Video: NCIA Today – Friday, November 19, 2021

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

 

Member Blog: Why an Efficient Dispensary POS System is Crucial for Cannabis Retailers

by Steven Lynn, Director of Marketing at BLAZE

Running a cannabis dispensary isn’t like running any other type of business. You don’t only have the stress of inventory, expenses, a demanding customer base, and sales to worry about, but also incredibly stringent state, county, and city laws. State compliance is at the core of keeping your storefront running, but automating reporting with software can alleviate some of the stress associated with compliance. 

Selecting a cannabis software that fits your business model is crucial to scaling your business. Here are five essential things to look for in an efficient dispensary POS system and how they will benefit your cannabis operation.

Improving Customer Experience

Customer retention will make or break your business. Building a base of happy customers is imperative for your dispensary to survive and thrive. There are lots of ways to create a memorable and positive experience for your customers. Seamless transactions, loyalty rewards, and employees that understand buying habits make it enjoyable for customers to shop. A premier dispensary POS system will give you control over all of these. Checking out customers quickly and efficiently, while utilizing a rewards program to incentivize them to come back is what customers expect and not all POS systems deliver on these expectations. 

Another sign that a POS system is worthy of your business is one that has a strong user base and an active support team. Frequent engagement with their users and regular help center articles are a good indication that the POS provider is actively working with their community to solve issues and create a better experience. 

Furthermore, the software provider should provide multiple training sessions when you come on board. This gives you, your staff, and management team the knowledge and know-how to use the software proficiently. A good POS provider will also help you develop standard operating procedures that best work for your business and their software. Implementing your software in tandem with best practices will maximize the efficiency of your dispensary. After all, POS systems aren’t always cheap, so you should expect a “white glove” approach by their team.

Optimizing Cannabis Inventory

There is very little room for mistakes in the cannabis industry. Inadequate cannabis ERP systems can cause issues with inventory discrepancies which can easily lead to compliance fines, penalties, and even your license being revoked. A reliable POS system provides accurate, real-time data that seamlessly allows you to manage your stock and improves customer shopping experience.

Better inventory management also helps in team day-to-day operations. When your staff can easily audit inventory and use reports to see what is selling, they can make informed decisions when purchasing stock to keep your customers coming back. This results in high customer satisfaction, repeat business, and more sales. You want to optimize your inventory ordering so you can have enough of the right products at the right times to meet demand and offer a superior customer experience. 

Automating State Compliance

Compliance is the x-factor for cannabis businesses. Few other industries deal with regulatory restrictions as stringent as the cannabis industry. That’s why it is so important to have cannabis POS software that is integrated with track-and-trace programs selected by the state. Metrc and BioTrack are the most commonly used track and trace systems. You’ll want to make sure you dispensary ERP automates compliance reporting to avoid any risk of human error. 

Real-time compliance integrations with Metrc and BioTrack will report sales accurately as they happen. There are no shortcuts when it comes to compliance so your cannabis POS needs to factor in all the required taxes as well. Additionally, it should enforce customer purchase limits and verify age. These are two regulatory rules that can quickly cause easily get your shop shut down if not strictly followed.

Useful and Seamless POS Integrations

Be wary of POS systems claiming to be all-in-one solutions. These tend to be masters of none. A great POS will integrate with other leading softwares to bring you a well-rounded platform. Look for one with a wide range of integrations that help with things like marketing, e-commerce, loyalty, analytics, etc. Finding a dispensary POS that supports your current tech stack will save you time and headaches.

It’s also useful to do research on software review sites to see how these integrations hold up. Just having integrations isn’t enough. These integrations need to work seamlessly with your POS system and be as easy to utilize as the platform itself.  

Cannabis Software That Scales 

The last thing you should look for in a POS system is one that has the ability to handle your business as it scales into multiple locations or a delivery fleet. Not all dispensary software can support a multi-storefront or delivery. It really comes down to the features and functionality. Is there a master inventory catalog that can categorize inventory across multiple stores?

Does your dispensary POS also offer built-in dispatch and delivery functionality? Evaluate which software can serve you best long-term versus a short-term fix. Look for one that broadcasts its new features, integrations, bug fixes, and improvements. This will give you a good idea of how the POS is keeping up with the pace of new industry advancements. 

How to Decide on a Dispensary POS

Looking for these five things will give you a solid understanding of what your POS platform should have and steer you in the right direction when it’s time to buy. There are a few additional ways to evaluate potential cannabis software providers. It never hurts to come prepared with specific questions during a demo that are relevant to the workflows utilized in your dispensary. This will give you a clear understanding if the dispensary POS system can seamlessly integrate with your current SOPs or if you’ll need to adapt your internal procedures.

Before making the big decision, inquire about the migration plan, the onboarding process, and any additional hardware that might be needed. These are important factors to consider so you can avoid future roadblocks. Lastly, call their customer support line just to test their response time. Waiting to be connected to a support agent can be frustrating if something does go wrong. It’ll give you more confidence in your decision if you know that the support team is easy to contact and capable of resolving issues quickly.


Steven Lynn, a California resident since 2011, has dedicated his career to destigmatizing and legitimizing the cannabis industry through technology. Steven started his career in cannabis as the Director of Marketing at IndicaOnline in 2017. He now serves as the Director of Marketing at BLAZE® responsible for driving all marketing strategy, brand development, and lead generation programs. His professional background in early-stage B2B cannabis SaaS startups has made him adept at executing scalable, impactful, and sustainable strategies to achieve exponential growth. Steven received his BA in Communications from the College of Charleston in 2006 and is a seasoned marketing professional with over 10 years of experience working in both the entertainment and canna-tech industries.

Founded in 2017, BLAZE, a VC-backed California technology company, offers unified seed-to-sale software and apps for the cannabis supply chain. Developed by tech entrepreneurs and former cannabis company operators, BLAZE makes tech simple with an easy-to-use frontend powered by an enterprise backend for dispensaries, delivery services, distributors, and cultivators. Customers can be more profitable and productive while creating a better user experience for end customers and employees. The company’s software ensures compliance with local laws and taxes. BLAZE offers full APIs and integrates seamlessly with over 40 technology vendors in the cannabis industry.

Member Blog: How Can Hemp Businesses Better Self-Regulate?

by Lee Johnson, CBD Oracle

The hemp industry is still in its early stages, especially when it comes to emerging products like delta-8 THC. While there is some regulation for hemp products, it’s much less than for legal cannabis, and this gives companies some freedom in terms of how they operate and what they do. For the most part, this is a good thing, but there is a downside too. Our report into the industry found that 76% of delta-8 THC products contained illegal quantities of delta-9 THC. This is terrible for consumers, but it also poses a risk to the industry: if you keep raising red flags, the government will eventually swoop in and take action. This is why self-regulation is a crucial concept for hemp businesses going forward.

Why Self-Regulate?

Self-regulation is crucial for hemp businesses because of the scrutiny the industry faces and to improve consumer confidence. Although CBD is generally accepted, this is especially important for companies selling something like delta-8 THC, which attracts more scrutiny because of its psychoactive nature. With states like Texas attempting bans on the substance and the findings of our report showing that the vast majority of products break legal limits for delta-9, the industry is in serious danger of attracting the attention of more lawmakers who may opt for an outright ban. In fact, there are already 18 states with some form of ban or restriction on the substance.

Jayneil Kamdar, PhD from InfiniteCAL Labs commented to us that: “The current delta-8 THC products on the market are very concerning because there is no regulatory body monitoring the safety of these products.”

In our report, we also found that companies tend to undercut customers on delta-8, that only 14% of companies perform substantial age verification checks and that two-thirds of companies don’t test their products for impurities.

It isn’t that self-regulation would be a cure-all, but if companies opt to act responsibly, it is much less likely that they will attract attention from lawmakers. In addition to this, though, self-regulation sends a strong message to consumers that you care about them and that they will get what they wanted when they buy your products. When this doesn’t happen, people will tell others about it.

The more the industry can mirror the regulations of regulated cannabis companies, the better things will go in the long run.

How Can Companies Better Self-Regulate?

However, “self-regulation” can’t just become a vague, catch-all term for generally responsible business practices: clear recommendations are essential in making this goal a reality. Luckily, our in-depth investigation of the delta-8 industry and other similar investigations into the CBD industry have revealed some key areas companies can focus on.

Provide Transparent Lab Reports with QR Codes

Lab reports are a vital part of building consumer trust, and you should ensure there is a QR code on the report so it’s easy for consumers to verify the report on the lab’s website. 90% of CBD companies already do this, based on our industry analysis.

Offer a Lab Report for Every SKU

Many companies, however, only offer a COA for the base distillate, rather than every specific type of product it produces. If you sell vape cartridges, for instance, you should have a report available for each variation in flavor, strain, and potency.

Choose Credible Labs for Your Report 

Not all labs are equal. If you get a report from a questionable or unknown lab, savvy consumers will still be wary of your product, and in some cases, the results may be unreliable. It’s best to choose a lab with a strong reputation, such as ProVerde, Anresco, SC Labs, InfiniteCAL, and CannaSafe.

Test for Impurities 

With two-thirds of delta-8 companies not lab testing their products for impurities, this is a good way to stand out in the marketplace as well as good practice in general.

Verify Customer’s Ages

With most CBD companies not performing robust age verification checks, using a credible age verification system such as AgeChecker is a great step towards self-regulation. They stay up to date with FDA requirements, state laws, and merchant account policies, so you can set it up and then continue basically as normal. This is especially important for delta-8, but it’s also crucial for higher-strength CBD products too.

Label Your Products Accurately 

What you claim on the label should be what’s in the product. Lab reports help you verify that this is the case.

Warning and Caution Labels  

Only about 55% of hemp delta-8 companies use a warning label, but this is another key part of self-regulation. Suggested verbiage includes:

  • This product should be used with caution when driving motor vehicles or operating heavy machinery.
  • Use this product under the guidance of a physician if you have a medical condition, are pregnant or lactating.
  • Keep out of the reach of children.
  • This product was manufactured from hemp material that meets federal requirements for hemp products; however, consumption may be flagged by some drug tests.
  • Use with caution if subject to urinalysis.

Use Child-Proof Packaging

The CDC recently raised an alert about children accidentally consuming delta-8 products. Using child-proof packaging is an easy way to prevent this from happening.

Avoid Child-Attractive Packaging

This goes hand-in-hand with the above, but also, having your products that look like a bag of Cheetos or anything along these lines is not a good look.

Avoid Medical Claims 

Although many people opt to use delta-8 and CBD for medical purposes, if you’re selling the products, making medical claims that might not meet official organizations’ standards of proof is simply a terrible idea. Leave it to your consumers to determine.

Get Industry Certifications

Getting certified by an organization like the U.S. Hemp Authority is a great way to show your customers that you’re one of the responsible companies.

Conclusion

Self-regulation really just means taking a few basic steps to establish to both customers and politicians that you’re running a legitimate business which does what it claims to and is socially responsible. It might increase costs in the short-term, but over time and especially as consumer knowledge increases, it will pay off many times over. And the next time there’s a situation like what happened recently in Texas, the industry will have a much easier time defending its practices.


