because we need our officials to hear your story, and how these issues affect you, your business, and your family daily.

What’s something you loved about visiting D.C. outside of the Lobby Days activities?


It was the opportunity to connect with my fellow members on a deeper level that truly resonated with me. During our time together, I had the privilege of hearing their unique personal stories and gaining a deeper understanding of what had motivated them to participate in Lobby Days. These stories were inspiring and just reminded me of the incredible passion and dedication within our community.

The personal stories, the camaraderie, and the bonds we formed have created a network of support and friendship that extends far beyond the event itself. It was a truly special aspect of the trip that I will cherish for years to come.

Dr. Adrian:

Just seeing the unique D.C. cannabis market in action with entrepreneurs like Barry Doyle/Embers and others holding unique events. As Anthony Jenkins from San Francisco put it, “it was like seeing the future of cannabis in the U.S.”


I appreciated that this year my group had time between and after meetings to visit D.C. landmarks like the Botanical Garden, the Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial, and the Washington Monument. I even extended my stay to experience the phenomenal National Museum of African American History and Culture.


The botanical garden was dope!

P.S. Something else I’d like to note is that in the weeks leading up to Lobby Days, I embarked on the Equity Workshop Tour, a series of workshops held in four cities, bringing together industry stakeholders, leaders, advocates, and regulators. This experience was highly informative for me to hear all these stories prior to our lobbying work in D.C. It was also great to see some of the same faces that I had seen across the Tour again in D.C!

Committee Blog: How Can Retailers Improve the Customer Experience?

by NCIA’s Retail Committee
Contributing Authors – Ace Castillo, Brian Anderson, Tony Trinh, Pete Longo, Nicole Rivers, John Kent, Larina Scofield, and Brian Hart

In a competitive market the customer experience is one of the biggest factors in the success of a company. This begs the question as to how to improve the customer experience? In one simple word, service. But what can retailers do to provide service to the customers? After consulting several members within the NCIA retail committee, here are a few takeaways.


This applies to both the customer and the employee. While there are certainly customer-facing employees who have strong knowledge and have made a great impression on customers, a common trend is there is a lack of consistency with employee knowledge and communicating information. One can go into a retail location and ask the same question to four budtenders and get five different opinions. This is often a reflection of the lack of standardized and consistent training provided by management. There are certainly challenges regarding the high turnover of employees in the cannabis industry however management needs to find solutions to ensure every employee is trained in the same way so there is a standard of cannabis knowledge. Once that standard is in place, customer-facing employees can provide consistent and well-informed information to the customer. Examples include communicating the properties of the plant like that of the different cannabinoids and terpenes, their effects, and which cannabis products can maximize the desired effect of the customer.


Engaging customers and the community improves the overall customer experience. Often when applying for a license a retail location has a community engagement plan that looks promising but doesn’t get executed. It is understandable there are a litany of tasks needed to be performed but if a retail location wants to improve the customer experience, engage the customer and community. Host events where a retail location can get to know the customer and community and provide value in these events through education. Engage community leaders and people who have concerns about a retail location in their area. This does not mean people will change their opinions however if they feel they are being listened to and have respectful communication then the overall reputation of a business will be improved upon. A good business reputation will improve interactions with customers. Also, have retail employees engage customers, this goes back to sharing information about the plants and products.

Process Development

Evaluate and improve the customer experience. If one trains employees and engages customers, leverage these experiences to improve the process. One conversation can provide valuable insight as to how to improve service. Another conversation may provide insight as to what products customers find value in or importantly detract value. It could be that too many customers find the explanations provided by trained retail staff are too detailed or too vague. If that is the case, make the appropriate changes to improve the process. Customers will notice when changes are made for their benefit and this strengthens their desire to return to the retail location.

Data Analytics

Observe quantifiable patterns and this doesn’t need to be over complicated. What are customer flow-through rates? Is there a time of day where there is an influx of customers and could there be a correlation as to what they are buying? Is there a time of day that many customers come in for a specific item and through this observation can changes be made to make the process easier and the overall experience better? It could be that customers at a specific location prefer a specific brand or type of product and by having the right levels of inventory a retail location won’t run out of products and disappoint the customer. Conversely if there are products that are not selling and could potentially serve as an unwanted distraction to customers, it could be possible the customer experience would be improved upon by removing the product. Reviewing data about customers does not need to be intrusive and can be viewed at a high level. 

Company Values

Does a retailer have a list of values, are they authentic, and is it followed? Keeping to company values provides direction and commonality between the company and the customer. Is there a retailer that genuinely cares about kindness and is it practiced throughout the company? If the owner of the company treats a manager with kindness and the manager treats customer-facing employees with kindness, there is a greater likelihood the customer-facing employee will treat the customer with kindness. Whatever the values of the company are, they need to be announced and if practiced, customers will see it in everyday interactions and that can make the difference from good to great.

As one may notice, the aforementioned tips are not revolutionary or the first of their kind. Instead, these are ideas that can be practiced daily and make small but incremental improvements. We encourage you to try these tips out and through consistency over time, these incremental improvements will compound and improve the customer experience. 

Brian Hart is a consultant and entrepreneur in the cannabis industry and has both academic and practical experience within the cannabis industry. Having written his master thesis using a neoclassical economics model to conduct an industrial analysis of the Colorado Cannabis industry, Brian grew and sold cannabis and has consulted on the industry for several years nationally as well as internationally.

Committee Insights | Meet the Minors (Novel, Minor, Synthetic Cannabinoids – Part II)

In this edition of our NCIA Committee Insights series, originally aired on May 11, 2023, we were joined by members of NCIA’s Cannabis Manufacturing, Scientific Advisory and Hemp Committees for an in-depth discussion of the most talked about minor, novel, and synthetic cannabinoids.

What scientific publications exist for each compound? What do we know about each molecule’s physiological, psychoactive, and therapeutic effects?

You’ll find out during this informative session featuring leading chemical experts, manufacturers and product development specialists. Along with audience members they explored these compounds from various perspectives to examine their implications for consumers, medical practitioners, patients, producers and regulators.

Learning Objectives:

• Molecular Structures and Identification of novel, minor, and synthetic compounds
• Published Physiological and Psychoactive effects of these compounds
• Perceived therapeutic effects
• Opportunity to ask about other new compounds not in presentation.


Cassin Coleman
Cassin Consulting

James Granger
Chief Political Officer
Clintel Capital Group

John Murray
Sustainable Innovations

Scott Seeley
Patent Attorney & Intellectual Property Lawyer
Eastgate IP

This is the second of five in a multi-part series of #IndustryEssentials webinars. You can watch Parts I-V at the links below.

Defining the Conversation: Minor, Novel & Synthetic Cannabinoids (Part I):

Meet the Minors (Part II):

From Lab to Label: Safeguarding Consumers in the Cannabinoid Product Landscape (Part III)

Know Your Hazards – Occupational Health and Safety Considerations in Cannabinoid Ingredient Manufacturing (Part IV)

Concepts for Regulatory Consideration – Shifting the Conversation from “Cannabis vs. Hemp” to “The Cannabinoids” (Part V):

Committee Blog: Hop Latent Viroid (HLV) – Overview of Pathogen Biology, Spread, Control, and Testing

by Sarah Taylor-Laine (NCIA Education Committee, NCIA Cultivation Committee)

Hop Latent Viroid (HLV/HpLV), sometimes referred to as “dudding” or “stunting”, is one of the most pressing biological threats facing the cannabis industry worldwide. In the United States, HLV was first detected in California in 2017. Subsequent research by Dark Heart Nursery indicated that 90% of Californian facilities tested at the time were positive for the pathogen. The Dark Heart Nursery research team estimated that an HLV epidemic could result in up to US$4 billion in losses to the cannabis industry annually. To add insult to injury, HLV-infected cannabis may be linked to cannabis hyperemesis syndrome (CHS), which affects both adults and children.

As the name suggests, HLV was first detected in hops (Humulus lupulus; Cannabaceae). Outside of the United States, HLV has been detected in hops in New Zealand, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Japan, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovenia, Germany, China, Belgium, Turkey, and Canada. Within the United States, HLV has been detected in hops in Washington, and in cannabis in California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. However, these are only officially-published reports and given the worldwide occurrence, HLV is likely to be endemic to many locations not listed here.

