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.
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.
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 MikeLomuto@thecannabisindustry.org to help us reach our goal.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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!
by NCIA’s Facilities Design Committee
Indoor cannabis cultivation facilities are complex environments, where a large number of variables interact to create an ideal ecosystem to grow cannabis. The upside of an indoor facility is it allows a year-long growing climate, optimized for each stage of the plant grow cycle. The downside, however, is creating this ideal climate is very energy-intensive.
There are three (3) main types of precision cooling equipment offered in the cultivation space. Those are Air Cooled DX, Water Cooled DX, and Chilled Water Units. DX stands for direct expansion systems. The immediate and most noteworthy difference between these systems is that DX units cool air using refrigerant, and Chilled Water units cool air utilizing chilled water. A DX unit uses refrigerant-based cooling and cools indoor air using a condensed refrigerant liquid. Typically, the decision regarding which cooling source is better for a cultivation facility is usually driven by the size of the cooling plant as well as other unique site conditions. Selecting the right HVAC system for your cultivation facility can be a challenging process driven by many factors, however this is beyond the topic of discussion for this article, it should be noted that the following analysis assumes an Air Cooled DX based system.
The total energy costs for indoor cannabis grow operations typically vary between 25%-50% of total operating costs (or approximately 150-200 kWh/sq.ft). In comparison, energy use in a typical commercial building environment is approximately 25 kWh/sq. ft. As indoor cultivation facilities increase, they can be a source of strain on electrical grids. A recent study showed indoor cannabis cultivation alone accounted for 4% of the energy grid usage in Denver. (IEEE, 2020)
With that context, any areas we can identify to improve energy efficiencies without introducing a negative impact to the grow environment can have enormous bottom-line impacts for cultivation owners and society at large.
In this article, we are going to be examining two ways we can optimize HVACD systems to improve energy efficiency. When HVACD systems are designed for grow facilities, the primary variables we are looking to influence are the following psychrometric properties: temperature (either wet or dry bulb) and relative humidity. Mechanical engineers will often refer to an information-packed graph called a psychrometric chart shown below.
This chart helps to visualize the relationships different properties of air like temperature, humidity (relative and absolute) and dew points along the saturation curve have with each other. This is useful to analyze, as these are direct inputs to a scientific measure often favored by growers called Vapor Pressure Deficit (VPD).
Vapor Pressure Deficit, simply described, compares these variables to determine how much additional room for water vapor there is in the air. This is important as it determines how readily cannabis plants can transpire. Controlling transpiration rates help to aid in healthy, robust growth through the plant life cycle. Growers tend to want lower VPD, and thus lower transpiration, early in plant maturity, and increase to higher VPDs, and thus high transpiration, at the flowering stage before harvesting.
So we know a successful indoor cultivation facility HVAC system will need to control temperature and humidity to ensure the desired VPD values. How can we do that efficiently?
A cannabis plant can transpire up to 99% of the water absorbed through its roots. Due to this, we often tell people that designing an indoor cultivation facility is like designing a data center with a swimming pool inside. Because of the increased humidity introduced from plant transpiration, we must pay special attention to dehumidification strategies within the grow space. Humid air requires treating significant latent loads in the grow space, requiring additional energy to remove moisture from the airstream. This is one reason HVACD systems can consume up to 50% of the energy budget in a cultivation facility. As previously mentioned, higher humidity levels will lower the VPD in the room, preventing a plant from transpiring effectively to continue healthy growth. To combat this, sometimes stand-alone dehumidifiers are added into the grow room.
While these units can do the job of removing moisture from the room, it is a very energy-intensive process. One of the issues with stand-alone dehumidifiers is that they reject heat back into the grow room, thereby adding additional cooling load onto the main HVAC equipment.
An air handling unit, sometimes called an air handler or AHU, is a piece of equipment that is used to condition and circulate air as a component of a heating, ventilating, and air conditioning system.
The air handler is usually a large metal box that contains a blower, heating and cooling elements, filter chambers, sound attenuators, and dampers. It then connects to ductwork that distributes the conditioned air throughout the space before returning it back to the AHU.
Of particular interest are the units cooling coil and reheat coil. These two components are namely responsible for controlling VPD levels in our grow space. In an AHU equipped with Integral Hot Gas Reheat, the cooling coil serves as a dehumidifier, by cooling the air thereby reducing its moisture/latent load (we recommend considering capturing this water for treatment and reuse: read more here). The hot gas reheat capability utilizes heat from grow space and compressor heat to reheat the air before returning to the grow space (without using additional heating energy).
While this may seem like a minor design change, it results in a considerable reduction in energy. As the chart below illustrates, leveraging Integral Hot Gas Reheat units can result in a 30-35% reduction in HVACD energy when compared with other dehumidification systems. Additional automation capabilities built-into these systems will ensure that the grow room will remain tightly controlled within the desired state points of your grow room to optimize VPD.
This reduction in energy quickly adds up to reduced utility bills. Despite marginally higher upfront costs as compared to standard HVAC equipment coupled with standalone dehumidifiers, this option results in a lower 5-year system cost than common HVACD systems installed in cultivation facilities, and these savings will only increase over time.
The second energy-saving measure we would like to discuss goes back to the earlier discussion of VPD. Recall the equation for VPD is
V P sat – V P air = VPD
This is important, as it provides growers the flexibility to fall within desired VPD ranges, but at higher temperature and humidity ranges than typically used. Many growers target grow room setpoint temperatures around 72-75F and limit relative humidity to a maximum of 50 percent, but by allowing slightly higher room setpoint temperatures of 76-82F, with corresponding relative humidity increases, we can create identical VPDs at higher setpoint temperatures. The cost-benefit of this small adjustment is considerable. The HVAC system (including cooling and dehumidification) can be sized at roughly 20-30% smaller capacity, reducing the owner’s up-front equipment costs. In addition, the system’s energy consumption and costs during operations will be significantly lower, to the tune of 30-40%. In a theoretical 30,000 square foot facility, this could result in $1,125,000 savings in the first 5 years.
Another way of growing instead of full indoor, is a highly efficient, sealed greenhouse. It is designed to maximize sunlight inside the growing environment, meaning energy used for lighting is dramatically reduced. And because it is sealed, energy-efficiency is maximized, as leakage is kept to a minimum. In order to make this work, these greenhouses need to be hybrid (using insulated walls and glazing) and the orientation and design play a bigger role.
In this hybrid greenhouse environment, the growing space typically heats up as soon as the sun comes out, no matter the outside temperature. Cooling in this instance would increase the power usage vs. increasing the humidity to keep the VPD level in the same range. When the sun goes down, the opposite happens. The grow environment starts to cool and it would be expensive to try and keep the temperature up.
In order to achieve VPD control, the control system needs to be able to variably adjust temperature and humidity, based on inputs like weather forecast, time of the day, day of the year, etc. Being able to control the grow environment by VPD level will significantly reduce the energy consumption for your HVACD system.
NCIA Director of Communications Bethany Moore checks in with what’s going on across the country with the National Cannabis Industry Association’s membership, board, allies, and staff. Join us every other Thursday on Facebook and LinkedIN for NCIA Today Live.
NCIA Director of Communications Bethany Moore checks in with what’s going on across the country with the National Cannabis Industry Association’s membership, board, allies, and staff. Join us every other Thursday here on Facebook for NCIA Today Live.
NCIA’s #IndustryEssentials webinar series is our premier digital educational series 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 December 7 and produced by NCIA’s Marketing & Advertising Committee, our panel of cannabis finance specialists, leading operators and capital raising experts will guide you through best marketing practices and considerations to deploy when fundraising in the cannabis industry from a marketing perspective.
Learn tips and tricks and do’s and don’ts from marketing pro’s and industry insiders to best position your company to get the attention of investors in the current market conditions just as you’ve done when targeting consumers.
Christine de la Rosa
CEO & Co-Founder
The People’s Ecosystem
Founder & CEO
Nana & Pop
Founder & CEO
Jake Kuczeruk (Moderator)
Blue Sky Wellness
NCIA’s #IndustryEssentials webinar series is our premier digital educational series featuring a variety of interactive programs allowing us to provide you timely, engaging and essential education when you need it most.
Got questions about how influencer marketing can help your cannabis brand? Interested in working with a cannabis influencer but don’t know how?
You’ll get all your questions answered in this edition of our NCIA Committee Insights series originally aired on Tuesday, June 28, 2022 in which members of NCIA’s Marketing & Advertising Committee convened an all-star panel of innovative influencers who’ve worked with the cannabis industry’s leading brands.
Tune in to the conversation featuring moderator Allison Disney as she speaks with the amazing Alice Moon, Shayda Torabi, and Monica Lo to discuss how to reach and engage cannabis users with original branded content.