Lee Johnson is a writer at CBD Oracle who has been covering science, vaping, and cannabis for over a decade. He focuses on research-driven deep dives into topics ranging from medical uses for CBD to industry and user statistics, as well as general guides and explainers for consumers. He is a passionate advocate of both CBD and cannabis, and a strong believer in informed choice for consumers.

CBD Oracle is a consumer research company working to improve the safety and transparency of cannabis products, producing in-depth statistics on CBD and cannabis, detailed research pieces and analysis of social and legal issues.

 

Member Blog: Creating a Cannabis Website Optimization Strategy

By Dmytro Syvak, Business Development Specialist at MjSeo Agency

Generally speaking, there should be only one strategy and its essence lies in a fairly simple principle – to make a good product. If the advantages and strengths of your proposal are clear not only to you, then you are on the right track. New products or services in competitive niches like cannabis may take a little more time and effort to become recognizable and convince users to choose you. But at the same time, in an ideal situation, you will be working with an audience that:

  • is aware of a problem or any struggle;
  • knows that solutions exist and wants to try them;
  • is ready to communicate with solution providers to choose the most suitable option;
  • expects not only the benefits but also thinks about the potential profit of such cooperation.

Strategy and Tactics

The main thing when it comes to the cannabis industry is the fact that it has numerous political and legal regulations even though it has a great potential to boost state and national economies. For example, if you are doing out-of-home advertising, you should consider that it is prohibited to place ads near schools. It also means that you can’t use some effective advertising platforms suitable for other niches like radio, vehicle, or television. In that way, it is essential to have a strategy.

Strategy is your overall direction, the goal of your efforts. If you can answer the question “why” you are building links – most likely you have a strategy or at least a strategic vision. Tactics answer the “how” and “what is needed” questions. Why is it important not to confuse tactical action with planning and strategy? Basically – to avoid a mess.

There are about 10 basic link-building tactics, depending on whether your site is niche-oriented or not. These are actions aimed at increasing the qualitative weight of links for a site for the purpose of its advancement in search results, placement of various links of a resource on authoritative platforms. Link building is considered one of the most effective methods of SEO optimization, especially for the cannabis niche. 

Link building is needed by: 

  • young brands about which there is little information; 
  • companies operating in niches with the high competition; 
  • brands that want to improve visibility and are looking for ways to increase traffic.

In that way, it is a perfect strategy for the cannabis niche as it fits all three criteria. Link building is an essential part of promoting a business online and increasing the number of customers. Competent promotion of the site with links on certain sites can bring the web page to the TOP and improve the company’s image. Considering the number of regulations and prohibitions in the cannabis niche, link building is one of the best instruments to let people know about your brand.

Coverage

Also known as outreach, it is one of the main link-building tools. It is based on the spread of information about the project and obtaining backlinks from stakeholders, that is, a lot of communication and work with people.

When selecting potential partners, it is crucial to take into account not only the industry but also the segment, target audience, and the scale of your project. Those with whom you will communicate should not guess why and how you can be mentioned. The higher the relevance of your product to the partner site, the easier and faster the communication about placement will be. The first signal of low relevance is the lack of answers and reactions.

Thus, for cannabis businesses, it is better to place links in interested communities, thematic websites, or news portals.

Existing Links

This includes many tools limited only by your skillset, budget, and imagination. The main feature is that instead of trying to get in touch and create a completely new partnership, the work is carried out with already existing, most often published and indexed links.

Unlike outreach tactics, in this case, the key to success will be accuracy and automation of as many processes as possible – from collecting data to using mailings instead of single messages. Here are some examples of tactical work with existing links:

  • Guest blogging is also a good fit if, instead of publishing your own articles, you are building your work around existing popular content.
  • Broken links – old content, lost during migration or post updates, and so on. It may work great for niche or competitive content so, it is relevant to use it for cannabis businesses. 
  • Own backlinks – as your project develops, some of the backlinks will be lost one way or another. But almost any search analytics service will be able to regularly provide you with a list of domains from which you have lost links. 
  • Weak content – you simply find existing publications that can be easily improved and made more attractive without significant costs on your part. This is a great possibility to demonstrate your expertise in the niche.
  • Diversification of content. It is essential not only to post articles but also to add videos, presentations, and so on. For example, news or educational content are currently central in the cannabis niche. 

Practice

If you want to learn more about getting organic backlinks, especially in competitive niches, sharing experiences and hands-on material will be most helpful. Conferences and meetups will allow you to receive the most complete and relevant context, info about updates and news, as well as specific information about which tools bring the best results. 

If we talk about building a link mass for a niche project, then you will need to use at least three basic directions: working with communities and social networks, as well as placing guest publications and comments on relevant blogs. The main tip for cannabis businesses here is to educate, don’t sell. Try to engage the readers with the content you create. Useful or entertaining content will be the best choice. If you succeed, people will come to your website in search of more information.

Also, keep in mind that fresh domains with zero authority are more likely to experience the Google sandbox effect. If your organic search traffic isn’t going anywhere despite your best efforts, you will likely need to wait at least a month and reach a certain ratio of backlinks to estimated domain authority. Once the criteria are met, everything should return to normal. 

It is also essential to remember that many social network platforms prohibit cannabis marketing which makes it much more difficult to increase the visibility of the brand. Among them are:

  • Facebook
  • Google AdWords
  • YouTube
  • Instagram
  • Twitter

However, there are still ways to publish content. For example, Facebook allows creating product pages where you can publish useful or entertaining information without bluntly promoting your product.

As a Result

At the very end, it is necessary to say that link building should not be a difficult process. Is it time-consuming? Yes, especially in competitive niches. But with the right planning and the right strategy, backlink building tasks shouldn’t take you much longer than regular site maintenance.


The mission of MjSeo agency’s cannabis marketing experts is to help our customers become world-famous by means of a well-thought-out SEO strategy, and increase their profits hundreds of times.

MjSeo exclusively focuses on SEO strategies for the cannabis segment. It offers tailored services, including customer needs analysis and SEO. Its customers have seen their traffic surge and their websites have risen to the top of search engine rankings. The company’s personalized promotional tactics help companies thrive in the digital space.

The cannabis SEO experts from the MjSeo agency know how to help your marijuana business increase site traffic and, therefore, the number of customers.

 

Email: hello@mjseo.agency

 

Video: NCIA Today – Friday, November 5, 2021

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

On the latest episode, Bethany announces the keynote speakers at #CannaBizSummit this December in San Francisco, shares a bit about Exspiravit this month’s Member Spotlight recipient, and covers compliance and extraction.

Registration to the Cannabis Business Summit in San Francisco is now open with special limited-time super early bird pricing on tickets available, head to our website for more information today.

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

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

With demand for THC and CBD distillate products steadily increasing on a global scale, it’s never been a better time to be a cannabis cultivator, processor, or product formulator. When entering these industries, an often overlooked yet critical step in the planning process is choosing the right cannabis extraction solution. 

What are your options for cannabis extraction?

Depending on the amount of cannabis biomass you plan to process each year and the type of distillate you are trying to produce, you have three main options for meeting your extraction needs. You can:

  1. Partner with a mobile extraction lab company to extract at your facility without having to build your own lab
  2. Build your own fully-compliant extraction lab at your facility
  3. Hire a 3rd party processor (often called a “toll-processor”) who can manage extraction for you at their facility

Is a mobile cannabis extraction lab right for you?

A mobile extraction lab is a fully-certifiable clean room that has been retrofitted with ready-to-use extraction equipment. Built off-site to GPP, cGMP, and EU GMP standards, they are delivered and installed at your facility, staffed and operated on contract by the partner company. They allow for scalable production and help you avoid some of the pitfalls and obstacles of building your own extraction lab, keeping you focused on cultivation, product development, and sales & marketing.

Mobile labs allow you to extract at your own facility without having to build your own lab, outlay a large capital expenditure (CAPEX), or use a lot of floor space. You can leverage the expertise of the best engineers whose main priority is to create labs that produce the highest-quality distillate. Labs can be operational at facilities anywhere in the world within 4-6 months, and remove the burden of selecting the right extraction process and sourcing the right equipment. 

Mobile extraction lab partners are a great fit if you’re processing 50,000 lbs. to 2 million lbs. of biomass each year and want to outsource the lab CAPEX and ongoing staffing, SOPs, maintenance and upgrades to a trusted partner. These labs can also be incredibly useful if you want to test the market for new products, or want to expand into isolate or THC-free products through remediation and separation processes. 

[Check out this video of an extractX mobile lab being delivered to one of their partner’s facilities.]

Should you consider building your own cannabis extraction lab? 

If you have your products perfected, biomass sourced, and have a strong existing customer base, building your own extraction lab may be the right decision. If you’re processing over 1 million lbs. of biomass each year and have the facility space and financing secured, building your own lab can put you in a very competitive position in this emerging market.

It’s important to understand that building an extraction lab is no small undertaking. You’ll need to hire engineers to design the right process and source the right equipment for your needs. You’ll need to meet regulatory requirements and hire experienced staff. The entire process can take 12-24 months (or more) and cost $3 million to $7.5 million before you’re able to start processing, depending on the size of the lab and type of distillate you’re producing.

Building the lab is also just the beginning. Since the extraction industry is evolving so rapidly, new technology is constantly emerging that continues to improve production efficiencies and distillate quality. If you’re willing to commit to the massive undertaking of building your own lab, you must also be willing to commit to the ongoing compliance certifications, maintenance, and upgrades required each year to ensure your lab is keeping up with advancements in the industry. 

When is toll-processing a good option?

When processing smaller amounts of cannabis biomass (less than 50,000 lbs. per year), a toll-processor may be your best option. A toll-processor is a company that has built a large-scale extraction lab which they rent out to other companies. You would be able to load your cannabis biomass onto a truck, deliver it to the toll-processor, and then receive your distillate back from them. 

It’s crucial that you ensure this contractor is operating a fully-compliant facility, following GPP, cGMP, or EU GMP standards. You should check their references, certifications, and quality assurance promises before engaging with them, as you could be held responsible for the quality and contents of the processed distillate. Based on their capture rate and processing costs, you can gauge whether the toll-processor is right for you, or if you need to seek out another partner.

This option is great for small cultivators and processors as it allows you to avoid the major costs of building your own lab, and helps you get to market quicker and test the market viability of your products. It’s important to consider that challenges can occur if there are production delays, transportation issues, or issues with quality control.

Weighing your options

Image caption: [Since high-quality cannabis distillate has never been in higher demand, selecting the right extraction option is crucial to the success of your business.]

When examining these three extraction options for your business, it’s important to consider the immediate and future goals of your company. Do you hope to expand your production capacity over the next few years? How quickly are you trying to get to market? Do you have the resources and technical expertise to go it alone?

These are just a handful of questions to consider when exploring which extraction solution is right for you. Thankfully, the emerging industry is constantly creating new options to meet your needs.


A pioneer in integrated marketing technologies, Albert established his first successful business in 1986 and went on to build a solid track record as an entrepreneur that helped shape the digital industry. A talented leader whose business ranked among Canada’s fastest growing companies for several years running, Albert has assembled the strong management team that will drive extractX business forward. His keen business development approach has resulted in early adoption of extractX labs in global markets.

extractX Ltd. designs, builds, and operates turnkey pharma-grade hemp and cannabis extraction laboratories at facilities anywhere in the world. These fully mobile, purpose-built facilities fit into established industrial-scale operations and scale to meet the needs of cannabis and hemp cultivators and producers. Labs require no lab CAPEX to install, and produce the highest-quality THC and CBD distillate while meeting all GPP, cGMP, and EUGMP requirements and standards.