Viroids are subviral pathogenic RNA molecules which replicate within host plants and are only approximately 1/50th the size of the smallest viruses. Specifically, HLV is a circular RNA molecule of approximately 256 nucleotides in length, which can assume a rod-shaped secondary structure. In hops, HLV has been shown to interact with other viruses and alter the gene expression patterns of host plants. HLV has been found to not only infect hops and cannabis, but also Dianthus deltoides, Chenopodiastrum murale, Dysphania pseudomultiflora, cowpea (Vigna unguiculata), common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris), and stinging nettle (Urtica dioica). Notably, by subjecting hop plants to heat stress, researchers have been able to induce “thermomutant” HLV variants which could then infect both tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) and Nicotiana benthamiana, opening up the possibility that HLV could spread to new plant species under climate change-induced warming scenarios.

HLV often does not produce obvious symptoms in hops, and where they do occur there may be a long latency period, making control difficult. In hops, HLV is often detected early in the season at the plant base, where it gradually spreads up the plant and can be detected in all aerial tissues by mid-season during the flowering period. In cannabis, HLV causes brittle stems, a horizontal growth habit, and the destruction of flowers and trichomes. In both hops and cannabis, HLV may cause pathology in host plants through RNA interference (RNAi). HLV infection is reported to reduce THC content by 50-70%, which is not surprising as glandular trichomes are the source of THC in cannabis. In hops, HLV infection has been shown to reduce the content of terpenes and other secondary metabolites in susceptible varieties. It is currently unknown whether HLV infection decreases the terpene content in cannabis, but it is very likely.

In hops, HLV is not readily transferred by seeds, but may be transferred in uninucleate pollen. However, activating pollen nuclease HBN1 was shown to eliminate HLV in mature pollen. “Real world” transmission of HLV appears to primarily occur through the use of contaminated cutting tools, the use of infected plant materials, or from plant-to-plant. However, as an obligate pathogen, HLV requires living host tissue in order to survive and propagate. HLV has been confirmed to be transmitted between hop plants by potato aphid (Macrosiphum euphorbiae), green peach aphid (Myzus persicae), and hop aphid (Phorodon humuli), and may also be transferred by other herbivorous insects. Planting cannabis on sites previously planted with infected host plants is likely to be a source of infection, although this has not been experimentally verified.

In hops, chilling plants at 2-4 °C (approximately 35-40 °F) for 8-21 months prior to harvesting meristem tips for propagation has been shown to reduce or eliminate the spread of HLV, although the effect may be variety-specific. In addition, subjecting hop mericlones to heat treatment cycles (25-35 °C/77-95 °F for two weeks) has been shown to reduce HLV incidence by 70-90%. In terms of waste management, anaerobic fermentation at 70 °C (158 °F) causes HLV degradation, although standard ensiling does not appear to be effective. As with most viral and viroid diseases, there is currently no cure available to disinfect mature host plants. However, researchers are currently studying whether RNAi may have utility in cannabis crop protection against viral and viroid infections. Therefore, it is currently recommended to test all stock plants to confirm that they are pathogen free and to destroy all infected materials.

Plant materials can be tested for HLV infection using several molecular techniques, including DNA barcoding, RNA sequencing (RNA-seq), recombinase polymerase amplification (RPA), quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR), reverse transcription PCR (RT-PCR), dot-blot hybridization, tissue print hybridization, in situ hybridization, and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA).

It is unknown how many, and which, lessons learned in hops will be transferable to cannabis. Both susceptibility and control of HLV in cannabis is likely to be variety-specific. To enable the breeding of HLV-resistant cannabis varieties, future research should focus on characterizing the molecular mechanism underlying HLV pathogenicity and host susceptibility. However, the situation remains that HLV is likely endemic in many cannabis growing regions and cultivators should focus on targeted biosanitation efforts to thwart HLV infection in their crops. These efforts should include testing all propagation materials for infection, destroying infected materials, sanitizing cutting tools and work surfaces, and limiting herbivory by sap-sucking insects such as aphids.

Sarah Taylor-Laine is a plant science polymath. Sarah has taught and developed college-level courses related to general biology, plant biology, and cannabis sciences at several institutions, most recently at Beal University. She has also worked across many industries including agriculture, horticulture, and arboriculture, performing diverse work in research, quality control, product development, regulatory affairs, scientific communication, and field-based consulting.

Equity Member Spotlight: Taking Events to the Next Level

by Mike Lomuto, NCIA’s DEI Manager 

Events are a major way in which the culture of cannabis is preserved and evolves. With 4/20 upon us, we felt it appropriate for this column – which is all about staying true to the culture – to focus in on some of our members who specialize in innovative cannabis events.

For this celebratory month of 4/20, we’re checking in with:

Michael Webster, Founder & Managing Member of Falling Leaves Events, and new member of NCIA’s Banking & Financial Services Committee

Toni, Founder of Toni Consulting and Wellness, member of both NCIA’s Health Equity Working Group and Education Committee

And the ladies of HUSH

Kay Villamin, Co-Founder and Creative Director, and Chair of NCIA’s State Regulations Committee

Vanessa Valdovinos, Co-Founder and Director of Events, Organizer of NCIA’s Marketing & Advertising Committee

Michael shares his infused fine dining and networking series. Toni spreads wellness through the community with her movement-based events that balance the endocannabinoid system and educate the mind. And Hush brings an innovative and highly professional approach to elevate cannabis experiences through their immersive events. 

We asked these three cannabis companies some questions about their events and the mission behind them. The journey is always part of the destination, and in this spotlight we get to hear about how these industry groundbreakers are bringing positive innovations to the culture, transforming it with each event. Read to the end to find out where to catch them next. 

What type of events do you throw?

MW: Our offerings have evolved with the Michigan adult-use market. While our early events were consumer-focused, we’ve become much more industry-focused, situating ourselves as a B2B connector in the event space. Our current event series, The Falling Leaves Infused Dinner Series, brings together operators, influencers, stakeholders, and allies of the Michigan cannabis industry for infused networking and fine dining. We are also working on a B2B cannabis industry expo to connect the many brands, cultivators, and processors here in Michigan.

Toni: I offer wellness events in the community that provide education highlighting the numerous wellness benefits and usages of the plant. My events are rooted in creating community awareness and solutions around the necessity of cannabis health equity policies.

HUSH: We host and produce high-level experiential events focused on providing immersive experiences with cannabis through interactive design, entertainment, and customized activations that provide creative ways to engage with the plant. From networking events to large conference afterparties and trade shows, we produce a wide range of experiences for brands in the industry.

What makes your events unique? 

MW: In a word – or two – Form Factor. Our choice to offer consumption via infused food and beverages is what truly sets us apart from other consumption events. Our networking component offers the opportunity to connect with other members of the industry, and has become quite an attractive feature. Our events feature a carefully curated guest list of folks targeted by sponsors to be in the room so the deals can get done. We have replicated the diplomatic dinner table, where, traditionally, wars have been averted, treaties signed, and industry deals secured. Instead of the smoky, tobacco-filled back rooms, we’re providing smoky, cannabis-filled rooms that feature equity and transparency.

Toni: I curate events that provide education in a way that helps to destigmatize the plant while highlighting its various wellness benefits and usage options, delivered through storytelling, movement, stillness, creative expression, and reflective practices.

HUSH: Every aspect and layout of our events is intentionally designed with the goals of innovation and impact. Our guest experience is first in mind from beginning to end – from accepting an invitation to when they leave the doors to go home – we think of every detail involved. We think of how we want our guests to feel when they enter and guide them in their entire journey, as well as how they can interact with the brands and sponsors we work with. We attract high-caliber, global majority leaders in the industry from all over the country.

How do you roll your mission and advocacy into your events?

MW: Beyond our core mission of equity in the regulated cannabis industry, championing normative integration of mindful, responsible public cannabis consumption remains our cause celebre. Having, in some ways, been chased from the licensed, regulated consumption event space by burdensome insurance regulations that render Michigan’s cannabis event organizer license effectively unviable, we have pivoted to the private event space as our front in this war against normalization. 

We perform a critical role in the Michigan cannabis ecosystem for the benefit of all. Our push for normalization eases pain points up and down the industry supply chain, from municipal hearings considering licensure to breaking stigmas and gaining acceptance from important community organizations intent on preventing harm outside of the supply chain.

Toni: My wellness events are rooted in creating community awareness and solutions around the necessity of cannabis health equity policies.

