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. 

 

Member Blog: 7 Dispensary-Killing Mistakes And How To Avoid Them

by Gary Cohen, CEO of Cova Software

In the retail cannabis industry, there’s no conventional roadmap to success — at least not yet. Pioneering businesses must create their own strategies and systems through trial and error, all while coping with restrictive, ever-changing regulations and shifting market trends.

But as we enter the second decade of legalization, the landscape is changing. Cannabis entrepreneurs are learning from the last five years of industry growth and drawing on what worked for other retailers.

At Cova, we’ve partnered with more than 800 retailers to implement business operation systems through our cannabis POS software. We’ve seen retailers succeed, expanding into multiple markets with dozens of stores. And we’ve seen other retailers struggle and fold.

So, what makes the difference between success and the long, downward spiral into “retail fail?” What are the cannabis retail mistakes that kill market entrants? Through working with so many companies, we’ve discovered some of the secrets to cannabis retail success — and uncovered the nasty reasons for common failures. You’ll find them all in our new book, “Why Some Cannabis Retailers Fail… and the Secrets of Those Who Succeed.”

Here in this article, we document the biggest dispensary-killing mistakes that we’ve observed over the last five years. Don’t fall victim to these errors! Keep reading…

Dispensary Mistake #1: Financial Mismanagement

Most retailers — successful or otherwise — understand the importance of financial management, and they stay on point with their finances, or so it may seem. They keep orderly books and watchful eyes on their cash flow. 

Yet what sustains a cannabis retail store financially is forecasting and preparation. A dispensary with an uber-tight budget might look like a booming business when it’s actually vulnerable to a variety of external risks — risks like global pandemics. 

COVID-19 interrupted sales for many retailers while at the same time necessitating new technologies and infrastructure. Online ordering was suddenly a must-have POS integration, and delivery services — which were considered a questionable experiment just months before — were immediately necessary to stay competitive in many markets.

Likewise, the start-stop nature of legalization can create unexpected exposure, especially in new markets. When regulators hesitate to enact legislation and permit sales, retailers are left sitting on expensive real estate — sans revenue.

It’s best to set aside two years of operating capital if possible or maintain access to that amount of financing. Everything in cannabis takes longer than expected. Successful retailers recognize that fact and prepare accordingly.

Mistake #2: A Cloudy Vision for the Future

Successful retailers have a crystal-clear vision for the company they want to build and what they want to offer customers. When asked, these folks have quick answers to questions like “what are your companies goals” or “what are your companies values”?

Some retail operations fail to realize that they don’t have a clear vision. Individual stakeholders may have different values and assume others feel the same. If that’s the case, the business is pulled in different directions and has trouble making progress to any one goal. Internal conflicts slow decision making, which is critical for effective operations.

Be clear on your values and vision. Common values include profitability, serving medical patients, or simply living the cannabis lifestyle. Whatever your values, make sure they’re documented in a plan and shared with the rest of your team.

Mistake #3: Problems with Authority

In the days of prohibition, successful cannabis “retailers” made sure to avoid the law. Now, retailers embrace regulations and comply with every last rule — without cutting a single corner.

Successful retailers often designate a compliance supervisor. That person can manage seed-to-sale reporting, compliance logistics, and how your stores meet regulations on a day-to-day basis. They also nurture your relationship with regulators and ensure you’re seen as one of the “good guys.” 

Many features of a cannabis-specialized POS support regulatory compliance. Technologies like ID-scanning and POS/security integrations keep your front of house compliant, while seed-to-sale reporting meets regulatory requirements on the back end. Moreover, they eliminate human error — one of the biggest causes of violations.

Mistake #4: A Poorly Designed Customer Experience

Sometimes, retailers struggle to step into their customers’ shoes. They can’t see their own brand from the customer perspective, and they don’t understand why they’re poorly received by the market.

Each point of contact with your customer is an opportunity to deliver a good experience. Taken together, they add up to the customer experience. These touchpoints include your advertising, social media, store aesthetics, parking, online ordering system, and the type of customer service you provide.

For your customers to have a coherent experience of your brand, every touchpoint of your operation must be consistent. Whether your store caters to wealthy Millennials or aging Baby Boomers, it’s important that the quality of their interactions with your company are consistent. An upscale dispensary won’t have a filthy exit area or a bad website; likewise, a store that focuses on value pricing won’t have fancy bathroom fixtures.

Mistake #5: Mismanaging HR and PR

Good retailers have great relationships. They treat their employees and communities well — and are treated well in return! Failing retailers, on the other hand, often let bad employees spoil their customer experience, or they find themselves at odds with their community and neighbors.

When it comes to HR, good retailers actively cultivate their staff — and that means weeding out the undesirables. They know that their brand critically depends on their budtenders so they train and treat them well. But, when it’s necessary, they also release those who steal, cause customer service complaints, or show up late (or intoxicated).

When it comes to PR, successful retailers are engaged in their communities through active outreach. In emerging cannabis markets, communities usually need some reassurance that cannabis medicines aren’t the evil they may have imagined them to be. So, if you’re struggling for acceptance in your location, you could consider reaching out to medical professionals, clergy, and law enforcement with an offer of cannabis education. Often, it just takes a meet-and-greet to humanize your dispensary and set fears at ease.

Mistake #6: Operational Chaos

The Wild West of cannabis can be chaotic even in the best-run businesses. That makes it even more important to limit internal disorder and run a tight ship.

Successful retailers often have team members who are experienced in other industries and have excellent business operations skills. They analyze their sales reports and constantly refine what works. Even when things are going well, they experiment with different inventory items and suppliers, and they look for ways to reduce costs.

Technology can help tame the chaos of cannabis by automating many tasks that cause human error. Moreover, tech can save a lot of time — and payroll hours. When your cannabis POS and inventory management system integrate with your regulatory reporting system and have automated features, you save a ton of time and money.

Mistake #7: Not Using Data

The future of cannabis retail is data-driven. Like in other industries, successful cannabis retailers — the ones who expand to dozens of locations across multiple markets — are mining data to improve their business operations and customer service.

A good example is a loyalty program. These programs keep customers coming back, usually by using a points-based rewards system that mines data. It’s easy to track who buys which products, in what quantities, and at what frequency. And because you have the customers’ contact info, you can directly market to them with personalized promotions. To go one step further, you can implement a clienteling program and display the customer’s purchase history to your budtenders on your POS tablets. That way, they can offer personalized recommendations for a better customer experience.

Benchmark data is increasingly relevant to the cannabis industry too. With benchmark data, retailers can assess their performance against industry norms and address opportunity areas that may be holding them back. It illuminates industry trends and shifts in consumer preferences and, by providing an outlook, helps companies better plan for the future. As the industry evolves, companies will rely more and more on benchmark data firms to provide the intel for better decisions.

Successful Retailers Keep Learning

Across the board, the best retailers seek to improve. If you’re ready to step up your operation — or enter the market successfully — you might want to check out Cova’s ebook “Why Some Cannabis Retailers Fail… and the Secrets of Those Who Succeed.” 

The book can be downloaded here, and contains the dispensary tips that we’ve learned from working hand-in-hand with more than 800 retailers. You’ll discover additional cannabis retail mistakes as well the tactics that work for the most prominent retailers. Happy reading!


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: Cannabis Technology – Six Predictions for the Future of Cannabis Tech

by Barry Saik, Chief Executive Officer of Greenbits 

Big changes are coming to the cannabis industry.

At least, that is the outlook shared by cannabis experts and lawmakers across the political spectrum. Even people who oppose federal-level legalization have to admit that the current status quo is unlikely to hold, and that popular opinion continues to sway towards the creation of a legitimate nationwide cannabis industry. Technology is playing a crucial role in connecting people inside and outside the confines of that industry.

How Cannabis Tech Will Evolve in 2020 and Beyond

There is considerable movement towards legalization in an increasing number of states. Surging demand has been keeping the cannabis industry afloat even in the worst-hit areas of the global Coronavirus pandemic. While federal-level legalization may be a long shot for the calendar year, there is good reason to believe that several new cannabis markets will open.

Many of today’s most exciting cannabis tech trends have already started gaining inertia. These movements are likely to continue picking up steam well into 2020 and beyond, even if federal-level initiatives prove unfruitful by the end of the year:

Expanded Payment Options

So far, cannabis has been a cash-only industry. Debit card transactions are gradually making their way into cannabis markets, thanks to cashless ATM solutions and a variety of online payment processors. The trend towards cashless payments is likely to continue, whether federally-backed banks support it or not.

If the federal government approves a bill that allows banks to fund and support compliant cannabis businesses, consumers will see a remarkable surge in industry development. Online ordering will likely become the new norm, powered by increasingly sophisticated e-commerce systems.

Without the support of federally backed banks, the market is likely to rely on unicorn FinTech innovators who can find ways to sidestep federal stonewalling. Compliance and cash availability will be issues, but solutions similar to those already in place will nonetheless flourish thanks to steady demand.

Better, More Accurate Strain Profiles

Right now, cannabis experts rely on a broad range of ambiguous, anecdotal data to differentiate strain profiles and the experiences they offer. There is not enough hard data to offer a quantitative comparison between any two strains.

Terpene research is going to change this. These aromatic oils are responsible for the telltale smell unique to each strain, and they have been shown to contribute to each strain’s medicinal and psychoactive effects. 

The availability of hard data will transform the way consumers categorize cannabis. The goal is to go beyond the “sativa vs. indica” distinction and tell consumers exactly what to expect from each strain on an individual basis. In time, this may lead to an entirely new system of categorization for cannabis products.

A New Spotlight On Consumer Convenience

Colorado has implemented cannabis hospitality licenses as of 2020, and cannabis legislators around the country are taking a close look at the effects of the new rule. California already has a few consumption-friendly public locations, but this is very much a brand-new field where cannabis legislation – and cannabis technology – have yet to fully intersect.

On a similar note, Colorado is following California, Nevada, Oregon, and Massachusetts in allowing for cannabis delivery. These simple regulatory changes will have effects that transform consumer expectations in the industry, and the trend is towards convenience.

Expect a new brand of cannabis entrepreneur fusing technology and cannabis culture in ways never before thought possible. People are going to develop solutions that help solidify cannabis culture’s place in the local environment, capitalizing on convenience to do so.

Operational Experts Will Become Highly Sought After Cannabis Executives

There are several high-profile companies making movements towards consolidating their multi-state presence. At the moment, this is made difficult by the fact that every state has a unique set of rules for its cannabis businesses to abide by. This makes economies of scale difficult to achieve.

Operational talent is the specific kind that these large-scale organizations are going to be looking for. Until now, many multi-state operators have been run primarily by finance-oriented executives. This provides a good basis for setting up and closing acquisitions, but it will fall on newly built operational teams to build compliant solutions for multi-state organizations.

Hemp Will Open the Door to Cannabis Agriculture

The 2018 Farm Bill has led to official, federal-level recognition of hemp products. While this has not resulted in a nationwide hemp craze, the participating states are expected to bring non-psychoactive marijuana cultivation to the forefront.

So far, the USDA has approved 2020 hemp applications in Washington, Wyoming, Georgia, Iowa, and Pennsylvania. There are also fifteen tribal plans under review. Increased attention to hemp will lead to an increased dedication of tech resources to the needs of hemp farmers – which are necessarily distinct from those of psychoactive cannabis cultivators.

Market Intelligence Will Take Center Stage

A handful of ancillary industries – from cultivation-friendly real estate specialists to cannabis law firms – are expected to grow around the burgeoning industry, but market intelligence is the one most experts are excited about. 

Industry leaders in every state are looking for data on cannabis users. Sales data can help inform industry players on better, more efficient ways to use limited cultivation resources. Merchandising data can help dispensaries build lasting partnerships with non-cannabis brands. A wide array of new businesses will enter the cannabis market without necessarily being growers, processors, or dispensaries.

The ability to securely turn dispensary transaction data into readymade analytic insight will prove to be one of the most valuable assets a cannabis company can have. The fact that state regulation already requires dispensaries to gather and report transaction information means that, in many cases, half of the work is already done.

2020: The Year for Cannabis Tech

Technology has historically played a crucial role in achieving civic and social progress, which then informs newer technological initiatives. Cannabis technology is already helping regulators meet the demands stipulated by voters who want safe, legal access to marijuana products, and this trend is going to continue.


Barry Saik serves as Chief Executive Officer of Greenbits, a leading cannabis retail platform that empowers more than 1,200 cannabis retail locations across 13 states with a safer and smarter way to manage day-to-day operations and maximize store performance. 

Barry leads all functions of the company, which processed $3.3 billion in legal cannabis transactions in 2019. Through its platform, Greenbits offers the full suite of services that cannabis retailers need – automated state-by-state compliance, point of sale, inventory control, and personalized insights – to enable owners, managers, and budtenders to run, protect, and grow businesses with ease. 

A veteran of Silicon Valley start-ups and global tech companies, Barry brings a wealth of experience in scaling and leading integrated teams building software solutions that help small businesses grow.

Barry joined Greenbits as CEO in late 2019 after founding and running the SmartLine business at GoDaddy (NYSE: GDDY), a global company that helps entrepreneurs and businesses to be successful online. Centered around providing a second phone line that connects with a smartphone, the unit grew to $8 million in revenue in the first year under Barry’s leadership.

 

Before GoDaddy, Barry spent 15 years working in a variety of senior roles at Intuit (NASDAQ: INTU) and its marquis tax product, TurboTax, the leading software solution for business and personal tax filings. Early in his tenure, Barry led the founding team of TurboTax Online, which 40 million people used in 2019 to pay their U.S. taxes. 

 

As a senior leader in TurboTax’s marketing department, Barry oversaw the creation of the company’s first television ad campaign, which resulted in a 12 percent spike in sales. He also led TurboTax’s engineering team, which is charged with programming the ever-evolving federal and state tax codes into the software, a centerpiece capability of the product.

 

Barry graduated from Stanford University with a B.S. in mechanical engineering and an A.B. in communications. He received an M.B.A. in marketing from the UCLA Anderson School of Management.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greenbits Company Description 

As the pioneering leader of regulated retail, Greenbits is the complete cannabis retail management platform. Founded in 2014, we empower 22,000 users in 1,200 retail locations across 13 states. As the market share leader, Greenbits rings $3.7 billion in sales annually, comprising one-third of all cannabis sales in adult-use states. With the largest and fastest-growing network of cannabis retailers, we serve the most locations, reach the most customers, process the most transactions, and ring the most sales in the industry, making Greenbits the best-selling and most trusted cannabis retail platform nationwide.

