Member Blog: Payment Processing In The Cannabis Space

by Todd Glider, MobiusPay, Inc

There is a lot of confusion about payment processing in the cannabis space because payment processing is somewhat confusing to begin with, and because, in the cannabis space, ambiguity is a way of life. 

The title of this very blog post could, realistically, seem misleading to some. 

So, to be clear, when I say, “Cannabis Space,” I mean the entire industry — from plant-touchers (CBD included) to the ancillary businesses built up around it.

The passage of the 2018 Farm Bill marked an exciting new chapter for the industry. Suddenly, CBD, or, more specifically, any ingestible cannabis product containing .3% THC or less by volume, was classified as hemp. And since it is marijuana, and not hemp, that is defined as a Schedule I substance under the United States Controlled Substance Act, the Farm Bill, technically, made products like CBD as legal as cow milk — federally, anyway.

The upshot of this new classification is that now, at least some players in the cannabis space can market their products to a national base of consumers and clients, and they can do so by accepting credit cards as payment. 

However, the myriad Acquiring Banks across the United States have not exactly jumped for joy at the prospect of providing credit card processing in the form of merchant accounts to CBD retailers. Reticence rules. CBD is considered high risk, and four years on, only a handful of them have thrown their hat in the ring. 

Jargon Alert I: Acquiring Banks and Issuing Banks

In merchant processing parlance, banks fall into two categories: Acquiring Banks and Issuing Banks. Acquiring Banks, or, Acquirers, provide merchant processing accounts to businesses wishing to accept credit card transactions. Issuing Banks, short for Card Issuing Banks, are banks that offer branded payment cards directly to consumers. For example, if your bank has ever offered you a Visa card, it is an Issuing Bank (not that it couldn’t also be an Acquiring Bank, too).

Jargon Alert II: CBD is ‘High Risk’

CBD is deemed high risk by the card associations (i.e., Visa, MasterCard, American Express), and when the card associations deem a product or industry high risk, most Acquiring Banks tap out. This is because financial institutions are, by nature, risk averse (subprime mortgage crisis notwithstanding). 

So let’s talk for a minute about risk. High risk, that compound term, is a truncation of a longer phrase: ‘Higher risk of fraud or chargebacks.’

Why are CBD products at higher risk of fraud? It’s impossible to say for sure since the Visas and MasterCards of the world are publicly traded companies with their own trade secrets and IP, but there are several characteristics unique to CBD, or any cannabis product now federally legal, that likely figured into that decision.

Those FDA disclaimers that CBD retailers must print or paste on all product packaging and webpages are as good a place as any to start. They are mandatory because none of the benefits assigned to CBD have been clinically proven. There just isn’t enough data or testing at this point, and no big story there. That’s what happens when you demonize a plant for 100 years.

Consequently, from the perspective of the FDA, and the card associations, by extension, consumers are making CBD purchases with baked-in expectations based, exclusively, on word-of-mouth advice and anecdotal data. That’s a recipe for dissatisfied customers. And dissatisfied customers tend to charge back transactions.

The card associations, and the banks who provide merchant accounts, worry incessantly about fraud and chargebacks. 

Too Close for Comfort

Dissatisfied customers aside, there are onerous legal nuances that make the prospect of boarding cannabis merchants, even those selling products that are federally legal, daunting for banks. 

Selling a product with .31% THC across state lines is felonious. It is a federal offense. Violating a law like that could get a bank’s charter revoked, or, at a minimum, result in massive fines. 

On the other hand, selling a product with .30% THC across state lines is 100% federally legal. As stated above, safe as milk, federally.

That is a heck of a distinction. If any product contains more than .3% THC by volume, it is ‘marijuana’ in the eyes of the federal government. From the perspective of the banks, that’s a little close for comfort. Furthermore, banks don’t operate laboratories. They must rely on testing data presented to them in the form of third-party lab reports — Certificates of Analysis or COAs for short — to verify that the products being sold are federally legal.

The last thing an Acquiring Bank wants to do is violate a federal law EVER. It could result in a loss of their charter, lawsuits, and massive fines. And it’s important to keep in mind that the Acquiring Banks out there offering merchant accounts to CBD retailers are not giant, publicly traded institutions like Bank of America or Wells Fargo. They tend to be much smaller, and therefore, have infinitely smaller war chests for court cases.

Still, separating the federally legal Tier I cannabis product from the federally illegal Tier I cannabis product should be pretty cut-and-dry. If the product you’re selling is .3% THC by volume or less, it is exempt from the Controlled Substance Act (CSA). If that threshold is documented in the product’s Certificates of Analysis (COA), you ought to be able to sell it.

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. When bank underwriters look at percentages of Delta 8, Delta 9, and Delta 10 on the COAs that cross their desks, they’re frequently at sixes and sevens trying to figure the whole thing out. 

From the perspective of the 2018 Farm Bill, a cannabis product is hemp if it contains .3% Delta-9 THC or less by volume, but what everybody says is “.3% THC or less by volume.” Consequently, when the compliance officer at the bank is performing her due diligence by inspecting the COAs corresponding to each product, she may encounter a lot of crooked numbers, and she may blanch at the results.

Those results, often, look something like the following: 

00.195% D9-THC

52.475% d8-THC. 

Federally, the Delta-9 threshold is the only threshold that matters. The 2018 Farm Bill says as much, and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in California affirmed it in a ruling this past May. Therefore, in the example above, the Delta-9 threshold has not been crossed. It’s not even close. It is textbook HEMP, even if the Delta-8 threshold is off the charts.

However, if the compliance officer was provided the remit, “.3% or lower,” he’s likely to look at this and say, “Fail,” without realizing that the Delta-8 THC information is irrelevant as far as federal law goes. 

Complicating the underwriting further is the fact that there is, to date, no standard template for COA reports. Every lab presents them differently. Bank compliance officers rarely moonlight as scientists. Like most of us, these CBD COAs are probably the first lab reports they’ve looked at since high school chemistry.

Furthermore, the banks can set their own rules. They don’t have to board CBD merchants. Few do, and those few that do have their own standards and practices. 


Todd Glider has been an e-Commerce leader since the start of the Internet age. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Miami, and has served as CEO for small and medium-sized technology companies in Spain, Austria and the United States. As our Chief Business Development Officer, Todd introduces MobiusPay’s suite of award-winning financial services to new industries, and implements the development strategies and key partnerships needed to bring value to new customers.

MobiusPay, Inc. is a U.S.-based global financial services organization that is committed to empowering individuals and businesses. For more than a dozen years, MobiusPay has leveraged state-of-the-art secure billing technology, long-standing relationships with financial institutions and award-winning customer support to provide merchant processing and payment solutions to brick and mortar and digital businesses around the world.

 

Member Blog: Stellar Customer Service, Transparency, & Education Drive Cannabis Success

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

With expansive product choices, it’s no longer enough to rely solely on product quality and availability. Today’s maturing cannabis marketplace requires differentiation to resonate and succeed.

Three pillars of that differentiation are stellar customer service, total transparency, and excellent education. At the core of each, sincerity and truth must predominate. In this age of “fake news,” anything that doesn’t seem trustworthy and true likely will backfire on the company sooner or later.

It only takes one unsubstantiated quality control or product claim to hit the social media lie detector, then potentially go viral. At the very least, one consumer badmouthing your company via word-of-mouth and/or digital messaging will harm your reviews and ratings. In most cases, the damage will be undetectable until it reaches a level where revenues and reputation are noticeably impacted.

Following are four basics of stellar customer service, transparency, and education:

  1. Interact authentically. Scripts and canned phrases instinctively don’t resonate with most consumers. One obvious example is the “I’m so sorry you’re having a problem” response. How likely is it that the person is really sorry and not just parroting something they’ve been told to repeat time and time again? Instead, communicate in a real way by tuning into what the existing or prospective customer is trying to address.

For example, when someone complains about lengthy waits to receive live phone support (including disconnects while waiting), it’s okay to say something like, “I get it. We’ve been having challenges. Now that we’re on the phone together, let’s address your needs right away. And, please give me your phone number, just in case this call drops. I’ll call you right back.”

  1. Offer multichannel communications preferences. Some people want live phone support, not a digital option. Chat bots can be extraordinarily frustrating unless the programming and ability is advanced. Ditto for “live chat.” As much as possible, make it easy and meet everyone’s preferences. Email, live phone support, texting, website knowledge center, and digital chat should all be offered to meet the customer in a way that works best.

     

  2. Offer total and transparent education. Knowledge centers (and associated forums) and FAQs can be excellent tools to help provide priority information, but they’re only one piece of the puzzle. Consumer questions and concerns can cover anything. There should be an easy way to find more information through the above-referenced channels as needed. Product labels can provide easy access to a variety of information, starting with label content and extending to either Augmented Reality or QR digital gateways for more in-depth education. Those digital gateways should contain valuable information, along with easily found follow-up calling, emailing, live chat, and additional educational options (including possibly Knowledge Center, FAQs, and keyword-search forums/articles, et al).

“Full disclosure” should be at the core of all things educational, both in information repositories and customer service support. For example, CBD can make some people cranky and anxious. Full disclosure must override the desire to sell. By fully informing a consumer of risks as well as rewards, the experience is much more likely to result in high marks for the company.

Conversely, incomplete or inaccurate information provided by salespeople motivated only by making sales will backfire when less than optimum outcomes occur. In contrast, a salesperson willing and able to fully educate will help build long-term customer relationships with the company. 

  1. Hire motivated, attentive, smart people. No matter what policies and training are in place, ultimately companies need to focus on hiring the best candidates — those dedicated to top-notch customer service, truthtelling, and education. Workforce shortages are not a valid reason to abandon these core values in the name of expedient hiring. Be committed to employee wants and needs, and be prepared to follow through. Offer generous wages, but beware of those who seem overly money motivated and demanding. They likely will be gone as soon as the next “shiny toy” opportunity comes along.

There are companies that have weathered supply chain and workforce shortage issues — and even inflationary pressures — well. One that comes to mind is Costco. Unlike many retailers during the pandemic, their quality of service has remained high. Product availability and selection have been maintained. Prices, although subject to some upward movement, don’t seem to have risen as much as most retailers.

Clearly, Costco found solutions instead of blaming challenging conditions and using those as an excuse for failure. Follow this example. Find ways to do more with less, get creative about becoming more efficient, and plan ahead so that emergent problems don’t become overly taxing. 

Cannabis companies that excel in being trusted, liked, and respected will outperform their competitors willing to live with mediocrity.


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

 

 

Committee Blog: An Introduction to Minor/Novel Cannabinoids 

by NCIA’s Cannabis Manufacturing Committee

In our rapid advance in cannabis science through recent years with the easing of restrictions of handling and experimenting on cannabis and cannabinoids via legalization and regulation efforts across the country, we have discovered and re-discovered cannabinoids that hold potential for great advancement in cannabis chemistry and potential for many beneficial health and wellness benefits along with identifying via production methodology, the safe and cost-effective means of producing these cannabinoids themselves. 

We define these new cannabinoids, different from the standard ones identified and required to be noted on regulated cannabis products (i.e. THC-A, THC, and CBD) in a number of ways, all being used in this article to define Minor/Novel cannabinoids. Minor cannabinoids are simply defined as every other cannabinoid that is found in cannabis besides THC and CBD. Science has identified over 100 outside the two standards, and more are discovered each year. Defining “Novel” cannabinoids; we look at five major classifications; Classical, Non-Classical, Hybrids, Aminoalkindoles, and Eicosanoids. Finally, we use the term “Synthetic” cannabinoids to define compounds related to cannabinoids, but not naturally found in any concentration in the cannabis plant or related plants themselves. Realistically, the term Synthetic could be replaced by Novel, Classical Synthetics, and Non-Classic Synthetic compounds. For the sake of this article, we will be defining and discussing the basics of the generalized “Minor” cannabinoid family along with touching briefly on possible “Synthetic” compounds of interest in the future. 

It would be easy to dismiss all these compounds outside THC and CBD as so rarely found in the natural cannabis plant, that they would not impact the industry or growth/focus on regulatory affairs in the space for discussion. However, one thing that these compounds have been found to cause is not only true intoxication in individuals, but also potential workarounds between State and Federal law regarding restrictions around classic cannabinoids THC and CBD, which have been the main focus of lawmakers and regulators in the past. One of the most prevalent and important that has made its way into many small gas stations and head shops across the country would be a compound such as Delta-8-THC. Often described as “THC light” Delta-8 has been produced through semi-synthetic means to achieve intoxicating effects while still skirting around the laws regarding Delta-9 THC. Delta-8 is not a new compound, having been known for years in the organic chemistry field and now being produced via widely available and federally legal CBD isolate. Compounds such as “Delta-10” and others are now becoming available to market in a large way and generalized knowledge of the substance and its effects are becoming widely discussed. 

Overall, the compounds themselves have years of real research behind them, showing that when produced correctly and tested for efficacy, there are real potential benefits to use in the human body for a variety of reasons or conditions. Many more years of research are to be done to learn proper testing methodology based on production methods, but overall, we are seeing many potential benefits of these compounds for human use. 

The human body internally operates and relies on what is called the endocannabinoid system. The system affects the human body’s ability to heal/regenerate, regulate body temperature, and many other positive background systems in the body. Humans are built to process and use cannabinoids and the deficiencies of those can lead to imbalance in the body’s systems. One effect of cannabinoids in the human body is also that of intoxication. Scientists rely on various interacting chemistries in the body and brain to determine the concept of intoxication. There is no doubt in the argument against any intoxication, however, we tend to view intoxication through a negative light while simultaneously ingesting a cup of coffee in the morning for the intoxicating effects of caffeine. Looking at intoxication through this light, down to the way in which a cup of tea can calm, soothe, rejuvenate, or stimulate; we seek to define and examine the potential benefits of these minor cannabinoids in the human experience while studying and researching their potential uses in the future.

Taking a brief look at overall results from studies around minor cannabinoids, we find a variety of effects and use in minor cannabinoids that far outstrips the standard belief of what THC or CBD can do for the body. THC-V, for instance, that is found in higher concentrations of strains from specific parts of the world, including the south part of the continent of Africa, has been shown to work towards appetite suppression and could potentially be a lesser harmful compound in the quest for weight loss in individuals. Looking at the compound CBG, it has been shown in studies to improve focus and cognition, a very different outcome than its relative THC. THC-O has even been shown to have a greater intoxicating effect than Delta-8 or 9 due to the ability of the human body to uptake the compound more efficiently. Finally, one compound that is making waves in the field of sleep science is CBN, an oxidized molecule of CBD that could help people find non-habit-forming relief in the quest for better rest. While all of these compounds are and can be created from various forms of THC and CBD, much more research is needed (and thankfully finally becoming allowed in this country) to judge their effectiveness and side effects. 