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

By Nicole Cosby, Chief Data & Compliance Officer at Fyllo

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

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

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

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

Patchwork Legislation is a Significant Pain Point

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

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

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

What risks must General Counsel (GCs) guard against?

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

Compliance Missteps Go Beyond Financial to Reputational

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

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

Use Technology to Turn Compliance Into a Competitive Advantage

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

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

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


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

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

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

Member Blog: Cautionary Tales of Cannabis Compliance

by Alexa Rivera, Assistant Marketer at PeopleGuru

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

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

Cannabis Compliance Regulations 

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

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

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

How are Canna Business owners coping? 

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

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

A Cautionary Tale

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

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

Avoiding Compliance Related Repercussions 

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

A Promising IRS Initiative

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

A Helpful Hand

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

Conclusion 

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


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

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

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

Find me on: LinkedIn

 

 

Member Blog: Protecting Your Cannabis Business from Ransomware

by Eric Schlissel, CEO/CTO of Cure8

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

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

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

What Is Ransomware?

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

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

Why Windows Is Key

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

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

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

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

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

Protecting Yourself from Ransomware

Firewalls

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

Employee Training

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

Secure Your Windows Machines

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

Backups

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Equity Member Spotlight: Endo Industries – Nancy Do

This month, NCIA’s editorial department continues the monthly Member Spotlight series by highlighting our Social Equity Scholarship Recipients as part of our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Program. Participants are gaining first-hand access to regulators in key markets to get insight on the industry, tips for raising capital, and advice on how to access and utilize data to ensure success in their businesses, along with all the other benefits available to NCIA members. 


Tell us a bit about you, your background, and why you launched your company.

Endo Industries CEO & Co-founder, Nancy Do

I was raised in Eastside San Jose by parents who are Vietnam War refugees and moved to San Francisco 12 years ago where my cannabis entrepreneurship journey began. I started off as a grower in my garage in San Francisco and started to expand into grow houses, greenhouses, and warehouses to build what is now Endo Industries. 

I built Endo Industries because despite living through some of the lowest times of my life such as getting raided, going to jail, and going through years of emotional roller coasters with the criminal justice system, I know my experience, passion, and background is what cannabis needs. Endo is grounded in science, elevated by culture. Endo represents equity, diversity, the hustle, and the grind and we are building something in cannabis that is exceptional and collaborative. I love this plant and everything plant medicine can represent. I’m not going to let this industry become one-dimensional.

What unique value does your company offer to the cannabis industry?

Endo is a queer female, legacy, and social equity-owned and operated parent company, which is a mouthful but also a unique value proposition in itself. I’ve seen legacy and equity cannabis companies come up with great ideas, passion, experience, and drive but are lacking in organization, upper management, high-level strategy for the long game, and key resources such as genetics, a reliable supply chain, and capital (including in Endo’s own experiences!). As a team, we deeply understand this plant and the creativity of what cannabis culture is and can be. We bring something different and fresh.

Endo provides a few unique things in our model:

  1. Plants from tissue culture free of pests and diseases to our growers and tissue culture services to elevate and protect our brands and breeders
  2. A strong stance of direct and real support for equity and legacy operators through our partnership with Locals Equity Distro to provide distribution services for over 25 equity, legacy, queer and women-owned brands in CA
  3. Workforce and economic opportunity for the Re-Entry Community who have been formerly incarcerated
  4. A tech, blockchain component to collect and share data 

What is your goal for the greater good of cannabis?

Virus-free tissue culture plants at Endo’s lab in San Francisco

My greater goal is to create a platform and community that enables the normalization of safe, affordable access to cannabis while uplifting communities that have been affected by the war on drugs. I want to build a world in which we can celebrate art, culture, diversity, and cannabis all in one. And no, it’s not the idealist in me; I know this is the way the world needs to reconnect, compassionately with each other in spite of our differences. We’d certainly find that we have more in common than meets the eye if we let our walls down.

What kind of challenges do you face in the industry and what solutions would you like to see?

Being a queer women of color while also building a business that serves the greater good of our communities is no walk in the park. I would like to see investors and potential partnerships trust, respect, and invest in leaders like me. We need access to real capital and partnerships without undervaluing or controlling our businesses. We can build profitable, thriving businesses if we are just given the chance and there is no better place than the cannabis industry to start.

Why did you join NCIA? What’s the best or most important part about being a member through the Social Equity Scholarship Program?

I’ve always wanted to join NCIA but the membership fee was a barrier to entry. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be a part of an organization giving a voice and making space for equity and under-represented founders both on the legislative level and through NCIA’s channels.

Anything else: What is Endo’s growth plan for the next year?

We just launched a smaller raise of $1M and will be going for a larger round of $4M shortly thereafter. These funds will be used to expand our plant genetics offerings into new territories in the US and globally, which will allow us to foundationally launch the Endo model in every new territory. No doubt, Endo is going to make big waves this coming year to set ourselves up for the many years to come. 

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

by Tommy Truong of KayaPush

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

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

What do you need to open a dispensary in Oklahoma?

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

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

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

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

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

You should check the following:

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

How to get a dispensary license In Oklahoma.

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

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

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

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

How to keep your dispensary compliant in Oklahoma.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Understanding Metrc in Oklahoma.

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

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

To get started with Metrc in Oklahoma you should:

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

What are the dispensary laws in Oklahoma?

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

Some of these rules include:

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

Who can your dispensary sell to in Oklahoma?

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

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

Oklahoma dispensary market size and opportunity.

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

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

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

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

What cannabis software do I need to run a dispensary?

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

What should I look for in cannabis software? 

POS compliant system.

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

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

Dispensary payroll software.

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

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

Scheduling and time tracking software. 

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

Dispensary HR software.

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

A Security system.

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

Inventory management software.

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

Website.

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

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

Metrc. 

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

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

What else do I need to know?

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

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


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

Member Blog: Reducing Risks In Cannabis With Supplier Auditing

By Maria Lam, Marketing Director of Isolocity

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

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

What is Supply Auditing and Why Do You Need It?

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

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

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

Regular Auditing Ensures Suppliers Meet Your Standards

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

Regular Auditing is Cost-Effective

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

Regular Auditing Contributes to Quality Improvement

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

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

How Beneficial is Improving Supplier Quality?

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

Customer Satisfaction

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

More Profits

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

Investing in Compliance Automation Streamlines Business Operations

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


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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is an API?

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

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

Understanding API Limitations in Cannabis 

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

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

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

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

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

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

From The Operator’s Perspective

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

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

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

From The Regulators’ Perspective 

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

#cannabisindustry #legalcannabis #trackandtrace #wearethecannabisindustry #cannabiscompliance

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

By Aaron Rosenbluth, Hybrid Marketing Co

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What makes excellent social media content? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even with excellent content, you need to be realistic. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

 

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

by Tommy Truong, KayaPush

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

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

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

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

1 – Digitization of licenses and renewal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 – Time clock software that uses facial recognition technology

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 – Create customizable clock-in surveys

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

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

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

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

6 – Hire a compliance manager

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

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

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

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

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


Tommy Truong is the Director of Partnerships at KayaPush; the cannabis software helping dispensary owners manage their employee HR, scheduling, and payroll. KayaPush also integrates with leading dispensary POS systems.

Tommy loves hot sauce, fried chicken, and running with his Boston terriers. 

Member Blog: How Cannabis Dispensaries Can Navigate The METRC System

by Gary Cohen, Cova Software

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

What is METRC & Why it is Needed?

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

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

How to Prepare for METRC?

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

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

What are the Daily Obligations?

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

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

Manual or Automatic Reporting?

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

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

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


Gary Cohen is the CEO of Cova Software, the fastest growing technology brand in the cannabis industry. Cohen’s focus has been driving the company’s overall strategy, including its vision, go-to-market plan, and strategic development. Since joining the cannabis industry in 2016 and launching Cova commercially in 4q17, Cohen has led Cova to dominate the enterprise sector for dispensary Point of Sale, while forging client relationships with hundreds of single-store retailers across North America.

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

Video: NCIA Today – May 14, 2021

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

Text Messaging (SMS) Crackdown Impacting the Cannabis Industry

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

Has your text messaging (SMS) service had interruptions? Are you worried about more interruptions?

We forget how much we rely on text messages when we order things. Text messages keep us updated at every step so we know when things are ready for pick up or are there to be delivered. We also appreciate our favorite businesses texting us sales and discounts.

NCIA members have been making us aware of text messaging (SMS) service interruptions, or complete shutdowns, either for marketing or order fulfillment. We’re still gathering information to understand the full extent of the issue and what we can do to assist the industry with making sure we are afforded our rights.

A few SMS platforms, including At&t, Twilio, Avochato, & T-Mobile, have announced they are terminating services for cannabis companies. Twillio’s website makes it clear they don’t want to deal with cannabis-related companies.

“SMS or MMS messages related to cannabis are not allowed in the United States, as federal laws prohibit its sale, even though some states have legalized it. Similarly, messages related to CBD products are not permissible in the United States, as certain states prohibit its sale. Twilio policy is reflective of US carrier rules in this area, and there are no exceptions to this policy.

Twilio defines a cannabis-related message as any message which relates to the marketing or sale of a cannabis product, regardless of whether or not those messages explicitly contain cannabis terms, images, or links to cannabis websites.”

This crackdown has come on the heels of the implementation of 10DLC, new telecommunications regulations intended to address the pervasive problem of spam (not specific to the cannabis industry). Telecommunications companies have used it as an excuse to exclude legally regulated cannabis companies, or at least significantly interfere with their operations.

Unfortunately, Twilio is a huge SMS platform that has been used by some major players in the industry that provide niche technical platforms for such services as delivery, marketing, and loyalty points. Numerous businesses throughout the cannabis industry rely on those platforms to reach their customers and to better facilitate delivery and order pickups.

We know the impact has been widespread, but some companies have been able to find alternatives, either through workarounds or other SMS platforms that are not cracking down as hard. Alternative workarounds can include the service platform having extremely limited templates for what can be sent via text in order to make sure there is no language that can be perceived as relating to cannabis sales or any links that can be followed back to a cannabis website.

Some businesses have found alternative platforms, but those companies may charge more because they are willing to screen every message that gets sent prior to it getting sent out via SMS. Because of the time and labor involved, that option can really only be available for marketing texts and not the automatic texts that come with ordering and pickup or delivery. It is unclear if the big telecommunications companies will eventually shut those down as well.

While we would love for that not to happen and for the issue to work itself out, until we deschedule we know that these issues will continue to surface. Even if you personally have not been affected by the SMS crackdown, it is important to understand what is happening in the industry because it could affect your business next.

We have the ability to come together as an industry to address this issue. We have been working with legal experts to better understand what is happening, and we have the potential to fight this attack on the legal cannabis industry if there is enough interest.

We want to hear from you. Have you had an interruption in service? If so, have you found a workaround? Is the workaround satisfactory or a huge pain for your business? Are you worried about interruptions in your service in the future? Please contact Rachel if you have any information or personal stories to share. We will respect your privacy in these matters.