 

Greenbits provides smart management solutions that help cannabis retailers maximize performance and make better business decisions. Our robust retail platform – with automated state-by-state compliance, inventory control, and personalized insights – enables owners, managers, and budtenders to run, protect, and grow their businesses with ease.  www.greenbits.com

 

 

Contact Information: mbriggs@greenbits.com

 

 

 

Webinar Recording: #CannaBizSummit Speaker Series – Hacker-Proof Your Remote Operations

In case you missed it, watch this webinar recording from Monday, April 27. As companies reacted to the workplace changes COVID-19 required, many cannabis companies made rapid decisions to work-from-home, added curbside pickup, and enhanced delivery services. These decisions lead to additional security risks, and with hackers targeting companies more aggressively, these risks must be addressed to ensure business continuity.

In this webinar, GeekTek CEO/CTO Eric Schlissel and his guest Sophos Cyber Security subject matter expert Joey Ellison will discuss the current state of remote work, what to expect in the future and how to improve your organization’s security posture, moving from reactive to proactive protection. Intended for a non-technical audience, attendees will leave with clear next steps to improve their cybersecurity with minimal effort.

Speakers Include:

Eric Schlissel, CEO & CTO
GeekTek

Joey Ellison, Sr. Cyber Security Engineer
Sophos

Member Blog: Cannabis Dispensaries Are Essential Businesses – Transforming How Cannabis Businesses Operate 

by Nina Simosko, Chief Revenue Officer, Akerna 

The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed how businesses operate and how people interact with one another. For many individuals, one of the greatest changes is living under “shelter-in-place” orders. The restrictions put in place have resulted in the closure of businesses that just a few weeks ago, many of us assumed would be open. The impact of COVID-19 on the cannabis industry has been dramatic, and the regulations and designations put in place over the past six weeks have altered the way cannabusinesses interact with their patients, as well as the way they are perceived as part of the larger healthcare conversation. The increasing adoption of technology solutions will continue to define the evolution of the industry long after the COVID-19 crisis has passed. 

Dispensaries As Essential Businesses 

Shelter-in-place has expanded across the country at a similar rate to the virus itself. When officials from states like California and Colorado issued these orders, cannabis dispensaries were initially not designated as an essential business. Due to public outcry, however, these initial orders were reversed. Dispensaries were classified essential and critical, joining other vital businesses like grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, and gas stations.

This distinction of dispensaries — medical, recreational, or both, depending on the state — as an essential business reflects how the cannabis industry and retailers are evolving to become a key part of the health infrastructure. Medical marijuana is a $5 billion industry with around 2,000 retailers serving more than two million patients nationwide. Among them are patients fighting cancer and using cannabis to manage their symptoms, veterans working to manage post-traumatic stress syndrome and those being treated for severe forms of epilepsy, Dravet syndrome, and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.  For patients like these, the cannabis industry plays an important role in their day-to-day health. 

According to our research, cannabis sales have increased by 19.2% during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, between March 11 and March 31, online ordering increased by 355%, delivery sales went up by 280% and pickup orders increased by 118%.

Modernizing the Cannabis Industry’s Way of Distribution 

As demand continues to grow, cannabis dispensaries must adapt and adjust their operations in order to be compliant with the CDC’s guidelines for social distancing. For some business owners, this can be challenging, as historically, most cannabis dispensaries have sold and delivered product in-person and in-store with cash payments. In this “old way” of doing business, budtenders played an important role in helping customers, as they are trained to listen and discuss the most suitable products for each individual.

The reality of today’s world is forcing a shift in how businesses operate, moving from the traditional “in-person” model and embracing digital transformation for online menus, ordering, and delivery. Dispensary owners need to ask themselves: how with the aid of technology can they differentiate their products, and how can they engage and educate new and existing customers? As an essential business, how can cannabis dispensaries embrace the “new ways” of operating?

Through the integrated use of technology, business owners can keep up with the changing landscape to connect and engage with customers through:

  • Offering online video budtender consultations to replace in-person meetings 
  • Providing online menus with robust product descriptions, improved merchandising, and bundled offerings around specific themes such as ‘sleep’ or ‘calming’
  • Developing targeted email and text messaging campaigns customized for individual customers to educate them on new product information
  • Guaranteeing secure, electronic payments

While industries across the board are embracing digital transformation, the cannabis industry now has an opportunity to fast-track its way there – and in time, this is what will enable cannabis business owners to thrive while protecting the health and safety of the community.


Nina Simosko serves as Chief Revenue Officer for Akerna, a global regulatory compliance technology company in the cannabis space. Akerna’s companies and investments also include MJ Freeway, Ample Organics, Last Call Analytics, Leaf Data Systems®, solo sciences, and ZolTrain. 

With more than 20 years of technology industry experience, she has spearheaded strategic innovation initiatives for global Fortune 100 companies including Oracle, SAP, and most recently, NTT Group. Nina oversees both Akerna and MJ Freeway’s revenue generation streams, builds strategies to drive revenue growth, and plays a pivotal role in aligning revenue generation processes across the Akerna organization

Previously, Nina was President and CEO of NTT Innovation Institute Inc. (NTTi3), the prestigious Silicon Valley-based innovation center for NTT Group, one of the world’s largest ICT companies. Prior to NTT i3, Nina was responsible for leading the creation and execution of Nike Technology strategy, planning and operations world-wide. At SAP, she was the Senior Vice President of SAP’s Global Premier Customer Network (PCN) where she led both the PCN Center of Excellence and SAP’s Global Executive Advisory Board. During her eight-year tenure, she was a part of SAP’s Global Ecosystem & Partner Group which was charged with continuing to build and enable an open ecosystem of software, service and technology partners together with SAP’s communities of innovation. 

Ms. Simosko currently sits on the Advisory board at Santa.io, AppOrchid and Reflektion and she has also been a member of the advisory boards at Appcelerator and Taulia.  

Nina can be found on Twitter and LinkedIn

The changes around ordering, delivery, payment, patient education and promotion are here to stay. With more than 70 integrated partners, MJ Platform offers clients the advanced technology solutions that are becoming increasingly important to the industry as we work through these challenging times, and that will define the future of cannabis in the months and years to come.  

 

Member Blog: 5 Ways To Increase Operational Efficiency

by BriAnne Ramsay, CEO of RMCC, and Karen Mayberry, Marketing Director and Co-founder of Trym

In the evolving cannabis industry, companies are streamlining and optimizing their processes.

Labor is the highest expense in commercial cannabis activity across the supply chain, accounting for nearly half of production costs. For example, cannabis cultivation requires a skilled team to support production, harvesting, and processing, and packaging. As a retailer, it’s imperative to calculate labor cost per unit. When these costs aren’t accounted for, inefficiencies lead to lower margins.

Owners and managers are looking at their bottom line and strategizing on how to increase their operational efficiency. In this article, the folks behind Trym and RMCC, share their suggestions on doing just that. 

Standard Operating Procedures

    1. SOPs aren’t just for the operating license application, this is your company’s playbook. These procedures outline not what you intend to do, but what you are doing. If you change what you’re doing outside of that playbook; those SOPs need to reflect that.
    2. How do you know your SOPs are being followed? Systems with consistent checks and balances! Data doesn’t lie!

Training and Ongoing Support

    1. Many of us know from experience the cannabis industry has a higher employee turnover rate at 40%-60% within the first 2 months. One might infer it’s because, in a budding industry, we haven’t yet had the time or resources to focus on developing our “training departments” as large corporations have. Cannabis is busy jumping through hoops to satisfy external requirements and therefore we devote our resources to short term needs rather than investing in training infrastructures. 
    2. Maintaining a consistent, up-to-date learning strategy with executable training plans will help you decrease turnover – in all aspects of your operation. What experience does a new (or seasoned) employee have when coming on board or changing roles? Do they know what happens before they join the team? Day 1? Week 1? After a month? Complex roles may take up to 6 months or longer to acclimate to. If employees get frustrated early on they head out the door. What can you do to prevent this from happening? 
    3. Targeted training with ongoing support is crucial to maintain and improve efficiencies. The data shows that investing in your employees decreases turnover and in the long-term, increases your profit margins. According to the Association for Talent Development (ATD), companies that offer comprehensive training programs enjoy a 24% higher profit margin than those who spend less on training.

Communications Strategy

    1. Today’s world demands quick, effortless distribution of information. One way to increase everyone’s efficiency is to enable that flow of information. Decrease the frequency and length of meetings. While important for decision making and collaboration, too many meetings correlates with lower labor efficiency.
    2. Introduce a company-wide communication tool, like Slack, to leave the inbox for truly important emails while also opening up communication between departments. 
    3. Build an intranet with internal SOPs, workflow diagrams, important announcements, checklists, etc. Provide your employees with the tools and path to success. When communication flows across departments and seniority, you get a team structure that isn’t limited by bottlenecked decision making. Leadership is more accessible and the company can act quickly, achieving optimal results. 
    4. Create incentives for your team to perform great work. Recognize their accomplishments and offer support when necessary. Positive employee morale goes a long way.

Regular Process Reviews

    1. Implement internal checks and balances such as audits, workflows and Key Performance Indicators analysis. Consistently reviewing production data will ensure the licensee identifies their operational gaps and can adapt to more efficient and compliant workflows.  
    2. Third-party audits are great resources to identify compliance risks that may not be found through internal audits. 
    3. Monthly or quarterly reviews of standard operating procedures are recommended to verify the documents accurately reflect the physical flows and the details reported to the state agency. Perhaps the state has made changes to their regulations and SOPs need to be modified?

Software Tools That Bring Value

    1. Software has the power to automate certain processes and save labor time. When chosen, implemented and adopted correctly, it can greatly increase company efficiency. The first step in software evaluation is identifying the challenges your company faces and the ways in which software can help. Then, evaluate each software product on how well its features and services can support your efficiency goals.
    2. In the cannabis industry, there are many ways to enlist software to optimize workflows. There are traditional software tools like Asana and Slack for project management and internal communication. And there are industry-specific tools like Trym for METRC reporting and cultivation management or Simplifya for compliance monitoring. Check out our piece on implementing Metrc solutions for your cannabis business if you’re in a Metrc state!

BriAnne Ramsay is the CEO of Rocky Mountain Cannabis Consulting (RMCC).

RMCC’s training courses, expert counsel, procedures, and documents help businesses achieve and maintain compliance. RMCC helps Operators and Technology companies excel in daily operations, implement seed-to-sale software, provide comprehensive training with on-site evaluations, and gap analysis. We help build the infrastructure of compliance operations through customized Standard Operating Procedures.

 

Karen Mayberry is the Marketing Director and Co-Founder at Trym.

Trym is farm management software custom-built for cannabis cultivators. Trym improves efficiency and consistency through environmental monitoring, customized task and batch management, and data analytics. Trym is currently integrated with Metrc in California and Oregon, and is used alongside compliance software in other states.

 

Committee Blog: Facts About Current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPs) And Their Role In The Cannabis Industry

By Ellice Ogel, Tyler Williams, Peter Dougherty, David Vaillencourt, Trevor Morones
NCIA’s Cannabis Manufacturing Committee

A Primer on current Good Manufacturing Practices

What are GMPs?

Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) are minimum requirements to ensure that products are created in a manner that ensures they are of consistent quality and safe for their intended use. If a product is found to be produced in a facility that does not meet GMPs, they can be considered adulterated and unsafe. In the U.S., the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the manufacture and sale of food and beverages, dietary supplements, pharmaceutical products, and cosmetics by requiring adherence to GMPs. The “c” in cGMP stands for current, meaning that how companies conform to GMPs must continually evolve with the development of new scientific research and industry best practices. Today, the two terms are used interchangeably. While cannabis is not recognized as a legal product at the federal level, federal legalization will inevitably result in the requirement for cannabis producers to conform to cGMPs. 

cGMPs can be broken into six major sections (1) Management Commitment, (2) Risk Management, (3) Quality Management Systems, (4) Site & Facility Management, (5) Product Controls, and (6) Staff Training (Figure 1).

Figure 1 Major elements of any system that follows Good Manufacturing Practices

Why are cGMPs important?

cGMPs are important for every industry to ensure manufacturers are producing safe products. A site that isn’t following the minimum requirements for cGMPs in their specific industry is putting the basic well-being of consumers around the world at risk, which the FDA terms adulterated. cGMPs provide assurance that steps within the manufacturing process result in passing final product testing. Final product testing alone is not enough to ensure the safety of consumers. In most cases, final product testing is completed on a small sample batch, so that manufacturers are not wasting the final product on sampling and testing. For example, if the manufacturer is producing 1 million dietary supplements, the manufacturer might only test 100 tablets from that batch. This means that if cGMPs are not being followed and there is no consistency in the safety of producing that product, then some of the products may be safe for consumption, while others may not. This results in product recalls or withdrawals, damage to brand reputation, and lawsuits. A recent study by the Denver Department of Health found that 80% of cannabis products on dispensary shelves failed testing despite passing final batch testing prior to sale.

What do cGMPs include?

Every industry regulated by the FDA has its own guidelines for cGMPs, which are found within Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations. Unique differences between cGMP requirements for each industry exist. If your company has multiple product lines that fall into any of these different industries, understanding how these differences will impact you are critical. Figure 2 provides a high-level overview of the major GMP topics that are required by industry.

Figure 2 Summary table of major FDA cGMP regulations by industry sector

 

 

Industry TypeLocation of primary GMPs within 21 CFR
Food & Edibles21 CFR 117
Dietary Supplements21 CFR 111
Pharmaceutical21 CFR 211
CosmeticsSee Draft Guidance for Cosmetic Good Manufacturing Practices

Figure 3 Table of the major industry types regulated by the FDA and where one can find the major cGMP requirements


Not all GMP topics are referenced in the primary section of the CFRs, which can make it difficult for people who are new to GMPs to ensure they are appropriately prepared. For example, the food and beverage cGMPs (21 CFR 117) does not include packaging and labeling controls, whereas the pharmaceutical cGMPs (21 CFR 211) does include packaging and labeling controls. 21 CFR 101 is home to packaging and labeling statues for the food and beverage industry. 

Each sector regulated by the FDA has overlap which contributes to talent acquisition/recruitment from other industries. 


THIRD-PARTY cGMP AUDITS

What are Third-Party cGMP Audits?

A third-party cGMP audit is a systematic independent and documented activity in which objective evidence is gathered and assessed to determine if the site’s cGMP system is appropriate and effective. In the 1990’s third-party GMP audits were like an inspection you would receive from the FDA or local health department. This means there was a heavy focus on the building itself and what was happening on the production line during the time of the audit. Nowadays, cGMP audits typically include much more than what is required from the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). Examples of this include extra requirements for Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) and a much heavier review of documentation to ensure best practices are being followed all the time and not just on the audit day.

Benefits of Using an Experienced and Accredited Certification Body

One thing to keep in mind when considering a third-party cGMP audit is whether or not the audit is accredited. Certification Bodies are accredited (approved) by an Accreditation Body, to ensure their internal procedures and audit processes follow strict guidelines for different audit standards. If approved, the CB gets accredited to that specific audit standard. This along with direct oversight of the audit Scheme Owner and the Accreditation Body ensure that the Certification Body has qualified auditors and that the entire audit process goes through several quality checks before it becomes “final.” In the U.S., the three major accreditation bodies approved to do this are:

  1. American Association for Laboratory Accreditation  
  2. ANSI National Accreditation Board (ANAB) 
  3. International Accreditation Service (IAS)  

For more information on this process, one should refer to the International Accreditation Forum (www.iaf.nu).