All these modifications via organic chemistry with existing cannabinoids, while yielding beneficial results in the lab and clinical research; should be examined and tested like any other regulated product being consumed by humans. One very real potential danger is not only the continued prohibition and extreme regulation of research into cannabinoids leading to clandestine production methods in markets that do not require testing (i.e., “Bathtub” Delta-8 production using strong and dirty acid compounds) but the continued chasing of new compounds outside the current regulatory structure that exists with the DEA here in America. Cannabis has been through this struggle before; with THC highly regulated and tested for in individuals in the military, probation, transportation, or heavy equipment operation; there was a desire to still feel the effects while “complying” with the strict THC ban. These compounds were developed at a rapid rate, leading to “Synthetic THC” or “Spice”-type compounds. While the legislation was aware of the issue, the methodology of banning a single compound led underground chemists here and around the world to tweak the molecular structure to have a similar effect while essentially testing their new blends on the unsuspecting masses, resulting in many injuries and developing long-lasting negative effects in individuals.

One of our biggest tools to combat another “Spice” development cycle that outpaces the research done on these compounds is to deregulate and lessen the difficulties in studying these compounds in highly regulated scientific settings (i.e., universities and scientific institutions). Following that initial change, there needs to be significant development through those institutions regarding establishing long-term studies and testing methods to examine the effects on the human body. Regarding final product testing; in the regulated market, all cannabis products sold through licensed dispensaries from licensed producers need to undergo stringent testing for potency/solvents/heavy metals contamination/microbial contamination, and other potential hazards before the product are deemed safe to sell to customers. Allowing other minor compounds, such as Delta-8-THC, to be sold to consumers via untested pathways and through unregulated channels opens the possibility of harm either through incorrect dosing or contamination via shoddy production methods or less-than-clean packaging standards. Labs need to continue to modify and develop their means to accurately test these compounds and regulators need to hold manufacturers accountable in following the health and safety testing requirements as are currently being done in the regulated cannabis markets across the country. 

Not only do these compounds have a significant potential for health and human wellness but could even assist in the development of significantly cleaner production methodology for the main cannabinoids like THC, allowing for lower costs of production and for much more market competitiveness and development by lowering hurdles like highly regulated cannabis agriculture. If you do not need to spend valuable resources to grow the plant itself and the compounds can be safely produced with higher consistency, it will be a boon to manufactured products that require them for their formulations. 

In no way should we shut the door on the potential future of these compounds but embrace the study and research to re-invigorate the development and growth of the use of a plant that has been part of the human consciousness for over 3,000 years. While the names sound scary and different, we are just cracking the code on the depth of this plant and what it can do after so many years in the shadows.


The Cannabis Manufacturing Committee focuses on reviewing existing business practices and state regulations of concentrates, topicals, vaporizers, and edibles, ensuring the manufacturing sector is helping shape its destiny.

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

by Lee Johnson, CBD Oracle

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

Why Self-Regulate?

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

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

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

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

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

How Can Companies Better Self-Regulate?

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

Provide Transparent Lab Reports with QR Codes

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

Offer a Lab Report for Every SKU

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

Choose Credible Labs for Your Report 

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

Test for Impurities 

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

Verify Customer’s Ages

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

Label Your Products Accurately 

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

Warning and Caution Labels  

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

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

Use Child-Proof Packaging

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

Avoid Child-Attractive Packaging

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

Avoid Medical Claims 

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

Get Industry Certifications

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

Conclusion

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


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

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

 

Member Blog: Cannabis as a Performance Tool 

By Dr. Dominick Monaco, CLS Holdings

As we make our way closer to 2022, the world is also entering a new paradigm for the cannabis industry. Due to advancing global legalization efforts, cannabis use is gaining mainstream acceptance for the first time in history. With these shifting perspectives also comes the rapid deterioration of traditional stereotypes. 

Today, cannabis is not only widely regarded as a legitimate medicine, but many people also look to it as a performance tool. To this end, the endorsement of the herb by pro athletes, media icons, and high-powered executives has again turned our conceptions of cannabis on its head. 

With such rapidly shifting perspectives, we are witnessing a monumental moment in time where propaganda is being replaced with factual evidence. As things evolve, active people are not only endorsing legalization, but many swear by cannabis as a performance tool. 

Indica and Sativa

The more places that legalize cannabis around the world, the more opportunities we have to study cannabis in controlled settings. As our knowledge expands, so does our ability to use specific compounds in cannabis to aid particular activities. 

In the early days of legalization, broad terms such as “Indica” and “Sativa” were used to describe just about every attribute of cannabis – including both product descriptions and psychoactive effects. To this end, Indicas are widely accepted as calming, while Sativas are known to be energetic. 

Terpenes & Strains 

While the effects of Sativas and Indicas are still widely accepted across the industry, we are also beginning to see a much more nuanced approach to cannabis consumption. Especially when it comes to performance, a more granular perspective of cannabis is necessary. 

To maximize the performance benefits of cannabis, it’s critical to understand the constituent parts of the cannabis flower. By understanding the effects of different strains and cannabinoids, and terpenes, people can better choose the right products for their performance needs. 

Notable cannabinoids and terpenes and their effects:

  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC): Cannabinoid that provides energy and focus during activities helps boost creativity. Pain reliever after physical activity. 
  • Cannabidiol (CBD): Cannabinoid that relieves anxiety before and during performances. Pain reliever and anti-inflammatory agent after physical activity. 
  • Cannabigerol (CBG): Cannabinoid, which promotes motivation and stimulates pleasure. Pain reliever and anti-inflammatory agent after physical activity. 
  • Beta-pinene: Terpene believed to act as an anti-depressant
  • Caryophyllene: Terpene with anti-inflammatory properties. 
  • Humulene: Terpene thought to provide energy

CLS Holdings’ own City Trees developed several popular products based on the effects of certain cannabinoids and terpenes. Their Calm, Relief, Rest, and Energy distillate vape cartridges offer simplified shopping experiences for new cannabis consumers. By building product messaging around the effects of the products, they help people understand exactly what they are purchasing. 

Physical & Mental Performance 

While a detailed assessment of the compounds found in cannabis can go a long way, you must also account for your specific performance needs when finding the right cannabis product. Depending on how your body and mind react with cannabis, you can utilize it to help with physical activities and cerebral pursuits. 

Whether you are interested in feeling more energized for your workout routine or getting the creative juices flowing for a writing assignment, there is likely a cannabinoid and terpene combination to suit your needs. 

Olympic gold medalist snowboarder Ross Regalati swears by cannabis during both training and competition. The famous Canadian snowboarder feels cannabis “improves concentration” and is great for training because flowers are both “fat-free and calorie-free.” While no longer a professional snowboarder, Regaliti is still a world-class athlete. Today, his choice cannabis strain for exercise is the Sativa-dominant hybrid Bruce Banner. 

The famous female vocalist Alanis Morisette swears by cannabis as part of the creative process. In an interview with High Times, she states, “As an artist, there’s a sweet jump-starting quality to [marijuana] for me… So if I ever need some clarity… or a quantum leap in terms of writing something, it’s a quick way for me to get to it.” Morisette can utilize the right cannabis product for her needs and push through creative boundaries and explore new territories. 

Tips for Finding the Perfect Fit 

While studying different terpene profiles and cannabinoids is a great way to learn about the effects of cannabis, you also need to consider your physiology. Notably, a cannabis product that works well for one person won’t necessarily do the same with another. 

For example, if you are an introverted, anxiety-prone person, using an energetic strain like Diesel for a social situation might not be a good idea. In this case, a mellow Indica CBD hybrid like Cannatonic might be just what you need to feel relaxed and engaged. Yet, a naturally extroverted person would likely enjoy an energetic strain for social situations and need the CBD hybrid to wind down at the end of the day. 

If you aren’t sure what cannabis products will work for you, we recommend visiting a credible dispensary with well-trained budtenders. Once you have sound recommendations, always start small when experimenting with new cannabis products. With a bit of careful trial and error, you will likely discover cannabis products that can help you with anything from enhancing your workout to stimulating your sex life. 

Summary 

Having been on pain management therapies since the age of 17 for my Kyphosis, I now rely solely on concentrated cannabis extracts to manage my pain and keep my Activities of Daily Living at peak performance. Being diagnosed at 17, I was prescribed 1x Hydrocodone per day to manage my pain. By the time I graduated from Pharmacy School, I was taking 18 pills a day (540/month) to manage my pain and the side effects of other medications. It’s been 8 years since I’ve taken a prescribed medication and cannabis and cannabis products have replaced every medication that I was on prior. I’m grateful and humbled to be a key member of a team that produces the very own products I use to manage my health and wellness.

Looking back just a few short years to the genesis of legal cannabis, it’s remarkable to see how far we have come. In the industry’s early days, people didn’t have the luxury to match a specific cannabis product to a particular performance need. Not only was our knowledge of cannabis not sophisticated enough to accomplish this task, but Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) were still lacking in the early days. 

As our knowledge of cannabis continues to expand, so does our ability to make informed decisions on the products we use. Whether you are a trail runner who enjoys a Sativa before you head to the mountains, or a musician who likes to settle into practice with hybrid flowers, some careful study will lead you to the right products for your performance needs. 

During this period of rapid change, it’s exhilarating to see negative stereotypes of lazy cannabis users finally being upended. Even more, it’s incredible to witness pro athletes, high-powered executives, and famous artists not only advocate for legalization but openly promote cannabis as a performance tool. 


Dr. Monaco is the Director of Laboratory Operations for CLS Holdings’ newly opened approximately $4 million laboratory, and is responsible for all day-to-day operations inside the North Las Vegas facility. Dr. Monaco brings over 8 years of licensed & regulated cannabis experience, starting back in 2012 when medical marijuana first opened in Arizona, he has held numerous positions, with escalating responsibilities year over year. He graduated from the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy, in Tucson, Arizona, with a Doctor of Pharmacy in 2010.

Member Blog: Cannabis Commoditization

by Claudia Della Mora, Black Legend Capital

What would it take for cannabis to become a commodity? To answer this question, we must first understand what a commodity is. Commodities are often raw materials, such as mineral ores, petroleum, sugar, rice, corn, wheat, etc., traded in large quantities, with little restriction, with prices fluctuating based on supply and demand. These commodities are often traded on exchanges to facilitate transactions, as price and availability are the main factors, not product differentiation or branding. Thus, standardization of the commodity and minimum quality standards are essential to commoditization. Currently in the EU and UK, hemp raw materials and finished goods must be compliant with the Novel Food Regime to be sold. To be compliant, manufacturers must apply for Novel Food status which will then be approved by the Food Standards Agency. This is a perfect example of standardization beginning to take place. However, globally, there are ~800 recognized strains of cannabis, although realistically, that number is likely in the thousands. This is in comparison to most commodity markets which usually have less than a dozen different variations. We can break this down into three main sub-sectors: industrial hemp, medical cannabis, and adult-use cannabis, and the challenges to commoditization for each.

Industrial hemp is cultivated primarily for its seeds or fibers to make clothing, paper, biodegradable plastic, building materials, etc. Most CBD extracts also come from industrial hemp, so the hemp farmers can potentially be seen as commodity producers while the buyers, who then use the CBD extracts to produce their differentiated products, are not. However, one major issue is the lack of price stability and transparency for differentiation seen in other commodities. In the United States, prices for high-CBD cannabis biomass declined up to two-thirds in value in 2020 compared to the previous year.

Medical cannabis, which can be over the counter or pharma-grade, has various medical applications, some still yet to be discovered. On the pharma side, GW Pharma has the only cannabis drug that has been approved by the FDA, which treats different types of epilepsy. Cannabis is also being researched for its effectiveness in treating Alzheimer’s, cancer, eating disorders, mental health disorders, seizures, and many more. However, firms focused on medical cannabis often attempt to produce products with specific ratios of THC and CBD through crossbreeding and generating unique terpene profiles. However, for a company to develop pharma-grade products, the product must meet the minimum standards required by its prospective country. These are usually for a particular type of treatment, making commoditization difficult.

Adult-use cannabis has seen tremendous growth and legalization in the past years; however, products differ between producers. While there are thousands of strains of cannabis, even the same strain can vary widely between producers depending on cultivation methods and conditions. Naturally occurring terpenes also allow for differentiation. It can come in a wide range of different potencies, even due to farming techniques, thus making it challenging to produce premium quality cannabis at scale consistently. At the same time, countries are beginning to implement minimum requirements for its products, like the EU and UK’s Novel Food Regime explained above. As countries continue implementing these requirements, the ability to differentiate products will decrease.

As you can see, the most likely to be commoditized would be industrial hemp, as standardization would be a massive obstacle for both recreational and medical cannabis. However, other factors need to be resolved before cannabis can reach commodity status, including price transparency and legalization. There are benchmark prices for commodity products that are easily accessible, and currently, a platform to publish these benchmark prices has not been fully developed yet. Regarding legalization, in the US, cannabis with a THC content over 0.3% remains federally illegal, despite individual states allowing growth, processing, and sale. Multi-state operators cannot transport THC products across state lines, preventing the national distribution of branded products. The problem with interstate commerce would disappear when cannabis becomes federally legal, but it is currently a challenge and simply put, for now, a surplus in California stays in California.

While there are still many hurdles for cannabis to become a commodity, many tailwinds could lead to its successful commoditization. Federal legalization in the U.S. would likely remove restrictions in transactions, allowing for the free trade of cannabis within the country. On a global scale, the real barrier to global trade centers around the United Nations Drug Treaty. In December 2020, the U.N. Commission on Narcotic Drugs transferred cannabis from a Schedule 4 to a Schedule 1 drug. Schedule 1 drugs are still prohibited substances but are seen as having medicinal value. For cannabis to trade freely, the United Nations must move cannabis to a U.N. Schedule II or III drug. This is because countries must be compliant with the 1961 U.N. Convention to import and export cannabis, which requires a narcotic license. Additionally, once regulators such as the FDA come out with specific rules, CBD will begin to act more like a commodity with significant supply and demand. One World Pharma, The Cannabis Mercantile Trading Exchange (CMTREX), Panexchange, and Canxchange have begun developing exchanges for cannabis to trade on, with One World Pharma even beginning to offer limited futures contracts. On the positive side, cannabis has a head start in testing to meet minimum quality standards. Most jurisdictions already require it, although the threshold levels needed to sell the product still vary between locations. The regulations between different countries vary greatly, as countries in South America and places like Canada and Israel are very open to cannabis. However, in others, such as most EU and Asian nations, there is still a lot of stigma surrounding cannabis, which will likely take much longer to gain widespread acceptance. While there are still many hurdles to cross until commoditization, the current Biden administration has shown a willingness to legalize cannabis federally, the first and most crucial step towards cannabis becoming a commodity.

Reference: Grower Talks


Ms. Della Mora is the Co-founder of BLC, a financial advisory and investment firm based in Los Angeles with satellite offices in Houston, New York, London, Hong Kong, and Melbourne. During her tenure at BLC, she successfully invested, assisted in the capitalization, and helped business develop small cap oil companies in Kentucky, Texas, Louisiana, Illinois, Colorado, California, Wyoming, North Dakota, and Alaska. She has also structured oil & gas partnerships in several U.S. states, and in Ecuador, Central America. Ms. Della Mora has been involved in many LNG (Liquid to Natural Gas) projects in the U.S., as well as many commodity trades worldwide. She has personally advised also Chinese conglomerates in their U.S. oil & gas investments.

Black Legend Capital is a leading Merger & Acquisition boutique advisory firm based in California with offices worldwide. Black Legend Capital was founded in 2011 by former senior investment bankers from Merrill Lynch and Duff & Phelps. We provide M&A advisory services, structured financing, and valuation services primarily in the cannabis, technology, healthcare, and consumer products industries. Black Legend Capital’s partners have extensive advisory experience in structuring deals across Asia-Pacific, Europe, and North America.