What You’ll Learn:
WHY influencer marketing should be in your marketing mix
WHO is most influential in cannabis conversations online
WHAT a successful influencer marketing partnership looks like
HOW to engage the right influencer partner(s) for your brand
by Raina Jackson, Founder & CEO of PURPLE RAINA Self Care
Member of NCIA’s Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Committee (DEIC)
This past September I had the pleasure of lobbying in D.C. for the first time as part of NCIA’s 10th Annual Lobby Days. The lobbying process was demystified for me, and I found that lobbying isn’t easy, but it isn’t that hard when you share your talking points from your heart, representing your own and others’ experiences. I learned that the NCIA delegation shares more common ground than we realized with Congressmembers, especially through their younger and more hip staffers and family members. One senator has a daughter who used to be a budtender and now podcasts about the industry, Senator Gary Peters (D-MI).
I was encouraged by how receptive legislative aides and advisors were to the factual talking points and statistics NCIA provided us to appeal to their sense of reason and fairness. They recognized the public health and economic benefits cannabis has delivered and its potential, without being distracted by useless moral arguments against it. Our team gave an overview of the cannabis landscape and advocated while offering solutions to our varied struggles as cannabis entrepreneurs.
The legal U.S. cannabis market is valued at $17.7 billion, with a substantial amount unbanked, causing a public safety crisis. Our discussions illuminated our common ground regarding the public safety improvements and economic benefits that the bipartisan supported SAFE Banking Act will bring to each state choosing to introduce its own customized hemp CBD/low THC, medical, or adult recreational cannabis program.
In my follow-up email to the Congressional aides and advisors we met with, I attached a white paper authored by the Cannabis Regulators of Color Coalition (CCRC) offering best practices for increasing financial access to cannabis businesses, prioritizing groups that have been historically underserved by traditional financial institutions and disproportionately harmed by prohibition.
This regulated cannabis industry is so new that we must allow each other some grace as stakeholders. As cannabis advocates, we have learned that “calling people in” for discussions on the benefits of the SAFE Banking Act and comprehensive cannabis reform is more effective than “calling them out.”
Elected officials and their staff don’t understand first-hand what we experience as cannabis entrepreneurs, and many care more than I expected. Lobbying and sending them emails on new and modified policy recommendations helps them to be well-informed enough to support us. My highlight was meeting with a CA legislative aide who is a fellow CA native and sincerely wanted to be updated on my progress and pain points. We all had a laugh about him agreeing to let me go into “the weeds” concerning the licensing process, pun intended.
Since Lobby Days, President Biden announced the upcoming FDA and DEA review of cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug. It could potentially be de-scheduling within the next 12 to18 months! However, to date, only seven states provide licensing priority, exclusivity, or set aside a percentage of licenses for qualified social equity applicants. The same way the SAFE Banking act should be passed with amendments fostering equity, state, and future federally legalized cannabis programs must include targeted equity programs to help level the playing field. I look forward to returning to D.C. in May for 2023 NCIA Lobby Days!
Raina Jackson is a multifaceted cannabis brand strategist, product developer, and advocate, and is the founder & CEO of PURPLE RAINA Self Care, the culmination of her love for beauty wellness products, the color purple, and the musical and cultural phenomenon Prince. For the past 7 years she has worked in the San Francisco Bay Area cannabis industry in sales management, field marketing, distribution, and product development, and a verified SF Cannabis Equity applicant in Oakland and San Francisco. For the past year she has served on the NCIA Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Committee and the Regulatory Compliance subcommittee.
Raina has over 15 years of experience in beauty/wellness care product development, sales/ marketing management, and product education at Maybelline, L’Oréal Professional, and Design Essentials Salon System and has taught cosmetology at The Aveda Institute in SoHo NYC. A San Francisco native, Raina earned a B.A. degree in cultural anthropology and linguistics from Stanford University and an MBA in marketing and management from NYU.
by Mike Lomuto, NCIA’s DEI Manager
On September 13-14, Social Equity applicants and operators from around the country traveled to Washington D.C. as part of NCIA’s Lobby Days. Lobby Days provides the opportunity for NCIA members to speak directly with national lawmakers about the issues most important to small cannabis businesses – from SAFE banking to federal de-scheduling. This first-ever DEI delegation was supported by our members’ contributions to the Social Equity Scholarship Fund, and was the first of its kind – intentionally bringing diverse voices from our membership to Lobby Days.
Due to the pandemic, this was our first in-person Lobby Days since the launch of our DEI Program in 2019, and the launch of our Social Equity Scholarship Program in Spring of 2020. Since then, we have been coalescing our members’ diverse voices into clear perspectives and opinions on the direction of our industry. Something that our DEI Program is very proud of is that at this year’s Lobby Days we supplied talking points with the purpose of creating a proper impact.
Some of these talking points were sourced from the excellent white paper on SAFE Banking by the Cannabis Regulators of Color Coalition, which provides very thorough recommendations including: Requiring federal banking regulators to identify best practices to achieve racial equity in financial services; and Clarifying that cannabis criminal records are not an automatic red flag. Notably, this group which has some of its roots from NCIA’s very first Catalyst Conversation over two years ago, and its Treasurer, Rafi Crockett, now serves on NCIA’s DEI Committee.
The Social Equity applicants and operators comprising the delegation spoke directly to lawmakers on the kind of real changes we need for DEI and social equity to become a reality in our industry, in particular regarding SAFE banking. From their experience as professionals and advocates in the industry they were able to provide much-needed insight into how legislation impacts owners, operators, budtenders, and the social equity community in particular at the ground level. These conversations proved to be the missing link for a lot of these elected officials on Capitol Hill who stated their support for making a more equitable industry and righting the wrongs of the war on drugs, but lack real-life experience on the matter.
“My highlight was meeting with a CA legislative aide who is a fellow CA native and sincerely wanted to be updated on my progress and pain points. We all had a laugh about him agreeing to let me go into “the weeds” concerning the licensing process, pun intended.”
NCIA Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Committee (DEIC)
“As I moved from meeting to meeting, one thing became crystal clear; there’s a knowledge gap that surrounds this plant, a gap fueled by learned behaviors, stigmas, pain, gain, and loss. This message rang clear to me from members and staff of both the senate and house…”
NCIA Education Committee and Health Equity Working Group
“From my experience, I learned that people make a difference. The people who make the laws don’t know everything and us providing information and answers can and may make that difference”
NCIA DEI Committee
“NCIA Lobby Days was an interesting peek behind the curtain of how the sausage is made in D.C. It became easier to see why some politicians seem so ill-informed about cannabis. Elected officials may themselves come from a state with draconian laws and politics about cannabis. Mix that with their staffers/advisors being recent college grads from other parts of the country with those same conditions, and you have a recipe for horrific policy. What was refreshing however was the amazing amount of knowledge that some of those staffers did possess both about cannabis policy and the plant itself. Not surprisingly they without fail worked for pro-cannabis congresspersons.”
NCIA DEI Committee – Subcommittee Regulation
“In each session, as I spoke about equity in underserved communities, the representative(s) appeared as it was the first time hearing the phrase Safe Equitable banking. Through their perplexed faces, I saw them registering that safe, equitable banking is needed.” – Toni
“I’ve never done something like this before sounds so cliche but it’s the best way to describe this eye-opening experience of speaking directly to Congressional staff about what it means to be a small business owner in the cannabis space. The challenges and hurdles that we have to deal with because of 280e and cannabis being a “controlled substance” are real and huge burdens to us as small businesses and owners of color. The lack of banking and financing is exponentially more damaging and difficult to black and brown communities because of our historic lack of fair and equitable access to this vital resource. This lobby days opportunity strengthened my resolve to be a loud voice for the Latino and black communities to ensure we have our seat at the table from this day forward!”
“Everyone we met with was compelled by the financial and public safety benefits that SAFE would offer under any form of cannabis decriminalization, from CBD with low-THC to adult consumption” – Raina Jackson
All in all, the consensus was that it was a valuable experience and folks would take the time to lobby again and encourage others to do the same. Lobbying in DC is one part of many strategies that have the potential to spark policy change at the federal level and without a doubt, getting a chance to speak personally to experienced industry professionals with a social equity lens was invaluable for the policymakers.
Next year we are pledging to double or even triple our DEI delegation. If you’d like to be a part of making this happen, we are already accepting sponsorships as we plan for 2023’s event, NCIA’s 11th Annual Cannabis Industry Lobby Days on May 16-18, 2022.
If you did not get a chance to read our blog post before the delegation left for Washington, D.C. to participate in NCIA Lobby Days as part of the first-ever Lobby Days Social Equity Scholarship delegation, you can read more here.
by NCIA’s Risk Management and Insurance Committee
David Rahn, S2S Insurance Specialists
If you have a business in the cannabis industry, especially one that’s either newly operational or still in the pre-revenue stages, these businesses should have some sort of risk management plan put in place. Insurance is the cornerstone for any risk management plan if you want your business to recover after a financial or physical loss.