WHY SHOULD MY COMPANY RECEIVE A 3rd PARTY cGMP AUDIT?

Unlike the food & beverage, dietary supplement, pharmaceutical, and cosmetics industries, cannabis is federally illegal in the United States. This means there are no federal regulations for cGMPs in the cannabis industry. However, some states, such as Florida, have taken the initiative and implemented requirements to have all cannabis facilities become audited to a cGMP standard before they can receive their license to begin manufacturing.

As the cannabis industry continues to evolve, retailers and others downstream in the supply chain will demand that cannabis manufacturers provide evidence of a certain level of quality and safety in their products. An attestation or certificate from a third-party demonstrating that your facility meets cGMP requirements is an internationally recognized way to provide that evidence and establish trust. Globally, third-party cGMP audits are crucial to maintaining product safety and quality by providing a third set of eyes to verify what is working and what is not. Besides regulatory requirements and customers requiring your facility to get a third-party cGMP audit, there are numerous other benefits to receiving a cGMP audit. Some of these benefits include the following:

  • Reduction in failed product testing
  • Improvement of product safety
  • Improvement of product quality and consistency
  • Eliminating potential risks and possible recalls
  • Marketing advantages over competitors who are not audited by a third-party
  • Improvement to consumer confidence and an increase in brand loyalty

ROADMAP TO cGMP CERTIFICATION

Management Commitment

It is essential to the entire cGMP system to have commitment from top-down. Without this, your site will not receive the resources (e.g. people, equipment, tools, budgets) it needs to implement an effective cGMP system. The culture of an organization requires everyone to practice what is lectured. Simply; Say what you do, do what you say. 

Start Preparing Early

Be realistically courteous to the timeline by generating an internal analysis. Using the scheme, the audit will be against, create a list of programs you currently have, and which are missing. Working towards a better score early will provide greater long-term value. 

The very first thing you need to do before you start making major changes to your facility or procedures is to identify which GMP standard or standards you intend to meet. With this established, you can select a Certification Body and obtain a copy of the audit form or checklist that they will use to assess you. 

Assess Your Current Level of Conformance

Establish an audit team and conduct a thorough assessment of your current organization. If this is new to your organization and staff, it is beneficial to work with a GMP expert that has experience in both cannabis and the cGMP program you are going to be audited against. Review your entire system against the audit checklist and highlight or markup items your site is already doing. This allows you to focus on the things you are missing and close any “gaps”.

Implementation and Teamwork

The preparation of an audit should never rest on the shoulders of one person. Your site should establish a multidisciplinary/interdepartmental team to implement the various tasks based on the findings from your initial assessment. Collaboration is key to successfully preparing for a cGMP audit, especially when timelines set by upper management are very stringent.

Training

Training is essential in preparing for your cGMP audit and business in general. This helps close the gaps between what your safety and quality department has developed and what your front-line employees are applying. All employees should understand what cGMPs are and how it applies to and benefits their daily activities.

Establish Your Internal Audit Program

Conducting internal audits is an effective way to not only prepare for your cGMP audit but to continually improve your organization. Breaking down your entire audit checklist into department or process-specific sections, you can establish the frequency of auditing these bite-sized sections. Should they be reviewed annually, semiannually, quarterly, monthly, or continuously throughout day-to-day operations? Some things, like reviewing your suppliers, may only need to be done annually, while things such as pre-operational inspections should be performed daily. Always use the actual audit checklist to observe your documents and facility to see if there are any gaps. Whenever possible, the person or team conducting the internal audit should never review their own work. Establishing any issues or non-conformances should be noted, evaluated, corrected, and closed out.

Schedule Your Third-Party Audit

A third-party mock audit is the closest thing you can get to an actual audit. This is where a third-party company would come in and evaluate your site to the specific cGMP standards and give a formal report over any deficiencies found during the assessment. This is a great way to test your preparedness before the actual audit.

Address Non-Conformances and Celebrate!

Your auditor will almost certainly identify areas where you are not fully compliant, known as non-conformances. Depending on your level of preparedness, you will hopefully have only a few Minors, but non-conformances can be classified as Major or Critical. You will work with your auditor to establish actions and a timeline to effectively resolve these non-conformances and provide follow up evidence of their closure. After successfully closing out your non-conformances, you will be rewarded with a certificate or attestation. Sit back, relax, celebrate! With a cGMP system in place, the established intervals to audit your system will ensure you have the tools and knowledge to maintain your cGMP status!

Member Blog: Harvesting Automation In The Time Of COVID-19

by Brett Layne, sales and manufacturing leader at Mobius Trimmer

Coronavirus is shining a light on the vulnerabilities (and inefficiencies) of manual processes in cannabis harvesting. 

Coronavirus is disrupting the cannabis industry in North America. And while COVID-19 restrictions vary in different markets, many cannabis cultivators have had to stop or drastically reduce operations to maintain compliance. 

Sadly, the long-term impact of coronavirus will force some cultivators to permanently close their doors.

Under the current social distancing mandates, the grow rooms themselves aren’t a problem. Staying 10 feet away from other staffers in a greenhouse is easy, there’s always plenty of space and the ability to rotate and spread out shifts. 

Harvesting is the culprit. 

Cramped and crowded trim rooms with at least a dozen employees (sometimes more) in close quarters isn’t acceptable or wise under today’s circumstances. Laws aside, many hourly employees are calling in sick or not showing up for work at all. Or even worse, they show up to work with an illness, COVID-19 or otherwise. Skilled workers aren’t easy to replace, but a sick employee introduces a new set of issues. 

We’re advocates for highly-automated cannabis harvesting and processing. Automation is perfect for roles that are dangerous or repetitious or can introduce inconsistencies and contaminate products. 

And because of coronavirus, the cannabis industry needs automation now more than ever. 

You’re ahead of the curve if you’ve automated aspects of your harvesting workflow. And you’re probably still operational. 

But it’s not too late for cultivators that are manually harvesting and trimming cannabis to re-think their processes, embrace automation, and adapt tools like automated trimming machines, buckers, conveyors, and mills to stay in business and keep their employees safe. 

There are many dated arguments that claim trimming machines take the soul out of cannabis. Hand-trimming is viewed by some as a more refined process that does less damage to the flower. And while most people will always be a fan of craft cannabis, the arguments against automation are, at this point, inaccurate. 

The trimming machine backlash was the result of legacy trimmers that weren’t able to match the quality of hand-trimmed cannabis. Today, this isn’t necessarily the case. Innovative machine trimmers can produce a trimmed flower that’s virtually indistinguishable from its hand-trimmed cousins. And the best machine trimmers can offer a level of consistency that hand-trimming can’t match. 

If you’re not yet convinced, here’s something to consider: the consumer opinion of hand-trimmed cannabis will change after COVID-19. Customers will feel better knowing that their cannabis has had minimal human intervention. 

The best of today’s machine trimmers produce an exceptional product, keep your employees safe, and help you stay in business. It’s a win-win for everyone. 

Now is the time to consider automation if you haven’t before in order to keep your operations, your employees, and your customers safe, and watch your business continue to grow. 


Brett Layne is a sales and manufacturing leader at Mobius Trimmer, his “forever home.” Prior to his career in the cannabis industry he’s been a brewer, winemaker, industrial rigger, carpenter, and mass-timber builder. He lives in beautiful British Columbia with his family. 

Mobius Trimmer takes the complexity out of harvesting by offering the world’s best cannabis and hemp processing equipment. Mobius equipment is engineered for ease of use, scalable output, employee safety, and GMP workflows. Plant material bucked, trimmed, and milled by Mobius equipment rivals product processed by hand.

Backed by harvest consulting experience earned in facilities around the world, top-tier customer service, and an immersive training academy to help you maximize your investment, Mobius is the unrivaled global standard for cannabis and hemp processing.

 

Member Blog: Attracting Investors Requires Compliance And Scalability

by Frank Nisenbaum, Vice President of ERP Sales, c2b teknologies 

More new cannabis entrepreneurs are trying to carve out space in the industry, and as the market continues to expand, so are cannabis investors.

This comes as no surprise. Cannabis investors have more predictable ways to invest in cannabis companies since marijuana can now be found in everything from beverages to beauty creams.

But the needed operating capital coming from these investors isn’t being thrown at new upstarts riding on nothing more than the dream of success in the legal marijuana marketplace. Cannabis investors want to see the people and businesses into which they put capital have a strong commitment to their industry and a dedication to their processes. Of course, this entails strict adherence to local, state and federal regulations for compliance initiatives, but investors also want to see a solid foundation for expansion and scalability in place.

Scalability

Consider your projected growth over the next few years, what are you doing to meet it? Investors want to see more than forward-thinking ideas, they want to see the initiatives you’ve put in motion to meet your projections. Are you upgrading suppliers, creating new products, or even better, adding new locations?

Investors need to believe that organizational leadership has a sound plan for scalability in place. More importantly, as you expand into new markets and grow your product offerings, you have invested in the framework and infrastructure in order to grow their operation in line with your business plan.

Regulation and Compliance

Among the more burdensome compliance issues for cannabis operators is the need to track the entire lifecycle of cannabis products from seed to sale. You need to be able to account for every step in the lifecycle of your cannabis plants and be able to provide this information to regulatory agencies at a moment’s notice.

Adding to the complexity of tracking the plant, you’ll need tracking for each employee who works with the plant. These seemingly minor details can derail the best intentions, so demonstrating success surrounding mandated quality assurance testing at key points in the plants’ development will get the attention of would-be investors.

Multiple Jurisdictions for Added Complexity

Compliance is even harder to achieve due to the multiple bodies which have jurisdiction. Local, state, and federal agencies all jockey for partial control of regulatory measures placed upon your cannabusiness.

Some of the federal agencies involved in the regulation of legal cannabis plants include, but are not limited to:

  • United States Department of Justice
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • Internal Revenue Service

Each state in the U.S. has its own regulatory body for cannabis operations. Examples include:

  • Department of Public Health
  • Department of Food and Agriculture
  • Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • Department of Pesticide Regulation
  • Alaska Marijuana Control Board
  • California Bureau of Cannabis Control
  • Colorado Department of Revenue Enforcement Division Marijuana Enforcement
  • Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, Cannabis Regulation
  • Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission
  • Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission
  • Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Bureau of Marijuana Regulation
  • Nevada Department of Taxation
  • Oregon Liquor Control Commission
  • Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board

The full list of regulatory bodies is much longer. Compliance concerns are not exclusive to this industry, but as a cannabis operator, you face a tremendous number of regulatory bodies and each of these agencies has specific requirements to adhere to in order to stay compliant and stay in business.

As cannabis legalization becomes more widespread, each jurisdiction develops its own guidelines surrounding cannabis, from seed to sale. Unfortunately, this often creates confusion and leaves cannabis compliance open to interpretations. Without the systems in place to track and document multiple aspects of the cannabis industry, you’re at risk for considerable fines for non-compliance.

How to Present Your Cannabusiness

If you’re seeking capital from cannabis investors, understand that building a cannabusiness for compliance and scalability is nearly impossible without purpose-built technology. To that end, cannabis operations software is an invaluable platform for your cannabusiness when looking to attract investors.

Beyond your core business functions, investors consider the systems in place which support your cannabusiness. By planning ahead and incorporating a cannabis operations solution before you seek outside funding, you’re able to enjoy the fruits of efficiency, but you’re also able to prove it.

Cannabis operations software features tools for inventory tracking, asset management, and personnel scheduling and management, which means that the regulatory guidelines with which a cannabusiness must remain compliant are areas intrinsically handled by the platform. These systems excel at tracking inventory and allocating resources while maintaining clear audit trails, which is extremely important if a regulatory agency knocks on your door.

Cannabis operations software gives you and potential investors a unified view of your entire operation by bringing all operational data under the same umbrella, standardizing the data reporting and making it available for easy cross-referencing. By collecting all data into a single pipeline, a best-in-class solution gives everyone in the process the tools and insights necessary to make the right decision.


Vice President of ERP Sales, Frank Nisemboum, is a trusted advisor at c2b teknologies who has guided organizations of all sizes enabling them to establish a technology presence and expand their business through technology. His proven ability to analyze the current and future plans of a company and work with team members to subsequently bring technology solutions to the organization result in improved processes and controls that assure continued growth and profitability. 

Frank has worked in the ERP and CRM software selection, sales and consulting industry for almost 25 years. His strong ability to understand, interpret and match the needs of an organization to the right solution make him an asset to all of his clients. 

c2b teknologies integration and engineering experts have partnered with leading cannabis industry experts to develop a software solution that provides a complete cannabis operations system. The best-in-class solution not only handles tracking of seed-to-sale activities but encompasses your entire cannabis operations with compliance needs handles along the way. Our passion for solving problems drives us to deliver innovative solutions for everyone we work with. Visit c2btek.com for more information. 

Member Blog: Cannabis Software Solutions – The Case for Connectivity

by Allison Kopf, CEO and Founder of Artemis

In the cannabis industry, it is critical for cultivators to track crops throughout their production. Traceability benefits and protects cannabis companies, state governments, and the consumer. Without proper tracking systems in place, it would be impossible for states to tax businesses appropriately, it would be dangerous for consumers, and the burden of risk is placed almost entirely on the operator. 

To combat this risk, states have mandated certain systems to track cannabis products called track-and-trace or seed-to-sale systems. There are a few leaders in the space – Metrc, MJ Freeway, and BioTrack. All three provide tracking software solutions for operators and contract their software to state governments. 

These systems are designed for regulators, not cultivators. Growers instead have to purchase a second system to manage their operation. We’ve highlighted why it’s important for growers to implement a cultivation management platform (CMP) in the past, but it’s important to note how difficult it is to implement a CMP in the current market. 

Growers are second class citizens in the cannabis world – and that’s a major failure of the industry right now. Growers are the backbone of this industry and we, as innovators, should be making it as easy as possible to track products through the supply chain. This is not just because it’s a good business decision or because it makes it easier for governments to tax products, but because it’s good for the industry. It’s good for the consumer. It’s the right thing to do. 

However, the industry is disconnected. For Metrc required states, it takes weeks before you will hear from the company regarding connectivity and months before integration can happen. The regulatory systems all tout their API as a way for other software companies to integrate into their systems, but in reality, it’s not that simple. 