 

Video: NCIA Today – August 20, 2021

FDA Punts on Regulating CBD Again

by Morgan Fox, NCIA’s Director of Media Relations

Last week, the hemp and CBD industries took another blow from the Food and Drug Administration when the agency refused to grant a request from prominent CBD producer Charlotte’s Web to regulate the substance as a dietary supplement. This is the latest in a series of delays and setbacks on the part of the FDA when it comes to regulating hemp-derived cannabinoids and products since they became technically legal at the federal level under the 2018 Farm Bill.

Bloomberg reports: “The company’s bid to sell its full-spectrum hemp extract with CBD as a dietary supplement won’t be considered because of the FDA’s own prior decision to treat CBD as a drug, according to a letter posted on the agency’s website Wednesday. This shouldn’t disrupt the business of Charlotte’s Web or prevent other companies from continuing to sell such products, which already exist in a gray area without the agency’s oversight. The decision shows the agency’s ongoing hesitancy to regulate cannabidiol, the non-psychoactive ingredient in cannabis plants better known as CBD… The FDA’s objection rested in part on its prior approval of Epidiolex, a CBD drug to reduce seizures, which the agency said precludes it from authorizing CBD for dietary purposes. Even if the drug hadn’t been approved, though, the FDA said in the letter to Charlotte’s Web dated July 23 that it “has concerns about the adequacy of safety evidence” that the company submitted.”

You can read the full FDA letter here.

This position is likely to create serious problems for the CBD industry. Without allowing CBD products to be regulated as dietary supplements or food additives, the FDA will be forcing producers to get federal approval for their products under the Investigational New Drug program. This process can often take years and cost applicants millions of dollars.

This casts even more doubt on what the future of the CBD market will look like as producers continue to operate in an uncertain landscape. The legality of CBD combined with the lack of federal regulations has created a lot of opportunities for responsible producers to bring products to market without dealing with the often overly strict state cannabis programs, but it has also opened the door to irresponsible operators who have been accused of actions from making misleading or unsubstantiated health claims to selling mislabeled or adulterated products.

Furthermore, the lack of federal regulations has discouraged many larger retailers from selling CBD or hemp-derived products altogether, drastically limiting the market options for producers. Some industry insiders have theorized that lack of access to those retailers has directly led to some producers desperately searching for ways to unload their excess CBD, including processing it into unregulated Delta 8 THC and flooding the markets in both legal and prohibition states, creating concerns among regulators, lawmakers, licensed cannabis operators, and consumers.

This troubling news follows on the heels of another memo issued by the Farm Credit that suggests that financial institutions that provide financing to hemp businesses should only do so if the company is operating under the auspices of a USDA-approved state hemp program.

“While many states and federally recognized tribes have since submitted those plans, 20 states are still operating under an earlier provision: a hemp pilot program created by the 2014 Farm Bill. That program, which is still valid and would be further extended under pending legislation that has passed the House and is pending in the Senate, requires less federal oversight than the new USDA-approved programs,” Marijuana Moment reports.

Some in the industry are concerned that the memo will lead to lenders dropping their hemp clients operating under the pilot programs, but others have suggested that it will not have a significant impact on the lenders who are already working with hemp businesses given the amount of reporting that they must already complete for the federal government and the lack of federal prosecutions for doing so historically.

It seems pretty clear by this point that the FDA will not move forward with regulating CBD in a timely and reasonable manner without outside pressure. You can add your voice to the chorus calling for sensible CBD regulations by visiting RegulateCBDNow and urging Congress to take action.

Committee Insights | 7.20.21 | Subculture to Pop Culture: Creating Culturally Relevant Cannabis Brands

In this edition of our NCIA Committee Insights series originally aired on Tuesday, July 20, 2021 we were joined by members of our Marketing & Advertising Committee for a discussion on the importance of creating, cultivating & maintaining cultural relevancy for your cannabis (or CBD) brand. Stick around for the entire conversation as the panel dives deep into specific tools, metrics and methods for both research & analysis of your campaigns during the Q&A segment to close out the program.

Presentation Slide Deck: https://bit.ly/3zlnPYe

As the industry transitions from margins to mainstream, cannabis brands reach wider audiences. With that comes the need to navigate an increasingly complex media landscape to capture consumer attention. Learn how to make your brand more valuable to consumers by understanding their passions, engaging with fans, sharing in cultural events, and participating in social conversations.

Learning Objectives

• Learn what it takes to become a culturally relevant brand through real brand examples presented by the industry marketing experts who built them.

• Understand the risks and rewards of joining cultural conversations and specific considerations for cannabis and CBD brands.

Panelists:

Dana Mason, Brand Director at Cresco Labs

Alexis Mora, Head of Marketing at Harborside

Tara Rozalowsky, VP, Beverages & Edibles at Canopy Growth Corporation

Allison Disney, Partner, Business Strategy, Receptor Brands

Member Blog: Why Cannabis Accessories are the Future of Corporate Gifting

Dan Broudy, CEO of rushIMPRINT

Cannabis, CBD, and hemp companies are giving out cannabis-themed promotional gifts – but they’re not the only companies to follow this trend. 

The stigma against cannabis is slowly disintegrating. And the more mainstream cannabis gets, the more companies are establishing themselves as open-minded and unique by using cannabis as a part of their marketing and business strategy. 

A decade ago, cannabis and hemp were still niche topics. Few people outside the industry could’ve predicted that we’d now be living in a world where cannabis was so widely accepted. CBD can now be found in most health stores, there’s bipartisan support for cannabis legalization, and the world’s biggest celebrities have their own CBD and cannabis lines. 

While we still have a long way to go in terms of breaking down stigma and advocating for reasonable cannabis laws, it’s clear that we’re getting somewhere. One thing that demonstrates this is the fact that many companies are aligning their brands with cannabis – even those that aren’t in the industry.

CBD, in particular, is gaining more mainstream interest. This popularity is partly because CBD is non-intoxicating and doesn’t carry the same level of stigma. As a result, health stores and pharmacies -– including chains like Walgreens and CVS – are selling CBD. Even Sephora, one of the U.S.’s most popular beauty stores, now stocks CBD-infused skincare products. 

It’s not just huge corporate businesses that are embracing cannabis: smaller businesses are, too. At-home beauty spas use CBD-enriched serums. Local health stores stock CBD oil. Little bakeries are offering edibles. Small clothing companies are creating sustainable garments using hemp. While this proximity to cannabis might’ve been shunned years ago, these businesses are now simply keeping up with demands, staying on-trend, and experimenting with the now well-known benefits of cannabinoids. 

It’s clear that, as our society moves away from cannabis stigma, cannabis is becoming a signifier for open-mindedness. Brands that embrace cannabis, CBD, and hemp products show that they’re in touch with the latest trends and informed about the science-backed benefits of these products. This establishes those companies as modern, progressive, and youthful.

As a branded merchandise company, we know that corporate gifts, promotional items, and branded apparel say a lot about a company. When someone orders branded goods for their business, they choose items that align with their business’s values, brand, and target market. 

Just as with regular gifting, corporate gifting says a great deal about the giver. When you give someone a gift, they’ll think of you whenever they see or use it. The same goes with corporate gifting and branded items: companies give out items that they want us to associate with their brand. If you want to know how a company sees itself, take a look at what they’re willing to put their name on. 

As such, branding merchandise companies, like our own, have access to interesting insights. We can tell what’s trending based on what the most innovative and exciting brands are gifting their clients, staff, and partners. Gift-giving is something of a litmus test when it comes to industry trends.

And what’s trending now is cannabis. More and more companies – including those outside of the industry – are excited to put their names on cannabis-related items, such as grinders, storage products, and rolling papers. 

When we decided to establish a category for our cannabis-specific merchandise, we expected cannabis companies to be our main clients. We didn’t expect companies outside the industry to be interested in those same items, but we were wrong. 

It seems to be that more and more brands want to align themselves with the cannabis industry, even when they don’t directly offer cannabis-related goods or services. Edgy new clothing companies and innovative start-ups alike might use cannabis-specific promotional items to show that they’re forward-thinking companies that rebel against outdated, traditional concepts.

The other side of gifting is that you expect the recipient to actually use their gift. This is why time-tested promotional items, such as branded pens and tote bags, continue to be brand favorites. The more often someone uses your gift, the more likely they are to think positively of you, so it makes sense to choose functional items instead of white elephants.

In the same way, the popularity of branded cannabis accessories is a reflection of how widespread and accepted cannabis use is. Nowadays, cannabis use is tolerated more than ever before, and CBD is a household name. Companies that use cannabis-related promotional items are saying something about their target market: their intended audience is cool with cannabis. 

Two decades ago, young starlets who were “caught” using cannabis were the subject of scandal. This year, Academy Awards nominees were given a compensatory gift bag that included luxury cannabis vaporizers. Part of the assumption of giving gifts here is that people will be excited to use what they receive, and the exact same principle applies to promotional items. 

Up until recently, you’d never have seen CBD-infused items on a Mother’s Day gift guide. But in 2021, the world’s approach to cannabis and hemp is far more permissive, especially since more people are now informed about the potential health benefits of cannabinoids. We’re at the point where cannabis and CBD items aren’t just something you’d buy yourself: you can gift it to others because you think they’ll like it, too. 

In many ways, corporate gifting and promotional merchandise can tell us a lot about branding trends. The growing popularity of cannabis-specific branded items is a reflection of how society is becoming more and more tolerant of – and excited about – using cannabis, hemp, and CBD. 

The fact that this once-disparaged plant is slowly being embraced by individuals and businesses alike is encouraging. It shows us that the stigma is slowly fading away – a sign that the industry is slowly gaining more and more support. 


Dan Broudy is the CEO of rushIMPRINT, a marketing supply chain firm providing products and programs that stimulate sales, motivate employees, and strengthen corporate identity. rushIMPRINT serves companies and organizations throughout the USA and Canada.

As a finance and marketing expert with over 20 years of experience in the industry, Dan realizes the importance of having a recognizable brand. That is why he takes great pride in providing cost-efficient branded solutions using state-of-the-art technology. rushIMPRINT creates branded merchandise for the cannabis industry, such as grinders, storage solutions, rolling papers, personalized lighters and more – a unique offering for a growing industry. In addition, rushIMPRINT offers apparel, promotional products, signage, business cards and brochures to help you grow your business. 

His current goal is to partner with dispensaries, distributors, labs, growers, cultivators, and vape shops to help them scale their businesses. Dan is excited to get involved in this revolutionary industry by assisting innovative cannabis and hemp brands.

Dan has an undergraduate degree in Psychology from Washington University in St, Louis. He also holds an MBA in Finance and Marketing obtained from the University of Miami Herbert Business School and is a Certified Franchise Executive (CFE).

Dan’s visionary perspective, enthusiasm, and exceptional organizational skills have earned him opportunities to work with brands such as European Wax Center, Blaze Pizza, TCBY, and Amazing Lash.

 

Hurry Up And Wait: Descheduling, DEA Licenses, And Other Reform Legislation to Watch

By Morgan Fox, NCIA’s Director of Media Relations

The cannabis world is still eagerly awaiting the introduction of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s comprehensive descheduling legislation, but that doesn’t mean things haven’t been moving on the policy front in recent weeks!

First up, the DEA announced that it was finally moving forward with approving applications to cultivate cannabis for research purposes, which would effectively end the federal government’s stranglehold on research production. The agency spent years fending off lawsuits from applicants, who correctly asserted that not only was the monopoly limiting research, but the cannabis being grown at the single licensed facility at the University of Mississippi was basically unusable for research purposes anyway. This announcement comes several years after the DEA publicly stated that it would begin the licensing process. Better late than never.

Of course, we don’t think the DEA should be involved in cannabis research whatsoever, seeing as how they are a law enforcement organization and not, you know, scientists.

Next, Sen. Ron Wyden, who is also working closely with Majority Leader Schumer on descheduling along with Sen. Cory Booker, introduced S. 1698 last week. While text of this bill is currently not publicly available, the name suggests that this legislation would direct the FDA to allow hemp-derived CBD, made legal under the 2018 Farm Bill, to be used as a dietary supplement or in food. Some perceive this bill as necessary to get some regulatory clarity from the FDA, which has been dragging its feet and missed several deadlines for CBD regulations. Many in the industry blame this lack of regulation for larger retailers staying out of the CBD market, which has led to massive supply gluts of the substance and has been hypothesized to be a leading cause for the recent boom in Delta 8 THC production.

And earlier this month, Rep. David Joyce, an Ohio Republican who co-chairs the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, introduced a narrowly tailored bill to remove cannabis from the schedule of controlled substances. The bill assigns regulatory responsibilities to the FDA and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau and gives them a one-year deadline to come up with a regulatory structure similar to alcohol. It also contains provisions similar to the protections that exist in the House-approved SAFE Banking Act, calls for studies on how cannabis impacts pain and driving, and improves access for veterans. Notably, this bill does not contain any social equity or restorative justice language.

While the chances of such legislation passing in the Democrat-controlled House are slim, it could serve as a doorway to get fence-sitting Republicans into the debate. It could also be a tool to identify those members of the GOP who are steadfastly opposed to any legalization bill and out of touch with their constituents, many of whom would directly benefit from cannabis policy reforms and who are increasingly in support of ending federal prohibition.

We’re also getting word that the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act is getting reintroduced in the House this week (and may have already been at the time of this publication). This legislation made history last December when it became the first descheduling bill to receive a floor vote – and pass – in either chamber of Congress. We are hopeful that there will be some revisions from the previous bill, including the removal of a provision that would allow federal licensors to deny applications for cannabis business licenses based on prior state or federal felony convictions, and the inclusion of a more sensible and robust regulatory framework.

We are less than halfway through the calendar year, and it is shaping up to be a momentous one for cannabis advocacy! Stay tuned for more updates from Capitol Hill.

P.S. On the state side, Alabama became the latest state to approve an effective medical cannabis law. Yes, Alabama. That brings the count of medical states to 36, after unfortunately losing Mississippi to a shameful court decision. So far in 2021, four states have approved adult-use or medical cannabis legislation, and more are expected to do so in the coming weeks and months.

Member Blog: GRAS Cannabinoids

Brad Douglass, Ph.D., EAS Consulting Group Independent Consultant

The Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (the “2018 Farm Bill”) helped to further define the pathway by which “hemp-derived” ingredients can be legally incorporated into food. Since then, hemp-ingredient companies have materialized selling purified cannabinoids that are found naturally-occurring in hemp. Despite the young market, these companies are facing difficult times as the buyers for these ingredients are few and manufacturers mostly compete on price. The GRAS path offers a route out of this conundrum.

What is GRAS?

The Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) for food-use pathway was established by the 1958 Food Additives Amendment to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act). It delineated how substances that are GRAS for their defined conditions of use in food are different from food additives.  

Others have previously delved into why firms might consider pursuing GRAS notifications and/or New Dietary Ingredient Notifications (NDIN) independent of hemp and hemp-derived ingredients so I will refrain from wholesale repetition. Two key points on specificity are nonetheless worth repeating: 1) a substance is deemed GRAS for a specific use under specific conditions and 2) a GRAS notification is specific to the company filing the notification.