There are many types of insurance products to consider and it’s important for the business owner to have a knowledgeable Insurance broker who can help obtain tailored policies for your business. It’s important to consider the following questions below when seeking insurance for your business:
Depending on your needs discussed with your insurance broker, all businesses should at least have some sort of property & casualty coverage. Whether the size of your business is starting in your own home, or you have a commercial or industrial space, it would be paramount to explore General Liability and Commercial property insurance, as well as Product Liability Insurance:
Once you have those three policies secured, additional types of insurance would include:
It is very important to understand the right time to get your insurance. As always, it is important for you to build a good relationship with a knowledgeable insurance broker who can help you find the right time to buy insurance.
As your business grows and scales while you bring on outside investment, that’s the time when you should be considering your D&O and other management liability coverages.
It is important to always be honest and upfront with your insurance broker, especially when shopping for quotes. Your underwriting information needs to be accurate for you to obtain proper insurance coverage. You do not want to be underinsured or overinsured and pay for policies that you don’t need. A good place to start is with your business plan and projected revenues because that will help the insurance broker determine what products you may need. A well thought out business plan is the first step in being prepared in finding the right insurance.
NCIA Director of Communications Bethany Moore checks in with what’s going on across the country with the National Cannabis Industry Association’s membership, board, allies, and staff. Join us every other Thursday on Facebook for NCIA Today Live.
By Tara Coomans, CEO of Avaans Media
Member of NCIA’s Marketing and Advertising Committee
You may look at these 6 cannabis PR ideas and wonder what they have to do with PR, but your reputation is holistic and dynamic, and these PR tips add up to big value.
2022 has been a mixed bag for the cannabis industry. If you are feeling the pinch then you’re probably looking for ways to increase revenue without incurring considerable extra costs.
Corrections are quite literally a matter of time – it’s just part of capitalism. But with every correction comes a recovery and THAT’S what you should be planning for right now. It might seem difficult to plan for that day, but now is the time – especially since your competitors are probably cutting marketing budgets, if you maintain yours and mix in these ideas, you’ll be exceptionally well positioned for the happier days ahead.
Here’s some good news, see how the experts are bullish.
MJ Biz projects the cannabis industry’s impact will still be near $100 billion by 2022, and nearly $158 billion by 2026.
According to Viridian Capital Advisors, a financial and strategic advisory firm for the cannabis market, investors are encouraged to invest in cannabis stocks now, because they forecast a 2023 & 2024 with a 25% increase in revenues for the cannabis sector, with flat margins. More good news U.S. cannabis stocks with trade at EV/EBITDA multiples of 5.7x (a 60% increase over 2022) for 2023 and 4.6x (a 50% increase over 2022)for 2024.
If you’re a smaller brand, keep at it, Viridian says MSOs will continue to lose share to small operators in 2022.
According to Gallup, the percentage of U.S. adults who say they have tried marijuana is sitting at 49%, the highest measurement to date.
These projections show some pretty impressive growth – so don’t act too rashly yet. But, you should absolutely consider adding these tips to your planning so you can excel during this time and maximize brand value. Frankly, you should do these things in the best of times too, because they’re fruitful and evergreen ideas.
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” -Maya Angelou
Right now, we need to commit to the industry associations that are actively working to improve and defend our industry on the local level and the national level. When you join, ask how you can more actively support the organization. By supporting the organization, you’ll not only strengthen its mission, but you’ll also be able to get to know the people better too. Double down with your time and you’ll find the returns are immeasurable. Take full advantage of the membership benefits, if there are ways to share your point of view, maximize those. As the industry consolidates, people are looking to do work with people they trust and the best way to encourage trust is to be present, take part, show your commitment to the organization, the mission, and the people who are contributing to the industry. At Avaans Media, we’re big fans of the way National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) treats its members.
When was the last time your CEO attempted to make budtenders feel special? Now is a great time. Budtenders, like it or not, are the face of your brand to the consumer and trust me, they feel stressed about the cannabis industry’s challenges too. Why not do something no one else will do for the front line during when things get rough: treat them with respect. Small efforts can go a long, long way right now. I’m not talking about training, I’m talking about thinking of ways to thank budtenders right now, genuinely show your appreciation. It could be as simple as a surprise visit to every dispensary with gift cards. Sure you can go bold and that’s fantastic too, but if you can’t be bold, that’s not an excuse to do nothing. Everyone else will do nothing, do more and get more.
While we’re at it, let’s talk vendors. Sure, go ahead, negotiate good terms – AND uphold your end of the bargain. No one will forget that you drove a hard bargain, but that’s business. But go the extra mile and hold up your end of the deal as if your life was on the line because, from a brand perspective, it is. The last thing you want right now is lackluster partners or partners who don’t really love you, what you want right now is passion, the vendors who are going the extra mile for you-but to do that, you need to treat them well too. Any partner who will go through the craziness of a correction while looking out for you is worth their weight in gold, treat them that way. Pay on time, acknowledge their efforts, and the importance of the relationship. Put a little free-but-important muscle into it and watch how that pays dividends.
If you have to separate from employees or partners, do it with class. Be communicative and as fair as you can possibly be. Anything you do when severing a relationship, especially when it’s abrupt, will be especially remembered. So take a hard look at what your brand is worth and treat goodbyes with respect and dignity. If you’re letting employees go, be sensitive to timing. If you’re canceling a contract, have a real discussion with your partner about how to do it fairly. It’s easy to feel shame about these conversations, but don’t hide from them. Yes, these conversations are the worst kind to have, but during the tough times, it’s what you do more than what you say that people will remember.
Customers are the obvious driver of revenue. Now is a great time to make being your customers more fun. Think about what’s REALLY important to your customers. What drives their motivations? Reward cost-conscious customers with small incentives like purchase cards that can be turned in for promotional products. If your customers are creative, how can you encourage them to spend their creative energies on their brand commitment? It could be making the inside of your packaging a game, it could be encouraging them to share your brand through social media. And by the way, track your most passionate brand advocates on social media and never forget to celebrate them and acknowledge them. No cannabis brand is too big to thank its customers right now.
“When they go low, we go high,” -Michelle Obama
You might not have had the time last year to really see where your best success stories were, but now is the time to look – and celebrate – what worked by actually increasing the heat of what’s doing well. Invest in things that are working well. Increase ROI of the things that are already returning value by committing to them at a whole new level. If your brand is great at social media, keep at it and make it better. Issue a special version of your most popular product line. Really taking a stand and focus on something you do well will make you stand out from the pack and return more ROI as your competitors struggle to figure out how to manage the dynamics of this marketplace.
Consumers know, especially your most passionate consumers, they can tell when you’ve made substitutions and formulation changes. As tempting as it may be to cut corners on the product right now, don’t. Keep your customers happy by maintaining quality while your competitors decrease theirs. Keeping the quality up doesn’t cost extra, but decreasing quality will cost you in the short and long run.
Incentivize your sales, marketing and PR teams & vendors with trackable KPIs and hold them accountable. Self-serving as this sounds, if you devest cannabis PR, marketing and sales now, you’ll struggle to regain market share when the market starts its inevitable upward tick. Resist the urge to reduce these expenses because the hidden costs are ginormous and tend to extrapolate themselves in silent but deadly ways over years, not months. I’ve seen this happen over and over again, eliminating these roles, or worse, hiring someone for cheaper, costs companies more. Instead, attend sales, marketing, and PR meetings and show that you’re in touch with the marketplace and work collectively to address issues early. Make sure you’re keeping a close eye on benchmarks and competitors so you have a real idea of how you’re faring in comparison.
Kindness, professionalism, and time don’t cost extra, but they can be the difference-maker. Now is a great time to really make your brand stronger. Now is a good time to focus on the solutions that will bring you the most value and even increase trust so you can maximize your opportunities during a rebound.
Tara Coomans, is CEO of Avaans Media, a digitally forward PR agency that specializes in emerging industries, from startup through IPO, including cannabis PR, since 2015. Services include bespoke PR for ambitious cannabis companies as well as PR Sprints exclusively for consumer brands and products. Avaans Media is based in Los Angeles, with distributed team members around the country including Washington D.C., New York, Oregon, Illinois, and Colorado. Coomans is on NCIA’s Marketing & Advertising (MAC) committee and leads the MAC Experts Directory subcommittee for 2021. Coomans is a frequent writer and speaker on public relations, marketing, and social media topics.
If you want to take your industry involvement to the next level, now is the time to get involved with one of NCIA’s 14 member-driven committees! NCIA is excited to announce that from now until November 11, we are accepting applications for the 2023 term!