Committee Blog: Re-thinking Cannabis Track and Trace Models — A Sustainable and Scalable Approach

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

The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent recession powerfully demonstrated that the cannabis industry is providing essential medicine and products to countless Americans, as well as creating jobs and tax revenue. Retail sales of medical and adult-use cannabis in the United States were on pace to eclipse $15 billion by the end of 2020, and if you include ancillary products and services, the industry is estimated to reach $68.4 billion in 2021. The U.S. cannabis industry is experiencing rapid job growth, boasting an estimated 300,000 full-time jobs in 2020. Those numbers are expected to almost double by 2024. Over the next four years, the industry is expected to add nearly 250,000 full-time equivalent positions. By comparison, roughly 271,000 people currently hold beverage manufacturing jobs. These numbers demonstrate with sureness that the U.S. cannabis industry is on a high-growth trajectory, which makes it imperative that the market operate under a practical regulatory framework that benefits both regulators and operators.

Most states that have approved some form of legal cannabis sales (medical and/or adult-use) have also selected a single, mandated technology platform that all operators must use to track and trace their cannabis seeds, plants, and end products. Some iterations of the current track and trace model — which is primarily centralized approach — sets businesses, employees, and regulators up to fail. Of course, it also further limits the competitiveness of the regulated market with the unregulated market, and the ability for policymakers to be confident that cannabis consumers in their states are obtaining taxed, tested, and regulated products.

Local governments are missing out on tax revenue, and businesses (both large and small) are forced to spend unnecessary resources on a system that is fundamentally flawed. The centralized model, contracting with one specific software provider, and mandating operators to use that software provider in order to stay compliant, is wreaking havoc on the entire U.S. cannabis industry and is not sustainable for a federally-legal and global supply chain.

As a team, the National Cannabis Industry Association’s State Regulations Committee’s Technology and Compliance Subcommittee has spoken to regulators, operators, and international technology providers in the interest of presenting a practical track and trace solution to benefit the industry as a whole. This is the first blog in a series that will highlight the issues that cannabis operators and regulators are facing because of the current centralized state-mandated track and trace model. We propose that the U.S. cannabis industry operate under a more practical framework that has a higher probability of success for regulators and cannabis businesses through slight changes and improvements based on proven best practices.

The History of Track and Trace in the U.S. Cannabis Industry

Track and trace systems serialize assets to identify where assets are (track) and to identify where assets have been (trace). Track and trace is not something new. It is the globally acknowledged standard for product movement and reconciliation in both the Pharmaceuticals and Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) industries. A secure track and trace system combines material security and information security elements to confirm assets are legitimately produced and sourced, following a pre-defined and auditable path.

As the regulated cannabis markets started to take shape and mature in 2012, one of the driving factors that shaped the need for a track and trace system was the 2013 U.S. Department of Justice Cole Memorandum (Cole Memo). The Cole Memo indicated for the first time that the federal government would only intervene in states that failed to prevent criminal involvement in the market, sales to youths, and illegal diversion to other states.

The first four states to legalize adult-use cannabis were Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska. All four of these states instituted a market-based licensing system to regulate the commercial activity of cannabis sales. The intentions of the newly instituted policies were two-fold: protect consumer health and minimize diversion, both of which align with the core principles of the Cole Memo. To meet these intentions, the states instituted procedures for inventory control and tracking documentation using a state-mandated centralized model, in an effort to create a transparent and controlled system of oversight within the cannabis industry.

As the industry has developed over the years, most states that have approved some form of legal cannabis sales have selected a single mandated technology platform that all operators must use to track and trace their cannabis seeds, plants, and cannabis products. As shown in Figure 1, the majority of legalized states have chosen METRC as their exclusive contractor of track and trace services.


Figure 1: https://mjbizdaily.com/metrc-sees-sale-tracking-opportunities-in-new-cannabis-markets/

A Scalable and Sustainable Track and Trace Solution

The legal cannabis market has changed significantly since 1996 and it is important for the industry to re-evaluate the intention and implementation of track and trace. Regulatory bodies contracting with one track and trace technology provider and mandating operators to use that specific provider in order to stay compliant is problematic for many reasons. Time has shown that the current centralized model is fiscally irresponsible and ultimately counterproductive, with significant negative externalities, including ethical concerns such as anti-trust issues. Most recently, an Oklahoma cannabis operator (seeking class-action status) initiated litigation against the state’s Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA), alleging that the state exceeded its authority by requiring licensees to pay for a state-mandated track and trace program, and that the state’s contract with METRC creates an unlawful monopoly, among other claims.

To provide an analogy, let’s think about how businesses are required to report taxes. The IRS sets out certain rules and every business must report their income and assets according to that framework. Technology providers (such as TurboTax, Tax Slayer, H&R Block, etc.) have built scalable products to support businesses in reporting their taxes. The IRS does not mandate that businesses use one single specified software in order to report their taxes. Doing so would kill competition, introduce a monopoly, and eliminate any incentive for the technology providers to improve their product. By the IRS allowing free competition over the realm of tax preparation and processing software, the public benefits from the technology companies being incentivized to update and improve their software features and benefits.

The centralized model is crippling the entire industry as system failures are occurring on a more frequent basis, and its after-effects are causing a more detrimental and wide-ranging impact as the industry grows at an exponential rate. Most recently, METRC’s integration functionality (how third-party business operations software communicates to the state’s system) was down for more than fourteen days in California, causing significant problems in the nation’s largest cannabis market. One software provider and its tag-producing partners are benefitting, while setting industry regulators and operators up to fail. One software provider cannot meet the current or future needs of regulators and operators, especially not on a national level. Meanwhile, there are many excellent software providers that specialize in track and trace. The free market should determine the most efficient and user-friendly approach to allow businesses to stay compliant and accurately report to the appropriate regulatory authorities.

By leveraging the knowledge and experience the industry has gained over the last 20 years, we can incorporate best practices from other industries’ and other markets’ track and trace systems, and set regulators and operators up for success.

Join us as we dive deeper into the issues surrounding compliance and track and trace in the cannabis industry. Our multi-part blog series provides an in-depth look into the technical shortcomings of the current centralized approach and provides a roadmap for implementing a distributed model approach. Some of the disadvantages we will cover in the subsequent posts include:

Impact of System Failure: The current centralized model provides a single point of failure: if the system goes down, all licensee operations must stop operating entirely. In some cases, operators may manually record activity during a system failure, and then manually enter the activity when the system resumes. This introduces a high risk of human error. No backup system or alternative means of recording through the use of technology exists since the state relies on only one system.

Challenges with Scalability: The history of performance with centralized track and trace systems demonstrates that there are significant challenges in scalability because of multiple system failures and shutdowns. The system would benefit from a more advanced track and trace capability, specifically with its API (Application Programming Interface). Many times it is not the technology of the licensee system, but the technology design of the state-mandated systems.

Fiscal and Environmental Impacts: Licensees are required to purchase plant and product tags from the single state-mandated vendor, which creates a fixed price system that is typically not in favor of a licensee. It is also creating a sustainability issue in the industry, as the plant and product tags are single-use. More operators are speaking up about the waste it is generating in our cannabis industry.

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

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

#cannabisindustry #legalcannabis #trackandtrace #wearethecannabisindustry #cannabiscompliance

Committee Blog: Future-Proofing Cannabis Manufacturing Processes – Part 2

by NCIA’s Cannabis Manufacturing Committee

Despite prohibition, the cannabis industry is not behind the curve of sustainability progress. While other industries were inventing modern Cloud-based quality control/distribution systems and making stuff out of plastic, cannabis producers were maximizing yields per watt and creating stronger concentrates in attempts to get the most out of their value streams while staying under the radar. Now all industries are racing towards a more sustainable future and the cannabis industry has the opportunity to show that it can be a good example, even a leader in sustainability. Regardless if it is in preparation for competition or regulation, now is the time to start building more sustainable, energy-efficient, and overall lower footprint businesses.

As the manufacturing branch of the cannabis industry paves its way into the future, the processes involved need to be made environmentally sustainable and best practices need to be shared and standardized to ensure product safety and industry longevity. Collecting and sharing data from manufacturing facilities is the ideal way to achieve these sector goals.

Environmental sustainability is a multi-discipline effort. Experts in engineering, emissions, air quality, worker health and legal matters should be relied on for educating and guiding businesses into a more sustainable future.

The Data Vacuum Is Holding Back Environmental Sustainability Advancements

While cultivation is one of the main focuses of the cannabis sustainability effort, manufacturing procedures are also prime targets for sustainable advancements. Due to the nature of the organic chemical processes used to produce consumables, some of the materials and practices could have a negative impact on both worker and environmental health if not addressed and handled properly. As a best management practice, regulated cannabis manufacturers typically operate closed-loop systems, which greatly reduce certain dangers, but this can require other more energy-intensive systems. As these relatively new processing techniques are being pioneered, we need more data to understand how they can be made more efficient and sustainable. For various reasons — such as intellectual property concerns — advancements in sustainable practices are often not shared and therefore not visible to potentially become a standard process that ensures product and consumer safety.

Cannabis Science Outpacing Regulations

The scientific improvements for manufacturing cannabis into consumer products in high demand have outpaced regulations. From process design and equipment to processing material sourcing, the manufacturing branch of the cannabis industry has much to offer the future of sustainable cannabis products. In many jurisdictions today, regulators have hastily opted for vertical, prescriptive regulations which have left many manufacturing operations without the leeway required to innovate more sustainable process strategies. Even more businesses with the legal leeway simply do not want to push the envelope in today’s regulatory climate. More forward-thinking, regulation-savvy equipment manufacturers have begun focusing on lower energy-use in their newer products as a selling point. The industry as a whole could be making progress much faster if regulators focused on performance standards for manufacturing facilities.

Strategies inspired by building and process heat recovery offer dozens of basic possibilities when it comes to implementation in a cannabis manufacturing facility. Using the energy released during solvent condensation for solvent evaporation is a prime example. Connecting liquid-cooled equipment with the building’s central plant system is another. These are big ideas that could be implemented in different ways with different efficiencies. Intelligent use of insulation, exhaust recirculation, odor mitigation, ventilation minimization, demand-control ventilation for providing makeup air, etc. could also make significant differences. Data collected from actual operating facilities experimenting with different strategies will be the best guide going forward in determining what the best energy saving strategies are.

Cannabis Extraction Processes and Air Quality

In an effort to prevent unnecessary Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) emissions it is important to maintain proper solvent transfer and storage, perform extraction equipment inspections, and ensure a maintained inventory and handling of solvents on site are a part of a facility’s standard operating procedures. Best practice for extraction and post-processing dictates the use of butane, propane, CO2, ethanol, isopropanol, acetone, heptane, and pentane as solvents to encourage safe consumer products.

Carbon filtration is also the best management practice for controlling cannabis terpenes (VOCs) and odor emissions. It is important to install properly engineered molecular filtration systems (aka carbon scrubbers) that are sized appropriately for a facility’s ‘emission load’ and don’t exceed the maximum cfm rating for air circulation through the filter. To prevent VOC and odor breakthrough, it is imperative to inspect and conduct regular maintenance of HVAC systems and carbon filters. A standardized method for measuring the lifespan of carbon is by using a Butane Life Test, which equips manufacturers with the data to know how to manage their carbon replacement schedule effectively, minimizing unnecessary carbon waste. Additionally, processors can conduct air sampling to detect and measure VOC and odor levels in their facilities and the data can be used to validate the impact of control technologies further protecting worker and environmental health.