Here’s what that means for growers. Growers are mandated to use regulatory systems to record weights and plant IDs (as well as other data) for the benefit of the regulator and the chosen software provider, but they cannot use those tools to their advantage. Instead, they have to choose to purchase a third-party system that may or may not be able to integrate into the regulatory system or they are forced to purchase the cultivation software from the same regulatory software provider, which again, may or may not fulfill their needs. If the grower chooses a system that they like but cannot integrate, it means they have to enter information twice. This is a costly burden and often leads to unnecessary data entry errors. 

Most of the regulatory systems on the market today are ill-equipped to provide enterprise-ready software in the first place, but it’s not the fault of those software providers. This is a new industry. Most of the software companies on the market are undercapitalized and many are outsourcing development as a result. This leads to serious security issues and system outages, like we’ve seen in Washington and Pennsylvania.  

A better way to handle the growth of this industry would be to regulate in a connected and open environment. Instead of mandating a particular software solution, mandate traceability and let the grower decide how to meet that requirement.

For example, under the Controlled Substance Act, the DEA requires certain reporting requirements and these are submitted to the DEA database ARCOS (Automated Reports and Consolidated Ordering System). However, a company could choose to use Microsoft NAV for its management solution and sync to ARCOS for submittal of reports.

In food, the USDA governs food safety requirements under FSMA (the Food Safety Modernization Act). FSMA mandates food producers create and maintain a food safety plan, however it does not require a specific format or content. There is guidance for how to create a plan, but FSMA also allows for flexibility in operations and there is trust that operators will create a plan that is right for their operation. 

This idea of trust in the grower and a unified framework of requirements is missing in the cannabis industry. Some software providers have tried to close that gap, but relying on mandatory software and changes on a state-by-state basis will only hurt the industry. We need to enable growers to scale efficiently and legally. We should support growers and provide tools that make it easier for them to implement new regulatory requirements, not harder. Our industry should consider opening up the software market for regulatory reporting and at a minimum should encourage data integrations, not limit them.  


Allison Kopf is the Founder and CEO of Artemis, the market-leading Cultivation Management Platform serving the fruit, vegetable, floriculture, cannabis, and hemp industries. Artemis won the highly coveted Disrupt Cup at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco. Kopf was recently named one of Forbes 2019 30 Under 30 as well as one of New York Business Journal’s 2019 “Women of Influence.” Allison is an Investment Partner at XFactor Ventures and serves on the boards of Cornell University’s Controlled Environment Agriculture program and Santa Clara University’s College of Arts and Sciences. She is a Techstars Farm to Fork mentor and holds a BS in Physics from Santa Clara University.

Artemis provides a world-class Cultivation Management Platform that enables owners and managers of enterprise horticulture facilities to drive efficiency, profits, and growth while ensuring security and regulatory compliance. With Artemis, users can manage workflow and daily tasks, register crop batches, trace food safety issues, manage workers, and leverage data insights to increase workforce efficiency and crop productivity. Read our software buyer’s guide for more information.

Committee Blog: Opportunities & Challenges with Next Gen Packaging In the Legal Cannabis Market

by NCIA’s Packaging and Labeling Committee/ Next-Gen Sub-Committee
Lisa Hansen, Plaid Cannabiz Marketing & Brian Smith, Satori Wellness 

What Is Next Gen, Anyway?!

It’s a new year, a new decade and quite frankly—a new era of packaging in the cannabis industry. We are officially face-to-face with next gen packaging in our ever-growing market. But what is next gen packaging, anyway? By definition, next-generation packaging is “basically a packaging technology, which possesses different advanced features, such as traceability, offers various benefits such as product shelf life extension and provides product quality information.” 

Essentially, it’s taking our cannabis packaging to the next level.

The Growing Opportunities

With new products, formats, and technologies available, the opportunities for next gen cannabis packaging are limitless. In fact, there are so many options for next gen technologies that our NCIA Packaging and Labeling Committee has organized a subcommittee that is dedicated to the topic. We’ve also created subcommittees for Sustainability, Honesty in Labeling and Intellectual Property and Protection. A new era for packaging indeed!

Today’s cannabis cosumers are supporting the legal market for its quality and transparency, and today’s cannabis retailers need accessible platforms to educate them. These dynamics create an environment where next gen packaging (and merchandising) can really shine. With these new tools, brands can immediately engage, inform, and incite action.

Dreams Vs. Reality

While our hopes are super high for next gen cannabis packaging, the reality can be a bit of a buzzkill. In a state-by-state market, the variables for packaging create an inherently significant expense. And with regulations frequently shifting, it makes investing in premium packaging challenging, to say the least. There’s also the complication of managing data and actions behind a next gen platform. Worth the effort? We sure think so. And the good news is that next gen packaging is designed to be measurable so there’s data to evaluate its impact. 

Promising Examples

The applications of next gen packaging for cannabis are seemingly limitless. Everything from a simple QR code, to complicated anti-counterfeiting technology, are possible. Augmented and virtual reality, scratch and sniff add ons, and improved breathability all present powerful opportunities to quickly and effectively affect a purchase decision. 

KURZ is really pushing the boundaries of cannabis packaging with value-added security and technology solutions that are not only effective but purposefully decorative. Think holograms on packaging that can be used for anti-counterfeiting and other special finishes that add pop but are also sustainably produced. Now we’re talking next gen! 

BUNDLAR is getting ahead of the curve with what they call “AR made Easy.” By making aspects of AR technology publicly available as well as offering customization, brands can more easily experiment with this exciting new platform. 

The strategic approach to structural design that Greenlane is taking and the inspiring steps SANA Packaging has made with hemp-based materials are other compelling examples of the momentum in next gen packaging. Perhaps the most promising example of all is that as an industry, we’re just getting started. 

New Decade, New Attitude 

Our subcommittee predicts more exploration in cannabis with packaging that covers the exciting world of next gen possibilities in this new 2020 era and beyond. Which brands will step up? Will retailers ask for it? Will consumers pay for the experience? In an industry that refuses to stand still, these questions will inevitably be answered. The Packaging and Labeling Committee will be watching and sharing more examples and insights in additional articles.

Are you using next gen packaging? Drop a comment and share your experience!

Member Blog: 9 Cannabis HR Trends In 2020

by Heather Smyth, Director of Marketing at Würk

2019 was an incredible year of growth for the cannabis industry; mergers and acquisitions, multi-state expansion, new state licensing, and an explosion of new jobs created. Operationally, more businesses began adopting best practices from the retail and hospitality industries and implemented technology systems to connect all facets of business for stronger insights. There have been focused efforts on hiring, engagement, and training to improve employee retention. Plus, the momentum for widespread acceptance of cannabis legalization is truly unstoppable.

These favorable advancements haven’t come without a variety of challenges, including continued banking access stalls, compliance hurdles, and environmental tragedies. While most legal markets in the nation are struggling to keep up with the demand for qualified talent, select California enterprises laid off an average of 30% of their workforce due to numerous obstacles. Most notably, the vaping crisis shed light on the need for consistent regulation and testing. Additionally, lack of access to capital has significantly slowed down business growth nationwide.

According to a survey Wurk sent to leading enterprise U.S. cannabis businesses, the largest human resource challenge in 2019 was managing rapid growth and scaling the workforce to meet demand. Managers felt pressure to ensure hiring plans were strategic, yet could meet the constant change of the industry, and many learned that employee turnover was directly related to a lack of training and effective performance management practices. 

2019 tested the resiliency, patience, and commitment of many in the industry. As 2020 begins, consider this: this is a passionate community that has the experience, determination and gumption to persevere no matter the roadblocks. As pioneers in cannabis HR, leaders are responsible for providing the right support and resources to the people of the industry, so momentum continues. 

In 2020, recognize these 9 trends in cannabis Human Capital Management:

Employee Training & Performance Management

While more than half of the US has some form of cannabis legislation in place, the industry still lacks a standardized education and training program for employees in each vertical. Compliance and risk management programs have been developed by vendors like Cannabis Trainers, and states such as Massachusetts are mandating that operators take part in these sessions. A portion of marijuana businesses have created internal training programs and will invite producers in-house to offer product education to budtenders. 

Although there’s been progress in this category, the industry is still a long way away from providing consistent, reliable education to employees. In the coming year, HR leaders will have self-developed or outsourced courses on compliance, at a minimum. More and more operations will expand their employee development to include product and plant specifics, responsible selling best practices, and even positive psychology coaching.

Reducing employee turnover will remain a focus for cannabis HR leaders in 2020. Operators will take a fresh look at how performance management is handled and whether it aligns with company culture. One approach to replace the annual review will be “continuous performance management,” where frequent one-on-ones are scheduled to improve communication, address issues fast, and ensure employees are engaged in the organization. HRIS platforms can support these conversations with people data so managers can combine the human interaction with trending evidence in order to spot at-risk employees before they jump ship.

Employee Experience 

People are a business’s largest asset, which means not only can they be the most substantial expense, they are also the biggest revenue generator. The Employee Experience (what people encounter, observe or feel over the course of their employee journey) will begin to be a part of cannabis HR strategy into the new year. By gathering insights about this unique workforce through surveys, interviews, and conversational documentation, cannabis businesses will start to define an Employee Experience that parallels the company’s mission, vision, and values. 

Forbes recently included “tending” people as an HR trend to be aware of in 2020. The idea is to cultivate employees and support their growth, rather than manage them. This intentional relationship-building practice evokes a sense of community and wellbeing. Harvard Business Review notes that tending goes a long way in mitigating the “workers as machines” phenomenon. If crucial talent feels they are just a cog in the Multi-State Operator machine or an unseen hourly inventory manager, the likelihood of them voluntarily departing the business will rise.  

Standardization vs Customization

Recognition must be given to leadership in 2019 for leaning on other industries for processes to effectively manage a mostly hourly workforce. While cannabis businesses are still in start-up mode, there are labor tasks and procedures that mirror those in the fast food, hospitality, and agricultural segments that can help shape standards. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel, but it’s obvious that the intricacies involved with the seed-to-sale process require customization.

In 2020, HR will balance enforcing best practices and the need for agile, tailored decision-making. When it comes to talent acquisition, for example, a hiring manager may draft a job description that includes vital soft skills, like reliability, communication skills, organization, adaptability, and leadership. In new cannabis markets, following a cookie-cutter model won’t generate the talent pool needed to build a business. 

Being innovative with tried and true methods will allow leadership to solve bottlenecks today, not in the future. 

Data-Driven Decision Making 

According to Deloitte’s 2018 Human Capital Trends report, 85% of companies see people analytics as a high priority, but only 42% believe they are either ‘very ready’ or ‘ready’ to meet expectations. Over the years, cannabis executives have taken action to implement a technology foundation that supports compliance, streamlines processes, and reduces cost. Yet, there is still a lot of runway left to cover.

The focus will shift from technology as a ‘nice to have’ to technology as a major transformational driver in the years to come. Organizations will recognize the benefit of all-in-one solutions that enable better business decisions based on data. Human Resources will remain on budget by comparing actual spend per department, location, and cost center to predicted payroll spend. Managers will rely on people analytics to identify what elements impact turnover and employee engagement. Even in the most fast-paced, ever-changing industry, HR professionals will have the ability to predict future trends for talent, finance, and workforce planning. 

Managing Rapid Growth

Massive expansion has created immense pressure for all positions in the cannabis vertical, notably for HR professionals. With most companies growing through M&A activity, not organically, the structure of business is evolving faster than most can realistically manage. This surge will only continue in 2020, demanding the expertise of the HR department to effectively discern new opportunities and build the workforce of the future.

According to the PwC CEO survey, 77% of CEOs believe the biggest threat to their business is the lack of availability of key skills. With CEOs so concerned about talent, cannabis HR managers will shift focus to increasing productivity of their existing workforce as opposed to hiring additional staff. Data will help inform HR professionals on who the top performers are and what conditions are supporting their success. 

Outsourced HR Solutions

Employee relationship management should be made a priority for every business, but in-house cannabis human resources may not be an option for all. Small businesses may wait until they reach 40 or even 75 employees before bringing on a full-time HR manager. Constantly evolving labor laws and the risks involved with cannabis payroll will drive some business owners to outsource HR services to cannabis-specific partners. 

From employment taxes to employee benefits to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), there are many aspects of workforce management that owners may not have the resources or experience to maintain. In an industry already strapped for financial support, one mistake in adhering to the work and pay rules for a specific municipality can amount to a hefty fine. The risk involved with managing cannabis people is high and this liability will drive licensees to depend on cannabis-friendly HR and Payroll partners.

Diversity and Inclusion

Key states had strict requirements surrounding diversity initiatives in the cannabis application process in 2019 and this focus will only grow in the decade to come. HR departments will develop stronger D&I plans with innovative ways to recruit, to communicate the importance of unique perspectives and to support peers across the organization.

Sadly, the industry saw a decline in the number of women execs at the end of the decade. Vangst found that of the 38.5% of employees that self-identified as females in the industry, only 17.6% of these women held a “Director” or “Executive” role. This compares to 82.4% for self-identified males.

As momentum gains, the industry will continue to attract like-minded, experienced professionals from mainstream, big box corporations. This past year, KushCo Holdings appointed former Nestle and Cetera Financial Group HR Executive, Rhiana Barr, as their Chief People Officer and Harborside brought on a female HR leader from big pharma. This trend will progress as the industry continues to prove legitimacy through international acceptance and financial opportunity. 

Corporate Social Responsibility

Giving back to the community has been a challenging push for cannabis businesses as many non-profit organizations and volunteer programs are still hesitant to partner with plant-touching operations. Thankfully, this trend is taking a turn in a positive direction. Take for example, Cresco Labs, who launched the SEED initiative in 2019 to “ensure that all members of our society have the skills, knowledge and opportunity to work in and own businesses in this industry.” Companies all over the nation are contributing to those most affected by the War on Drugs by donating to non-profits like Last Prisoner Project or collaborating on expungement events. 

Human Resources will attract a wider talent pool and increase employee satisfaction in 2020 by providing thoughtful opportunities for employees to be involved in CSR efforts. 

Wellness and Benefits Offerings

For years, marijuana businesses have had to worry about basic employee resources, like ensuring they have access to banking and can receive a direct deposit. Although this will remain a hurdle for many, more doors have begun to open for managers to offer benefits, and even 401(k). Insurance and 401(k) brokers that are transparently serving the industry are becoming more and more prevalent into the new year. While Section 280E hinders employers from offering a 401(k) match, some production-focused entities may be able to deduct contributions to their employee benefits plans, where dispensary entities may not be able to—even when they’re owned by the same parent company.

Partnering with cannabis-friendly brokers and financial advisors will only benefit HR professionals as these offerings are still difficult to obtain and execute. 

They say a year in cannabis is like 7 dog years… The industry has made it this far, not without flaw and frustration, but certainly with grit and determination. Organizations have the strength to power through 2020 with a solid foundation, the right toolset, and the best people around. 