APPLICATION EXTENSION INFORMATION:
Committee applications for the 2023 committee term HAS BEEN EXTENDED and is now open through November 25th, 2022! All NCIA members are encouraged to apply!
*Due to overwhelming interest we can not guarantee a committee assignment.
All NCIA annual members in good standing are invited to apply for an NCIA committee seat for the 2023 committee term.
NCIA Committees enable current NCIA members to engage their vast and varied areas of expertise and passion to:
See the full list of committees here.APPLY TODAY
Just two short weeks ago, the NCIA’s Marketing & Advertising committee proudly announced Claybourne Co. as the winner of the second annual Best of 420 Award for the brand’s “Rolling with Claybourne Road to 420” campaign live from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas during MJ Unpacked.
During a wonderful evening hosted by Michael Kauffman, MAC member and Executive Director of the Clio Music and Clio Cannabis programs, Kary Radestock, MAC committee chair, presented the Claybourne Co. team with a Clio trophy recognizing the brand’s creativity, community impact, and the overall success of their “Stash and Grab” merch drops spread throughout California highlighting the launch of the brand’s statewide delivery program.
Claybourne Co. celebrated California locations which have very few dispensaries, also known as “Pot Deserts,” and gave the cannabis community an opportunity to come together.
The MAC committee had many in attendance including Vice Chair Eric Becker of MadisonJay Solutions, Chair Kary Radestock of Hippo Premium Packaging, committee member and Clio Cannabis Executive Director Michael Kauffman, Committee Organizer Allison Disney of Receptor Brands, Best of 420 subcommittee lead Tara Coomans of Avaans PR and member Vanessa Valdovinos of HUSH.
Congratulations to all the nominees and we look forward to celebrating the “Best of 4/20” again in 2023! Stay tuned for more details to be announced in the coming months as we’re excited to continue providing this platform to elevate the industry’s most successful, creative, and community-focused campaigns next year.
If you’re interested in contributing to these efforts (and other special projects like it) then we invite you to join the association and apply to participate on one of our 14 member-led committees this coming term. Complete details will be released later month and applications to apply for the 2022-2023 term will open up in early December for all annual NCIA members in good standing.
Don’t forget! Blooming and Evergreen members are automatically guaranteed a seat (single or multiple) on one of our 14 sector committees. If you want to take your industry involvement to the next level, now is the time. Don’t pass up this opportunity to enhance your team’s leadership skills and expand their professional networks all while providing the opportunity to effect change and develop best practices to shape the future of our industry.
What happens in Vegas certainly stays in Vegas but if you’re really looking to relive the magic then you can view the full album of 2022 Clio Cannabis Award winners here. Plus learn more about the other 2022 Speciality Award recipients honored at the event including NCIA’s Best of 4/20 marketing campaign contest here.
Thank you once again to the Clio organization, all of the volunteers who worked to put this together, sponsors Cannabis Insurance Wholesalers, Hippo Premium Packaging, and Receptor Brands, along with media sponsor Honeysuckle Magazine. We truly can’t thank everyone involved enough for elevating this program to new heights this year.
In this edition of our NCIA Committee Insights series originally aired on Wednesday, September 28, 2022 members of NCIA’s State Regulations Committee convened a panel of government affairs, business development and licensing experts for an in-depth discussion focusing on cannabis ballot initiatives up for a vote this coming November.
They provided a detailed overview on the status of each campaign so that you’ll learn how best to position yourself for success and what you can do to help push these efforts across the finish line. If you’re considering business Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri either of the Dakotas then this session is specifically geared for you.
At the conclusion of the discussion they hosted a moderated Q&A session to provide NCIA members an opportunity to interact with leading minds from the cannabis regulatory and licensing space, join today to contribute to future conversations!
• Provide practical information to NCIA members about the cannabis ballot initiatives and potential new business opportunities.
Presentation Slide Deck: https://bit.ly/3RD8ivn
Director of Regulatory Operations
CEO & Founder
Government Relations & Business Development
Senior Managing Associate
Thompson Hine LLP
by Mike Lomuto, NCIA’s DEI Manager
Over the past few months, the NCIA has been hard at work in social equity and the emerging New York market. NCIA’s Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee has organized an ongoing roundtable discussion with various ally organizations including NYC NORML, Minorities for Medical Marijuana (M4MM), Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA), The People’s Ecosystem, the JUSTUS Foundation, Black and Brown Economic Power in Cannabis (BBEPIC), and the Social Equity Co-Chairs of the New York City/Hudson Valley Cannabis Industry Association (NYCCIA/HVCIA), and Unified Legacy Operators Council (UNLOC), and social equity cannabis business owners from existing markets.
These discussions have centered around the proposed New York regulations, policies, and concerns. We all share a common goal to provide sensible and workable solutions to the state famous for “stop and frisk” in alignment with the goals of New York, to create a diverse, inclusive, and socially equitable cannabis industry.
What emerged from our roundtable discussions over the last few months are robust proposals regarding key regulatory changes and solutions to the New York regulators as they deliberate their proposed rules that will affect the industry. If our proposed comments were to be adopted, we are confident New York will see more equitable pathways for folks who potentially would be left behind otherwise. In particular, we strongly recommend their definitions of justice be broadened and we included proposals to that effect. We also encourage the regulators to create more pathways and solutions for legacy operators still in the shadows to be able to enter the legitimacy of the industry. Further, we proposed sensible changes to align New York to more national standards in labeling, advertising, packaging, licensing, and operations.
Our coalition roundtable based our recommendations on combined decades of experience on the frontlines and in the communities that will be impacted by these regulations. Our proposals are workable solutions the state of New York can incorporate in order to solidify equity in the industry as they come online.
As a roundtable coalition that is New York focused but with national reach, we’re proud to be able to work alongside our allies to create a think tank that will affect future markets beyond the big apple as they struggle with the concept of good and effective social equity programs. For far too long, the road has been paved with good intentions that fall short of the destination needed for true social equity. Our New York Social Equity Roundtable has brought together people from various sectors and organizations who fundamentally understand that and who are passionate about bridging the disparity all too prevalent in the cannabis industry.
by Kameron Richards and Steven Schain
Members of NCIA’s Banking & Financial Services Committee
Obtaining legitimate, cannabis-friendly financial services is among the cannabis industry’s biggest hurdles. Obtaining financial services is challenging for dispensaries, marijuana grows, and testing labs but it could also be an obstacle for non-plant touching businesses or individuals engaged in the cannabis industry. Without cannabis-friendly financial services, individuals and businesses related to the cannabis industry are deprived of simple financial solutions, like checking accounts, resulting in large amounts of cash being held at company facilities or the operator’s residence, posing significant risks.
Because only a small amount of insured banks and credit unions offer cannabis businesses financial services, finding cannabis-friendly financial services offered by FDIC or NCUA/CUNA institutions is challenging, and following a certain approach may fortify the longevity of a relationship with a financial institution.
Thorough onboarding initiates the account opening process for cannabis companies seeking financial services. Cannabis-friendly financial institutions exercise enhanced due diligence at account opening for compliance purposes, which will be further discussed in this article.
Financial institutions may require information on state licensing, corporate structure, and governance documents. Institutions generally collect information regarding the company’s underlying products and whether those products or services violate The Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”). Information collected during the onboarding process often determines the institution’s fee, risk-based categorization, and willingness to provide financial services to a particular cannabis company.
During the onboarding process, cannabis companies should determine if the financial institution provides all services necessary for its specific operation. The services offered by cannabis-friendly financial institutions may vary based on its risk tolerance.
Financial institutions serving the cannabis industry must comply with The Bank Secrecy Act’s (“BSA”) requirements set forth in the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network’s (“FinCEN”) BSA Expectations Regarding Marijuana Banking (FIN-2014-G001) (“FinCEN Guidance”). To mitigate the possibility of money laundering, institutions assemble extensive risk-based BSA programs centered around assessing the risk of each cannabis account and detecting and reporting “Red Flags” set forth by FinCEN Guidance.
To understand the constraints under which financial institutions are forced to operate, cannabis companies should familiarize themselves with relevant cannabis industry regulatory guidance and, if possible, structure its operations to ease its financial institution’s compliance efforts. Further, cannabis companies should understand any contractual terms and operation of any specific cannabis programs required by its financial institution (e.g., participation in cannabis-specific programs to support loan approvals, liquidity management or the coordination of cash courier services).
FinCEN Guidance requires institutions to perform enhanced due diligence on cannabis companies, because the risk category of each cannabis account is determined during the onboarding process, institutions are required to obtain corporate and state licensing documentation and detect any negative news on the potential account signers and the business.