Proper VOC and cannabis odor control from manufacturing processes helps reduce community odor complaints and improve neighborhood relations. It also improves public and environmental health by reducing local ozone concentrations. Proper emissions control when running cannabis manufacturing processes and handling chemicals helps to shift the industry at large toward sustainable and environmentally conscious business practices.

Preparing Your Business for the Next Stage

Cannabis manufacturers are seeing big changes on the horizon. Increased legalization brings increased competition and inevitable M&A activity. Whether a business aspires to compete on the world stage or to be acquired in one of the coming green waves, there are actions that can be taken today to help cannabis manufacturers maximize their value to both customers and potential acquirers.

One of the most important assets a company can have — both to compete effectively and to attract purchasers — is intellectual property. Intellectual property, or IP for short, is the term for an intangible asset that has been afforded certain legal protections to solidify the asset into a commodity that can be bought, sold, and licensed. IP can have a negative connotation in some circles, mostly resulting from misconceptions in the law but also rooted in IP abuses by unscrupulous “trolls.” In reality, IP is an important tool to help companies protect their hard work and, when properly deployed, intellectual property can increase transparency into cannabis manufacturing processes and open new avenues of scientific advancement.

Intellectual property broadly covers a number of different types of rights. Patents protect new inventions like processes, machines, compositions of matter, ornamental designs, and plant genetics. Patents can grant relatively broad rights to these ideas, but with substantial additional costs and scrutiny.

Similarly, copyright can protect creative works, like writings, drawings, and sculptures. But many do not recognize that copyright can also protect compilations of data that have been creatively selected or arranged. Data and algorithm copyrights are relatively nascent, but they promise to play a large role in the intellectual property landscape of the future cannabis industry.

Another sect of intellectual property, trademarks, is all about protecting a brand: the names, logos, slogans, and overall look that tells customers that a good or service is from a particular company. Federal trademark registration is unavailable for federally illegal goods and services, but that does not mean that federal trademark protection is unavailable to cannabis brands. Many companies are using the zone-of-expansion doctrine baked into federal trademark law to set up registrations on related legal products (smoking/vaping devices, clothing, and even CBD edibles) that can be expanded to cover THC products when federally legal.

The nuances and requirements of these property rights — along with other IP rights like trade secrets and trade dress — are highly fact-specific, so involve a good IP attorney to guide your strategy from the start.

Towards A More Sustainable Future

Now is the time to start building more sustainable, energy-efficient, and overall lower carbon footprint businesses and the emerging legal cannabis industry is well-positioned to be the leader. If manufacturers are incentivized to safely share processing data directly or through emerging data collection and tracking platforms, the industry will make major advancements towards more environmentally sustainable practices. Environmental impact areas, such as air quality, energy, water, soil waste, and community all need to be considered by the manufacturing arm of the cannabis industry. Regulators can help push the industry forward by reducing negative impacts in these areas though focusing on performance standards for manufacturing facilities and their processes. Lastly, understanding that IP, including trademarks, can in fact increase transparency into cannabis manufacturing processes and open new avenues of scientific advancement will help position operators for M&A activity coupled with proper legal representation. These factors work together to protect the environment and communities, as well as future-proof manufacturing operations setting up the rest of the cannabis industry for longevity and federal legalization.

 

Member Blog: How To Choose A Point Of Sale System For Your Cannabis Dispensary

by Gary Cohen, Cova Software

The Canadian cannabis industry has witnessed great success since federal legalization in 2018. In the United States, 35 states authorize the use of medical cannabis, and 15 of them allow recreational marijuana consumption. Potential dispensary owners should bear in mind that the cannabis industry operates under strict laws and regulations that set this business apart from conventional retail operations. A robust point-of-sale (POS) system is one of the most important tools that a dispensary owner must invest in. However, it’s also crucial to remember that not all POS systems are created equal, and a cannabis industry-specific POS will always be a better choice than a generic POS. Following are some of the most important criteria that you should consider when selecting a cannabis POS:

Product Design and UX

A cannabis-specific POS created specifically to address the nuances and pain points of cannabis businesses is your best bet. A well-designed system helps you quickly process actual sales and facilitate better inventory management. An intuitive and easy-to-use system boosts the performance of your budtenders by making product information and customer data available to them on the fly, thus elevating the overall customer experience as well.

Compliance and Traceability

Compliance is the number one administrative burden dispensaries have to deal with because of the stringent laws and scrutiny the cannabis industry has to undergo. A well-executed cannabis-specific POS system empowers owners to stay compliant at every stage of their business. Most states in the US require tracking of inventory and sales through a state-mandated traceability system such as Metrc or BioTrack. Even among cannabis POS systems, the level of integration with the government tracking system varies, with many offering only batch reporting at the end of the day. Choose a POS that automatically sends every reported transaction in real-time to the tracking system, thus helping you minimize human errors and always stay fully compliant. Many legal cannabis markets also require digital age verification scanners for dispensaries to scan IDs at the point of entry. So ensure that your POS provider provides all these functionalities.

Reliability and Data Privacy

There have been instances of generic POS crashing when used by cannabis stores. Even popular cannabis-specific POS systems have had recurring performance issues. Learn more about each of the POS systems in consideration by reading reviews and customer stories to figure out how reliable they are. A cloud-based POS system entails storing data on remote servers operated and maintained by a third party. It poses a lower technical barrier to entry and is definitely a cost-effective solution, but you must ensure that your POS provider protects all your dispensary and customer data, as per government regulations.

Inventory Management and Reporting

A well-designed POS system offers inventory valuation and costing methods integrated into your POS to streamline your inventory management. A dispensary-specific POS will provide you the sales trends data you need to most accurately judge the weights, strains, and quantity of products you need to stock up. Many states in the U.S. expect you to have a clear paper trail on every legally grown gram of cannabis, from seed to sale, and your POS system must have efficient reporting capabilities for you to report that. Powerful analytics and a customizable mobile reporting dashboard will enable you to monitor the health of your store and submit reports in real-time from anywhere.

Hardware and Software Integration

How your dispensary POS integrates with your other services and technology is another factor. Consider all the physical hardware that is being used in various sections of your dispensary and whether the POS provider can sync them with its software. You will have to integrate your accounting, HR, workforce, and security software solutions with your POS as well to ensure smooth operations. In a fast-evolving industry, new platforms and innovative solutions can hit the market almost overnight, but you must only select a POS that seamlessly integrates just not with your hardware and software but also with online marketplaces like Leafly, Weedmaps, and Dutchie so that you can offer easy pickup and delivery services to your customers as well.

Product Development and Support

A cannabis-specific POS company that has extensive experience in the industry will remain an authority on the latest developments, and will regularly update its product to stay ahead of regulatory changes. Find out about the after-sales customer support system they have in place- many companies will help you launch quickly but will disappear when problems may arise and leave you to tackle software glitches on your own. Also, choose a dedicated system for your retail business that specializes in the cannabis sector you operate in and is not an all-in-one solution.

Scalability and Cost of Ownership

An enterprise-level POS allows you to manage stock across all stores, set up location-level pricing, perform bulk editing, and even assign granular employee security permissions. It gives you complete visibility and full corporate control of your business with centralized reporting- accessible from anywhere, on any device. A POS built for multi-location brands has a robust platform with open APIs to enable flexible, plug-and-play integrations for easy scalability. Choose a POS provider that has the cannabis industry expertise and the ability to grow with you. Even if you may have to pay a bit more upfront, you will benefit from the long-term ROI and reduce your overall cost of ownership.

This is not an exhaustive list of points to consider. Download your free copy of ‘10 things to consider when choosing a point of sale system for your cannabis dispensary’ guide by Cova Software, which will offer you comprehensive information and help you choose the right POS.


Gary Cohen is the CEO of Cova Software, the fastest growing technology brand in the cannabis industry. Cohen’s focus has been driving the company’s overall strategy, including its vision, go-to-market plan, and strategic development. Since joining the cannabis industry in 2016 and launching Cova commercially in 4q17, Cohen has led Cova to dominate the enterprise sector for dispensary Point of Sale, while forging client relationships with hundreds of single-store retailers across North America.

Cova designs and builds retail software solutions specifically for the cannabis industry. Our technology platform currently powers 20,000 retail stores and over 1000 cannabis dispensaries with virtually no downtime, even on 4/20, making us the most robust and reliable cannabis POS system available on the market. Our point of sale system and its suite of digital solutions make complex operations simple, so retailers can stay compliant, streamline their operations and deliver an amazing experience always.

Download NCIA’s New Mobile App

by Vince Chandler, NCIA’s Digital Content Strategist

Staying up-to-date with the ever-changing trends, rules, and regulations in cannabis can be a job in itself. For the busy cannabis entrepreneur, it can seem overwhelming to absorb all of the information always being added to our zeitgeist, much less figuring out which of the new information can be trusted. 

Keeping you well-informed with cutting-edge, responsible, and accurate industry updates has long been a priority of NCIA and now there’s an all-new way to keep up-to-date with the white papers, articles, webinars, and more that the thought-leaders and pioneers of our membership creates. Scroll less, experience more, all on your phone, from anywhere.

Download the NCIA Mobile App today to stay informed on the latest industry news, NCIA announcements, and the most important cannabis events happening across the country. From D.C. to Oahu and everywhere in between, there is always something coming from our committees that could help your business thrive wherever you are. 

Now going mobile, NCIA members have exclusive access to our members-only forum, Connect, and the ability to send direct and group messages to other members right inside the NCIA Mobile platform. Bring your Clubhouse conversations behind closed doors with experts that have been vetted by continuing them on Connect. 

Never miss a thing with custom push notifications about important news, resources, and conferences the moment they are released, all customizable to keep you as in-the-know as you want. As we gear up to return to in-person events you’ll be able to track panelists, speakers, and of course the after-hours parties all from one convenient place… the palm of your hand. 

 

 

Member Blog: Cannabis Partnerships – The Importance of Building a Successful Business

By John Shearman, VP of Marketing, Cannabis, Applied DNA Sciences

The grass roots of the cannabis industry fostered, often through necessity, a strong sense of community and encouraged innovation and sharing of techniques and methods to cultivate the various strains of cannabis. Learning from what has come before and working together in a sense of community is still as applicable today as the industry becomes more commercialized across the globe. The pioneers of this community have evolved into a more diverse group of entrepreneurs, across many dimensions that provide a rich base of skills and knowledge that has been shared and cultivated into a matrix of businesses and relationships.

Applied DNA Sciences entered into the cannabis space in 2018. We joined NCIA and exhibited at our first NCIA trade show, Cannabis Business Summit & Expo, in San Jose that year. I wasn’t sure what to expect and the type of conversation that may occur. The doors opened on the first day, and our molecular spaying chamber attracted attendees, which led to an engaging discussion about the platform and its benefits. The surprising aspects were the various businesses at the show, researchers-PHD level, cultivators, processors, dispensaries owners, new license holders, state government, and others. They also represented a range of how many years they are involved in cannabis, from over 20 years to just getting involved, and there to learn. This first show demonstrated how important it is to be very engaged in the industry and associations like NCIA, but equally important are the partnerships that you need to form to provide solutions that are required to meet the needs of industry and consumers alike.