Why GRAS?

There are a number of practical reasons why firms that produce cannabinoids would seek to pursue the GRAS pathway. Here are five:

Market Expansion

Currently, firms that produce purified hemp cannabinoids are mostly selling their wares to businesses operating in state-regulated delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) markets or to operations that may not be in full-compliance with dietary supplement regulations.  Almost all firms that produce food products, including beverages, and most dietary supplement manufacturers, will not use ingredients that do not have a history of use in food or that cannot be legally marketed.  

For ingredients such as purified hemp cannabinoids that do not have a history of use as articles used for food, the only way to open-up the food, beverage, and dietary supplement markets is via the GRAS/NDIN pathways.

Safety Demonstration

An integral part of any GRAS dossier is the basic demonstration of acceptable risk (cf. safety) for the named substance and impurities.  This includes any byproducts that may be introduced by the manufacturing process. Whether one is interested in pursuing a GRAS Notification for submission to FDA or for a self-affirmed GRAS conclusion, the process involves an evaluation of safety for the conditions of use (e.g. serving size, no-observed adverse event level, etc.).

Beyond the ethical necessity of understanding the hazards of a product meant for human consumption, pursuing GRAS helps protect a firm from product liability in the event that harm is created. But more importantly, GRAS helps guard against product liability by seeking to prevent the potential hazard in the first place. That is always good for business.

Avoiding Drug Preemption

FDA has described in numerous forums, including the Administration’s own website, why it has concluded that cannabidiol (CBD) cannot be used as an ingredient in food or dietary supplements. The key is section 201(ff)(3)(B) of the FD&C Act. This section disqualifies an ingredient from use in food or dietary supplement products if the ingredient is 1) an active ingredient in an approved drug or 2) if substantial clinical investigation of the substance as a drug has been conducted AND made public.  

While the situation remains unclear for CBD, the only way to avoid a similar murky situation for other cannabinoids (e.g. cannabigerol, CBG) is for those ingredients to be marketed as a food or dietary supplement prior to the public disclosure of clinical trials directed at the development of that substance as a drug.  

It is FDA’s position that “legal” marketing entails more than simple inclusion of the substance in marketed products — the substance must have been the subject of GRAS, food-additive, or NDIN pathways, if required, to be legally marketed. To that point, FDA is highly unlikely to conclude that legal marketing includes the marketing of products in state-regulated cannabis systems while THC remains federally illegal.

Side-Stepping Price Wars

The nascent hemp-derived ingredients market is experiencing significant downward price pressure. The reasons are simple. There is currently more supply than demand (see #1 above) and all commercial offerings are essentially generic.

The GRAS pathway is a mechanism out of this me-too trap. A GRAS cannabinoid would be a premium ingredient by virtue of GRAS status alone. Premium ingredients command premium prices. And the types of sophisticated customers that firms like to do business with do not mind paying premium prices for compliance.

Regulatory Intelligence

While we wait on FDA to draft regulations for manufactured hemp-derived products, it is difficult for businesses to make decisions about what products to pursue. Some firms may not care about internal FDA thinking for hemp-related issues like delta-8 THC or proposed New York State in-process hemp material THC limits of 3%, because they are going to seek to exploit the here-and-now.

For forward-looking firms, engaging with FDA through GRAS or other regulated ingredient pathways can help illuminate what lay around the bend. Effectively navigating bends in a fast-paced, regulated marketplace can be the difference between knowing when to brake… and going broke.  

How GRAS?

There are a few ways to go about this, but simply asking the question within your company and with your legal and regulatory counsel will help generate more of a groundswell. There are a few hemp- and cannabinoid-specific intricacies that must be navigated in practice, including FDA’s own policies on hemp. But there is no reason why this cannot be done. 


EAS Independent Consultant, Brad Douglass, Ph.D., evaluates FDA and FTC compliance of dietary supplement materials including review and audit of dietary supplement labels and labeling. He is experienced in multiple technical, quality, and formulation roles in the dietary supplement and cannabis industries which lends perspective not only regulatory requirements but also the realities of real-world business. Brad’s previous positions include VP of Regulatory Affairs and Director of Advanced Botanical Strategy at the Werc Shop in Los Angeles. He has a doctorate in Organic/Medicinal Chemistry from USC. EAS Consulting Group, a member of the Certified Group of companies, is a global leader in regulatory solutions for industries regulated by FDA, USDA, and other federal and state agencies. Our network of over 150 independent advisors and consultants enables EAS to provide comprehensive consulting, training and auditing services, ensuring proactive regulatory compliance for food, dietary supplements, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, cosmetics, tobacco, hemp and CBD. easconsultinggroup.com 

If you represent a firm that creates hemp-derived cannabinoids, are a regulator that has responsibility over products that incorporate non-THC cannabinoids, or are just an interested reader that has been intrigued by this blog post, do not hesitate to reach out to me at bdouglass@easconsultinggroup.com.

 

Member Blog: Sleep-Focused Brands Are Seeing Bottom Line Dividends

By Jackie Berg, HealthHub

Nearly 40% of the nation’s top 100 CBD brands focus on need states. Chief among them is sleep, something the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) reports that 85% of Americans are falling far short of.

The 7.2 million sleep-related Google searches logged this past year provide ample evidence of interest. according to NBC News, which reports that 9 million Americans take prescription drugs to help them fall asleep. 

Others prefer more natural solutions.

Nearly 11 million rely upon CBD and/or cannabis-based products to manage insomnia or sleeplessness, according to a 2021 report issued by High Yields Insights. Among them, almost 70% are women considered statistically more likely to suffer from insomnia.

YOUNG AND RESTLESS

Millennials are driving the bulk of market growth. Together, with a smaller percentage of Gen Z consumers, these severely stressed consumers represented 48% of the U.S. CBD market in the fourth quarter last year, according to High Yields Insights President Mike Luce. 

Regardless of age or gender, brands like CBDfx are discovering that an ever-increasing number of their customers are using CBD to treat sleep-related issues. The Brightfield Group reports more than 58% of CBDfx customers purchased sleep products in the fourth quarter.

Collectively, 40% (4 in 10) of consumers, rely upon CBD to manage insomnia or sleeplessness, according to a recently issued High Yield Insights and InnovateMR 2021 sleep trend report.

FIGHTING FOR SLEEP

Growing pandemic-related uncertainty, anxiety, and associated sleep deprivation issues have kept sleep specialists like Colorado-based Pulmonologist Dr. Julie Whitaker, struggling to manage ever-increasing patient loads.

“We’re not seeing everyone we should,” says Dr. Whitaker, who sees the need to elevate the understanding of the importance of sleep, particularly among Americans.

The pandemic helped to elevate awareness of the importance of good sleep and has softened the momentum of the “sleep is for suckers” mantra, according to the pulmonologist.

CBD and cannabis brands are seeing significant growth, most notably among 25 to 35 year-olds. Although millennials dominate the growth trends, one brand reported moms 40 – 50 years of age are among its fastest-growing demographic. 

Veterans, known to experience higher levels of insomnia (57% veterans) than the general population (30%), face elevated pandemic-related risks. Among veterans with Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or a traumatic brain injury (TBI), the rates are even higher — 93%, according to the Department of Veteran Affairs in San Diego.

Sleep specialists, like Whitaker, are particularly concerned about the stress levels in at-risk populations, particularly women- and veteran-headed households, whose support needs are more imminent.

When it comes to sleep, routines are important, according to the specialist who recommends patients develop healthy and consistent sleep routines, avoid consuming alcohol and OTC products known to disrupt sleep cycles, particularly antihistamines known to disrupt healthy sleep patterns.

CBD AND CANNABIS EFFICACY GROWING

In regard to other solutions, Dr. Whitaker says there’s “reasonable scientific evidence,” that CBD, particularly when combined with a small amount of THC, can help promote sleep.

Two in five working moms use cannabis, according to a newly minted survey released by San-Francisco analytics firm Lucky Analytics. 

Women are helping cannabis brands like Ganja Goddess achieve record-breaking triple-digit sales growth. The cannabis company reports a 635% increase in its sleep lines last year, according to its SVP of Marketing Heidi Genrich.

Gummies provide a popular entry point, according to Incredible Edibles Brand Director Jessica Benchetrit, whose company helps make cannabis more accessible via entertaining and informative educational sessions.

“Consumers are looking for an enhanced sleep experience, says Benchetrit. “The majority (78%) are actively seeking out ‘indica-like’ edibles.

Incredibles’ Snoozzzeberry gummies climbed to the number one infused gummy product in the markets it sold in, during the fourth quarter of last year, according to BDS analytics reports.  

REVEALING RESEARCH

A 2019 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, found cannabidiol (CBD) improved the sleep quality and reduced nightmares of 38% of the participants, all of whom had PTSD.

Joseph Maroon, M.D., a clinical professor and neurosurgeon at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center who has researched the effect of cannabis on the brain, says that CBD has properties that could help some people sleep better. Most notably, he says, it appears to ease anxiety and pain, both of which can make it harder to fall asleep or stay asleep, according to a published statement in Consumer Reports. 

“CBD is safe,” says Dr. Daniel Clauw, an internationally known pain expert and head of the University of Michigan Director of Chronic Pain and Fatigue Center, who frequently collaborates with the Arthritis Foundation on education efforts.

Among sleep associations, the American Sleep Association has indicated that cannabis may help induce sleep in people with insomnia, anxiety or post-traumatic stress.

A MEANINGFUL IMPACT

“People are interested in better ways to relax at the end of the day,” says Ginrich. “And they are increasingly concerned about safeguarding their well-being over the long term.

“Stress and anxiety are not going away, so products and rituals that help people sustainably manage these pressures are in high demand,” adds the Ganja Goddess Marketing Director. 

We all have a role to play in helping put America’s sleep issues to bed.


Author Jackie Berg is the publisher of the Health Hub, a publication division of CBD Marketing Hub, as well as the publisher of TheHUB Detroit, TheHUB Flint and recipient of the Association of Women in Communications 2018 Vanguard award. To learn more CBD Marketing Hub, a cultivator of CBD and cannabis clients, visit its website or reach out at hello@cbdmarketinghub.com.

 

Committee Blog: The Language Of the Cannabis Industry – Developing A Commercial Manufacturing Glossary

By NCIA’s Cannabis Manufacturing Committee

The language of the cannabis industry is crude. It’s not that the cannabis industry relies on vulgar or offensive words, but rather that modern cannabis vernacular remains raw, unrefined, incomplete, and sometimes contradictory, even in mature markets. Perhaps most generously described as “imprecise” or “fluid,” the current lexicon is changing as quickly as the industry, but not always for the better. Consistent and universal terminology are hallmarks of strong industries. As the cannabis industry (including both high-THC “marijuana” and low-THC “hemp”) continues to grow and prove its legitimacy, it is critical that everyone is speaking the same vocabulary.

Defining the issue

Out of necessity, the language of the cannabis industry took root in the dark. Decades of prohibition followed by state-led regulation has resulted in a fractured vocabulary where terms-of-commerce have fuzzy boundaries. The current landscape of murky terminology can inject ambiguity into everyday transactions and, in the worst of circumstances, mislead consumers. As some industry terms coalesce in particular regions, for example, other terms take on different meanings around the country. It is not a problem unique to the cannabis industry, but with its regulatory history, rapid product advancements, and diverse consumer base, the NCIA’s Cannabis Manufacturing Committee (“CMC”) felt it time to start a conversation about the words that define the industry.

With legalization comes a mass-consumer base and new forums to joust for consumer attention. Retail shelves, product packaging, and commercial advertising are the new arenas where cannabis companies try to describe their product to consumers and differentiate their brands from others. Out of this scrum comes a new marketing jargon that can be difficult to decipher. Shatter, crumble, butter, wax, sauce, diamonds, distillate, isolate, broad-spectrum, full-spectrum, partial-spectrum… and that is just in one section of the dispensary. Indeed, a huge swath of cannabis consumers fall into the infrequent or casual consumer demographics for which these terms mean next to nothing.

What’s the problem? 

This linguistic haze is felt acutely in the manufacturing link of the supply chain. Manufacturing is the relatively nascent segment of the industry that converts raw cannabis plants into various medical, adult-use, and industrial products. In just the past two decades, new technologies have produced a glut of new products, each of which needs to be called something. But those new terms have ambiguous definitions that are easy vehicles for confusion. And where confusion is prevalent, both consumers and companies suffer.  

For many cannabis customers, trying to decode a dispensary menu is like reading in an alien language. They frequently must rely on budtenders and marketing materials to understand some products’ basic characteristics. And even if they manage to become fluent in one dispensary’s menu, they may still find it difficult to predict how that menu will translate to other retailers across the country. The lack of vocabulary standardization would be untenable in the food or beverage industries. In the cannabis industry, where patients may rely on specific products for medical treatment, consumers should have a uniform vocabulary to describe products.

That challenge is not limited to retail consumers. Language is critical to the smooth functioning of intra-industry business relationships. As in any other industry, cannabis business relationships are far more successful when the parties’ expectations are aligned. When a dispensary orders tens of thousands of dollars in shatter, crumble, distillate, and tincture, they have certain expectations about the products they will receive. Even experienced extractors, operators, and executives have different understandings of where some products end and others begin. 

Ambiguity in the commercial arena can lead to big problems. Among the best-case scenarios, a miscommunication results in a dissatisfied customer. More serious disagreements may require costly replacement shipments or refused deliveries. Of course, if the stakes are high enough and both parties are adamant in their positions, a linguistic quarrel may become a courtroom duel. Some advertising litigation, such as for “Refined Live Resin” vape cartridges, is already working its way through the court system. When it comes to cannabis terminology, fuzzy boundaries are not a standard the industry should embrace. But leaving cannabis industry terminology to the mercy of courts and regulators also holds little appeal.

And so… 

…the CMC set out to create a working glossary. The goal of this document is to get the industry on the same page with published terminology standards as best understood by the NCIA’s Cannabis Manufacturing Committee. These standards are intended to facilitate commerce within the cannabis industry by increasing consistency and decreasing confusion. 

The CMC developed a list of the most common terms that are currently utilized in the manufacturing segment. While the committee included some broad terms applicable to the industry at large, the focus was on those terms that most directly relate to cannabis extraction and refinement. From that list of industry terms, the committee drafted definitions that attempt to capture how those terms are currently being used throughout the legal cannabis industries. The CMC then shared those draft definitions with as many practitioners as it could to get a broad selection of perspectives. Wherever possible, the CMC sought to be inclusive of regional variations and note instances where terms are exceptions to a generally understood meaning. But the CMC understands that neither this process nor any other is guaranteed to represent all corners of an increasingly complex industry.

The document is not meant to be the ultimate word on cannabis terminology, but rather a snapshot in time and the starting page for a discussion about what the words of the cannabis industry should mean. Importantly, these definitions are the CMC’s attempt to capture how the terms are currently used, not how they should be used. Indeed, there are several well-qualified bodies debating the future of cannabis nomenclature, including ASTM’s D37 committee and the Emerald Conference.

Along with publication of this glossary, the NCIA’s Cannabis Manufacturing Committee is inviting comments from the entire cannabis community. Your constructive comments are a crucial part of forming the vocabulary of an industry. The CMC’s intent is to revisit these definitions approximately every calendar quarter, adding, revising, and annotating as new terms are invented and meanings inevitably shift. 