Because there is no mandated risk-based structure for institutions to follow, it is critical that cannabis companies know its institution’s specific risk-based structure. Further, if a cannabis company is utilizing more than one institution, it should understand that each institution’s risk-based categorization may have specific factors or considerations. Some institutions use a tiering structure (which can vary by institution) or make this determination based on the direct or indirect relationship that the account’s source of funds has with cannabis prohibited by the CSA. An institution’s risk-based categorization could determine an account holder’s compliance obligations or eligibility for financial services such as lending, treasury services, payment processing, and 401(k)/retirement solutions.
After completing the onboarding process and placing cannabis accounts in the requisite risk profile (which may vary among institutions), institutions are obligated to conduct ongoing enhanced due diligence on cannabis accounts in accordance with the risk each account poses.
This enhanced due diligence encompasses staying abreast of corporate changes, confirming that all licenses are up to date and conducting periodic negative news checks that indicate FinCEN Guidance “Red Flags.” It can also include a litany of happenings that cannabis account holders may not be aware of. While cannabis account signers may be compliant, without any negative news on them or their business, their institution could also close an account due to adverse information from tax and state licensing authorities or wrongdoing by employees or vendors. Cannabis account holders should also be aware of transactions prohibited by its institution’s policies and procedures like commingling funds between non-plant touching and plant touching accounts or transferring funds to and from vague accounts at unaware institutions unwilling to serve the cannabis industry.
Cannabis account holders with multiple relationships should be aware that each institution’s closure protocol may vary in response to adverse information or conducting transactions prohibited by internal policies and procedures (account termination terms are often contained in the depository agreement between the institution and cannabis account holder).
Beyond assisting a business’ core functioning, maintaining relationships with legitimate financial institutions leads to strategic advantages for a cannabis company and its owners and operators, like financing or payment processing.
Further, because FinCEN requires institutions to monitor and report cannabis account transactions and file a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) when a cannabis account is opened or closed or if “Red Flags” are detected; cannabis companies can protect their accounts and businesses by knowing applicable laws and regulations and their institution’s cannabis-specific programs’ policies and procedures.
by Mike Lomuto, NCIA’s DEI Manager
NCIA is proud to announce that for the first time, thanks to the support of our members, we have awarded nine Lobby Days Equity Scholarships to support our Social Equity members with travel expenses to attend NCIA’s Lobby Days in Washington, D.C., on September 13-14. These Social Equity applicants and operators from around the country are leaders and active contributors to NCIA’s Sector Committees, our DEI Initiatives (particularly policy-related ones), and to advocacy efforts in their local and/or state municipalities.
Lobby Days provides the opportunity for NCIA members to come together to advocate for the issues most important to small cannabis businesses — from SAFE Banking to federal de-scheduling — and to share their personal stories with national lawmakers.
Our delegation includes:
Dr. Adrian Adams, Ontogen Botanicals CBD
Ambrose Gardner, Elev8
LaVonne Turner, Puff Couture
Michael Diaz-Rivera, Better Days Delivery
Osbert Orduña, The Cannabis Place
Raina Jackson, Purple Raina
Toni MSN, RN, CYT, Toni
We asked our DEI delegation why attending Lobby Days was important to them. Here are some of their responses:
“I want our elected officials to hear my story which gives a voice to so many others, who like me, grew up in areas that have disproportionately borne the brunt and weight of cannabis enforcement. Children and young adults, whose only crime was being poor and of color, faced the indignity of being stopped and frisked hundreds of times. Now after paying the ultimate entry price, we can not get in the door of the cannabis industry because of a lack of banking and lending opportunities that continue to shut us out of the cannabis market.
The de-scheduling of cannabis, the passing of SAFE Banking, or the repeal of IRC 280E all would immediately increase the opportunities for small cannabis businesses like mine to have a true opportunity for success, growth, and economic empowerment of our communities.”
– Osbert Orduña, The Cannabis Place
“As the industry grows and moves towards federal legalization, our elected officials must hear constituents’ voices. It’s important that my energy, face, and voice are present, representing the need for safe banking, health equity, and policies that support federal legalization. As states continue to legalize adult recreational cannabis usage, there will be an increased need for cannabis health equity to address the social, political, and economic conditions in underserved communities.
I’m committed to increasing awareness of the importance of education, employee retention, and community wellness in these communities.”
– Toni MSN, RN, CYT, Founder of Toni
NCIA’s Education Committee & Health Equity Working Group
“I have begun to work on lobbying at a local level. Federal legalization, descheduling, decarceration, social equity, health equity, and safe banking are some of the areas that I would like to learn how to lobby for at the national level.”
– Michael Diaz-Rivera, Owner/Operator, Better Days Delivery
“We should not stop at using the SAFE Banking Act merely to provide legal and regulatory protection for financial institutions. That will enable, but not ensure, increased banking services for minority-owned cannabis and hemp companies.
As the regulatory gaps between state and federal governments are addressed, there must be mechanisms to prevent predatory practices while opening access to capital.”
– Dr. Adrian Adams, Ontogen Botanicals CBD
It is important to the NCIA, and its membership for Main Street Cannabis to continue to develop in as diverse, equitable, and inclusive a manner as we can achieve. As the industry has thus far failed at creating tangible Social Equity, it’s important to ensure our efforts this September to include these voices and the communities they represent.
As the official DEI delegation, the Lobby Days Equity Scholarship recipients will provide a foundational understanding of matters related to DEI in the industry for all NCIA members present at Lobby Days. The DEI delegation will ensure that there are members present speaking up on matters of DEI from within an important national trade association and within the context of Main Street Cannabis.
NCIA’s Government Relations team has organized a full day of meetings with Lawmakers and their Offices. New citizen lobbyists will receive online training before the event and are grouped together with experienced industry leaders who can help them find their voice. There will be an opening networking reception for all attendees, and a closing event featuring some of NCIA’s most important allies in Congress.
We are still accepting sponsorships to fully fund Lobby Days Equity Scholarships to ensure our recipients have their travel and lodging expenses covered while in Washington, D.C. Contact MikeLomuto@TheCannabisIndustry.org for more information.
Let’s keep building a better industry together, as we bring our voices to Washington, D.C.
NCIA Director of Communications Bethany Moore checks in with what’s going on across the country with the National Cannabis Industry Association’s membership, board, allies, and staff. This week Bethany is joined by NCIA CEO Aaron Smith to talk about the importance of having your voice heard on Capitol Hill at our upcoming 10th Annual Cannabis Industry Lobby Days on September 13-14. Join us every other Thursday on Facebook for NCIA Today Live.
NCIA’s editorial department continues the Member Spotlight series by highlighting our Social Equity Scholarship Recipients as part of our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Program. Participants are gaining first-hand access to regulators in key markets to get insight on the industry, tips for raising capital, and advice on how to access and utilize data to ensure success in their businesses, along with all the other benefits available to NCIA members.
I am a first-generation Latino of Colombian descent, Spanish was my first language and my dad spent most of my youth incarcerated. I grew up in NYC Public Housing projects, and I have first-hand knowledge of the indignity of what it feels like to personally be stopped and frisked nearly 100 times which is what happened to me as a kid and young adult for doing nothing else than being a poor Latino growing up in the hood. I was an Education Opportunity Fund scholar and the first in my family to go to college, where I received a degree in business, and a graduate certificate in law. I earned the designation of Disabled Veteran while serving in Iraq with the United States Marine Corps, and I am also a 9/11 first responder. I retired after a career in public service, and have worked as an entrepreneur for over 10 years, and know what it takes to start a business from scratch, without a rich uncle, generational wealth, or rich financial backers.
In late 2020 and early 2021, I had the opportunity to visit 50 non-MSO recreation and medical dispensaries in five states on the east and west coast. I wanted to learn more about dispensaries and best practices across the industry, but my trip opened my eyes to a different reality. Forty-nine of the dispensaries were owned by white males and one was owned by a white female, not one owner looked like me or shared a similar background. None of these dispensary owners had been stopped and frisked hundreds of times for no other reason than just because they lived in an area with historically high rates of arrests and enforcement from over-policing. Yet they were now engaged in an industry that seemed to exclude us. My trip left me sad but determined to enter the cannabis market so that people who look like me who came from the struggle of the streets, and were collateral damage in the war on drugs could have a chance. I was determined to create a positive example for Latinos and others to follow.
The Cannabis Place offers a unique value proposition which is our commitment to launching as a union cannabis dispensary on day one. As of yet, we are the only dispensary in the state of New Jersey and the nation to propose this. By launching our business as a unionized shop we are being a partner to our Jersey City, NJ community. Our value proposition promises that we will be a responsible and proactive member of the community that provides union career opportunities with true living wages that will empower our team members to provide upward mobility for themselves, their families, and the greater community. Furthermore, we are engaged as a Workforce Development partner with Cornell University, the Workforce Development Institute, and Hudson County (NJ) Workforce Development Board. With these partnerships, we will develop standardized training modules that will be utilized to train prospective dispensary workers and provide opportunities for those seeking cannabis careers in this new and emerging industry.