Partnerships form across many aspects of the cannabis business. While our technology may have been at first intimidating, as we shared our vision with this expanding network we have been fortunate to find businesses, entrepreneurs and subject matter experts who share our passion about what this industry needs to become. We have teamed up with several companies ranging from cultivation specialists, software platforms providers, business and government consulting entities, just to mention a few. The key to these agreements is the complementary nature both entities can provide to address business needs such as regulatory compliance, material and product traceability, brand differentiations, IP protection, risk mitigation, anti-counterfeiting and diversion, proof of origin, and a host of others.

As the industry continues to grow we know not every partner will remain static in their business goals, or even if they can survive the ever-changing landscape of regulation or the fluctuations of the market. The key to strategic alignment however comes from working with partners who share the vision of what the industry can be; safe for everyone, transparent in both chain-of-custody and financials, and most importantly accessible for those who need it. Companies in this space must be nimble, adapt to both the present conditions but remain steadfast in their ultimate goals.

So you think you found a strategic partner, who shares your vision. Now what? The complicated patchwork of U.S. legalization does not make your next steps as easy as it should be. Especially when you are considering moving your brand or differentiated products into new states and territories. The great hands-on experience, craftsmanship, and care of what makes your product special cannot be transported beyond the narrow lines of where it has been licensed, so often you are rebuilding or replicating with a partner in a new market. Possible of course, but often met with unforeseen issues in supply chain control and distribution. Even in the case where you are using technology unrelated to the physical product (cultivation systems, seed to sale, or logistics), each state or even county may require a different tracking system, API, or competing system to connect with. The multifaceted mosaic that makes up the community of growers, farmers, and entrepreneurs in the cannabis community is a hotbed of passion and innovation, finding opportunity is not the problem, translating this to success is the work.

Outlining a list of mutually agreed-upon goals and milestones is critical to success. Establishing a set of metrics to evaluate the progress of the partnership allows for quick adjustments if required. A critical tactical approach that may seem insignificant is to have a set weekly status call to help with relationship building and reviewing the progress plan will help keep the momentum moving forward. Also, having executive leadership involved provides quick decision-making, adjusting strategies, and deploying both human and financial resources effectively against prioritized engagements.

The cannabis industry is maturing each year and will see faster advancements when regulations sort out over the next several years. It’s essential to establish your partnering strategy now, so you can get critical relationships in place with solid execution plans and prepare to implement your joint solutions with minimum friction.


John Shearman is Vice President of Marketing and Cannabis Business Lead at Applied DNA Sciences, and has over 30 years of deep enterprise and advertising agency experience across all marketing, sales and IT disciplines. John’s experience allows him to advise on structuring sound strategies that address business goals and objectives. His extensive technology background stems from working with several leading technology companies throughout his career. John spearheads Applied DNA Sciences Cannabis vertical leading the vision, strategy, and product development for this emerging market. John also oversees the marketing for the entire company driving the marketing strategy for its other core verticals.

 

Committee Blog: Everything You Need to Know About ADA Compliance for Your Cannabis Website

by Kavya Sebastian, Content Marketing Associate for Cannabis Creative
NCIA’s Marketing and Advertising Committee

When the legal cannabis industry began making waves in the late ’90s, there was still a major stigma against cannabis users. Although the federal status of the plant has yet to change, a Pew Research survey shows that around nine-in-ten Americans favor legalization for adult-use or medical purposes.

As more consumers enter regulated cannabis markets, the industry continues to evolve and be held to higher standards. Given its diverse history, the cannabis industry does not only aim to be an inclusive space – it is expected. 

From social equity programs to ADA compliance, cannabis businesses and markets are increasingly standing out from the crowd with their efforts to be more broadly accessible. 

What is ADA Compliance?

The ADA, or Americans with Disabilities Act, is a law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in all public spaces. ADA website compliance expands upon this and refers to meeting the standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design. This act describes the accessibility of information technology, such as the Internet and its websites (as opposed to physical locations).

In other words, your cannabis website’s ADA compliance characterizes whether or not the site is deemed accessible to people with disabilities as outlined in the ADA’s guidelines.

Why does my cannabis website need to be ADA compliant?

Nearly every registered and operating business needs to follow ADA. It is required that any business, regardless of size, make all reasonable efforts to accommodate customers with disabilities.

More importantly, as a business owner, you want to provide everyone, online or offline, with the same positive experience and level of accessibility. As we continue to become a more technology-based society, website accessibility will become more important to your business as well as consumers.

Now that you understand why your cannabis website needs to be ADA compliant, it’s important to learn how

Before you touch your website, we recommend reviewing the Website Content Accessibility Guidelines. These guidelines explain how to make web content more accessible to people with disabilities, from the text, images, and sounds on your website to the code or markup that defines structure, presentation, etc.

Once you have a complete overview of what makes website content accessible to all users, you can begin to go through your site and evaluate it for needed changes. Here is a checklist of features you should have to make sure your website is following best practices: 

  • Keyboard navigation is supported.
  • Your website can be easily navigated without a mouse. 
  • Fonts are easy to read. 
  • Screen readers can accurately interpret and read your site content.
  • Text can be scaled without distorting the page. 
  • The contrast between the text and the background is sufficient for easy legibility.
  • Website design is consistent and intuitive. 
  • Calls to Action are clear and concise. 
  • Alt tags, closed captions, and descriptions are provided for all image and video assets. 

For additional reading, check out the ADA Tool Kit for Website Accessibility.

Frequently Asked Questions About ADA Compliance

With all the existing rules and regulations surrounding the cannabis industry, especially when it comes to cannabis marketing, it can be overwhelming to think about more to add to the pile. However, ADA compliance will not only show your customers that you are committed to creating inclusive spaces both in-store and online, but it will also protect your business. 

Is ADA compliance mandatory?

In short, yes. 

Although there are no clear ADA regulations that define what makes a website compliant, courts have overwhelmingly ruled that websites are considered places of public accommodation. Therefore, under Title III of the ADA, accessibility is mandatory for websites that affect interstate commerce and fit under 12 listed categories.

These 12 categories include sales establishments, like retailers and dispensaries, as well as service establishments, such as any cannabis ancillary business. 

Additionally, if your website fails to meet ADA standards, you risk lawsuits and large fines. First-time violations typically receive a $55,000 – $75,000 fine, while repeat violations come with a $150,000 fine. In fact, federally funded organizations that are not compliant can lose funding.

Can I be sued if my cannabis website is not ADA compliant?

Absolutely. The more commercial in nature your website is, the more you become vulnerable to lawsuits. This is especially true if your website is connected to a physical location. However, even if your website is only web-based, you can absolutely still be sued. 

In fact, online-only businesses with no physical presence are increasingly being swept up in ADA compliance litigation. So whether you’re a dispensary, a CBD brand, or a B2B cannabis business, you should be testing and mediating your cannabis website for ADA compliance.

How do I test ADA compliance?

There are a number of ways to test whether or not your cannabis website meets the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) standards. 

Firstly, you can use online tools to evaluate your compliance. This could include something like Web Accessibility’s URL Scanner, WAVE’s Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool, or the Lighthouse open-source automated tool. These sites help web developers and creators make their content more accessible to site visitors.

Another way to test your cannabis site’s ADA compliance is by conducting a manual audit. Completing a website audit by yourself means evaluating every page of your site for accessibility using the WCAG standards and checklists like the one above. It can also include testing your website using assistive technology, such as a screen reader, to be sure all barriers have been remedied.

Partnering with an innovative website accessibility tool can also help you achieve ADA compliance in record time.

The bottom line is that your cannabis website should be ADA compliant – and not just because of the legal requirements. To take meaningful steps towards a more equitable and inclusive industry, we must all be proactive in making all touchpoints of our businesses more accessible. 

 

Member Blog: High Five – The Top Ways an Integrated Cannabis Technology Solution Supports your Business 

by Daniel Erickson, Director of Product Strategy, ProcessPro

Anyone involved in the cannabis industry is well aware of its exponential growth and the corresponding pressure for companies to increase performance, enhance quality, optimize operations, and maintain data integrity and control. In this complex environment, reliable technology and the use of disparate and manual systems not only affects profitability but also creates a competitive disadvantage in the market. Progressive cannabis companies are finding the potential that a single, comprehensive business system can bring to their operations to streamline processes. An integrated enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution’s features and functionalities support cannabis businesses in five key areas.

Cultivation Management 

Cannabis ERP software with cultivation management functionality enables cultivation, manufacturing, and dispensary operations to manage, log, and report on every movement of individual plants throughout the entire supply chain in one platform, tracking growth and production to assist with regulatory compliance. Greenhouse recording and package IDs management within the solution can include recording activity costs, quality checks, audit trails, inspections, strain tracking, harvesting techniques, plant health, growing conditions, and batch yields. Evaluation of this data helps determine ideal conditions for maximum plant growth and yields to improve productivity as well as provide information to run a cost-efficient operation. 

Regulatory Compliance 

The highly regulated cannabis industry requires companies to maintain detailed, accurate, and real-time records to mitigate the consequences of non-compliance with state regulators, auditors, and law enforcement agencies. Constantly changing state laws and specifications require businesses to keep pace with these developments as well. It is predicted that federal legislation for the cannabis edibles market will closely align with current FDA regulations in the food and beverage market, and adopting the current manufacturing practices utilized in those industries can make the transition seamless for proactive cannabis manufacturers.

Cannabis ERP tracks, measures, documents, and reports on compliance initiatives including licensing requirements, waste disposal protocols, transportation records, compliant packaging and labeling, and tax payments – accommodating multiple locations, jurisdictions, countries, and intra-industry verticals. A solution with integrations to state government-approved software, such as METRC, Biotrack THC, and Leaf Data Systems, helps to ensure reporting is accurate and timely.

Seed to Sale Traceability

Critically important to the cannabis industry, tracking of accurate inventory and locations of valuable cannabis products mitigates theft and controls regulatory risk. A cannabis technology solution provides real-time seed-to-sale visibility of the supply chain by managing and automating transactions and lot tracking and traceability capabilities – ensuring security and accountability by utilizing user-based software permissions to validate employee transactions.

Inventory control monitoring tracks appropriate stock levels, monitors shelf life, and documents product loss due to damage, shrinkage, and accidental or purposeful destruction. To facilitate production and purchasing, the integrated functionality of material requirements planning (MRP) allocates the use of resources to ensure there are sufficient raw materials and ingredients to meet customer demand. An ERP solution helps prove the chain of custody, establish and uphold safety standards, increase accountability, and limit factors leading to compliance and health risks – reducing the possibility of unsafe products entering the marketplace.