So, without further ado…

NCIA’s Cannabis Manufacturing Committee Glossary

Submit Your Comments Here


Paul Coble is the founder and CEO of Thalo Technologies, a veteran intellectual property attorney, Vice-chair of the NCIA’s Cannabis Manufacturing Committee, and Chair of the Nomenclature Subcommittee.

The CMC focuses on reviewing existing business practices and state regulations of concentrates, topicals, vaporizers, and edibles, ensuring the manufacturing sector is helping shape its destiny.

Member Blog: GMPs – A Way Ahead for Hemp and CBD Firms

by Charlotte Peyton, Independent Consultant, EAS Consulting Group

The hemp industry is the marijuana industry’s half-sister. Both are variations of the plant cannabis sativa and both were made illegal in 1937 with the passing of The Marijuana Tax Act. Flash forward to the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (known as the 2018 Farm Bill) that was signed into law by Congress on December 20, 2018. One year later, The USDA issued interim regulations that entitled Establishment of a Domestic Hemp Production Program for the cultivation of hemp on October 31, 2019. Both were huge steps forward for public access to hemp and hemp products. FDA legalized the growing of hemp in states with a state-mandated hemp program and removed hemp and its derivatives from Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Schedule I status and the U.S. Domestic Hemp Program aims to approve cultivation plans issued by states and Indian Tribes. 

Even so, then FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb issued a statement hours after the signing of the Farm Bill reiterating that “Congress explicitly preserved the agency’s current authority to regulate products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) and section 351 of the Public Health Service Act.” 

Still today, two years later and counting, FDA only permits CBD products submitted as an Investigational New Drug (IND) Application as a pharmaceutical and there remains only one such accepted CBD product, Epidiolex, manufactured by G.W. Pharma. All other CBD products are illegal for interstate shipment.

In-state production and sales may be a different story, provided that state has a mandated hemp program. In those cases, provided state law is followed, production and sales are legal and protected, but the minute products cross state lines, they become the jurisdiction of the federal government and, more specifically, the FDA. At least 47 states have enacted legislation to establish hemp production programs or allow for hemp cultivation research.

Section 10113 of The 2018 Farm Bill states that (c) Nothing in this subtitle shall affect or modify:

(1) the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. 301 et seq.);

(2) section 351 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 262); or 

(3) the authority of the Commissioner of Food and Drugs and the Secretary of Health and Human Services- ‘‘(A) under- ‘‘(i) the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. 301 et seq.); or ‘‘(ii) section 351 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 262); or ‘‘(B) to promulgate Federal regulations and guidelines that relate to the production of hemp under the Act described in subparagraph (A)(i) or the section described in subparagraph (A)(ii).” 

The mission of the FDA is “to ensure the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices.” As such, FDA categorizes every product for sale in the U.S. which is either ingested or applied to a human or animals into categories. That means hemp-derived CBD products will have to lawfully fit into one of those categories, however, while there has been positive movement towards the legal sale of hemp products on the USDA cultivation side, the FDA has authority over foods and dietary supplements, and the FDA’s position is that the addition of hemp/CBD to a food or dietary supplement is “violative.” In a Consumer Update statement revised on November 25, 2019, the FDA clearly stated that “it cannot conclude that CBD is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) among qualified experts for its use in human or animal food.”  

That being said, FDA has indicated it would be open to review of safety data for submission of a cannabinoid as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) for Food or as a New Dietary Ingredient (NDI) in a supplement as the lack of any federal regulation runs the potential of putting people at risk. That has sent the industry scurrying to design and initiate studies in the hopes of demonstrating levels of safety that meet FDA’s satisfaction. 

In the meantime, those currently operating in states where hemp manufacturing is legal, must ensure Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) are adhered to closely. Should the FDA ever allow hemp products with CBD to be sold in the future, a manufacturer’s ability to demonstrate understanding and compliance with GMPs will be critical. Each FDA regulated industry has its own set of GMPs for the development and implementation of quality systems. 

  • 21 CFR 117, Current Good Manufacturing Practice, Hazard Analysis, and Risk-Based Preventative Controls for Human Food
  • 21 CFR 507, Current Good Manufacturing Practice, Hazard Analysis, and Risk-Based Preventative Controls for Food for Animals
  • 21 CFR 111, Current Good Manufacturing Practice in Manufacturing, Packaging, Labeling, or Holding Operations for Dietary Supplements
  • 21 CFR 210, Current Good Manufacturing Practice in Manufacturing, Processing, Packing, or Holding of Drugs; General
  • 21 CFR 211, Current Good Manufacturing Practice for Finished Pharmaceuticals
  • FDA Draft Guidance for Industry, Cosmetic Good Manufacturing Practice, June 2013

As the industry waits in the hopes that FDA will come on board with those states that have already legalized CBD’s use in products, it important to take the necessary steps to develop GMP protocols and quality systems as part of documented Standard Operating Procedures and record-keeping that those procedures are being followed, products are being tested and those tests are being validated. 

Ensure as you begin to develop or strengthen your GMP programs that you do so with a full understanding of the requirements set forth in 21 CFR 111. Whether these programs are designed in-house or with the assistance of an outside consulting firm, ensure your GMPs are specific to your manufacturing procedures as opposed to a stock one-size-fits-all program. A reputable consulting firm with demonstrable expertise in FDA regulations and in helping to develop these GMPs is a good place to start, one that listens to your questions and concerns before providing you their stock answer. A good consulting firm can walk you through your unique processes.   

Ensure your quality systems are robust and documented, including your demonstrations that your cGMPs are being followed. 


Charlotte Peyton supports EAS Consulting Group CBD and hemp clients as well as that of dietary supplements and pharmaceuticals. As an independent consultant, she assists with projects ranging from startup through manufacturing and support. Her expertise includes quality, regulatory and management, method development, and method validation for FDA regulated drug, dietary supplement, and bioanalytical samples. She has extensive experience in writing validation protocols, reports, and SOPs and assists with implementation of stability programs and report writing for finished products.

EAS Consulting Group, a member of the Certified family of companies, is a global leader in regulatory solutions for industries regulated by FDA, USDA, and other federal and state agencies. Our network of over 150 independent advisors and consultants enables EAS to provide comprehensive consulting, training, and auditing services, ensuring proactive regulatory compliance for food, dietary supplements, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, cosmetics, tobacco, hemp, and CBD. 

Meet The Team: Madeline Grant – NCIA’s Government Relations Manager

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by Madeline Grant, NCIA’s Government Relations Manager

It’s funny how things just happen… one day, like any normal day, I was working the lunch shift at a restaurant called Carolina Ale House in Columbia, South Carolina. At first, I was worried about how much I would make in tips that day, as anyone with experience in the service industry can relate to, but then I started chatting with one of my tables… small talk, really. I told them how I was a sophomore at the University of South Carolina studying journalism and mass communications with a focus in public relations and a minor in women and gender studies. One man asked, “Well what do you want to do after college?” A question I thought about often but never had an answer to. He handed me his business card and asked if I was interested in politics. A few days later, I reached out, interviewed with the firm partners, and successfully scored the internship. 

As I entered the political realm, I knew close to nothing but had a desire to learn as much as possible. Growing up, I was never really introduced into the world of politics as my parents didn’t say much about it – it was a whole new world to me! I attended caucus meetings, sat in the Senate and listened, followed legislation pertaining to their clients, researched, etc. My boss walked in one day and said he had an interesting project for me: to research and find everything I can about medical cannabis. I discovered so many fascinating miracle stories such as the effectiveness of medical cannabis for children with epilepsy. Seeing the great benefits and possibility, I kept thinking: why is this classified a Schedule 1 substance?

Fast forward to the classic “college graduate in search of a job” situation. I moved back home to Frederick, Maryland and started as an intern on Capitol Hill. After two months of interning, I landed a job on Capitol Hill and fell passionately in love with health issues (every staffer that went the legislative route had their assigned issues to become experts on). I began to learn more about cannabis and the detrimental effects of its Schedule 1 status. 

Cannabis being classified as a Schedule 1 substance deems it to have a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical treatment use, and lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision. Because of this classification, we can’t fully explore the medicinal benefit that it can in fact offer. 

As I started taking more meetings with cannabis advocates, lobbyists, and patients, there was one significant group that stuck with me: a group of mothers and children with debilitating chronic diseases. The mothers were there to advocate on behalf of their children who significantly benefited from CBD oil. They told me a story about a family that uprooted their entire lives for their epileptic child because CBD was the only medicine that was working to reduce the seizures. On that day, I realized how important cannabis is for patients and how it truly can make an unlivable life livable. And that was JUST CBD. Can you imagine what we could gain from the whole plant? If we had the ability to research every single component of the plant, we could begin to know the full, true potential of medical cannabis. 

The Schedule 1 status of marijuana hinders research and that needs to change, but thankfully, I can help.

As the Government Relations Manager at NCIA, I passionately lobby for those patients and businesses. I’ve been at NCIA for nearly three years and slowly but surely I’ve seen a significant change in the stigma associated with cannabis on Capitol Hill. It is my job to educate members of Congress, Hill staffers, and the public on all issues the cannabis community faces. This can include anything from cannabis business getting access to banking to educating members on the injustice the war on drugs had on Americans. My job is to educate and tell your stories which I do with great honor. I’m proud to represent you and what you do in the cannabis community. 

As we are at home, I would love to meet with you virtually!

Please email me at Madeline@TheCannabisIndustry.org

As I am unable to be on Capitol Hill right now, I want to use my time to compile your stories to forward to Hill offices, so please reach out if you are able and willing to tell your story. Stay safe and healthy.

Committee Blog: Cannabis Banking – Regulatory Outlook and Effective Compliance

by Angela Lucas, Managing Partner and Co-Founder, Sterling Compliance, LLC
Member of NCIA’s Banking & Financial Services Committee

During a recent webinar, we polled the audience on their current positions on offering financial services – traditional financial services – to direct marijuana-related businesses (MRBs). The results, as you might imagine, were mixed but we identified one common theme: The vast majority have taken action to address cannabis banking issues. This has been the theme we’ve been championing for years. The dichotomy between state and federal cannabis laws has placed our financial institutions in a precarious position: Bank the cannabis industry, be first to the market in doing so, create a non-traditional revenue stream and help to solve public safety and other logistical issues by solving the all-cash conundrum OR continue to watch from the periphery as others take the leap?  

We see the number of financial institutions – banks and credit unions – that offer financial services to cannabis businesses expanding, but not to the level suggested by FinCEN SAR data. There remains a critical need for financial services within the cannabis industry.

Why the hesitancy in tackling this issue?

The current regulatory environment is a critical factor. As it stands, our industry is relying primarily upon the FinCEN guidelines to offer financial services to cannabis-related businesses. These guidelines, coupled with a surge of proposed legislation and a regulatory perspective on risk-based risk-taking, have allowed financial institutions across the country to effectively provide financial services to cannabis-related businesses. There is a key term we’ve been using: cannabis-related businesses. Within this term, we encompass direct and indirect marijuana-related businesses, hemp, and CBD entities. The majority of those polled feel more comfortable with hemp and CBD entities primarily due to the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill. Getting into the intricacies of how the Farm Bill and the USDA’s resulting interim final rule have added a layer of complexity to banking hemp and CBD businesses is more than we can cover in this blog post. Let’s focus instead on those providing financial services to direct MRBs, those that are state-legal, licensed cultivators, extractors, and dispensaries.

It IS possible to actively bank direct MRBs, to offer stable banking services that bring the cash off the street and provide a means for these businesses to operate more effectively and efficiently, and surely in a less costly manner than an all-cash business. The regulators are not criticizing financial institutions for providing financial services to MRBs; they review these services as they would any higher-risk, complex activity. When an institution takes on too much too fast or does not have sufficient controls to know whether it actually has a higher risk or complex business concentration within its customer base, the regulators will be critical… as they should be.

So, what are they looking for?

This goes back to the theme we mentioned: Financial institutions actively addressing cannabis banking issues.

Every financial institution, whether it intends to bank direct or indirect MRBs, hemp or CBD should have a Cannabis Banking Program that assesses the inherent risks of doing so, speaks to the controls necessary to effectively manage those risks, and determine whether they are well-positioned, or have a risk-appetite for, providing financial services to the cannabis industry. Conversely, if a financial institution that has no appetite for, or does not reflect sufficient regulatory health to bank cannabis, it must establish effective controls to ensure that position can be maintained.  

But, this post is about empowerment. It is about speaking to the regulatory environment in which we find ourselves. It is about providing the perspective that banking marijuana, hemp and CBD CAN be done effectively, safely and soundly. Yes, there is a significant level of infrastructure needed to do so. Yes, it does come with the need for ongoing, strong risk management and control enforcement. Yes, it can be a bit scary. By establishing a Cannabis Banking Program, comprised of a comprehensive risk assessment that drives an equally comprehensive policy, a financial institution can provide financial services across the spectrum of marijuana, hemp and CBD, and undergo regulatory scrutiny with confidence. Moreover, such a program has become a regulatory expectation to support a financial institution’s cannabis position. This is also not a program where a financial institution will set it and forget it. The risk assessment and policy must remain dynamic as legislation evolves, as regulatory perspective changes, and as a financial institution’s position or outlook may shift.

This is an industry that has already proven prolific. This is a time that will be ingrained within our nation’s history. Let’s be remembered as those who championed the issues, established the country’s infrastructure, and set the standard for those who follow.  


As a former Federal bank regulator and seasoned consultant, Angela’s knowledge of regulatory compliance, risk management and investment advisory services has established her reputation as a leading resource within the financial consulting industry, spanning consumer protection and anti-money laundering statutes, fraud and cannabis banking issues.  

Angela is the Managing Partner and Co-Founder of Sterling Compliance, LLC, a consumer compliance consulting firm based out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Sterling specializes in consumer protection and anti-money laundering compliance within the community banking industry and enjoys a significant online presence with a client base spanning the coasts.  

In December 2019, Angela joined Integrated Compliance Solutions, LLC (ICS) upon the ICS acquisition of Sterling Compliance as an independent operating subsidiary.  Angela oversees the firm’s Compliance Strategies division, of which cannabis banking is a significant component. ICS is a financial technology, banking compliance and innovative payments solution provider helping financial institutions with complex solutions.  In joining the ICS team, Angela has continued the firm’s mission of bringing its complete SEED-TO-BANK™ solution to financial institutions and cannabis-related businesses throughout the United States, and has expanded the firm’s industry engagement as a well-respected authority on the regulatory and compliance issues surrounding cannabis banking.  

 

Member Blog: Hemp and Marijuana Genetics – A Closer Look At The Differences

by George Mouratidis, Industrial Hemp Farms

There are many ways to classify cannabis variants, but the most popular distinction is between hemp and marijuana. Although most of us take these classifications for granted, perhaps you’ve wondered if they are really legit? Put another way: are there real genetic and anatomical differences between marijuana and hemp? And, if so, what are they?

The hemp/marijuana classification is still a major debate within the cannabis community. Although up-to-date research suggests there are genetic differences, critics contend these distinctions have much more to do with legality than botany.