Our mission: To provide high-quality cannabis to clients with a consistent product and first-class service they can trust. To build our brand on the core values of client service and care, while maintaining the highest standards of quality, integrity, and community outreach.
As the CEO of The Cannabis Place, our primary goal for the greater good of cannabis is to advocate and support a proactive approach to adult-use by providing a local and safe environment to dispense cannabis products. We operate as a social impact cannabis brand and are dedicated to providing consistent access to safe and reliable cannabis products that are ethically grown and sourced. Our aim is to launch the first unionized cannabis dispensary in New Jersey, leading by example, and demonstrating to other businesses that true success is based on placing people over profits.
Our goals are as follows:
Our advocacy at The Cannabis Place is based on workers rights, especially organization, fairness and quality healthcare. We believe that it should be easier for people in all job fields to organize. At The Cannabis Place we support the implementation of legislation that will raise the minimum wage floor for all workers in our community, to provide for true living wages that place people over profits. Workers in all industries deserve more from the moment they are hired. Like many others I grew up as part of the working poor, in public housing with limited minimum wage job opportunities, without healthcare and with minimal alternatives to life on the streets. At The Cannabis Place we believe that by providing our workforce with union careers with true living wages and full benefits, our team members, their families and their communities will feel the immediate difference of financial stability, long-term growth, and the impact of upward financial mobility to help them support their family and to build a better life.
Latinos are consistently underrepresented in terms of business owners throughout all industries. Now when you focus specifically on cannabis and look at a national level, just 5.7% of all license types are held by the Hispanic community. I have seen challenges in the cannabis industry in two key areas, access to capital and the real estate market. It takes money to make money so if you grew up poor, without generational wealth, no rich uncle, no hedge fund connections or oligarchs to call on, how do you raise funds to have the millions that are needed to launch a dispensary or grow? Next and along the same lines is real estate. A lot of landlords won’t lease to cannabis businesses but unfortunately, our experience has been that again a predatory market exists where cannabis rental rates are 2 to 10 times the normal lease rates for the area. The other option is to buy a commercial parcel which brings us back to issue #1 – access to capital. I am ever the optimist, and I see the Latino community growing in the legal cannabis industry as entrepreneurs, c-suite members, and as leaders in the industry bringing our unique insight and sabor to the industry while creating opportunities for generational wealth for our community. In order to get there, we need to bridge the gap through social equity grants and loans that can help Hispanic cannabis entrepreneurs raise enough capital to start their business, and receiving financial education is also crucial for Hispanic entrepreneurs in multiple phases of the cannabis business planning timeline.
We are a Disabled Veteran and Latino-owned company with a core focus on community impact through social impact so the ability to be a Social Equity Scholarship recipient in an organization like the NCIA, a group who are actually dedicated to ensuring that small cannabis businesses have a seat at the table in Washington, D.C. and beyond, was super important to us. We look forward to learning new information and utilizing networking opportunities to help us grow and succeed in the cannabis industry.
The fact that NCIA is leading change to protect the legal cannabis industry, advocate for our state laws, advance federal policy reforms, and to make this a more inclusive and prosperous space by working together to defend the responsible cannabis industry. Creating more opportunities for small businesses rather than just the wealthiest few is the most important thing for us as members of the Social Equity Scholarship Program.
The Cannabis Place 420 Corp is the first ever Disabled Veteran and Minority Owned Business enterprise to successfully navigate the Jersey City, NJ municipal cannabis dispensary approval process in this new and emerging cannabis market.
By Jodi Green, Miller Nash LLP; Shay Gilmore, The Law Office of Shay Aaron Gilmore
Members of NCIA’s Risk Management and Insurance Committee
Although the concept of state-legal cannabis has been around in some shape or form since 1996, cannabis remains illegal to consume in most public places. In other words, legal cannabis consumption remains relegated to back alleys, derailing efforts to “normalize” cannabis use. Tourists visiting popular cities where weed is legal are caught in the unenviable Catch-22 of being able to purchase, but not publically consume, the product. And those who attempt to use cannabis in public still face criminal penalties in some states, with minorities three times more likely to be targeted for arrest, perpetuating racial disparities at a tremendous social cost.
Enter the cannabis lounge. Cannabis lounges — also known as “consumption lounges,” cannabis cafes, or some variation on that theme — are in simplest terms the cannabis equivalent of a bar or restaurant. Depending on state and local regulations, lounges offer users the chance to congregate in a public place and smoke a joint, try out a $500 gravity bong, or sip on a cannabis drink. With any luck, consumers may enjoy their cannabis with a snack or dinner, but mixing with alcohol is typically not allowed.
As with any “new” risks, some cities, states, and insurers are… concerned. Despite some obvious tax and social benefits, detractors cite a host of reasons to prevent lounges from coming to a city near you, including at the forefront: fears of public nuisance (odors, theft, and disruption) and overconsumption — especially because most states insulate cannabis cafes from liability for harm caused by obviously intoxicated or underage users, unlike dram shop laws for alcohol.
As another NCIA member recently pointed out, even in states that do allow cannabis cafes, regulatory bodies continue to struggle with how to shape the laws and regulations governing lounges to afford adequate consumer protection while allowing businesses to thrive. Moreover, without a better understanding of the regulatory landscape, some insurers — whose business model hinges on the ability to accurately price a risk — may be unwilling to play in this new cannabis lounge market.
Alaska led the country in 2019 in licensing on-site consumption. A handful of states and localities have followed Alaska’s guide, and more are anticipated to join this year, including Michigan and New York. We compare a few regulatory schemes below and also consider the impact of dram shop legislation on risks faced by the industry.
California, governed on the state level by the Medicinal and Adult Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act, delegates to localities the right to open consumption lounges. Put simply, cities have to affirmatively “opt in” to allow lounges. With a few contingencies — including that patrons must be 21 or older and no alcohol or tobacco can be sold on premises — “a local jurisdiction may allow for the smoking, vaporizing, and ingesting of cannabis or cannabis products on the premises of a” licensed retailer. See BPC § 26200(g).
To date, only a few localities have opted in to allow cannabis lounges, including San Francisco, Oakland, and Palm Springs. West Hollywood, in efforts to create an epicenter for canna-tourism, plans to allow up to 16 lounges within its jurisdiction. Because state law provides little regulatory guidance for lounges, localities generally provide more specific guidance. As an example, West Hollywood’s local municipal code requires security guards on site, as well as within a two-block radius surrounding the business during operation, and allows the sale of cannabis to an individual “in an amount reasonable for onsite consumption.” West Hollywood Municipal Code §5.70.041. Only one lounge is currently open in West Hollywood, the Artist Tree’s Studio Cannabis Lounge, which offers not only lounge access but cannabis yoga, live music, and comedy shows, along with a revolving selection of local art. The Woods, another West Hollywood dispensary with a soon-to-open courtyard lounge space, is also slated to open in 2022.
Although California law significantly limits third-party liability for alcohol-related accidents, it does not afford cannabis owners the same protection. For example, California Civil Code §1714 explicitly states that furnishing alcohol “is not the proximate cause of injuries resulting from intoxication,” which has essentially absolved bars, restaurants, party hosts, and most others of potential liability for selling or furnishing alcohol to customers and guests with an exception for liability arising from the furnishing of alcohol to an “obviously intoxicated minor.” See California Business & Professions Code § 25602.1. Without similar protections for cannabis lounges, injured parties could attempt to sue under a negligence theory if a business or employee serves an intoxicated patron who causes harm.
As of January 1, 2020, local jurisdictions in Colorado can opt-in to the state’s cannabis hospitality business license regime (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 44-10-609), and as of March of 2022, the City of Denver has approved cannabis hospitality businesses for operation. Denver operators include the first social equity applicant in Denver approved for a hospitality license, the Tetra Lounge, although from its website Tetra Lounge’s website describes itself as “a private lounge,” requiring a monthly or annual membership fee and a liability waiver to gain access.
As to dram shop liability, although Colorado law authorizes damages against a licensee for willfully and knowingly selling or serving alcoholic beverages to a visibly intoxicated person, the Colorado Legislature caps liability at $150,000 (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 12-47-801 (3)(II)(c)). This damages cap improves (i.e., reduces) the ISO hazard grade, resulting in the improvement of insurance options available for liquor liability. The legislature has not adopted the same or a similar damages cap on liability for cannabis consumption establishments.
In June 2021, Nevada’s Governor signed Assembly Bill 341 into law, authorizing the Nevada Cannabis Compliance Board (“CCB”) to license and regulate consumption lounges across the state, subject always to local approval. The State plans to issue up to 65 lounge licenses (40-45 for lounges attached to existing dispensaries, 20 for independent lounges) with 10 reserved for social equity applicants.