Formula and Recipe Management 

Comprehensive and tight management of formulas and recipes is essential in this consumer-driven market in which product quality and consistency in regards to taste, texture, appearance, potency are correlated to a company’s brand. Cannabis ERP maintains raw material data, production notes, versions, and revisions within each Bill of Material. The solution should also calculate nutritional information to include ingredients and allergens to produce accurate labeling, reporting, and product packaging necessary for consumers of cannabis edible products – providing traceability and a documented labeling history to identify items quickly in the event of a product recall. To support new and innovative delivery methods and products, research and development functionality within a cannabis ERP solution streamlines new product development and introduction into the market. The ability to experiment and test in a sandbox environment without affecting current production allows for easily transitioning approved products to live production. 

Reporting and Analytics 

By gathering data from all areas of the business in a centralized database, cannabis software makes it possible to analyze what is working within the operation and what is not. In the area of cultivation, adjustments to nutrients or other conditions can improve yield and lead to improvements in financial performance. Businesses can benefit from the ability to track consumer purchasing fluctuations in regards to holidays and seasonal trends to help navigate supply chain challenges and forecast demand. When data is collected throughout the life cycle from seed to sale, businesses are able to identify patterns, predict trends and changes in consumer taste, and help plan for the future – allowing companies to make data-driven business decisions.

Integrated features such as cultivation management, regulatory compliance, seed-to-sale traceability, formula and recipe management, and reporting and analytics offer a competitive advantage for cannabis businesses. In the dynamic cannabis marketplace, the functionality available in cannabis ERP provides the technological tools that companies need to thrive in a world with increasingly tighter profit margins and regulations.

 


Daniel Erickson, Director of Product Strategy, has been with ProcessPro since 1999. As the Director of Product Strategy, Daniel focuses on driving overall market success by ensuring products meet both current and future market demands. Leveraging his extensive understanding of process manufacturing, the unique business trends of this industry and information gathered from market analysis, customer feedback and regulatory compliance, he drives product decisions. Daniel has a passion for connecting the benefits of ProcessPro’s ERP solution and analytics software packages to batch process manufacturers and helping to effectively solve their key business challenges. Daniel has held a variety of positions within ProcessPro, including implementation, account management, product consulting, product management and sales, which has provided him an aptitude for manufacturing and the nuances within the food and beverage, nutraceutical, personal care, pharmaceutical, cannabis and chemical industries. His diverse experience with the customer base and within ProcessPro provides a strong foundation for his position.

 

Member Blog: How to Launch a Marijuana Gift Card Program for Your Dispensary

by Gary Cohen, CEO of Cova Software

Gift cards are an excellent way to increase brand awareness and an opportunity to generate new customers for your dispensary. Research shows that these tiny pieces of plastic can boost revenue by up to 40%. They are indeed invaluable tools for upselling as well, as 75% of recipients tend to overspend on the value stored in their cards. Starting a gift card program requires minimal investment and is a proven tool to stimulate bottom-line revenues and enhance the customer experience.

Benefits of Gift Cards

A well-oiled gift card program has the potential to bring at least two customers into your store — the buyer and the receiver. A study by First Data showed that 11% of gift card receivers noted they had never or rarely visited the merchant location before receiving the gift card, and over a third became regular customers after redeeming the card. Also, if your loyalty program offers gift cards as an incentive, a customer will be encouraged to spend more money when receiving points redeemable for a gift card in the future. These cards don’t just boost your retail profits but also serve as tiny billboards for your brand.  

Following are five important points to consider when launching a gift card program for your cannabis retail store:

#1. Choose and Configure the Best Solution

Choosing a gift card program that integrates seamlessly with your existing POS system is the most reliable solution. If your POS does not offer any gift card functionality, consider an upgrade to a more modern cloud-based cannabis POS system. You may also opt for standalone third-party gift cards that can be sold through your POS as SKUs, but this solution is not recommended as there is a risk of data slipping through the cracks. 

#2. Create a Gift Card Strategy

Developing a gift card strategy is a crucial step in designing your program. Is your gift card-program meant to cover your bases across major holidays and slower seasons? Or is it supposed to be an all-encompassing component to your loyalty program and upsells? It is necessary to plan and design a program to meet your requirements and customer needs for gift card sales and redemptions at your cannabis dispensary. Also, choosing customizable branded gift cards will allow you to have total control over the look, logo, and design.

#3. Stay Compliant with Regulations

Cannabis is a highly regulated industry, and retail gift cards must fall in line with specific marketing and advertising restrictions. However, with an easy to manage, activate and track gift program that ensures end-to-end compliance as per local regulations, you can sell more gift cards and add to your revenues without the risk of any legal ramifications.

#4. Plan Gift Cards Orders and Sales

Your supply of gift cards must meet demand, and you must never run low on its inventory. Estimate demand based on your sales volume, holiday season, and target demographics, and plan your order accordingly. Placing gift cards at the payment counter is a great way to capitalize on impulse purchases. Train your staff to recommend gift cards to customers when appropriate, and establish incentives for them to sell the most cards.

#5. Promote, Track, and Report

Marketing online and organizing giveaways on social media are excellent tactics to build brand awareness. Capitalizing on holiday season sales and occasions that focus on gift-giving will further propel your cannabis gift card sales. You must also track, measure, and report your program’s results regularly against other established KPIs for your business. An integrated reporting system provides you with insights easily extracted from data within your POS so that you can focus on making your gift cards program a success.

Gift cards are one of the safest and most convenient ways to improve cash flow without increasing COGS. A branded gift card that is fully-integrated with your POS system is simple to set up, easy to manage, flexible, and affordable. However, just implementing a gift card program is not enough, and you must have a robust marketing and sales strategy for your gift cards as well. With the complexity that comes with shopping for cannabis products, your marketing campaigns must enhance brand visibility and be able to communicate to customers that the best gift they can give is the gift of choice.

Download your free copy of the Ultimate Guide to GIFT CARDS for Cannabis Businesses by COVA, which is a comprehensive guide to the best ways to use gift cards in the cannabis industry, with detailed information on how to scale and sustain retail growth through a gift card program.


Gary Cohen is the CEO of Cova Software, the fastest growing technology brand in the cannabis industry. Cohen’s focus has been driving the company’s overall strategy, including its vision, go-to-market plan, and strategic development. Since joining the cannabis industry in 2016 and launching Cova commercially in 4q17, Cohen has led Cova to dominate the enterprise sector for dispensary Point of Sale, while forging client relationships with hundreds of single-store retailers across North America.

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

 

Member Blog: 4 Ways Conversational Commerce Can Help to Grow Your Dispensary 

by Caroline Maahs, Copywriter at Podium

Become a trailblazer in your industry with a little help from conversational commerce.

Understanding how your customers like to connect can be the key to consumer happiness and repeat business. This article highlights 4 ways that you can modernize your customer journey as a way to improve consumer trust and loyalty.  

If there’s one thing that’s growing faster than cannabis dispensaries, it’s conversational commerce. Today, the modern customer expects convenience, personalization, and ease throughout their shopping experience, and one of the best ways to meet those expectations is by using conversational commerce. 

In this article, you’ll get a deeper look at this new customer support and sales method, as well as how you can take advantage of it to increase your sales.

What is conversational commerce?

Conversational commerce can be implemented by just about any business. It simply refers to the use of messaging apps and voice assistants, such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Amazon Echo, to facilitate the shopping experience—it’s a practice that can turn your company into the preferred brand in the cannabis industry. 

By implementing conversational commerce, you can make the shopping and checkout process more straightforward, resulting in a better customer experience and four times more conversions than before.

So how can it be implemented in the cannabis industry? 

Businesses can use conversational commerce to build a great user experience in many situations. After all, customers already want to use the digital tools they have to make every part of the buyer’s journey easier.

1. Dispensary customers aren’t interested in talking on the phone. 

Dispensary customers prefer to use text or a messaging app to communicate over talking on the phone. It’s faster, easier, and more convenient for someone who’s already using messaging as their preferred method of communication. 

With the use of text messages, voice messages, and smart devices on the rise, it’s crucial to adapt to keep up with changing consumer behavior. Text messages have an open rate of 99%, so implementing a conversational commerce strategy will allow you to convert your target audience at a higher rate. Whether they’re on the go with little attention to spare or at home looking for the most convenient way to shop, as a company that communicates via text, you’ll be their new go-to. 

2. Dispensary customers have a ton of questions before they come in. Here’s the best way to answer them. 

Dispensary customers often have questions about inventory, strains, vape cartridges, and medical policies, and by using conversational commerce, you can answer questions and offer recommendations seamlessly. According to Messina, one of the greatest benefits of conversational commerce is the fact that it offers users “decision support.” In other words, it allows you to guide users toward making a decision based on their specific needs and preferences. 

By answering questions and offering recommendations, your potential customer and patients can have an exact product in mind to purchase before they even walk through the door. This brings them one step closer toward the actual sale while keeping them committed to buying from your brand. 

3. Responsibility in this industry is key. Technology can make being responsible easy. 

The cannabis industry is big on being responsible, so it’s essential that your dispensary has a way to monitor and control how your staff interacts with customers and patients. By using a technology tool, you’re able to consolidate and monitor all of your conversations from Facebook Messenger, texting, your website, and more, all in one inbox. Plus, you can create messaging templates, so your conversations can be standardized to promote maximum consistency and responsibility, and to ensure your store is adhering to state and local regulations. 

4. You can use conversational commerce as a way to provide updates.

Sometimes, conversational commerce isn’t directly tied to your sales funnel. It can also be part of your overall customer service strategy. It creates the customer experience that all your  shoppers and patients want to return to every time they need your products. You can take advantage of messaging platforms and voice assistants to let customers know when an item has restocked, or even just thank them for a visit or purchase. As you continue providing the convenient support that your competitors aren’t, your customers may increase their loyalty toward your dispensary.

Become a trailblazer in your industry.

By implementing modern communication channels, not only can you cultivate brand loyalty, trust, and customer happiness, you can build relationships while creating measurable results too.


Caroline Maahs is a Copywriter at Podium, a privately held technology company headquartered in Lehi, Utah that develops cloud-based software to help businesses modernize customer interactions. Caroline attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison and graduated with a degree in English Literature and a minor in Entrepreneurship. 

Podium is a privately held technology company headquartered in Lehi, Utah that develops cloud-based software to help businesses modernize customer interactions, such as messaging and customer feedback, and improve their online reputations.

Interested in learning how Podium can help your store grow? 

Watch the Demo 

 

Member Blog: Augmented Reality CBD, Cannabis Product Labels – Entertainment Paves Path to Education

by Gary Paulin, VP of Sales and Client Services at Lightning Labels

Everyone loves good, entertaining stories. In part, their value lies in information — and education — sticking with recipients long after the storytelling has ended.

There’s a correlation in this to the value of Augmented Reality (AR) CBD and cannabis labels — which provide a novel, entertaining way to capture and keep audience attention. Along the way, product-makers have an opportunity to provide credibility-enhancing education about products, trends, quality control, and the like.

More than ever, consumers want to feel their products protect them. Likewise, cannabis and CBD manufacturer reputation and revenues hinge on consumers feeling safe using their products, and clear about proper (and improper) uses.

Augmented Reality brings interaction and product labeling together, using smart device apps, and even your smart phone’s camera to create an enhanced user experience. When viewers download a related smartphone app and point it at the product’s label, they can see an array of different options including videos, 2D/3D content, social media sharing options, and content that enables seeing how products appear in the real world. A web-based interaction can be launched using your phone’s camera – just open your camera app and point it toward a QR code.   In either case, the AR experience is initiated, and interacting with brand labels this way is fun, interesting, and can be extremely educational.