HUSH: Whether it’s our own hosted event or in collaboration with another brand, our goal is to highlight, serve, and work with fellow BIPOC and social equity brands in the industry. With this intention since inception, we’ve cultivated an audience that believes in the same mission. As part of our mission, we create world-class experiences that bridge the gap between small and big operators to collectively provide environments where we can normalize the consumption of cannabis. 

What can sponsors or attendees expect from the experience?

MW: Expectations from our sponsors and guests are high because that’s exactly where we set them. We operate on the more sophisticated end of the cannabis consumption event spectrum. Much like our dear friends over at HUSH Chicago, we seek to deliver an immersive experience that is powered by cannabis but involves much more. Sponsors can expect the highest level of quality engagement possible with attendees. A quote from Chris Hammond, Senior Sales Director at Kairos Labs, LLC, best captures expectations – This past weekend I went to an event hosted by Michael Webster MSc. The food was amazing, the ambience was perfect, and I got more quality contacts in one night than I have in a week at MJ Biz. Very excited for the next event!”

Toni: Sponsors and attendees can expect to learn about educational needs and ways to support wellness initiatives in communities most affected by the “war on drugs.” My goal is to spread knowledge for the betterment of communities, utilizing the old African proverb; Each One, Teach One. 

HUSH: Sponsors and attendees can expect to have all senses engaged when attending a Hush event. Each experience is different from the next as we create new ways to engage our guests. For our sponsors, we think of creative ways to activate their brand while keeping their goals in mind, and measuring metrics that will prove their return on investment. Guests and sponsors alike can expect a stark improvement on what was once considered a cannabis consumption event. Attendees should expect to pull up to the intersection of cannabis consumption and decadence, be greeted by grown folk maturity, and be prompted that it is indeed time to go home after our event, no matter how much they wish to stay.

How has being an NCIA member helped the development of your events?

MW: NCIA membership has been transformational. The ability to tap into a national network of eco-partners from disparate cannabis markets gets us out of our silos. We are influenced by empathy and shared resources. We are nurtured by the collective and dream with the expectation of an eventual common market in which to operate. Our events truly are the manifestation of the old African adage – “if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Toni: NCIA has helped me identify the need for cannabis education and wellness initiatives in marginalized communities.

HUSH: Being part of NCIA has allowed our company to extend our reach beyond local and regional markets. Being a member of committees has enabled us to build relationships with a national group of leaders in the industry who became supporters and sponsors of our events. We have also received great mentoring and advice from other members. 

When and where should we expect to see you in the coming months?

MW: We continue to operate on a monthly cadence in the Metro Detroit area, but we are expanding into other municipalities in Michigan as well. In May we expect to take our show on the road and into the Show Me state. As a brand-new market, Missouri has tons of potential and can benefit from a healthy event market. Check out our website – –  and follow us on social @fallingleavesevents to learn about our upcoming events.

Toni: I have a new offering every other Tuesday in Oakland, CA at Snow Park. I will be leading Community Wellness Yoga where we experience movement for the endocannabinoid system with a live saxophonist. 

  • April 11th & 25th
  • May 9th & 23rd
  • June 6 & 20th

You can also catch me on my youtube channel or follow me on instagram @cannabisnursetoni for healthy-infused recipes, movement, and your daily dose of wellness. 

HUSH: We are hosting an afterparty for NECANN in Illinois on June 2nd and we are also excited to be working on a large cannabis career conference with 40Tons to take place at Malcolm X College in Chicago on Jun 19, 2023 Lookout for an announcement for a fun event in Q4 when we will be celebrating our 5th year anniversary!

Committee Blog: The Benefits of Partnering with a Security Provider and What to Consider When Choosing One 

By Casey Mitchell, Vector Security
Member of NCIA’s Facilities Design Committee

As the cannabis industry continues to grow, security has become an increasingly important concern for consultants and business owners. From seed to sale, the cannabis industry faces a unique set of security challenges including permitting and compliance,  systems design, theft, and inventory loss.  

Add to these challenges a myriad of state laws and regulations that need to be followed.  But, if you partner with the right security vendor, they can help you navigate regulations to make sure your business is compliant, as well as offer detailed security plans that  integrate with your business goals. 

Below are some benefits an experienced security provider can offer cannabis  consultants and business owners, and tips on how you can choose a partner that’s right  for you: 

Dedicated Team with Experience in State and Federal Regulations

An important factor to consider when choosing a security provider is their experience in the cannabis industry as well as security as a whole. How long has the company been in business? Do they have a team dedicated to the cannabis industry? How well-versed are they in cannabis laws and regulations? Do they provide comprehensive support from seed to sale? Look for a security provider that has a dedicated cannabis team that understands the regulatory landscape. 

Permit Application Support and Permit Drawings 

One of the most challenging aspects of the cannabis industry is permitting and design.  An experienced security provider can review your state application to verify regulations  are met in order to maximize your score. They should be able to provide the narrative  for the permit application related to your security plan. Consider if they are able to  design a comprehensive security plan showing location of devices, rough-in, power  requirements, standard operating procedures and network requirements. Look for a  security partner that provides these services, and inquire if these services are free or if  there is an additional charge. 

Trade Coordination 

There’s a lot of moving parts that go into getting a cannabis business up and  running…and even beyond. A good security provider can coordinate with builders,  construction companies, power companies/utilities, architects, and other partners for  streamlined deployment of systems.

Enhanced Security and Asset Protection 

Cannabis businesses tend to deal with large amounts of cash and valuable products that make them a target for internal and external theft, as well as other security threats. An experienced security integrator can design, install and implement a comprehensive security plan that includes video surveillance, access control, panic buttons, and monitored intrusion and fire alarm systems. Make sure your security provider can offer a range of products and services that will protect your business and your staff during and after business hours. 

Alarm Monitoring 

An essential part of security is protecting inventory from internal and external theft as  well as environmental threats like fire. Rapid response and quick emergency dispatch are key should an incident occur. Look for providers that offer 24/7/365 in-house alarm  monitoring, redundant communication capabilities, and ask if their monitoring centers  are U.L.-listed. They should also have false alarm protocols in place so your business can  avoid costly fines associated with false dispatch. 

Increased Operational Efficiencies 

Working with a security provider can help cannabis businesses increase their operational efficiencies. For example, with a comprehensive security plan in place and a  security partner that can proactively advise on best practices, you can focus on running your business knowing that your people and product are protected. Additionally, video analytics can supply valuable data and reporting to help you optimize operations such as identifying areas for improvement, opportunities for growth or additional employee training; spotting violations to help avoid compliance and permitting infractions; and analyzing traffic patterns to maximize store layout performance and ensure adequate staffing during peak business hours. 

Access to the Latest Security Technology 

The security industry is constantly evolving with new technology being developed to address emerging threats. Working with a security partner gives cannabis consultants and businesses single-source access to the latest products. By leveraging these advanced technologies, you can stay ahead of potential threats. Choose a security vendor that has well-established relationships with trusted equipment manufacturers.  Your provider should be able to offer curated devices that integrate with each other and that can be controlled via a single platform, such as a mobile app, so you can control all aspects of your security system anytime, anywhere. Some security providers even have dedicated in-house product teams that continually source and evaluate the latest technologies. Consider how your provider stays on top of new trends and technologies. 

Ongoing Service and Support 

Even if your business is operational, you’ll still benefit from the ongoing support an  experienced security partner can provide. If the security vendor provides a single point  of contact, it’s easier to schedule service, inspections, monitoring, and other critical 

needs, ensuring your facilities remain fully functional. Ask if your security partner provides post-installation service and support including ongoing testing and inspections  to remain compliant with the authority having jurisdiction. 

Whether you’re a cannabis consultant or a business owner, look for security providers with industry experience; permitting, compliance and design expertise; customized security solutions; reliable alarm monitoring; and cost-effective solutions. By choosing the right security partner, cannabis businesses can mitigate security risks and ensure compliance with state and federal regulations.

Casey Mitchell is an enterprise account manager for Vector Security’s dedicated cannabis solutions team. He has more than 22 years of experience designing security and communications systems for the U.S. Department of Defense and other highly-regulated industries, like cannabis. 