To better understand the complexity of the hemp v. marijuana classification, let’s quickly go through a primer on the cannabis genus. Afterward, we’ll take a closer look at the differences often associated with hemp v. marijuana and why these terms have gained such prominence.

The Basics Of Cannabis Distinctions

The first thing we should clear up is that the word “cannabis” is reserved for the plant genus. This means that both hemp and marijuana technically fall under the cannabis label. For many years, botanists have categorized the cannabis genus into the following three groups:

  • Cannabis sativa
  • Cannabis indica
  • Cannabis ruderalis

Of these three, sativa and indica are probably the most familiar to you. Usually, cannabis connoisseurs draw the sativa v. indica distinction to help differentiate the physiological effects of each strain. Sativa-heavy strains are said to be more energizing while indicas are supposedly more sedating.

It’s important to remember, however, that sativas and indicas were first split up due to their flowering patterns and features. Here are just a few of the key distinctions often ascribed to these two cannabis variants:

Indicas

  • Short
  • Fat leaves
  • Fast-growing
  • Enjoys mild climate

Sativas

  • Tall
  • Thin leaves
  • Slow-growing
  • Enjoys a humid climate

Ruderalis is a shrub-like variety of cannabis that evolved in harsh northern environments. Due to its history in regions with little light or warmth, ruderalis strains evolved unique genetics that allows them to flower automatically rather than relying on specific amounts of light.

Cultivators nowadays cross-breed ruderalis strains with indicas, sativas, or hybrids to create what are known as “autoflowering seeds.” These auto varieties are convenient due to their predictable flowering period, but they tend to have fewer cannabinoids than standard sativas or indicas. Most often new cannabis cultivators use auto seeds to gain valuable growing experience.

Hemp v. Marijuana: The Legal Distinction

So, why do we need a hemp v. marijuana distinction on top of all these cannabis varieties? A short answer is that drawing the line between hemp and marijuana helps a lot in the legal department.

You see, hemp is legally defined as a substance containing less than 0.3 percent of the high-inducing compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Marijuana, on the other hand, could have 0.3 percent THC content or above.

Obviously, this makes it a lot easier for legal authorities to categorize what is and what is not legal. As of today, the U.S. legalized hemp at a federal level, but marijuana laws vary by state.

Beyond THC: The Different Uses Of Hemp V. Marijuana

This all doesn’t mean that the hemp v. marijuana distinction was arbitrarily drawn up to help legislators. OK, the 0.3 percent benchmark was pretty arbitrary, however, it’s true that hemp naturally produces less THC than marijuana strains. But there’s more to this story than just THC.

Now that the CBD market has skyrocketed, it’s often hard for us to imagine non-edible uses of hemp. However, for most of human history, hemp has been cultivated strictly for industrial purposes. Indeed, people have used the hemp plant’s fibrous stalks to make clothing and rope for thousands of years. Amazingly, hemp is now showing great potential in a variety of fields including papers, plastics, cosmetics, and even fuel.

Marijuana, on the other hand, has always been associated with recreational and medical use. Growers who cultivated marijuana were always interested in maximizing certain terpene and cannabinoid profiles for their chosen strain.

So, the distinction between industrial hemp and marijuana is still valid and useful as the cannabis industry expands. Growing hemp for industrial purposes is far more interested in quantity rather than quality. Marijuana cultivation, on the other hand, requires a greater degree of care and attention to detail.

Industrial hemp cultivators could often get away with planting their male and female seeds in rather tough environments. Professional marijuana cultivators, on the other hand, need to focus a lot of attention on making their environment hospitable for female seeds.

Of course, there are now many high-CBD hemp cultivators out there using similar marijuana grow methods. With that in mind, it’s still quite useful for cultivators to distinguish between industrial hemp and marijuana to better plan their growth cycle.

Does Hemp Look Different Than Marijuana?

Now we know how hemp and marijuana differ in THC content, growth features, and traditional uses… but do they look different?

To the untrained eye, mature hemp and marijuana might appear to be the same. Indeed, there are many cases of police accidentally arresting truck drivers for “marijuana possession” when they were actually transporting hemp. There are, however, a few key anatomical differences to look out for.

For instance, hemp plants are generally taller than most varieties of marijuana. Remember that many cultivators are interested in hemp’s fibrous stalks, which is why they’ve bred them to grow as tall as possible.

In addition to their height, hemp plants also tend to have thinner fan leaves compared with most strains of marijuana. These hemp leaves also tend to be concentrated at the top of the hemp flower with few leaves further down the stem. Marijuana plants, on the other hand, tend to have more leaves evenly spread throughout their branches.

Looking Into The Genes: Novel Research On Hemp v. Marijuana

After reading the above description, you might understandably conclude that hemp strains might lean more towards the sativa side. After all, sativas are typically associated with tall height and thin leaves.

While this makes logical sense, recent genetic research is changing how we think about the sativa v. indica theory. A team of Canadian researchers recently published a study examining the genetic makeup of over 80 marijuana and about 40 hemp strains. Shockingly, they found that hemp plants have a closer genetic tie to indicas rather than sativas. Most marijuana strains, however, showed a mix of sativa and indica influences.

The scientists concluded that there was enough of a genetic difference between hemp and marijuana strains to warrant the classification. Of course, more research will be necessary to understand these complex hereditary differences.

So, Is The Hemp v. Marijuana Distinction Valid?

While there will likely still be a debate about the hemp v. marijuana distinction, this classification system is popular for good reason. Also, there appears to be a scientific basis for grouping hemp and marijuana into separate genetic categories.

Distinguishing between hemp and marijuana can help consumers make a more informed decision when purchasing hemp flowers, hemp trim, oils, or other products. Plus, with the growing interest in hemp’s industrial uses, it’s important for farmers to separate out strains for industry and those for human consumption.

While it might not be a perfect classification system, “hemp v. marijuana” is still around because it continues to help cultivators and consumers make informed choices.


George Mouratidis is a cannabis writer and freelance contributor to Industrial Hemp Farms, Cannabis Tech, and Highlife Media.

IHF LLC is a Colorado-based, fully licensed & certified hemp farming and wholesale company. IHF wholesales CBD hemp biomass and many different cultivars of clones and seeds. The Company also wholesales CBD distillate, T-Free, Decarboxylated Crude, Isolate and other cannabinoids produced at our extraction facility. One of our primary goals is to make mutually beneficial deals, connections and contacts in the hemp industry.

Member Blog: Hemp And CBD Consumer Insights – Who, Why, And How

By Stephen J. Gongaware, Sr. Vice President of Business Development at Management Science Associates, Inc. (MSA)

Hemp CBD became the fastest growing CPG product in 2019, following its legalization in the Farm Bill of December 2018. Consumers show great interest in its use for wellness, health & beauty applications and for pets. Its many distribution channels require integrating convenience store and shipment data not required for most dispensary products.

In U.S. Convenience Stores, total sales of CBD have increased 168% in the first half of 2019 while average weekly dollar sales increased by 235%. 

The higher revenue growth accompanied CBD content per package increasing from 100mg on January 5, 2019 steadily to over 350mg on July 20, 2019, after having peaked briefly in June 2019 near 450mg per unit. See graph below.

Mg CBD per SKU at Retail

Medical Conditions Treated with Cannabis

Pain relief is the major reason cited as a medical condition for cannabis use, followed by nausea, PTSD, muscle spasms, IBD and opioid addiction as seen in the following table:

Source: Consumer Research Around Cannabis

 

Cannabis and Opioid Use Disorder

Of particular note is the growing number of consumers using Cannabis to treat Opioid Use Disorder (OUD). As of August 2019, seven states have approved medical cannabis for treating OUD: PA, NY, NJ, NM, MO, IL & CO. Twenty-one studies (2009-19) show the effect of cannabis on helping opioid users to reduce or eliminate the use of opioids to treat pain. NFL professional athletes have withdrawn from using opioids after they retire, with the aid of CBD and/or adult cannabis.

Consumer Purchase Drivers of OTC Hemp CBD

The top consumer drivers of OTC Hemp CBD are pain relief, reducing anxiety and helping sleep, as shown in the following graph.

Cannabis Product Composition and Patient Outcomes

Over the past several years, advances in technology have greatly enhanced the prospects for cannabis growers, processors, and dispensaries to provide medical cannabis products to patients that efficaciously treat the medical conditions and alleviate the incapacitating symptoms that they suffer. 

Pre-clinical scientific research is determining the physiological effects of individual cannabinoids and terpenes on specific medical conditions and symptoms. Mobile apps are enabling the systematic querying of patients about the efficacy of specific cannabis strains and products in alleviating symptoms and conditions. 

Collectively, these advances and other medical research are creating volumes of evidence to which human and artificial intelligence will be applied to develop insights for use by patients and medical researchers, growers, and processors in formulating products creating newer therapeutic options. Patients are already making informed decisions that improve individualized treatment of medical conditions progressively over time due to CBD being an approved over-the-counter consumer product. 

Advanced Consumer and Patient Targeting to Improve Marketing and Medical Outcomes

Consumer attitudes, perceptions, and usage in local markets create richer, more actionable insights from customer segments, creating advanced quality scores and indices for scoring first-party internal data.

Cannabis consumer data is used for strategic and tactical product development, applications including:

  • Market Architecture: differentiating dimensions of product form and brand choice
  • Key Reasons for Use and Purchase
  • Affinity with Media, Channel, and other Product Categories

Multiple correspondence analysis of hundreds of consumer survey category questions is used to understand dimensional distinctions and differences between clusters. These key spatial dimensions for segmentation illuminate key differentiators, for use in innovation/new products, brand strategy, marketing execution, and digital media tactics.

Create Target Profiles

Merging cannabis consumer data with general consumer data such as Financial, Healthcare, Restaurants, Grocery/Drug Stores, and Media usage & exposure for each respondent facilitates creation of new consumer segments.

Using zip code identified respondent level data, the above Target Profile clusters can be integrated with other market and first–party data to prioritize personalization, enhance brand positioning, inform messaging, new customer marketing & acquisition efforts, and multi-touch attribution databases.


Mr. Stephen J. Gongaware is Sr. Vice President of Business Development at MSA (Management Science Associates, Inc.), a privately held diverse information technology development and service firm that for over 50 years has provided innovative solutions within its three core competencies of analysis, technology and data management. He has played a major role in developing and managing several MSA businesses in addition to his focus since 2014 on the medical value of cannabis for prospective patients, beginning with CBD and 20 other nonpsychedelic cannabinoids then measured by leading edge test labs. Other businesses he’s created and managed at MSA in the last 20 years includes services to develop/market pharma “rare disease” solutions, and MSA Casino Gaming solutions improving operation of slot floors, player satisfaction and also lead smart phone and sports book innovative projects with 6 of the Top 10 global casino operators and with several major gaming equipment manufacturers.

Prior to joining MSA, Mr. Gongaware was CEO of NetworkNext, an innovative national advertising firm; R&D Director at Cellomics, Inc. where he was awarded US Patent #US6365367; and an Electrical  Engineer at Westinghouse Electric Corp.  He received his BSEE degree from University of Pittsburgh in 1992 and his MBA from its Katz School of Business in 1995.

MSA is an Analytics firm with Big Data integration capability incorporated in 1963 to focus on improving government and management decisions. MSA has 800+ professionals with expertise in data science & AI, software development, test marketing, data management and management consulting and many of its innovations have become industry-standard solutions. MSA has served over 70 Fortune 500 Customers/Clients in the CPG, Media, Metals, Life Sciences & Pharma, and Casino Gaming & Sports Betting industries. It has been engaged in cannabis research since 2013 with the goal of providing the cannabis industry similar services to what has been now provided to the CPG, Steel, Tobacco, Casino Gaming, and Pharma industries for more than 50 years.

Member Blog: The Differences Between Strain Specific Terpenes, Terpene Enhanced Flavors, and E-Juice Flavoring

by Nicole Flanigan, Peak Supply Co

As the nation’s largest wholesale terpene provider, we spend a lot of time getting to know the needs and wants of our customers. One of the biggest questions our new clients have refers to the flavor profiles of our terpenes. More specifically, people are wondering why our strain-specific terpenes (like Banana Sherbet, Cherry Pie, and Cookies & Cream) don’t taste like the real sugary sweet confections that go by the same name.

There is a slight misconception when it comes to terpenes. Many people expect terpenes to work like e-juice in a vaporizer to make whatever you’re smoking taste like something else. While it isn’t uncommon for vape juice to taste like Skittles, cinnamon rolls, mojitos, and orange juice, terpenes don’t. There are no additional additives like sugar or artificial flavors in the terpenes that’ll make a hash pen or oil taste just like fruit, candy, and cake. It’s best to only use what nature gives us!

Here’s the difference between isolated terpenes and wholesale versus e-juice for vaporizers, as well as a quick rundown on flavor enhanced terpenes to help you or your customer make a more educated purchase:

What are terpenes?

Terpenes are organic compounds found in all plants that are responsible for giving the plant – from blueberry bushes to pine trees – its distinct smell. The unique smell helps plants existing in the wild to attract pollinators and ward off predators. Terpenes are the primary source of the resin and trichome production in cannabis, and they are created in the same glands that produce CBD and THC. That being said, marijuana can create its own combinations of terpenes. No two plants smell exactly the same.

Terpenes are also responsible for several medical benefits and adult uses. When they’re combined with some of the different cannabinoids found in cannabis, they can create what is known as the entourage effect. The entourage effect is what gives strains of cannabis a variety of different effects since the flavor profiles can come about from an almost infinite number of terpene combinations.

In layman’s terms, terpenes are so useful because they can be blended seamlessly with each other. This gives enthusiasts more control over what they taste and feel when they vape. Cannabis contains over 100 different terpenes that offer unique effects.

Liquid terpene products and extracts typically contain a combination of terpenes found in cannabis. Some products will have more of an indica profile (like Blackberry Kush) while others will have more of a Sativa (Clementine) or Hybrid (Banana Kush) profile. This helps to encourage the specific physical effects you’ve come to expect from cannabis.

What is e-juice?

The e-juice, vape juice, and e-liquids can be used in vapes and electronic cigarettes to create actual vapor. Most of the time, e-juice contains nicotine though many flavored e-juices don’t contain any. E-juices come in a ton of different flavors that cater to just about everyone, from people with intense tobacco cravings to people with a sweet tooth. E-juice is made with propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin, flavoring (often with terpenes, but usually artificial) and water. Vape juices that are made with propylene glycol are more likely to irritate your throat while you smoke it. On the other hand, e-juices made with vegetable glycerin are more likely to add a thick layer of sweetness to the vapor.

This is where a lot of the misconception kicks in. Since some vape juices made with vegetable glycerin are sugary sweet and taste like candy, many people assume that terpenes by themselves are responsible for the flavoring. By adding terpenes to e-juice, you can achieve a variety of different and new flavors. However, the terpenes won’t add anything artificial.

Natural terpenes vs. artificial flavors

E-juice, hash oil and CBD isolate can all benefit from adding terpenes and flavonoids to the mix. While marijuana has one of the most extensive ranges of flavor profiles in the plant kingdom, it will never naturally taste like cake, blue raspberry, or piña colada. Those are artificial flavors that have no natural terpene representation in the plant kingdom. Essentially, that just means that if you want blue raspberry vape cartridges, you’ll need to get artificial flavoring and avoid terpenes. Terpenes won’t be able to come close in taste and umami to that artificial flavor that doesn’t exist anywhere naturally.