Heather is an experienced marketing professional with a demonstrated history of work in cannabis technology and digital strategy. Skilled in customer relationship management, online marketing, immersive experience design and communications, Heather brings a unique combination of creative ideation and project management. As Director of Marketing for Wurk, the first workforce management company designed specifically for the cannabis industry, Heather develops key messaging to inform the market about effective human resource management and to support the advancement of the industry. With previous experience at MJ Freeway, the leading provider of seed-to-sale software solutions for marijuana businesses, Heather brings a unique understanding of cannabis chain of custody and the various challenges operators face in this highly regulated space. Heather earned a bachelor’s degree in communication design and marketing from Metropolitan State University.  

Designed specifically for the cannabis industry, Wurk allows employers to protect and streamline their operations, while providing an environment where people are a priority every step of the way. The intuitive, all-in-one solution automates the most complicated and risk-prone processes associated with hiring, scheduling, and paying employees. Learn more at enjoywurk.com.

Member Blog: Cannabis Dispensary Inventory Management Done Right – Best Practices

by Ben Curren, Founder of GreenBits

Discover how state-of-the-art technology can help your dispensary thrive.

Many first-time dispensary owners do not come from a retail background. The cannabis industry is full of entrepreneurs running into long-established retail processes for the first time.

Although the cannabis industry is new, many of the processes upon which it relies are not. Sales, marketing, and administration operate on the same foundations no matter what you are selling, from apples to zucchinis.

Inventory management is one of those ever-present aspects of retail. Every business that sells physical goods has to keep track of its stock, perform inventory audits, and synchronize inventory movement across multiple systems in order to operate.

Cannabis dispensary owners have additional demands to meet. They must implement solid strategies for meeting compliance needs, including comprehensive seed-to-sale tracking. Managing all of these demands while running a successful business can be overwhelming.

Automated Processes Improve Inventory Management 

Optimization is the key to responding to the many demands of operating a retail store in a highly regulated industry. In the retail environment, there are never enough assets and resources to get every job done – certain processes need to be automated in order to free up time for higher impact work.

Inventory management is one of those critical-but-time-consuming activities that is ideally suited to process development and automation. Since cannabis dispensaries already have to report on every purchase and transaction that takes place in the dispensary environment, the data is already there.

Yet without a tailor-made technological solution, cannabis dispensaries find themselves spending valuable employee-hours manually entering inventory data into their systems. This necessarily takes time away from other, equally important processes.

Enhance Inventory Management in the Dispensary

Dispensary owners who invest in process development and automation quickly find that the retail service industry already offers many solutions to the kinds of problems they face. Streamlined cannabis dispensaries use these technologies to solve a broad range of problems:

  • Inventory Categorization. A well-organized inventory is key to success in any retail environment. Dispensary owners that know which products sell best can place those products in the spotlight, further enhancing profits by focusing on their most successful lines.
  • Automated Data Entry. Manual data entry takes time and produces little value. If there is one readymade way to improve retail efficiency across the board, eliminating manual data entry and freeing up employees to focus on more valuable work is the first step to take.
  • Inventory KPIs. Key performance indicators (KPIs) help business owners identify opportunities to make better purchasing decisions, improve cash flow, and ultimately boost profitability. Dispensary owners that track data like inventory turnover are better-suited to make sound business decisions. More on these below.
  • Automated Tracking. Tracking inventory movement through the retail environment is another time-consuming process that, although necessary, produces little value. Implementing automated solutions helps to streamline the process and lets dispensary owners put more energy into value-driving initiatives.
  • Accurate Reordering. Dispensary owners that know when products are running low can reorder in time to prevent costly and embarrassing stockouts. This is key to maintaining a professional image in a regulated industry like cannabis.
  • Streamlined Stocktake. Stocktaking plays a critical role in financial management. In order to know how much money the dispensary is really making, owners need to calculate how much liquidity is frozen in stock.
  • Active Inventory Synchronization. Dispensaries that wish to synchronize their stock with a website database or an app like Leafly or Weedmaps needs to have a solid inventory system in place. Developing active inventory synchronization is key to selling products through multiple channels.

Which Key Performance Indicators Should You Track?

There are many different types of key performance indicators that relate to inventory management. Some of them are more important than others, but navigating the world of cannabis retail requires gathering enough data to calculate any of them when needed:

  • Weeks-on-Hand. This KPI correlates to the efficiency with which the dispensary moves stock. If the figure is too high, it means that inventory is not selling at the same rate that new goods are coming in. This results in lower profitability due to storage fees and liquidity problems.
  • Inventory Turnover Rate. This is a ratio that shows how many times the dispensary sold and replaced specific goods during a particular time period. This also tells dispensary owners how fast inventory is selling.
  • Time-to-Receive. This metric shows how efficient dispensaries stock retrieval processes are. It measures the average time it takes for employees to validate incoming stock, add it to the inventory record, and shelve it in the appropriate place.
  • Shrinkage. In a highly regulated industry like cannabis, shrinkage is dangerous. Dispensary owners need to be vigilant in recording any discrepancies between recorded inventory and actual physical inventory. Employers who catch discrepancies early can account for shrinkage before regulators come into the picture.
  • Cost of Carrying Inventory. Holding products in stock costs money. This KPI helps dispensary owners calculate how much capital they spend holding and storing inventory on an annual basis. It allows owners to identify dead and slow-moving stock.
  • Days to Sell Inventory. This KPI measures how long it takes to sell products in stock. When the number is high, it indicates inefficient inventory movement. When it is too low, stockouts become a risk. Every industry has its own average days-to-sell figure, cannabis included.

Maximizing dispensary efficiency requires gathering this data and acting on the insights it offers. This is only possible with specialized dispensary point-of-sale (POS) systems that adhere to the industry’s rigorous compliance standards on a state-by-state basis. 

Invest in a Purpose-Built Point-of-Sale Solution

It takes more than drive and ambition to implement efficient inventory management in the dispensary environment. Dispensary owners need to deploy technological solutions that address the unique nature of the regulated cannabis industry.

This means investing in a POS system that auto-populates inventory database fields, consolidating sales data into a compliance-ready format. Dispensaries that collect high-quality sales data are able to manage growth while empowering their employees to continuously improve.


Ben Curren is the Founder of Green Bits, the nation’s leading retail management and compliance platform for the legal cannabis industry. Founded in 2014, Green Bits helps legal cannabis retailers run compliant, operationally efficient and growing stores. The platform serves more than 1,000 cannabis retailers across 13 states and processes more than $3 billion in sales annually through its point-of-sale platform. In 2008, Ben co-founded Outright, an accounting program used by businesses for freelancers and consultants, that web-hosting company GoDaddy acquired in 2012. Ben is a frequent commentator in national outlets about tech, trends, business issues, and state and federal policy and regulation in the legal cannabis industry.

Green Bits provides smart management solutions that help cannabis retailers maximize performance and make better business decisions. Our robust retail platform – with automated state-by-state compliance, inventory control, and personalized insights – enables owners, managers, and budtenders to run, protect, and grow their businesses with ease. The company serves more than 1,100 cannabis retailers across 13 states and processes more than $3.5B in cannabis sales annually. Visit Green Bits for industry resources. 

Member Blog: Stop The Illicit Market With Profitability, Save Lives 

by Phil Gibson, AEssenseGrows

By now, we’ve all seen the concerning vape cartridge illnesses and deaths across various states. While the exact cause is still being determined, our industry has an opportunity to step up our game. So the question we must ask ourselves is: how can the cannabis industry help to prevent potentially dangerous illicit market cannabis sales?

The everyday consumer is seduced by lower-cost alternatives and some turn to the grey market with an assumption of safety. “If the price is half as much, why not?” wonders the consumer. Unfortunately, tragic examples slapped us back to reality and we are now seeing all too clearly the downsides of the laissez-faire approach that feeds the grey market. Low cost is good, but people are dying. This is where our crisis is real. 

Safety protocols, procedures, regulations, and oversight, applied to the old methods of production, lead to increased costs that are duplicated on the way through the channel. High taxes multiply that effect, serving as a barrier to the consumer. The illicit market circumvents the bureaucracy and offers a lower cost that meets consumer demand at an increased risk. 

Lower Production Costs = Lower Costs For The Consumer

As the end of cannabis prohibition nears, we have to remember that long before we had added regulations and government overhead, proponents of legal cannabis emphasized the medicinal value of the plant, for treating everything from chronic pain to post-traumatic stress syndrome. What started as a simple plant that grew outdoors with free sun and water has evolved, with numerous controls added to regulate, generate tax revenue, and improve the odds that this new medicine is safe. As well-meaning as those precautions are, they have added significant cost to the wonder drug through legal channels. Our best hope for migrating consumers away from dangerous shortcut products is to get a handle on production cost and make it easier for cultivators to follow the rules and enjoy profitability. 

It pains all of us when we see the recent spate of illnesses — even deaths — increasingly associated with vaping cannabis, despite the fact that the majority of health issues appear to stem from the illicit market. If we don’t fix this, the market will be severely impacted by either consumer avoidance or government fiat. I’m proud to see that NCIA is taking a lead role in communications around this critical issue and in the fight to deschedule cannabis and enacting federal regulations at a reasonable cost, protecting consumers from potentially dangerous illicit cannabis distribution. 

Raise The Quality, Lower The Cost Of Production

Safety, of course, has been and always will be a key concern of the legal cannabis industry. But as our industry grows up and competitive pressures bear down, we can’t afford to shortcut our responsibilities. Running a grow operation is full of potentially harmful contaminants that can strike at any time. Producers need to choose ways to protect their investments with safe operational procedures and new technologies that guarantee both safe and superior products for our customers. At a lower cost! 

Where there is a need and a business opportunity, innovation will rise to the challenge. The vape crisis points to an urgent need for low-cost yields and profits for legal cannabis producers. This can be achieved through a highly controlled aeroponic approach for consistent, pure, clean yields that exceed regulatory and medicinal requirements. Using advanced technology, the cost of production can be reduced to as low as $0.30/gram, and the result is legal cannabis that can enter the channel at much lower cost at levels where the illicit market can’t compete, and legal producers can profit. 

Fully automated environments, nutrients, pH, air, lighting, humidity, temperature — are all monitored and adjusted through software-controlled electromechanical systems in a soil-free environment. With minimal labor required, contamination risks are low, natural contaminants won’t take root and heavy metals and pesticides can be excluded from the environment. 

Indoor aeroponic grow systems represent a sea change for many longtime growers and modernizing the industry means new opportunities. New technology replaces labor-intensive efforts with cruise control automation in an efficient climate-controlled environment. Cutting corners proves to be costly while the rewards for doing it right are considerable: precision fast-turning superior yields — and a dramatic reduction in the potential for contaminants to wreak havoc and impact safety. 

We all know that risk is part of any business, and that a key element of our jobs is to reduce risk and cost for our customers. Growing in a highly controlled indoor environment at lower cost to the consumer can dramatically mitigate your risks so you, and your customers, can breathe easier, and we can ensure cannabis remains safe. 


Phil Gibson, Vice President of Marketing has 30 years of sales, marketing, and channel experience with 3 years at AEssenseGrows, and is known as the creator of the WEBENCH online design environment now owned by Texas Instruments. Previously, Phil held executive marketing positions at Infineon, TI, and National Semiconductor. With 8 patents in web technology, Phil is an expert in digital marketing and built his first web site in 1995. Phil holds an MBA from the University of Southern California and a BSEE from UC Davis.

 

Member Blog: Sustainable, Indoor-Grown Cannabis Starts with LEDs

By Andrew Myers, President & CEO of ProGrowTech

Despite cannabis’s down-to-earth appeal, it hasn’t been as friendly to the earth as one might assume. But cannabis growers have always been resourceful, and with recent developments in technology and improved growing methods – including full-spectrum LED grow lights – the cannabis industry is becoming increasingly sustainable. The end results? A healthier environment, better products and a notable cost reduction. It’s a win-win-win.

Cannabis’s Carbon-Intensive Past

Between staggering electricity usage, a ballooning carbon footprint, a habitually gratuitous use of pesticides and toxic runoff decimating local ecosystems, the cannabis industry hasn’t been the best steward of the environment. As more states pass adult-use and medical laws across the country, this seemingly blameless plant has come under scrutiny from environmentalists, consumers and policy-makers alike. 

Evan Mills, Ph.D., is regarded as one of the leading minds in cannabis industry sustainability issues. A California-based energy and climate change scientist, he authored a landmark and frequently cited report in 2012, “The carbon footprint of indoor Cannabis production,” highlighting the cannabis industry’s not-so-green track record. The report devotes a few hefty paragraphs to indoor lighting needs at cultivation sites. Primary takeaways include: 

  • Indoor cannabis production requires lighting levels 500-times greater than that recommended for reading. 
  • Cultivation sites power densities are measured at 200 W/m2, on par with modern datacenters. 
  • Grow facilities nationwide consume the same amount of electricity as two million average American homes. 
  • A single cannabis cigarette, according to Mills’ calculations, is equivalent to 3 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.

The data is clear: without adjusting equipment and techniques, the cannabis industry was on track to becoming one of the largest carbon emitters in the world. And amidst growing calls for improved business transparency and environmentally conscious methods (that have only gotten louder in recent years), cannabis businesses were desperate for solutions that matched performance with sustainability. 

The LEDs of Today

Many outdated lighting technologies like HPS and fluorescents consume exorbitant amounts of energy for sub-par output, run hot (and therefore place additional pressure on environmental controls like HVAC and AC) and tend to burn out quickly. These technologies can leave many growers wondering if it’s worth the trouble – and encourage them to make the switch to LEDs.

While LEDs have certainly been around for a while, they’ve gained traction among cannabis growers more recently. At one time, large installations of LEDs needed at commercial grow operations were highly cost prohibitive, only allowing the biggest enterprises to reap the benefits. But, over time, LEDs have become increasingly affordable and accessible to smaller businesses, start-ups and hobbyists. Moreover, the technology has improved drastically. 

Today’s cutting-edge LED grow lights come with built-in features leading to better performance paired with lower costs and emissions for the modern grower.

  • Unparalleled Efficacy and Efficiency
    LED grow lights today are able to deliver unmatched uniformity, ensuring every plant in your canopy receives adequate photosynthetically active radiation. They also use less energy while delivering plenty of brightness – meaning you’ll cut electricity costs and emissions without seeing a dip in performance.
     
  • Full-Spectrum Light and Spectral Tuning
    Wish you could bring the sun indoors? Invest in LEDs – they’re the closest thing to sunlight you can find because they deliver full-spectrum light. Your plants can benefit from the full range of spectrum as they would in their natural environment. Further, features like spectral tuning give cultivators ultimate control, allowing them to elicit certain biological responses, hasten flowering and shorten the growing cycle altogether.
     
  • Vertical Racking
    This capability, made available with some modern LEDs, can double or even triple your harvests without investing in additional square footage. Vertical racking allows growers to use their spaces in the most efficient way possible, resulting in verdant, multi-level gardens.
     