In many ways, it’s like hearing and seeing a story. When connected to useful, practical educational information, AR can fully address common and compelling consumer concerns at a time when fears about safety and health are at an all-time high.

In turn, this can assist manufacturers looking to gain another competitive edge when it comes to consumer awareness, preference, and sentiment. This further strengthens the labels’ role as the front door to product marketing and sales.

TrendHunter.com, dedicated to trend identification, notes that AR is gaining popularity in a variety of industries, ranging from food and beverage to cannabis. Regarding labels, the site notes: “The food and beverage industry adopts augmented reality-based labels… The use of AR in food labels is on the rise, with brands using such technology to both engage and educate their customers on the products they’re considering, or have already purchased. Such items cater to consumers’ continued interest in gamification, and add an element of interactivity that tends to be limited in product packaging.”

TrendHunter.com continues: “Though consumers tend to go online and research the details pertaining to products they purchase, the amount of information to sort through can be overwhelming. Thus, having brands do some of the work in relation to product education allows consumers the freedom to purchase in-person. With tech-integrations into labeling and packaging, this process is streamlined for consumers.”

Specifically targeting cannabis, TrendHunter.com emphasizes: “Virtual and augmented reality enters the cannabis space… The merging of augmented and virtual realities with the cannabis industry is on the rise as brands look to offer immersive experiences for connoisseurs and beginners alike. These platforms offer benefits like virtual product libraries and augmented package engagement — prioritizing both informative and creative experiences for viewers… For novice consumers, being informed about this emerging space is crucial in order to alleviate some of the apprehension they feel when they’re considering consuming a substance that was once attached with stigma and misinformation.”

Here are some hands-on, straightforward ways that AR-powered cannabis and CBD product labels can engage and educate consumers:

  • Show products being manufactured, establishing quality controls, purity and other credibility-building examples along the way;
  • Relate customer stories and reviews endorsing products, benefits and efficacy;
  • Address claims and controversies within the industry or involving the company itself;
  • Document complete tracking of products from seed to shelf, proving authenticity and quality control;
  • Provide ways (and encouragement) for consumers to interact with a brand via AR;
  • Offer easy social media sharing options, so that individual consumers can become brand information hubs via their networks.

Gary Paulin is VP of Sales and Client Services at Lightning Labels, a Denver-based custom label printer that uses state-of-the-art printing technology to provide affordable, full-color custom labels and custom stickers of all shapes and sizes. Contact: sales@lightninglabels.com; 800.544.6323 or 303.481.2304.

 

Video: Member Spotlight – HAL Extraction

NCIA recently visited with our members HAL Extraction based in Golden, Colorado. While social-distancing with the team there, we learned more about their extraction rooms, booth, and labs, and how operators can get their cannabis extraction production facility up and running. The company’s Chief Engineer, Josh Gladfelter, gave us a tour and demonstration of the capabilities of their product offerings, while Sales Manager Emma Byrnes explained how the company works with customers to find solutions to their specific needs. As explained by the company’s President, Patric Galvin, HAL Extraction is focused on leading the way for industry’s safety standards, helping facilities achieve compliance, and the longevity of our industry. Learn more and take a tour in this NCIA member video spotlight. 

Member Blog: Top 8 IT Concerns for the Cannabis Industry

by Sean Dawson, Director of IT Solutions at Office1 

Integrating and measuring innovation for cannabis businesses can be daunting, mostly because cannabis has been considered illegal for decades. Luckily for the cannabis industry, the laws prohibiting the use of marijuana and marijuana products are tumbling down, and windows of opportunities are opening for people to integrate information technology with their cannabis businesses. As in other industries, information technology is shaping the cannabis industry as a frontier of opportunities for professionals in many exciting ways.

Despite being stereotyped and demonized for close to a century, the marijuana industry is swiftly reconstructing itself, thanks to cutting-edge technology that’s ensuring inventions, innovations, and progress. IT remains the ultimate lever for changing how people view and relate to the cannabis industry. Over the last few years, IT revamped the cannabis industry and transformed how marijuana is grown, processed, distributed, purchased, branded, and consumed.

Despite the remarkable progress, there are a few IT concerns for the cannabis industry. Here are the top 8 IT concerns for the emerging cannabis industry: 

Automated Cultivation 

Marijuana grow-boxes with fully automated grow technology for high-quality yields are a potential game-changer for the cannabis industry. A perfect example is a home-grow technology that allows people to discreetly plant a seedling or two in every corner of their houses. Every bit of the home-grow technology is highly guided and fully automated. This gives growers a deep personal satisfaction of growing their own marijuana without having to go through the taxing learning curve that other farmers have to endure to get the best quality yields. With this technology, you don’t even need an outdoor garden. 

On a larger scale, there are tech-driven innovations in seed genetics and breeding as crucial aspects of cannabis cultivation. This technology modifies the DNA of cannabis to develop a cultivar with rich taste and more resistant to pests, diseases, and harsh elements of weather. 

On the applications frontier, cannabis farmers now have access to customizable apps that allow them to configure cannabis cultivation to their geographical locations, soil texture, climate, and desired outcomes, among other considerations. 

 Automated cultivation is a growing concern for the cannabis industry as IT companies are striving to improve the cultivation technology even further, and growers are looking to leverage the best technology to gain more control over the quality and quantity of their yields.

Access Control

Cannabis dispensaries face the need to ramp up security within their premises. These dispensaries mostly deal with large cash transactions, which expose them to crime. These businesses are vulnerable to burglary, forgery, and robbery, necessitating advanced security options.

The need for improved security has led these dispensaries to incorporate stringent security options that effectively prevent malicious activity. For instance, to protect their crucial product, processing plants and growers utilize remote and cloud-based access control to the facilities.

Cannabis dispensaries normally take advantage of the flexibility that comes with current security systems to ensure that only authorized persons can access various areas within their facilities. To enhance security and access, these systems combine various security applications within one package, making them robust and efficient. 

For instance, an access control system that grants keyless entry also combines with surveillance cameras, alarms, and the check-in systems to store a proper record of all personnel who visit specific areas within their premises. This ensures a safe work environment where the company maintains trust with their staff while simultaneously reducing liability. Remote access control also triggers rapid growth since it facilitates the management of many branches from a single point.

Automated Vending and Online Recommendation

With advances in computing and robotics, various companies have been experimenting with non-human point of sale vending technologies. The cannabis industry has not been left behind. Artificial intelligence has allowed companies to aggregate HIPAA compliant data thus allowing for the creation of platforms where doctors and patients to better predict treatment outcomes as well as managing analytic data points from seed to consumption. Enter, opportunity. Companies have now been utilizing this to innovate the way cannabis is being purchased. Through the creation of search engines designed off the AI data aggregation, consumers are now able to find the best available strains for their desired use case in both a medical and recreational use case. 

Such technologies revolutionize the supply and delivery of the product as they help users make informed decisions regarding consumption methods and available strains, and therefore pivotal IT concerns for the cannabis industry.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) has significantly transformed the way every industry does business, and the cannabis industry is not lagging far behind on this. The grade and strain of cannabis produced majorly depend on the environment in which it was grown. Artificial intelligence helps growers to enhance the plants’ genetic makeup and CBD/THC concentration to produce popular strains. 

AI also helps in optimizing the supply chain, ensuring efficient and fast delivery of marijuana products. Companies are diligently exploring ways in which AI can help improve how quickly and efficiently the product can be moved, from the growers to the processors and, finally, the consumer. 

For example, a California-based startup, Eaze, collects consumer data relating to consumption and delivery. The data is then processed, analyzed, and leveraged to help dispensaries keep track of demand and update their stock.

Other companies use artificial intelligence to forecast price changes, fluctuations in product supply, and to analyze trends within the cannabis Industry. 

AI is, therefore, a critical concern for the cannabis Industry.

Retail, eCommerce, and Delivery

Retail, too, has benefited from advances in delivery technology. Today, you can order a product or service with the click of a button, pay for it remotely, and have it delivered at your doorstep. The cannabis industry is already in on these advances. In states where marijuana consumption is legal, there are apps you can use to order a marijuana product and expect a home delivery in minutes. 

Marijuana dispensaries have also turned to technology to help educate the public on cannabis production and consumption. For instance, some dispensaries are adopting the use of augmented reality to guide consumers through the available strains and their effects on the human body. There are also tons of education programs that cover everything from how cannabis functions in the body, growing options, and the best strains for different types of consumers.

Customized Consumption

Technology has revolutionized how we consume the product. Unlike the previous years, when smoking was the most popular means of consumption, modern consumers have a wide range of options. These include skin patches, e-cigs, and dosed inhalers. These technologies have disrupted the cannabis industry, and are paving the way for even safer options.

No doubt, modern technology has led to the invention and discovery of safe practices in the consumption of marijuana. For instance, it is known that different consumers react differently to various methods of marijuana delivery. Today, it is not uncommon for a doctor to take a swab of saliva to determine the best strain and delivery method for a particular user.

Electricity Storage and Consumption Monitoring

Marijuana growers attest that one of the highest costs of marijuana production arises from the use of electricity. The use of LED lights and climate control are responsible for these power costs. One way to reduce these costs involves the use of storage batteries. Growers can buy electricity during off-peak times when power is cheaper, store it batteries and use it during peak times. This also calls for the use of energy monitoring solutions to determine power consumption trends within the cannabis farms.

Seed-To-Sale Technology

With the growth of the marijuana industry, producers and growers seek ways to improve efficiency in the cannabis production process, following the laid-out regulations and maximizing profit. Seed-to-sale technologies equip producers with all knowledge regarding their product supply chain. This way, marijuana growers function the same way as any legitimate pharmaceutical or distribution chain.

Seed-to-sale software allows for vertical integration, which means the grower can track the product through various phases of distribution (manufacturing, supply, and dispensing). Point of sale software can combine with the company accounting software to create a fully-fledged Enterprise Resource Planning system, making it easy to manage the product like any other business.

Seed-to-sale software also helps with the documentation of cannabis transactions, which helps with compliance management, inventory management, and analysis of consumption trends.

The Bottom Line with Cannabis and Technology 

With the increased decriminalization of cannabis comes unprecedented growth, which attracts investors. This growth has brought with it some industry shifts, especially in technology. This article has explored various IT concerns that have spurred growth in the marijuana industry. Legalization has also helped debunk myths formerly associated with the cannabis industry, which has encouraged IT startups to create solutions for the marijuana supply chain. This way, growers and suppliers can focus on developing high-end products, while technology helps with compliance, bookkeeping, and product improvement. 

The relationship between IT and marijuana growth will spur developments that propel it into a multi-billion-dollar industry in the coming decades.


Sean Dawson is the Director of IT Solutions at Office1. Office1’s mission is to innovate and progressively modernize the inefficient business landscape by providing a proactive, personalized, and eco-friendly office technology solution from planning to implementation and optimization. One solution from one company – Office1. Sean seeks to understand the heart of a challenge and then focuses on creating practical and timely solutions. He is an avid DIYer, gardener, and master house re-doer who loves spending his free time with his wife, four children, and six chickens. 

 

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