Natural terpenes are becoming increasingly popular to add to cartridges, oils, and vaporizers. These are natural flavors that mimic the natural terpene profiles of cannabis strains. Natural terpenes are an excellent option if you’re trying to give your products an extra burst of flavor. For example, a processor wants to make the perfect Blue Dream cartridge, though the cannabis used for the extraction didn’t taste as vibrantly blueberry as the processor hoped. To achieve that ideal Blue Dream flavor profile, they could add a close match of terpenes found in the Blue Dream strain profile. The terpenes can add the sweet, summer-berry flavor the cannabis extract may be missing to the mix. That will allow the processor to create a tastier product with no side effects.

Overall, you should choose terpenes if you want to mimic natural flavors found in cannabis. You should select artificial flavors if you want something to taste like something unnatural or extra sweet.

What are flavor-enhanced terpenes?

Flavor-enhanced terpenes are the best of both worlds. While e-juice is more often artificially flavored, it often tastes better than terpenes alone. Flavor enhanced terpenes are terpenes extracted from cannabis with extra flavoring added in. Flavor enhanced terpenes offer the natural health benefits of natural terpenes but with the added benefit of tasting delicious. Our line of flavor enhanced terpenes includes fruit flavors like Ripe Strawberry and Berries and Cream as well as non-fruit flavors like breakfast cereals and pastries.

Do strain-specific terpene flavors really taste like the strain they’re based on?

Flavor is subjective and depends on things like classic tastes, aromatic chemicals, and the taster’s mood and physiology. Strain-specific terpenes are scientifically formulated to mimic the real strain’s natural terpene ratios.

To create strain specific terpene extracts, we primarily identify the terpene ratios commonly found in the strains and reverse engineer the process while removing the cannabinoids from the mix. It’s best to start by testing real cannabis at a certified lab. Then recreate that flower’s terpene profile in the lab and test the formula against real cannabis flowers. If the terpene profile doesn’t make the cut, it doesn’t get sold.

Our strain-specific terpenes are designed to match the terpene profiles of the flowers we extract these essential oils from. Just because they’re named Birthday Cake and Biscotti doesn’t mean they’ll taste like the real thing. However, they do taste like the real cannabis strain since their terpene profiles match.

Terpenes Vs. E-Juice: TL;DR

If you’re just here for a quick answer, here’s the difference between natural terpenes and vape juice.

  • All plants naturally produce terpenes.
  • E-juice or vape juice is often artificially flavored
  • Artificial flavors are not terpenes. They don’t exist anywhere naturally and are created synthetically.
  • Strain-specific terpenes are reverse engineered to mimic natural terpene profiles of cannabis strains
  • Strain-specific terpenes contain no artificial flavorings
  • Strain-specific terpenes will taste like the cannabis strain, not the food or fruit it’s named after. For example, Chocolate Cookies tastes like hash, spice, and coffee, just like the cannabis strain. It doesn’t taste sugary sweet and chocolatey.
  • If you want the best of both worlds, try flavor enhanced terpenes to get the benefit of terpenes and the flavor of e-juice.

Everyone has different taste and smell preferences, but now you should be able to find the best fit when looking for that perfect terpene blend.


Nicole Flanigan is one of the newest additions to the Peak Supply Co family. Her knowledge base on terpenes and cannabinoids has helped throughout the educational process. Nicole is a Colorado-based content marketing professional who has dedicated her life to cannabis awareness, advocation, and education. When she’s not writing or developing something groundbreaking for her clients, she enjoys growing cannabis organically and hiking all over Colorado with her two huskies. Peak Supply Co provides the first true all in one solution providing terpenes, vape cartridges, package design and production, helping clients progress from starting creative to finished product. 

 

FDA Rulemaking on Hemp/CBD – Hurry Up And Wait?

by Andrew Kline, NCIA’s Director of Public Policy

In April of 2019, the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) formed a coalition of more than 100 CBD/Hemp entrepreneurs, scientists, medical doctors, and FDA lawyers to inform and influence FDA rulemaking on cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds. Over the past two months, coalition members worked tirelessly to draft public comments. Our goal was to answer all of the questions posed by FDA (including scientific questions), to be helpful to FDA by informing their rule-making process, and to influence the direction of their rule-making.

NCIA Files Public Comment And Testimony

On May 30, 2019, we filed 60 pages of formal comments which can be found here. I’m really grateful for the coalition’s collaborative work and quite proud of our final product. I’m also extremely grateful to the authors, including Alena Rodriguez of RM3 Labs, Dr. Paul Murchowski of Dr. Pauls, Khurshid Khoja of Greenbridge Corporate Counsel, Vanessa Marquez and Chris Elawar of CBD Care Garden, Jonathan Havens from Saul Ewing, Andrew Livingston from VS Strategies, and many others who devoted time to produce a great submission.

On May 31, I testified before the FDA and listened intently as dozens of others spoke. My takeaways were that most of the industry echoed our sentiment – that CBD is generally safe, but that safety issues do arise with adulterated products and with irresponsible manufacturing and marketing practices. I spoke about the need for consensus-driven industry standards, to include marketing and labeling practices, and for mandated lab testing. These practices will go a long way toward making certain that the industry is safe for consumers.

Concerns And Misinformation

I am genuinely concerned that there is currently great confusion in the market. People seem to think that CBD is federally legal as a result of passage of the Farm Bill of 2019. But, that is only partially true. While CBD was de-scheduled, the FDA still retains the authority to regulate the industry as a result of their prior approval of a prescription drug for epilepsy, Epidiolex. In the absence of clear regulatory guidance, people are making health claims that violate federal law. And banks and payment processors are shutting off accounts for CBD businesses because they are having difficulty assessing whether a particular business is operating lawfully.

We hope that FDA will act with deliberate speed in drafting regulations for the industry. If FDA takes its time in crafting regulations, there is danger that many CBD companies will shudder because of a lack of banking and payment processing. And we will inevitably lose market share to Canada and other international players. As always, NCIA stands ready to help.

Looking Forward

On Wednesday, July 24, 2019, NCIA will host a panel at our next trade show, NCIA’s 6th Annual Cannabis Business Summit and Expo) in San Jose, California, entitled “A look into the future: An FDA Regulatory Framework for Hemp/CBD.”

Photo By CannabisCamera.com

Learning objectives for the panel include, (1) what the FDA was interested in learning about and why, (2) understanding how our industry coalition responded to the FDA’s scientific questions, (3) predictions for how the FDA will regulate CBD/Hemp and what it might mean for cannabis regulation in the future. Panelists will include members of the coalition who drafted our public comments to FDA.

In the coming weeks, NCIA will be releasing some new policy papers via NCIA’s Policy Council – the think tank for the state-legal cannabis industry. As always, if you’re interested in joining the Policy Council or have any thoughts about how we can propel this industry, please reach out me at andrew@thecannabisindustry.org.

Member Blog: Five Common Misconceptions About CBD

by Charles Alovisetti, Courtney Barnes, and Corey Cox of Vicente Sederberg LLP

CBD (cannabidiol) is everywhere right now. Front page articles proclaim its virtues and ubiquity. New retailers announce their intentions to sell CBD products almost every day. But a lot of the media coverage of CBD is inaccurate or misleading. Below are five common misconceptions about the legal status of CBD.

CBD is legal in all 50 states

Unscrupulous promoters like to claim that the 2018 farm bill has fully legalized hemp as well as any and all derivatives of hemp. That’s not true. The 2018 farm bill exempted hemp and its derivatives from the definition of marijuana under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), but it does not require states to do the same. Furthermore, under the 2018 farm bill, states are permitted to prohibit hemp production and several states continue to do so. While some states explicitly authorize and regulate the production and sale of CBD, or otherwise provide legal protection for authorized individuals to engage in commercial hemp activities, other states maintain outdated drug laws that do not distinguish between marijuana, hemp and/or hemp-derived CBD, resulting in hemp being classified as a controlled substance under state law. In these states, sale of CBD, notwithstanding origin, is either restricted to state medical or adult-use marijuana program licensees or remains unlawful under state criminal laws. Additionally, a number of states prohibit the sale of certain consumable CBD products, such as CBD-infused foods or dietary supplements. So, before you start selling CBD or invest into a CBD company, do your research on the states where you will be producing and selling product; you could be violating state criminal laws.

The FDA doesn’t regulate CBD products

Although the 2018 farm bill removed hemp and the cannabinoids derived from hemp from the purview of the CSA, the 2018 farm bill expressly preserves the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) authority to regulate food, dietary supplements, cosmetics, and drugs, including those that contain hemp ingredients. The FDA’s position is that THC and/or CBD cannot lawfully be added to food or marketed as dietary supplements. To date the FDA has sent warning letters to several CBD companies expressing this position and requesting corrective action. Therefore, although the FDA is accepting public comment and is holding a hearing to evaluate alternative approaches for regulating CBD products, the agency currently has jurisdiction over food, supplements, cosmetics and drugs containing CBD and continues to disseminate warning letters to CBD manufacturers for violating federal laws and regulations.

CBD is non-psychoactive

CBD is often marketed as the non-psychoactive cousin of THC. This is misleading. Research has indicated CBD has antipsychotic, anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing), and antidepressant effects – clearly demonstrating that it is a mood-altering substance (i.e., psychoactive or affecting the mind or behavior). It would be more accurate to say that CBD lacks the intoxicating effects of THC. From a legal perspective this matters because making deceptive claims in advertising is illegal and can result in serious consequences. Section 5(a) of the Federal Trade Commission Act prohibits “unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce.” We have seen the FTC jointly send warning letters with the FDA to a number of CBD companies and ongoing litigation surrounding the marketing of CBD products demonstrates there is meaningful risk that false or misleading label claims can create a cause of action for fraudulent inducement.

CBD has no side effects

There is increasing evidence that CBD has side effects and may interact with other medications, such as the anticoagulant  warfarin, especially at high doses. The FDA has identified several safety concerns associated with the consumption of certain CBD drug products, including potential for liver injury, somnolence, lethargy hypersensitivity, decreased appetite, diarrhea and sleep disorders. FDA further noted that the potentially serious risk of liver injury can be managed through medical supervision, but questioned how effectively this particular risk can be managed in the absence of medical supervision and FDA-approved labeling. While more research is necessary to better understand the impacts of long-term CBD use at various levels, blanket claims that CBD has no side effects may provide false and misleading information to consumers.

CBD can be freely included in pet products  

Although CBD products are widely marketed for pets, there are currently no hemp (or CBD) ingredients that have received express FDA approval for use in animal products. The FDA cooperates with the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) for the implementation of uniform policies regarding the regulation of animal feed products, and although the FDA does not recognize animal supplements as its own regulatory category (it either classifies such products as food or drugs), the FDA’s policy has generally been to exercise enforcement discretion, allowing animal supplements where stakeholder groups such as the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) permit them. At present, neither AAFCO nor NASC permits the use of CBD in animal products. While NASC’s position on the use of hemp ingredients in “dosage-form products” as of January 30, 2019, is that hemp is allowed in dosage form products (i.e. supplements) provided it doesn’t contain CBD concentrates, isolates, or synthetics, and the THC content is 0.3% or less, AAFCO has  not approved any hemp ingredients for use in animal feed. As with human products, risk of enforcement and regulatory scrutiny is increased where products make any disease claims, where products are marketed as containing “CBD,” and where products are advertised widely in interstate channels. In addition, a product may be considered misbranded if its labeling is false or misleading in any way or fails to include required information.

Due to the highly nuanced nature of cannabis regulation, the infancy of the domestic legal industry, and the constantly changing regulatory landscape at both the state and federal level, businesses must be sure to stay informed, educated, and vigilant.


1 – https://www.projectcbd.org/science/cbd-really-non-psychoactive
2 – Grayson, L., Vines, B., Nichol, K., Szaflarski, J. P., & UAB CBD Program (2017). An interaction between warfarin and cannabidiol, a case report. Epilepsy & behavior case reports9, 10–11. doi:10.1016/j.ebcr.2017.10.001
3 – Scientific Data and Information About Products Containing Cannabis or Cannabis-Derived Compounds; Public Hearing; Request for Comments 84 Fed. Reg. 90, 12969 (April 3, 2019) (to be codified at 21 C.F.R. pt.15).
4 – Id.
5 – Hemp and CBD in Pet Supplements Weaves Same Tangled Web as in Products for Humans (Jan. 31, 2019), NUTRA ingredients-usa.com

Charlie Alovisetti, Vicente Sederberg LLC

Charles Alovisetti is a partner and chair of the corporate practice group at Vicente Sederberg LLP based in Denver. He assists licensed and ancillary cannabis businesses with corporate legal matters, and he has experience working with clients on a broad range of transactions.

Courtney Barnes and Corey Cox are associate attorneys in Vicente Sederberg LLP’s Denver office. They both are members of the firm’s hemp and cannabinoid practice group, where they focus on policy, regulatory compliance, and risk management in the hemp space.

Committee Blog: Cannabinoid Analogues Offer a Promising Future for Medical Cannabis

by Courtney Maltais, The Clear
NCIA’s Scientific Advisory Committee

As outside industries fuse with the cannabis market, we will begin to see innovations that will flesh out our understanding of cannabinoids and how they interact with the human body. I had the opportunity to sit down with chemist Dr. Mark Scialdone and Chris Barone, founder and lead chemist at The Clear™ to discuss the introduction of semi-synthetic cannabis compounds to the market. We focused on hydrogenated cannabinoids; cannabis with a slight twist that could change everything about why and how we consume cannabis.  

Hydrogenation is simply treating a compound with hydrogen, which causes a chemical reaction between hydrogen (H2) and another compound or element, usually in the presence of a catalyst such as nickel, palladium, or platinum. This is done in order to reduce or saturate organic compounds, imbuing them with properties the original compounds did not have. These cannabinoid analogues (or semi-synthetic compounds) have a number of applications in manufacturing and medicine.

Hydrogenation is a minor modification to the natural framework of the compounds the cannabis plant produces biologically. Barone describes the process as, “adding hydrogens across the double bonds, thus changing the molecular weight, the molecules geometry, and also its effects on the body.”

Benefits of Hydrogenated Cannabinoids

A major benefit to hydrogenation is that it offers stability at the molecular level, assisting with both shelf life, and resistance to heat. Scialdone explained, “hydrogenation is a chemical transformation on unsaturated compounds to improve their stability and resistance to thermo-oxidative breakdown,” – which occurs when these compounds are in the presence of air. This is the reason you cannot leave cooking oils on the counter exposed to sunlight, as eventually this reaction will cause them to go rancid. Hydrogenation improves the oxidative stability by removing the unsaturation.