  • Automation
    Automating light cycles, watering and even nutrient distribution can cut down on labor-intensive tasks and human error that can result in additional, unnecessary energy usage. By pre-programming the necessary functions of your grow, growers are given peace-of-mind and can focus on other important tasks that require more of a human touch.
     
  • Low Heat Profile and On-Board Dimming
    A huge selling point for growers of all kinds, LEDs have a much lower heat profile than other lighting technologies. They present less of a risk for heat stress, reduce reliance on other environmental controls and can be placed much closer to the plant canopy (a plus when vertical racking!). On-board dimming is a helpful feature as well: growers can create an artificial sunrise and sunset to gently ease their plants into light-dark cycles and prevent spikes in both temperature and humidity.
     
  • Improved Durability
    LEDs are built to last, another selling point for environmentally conscious cultivators looking to cut down on waste. If you’re in the market for some new efficient grow lights, look for LEDs that are built with industrial-grade materials and come with the IP66 or IP65 waterproofing certification. 

 

Looking Toward a Bright, Green Future

Cannabis has become a regular facet of countless American lives. It helps people relax and de-stress, mitigate crippling pain and calm seizures. In 2018, the Pew Research Center reported that 62% of Americans are in favor of legalizing cannabis. The once-villainized plant, long at the center of fear-mongering campaigns like reefer madness and gateway drugs, is now widely enjoyed by everyone from politicians to grandparents to entrepreneurs to professional athletes. It’s not going anywhere any time soon. 

That means that cannabis industry professionals have a responsibility to produce cannabis with sustainable methods – and LEDs are a great place to start. Not only do LEDs help shrink your business’s carbon footprint, they can also save you money in the long run and boost profits. There are countless growers today who prefer using LEDs, and it’s pretty easy to understand why.


Andrew Myers is President and CEO of ProGrowTech, which helps commercial horticulture operations increase profitability, yield and energy efficiency with industry-leading LED lighting systems. For more information, visit progrowtech.com

 

 

 

 

Member Blog: 6 Key Questions To Ask When Evaluating Water-Soluble Technology For Cannabis Products

by Andrew Wong, Axiomm Technologies

Consumers and manufacturers of products that have been infused with THC or CBD are probably very familiar with two key issues that plague the product class: slow onset time and uneven dosing of the active ingredient. In a bid to provide a solution, many groups are marketing “water-soluble technology,” or “nanotechnology.” The vast majority of the groups claiming water-soluble (more properly referred to as “water-compatible”) technology are offering up a nanoemulsion. 

Nanoemulsion technology is a very promising and accessible solution. It has the ability to allow for both (1) rapid onset and (2) uniform distribution of the active ingredient in infused products such as beverages, gummies, and water-based topicals. Unfortunately for most businesses and consumers, there are many factors that can destabilize a nanoemulsion and eliminate the benefits of the technology. Making things even more difficult is the fact that consumers and businesses are usually not equipped to properly evaluate their options, due to the technology being so new in its commercial use. 

In order to evaluate your options, whether you’re a consumer or a business looking to enhance your products, you need to have a high-level understanding of nanoemulsions and how they are made. Put very simply, you create a nanoemulsion when oil is combined with functional ingredients and then blasted with energy or combined with a catalyst which, in both cases, causes the oil particles to split into smaller pieces. When made small enough, the particles disperse uniformly in water and won’t separate out into larger globs of oil. Other added benefits of the small size are a dramatic drop in the onset time for THC – from around 45 minutes to under 10 minutes – and increased absorption of the active ingredient.  

Knowing this, there are a number of questions that you should always ask of your technology provider. Each of these questions helps you dig into how well-designed a formulation is and ultimately whether the technology you use will truly enhance your products. Every provider of nanoemulsion technology should be able to speak to:

  1. Particle Size of the Nanoemulsion – You should be looking for an average size under 100 nanometers, preferably under 50 nanometers (as measured by the “dynamic light scattering test”).
  2. Particle Size Test Method – The “by volume” test is far more optimistic, and less useful, than the “dynamic light scattering test.” Look for a solution that is less than 50 nanometers, measured using the dynamic light scattering test.
  3. Temperature Stability – Nanoemulsions tend to destabilize (lose their nanoemulsion properties) over time when exposed to heat. This can be a major issue if the product is shipped or stored in warm/hot environments or if consumers use the product on a hot day.
  4. pH Stability – Low pH environments, such as citric beverages, can cause instability and can also contribute to rapid degradation of the active ingredient (e.g. THC or CBD). Poor formulations can cause as much as 50% of the active ingredient to degrade over a period of one month – not ideal if the product is stored or sits on the store shelf for a while prior to being consumed.
  5. Stability with Artificial Sweeteners – Many end products that are being infused use artificial sweeteners, which can cause the nanoemulsion to become cloudy and lose its rapid onset and enhanced absorption properties.
  6. Active Ingredient Degradation – pH is just one of a number of factors that can contribute to rapid degradation of the active ingredient. 

Creating a nanoemulsion that addresses these challenges is not an easy task, but each one of the parameters is important if it’s going to provide the performance benefits claimed by the technology provider. Regardless of whether you choose to engage in your own R&D or use a third-party solution, these questions will help you understand how well a particular water-soluble technology will work for you. Consumers will gravitate toward products that maintain the benefits of this water-soluble technology, and manufacturers will consequently need to do the same.


Andrew Wong – President of Axiomm Technologies

Having spent nearly five years at the nationally-recognized corporate law firm of Stikeman Elliott LLP, Andrew is experienced in securities, M&A and private equity matters. He has acted for both public and private companies, as well as private equity and investment funds with assets under management of $500 million to $1 billion. Andrew moved from Stikeman Elliott to Shea Nerland LLP in 2016, where he founded the cannabis practice group and provided clients with regulatory, structuring, finance and corporate governance counsel. 

Andrew co-founded Axiomm Technologies in late 2017. Axiomm is a technology company whose team of technical experts combines academic and industrial expertise in the development and commercialization of novel manufacturing and consumption methods. All technologies and products are designed with the health and wellness consumer in mind, and each increases the efficiency and speed with which the body absorbs vitamins, nutraceuticals and cannabinoids.

Member Blog: Cannabis Seed To Sale Transparency Provides Solution To Vaping Illnesses

by Jessica Billingsley, CEO of Akerna
NCIA Board Member

The day I sat beside the MRI while my daughter’s mystery neurologic symptoms were investigated, I began my crusade for product transparency. I didn’t know then that transparency in products would become life’s work. On that day, I only knew my daughter risked potential long term physical and mental disability due to unknown causes. I then spent months, which turned into years, hunting for a solution to her neurologic events, which started with an unexplained fever that would sometimes develop into lesions in her brain causing varying symptoms depending on the location of the lesions. Often the symptom manifested as trouble walking; however, one heartbreaking time, she slurred her words and couldn’t remember many basic components of speech. 

She was diagnosed with recurrent ADEM, an autoimmune demyelinating illness that doctors didn’t understand and were at a loss to cure. The western medicine approach didn’t have an answer, and I wasn’t really surprised. Western medicine’s approach of diagnose and drug (or diagnose, surgery, and drug) rarely takes into account what we put in and on our bodies. And my gut told me I needed to take a closer look at foods and products to find the source of her illness. This is a lot easier than it sounds. We actually know very little about what’s in our products. There’s an assumption that harmful ingredients or additives have to be disclosed in products, but they don’t. My journey into product transparency — looking at ingredients, additives, and the chemicals used to make our products — led me to find a solution for my daughter that has resulted in her being 7 years in remission and counting.

My passion for saving my daughter and my tenacity in peeling back the layers in our consumer product goods supply chain left me with a sobering conclusion: Consumer transparency and public safety is not at the forefront of our current consumer goods regulations. We don’t have any requirements to give consumers transparency regarding what’s fully in the products we eat or absorb. That perspective is what inspired me to launch the first seed-to-sale tracking technology in 2010. I believed then that cannabis patients needed to know how their medicine was grown and the public needed assurances that we can identify the regulated, tested medicine from the illicit alternatives.

The number of vaping-related illnesses keeps climbing. The crisis has claimed at least six deaths and there are over 450 cases in 36 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. And best, early thinking is additives – cutting agents, potentially Vitamin E – may be the culprit. I am reminded clearly of my daughter’s early years and my hunt for product transparency. We’ve done a lot of good with seed-to-sale tracking in cannabis. The regulated cannabis industry has the most transparent and accountable supply chain of any consumer packaged good. 

For nearly ten years, my team has refined a technology that pinpoints most every aspect of every gram of cannabis tracked in our system — the plot of land it was grown on, soil nutrients, water and light intake, additional ingredients for edibles, when it shipped out and in what batch, and finally where and when the product was sold and to what patient. The exactness and granularity of this data enables prompt reactions in times of crisis that narrows down areas/people of impact, points investigators to probable causes, and importantly allows consumers and patients to make informed decisions. 

As much as we do track in regulated cannabis, we need to track more. Most governmental compliance frameworks don’t require additives to be tracked and thus communicated to consumers and patients. We need to make this mandatory in our regulations.*

Consumers and the industry should rally around three things. First, the majority of the cartridges in this crisis were purchased on the illicit market with completely unknown ingredient sources, which gives more reason to legalize cannabis in every state for adult use. Second, legal markets should continue to implement seed to sale tracking compliance as table stakes. And third, we need to make additives information a requirement for cannabis oil manufactured products.

I knew the industry needed a means of monitoring products through its lifecycle and generating transparency and accountability to support the 3P’s — patient, product, and public safety. I know the data in our system has the power to do great good — for science and medicine, for food and agriculture, for communities and tax revenues, for governments’ ability to respond to issues and effectively direct investigations and enforcements. I contend that while the industry is part of the health crisis story today — we are part of the response tomorrow. I am as committed today as CEO of Akerna as I was when I started MJ Freeway; we can give consumers the full product transparency they deserve to make the best choices for their health. It’s what I want for my daughter, and it’s the solution I commit to deliver every day. 


Jessica Billingsley is a technology pioneer, solutions creator and industry leader, providing proven compliance software solutions to the cannabis market. She is the Chief Executive Officer of Akerna—the first cannabis compliance technology company to be traded on Nasdaq—making her the first CEO from this market space to bring a company to a major U.S. exchange. Jessica is also the CEO of Akerna’s flagship subsidiary—MJ Freeway. She established MJ Freeway in 2010 and it is the leading seed-to-sale regulatory compliance technology provider and developer of the cannabis industry’s first enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform. Akerna also offers Leaf Data Systems as a government resource for public sector compliance. Combined entities tracked more than $16 billion in world-wide, client cannabis sales to date. She is the first woman ever from the cannabis industry to receive the prestigious Fortune’s “Most Promising Women Entrepreneur Award” and is also recognized as one of Inc.’s “Female Founders 100.” Jessica received a degree in Communications and Computer Science from the University of Georgia and lives with her daughter in Denver.

 

Akerna’s MJ Platform includes “additives” as ingredients clients can use to communicate to patients any additives in a finished gram of oil. We believe additive ingredients should now be a required data field captured and communicated to patients, and we’re committed to training our existing client base on how to do so. 

Watch The Webinar: Cannabis Extractions – Thoughts And Considerations

Learn more about cannabis extraction best practices, techniques, and methods in this webinar recording. Hear from speakers Dan Gustafik, President at Hybrid Tech, and Gene Galyuk, Chief Development Officer at Capna Systems.

 

 

 

Member Blog: What The Cannabis Market Can Learn From The Energy Sector About Overcoming Market Complexity

by Mike Elliott, Business Development Executive at DCM

In an industry where change is a constant, cannabis companies face big challenges when it comes to brand-building, communications, and bringing products to market. The sector’s complexity is only increasing, which is compounded by its continual evolution, along with tight, varied, fluctuating regulations, and in some cases, less-than-informed consumers. 

While the path forward may seem uncharted, in fact, similar market challenges exist in other verticals. With the right strategies and tools, these hurdles—including rigid regulatory conditions—can be overcome. If you’re looking for a roadmap for success, look no further than the U.S. energy sector – specifically, utilities. 

The recent shift toward deregulated electric and gas markets has created an environment strikingly similar to that of cannabis. Both sectors grapple with strict, unpredictable regulatory governance. Both must comply with state-by-state variances and prohibitive marketing. And both face the challenge of communicating with customers who are often unfamiliar with the sector’s legislation and production processes. 

By gaining an understanding of these obstacles, cannabis operators can improve their own market and regulatory navigation. Following are a few key lessons learned from energy.

 

  1. Changing regulations demand razor-sharp communications management

    For both energy suppliers and cannabis providers, regulation and compliance are determined at the state level. State-by-state laws vary widely and become increasingly complex when factoring in additional local and municipal regulations—not to mention continual review and change. This complexity has a direct impact on communications and brand management. Rules on communication and packaging—including, for cannabis, dosage—can diverge greatly and shift quickly. And there are few signs of this framework getting simpler.

Energy suppliers have addressed this complexity through variable, highly responsive communication platforms that can—very quickly and at scale—accommodate unique market requirements. 

For cannabis companies, similar success depends on razor-sharp management, including automation of intensive, often spreadsheet-based processes that are manually maintained and prone to error. Robust, technology-driven platforms can now deliver a wide array of materials efficiently and accurately across different markets, all while ensuring airtight compliance with each market’s specific regulations.

  1. New opportunities call for a fast, location-specific response

    Both energy and cannabis businesses must be agile and flexible when responding to new market opportunities. In adapting to fluctuating, state-by-state rules surrounding contract terms and conditions, energy providers have learned the hard way how inefficiency and error can delay market entry and reduce sales potential. 

Faced with similar circumstances, cannabis producers need the support of automated, location-specific marketing – technology that efficiently allows for customized, regional messaging across multiple markets and channels while ensuring locked-down branding and regulatory compliance. 

  1. Perception is everything when it comes to reaching consumers

    With deregulation, utility companies realized that many consumers were uninformed regarding the legislative changes and were unaware of product availability and their own ability to shop around. Educating consumers was key – and communicating to them a value proposition that would distinguish each provider’s offering from that of the competition. 

While cannabis is not entirely unfamiliar to many consumers, the dialogue around legalization and products remains similarly dogged by a lack of information and general misunderstanding. Cannabis companies must now shift those perceptions and educate potential customers on product safety and use. Producers must look at developing innovative communications supported by tools like automation, multi-channel communications management, and 1:1 marketing. These can help target, personalize, and monitor communications to better connect with consumers.

  1. With little room to communicate, companies need to get creative

    Utility companies are highly restricted in not only how they can make changes to billing and service charges, but also how they can market to consumers. The scenario is the same for cannabis companies, though regulations are even more complex and restrictive, with federal prohibition blocking most traditional means of advertising, including social and digital channels. 