Most recently, on June 28, 2022, the CCB voted to unanimously approve a host of regulations for cannabis consumption lounges. Nevada’s extremely detailed state regulations prohibit the sale of “single use cannabis products” with more than 3.5 grams of “usable cannabis” and 10 mg of THC for edibles; prohibit the removal of any cannabis products from a lounge; require a mitigation plan for impaired driving and detailed employee training for overconsumption; and require consumer education and warnings to customers, among other things. As with other states, Nevada allows local jurisdictions to prohibit consumption lounges and to implement more stringent regulations than state law.
Unlike other states, however, Nevada law carves out protections for cannabis lounge operators just as it does for alcohol. Nevada law already protects businesses that serve or sell alcoholic beverages from injuries inflicted by an intoxicated person. And while any person who knowingly furnishes an alcoholic beverage to any person under 21 years of age is guilty of a misdemeanor, the law provides only for criminal penalties, not civil liability. The Nevada Supreme Court has repeatedly refused to impose responsibility on vendors selling alcohol absent a legislative provision. See Snyder v. Viani, 885 P.2d 610 (Nev. 1994) (holding consumption is the proximate cause of alcohol-related injuries and dismissing the negligence claim against a tavern owner for alcohol service). The same rules will apply to cannabis operators.
Over two years after full legalization of adult-use commercial cannabis in Illinois, cannabis lounges in Illinois are still relatively rare, with the first Chicago-area marijuana consumption lounge opening on April 20, 2022. Like other states, the State of Illinois does not directly license lounges, but it allows local governments to opt in.
Illinois creates a cause of action against sellers for injury by an intoxicated person. § 235 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/6-21. The standards for liability under the Illinois dram shop law include: (1) sale of alcohol to any person who, while intoxicated, causes injury, and (2) any person owning, renting, leasing, or permitting the occupation of any building or premises with knowledge that alcoholic liquors are to be sold therein, severally or jointly, along with the person selling or giving liquor. In Illinois, the Dram Shop Statute provides the exclusive remedy for alcohol related injuries. See Charles v. Seigfreid, 65 NE.2d. 154 (Ill. 1995). The Statute also provides stringent limitations on recovery of damages. There is no equivalent in Illinois for cannabis entities.
As with cannabis law generally, lounge operators face a patchwork of state and local regulations that vary tremendously by jurisdiction. In most places, cannabis lounge owners are not protected by dram shop/gram shop laws that otherwise insulate bars and restaurants from liability for overconsumption. This means that companies must be vigilant in protecting themselves from liability by instituting compliance and risk-management procedures.
In some instances, such as California’s West Hollywood, which has far fewer safeguards and guidelines than Nevada, operators are largely left to their own devices in implementing adequate risk transfer and risk management, compliance, employee training, and consumer education to limit risk of liability. While the West Hollywood municipal code requires lounges to limit cannabis sales of cannabis “in an amount reasonable for onsite consumption,” the “reasonableness” standard is rife with ambiguity and could lead to disputes regarding liability and assumption of risk if a patron overconsumes.
Evaluating and preventing overconsumption and intoxication will be particularly difficult for cannabis when: patrons have varying experience levels with cannabis; products can be sold in more than a single serving, and no specific consumer education is required. Thus, even in locations that have more stringent regulatory oversight, companies would be wise to consult with experienced counsel and consultants to avoid or limit potential risks associated with regulatory uncertainty, civil liability, and government penalties for non-compliance.
This brings us full circle to the question of insurance. Even in the states that allow consumption lounges, very few insurance companies provide coverage for on-site consumption (although some do). If an exclusion prohibits coverage, the company may not have coverage for important and sometimes catastrophic events, such as property damage by fire, theft/robbery, cyber events, sexual harassment or discrimination claims by employees or others, and bodily injuries to, or caused by, patrons (on and off premises).
Most existing property, general liability, products liability, and other insurance policies — including those written for the cannabis industry — expressly exclude coverage for on-site consumption or bodily injury caused by intoxication. In fact, some existing cannabis insurance companies include a “health hazard” exclusion in their policies, which exclude coverage for any bodily injury arising in any way from the use of cannabis, including any health injury. Cannabis insurance policies may also exclude coverage for intentional or illegal acts, which some insurers may try to apply to any claim involving cannabis on the basis that the sale of cannabis violates federal law (the Controlled Substances Act), even if it is state legal.
For current licensees that are planning to open an attached or adjacent consumption space, current insurance policies may not cover injuries arising in the lounge space. Further, any failure to identify a change in business type could prompt an insurance carrier to deny coverage for subsequent claims based on a theory of misrepresentation.
In closing, cannabis owners should attempt to negotiate separate and/or broader coverage that carves out coverage for their cannabis-related activities, including on premise consumption, with their current insurer or seek to obtain coverage from a different carrier. Experienced insurance coverage counsel can assist with identifying reputable insurance brokers and negotiating policies that provide such coverage. Because of the limited options, companies would be wise to begin the process of identifying experienced insurance coverage advisors at the beginning of their licensing journey.
Where are they now? This month, NCIA’s editorial department continues the monthly Member Spotlight series by following up with three of our Social Equity Scholarship Recipients as part of our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Program. Participants are gaining first-hand access to regulators in key markets to get insight on the industry, tips for raising capital, and advice on how to access and utilize data to ensure success in their businesses, along with all the other benefits available to NCIA members.
For reference, previous member spotlights
First off, we have rebranded. We are now Cannvas Events. The name change was part of our evolution and maturation as a startup. As we scaled, more resources became available for things like branding. We brought in Greg Hill of Brand Birth to deploy the science of branding and the end result was a new name, new logo, and new understanding of where we were situated in the regulated cannabis ecosystem. The transformation led to the planning and production of our signature Cannabis Event 2.0 offering, the inaugural Saturnalia Canna Carnival, taking place at the Trinity Health Arena in Muskegon, MI on August 2oth. We are powering a traditional indoor/outdoor carnival – rides and attractions included – with a hassle-free, normalizing consumption solution. If you’re in the Midwest, come join us as we celebrate the first year of an iconic, perennial cannabis festival. Tickets and info at cannvasevents.com and follow us @saturnaliacannacarnival
The Spotlight feature presented tremendous value. The first year of the cannabis startup journey is devoid of financial revenue. Unless you’re needle-in-the-haystack lucky, it’s not even a consideration. The money is flowing in the opposite direction. So, the only available revenue, or currency, are the relationships. If you’re fortunate, these become renewable resources upon which you can draw repeatedly, and managed properly, they have no expiration date. You can bank them like any currency and you have much more influence on their stability, than on fiat currency. For me, that one relationship was with Michael Schwamm, who leads the Duane Morris cannabis practice out of New York. Michael opened doors for me and got me into rooms that I was previously unaware existed. That access has made all of the difference for me, personally, and for Cannvas Events. And had it not been for the Spotlight, I would have never been in position to enjoy that access.
I’m impressed by the brilliant folks on the committee, and their dedication to making cannabis equitable. It takes time out of our grueling work days to contribute time on these committees but the contribution to making the industry better is crucial during these developmental years of cannabis. Perhaps our current misguided, harmful CA cannabis policies could have been prevented with more early participation from stakeholders who are stewards of the plant. However, there were many factors involved with the way CA policies were created, including special interest money from those who don’t care or want to see the industry fail.
It’s been a painful journey living through the consequences of these challenging policies as a cannabis operator. It takes a long time to change once it’s been passed. However, companies who are willing to work together in these important processes will survive and write a new path to move forward. Most of us can’t wait anymore for things to change so we need everyone’s active participation now, whether it’s writing an email to your constituents or being a part of NCIA!
Overburdensome taxes and high barriers to entry for licensing throughout the state are most obvious right now. The lack of diversity and equity, consumer education, state and federal funding for further research and development also play a huge role in CA’s struggles. I’m frustrated that the State doesn’t understand that those who have been dedicated to the industry, collaboration and this plant are the only ones who can truly guide this industry forward.
NCIA members can lend support by truly including legacy, equity, and other diverse teams into your conversations and partnerships, and opening our eyes to value brought to the table by different communities. I would also encourage members to think about ways we can create awareness to our consumers to make better buying decisions. We have left all the medical properties of cannabis while legalizing, and that’s also why the industry is failing. Lastly, we need to keep pushing for more consumption lounges and events!
At Endo Industries, we built our company on principles of collaboration, science, equity and inclusion. Most notably, we offer critical supply chain support through our tissue culture services, and certified virus-free clean clones for growers, breeders and brands. If you know good operators who could benefit from our support, please send them our way. I cannot stress enough that the work Endo is doing is crucial for the success of the supply chain right now.
We’ve gotten great exposure for being featured in Spotlight. Endo and myself are more internet searchable, which in this day in age means we are real people!