NCIA Today – Thursday, April 6, 2023

Join NCIA Director of Communication Bethany Moore for an update on what’s going on with NCIA and our members. This week we discuss 13 women scientists you NEED to know, our recent podcast check-ins with members of the New York State Office of Cannabis Management, discuss a recent letter NCIA sent to the Congressional Banking and Finance Committees, and look forward to the remainder of our city events coast-to-coast leading up to Lobby Days in May.


Equity Member Spotlight: From Equity Scholarships to Committee Leaders

by Mike Lomuto, NCIA’s DEI Manager

NCIA committees are looking, sounding, and acting more and more like the diverse faces of Main Street cannabis. And it’s not just about representation. When the diversity of our cannabis community is reflected in NCIA Committee leadership, the conversations we are having across the organization more accurately reflect the experiences of the industry. 

All of the NCIA Committee members profiled here came through the Equity Scholarship program, an initiative of our DEI Program to systematize more equitable representation at the organization.  These leaders have much to say on how we all become more successful when equity is at the forefront. 

As the proverb goes, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”. 

Why did you choose to volunteer to serve on a committee?

John Murray (JM), President, Sustainable Innovations, Hemp Committee – To actively contribute to the advancement of sensible industry-wide policy reforms

Samantha Sage (SS), Founder, Kind Philanthropy, Education Committee – To continue to ‘Hype-up Community Impact’ in the Cannabis industry, and collaborate with other leaders to progress social responsibility. 

Anthony Jenkins (AJ), CEO, Next Level, Cannabis Manufacturing Committee – The path for an entrepreneur aiming to obtain a manufacturing license is littered with unnecessary roadblocks and I would like to help minimize those hurdles for the next generations of cannapreneurs. 

Raina Jackson (RJ), Founder & CEO, PURPLE RAINA Self Care, DEI Committee Organizer – I volunteered so that I can advocate for myself and others facing similar challenges as cannabis license applicants and operators. 

Richard Fleming (RF), President, Altered State Cannabis Company,  Retail Committee -As a pre-operational entity the main reason is to learn as much as possible from seasoned operators and ancillary companies with experience in various markets. Just as important, is to actively participate in a group of likeminded people to further the cause of normalization. 

Toni, Toni Consulting and Wellness, Education Committee; Health Equity Working Group

Toni (T), Founder, Toni Consulting and Wellness, Education Committee; Health Equity Working Group – I volunteer to be the change I want to see in the cannabis industry. Utilizing my voice, face, knowledge, and experiences.

Kenneth Cottrell (KC), COO, Cannalean LLC,  DEI Committee – I chose to volunteer on the DEI Committee to help promote legislation to promote a more diverse cannabis industry. According to MJBizDaily, “in the cannabis space, executive positions held by racial minorities fell to a new low for the group since they began tracking the number in 2017, dropping to 12.1% in 2022 from 13.1% in 2021” (MJBizDaily 2022). 

Why is it important for committees to include proper representation from diverse communities, and more specifically from our Equity Scholarship Program?

John Murray, Sustainable Innovations, Hemp Committee

(JM) Diversity inclusion provides a broadened perspective with contributions from different backgrounds, capabilities, and regulatory environments.  It is important to work together as a team and understand all viewpoints to become and remain successful. 

(AJ) It’s very important for committees to have proper representation and include our Equity Scholarship winners in their meetings to diversify the narrative and present issues and solutions from a different perspective.

(RJ) It’s important for us to share our experiences as Equity Scholarship Program recipients on committees because we have so much to contribute to the dialogue and multi-faceted solutions. We have traditionally been excluded from economic opportunities and are rarely consulted on the important policy and regulatory decisions that often continue to harm us.

(RF) The information from a wide array of backgrounds and perspectives from all levels of the spectrum is paramount in creating and shaping a positive image in the cannabis industry. By providing a platform for us as individuals, our ideas, our businesses and our communities to reverse the stigma and become a driving force in the market. 

(T) In order for any organization to be truly useful, representation must reflect diversity. If not we end up with solutions that are not equitable.

Kenneth Cottrell, Cannalean LLC, DEI Committee

(KC) It is important for committees to champion diversity. Creating diversity on committees promotes an organization as an equal and inclusive environment. It is very important for the current members who are participating, but it will also improve talent recruitment and innovation efforts for the organization. As an alumni of the NCIA’s Equity Scholarship Program, it was the main reason I became active in the organization and used its resources to help promote my company, Cannalean.  

What has your experience serving on a committee been like thus far? Is there any committee work from previous years you’d like to share?

(JM) The committees I served on have been mainly focused on consumer and legislative education. 

(RJ) I benefited so much from my first year working with mission-focused cannapreneurs along the supply chain, that I volunteered for a second year.

(T) Health Equity working group was able to host a town hall discussion on the importance of cannabis health equity in disadvantaged communities. 

(KC) My experience serving on the committee has been amazing. I was very impressed by the kickoff zoom meeting. I also met a lot of my fellow committee members at MJ Biz Con and MJ Unpacked. I am looking forward to hearing how cannabis policy is progressing around the country and if there are any policy frameworks that I can use to lobby in Nevada. 

What are you hoping to accomplish during the 2023 committee term?

(JM) Complete educational series and contribute to sensible regulatory language for the 2023 Farm Bill, which impacts our entire industry. 

Samantha Sage, Kind Philanthropy, Education Committee

(SS) Inspire more committee members and leaders in the Cannabis industry to build community impact initiatives into business plans and build relationships with nonprofit organizations. 

(AJ) In the 2023 committee term I would like to make it easier for the states coming on to find information about how to run a successful cannabis manufacturing program that includes equity. I would also like to make it easier for future cannabis manufacturers to become licensed, and adopt best practices to help their business succeed. 

(RJ) I will continue to represent the interests of Equity cannapreneurs navigating the regulatory landscape nationwide, with a focus on CA and NY, and in May 2023 I plan to represent the DEIC at Lobby Days in D.C. As a member of the Policy & Regulatory sub-committee, I am synthesizing the policy recommendations of members of the NY Social Equity Roundtable, informed by the best practices and failings of existing programs nationwide.

(RF) I hope to inspire others to find their niche and participate in all aspects of the movement. I really look forward to being an integral part of initiatives that promote our collective goals and move the dial on the public’s education and opinion. Additionally, receiving and utilizing information from others will assist in avoiding pitfalls they have witnessed or experienced themselves. 

(T) I hope to bring awareness to cannabis health equity, policies, and initiatives that support inclusivity. I seek to inspire businesses to invest in education in disadvantaged communities in ways that provide equitable long-term benefits and solutions.

(KC) I am hoping that we bring awareness to the lack of diversity in ownership and senior-level management in the cannabis industry. I want to work on developing a cannabis leadership incubator that focuses on cannabis policy, fundraising, and supply chain. There are states like Nevada that need more comprehensive social equity programs. I want to work with the committee to propose laws and policy to present to Nevada elected officials. 


Committee Blog: 13 Women Cannabis Scientists to Follow and Support

by Russ Hudson, Canna Advisors
Member of NCIA’s Scientific Advisory Committee


These 13 women cannabis scientists and researchers deserve to be recognized for their significant scientific and academic merit alone, irrespective of their gender. For now, we are identifying these stellar individuals as women solely because of the cannabis industry’s longstanding domination by males. Supporting these professionals in their scientific work with cannabis is critical to advancing the global cannabis agenda, which seeks to make cannabis medicine and other products readily available to people globally. Sharing the work and efforts of these exceptional humans is precisely what is needed to inspire the next generation of cannabis scientists, where gender will no longer be a defining feature.        

Shawna Vreeke, Ph.D.

*Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from Portland State University
*Cannabis Toxicology and Risk Assessment

Dr. Vreeke works with Ethan Russo and the team at True Terpenes, where she is Head of Research, performing risk assessments and managing the company’s toxicology program that she developed. With nearly a decade of experience already in laboratory research, Dr. Vreeke is expected to have a long and storied career in the science of cannabis.  


A First-Tier Framework for Assessing Toxicological Risk from Vaporized Cannabis Concentrates

A Simple Predictive Model for Estimating Relative E-cigarette Toxic Carbonyl Levels

Dihydroxyacetone levels in electronic cigarettes: Wick temperature and toxin formation. 

E-cigarettes can emit formaldehyde at high levels under conditions that have been reported to be non-averse to users

Triacetin Enhances Levels of Acrolein, Formaldehyde Hemiacetals, and Acetaldehyde in Electronic Cigarette Aerosols


Susan Trapp, Ph.D.

*Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Maryland
*Cannabis terpene researcher

Dr. Trapp is one of the world’s leading terpene experts, and she also happens to be an expert in cannabis, particularly where related to the plant’s chemical constituents. Dr. Trapp is the Senior Research Scientist for the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine & Health Sciences, she is the co-founder and chief scientist of a terpene company she founded called Terpedia, and she is an adjunct biology professor at Red Rocks Community College in Lakewood, Colorado. Dr. Trapp contributed commentary to The Big Book of Terps, and has authored the publications listed below:


Genomic Organization of Plant Terpene Synthases and Molecular Evolutionary Implications

Defensive Resin Biosynthesis in Conifers

Draft genome sequence of Mentha longifolia and development of resources for mint cultivar improvement

Gene expression profiling identifies inflammation and angiogenesis as distinguishing features of canine hemangiosarcoma

Molecular signatures of neoadjuvant endocrine therapies for breast cancer: characteristics of response or intrinsic resistance, Breast Cancer Research and Treatment


Riley Kirk, Ph.D.

*Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Sciences from University of Rhode Island
*Cannabis educator and research scientist

Dr. Kirk is a natural product chemist working as a Cannabis Research Scientist for Real Isolates, LLC. She is also a cannabis science educator for Cannabichem, LLC, and has spent years donating her time to various worthy charitable causes and programs. 


Screening the PRISM Library against Staphylococcus aureus Reveals a Sesquiterpene Lactone from Liriodendron tulipifera with Inhibitory Activity

New Micropeptins with Anti-Neuroinflammatory Activity Isolated from a Cyanobacterial Bloom

Polyphenol Microbial Metabolites Exhibit Gut and Blood–Brain Barrier Permeability and Protect Murine Microglia against LPS-Induced Inflammation


Daniela Vergara, Ph.D.

*Ph.D. in Evolutionary Biology from Indiana University Bloomington
*Cannabis researcher: genomics, breeding

A long-time dedicated researcher in the higher education industry, Dr. Vergara is currently an emerging crop specialist for Cornell University, a research associate with the University of Colorado Boulder, and the director and founder of the Agricultural Genomics Foundation based in Colorado. 


Widely assumed phenotypic associations in Cannabis sativa lack a shared genetic basis


Anna Schwabe, Ph.D.

*Ph.D. in Biological Education from University of Northern Colorado
*Cannabis educator and R&D specialist
*Cannabis genetics

Dr. Schwabe is a cannabis geneticist with a passion for studying inconsistencies in commercially available cannabis flower. Extremely active in the cannabis space and beyond, Dr. Schwabe is the Director of Cannabis Education for 420 Organics, the Director of Research and Development for Shore Organics, and an Associate Lecture Professor for the University of Colorado Boulder. 


Comparative Genetic Structure of Cannabis sativa Including Federally Produced, Wild Collected, and Cultivated Samples

Genomic Evidence That Governmentally Produced Cannabis sativa Poorly Represents Genetic Variation Available in State Markets

Research grade marijuana supplied by the National Institute on Drug Abuse is genetically divergent from commercially available Cannabis

Genetic tools weed out misconceptions of strain reliability in Cannabis sativa: Implications for a budding industry

Weeding out the truth behind Cannabis strain names: Genetic analyses confirm strain names are inconsistent and need regulation


Megan Mbengue

*Master of Science in Medical Cannabis Therapeutics from Pacific College
*Cannabis Nurse – CHPN, RN

Megan Mbengue, BSN, RN, CHPN is the founder of Trusted Cannabis Nurse, and has earned her reputation as a frank and passionate consumer educator in the cannabis industry. A longtime RN specializing in hospice and palliative care, Megan brings her passion for cannabis science education to the public, supported by a line of her own high quality hemp extract products.  


Jill Carreiro

*BS, Bioengineering, Arizona State University
*Cannabis analytical testing expert

Jill specializes in cannabis analytical chemistry, working as Vice President of Sales for Orange Photonics, a company that produces analytical testing equipment for the cannabis industry – most notably handheld and portable testing units. Jill has a strong scientific background in analytical instrumentation, supported by her education in bioengineering. 


Shabnam Sarshar, Ph.D.

*Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Biology and Phytochemistry from University of Munster
*Cannabis phytochemical researcher

Dr. Sarshar is passionate about cannabis for women’s health, having founded Laia’s FemBalance, a company that advocates for and encourages women’s health and other rights in Germany and worldwide. With an MBA in addition to a Ph.D., Dr. Sarshar is also a proficient and well-known business expert.  


Plants of the Gods and Their Recently Discovered Therapeutic Applications.

Traditionally used medicinal plants against uncomplicated urinary tract infections: Hexadecyl coumaric acid ester from the rhizomes of Agropyron repens (L.) P. Beauv. with antiadhesive activity against uropathogenic E. coli.


Allyn Howlett, Ph.D.

*Ph.D. in Biochemical Neuropharmacology from Rutgers University
*Professor at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center
*Discoverer of CB1 receptor for cannabinoid agonists

Dr. Howlett is one of the most-published cannabis-specific scientists in the world, and comes highly recommended to this list by numerous well-respected cannabis scientists and researchers. Dr. Howlett is also a Professor of Physiology and Pharmacology at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, where her expertise as a biochemical neuropharmacologist working with cannabinoid receptor signal transduction is highly valued by the current and next generation of cannabis and other professionals. 


Increased Angiotensin II Contraction of the Uterine Artery at Early Gestation in a Transgenic Model of Hypertensive Pregnancy Is Reduced by Inhibition of Endocannabinoid Hydrolysis

Alterations in the Medullary Endocannabinoid System Contribute to Age-related Impairment of Baroreflex Sensitivity

Is there a role for anandamide in cardiovascular regulation? Insights from studies of endocannabinoid metabolism

Steric Trigger as a Mechanism for CB1 Cannabinoid Receptor Activation

Early phytocannabinoid chemistry to endocannabinoids and beyond

WIN55212-2 Docking to the CB1 Cannabinoid Receptor and Multiple Pathways for Conformational Induction

Endocannabinoid System in Pregnancy Maintenance and Labor: A Mini-Review

Endocannabinoids and Reactive Nitrogen and Oxygen Species in Neuropathologies

Cannabinoid Receptor Interacting Protein 1a (CRIP1a) in Health and Disease

Acute Depletion of D2 Receptors from the Rat Substantia Nigra Alters Dopamine Kinetics in the Dorsal Striatum and Drug Responsivity

The Spicy Story of Cannabimimetic Indoles

The Endocannabinoid System and Oligodendrocytes in Health and Disease

Cannabinoid Receptor Interacting Protein 1a (CRIP1a): Function and Structure

WIN55212-2 Modulates Intracellular Calcium via CB1 Receptor-Dependent and Independent Mechanisms in Neuroblastoma Cells

Cannabinoid receptor interacting protein 1a interacts with myristoylated Gαi N terminus via a unique gapped β-barrel structure

CB1 Cannabinoid Receptors Stimulate Gβγ-GRK2-Mediated FAK Phosphorylation at Tyrosine 925 to Regulate ERK Activation Involving Neuronal Focal Adhesions

Thyroid Effects on Adenosine 3′,5′-Monophosphate Levels and Adenylate Cyclase in Cultured Neuroblastoma Cells

Medullary Endocannabinoids Contribute to the Differential Resting Baroreflex Sensitivity in Rats with Altered Brain Renin-Angiotensin System Expression


Ziva Cooper, Ph.D. 

*Ph.D. in Biopsychology from the University of Michigan
*Director of the UCLA Center for Cannabis and Cannabinoids

Dr. Cooper is the Director of the UCLA Center for Cannabis and Cannabinoids, and Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences. A longtime health care professional specializing in neurobiology, Dr. Cooper has been working in the cannabis industry for many years, including a former appointment on the Committee on the Health Effects of Marijuana by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Dr. Cooper has published numerous studies on various aspects of cannabis and cannabinoids. 


Impact of co-administration of oxycodone and smoked cannabis on analgesia and abuse liability

Methodology for controlled administration of smoked synthetic cannabinoids JWH-018 and JWH-073

Sex-Dependent Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: A Translational Perspective

Effects of ibudilast on oxycodone-induced analgesia and subjective effects in opioid-dependent volunteers

The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research

Effects of zolpidem alone and in combination with nabilone on cannabis withdrawal and a laboratory model of relapse in cannabis users.