Cannabis companies can combat these restrictions with genuinely creative thinking backed by a thorough understanding of the rules. That means combining market knowledge with creative expertise in a way that skillfully complies with regulations without breaking them. At the same time, creativity and customization cannot hinder efficiency. The right tools must be in place to make sure everything works together – for example, a platform that lets users customize branded collateral for different segments and channels, allowing for both efficiency and creativity – consistency and customization.

The bottom line: the stakes are too high for non-compliance

Fines for non-compliance in the energy sector can reach into the millions. Likewise, stiff penalties are levied for non-compliance in the cannabis industry. The financial implications can be devastating for cannabis producers – even more so if it comes to relabeling or pulling product from store shelves. To compound the risk, publicized mishaps can deliver a serious blow to consumer confidence for brands trying to win consumer trust.

With that in mind, navigating the highly regulated cannabis landscape takes careful planning, constant oversight, and the ability to stay ahead of evolving regulatory requirements. While the opportunity is promising, it requires tools, technologies, and strategies that streamline processes, mitigate risk, and increase speed-to-market. Charting your course depends on careful planning, trusted advice, and experienced partners – along with the ability to learn from those who have been there and done that. 


Mike Elliott is a Business Development Executive specializing in cannabis at DCM

From brand strategy and consumer insights to dynamic labeling and POS solutions, DCM helps build, protect, and bring to market North America’s largest cannabis brands. Learn more at http://www.datacm.com.

WEBINAR: METRC – How to Stay Ahead & Maximize Efficiency

Everyone has METRC on the mind. Find out how METRC will impact your retail operations, what you’ll need to consider when it comes to compliance reporting, and how to maximize efficiencies to ensure being METRC certified doesn’t cost you precious time better spent running your business. Watch the webinar recording here.

 


 

SPEAKERS:

Jocelyn Sheltraw
Director of Regional Strategy, Headset

Brett C. Hartmann-Payan
Compliance Officer, Dosist

Anne Forkutza
VP Strategic Partnerships, Cova

Member Blog: New Data Reveals Market Share Changes for Cannabis POS Software Providers

by Ed Keating, Co-founder and Chief Data Officer of Cannabiz Media


Point of sale software providers are a critical part of the cannabis economy, and as the industry grows, a shift is happening. 

In the first half of 2019, the dominant POS providers of 2018 held onto their positions as market leaders. Others merged or were acquired, and new providers launched. Even big brands like NCR, NetSuite, and SalesForce entered the market joining Quicken and Square in an attempt to gain a piece of what they hope will be a lucrative market.

Cannabiz Media conducted a research study to identify POS software providers and market shares in mid-2019 and compared the data to findings compiled in a similar year-end 2018 report. The full report is available for free download here, and the results may surprise you.

Key Findings for Mid-Year 2019:

  • There are 68 unique POS software providers in the U.S. cannabis industry (up 58% from 43 in December 2018).
  • BioTrack is the market share leader overall.
  • BioTrack is the market share leader in states with medical-only cannabis programs.
  • Green Bits is the market share leader in states with adult-use cannabis programs.
  • Green Bits is the market share leader in METRC states.

Cannabis POS Market Share Shifts in the First Half of 2019

In mid-2019, the top five POS providers account for 68% of the overall cannabis market, and the top 10 account for 84% of the market.  Part of this change can be attributed to active California licenses expiring and revisions to the survey methodology. 

Compare those numbers to how things looked at year-end 2018 when the top 5 POS providers made up 80% of market share, and the top 10 were responsible for 93% of the market.

In addition, the number of POS vendors servicing cannabis businesses increased by 58% from 43 in December 2018 to 68 by July 2019. 

In other words, while the market is still highly concentrated, the market leaders have given up some market share, and new companies continue to enter the space. 

The same shifts are happening in medical-only and adult-use states. 

In mid-2019, 34 POS providers were active in medical-only states (up from 15 in December 2018), and 53 were active in adult-use states (up from 40 in December 2018). 

At year-end 2018, the top five POS vendors accounted for 94% of the market in medical-only states, but in July 2019, they only account for 70.4% of the market. 

In adult-use states, the top five vendors accounted for 78% of the market in December 2018 but only account for 71% of the market in mid-2019.

Top Cannabis POS Software Providers in Mid-2019

According to Cannabiz Media’s research, the top five cannabis POS software providers overall in mid-2019 are:

  1. BioTrack
  2. Green Bits
  3. Flowhub
  4. MJ Freeway
  5. Indica Online

In medical-only states, the top POS software providers in mid-2019 are:

  1. BioTrack
  2. MJ Freeway
  3. Indica Online
  4. Flowhub
  5. COVA

In adult-use states, the market share leaders in mid-2019 are:

  1. Green Bits
  2. BioTrack
  3. Flowhub
  4. Adilas
  5. MMJ Menu

In METRC states, the top five POS software providers in mid-2019 are:

  1. Green Bits
  2. BioTrack
  3. Flowhub
  4. Adilas
  5. MJ Freeway

Key Takeaways

While the POS market leaders have lost some market share in recent months, the biggest battle appears to be among the top two companies, which have approximately twice as much market share as the company ranked in third place in the overall market as well as in adult-use states and METRC states. In the meantime, the other 66 POS providers that service the cannabis industry are slowly chipping away at that share.

Get the Free Report with Detailed Data, Charts, and Commentary

Visit https://cannabiz.media/pos-report-2/ to download Cannabiz Media’s complete “Point of Sale Software in the Cannabis Industry: 2019 Mid-Year Report” for free to view all of the detailed market share data, the full list of POS vendors in the cannabis industry, 2018 vs. 2019 comparisons, and specific data about POS providers in the California and Oklahoma markets.


Ed Keating is a co-founder of Cannabiz Media and oversees our data research and government relations efforts. He has spent his whole career working with and advising information companies in the compliance space. Ed has overseen complex multijurisdictional product lines in the securities, corporate, UCC, safety, environmental and human resource markets and focuses on workflow products. Ed has spent the last twenty five years in the information industry.  During that time he has worked for both startup and established information companies where he has led marketing, product management and sales organizations.  These companies include Wolters Kluwer/Commerce Clearing House, CT Corporation, EDGAR Online and Business & Legal Reports. At Cannabiz Media, Ed enjoys the challenge of working with regulators across the country as he and his team gather corporate, financial, and license information to track the people, products and businesses in the cannabis economy. Ed graduated from Hamilton College and received his MBA from the Kellogg School at Northwestern University.  He has been active with the Software & Information Industry Association for his whole career and managed the Content Division for six years.  He’s was recently a Trustee at the Country School in Madison CT and a Little League Coach for seven years.

 

Video: Member Spotlight – Anresco Laboratories

In this month’s video spotlight, learn about how Anresco Laboratories went from an analytical lab serving the baking industry to getting involved in cannabis testing in 2015. At Anresco, they now conduct metals testing, microbiology, chromatography, HPLC, and are heavily involved with cannabis advocacy efforts!

VIDEO: Innovation In Cannabis Science And Technology

The cannabis industry is full of scientific and technological advancements.
Join the movement and register for one of our upcoming events so you can see it for yourself.  


Hear more from these NCIA Members about the amazing industry we are innovating together:

Be in the know! Be sure to download our Industry Reports, listen to our weekly podcast, and read up on the latest blogs.

Plus, check out our event calendar and get your team registered!

Not yet a member of NCIA?

Stay up to date about the rapidly evolving landscape by networking with nearly 2,000 member companies who are part of a movement to build a responsible industry.

If you’re interested in learning more about becoming a member of NCIA, fill out this interest form or email JJ@TheCannabisIndustry.org.

Member Blog: Doing More With Less – Ways To Expand Yields, Save Money, And Keep Quality

By Andrew Myers, President & CEO of ProGrowTech

As the cannabis industry continues to expand, commercial growers are looking for new and cost-effective ways to get a competitive edge in an increasingly crowded market.

The persistent and ever-growing demand for cannabis products has industry professionals wondering how they can increase their production levels and maintain quality while remaining profitable. Simultaneously, the price of cannabis continues to drop yet operational costs facing growers remain the same — this combination undoubtedly limits the ability to make much-needed investments or updates to their facilities. While the answer may be different for each grower, evaluating a few key areas may lead to increased production without the skyrocketing expenses.

What are some of the best ways to cut down on costs without inhibiting quality? Start by asking the right questions.

Which Lights Provide the Right Intensity, Spectrum, and Efficiency for Your Grow?

It can’t be emphasized enough that lighting plays an integral role in the success of any harvest. When growing indoors, agriculturalists lose exactly what plants need to survive: the sun. LED lights that produce the appropriate light spectrum and intensity can be a (sometimes superior) replacement for the sun.

When used effectively, LEDs can mimic the changing of the seasons — thereby allowing horticulturalists to hasten flowering or encourage dormancy. They’re able to change the appearance, potency and size of the plant. Spectral tuning gives cultivators control over the timing of the plant’s natural life cycle and the resulting harvest, supporting the conclusion that LEDs are the optimal lighting choice for growers seeking higher production levels in a shorter amount of time.

LEDs deliver numerous other time- and money-saving benefits to commercial growers, including:

Energy efficiency – LEDs are an environmentally friendly and sustainable choice for horticulturalists looking to cut down on energy costs — easily surpassing other lighting technologies in this realm.

Cooler running temperature – They runs at a much cooler temperatures than most other options. This means that, even with several LED fixtures delivering bright, intense light, horticulturalists don’t have to worry about burning their plants.

Durability – Lights need to survive a high-demand, busy and ever-changing commercial grow environment. Some lights include especially durable features, such as tempered glass LED chip covers and industrial-grade aluminum — they’ll last for years while also giving growers peace-of-mind.

What Can Be Vertically Accomplished?

Vertical farming has revolutionized the way we think about indoor agriculture. With the advancement of vertical racking, growers can amplify their harvests — sometimes multiplying their crops ten-fold — without having to invest in more square footage.

While this layout certainly isn’t a new idea in agriculture, it was more recently adopted by cannabis growers as some LED grow lights are now capable of being vertically racked. Many growers’ facilities have square footage limitations, whether due to budget or state law; building up, rather than out, offers the opportunity to drastically expand growing capabilities even in smaller spaces.

To keep your vertical cannabis garden in excellent condition:

  • Ensure your LED lighting fixture delivers uniform light intensity, so each plant gets the light it needs at every stage of growth to flourish.
  • Assess whether spectral tuning is appropriate. Some growers might opt for more adjustability so they have the greatest level of control when custom crafting their crop.
  • Make sure you have proper ventilation. This equalizes the environment of each tier and prevents the development of microclimates or condensation — which can lead to disease or rot.
  • Install moveable benches to easily rearrange and access each tier as needed.

This combination of technology and intelligent design expands the realm of possibility for cannabis cultivators who want to use their space more efficiently.

Which Cutting-Edge Growing Techniques Make a Difference?

It’s also important to explore what the individual cultivator can do to improve harvests and offset costs. After all, they’re the ones who handle the plants on a day-to-day basis, and best understand what they need to prosper. Their approach plays a central role in crop health.
Commercial cultivators are able to implement advanced growing strategies to produce healthier and more profitable plants:

Tissue culture cultivation – This innovative technique is relatively new to the cannabis industry, although it has been used since the 1950s to aid in orchid reproduction. The process involves immersing cuttings from a healthy, mature plant in different hormone solutions. Tissue culture cultivation allows growers to quickly develop several — up to hundreds — of genetically identical plants.

Consolidate veg and bloom rooms – Adjustable LEDs offer an easy solution for growers who want to use the time-saving “flower-in-place” approach.LEDs start by delivering gentle springtime light, and growers gradually ramp up the intensity to replicate the height of summer. This method prevents plants from being shocked when they’re moved from room to room, encouraging resiliency — and reducing the required square footage to get a healthy harvest.

The Bottom Line

Critics of indoor agriculture argue it’s too expensive. And in some cases, skeptics have a point — when approached incorrectly, indoor cultivators are indeed faced with expensive operational costs that may slash their profits.

But this doesn’t always have to be the case. Advancements in technology and design, catalyzed by the creative minds leading the industry, are making indoor agriculture more realistic than ever — for any type of grower. Furthermore, indoor agriculture gives the individual grower ultimate control over the environment. One day, variables like unpredictable weather or changing seasons can be left behind. Traditional industrial agriculture results in soil degradation and pollution — moving indoors can help mitigate this negative impact on our environment. In addition, cultivators no longer have to use harmful pesticides, resulting in a healthier product for both the earth and the eventual consumer.


Andrew Myers is President and CEO of ProGrowTech, which helps commercial horticulture operations increase profitability, yield and energy efficiency with industry-leading LED lighting systems. For more information, visit progrowtech.com.

 

Member Blog: Four Reasons ERP Helps Growing Cannabis Companies

by Frank Nisenboum, e2b teknologies

Owners, presidents, and CEOs understand that you have to spend money to make money but it’s often difficult to justify investing in Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software when you could spend that money on new equipment or other tangible assets. Implementing the right ERP software can dramatically improve every aspect of your business from employee retention to customer satisfaction with consider cost savings and increased profits. Further, ERP software can significantly increase the value of your business for owners and investors. ERP helps executive leaders to understand what’s happening throughout the business with alerts, dashboards, and tools to make strategic decisions when necessary.

With dispensary ERP, companies serving the legal marijuana supply chain finally have the tools they need to drive innovation and gain insights for expanding their operations. ERP software automates many cannabis accounting functions related to technology, services, and human resources, all while allowing cannabis businesses to organize and manage real-time data from various solutions into a single view.

It’s easy to see why businesses operating in the cannabis industry would have intricate inventory management needs, but there’s another business side to cannabis which many might not consider. The cannabis industry has complex accounting requirements that go hand-in-hand with their inventory and other business processes.

With cloud accounting software built specifically for cannabis companies, organizations within the cannabis supply chain finally have the advanced technologies to support their unique operational and accounting needs. Today’s growing cannabusinesses need to adapt in a rapidly changing environment and when they’re successful, it gets noticed. This often results in company leadership seeking investor funding or entertaining mergers and acquisitions talks. When companies operating in this space attempt to position themselves for growth, they need field-tested cloud accounting software to prove it.

In this rapidly changing industry, here are a few ways an effective, flexible, and secure cannabis ERP solution will allow you to adapt, positioning your cannabusiness for growth:  

Know Your Customers – Data and Predictive Analytics

Dispensary ERP solutions allow you to compile and understand data about your cannabusiness and the marijuana industry as a whole. With a better understanding of supply and demand pattern, dispensaries can make informed strategic decisions about products and operations.  

By capturing relevant data about your cannabis operation, you answer many efficiency and profitability questions. What are customers most interested in? Which products are they buying and in what quantities. How much are they spending? Are there patterns in accompanying purchases or complementing products? These insights and more help your cannabusiness to create customer personas allowing you to better service your clientele.