People started sharing the link to the Spotlight to use as an introduction to Endo and myself as a founder. We’ve been told by clients who decided to work with us because they came across the feature when researching Endo. It solidified their desire to pick us because we are bullish about our values because our business model is strategic and collaborative.
It’s great to be co-signed by a credible organization like NCIA, and it goes a long way for a small business that doesn’t have an abundance of marketing and PR resources. I’ve hid in the shadows for far too long. My journey and passion for cannabis needs to be told and celebrated. Endo as a company needs exposure so we can reach a larger audience. I’m grateful for NCIA and look forward to our continued relationship.
There is a lot new in the world of Next Level since our Equity Spotlight in September of 2021. In December, we had a booth, sponsored by the awesome team at The People’s Ecosystem, in Moscone Center at NCIA San Francisco. It was our first time attending an expo, let alone having a booth, and it was a great opportunity to grow our brand while creating relationships for future business opportunities. In the second week of the new year we launched our 1000 mg full spectrum coconut oil in Ivy Hill Oakland. And, later that month, we were welcomed into the Third Cohort of Momentum, Eaze’s Cannabis Business Accelerator. Two weeks before classes began, in early April, we launched our infused fast-acting brown sugar in 7 Star Holistic Healing Center. And in May, we attended MJ Unpacked NYC with other graduates of Our Academy.
California Cannabis is facing challenges on many fronts. Countless unnecessary hurdles to legal entry, political red tape, and excess packaging waste to name a few. But the biggest challenges are around security. Every week there is news of a new dispensary, farm, distributor, and friend being burglarized. High tech security systems, gates, and cameras are no match for organized thieves and slow police responses. Until we can get a portion of our excessive taxes dedicated to funding police divisions that specifically targets cannabis thieves, the best solution to combat this is to support your favorite brands by purchasing their products through legal cannabis retail sources.
Being in the Spotlight helped our company tremendously. It allowed us to grow our cannabis network as plant-touching and ancillary companies reached out from all over the country. In addition, the visibility it provided us helped connect with the team at The People’s Ecosystem which led to our booth at NCIA’s Cannabis Business Summit and our new supply chain partners. It provided the traction we needed to help us get to the next level.
by NCIA’s Education Committee
Brand drives revenue. Companies – in any industry – with a strong brand are able to sell their product at a premium price over the non-branded (or perhaps generic) products in their market or sector. Think of a few of the household names with strong brands (e.g., Apple, Tide, Chevron, or Peet’s Coffee). These companies have direct competitors but they are able to charge a higher price point because of their brand and the loyalty that comes with a positive brand experience. The companies also draw customers for repeat business every time they are in the market for the product. Loyalty drives repeat business. Revenue increases from investing in your brand far outweigh the costs, and many of those revenue increases are rewarded directly from training and developing employees.
Continuing our theme from a previous blog, investing in your employees has a direct correlation to building a strong brand, which leads to increased profits. Brand for most consumer products is experiential. Your customer has an experience from which they establish their association with your brand – both positive and negative. The experience may start with where the purchase was made, how the employees (e.g., budtenders) explained the product through the experience of using the product, and finally disposing of the product. Each touchpoint creates a personal brand experience and demonstrates the importance of training your employees throughout the sales and use cycles to provide exceptional customer service and education. Some key reasons cannabis employers should invest in their employees with a focus on brand include:
A strong company culture of collaboration, employee investment, and thoughtful branding increases your product’s value in a highly competitive market. Customers want to invest, via their purchase power, in businesses that value their employees through a commitment to the personal and professional success of their workers. A company that is able to and focused on enriching its staff is reaping the benefits of flourishing profit margins. The cannabis industry, and general industry as a whole, needs to focus beyond a feast or famine mindset. Investing in your employees builds trust, respect, and loyalty; this can be translated to customers. Building a stable and balanced community of educated employees and happy customers that is sustainable provides repeat sales.
Well-educated and trained employees work as teams, supporting each other and your business. They give back to their employer in many ways both tangible and intangible. For example, they will go out of their way to assist a customer, work a little faster towards the end of the day to get through the line of customers or help to recruit their friends to work at your company, minimizing hiring and onboarding expenses. Invest in your employees, and your teams will succeed. Training doesn’t require extensive budgets. Check here for access to a set of learning tools offered by NCIA. Team members will help each other, not let others fail. They will also drive product recommendations to the products they know (e.g., have been trained on the benefits). Happy employees reward their employer with increased profits by creating a positive brand association to your customers.
NCIA’s Education Committee assists with the design and development of educational programming for NCIA, and helps identify emerging topics in the cannabis space. Learn more about our members here.
NCIA’s editorial department continues the Member Spotlight series by highlighting our Social Equity Scholarship Recipients as part of our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Program. Participants are gaining first-hand access to regulators in key markets to get insight on the industry, tips for raising capital, and advice on how to access and utilize data to ensure success in their businesses, along with all the other benefits available to NCIA members.
My name is Adolfo Castillo. People who know me call me Ace. Before I started my first cannabis business, I had a 10-year career in the banking industry. I started in a call center as a customer service associate. I then moved into a traditional banking center where I learned sales and eventually became the assistant manager. It was at the end of my tenure in 2008 that my Tia Eloise was diagnosed with terminal cancer. At the request of my mother, she asked me to get some cannabis in hopes that it would help her sister eat. Although it did not cure cancer, it really helped her appetite and gave her a bit of relief. Unfortunately, my Tia Eloise lost that battle, but it was the relief that I was able to provide that helped bring me peace when she passed away. This all happened around the same time that bill SB 420 was signed into California law, establishing statewide guidelines for Prop. 215. This law paved the way for cooperatives and collectives to begin operating legally in my city. It was at that moment that my love for cannabis became a passion. I felt a need to help more people gain access to cannabis, so I partnered with a friend of mine who sold weed and I took what I had learned about business and applied it to opening my first medical cannabis dispensary.
I named the dispensary Banyan Tree after an experience I had in Maui about 13 years ago. It was my first visit to Maui so I decided not to bring any cannabis products to avoid any problems at the airport. When I arrived, I asked a few locals where I could find some good smoke and they all pointed me to the Banyan Tree. It was true. As soon as I found the Banyan Tree, I could tell this was the place to be. The smell was in the air and I met some really nice Hawaiians who were happy to hook me up. I want our guests to have the same experience when they visit our dispensary. Banyan Tree is a destination. A place where friends can meet to find quality cannabis.
As a local native, I understand the cannabis culture in my town. The legacy market has thrived for so long in Fresno. One of our biggest challenges will be convincing medicinal users and cannabis connoisseurs to buy their cannabis from a licensed facility and not from the streets. In order to create the best experience possible, it starts with a well-trained, knowledgeable staff. I am lucky to have two educators on my team who have helped me put together a robust employee development program that will ensure that the Banyan Tree staff will be primed for success.
My goal for Banyan Tree is to be the #1 dispensary to work for. I truly believe that the success of your business relies heavily on its employees. I want our employees to have purpose and feel proud of the work they do. Banyan Tree was built upon the idea of helping our surrounding community achieve wellness and enjoyment through cannabis. When you come to Banyan Tree, you will not be rushed, you will feel safe, your questions will be answered, and the price you pay will not shock you.
I am hopeful that I will see full legalization in my lifetime. As a cannabis business operator, I would like cannabis to be recognized as a normal commodity and not this taboo substance that has so much negativity around it and red tape. As a business owner, I would like cannabis commerce to transact and be accepted without any special rules in regards to banking and filing federal income tax. As outdated stereotypes are finally fading away, more and more consumers view cannabis as an integral part of their health and wellness routine. I’m confident that in 20 years we will look back at the history of cannabis and just laugh at all the nonsensical rules surrounding cannabis in the early 2000s.
Most cannabis operations are running all-cash businesses because mainstream, national banking institutions are not willing to support a federally illegal industry. A small number of state-chartered banks and credit unions have offered financial services to compliant operations, but establishing these relationships continues to be a significant challenge for operators.
An equally frustrating financial challenge is IRS Tax Code 280E, which states that “no deduction or credit shall be allowed in running a business that consists of trafficking a controlled substance.” This archaic code impacts cannabis businesses across the nation, causing unnecessary fiscal and operational stress.
I joined NCIA through the Social Equity Scholarship program to extend my network of cannapreneurs and to help develop best practices and guidelines that will shape the future of our industry. I would say for me, the best part of being a member of NCIA is the synergy. One of my favorite parts of the program is the “Power Hour.” Each week, Mike Lomuto hosts a zoom meeting dedicated to Social Equity members. It is where we have an opportunity to share ideas and find solutions to the issues we all face in our industry. I am very capable, but I recognize that by fostering relationships and collaborating with others in my industry, I can achieve far more than I could ever achieve on my own.