Oral Cannabidiol does not Alter the Subjective, Reinforcing or Cardiovascular Effects of Smoked Cannabis.

Adverse Effects of Synthetic Cannabinoids: Management of Acute Toxicity and Withdrawal

Novel Pharmacologic Approaches to Treating Cannabis Use Disorder

Investigation of sex-dependent effects of cannabis in daily cannabis smokers

A human laboratory study investigating the effects of quetiapine on marijuana withdrawal and relapse in daily marijuana smokers

Effects of acute oral naltrexone on the subjective and physiological effects of oral D-amphetamine and smoked cocaine in cocaine abusers.

Comparison of a drug versus money and drug versus drug self-administration choice procedure with oxycodone and morphine in opioid addicts.

Comparison of the analgesic effects of dronabinol and smoked marijuana in daily marijuana smokers

Subjective, cognitive and cardiovascular dose-effect profile of nabilone and dronabinol in marijuana smokers.

Buprenorphine/naloxone as a promising therapeutic option for opioid abusing patients with chronic pain: reduction of pain, opioid withdrawal symptoms, and abuse liability of oral oxycodone.

Marijuana’s dose-dependent effects in daily marijuana smokers.

Nabilone decreases marijuana withdrawal and a laboratory measure of marijuana relapse.

Predictors of marijuana relapse in the human laboratory: robust impact of tobacco cigarette smoking status.

Effects of menstrual cycle phase on cocaine self-administration in rhesus macaques.

Glial modulators: a novel pharmacological approach to altering the behavioral effects of abused substances

Effects of baclofen and mirtazapine on a laboratory model of marijuana withdrawal and relapse.

Opioid antagonism enhances marijuana’s effects in heavy marijuana smokers.

Comparison of subjective, pharmacokinetic, and physiological effects of marijuana smoked as joints and blunts

Actions of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol in cannabis: relation to use, abuse, dependence.

Cannabis reinforcement and dependence: role of the cannabinoid CB1 receptor.

Naltrexone Maintenance Decreases Cannabis Self-Administration and Subjective Effects in Daily Cannabis Smokers.

Sex-dependent effects of cannabis-induced analgesia


Carrie Cuttler, Ph.D.

*Ph.D. in Cognitive Science from the University of British Columbia 

Dr. Cuttler has published many valuable, relevant studies on cannabis and its constituents, especially in the field of obsessive use and addictive consumption, where her extensive education in psychiatry serves her and the public well. Dr. Cuttler is also an Assistant Professor with Concordia University.  


Blunted stress reactivity in chronic cannabis users

Psychometric properties of the Daily Sessions, Frequency, Age of Onset, and Quantity of Cannabis Use Inventory (DFAQ-CU)

Symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder predict cannabis misuse

A cross-sectional survey of medical cannabis users: Patterns of use and perceived efficacy

Sex differences in cannabis use and effects: A cross-sectional survey of cannabis users

Mechanisms underlying the link between cannabis use and prospective memory


Michelle Glass, Ph.D.

*Head of the Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology at the University of Otago

Dr. Glass has specialized in cannabis, researching, among other subjects, cannabinoids, neurodegenerative diseases, Huntington’s disease, and G-protein coupled receptors. According to her profile on The University of Octago, “Professor Glass’ research focuses on the expression, function and molecular pharmacology of the cannabinoid receptors and their potential role in treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. Her recent research interests have extended to identifying the mechanism by which synthetic cannabinoids are resulting in high levels of toxicity in the community and advising on the development of clinical trials for medicinal cannabis products.”


Cannabinoid receptors in the human brain: a detailed anatomical and quantitative autoradiographic study in the fetal, neonatal and adult human brain

Concurrent stimulation of cannabinoid CB1 and dopamine D2 receptors augments cAMP accumulation in striatal neurons: evidence for a Gs linkage to the CB1 receptor

Immunomodulation by cannabinoids is absent in mice deficient for the cannabinoid CB2 receptor.

The pattern of neurodegeneration in Huntington’s disease: a comparative study of cannabinoid, dopamine, adenosine and GABAA receptor alterations in the human basal ganglia in Huntington’s diseas

Cannabinoid receptors and their endogenous agonists

Concurrent stimulation of cannabinoid CB1 and dopamine D2 receptors enhances heterodimer formation: a mechanism for receptor crosstalk?

Synthetic cannabis: adverse events reported to the New Zealand Pharmacovigilance Centre

Receptor alterations in human neuro-degenerative diseases


Amber Wise, Ph.D.

*Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of California at Berkeley
*Cannabis compliance and analytical testing expert

Dr. Wise is an analytical chemist and laboratory manager with extensive experience at multiple universities. The current Scientific Director for Medicine Creek Analytics as well as the Programming Chair for the Cannabis Chemistry Subdivision of ACS, Dr. Wise has published several studies on the aerosols of cannabis products and byproducts of cannabis extractions, as well as studies in other fields.  


Metals in Cannabis Vaporizer Aerosols: Sources, Possible Mechanisms, and Exposure Profiles

Strategies for Nonpolar Aerosol Collection and Heavy Metals Analysis of Inhaled Cannabis Products

Deeper Dive into Extractions: Multiphase CO2 Extractions for Full Spectrum Native Chemical Profiles

Understanding the Science of Cannabis Produce DevelopmentExtraction Basics, Scientifically Speaking

Upstream adverse effects in risk assessment: A model of polychlorinated biphenyls, thyroid hormone disruption and neurological outcomes in humans.

Are Oral Contraceptives Significant Contributors to Estrogenicity of Drinking Water?

Discrete Arrays of Liquid Crystal-Supported Proteolipid Monolayers as Phantom Cell Surfaces

Policy Recommendations for Addressing Potential Health Risks from Nanomaterials in Californi

Are there other cannabis scientists that should be included in this list? Let us know using the CONTACT FORM HERE, or connect with the author via LinkedIn:


Video: NCIA Today – Friday, March 10, 2023

NCIA Director of Communications Bethany Moore checks in with what’s going on across the country with the National Cannabis Industry Association’s membership, board, allies, and staff.


Update from NCIA’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Program

by Mike Lomuto, NCIA’s DEI Manager

Our DEI Program has a lot to share and celebrate as we gear up for Spring, when we hope to hit the road with our Equity Workshop Tour.

Keep reading for all the highlights and wins to start 2023.

But first, I want to remind you that today is the LAST DAY to throw down sponsorship dollars as part of our Lobby Days DEI Delegation.

ALL Lobby Days sponsorship dollars raised during the month of February directly fund our DEI Delegation

This allows us to provide travel stipends as part of our commitment to DEI at NCIA. Our delegation consists of some of our organization’s most engaged and knowledgeable social equity policy advocates.

This is one of NCIA’s most important functions. It’s imperative we get it in the win column so that our report back in May/June’s newsletter is one of success for our DEI efforts. 

Reach out NOW to to help us reach our goal.

February Highlights of our DEI Program:

NCIA’s Global Majority Caucus Launches

February marked the momentous launch of NCIA’s Global Majority Caucus

Made up of Global Majority leaders from across the organization – Board Members, Committee Leadership, Equity Members serving on committees, and leaders of DEI Program initiatives.

The purpose of the GMC is to galvanize our Global Majority voices and impact at the nation’s oldest and most established cannabis trade association. 

I am humbled by the voices that were present last week and completely inspired by what we will continue to accomplish together.

Together, we will continue to advocate for greater Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in our industry as we push toward federal legalization, and the more equitable rollout of the myriad of state cannabis programs.

Season 4 of The Cannabis Minority Report podcast kicks off.

Bringing minority (aka Global Majority) perspectives to the forefront of the industry

Join us for the live recordings every Monday at 1 pm ET on LinkedIn Live

Subscribe on your favorite podcast platforms, and catch up on the first few episodes of the new season, featuring NCIA Board Vice Chair Chris Jackson, NCIA Board Member Rebecca Colett of Calyxeum, and Dr Mila Marshall (Vice Chair of the Education Committee)

Upcoming guests include:

  • NCIA Board Member Ben Larson of Vertosa, Chris Jensen and Tiffany Watkins (DEIC Chair and Vice Chair), Kay Villamin (SRC Chair), Keyston Franklin (BFSC Chair), and Michael Webster (host of the Power Hour)

February featured TWO Catalyst Conversations (our DEI-focused webinar series)

Catalyst Conversation: Gain an Edge & Impact – Community Benefit Agreements

Featuring Gary Little and Doug Kelly, who are blazing trails in Chicago, alongside NCIA committee members Ace Castillo and Shannon Vetto

For cannabusinesses looking for how to “crack the code” of doing well AND good. We discuss how to create positive community impact AND excel as a business as a result

Catalyst Conversations: What’s Hot for 2023?