280E Tax Woes – Accounting

A fully integrated, purpose-built cannabis accounting software package which offers financial reporting, meets GAAP and auditing board compliance standards also needs to be robust enough to handle other complexities within the industry. Does your off-the-shelf solution ensure compliance with section 280E of the IRS guidelines which prohibits a cannabis operation from deducting certain business expenses? If you’re not sure, the answer is probably not.

With modern cannabis solutions available, your operation can fully organize financials by department across multiple locations as well. Dispensary ERP gives you all the financial reporting tools you need for journal postings, purchase orders, invoices and cash management by recording all transactional data in detail, by location.

Staying In Compliance

Regulation and managing regulatory compliance continues to be top priority for growing cannabis companies. As legislation changes, cannabis operators need varying levels of up-to-date reporting capabilities surrounding seed-to-sale traceability, product recall capability, and proper labeling among many other considerations.

Built to exceed compliance standards, your dispensary ERP delivers individual and aggregated reports, unalterable custody tracking with time stamps to provide the real-time data needed for compliance initiatives – as well as for auditors, CPAs and others who will need access to the books.

If you have multiple locations, you will need to monitor, track and record data from each of your locations, jurisdictions, or intra-industry verticals (growers, processors and dispensaries). With one centralized database and integrated reporting, individual factions of your business are no longer operating as silos and staff have access the real-time access to accurate data for regulators.

Growing Your Business – Scalability

Consider growth plans as you look for technology solutions. If your plans include multiple locations or jurisdictions, you will need cannabis-specific software to manage the complexities that arise as a result. If you decide to diversify your product line by vertically integrating other seed-to-sale products, you will need industry-specific solutions to address the inventory, accounting and compliance ramifications not offered by out-of-the-box technology.

Growing cannabusinesses need to work efficiently with suppliers and growers, accurately forecasting demand and staying abreast of current regulations. As a result, your growing company needs solutions which are flexible and customizable with built-in cannabis-specific features.

Like any other business, growing a successful cannabis business requires technology tools to readily handle its industry’s trends and business process complexities. A flexible, powerful and scalable dispensary ERP will help you address those challenges while you continue to expand your operations.


Vice President of ERP Sales, Frank Nisemboum, is a trusted advisor at e2b teknologies who has guided organizations of all sizes enabling them to establish a technology presence and expand their business through technology. His proven ability to analyze the current and future plans of a company and work with team members to subsequently bring technology solutions to the organization result in improved processes and controls that assure continued growth and profitability. Frank has worked in the ERP and CRM software selection, sales and consulting industry for almost 25 years. His strong ability to understand, interpret and match the needs of an organization to the right ERP and/or CRM solution make him an asset to all of his clients.

At e2b teknologies, our passion for solving problems drives us to deliver innovative solutions for everyone we work with. Visit e2btek.com for more information.

Member Blog: Top 3 Reasons Cannabis Angels, VCs, & PEs Use Data To Analyze Deals

by Henry Finkelstein, CEO and Founder of Cannabis Big Data

Key Highlights:

  1. For cannabis investors focused on private companies, larger deal flow means better investments
  2. Vetting cannabis companies is complex, time-consuming, and expensive
  3. Using a data-driven deal analyzer automates top-level due diligence, resulting in more deals processed, better fits, and overall higher returns

The emerging cannabis industry is in a state of rapid growth – over 30% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for the next 5 years – and investors are starting to really pay attention. Angel investors, venture capitalists, and private equity groups are raising funds dedicated to cannabis and they’re starting to grow their portfolios.

To make smart investments, investors of all shapes and sizes need to review a large volume of deals to find the best picks that fit their investment strategy, often referred to as their investor or portfolio “thesis.” But wading through all those decks and conversations can be very difficult and draining.

Investors (and businesses) lose time, energy, and money qualifying and chasing poor fit deals

Cannabis investors spend tremendous amounts of time and energy talking to and qualifying potential deals, only to realize much too late in the process that this company is not a good fit.  Although every conversation yields an opportunity to learn, some conversations are much more interesting and productive than others. In the worst case scenario, investors don’t realize the deal is a dud until after deploying capital, resulting in direct portfolio losses.

No one, neither investors nor businesses, wants to waste their precious resources on deals and discussions that will go nowhere. More importantly, these wasted resources result in overall market friction that reduces the rate and acceleration of industry growth as well as investor return on investment (ROI). Double whammy!

So any investor that can review more deals faster, and quickly isolate the most relevant opportunities to pursue further, has a considerable advantage in snapping up the best investments before others get a chance.

Maximizing cannabis investment ROI requires a data-driven deal flow

From our first-hand experience raising capital, as well as second-hand experience talking to investors, one of the biggest challenges is quickly and efficiently identifying a good match on industry vertical, business focus, traction, and values. Beyond these foundational considerations, the next round of challenges revolves around product-market fit, growth potential, and deal terms.

Simply put, there is a standard list of 15-20 questions that every investor should ask a prospective investment (and every company should ask a prospective investor). But these questions can drag on for multiple discovery conversations or documents, ultimately wasting time and energy on both sides.

Some investor platforms, such as Leafwire or Arcview, ask a small set of these questions to help grease the wheels. Cannabis Big Data uses a deal analyzer that algorithmically matches investors & potential deals based on self-reported preferences. Think of the tool like Match.com for investor deal flow with a compatibility score based on profile overlap.

Regardless of the platform or format, investors that have an automated, dynamic way to speed up their deal flow will be able to review more deals faster and find the best companies that fit their thesis. It also means investors have more time for due diligence on the highest value deals, ultimately resulting in higher portfolio returns from investing in stronger, more aligned companies.  

For entrepreneurs, a standardized set of investor questions means more time and mental space to focus on developing their product or service and growing their customer base. For the industry, accelerating investment due diligence means less friction in the capital markets and happier humans doing more meaningful work with more time to care for themselves, their customers and their families.

Bonus concept: data-driven investors empower long-term success with historical machine learning & predictive modeling

Beyond the immediate and impactful value of a data-driven investor thesis to save time, energy, and money for both investors and businesses, there is also a longer term impact and benefit to cannabis capital bearers.

Over time, cannabis investors can run historical correlative analyses identifying the core considerations that are most likely to impact success and, most importantly, returns on investment. Said in the lexicon of a data nerd, this is a machine learning protocol and predictive model with historical data-driven deal assessments as a training dataset. In plain English, this is a computer algorithm that looks back in time, figures out what worked and what didn’t work, and applies those lessons learned to the matching score for future potential deals.  

Overall, what’s true for companies is true for their investors: those most adept at activating their data will quickly dominate the market. So investors need to consider an automated deal analyzer to save time, energy, and money in the short-term while also get smarter picking the best bets that yield the highest returns in the long-term.


Henry Finkelstein, CEO & Founder of Cannabis Big Data, empowers colleagues and clients by spinning data into gold with intuitive, actionable insights. After working in e-commerce, consulting, healthcare and government contracting, Henry saw the opportunity to create a modern-day data toolkit for cannabis businesses that connects the data dots with one-click reports & dashboards that help companies earn more and stress less.

Henry’s person-centric approach to the power of data is summed up as “Let’s count what counts & celebrate our successes because the only relevant data is actionable data.”

Member Blog: 7 Steps To Opening A Cannabis Dispensary

by Gary Cohen, Cova Software

As cannabis reform barrels ahead like a freight train, entrepreneurs everywhere are eyeing ways to get in on the green rush. And for those without the background or interest in cultivation or manufacturing, cannabis retail can be a very alluring — and lucrative — prospect.

Of course, that’s not to say there won’t be work involved. Just like any other business, opening a cannabis dispensary requires a lot of planning, paperwork, and, of course, capital. It also requires a lot of additional compliance hurdles not often encountered in other industries.

Today, we’re looking at the seven essential steps you’ll need to address as you seek to launch your own cannabis retail venture.

Seven Essential Steps to Opening a Cannabis Dispensary

Find a suitable location.

While it might seem counterintuitive to talk about location before licensing, the fact is that in most jurisdictions, you’ll be required to have a prospective retail location identified before you can even begin filling out the licensing paperwork.

Naturally, your dispensary location will have to align with all applicable regulations, including local zoning ordinances and state-level mandates. Researching your state’s guidelines shouldn’t be too difficult, as most maintain a checklist on their official government websites.

Obtain a cannabis retail license.

This step is easier said than done — but in the end, no license means no dispensary. Each state has their own cannabis retail licensing and application structure, so once you’ve locked down a potential location, you’ll want to begin researching the requirements and getting all the paperwork in order.

Obtaining a license may take up to a few months, so you’ll be able to work on the other components of your dispensary as you work through the licensing process. But you definitely want to know exactly what you’re up against as early as possible.

Estimate your costs.

The total cost of opening a cannabis dispensary varies greatly by state and local jurisdiction. Application and licensing fees alone can range between a couple thousand dollars up to $20k. Again, you’ll need to research your state and local permitting guides to find out exactly what you’re looking at in terms of licensing fees.

Other major cost considerations will include:

  • Physical location (real estate rental/purchase as well as renovation, furnishing, and finishing costs)
  • Professional fees (insurance, legal, financial, etc.)
  • Payroll
  • Capital investments (security/surveillance system, dispensary technology, etc.)

Write your business plan.

No serious investor is going to consider bankrolling your operation without seeing a solid cannabis retail business plan. Financiers want to know that you’ve covered all your bases, and your plan should address the following key areas:

  • Finances
  • Compliance
  • Dispensary staff
  • Sales and marketing
  • Logistics/operations
  • Security

Of course, detailed information about your planned location will need to be addressed as well.

Secure your capital.

As quickly as the industry is progressing, federal cannabis banking reform could be here sooner than later. But until then, cannabis-friendly financial services are still very hard to come by. That means your primary source of funding will likely be private investors, friends, family, or yourself. There are also some well-established cannabis-specific investment groups out there that are worth looking into.

Consider your dispensary technology needs.

As a cannabis dispensary owner, you’re going to need a technology solution that not only keeps up with the typical retail performance burdens but also satisfies your state’s compliance requirements — in other words, seed-to-sale reporting.

When it comes to a cannabis retail point-of-sale system, you’ll want to consider the following:

  • Compliance reporting (a platform that can tie in directly to the state’s system and automatically report all necessary data can save you untold time and labor costs)
  • Reliability  
  • Ease of use

Determine your product sourcing procedures.

Finally, you’ll need to determine how you’ll source your products. This is another area that you’ll need to reference your particular state’s rules and regulations on; some states prohibit dispensaries from being involved in cultivation, and others highly encourage it. Either way, you’ll likely have to obtain a separate license if you want to get into cultivation.

Start by identifying and interviewing local cannabis producers. This is also a good opportunity to determine the types of products you’ll want to offer and ways you can incorporate them into your marketing.

Want to Learn More about Opening Your Dispensary?

Get a more in-depth look at everything involved with launching your own cannabis dispensary by downloading our How To Open A Cannabis Dispensary e-book — it’s absolutely free.

Grab your copy today!


Gary leads Cova’s charge into the legal cannabis space by guiding the vision, strategic development, ‘go to market’ plans and culture.

Before joining Cova, Gary was a principal in over a dozen tech start-ups in the mobile communications industry ranging from small VC funded companies to Fortune 100 firms, including Onavo, which was later acquired by Facebook. In those companies he led sales, marketing, business analytics and market expansions. He has also held a multitude of leadership roles with Verizon and AT&T.

Gary holds a degree in finance with a master’s in marketing from the University of Colorado. 

Member Blog: 5 Things You Can Do While Waiting for License Approval

By Steve Flaks, VP of Sales, BioTrackTHC

Your state passed a cannabis legalization bill and licensing applications are underway! Hooray! Now, you’re gearing up to start your canna-business. With your business plans in-hand and your application sent in, the fee paid, there is nothing to do now but wait… or you can prepare. These 5 steps can help ensure your business is ready for a successful, stress-free opening day, and beyond.

Find Solid Employees  

It’s important to look for candidates, if not expressly experienced in the cannabis industry already, to at least have transferable skills; anything from customer service to professional horticulture. It’s also helpful to look into the less-obvious employee options, as in, not just growers and budtenders.

Considering the amount of technology licensed cannabis operations requires, whether it’s maintaining your dispensary point of sale hardware, or ensuring your lights are properly wired to your timing system, IT and technology professionals are vital to any well-run business.

Hiring a cannabis compliance officer can be another vital employee to consider while defining the ideal operational structure. Finding a solid compliance officer isn’t an easy task – it takes an individual who has in-depth knowledge of cannabis compliance and regulations. Not only that, but finding someone who is a problem-solver and understands how to navigate even the murkiest of regulatory waters will be essential in growing across U.S. and international borders.

Develop Your SOPs

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) serve as the backbone of your day-to-day operations and define how employees can stay compliant while performing tasks, outline safety and regulatory requirements, and construct standardized steps to comply with cannabis business regulations. Implementing those steps and enforcing them creates consistency from employee to employee, even in the event of turnover and new hires.

Find a Software System that works FOR You

Whether you’re a grower, manufacturer or dispensary, you’re going to have to rely on a track and trace software to keep you compliant and keep your operation running smoothly. It’s important to find a software system that works FOR you, not the other way around. Many cannabis software solutions have rigid workflows and limited functionality, which leaves you with no other choice than to operate in a way that syncs up with the software. Others offer flexibility and can be customized to match your process.

Establish Your Brand

From logos and overall design to messaging and developing a social media presence… as Jeff Bezos says, “Branding is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” With hundreds of other canna-business out there trying to make a name for themselves, developing a strong brand has become vital in the cannabis industry. Outstanding products have come and gone, so differentiating your business in the market can be the difference maker. As the embodiment of essentially everything your business does and represents, developing a solid and unique brand identity will take plenty of thought, and plenty of time.

Keep Track of Compliance in Your State

Do you know the ins and outs of cannabis compliance in your state? If you’ve already sent in your license application, odds are you’ve mostly wrapped your head around it. But understanding it and maintaining it in your day-to-day operations are two different things.

Each state has unique cannabis laws, which as we’ve seen many times are subject to amendments. It’s up to businesses to stay up-to-date on your state’s regulations and any potential changes to them, as well as keeping your operational workflows up to speed. Keeping smart on the proposed, and sometimes implemented regulations, will enable you to stay ahead of compliance changes and implement swift changes to address them.

It can be frustrating the pace at which the cannabis industry progresses, but as one of the fastest growing and emerging industries in the world, the one thing you can’t afford to do is tread water. There’s always something you can do to prepare so when you do open your doors, you’re already 10 steps ahead of your competition.


Leading the sales team at BioTrackTHC, Steve Flaks has helped to establish the company as a leading cannabis software provider operating in over 2,000 business locations. Mr. Flaks has been featured in a variety of industry panels and publications as a subject matter expert surrounding licensed cannabis operations discussing topics including SOP’s, operational workflows, cannabis software, and seed-to-sale compliance.

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