Featuring NCIA Committee members Vanessa Valdovinos, Keyston Franklin, and Jim Makoso, as well as new Board Member Amy Larson

Especially relevant for newer leaders in the cannabis space, seeking insights into how to succeed and gain lasting power, based on the opportunities 2023 presents.

New York Social Equity Roundtable Submits Public Comments, co-signed by a dozen partnered organizations

Since Spring of last year, we have been building coalition through conducting an ongoing roundtable discussion, consisting of multiple National and New York based cannabis social equity and industry organizations to assess and provide feedback regarding rules and regulations. Big thank you to the participating orgs, including: Minorities for Medical Marijuana (M4MM), Social Equity Committee Co-Chairs of NYC/Hudson Valley Cannabis Industry Association (NYCCIA/HVCIA), NYC NORML, Black and Brown Economic Power in Cannabis (BB EPIC), JustUS Foundation, Unified Legacy Operators Council (UNLOC), Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA), Social Equity Empowerment Network (SEEN), The Hood Incubator,The People’s Ecosystem (TPE), Etain, legacy operators, and social equity cannabis business owners. 

On February 13th, we submitted our latest round of public comments, in a common effort to assist the New York Office of Cannabis Management in its mission to create an equitable and inclusive cannabis industry for New York State.

DEI Committee leader Raina Jackson served as Lead Author, with support from fellow NCIA committee members Mark Slaugh, Adrian Adams, Stephanie Keeffe, and Osbert Orduna.

Get a glimpse into the impact our Equity Scholarship Program is having

The first Equity Member Spotlight blog of the year is up! 

“it isn’t hard for me to find a BIPOC leader within NCIA who shares experiences similar to mine. That has made this a motivating and pleasurable experience.” 

– Michael Diaz-Rivera, Owner of Better Days Delivery; Colorado State Rep of M4MM

The Equity Workshop Tour is tentatively (based on sponsorship) set for stops in New York, Chicago, and Detroit, synced up with our Industry Socials. More to come. Sponsorship opportunities are available.

To join NCIA through our Equity Scholarship Program, apply here:

Committee Blog: NCIA Committee Work Provides Lasting Value To All – A 2022 Highlight Reel

by David Vaillencourt, The GMP Collective
Facilities Design Committee Chair

NCIA Committees are one of the easiest ways that NCIA enables its members to make a positive impact on the cannabis industry. The Facility Design Committee is one of fourteen (14) committees. We are all member-led, meeting monthly (if not more frequently) to discuss needs and to work together to create resources for the community and industry at large. This translates into blogs, webinars, and more. As the new Committee term gets underway, this article provides a recap of our 2022 term. Who are we? What did we accomplish? How can you as an industry operator or NCIA member leverage these resources? Read on!

“As the outgoing Chair, it was an honor to work alongside over a dozen experts ranging from business management solutions, architects, engineers, construction companies, quality management experts, equipment vendors, and more. I want to thank each and every one of you for your tireless contributions.” – David Vaillencourt, The GMP Collective

Accomplishments and key member takeaways

Now entering our fourth year, the FDC put together a significant amount of content for the industry to utilize. I have highlighted the top three impacts that our Committee felt we made. Seeing busy industry pioneers put aside valuable time in their days to consistently show up and create this content for the betterment of you all was a rewarding opportunity in itself and it’s impossible to do justice and recognition to the hours contributed by all.

“The knowledge and energy that is gained from this collection of experts who all have one overriding goal to advance cannabis as an industry both educates and motivates me…  The cannabis industry evolves extremely rapidly, by participating in NCIA committees you ensure that you do not get left behind and you have an opportunity to shape the future of cannabis.” – Cary Richardson, Miles Construction

What is VPD / HVACD and why should you care?

Understanding plant dynamics and how they impact the selection and sizing of HVAC systems is critical to the cannabis cultivation space. The design assumptions and directions made during early planning will impact plant quality, quantity, operational costs, and energy expenditures for the life of the facility.  It should not be surprising to owners and shareholders that if the first steps of design are made incorrectly, costs to correct original mistakes may exceed the original project budget, and oftentimes that may be too late. It is easy to get lost in the technical details on paper, but our members broke this important topic down for decision makers to better understand in our blog article and webinar “WTF is VPD” (available for free to watch on demand!).

“The details of HVACD get lost at times on me and [Adrian and Kevin] can explain it in a way, that a layman can understand it. David, Brian, and Sean are the other members who are always showing up, we meet at events and they have valuable input on topics of the FDC. We all connected outside of the FDC multiple times and are working on common business opportunities.”  – Chris Uhlig, Ceres Greenhouse Solutions

Social Equity is a major problem

Mike Lomuto who led NCIA’s Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee met with Shawn Cooney, our Vice-Chair early on to discuss sustainability and DEI issues in the space. Social equity applicants have so many additional hurdles that the FDC members prioritized how to steer our knowledge to solve real problems social equity applicants face. During several of our meetings, we invited a social equity applicant to share where they were stuck. They benefited from having a team of experts to listen, understand their problem, and offer direction and guidance. 

“The most meaningful thing that occurred [for me] was participating in a hot seat with a social equity license recipient…  We followed up with this individual and it led to us becoming more educated and aware of the issues surrounding social equity in the cannabis industry. Unfortunately, what we uncovered wasn’t that great. Social equity programs in several states are fraught with issues and there are often firms who are preying upon vulnerable people… I have a whole new sense of awareness. It’s opened me to educate myself and others as well.” – Eric Myers, COO, Omega Equipment Supply

But don’t take our word for it – hear it from one of our “hot seat” guests who came to us after having multiple setbacks getting their design plans for a dispensary approved by the city. 

“Prior to our meeting with the Facility Design Committee, we had experienced so many setbacks. After my hotseat with the FDC, we were able to identify what we did wrong and why we were having so many delays with the city. [The FDC members] helped us prioritize what steps we needed to take to get our project back on track… We redesigned our floorplan and now we are closer than ever to getting our building permits. We are back on track and I am even more confident in our plan all thanks to the Facilities Design Committee.” – Adolfo “Ace” Castillo Founder/Chief Operating Executive Banyan Tree Dispensary


Not only do we meet monthly virtually, enabling volunteers from Maine to California and everywhere in between to connect and share knowledge – but many of us made time to connect in person to speak on panels and support each other throughout the year. While the pandemic wreaked havoc on conferences and in-person events, we were able to build lasting relationships thanks to the Committee structure.

“The most impactful aspect of this year was getting to know members at an individual level” – Kevin Quinlan, Mintropy

From left to right Jon Crozier, Chris Uhlig, Adrian Giovenco, Eric Myers, David Vaillencourt, and Cary Richardson all met up in person at MJBiz Con.

Looking forward into 2023

Stay tuned industry! Bookmark NCIA’s Blog page, and subscribe to the newsletter so you can take advantage of the latest webinars and resources published by the FDC and the other NCIA committees. The pathway to a harmonized and equity industry may seem daunting and far away, but rest assured that the hundreds of NCIA members participating in the diverse Committees are working hard to divide and conquer for a unified mission.

Equity Member Spotlight: Checking in on NCIA’s Equity Scholarship Program

by Mike Lomuto, NCIA’s DEI Manager

Three years after the launch of NCIA’s DEI program, we are growing and going stronger than ever. One of last year’s highlights was our DEI delegation that took part in our 10th Annual Cannabis Industry Lobby Days in Washington, D.C., a story we told in this blog, along with many other great and important stories. Now, we are checking back in with a few members to hear about their current progress. 

Why has being a member of NCIA been important to you personally?

Anthony Jenkins, Next Level, CEO:

Cannabis is an amazing plant, and I’m passionate about what it can do. NCIA’s members share that passion, which shows in their advocacy for themselves and the plant.

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

I was a 5th-grade teacher before starting this business. Being a member of NCIA has allowed me to network with a diverse set of owners across the business spectrum, whether they are social equity operators, and/or novices like me, or established in the cannabis space for years. NCIA has helped springboard me into spaces where growth is guaranteed!

Helen Gomez Andrews, Co-Founder & CEO, The High End:

Building strong business networks is incredibly important in the cannabis industry – and of course, so is advocacy. With this industry and through communities like NCIA, we have an opportunity to reimagine and restructure how business gets done, what board rooms look like, how workers are treated, how to better respect our environment. Being a member has not only helped me strengthen those networks and provided new business opportunities, but it has provided me more channels towards the advocacy that is meaningful to me and my business’ core values. 

Why is the Equity Scholarship Program at NCIA important?

Anthony Jenkins:

It is EXTREMELY important because most new entrepreneurs don’t have the money to “test” if a program is going to be beneficial for them. The scholarship gives future cannabis business owners a chance to see the true value that comes with being a member, and once they do, they will continue their membership. 

Michael Diaz-Rivera:

Coming from a low-income background and already investing my limited savings 100% into my business, I wouldn’t have been able to participate in NCIA without the scholarship. Not being hindered by my lack of financial resources helped build my confidence in the industry.

Helen Gomez Andrews:

As the founder of a start-up in a regulatory and capital environment with tremendous constraints, the Equity Scholarship Program got me in the door at NCIA, where I otherwise wouldn’t have joined due to the standard price tag. I’ve had a chance to share in, and contribute to, the many different avenues of participation that NCIA offers, make a proper assessment of its impact and properly decide whether or not it makes sense to continue as a member beyond the scholarship period.

What has been your biggest highlight of being an NCIA member?

Anthony Jenkins:

My biggest highlight of being an NCIA member was attending the NCIA’s San Francisco conference in 2021. It was an amazing experience, and we had the opportunity to have a booth, hosted by the awesome team at The People’s Dispensary.

Michael Diaz-Rivera:

My biggest highlight has to be our weekly power hours. Whether learning from industry leaders or having real unapologetic conversations with other emerging business owners, I am walking away from these meetings with priceless jewels of wisdom.

Helen Gomez Andrews:

There are so many! But bringing my kids down to Washington, D.C. for Lobby Days in 2022 was such a highlight. My daughter, who has been a cannabis patient since she was 6 years old, watched as I took a team photo in front of the United States Capitol with a group of people that came together to fight not just for SAFE Banking, but for the federal legalization of a medicine that she uses daily – fighting for her rights and kids just like her – is a moment that our family will never forget.  

Have you noticed a shift in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the NCIA since you joined, and if so can you elaborate?

Michael Diaz-Rivera:

I don’t know if I’ve been in NCIA long enough to notice a shift in DEI, but I can say that it isn’t hard for me to find a BIPOC leader within NCIA who shares experiences similar to mine. That has made this a motivating and pleasurable experience.

Helen Gomez Andrews:

I haven’t been a member long enough to notice a shift, but the diversity of the community was noticeable and very appreciated from the onset, and it’s very tangibly not just a talking point. 

What is on the horizon for your business in 2023?

Next Level Edibles

Anthony Jenkins:

Next Level has some great things on the horizon. We entered into a partnership with a team in Southern California that will help us increase the quality and efficacy of our infused brown sugar. We are growing our partnerships with dispensaries and delivery services throughout California to broaden our footprint. We are relaunching our website. We will be launching new infused ingredients, and partnering with some of our friends in the industry to bring you amazing infused ready-to-eat products. 

Michael Diaz-Rivera:

There is much to be anticipated in the near future for Better Days Delivery and that is why we say, “Better Days Are On The Way.” Most immediately I am excited to announce that I am hiring my first delivery driver and adding more vehicles to my fleet. As I aim to be the best cannabis delivery service in Colorado, I am working to establish contracts with dispensaries throughout the state, nurture the stores I currently deliver for (Shoutout to Native Roots and L’Eagle Services), empower my drivers to be their best, all while serving the community!

Helen Gomez Andrews:

At long last, The High End is on track to introduce our clean-extracted and hand-crafted cannabis products to the Massachusetts market, partnering with independent sun-grown and living soil cultivators and processing in our solventless lab. Our indoor living soil gardens are finally in development too and will be ready to go closer to the end of this year. 

Additional thoughts?

Michael Diaz-Rivera:

Thank you Tahir Johnson for starting this program and Mike Lomuto for taking it to the next level. Infinite gratitude to all of my fellow business owners that have helped me to get to this point in my business journey! The Marathon Continues! Better Days Are On The Way

Helen Gomez Andrews:

Immense gratitude to Mike Lomuto for understanding each of our goals in business and advocacy, and ensuring we can contribute to issues that matter to us beyond the obvious DEI work. Without question, DEI advocacy is vital, but we amongst the equity scholars have a diversity of other goals as well. In particular, I’d like to thank Mike for championing Sustainability and organizing a group of members from a working group into an influential body within NCIA that has an opportunity to make a meaningful impact.

NCIA Best of 420 CLIO Cannabis Award Returns for 2023

The cannabis industry’s most accessible award program returns in 2023. A coveted award by brands and creatives alike, NCIA Best of 420 Award sets the standard for top creative work highlighting this important holiday and the biggest day in cannabis.

When launched in 2021, the NCIA Best of 420 Awards was a digital event for NCIA members highlighting each brands marketing efforts in a very challenging year. In 2022, the Best of 420 Awards partnered with the prestigious Clio Cannabis Awards – live in Las Vegas. What a thrill to showcase the NCIA Best of 420 winners alongside the industry’s most prestigious creative work. 

For the cannabis community, by the cannabis community, the award program, wholly conceived and executed by the NCIA’s Marketing and Advertising Committee volunteers, is a labor of love that celebrates the most impactful 420 marketing work in the industry.

seen at Clio Cannabis Awards at Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Las Vegas. (Photo by David Becker/Invision for Clio Cannabis Awards/AP Images)

“The Clio Cannabis Awards presentation during MJ Unpacked was a 2022 highlight for Claybourne Co., it made the sweet success of our 420 campaign even more special. The award brought the internal team together, made our external partnerships stronger, and created free awareness! It’s a great cannabis industry event, and we’re proud to be a recipient.” said Jonathan Griffith, VP of Marketing for Claybourne Co

Any brand with a 2023 420 campaign is eligible, so now is a great time to start planning for success! Entries will be judged on the following criteria: 

Community Impact: How did your campaign bring your community together? How did it highlight the best of the cannabis community to others? Did it support an advocacy campaign such as DEI, or sustainability?

Creativity: How creative was your overall 420 campaign? 

Results: Was it an effective campaign for your own goals and KPIs? 

It’s never too early to start planning your 420 campaign! Stay tuned for more information about how to enter the NCIA Best of 420 Award program! 


Cannabis Community Marketers – as you form your Best of 420 Campaigns, the NCIA Marketing & Advertising Committee provides these: 10 Tips for Winning Campaigns.

Tip #1: Build campaigns with end goals and metrics in mind. What gets measured gets done. Be ready to report on metrics for your submissions even before you start your campaign. 

Tip#2: Be authentic and personable. The most successful cannabis brands show their authenticity and personality. Campaigns celebrating the audience /community as much as they do the brand tend to resonate best!

Tip #3: Collaborate and be creative. Campaigns are great opportunities to collaborate within or outside the cannabis community and gain exposure in each other’s networks.

Tip #4: Think beyond the campaign date. You can start a campaign anytime they can be tied to the 4/20 event, before or after.

Tip #5: Apply a 360-degree approach. Where possible and where budget allows, include as many channels and assets as possible for the best ROI and impact. 

Tip #6: Engage your community. Great cannabis brands are constantly looking forat ways to engage in deep, lasting relationships with their communities. 

Tip #7: Success at all budgets. A campaign does not have to have a big budget, and often the best campaigns are executed on smaller budgets. Focus on 1-2 applications of your campaigns that are better for your KPIs.

Tip #8: Tap into customer passions. Don’t be myopic and see this as an opportunity to tap into the full range of your customers’ interests and what is meaningful to them. This is about relationship building, and you want to see the customer’s lifetime value improve year after year. 

Tip #9: Remember those regulations. A reminder that it is not just the general cannabis federal and state regulations but also the marketing and communications regulations in states and across the country that provide guidelines. Be creative within the legal boundaries.

Tip #10: Have fun!

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