Based on a study referenced in Scialdone’s patents (US10071127B2 & US9694040B2), the effects of cannabinoids and hydrogenated cannabinoids were examined, in reference to tumor growth in mice. In these cases, the hydrogenated cannabinoids showed significant improvement in the reduction of tumor sizes; with Hexahydrocannabinolic Acid (HHCA) at a 39.70% reduction, and HCBDA at 55.83% reduction (compared to the non-hydrogenated compounds THCA at 37.67% and CBDA at 47.02%) (source). It’s possible that hexahydrocannabinoid (HHC), being more stable than tetrahydrocannabinoid (THC), and less prone to dehydrogenation (converting to DHC and CBN), may have an impact on resistance towards oxidative metabolic breakdown in the liver, though there is no critical examination at this time. It has been observed in metabolic studies that hydrogenated compounds are resistant to this kind of breakdown, suggesting that hydrogenated cannabinoids may exhibit this trait as well.

Image: Cannabinoid Structures


Difference Between Natural and Semi-Synthetic Cannabinoids

There is still much research to be done to define the exact pharmacological differences between hydrogenated and their plant-derived cannabinoids, but the chemical differences are quite distinct. “Tetrahydrocannabinoids like THC are metabolized into the 11-Hydroxy-THC-metabolite and ultimately the nor-carboxy-THC-metabolite; because we’ve converted the THC to HHC, metabolites will differ from the ones derived from THC,” explained Scialdone. Thus, they will have a different pharmacokinetic profile because the metabolites are going to be different in hydrogenated compounds. Meaning, the hydrogenated compounds could have a longer half life and bind to different receptors within the ECS.

A study published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry evaluates the ability of various cannabinoid analogues to modulate the production of reactive oxygen intermediates (ROI) various metabolic functions as well as their binding capabilities to the cannabinoid receptor (CB1). It was found that hydrogenated CBD and Cannabidiol-dimethylheptyl (CBD-DMH) demonstrated bioactivities different from their original compounds (source). The study focused on the anti-inflammatory and immune responses that have been previously observed in the non-analogue compounds. To compare the hydrogenated cannabinoids, they observed the derivative compounds for their ability to suppress the production of ROI, nitric oxide (NO), and tumor necrosis factor (TNF-⍺) by activated macrophages in vitro. Some of the compounds (7 and 4) exhibited an increase in their suppressive effects of NO, TNF-⍺, and ROI. Compounds 7 and 8 are strongly bound to the central cannabinoid receptor (CB1), but with an opposite effect on their ability to modulate the release of inflammatory mediators. When compared to the effects of natural cannabinoids, it is noted that isolated cannabidiol (CBD) also has tumor growth suppressive qualities, with similar functions of hydrogenated CBD (source). The distinction between the two is the bioavailability and slow breakdown of the hydrogenated compounds, however more research is required.

Image: Chemical Structure of Cannabidiol Derivatives


The JMC study concluded, hydrogenated cannabinoids exhibited good binding to CB
1, but have varying effects on inflammation – which could spring opportunities for anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties in murine collagen-induced arthritis, as suggested by the Ben-Gurion University. This is because the hydrogenated cannabinoids seem to have a strong effect on hyper-inflammation, which would reduce pain and swelling of the joints.

Public Health and Safety

When dealing with new compounds, it is crucial that health and safety are considered. “We will want to look at what impacts the hydrogenation has on the metabolic profile, and whether or not the hydrogenation is having a beneficial impact on biological actions with the cannabinoids,” explained Scialdone.

It will still take a few years for a product like this to be available to the public. Although the market may see hydrogenated cannabinoids present in medical and recreational states sooner, extensive research on these compounds will remain difficult under current federal laws. The Federal Analog Act states any substance derived from a schedule I or II substance will be treated as the same schedule substance when its purpose is for human consumption. “Pseudo-synthetic cannabinoids should be allowed in my opinion,” Barone adds, “but only through close analysis of the SOPs and quality control conditions. In states where they do not have the resources, I believe manufacturers should be mandated to hire third-party chemical manufacturers to audit and approve the techniques being used.”

Image: Crystalized HHCA Captured by CM Botanical


Research in this arena will provide greater understanding as researchers gain further understanding about hydrogenated cannabinoids and their impact on the human body. Barone pointed out, “I’d like to emphasize that the human interaction with this molecule is the driving force of the progression. Without the idea and the human, the molecules sit untouched and unexplored.” Utilizing the unbound creativity of science, the cannabis plant has more to offer than we once knew.


Courtney Maltais is co-founder and lead biologist at The Clear; a California-based extract company that brought the first Cannabis distillate to market in 2013. Maltais works with industry leaders in cultivation, manufacturing, and product development to create efficient, safe, and standardized lab practices. Her passion for science and education has led her to expand into educational outreach for both business owners, employees, and consumers alike. 

NCIA’s Scientific Advisory Committee is comprised of practicing chemists and other scientific field professionals to advise other NCIA committees as they work to develop standards and guidelines for the various sectors of our industry, ensuring that any formal recommendations produced by other NCIA committees are scientifically sound, sustainable, and legitimate.

Committee Blog: Accurate Pasteur Pipette or Grandma’s Turkey Baster – Cannabis Dosing

by NCIA’s Infused Products Committee;
contributors Todd Winter, Ashley Hansen, Danielle Maybach, Lee Hilbert, Trevor Morones, and Greg Scher

 

Where is cannabis in the journey of dosing edibles?

Edibles are growing as a market share only behind concentrates. It is essential to have accuracy across the industry to protect human health and stabilize the consumer market. Potency, homogeneity, absorption rate, interpretation of dose (by State, County, International), percentage error/variance, labeling, and source of raw materials are just some of the items always questioned.

While we are discussing this issue, there will be no right answer for everybody. What is the dose? What is a serving? A check of an operator’s shelves will show chocolate bars with 800 mg of THC and a similar sized bar with 80 mg of THC. If you walked off the street and bought the 800 mg bar with only experiencing the 80 mg bar; you are in for a trip, and not a good one.

BDS Analytics’ GreenEdge Retail Tracking Platform as presented by Tamar Maritz in February had shown that when California consumers purchased cannabinoid products in 2018, they often want to know the CBD and THC content.

Label requirements vary state by state on the THC side and are often inaccurate both in the reporting of potency and the way they are displayed on CBD products. Extracts used as raw ingredients in product formulation come in various forms, it is important for the manufacturers to know the percent of actual CBD or THC when making purchase decisions. CBD extracts can be in the form of isolates with low bioavailability, or full spectrum which means the cannabinoid retains more of the plant’s original components.

Additionally, there are infused products, where the flower is extracted by an infusion into an oil, retaining even more of the original cannabinoid profile. All these extracts have specific formulation and labeling nuances that need standardization. The medical community wants even more specific terpene profile information as individual levels of Limonene, Myrcene, and other terpenes gain recognition for properties that have some additional benefit.

Do the terpenes solely earn the credit for their benefits or is it in combination with the other chemical compositions?

There are many ways to add cannabinoids into edibles; for example, when developing cannabis-infused products, are the manufactures using the “sprinkle” method to add the raw material/additive by literally sprinkling isolate? Are they using a pipette for exact measurement from a reputable supplier that is approved for food contact having been third-party audited, or a turkey baster from grandma’s kitchen utensil drawer which has seen some years? Methods abound!

Perhaps the most accurate method to create a homogenous product is to incorporate the raw material during the mixing step; before cooking, gassing (CO2), or pasteurization. Not everybody that starts an edible factory comes from the food or pharmaceutical industry. A standard serving size or dosage, whichever you prefer, could make life easier for all stakeholders with a few exceptions. As yield models mature for extraction, markets will adjust, and prices can stabilize based on real data.

In Iowa, they have just legalized for medical use, but the flower is not legal. It is 100% treated as a drug. Any product needs to have no more than 3% THC to be permitted. We can’t forget our colleagues dealing with burdensome regulation. I doubt they can measure with turkey baster there, and if we saw a manufacturer in Iowa, we would probably see a pipette. Consensus on a dose can help elected officials know more and lift heavy restrictions.

Caffeine, like cannabis, is a naturally occurring alkaloid in 60+ plants. Cannabis produces THC and CBD, which are cannabinoids. The next step for the industry in supporting cannabinoid dosing of THC and CBD or any other cannabinoid is to increase general public recognition, routine toxicology studies, and develop appropriate data and work methods to obtain public recognition or certification for food safety, public safety, and documentation.

In the United States caffeine, when in soda, is limited to 65 mg per 12 liquid ounces of beverage. In pill form, the FDA allows 200 mg of caffeine. While this is about THC/CBD, the parallels are plain. While the Cannabis industry addresses dosing challenges are many. Stakeholders composed of consumers, operators, manufacturers, laboratories, distributors, and regulators would like to see the order in the industry.

The Federal Government does not yet consider cannabis as a food additive that is “Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS).” Caffeine, a GRAS substance under current regulation, attained status under industry practices over 60 years ago. Within our industry, GRAS is not a deeply-rooted measurement for quality or safety standards. Cannabis has no history of being hazardous when infused in products and defining a serving, or a dose should not impact the operations of notable brands that provide excellent food safety and quality.

Each consumer (patient or recreational user) has their personal approach to cannabis dosing based upon their due diligence. Manufacturers are producing THC and CBD products that range from “micro-dose” to “mega-dose” because they understand that no one standard dose is the right for every individual.

Consumers look at labels to determine which product to buy. Manufacturers rely on testing to confirm THC and CBD content. CBD and micro-dose product categories are trending; unfortunately, many laboratories are not equipped to test CBD products accurately and consistently. THC Micro-dose products have similar problems. Not all laboratories have equipment that can report trace amounts accurately. Homogeneity, labeling, and raw ingredient sourcing are opportunities for manufacturers to set themselves apart to the retail operators in a wide-open market. Let us collectively work together towards clarifying the issue and work with all the stakeholders to define for the public some language that can be understood by all, encourage federalization, and develop a standard of excellence.


NCIA’s Infused Products Committee (IPC) focuses on edible and topical products, reviewing existing business practices and state regulations. Regulation of these products is the IPC’s initial key focus, but the committee’s purpose is to ensure the infused product sector is helping shape its destiny, rather than being driven by differing jurisdictional regulations. The IPC is also working with the Policy Council and Council on Responsible Cannabis Regulation (CRCR) to develop standardized regulations for legislators and regulators to adopt as their states legalize the industry.

Member Blog: Hiring New Budtenders – Keep Your Eyes Out For These Red Flags

by Courtney Elder, CBD Nerds

The success of your dispensary relies on many things – your location, the quality of the products you sell, and the people who work for you. While it might seem as if you can put just about anyone behind the counter and have them ring up transactions, the art of being a budtender is a completely different animal. Managers and owners who are in the position of needing to replace or expand their current staffing may not fully realize how their employees can make or break their business, so let’s go through a few important considerations.

It goes without saying that anyone can end up unintentionally hiring someone they shouldn’t have, so if any of the following scenarios have happened to you, don’t feel bad. This information can help in many types of businesses and will specifically save you a headache if you work in the cannabis industry.

Cannabis Knowledge

On-the-job training is certainly something that every dispensary manager should provide, as it’s impossible for someone to walk right in and run the show on their very first day. However, it’s another situation entirely if your new hire doesn’t know the first thing about cannabis. Not only is a basic understanding required pertaining to strains, methods of consumption, and weed culture in general, but if they bring knowledge to the table that impresses you, they’re a keeper.

Anyone who can’t answer simple questions about cannabis or CBD may not be the best choice for your operation unless you have the time and patience to teach someone from the ground up. Ultimately you want your customers to feel as if they’re consulting with experts, not the other way around.

Don’t Neglect Background Checks

This tip can take a two-fold approach, as the person you end up hiring is going to be trusted with access to tons of product, money, and maybe even the store keys someday. Reference checks are a must in today’s day and age, so if they don’t readily have people available for you to chat with, you may want to dig a little deeper.

Aside from simply calling previous employers, it doesn’t hurt to run a full background check on your potential new employee. You never know if people are representing themselves truthfully and it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Again, if your prospect is uncomfortable with this idea, you don’t simply want to brush it off and continue hiring them anyway. That’s not to say that you should instantly dismiss them either as some people have a criminal record they are embarrassed by but have changed.

Common Sense And Intuition

When it comes down to it, working as a budtender does require a specific set of skills but in general isn’t that much different than many other professional retail occupations. Take some time to consider everything a person brings to the table, listen to your gut, and above all else, let common sense guide you. If something doesn’t feel right about your new hire, pay attention to that notion or else it could cost you your business.


 

Courtney Elder is a cannabis and CBD expert. She’s a mother of 2 from Portland, Oregon and has done countless hours of research around both cannabis and CBD benefits. She’s written for some of the industries top authority sites and is the lead content creator at CBD Nerds.

The 2018 Farm Bill and the Return of Hemp to American Farms

by Michelle Rutter, NCIA Government Relations Manager

HISTORY

Farming and agriculture has long been a part of North American history. When the Great Depression hit in the 1930’s, both President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Congress knew that the United States would struggle until the agriculture industry became prosperous again. As a result, many New Deal programs dealt with farming, but arguably the most notable agriculture related legislation was the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938, which was the first version of what we know today as simply the “Farm Bill” that is updated roughly every five years.

TODAY

Now, for the first time since the end of World War II, states are slated to soon be able to create federally legal hemp programs under the 2018 Farm Bill, which President Trump is expected to sign into law any day. The bipartisan legislation, which passed overwhelmingly in the Senate and House last week, would allow states to submit plans created by their respective Secretaries of Agriculture in coordination with their governors and chief law enforcement officers to the Department of Agriculture to grow and process hemp and hemp-derived products.

SEED TO SALE

As the law is written, state applications would need to include methods for tracking land used for hemp production and audit producers to make sure that the hemp they are growing contains less than 0.3% THC. Programs would also need to be approved by the Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, in consultation with the Attorney General within 60 days of being submitted. Additionally, states would not be permitted to ban the transportation of hemp and hemp products through their jurisdictions, but production and sales would only be permitted in states with approved programs. The bill also contains a number of directives for research on hemp and hemp cultivation.

SCHEDULING

Hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) would be exempted from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) in states with approved programs, but CBD will remain a Schedule 1 substance under the CSA and illegal at the federal level. The Farm Bill also does not impact the current Food & Drug Administration ban on CBD products or its ability to regulate the substance in the future.

INDUSTRY EMPLOYMENT

The law prevents anyone with a drug-related felony from working in legal state hemp industries, preventing many people who have been impacted by the unequal enforcement of cannabis prohibition from participating in the economic opportunities created by new programs. However, a late compromise led to the inclusion of a ten-year sunset period from either the date of conviction or the start of the state program, whichever is more recent.

THE FUTURE

Marijuana’s “cousin,” hemp, is generally barred because it is part of the cannabis plant, despite the fact that it contains very little of that drug’s key psychoactive ingredient, THC. In 2014, Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) secured a hemp pilot program in that year’s farm bill. Since then, at least 35 states have taken up the offer and developed industrial hemp programs, and those states will be eligible to pursue a legal, regulated market when the bill is signed into law. The passage of this provision will surely bring about a new era for the agricultural industry, and the cannabis industry — when hemp returns to American farmlands.

Member Blog: 2018 Farm Bill – What Does This Mean For Hemp-Derived CBD?

by Robyn Ranke, Eskaton Law

For marijuana businesses, the 2018 Farm Bill is landmark legislation. Congress passed the Bill yesterday awaiting the President’s signature into law.

Transportation Of Hemp Across State Lines Allowed  

Federal legalization of Hemp will be astounding for the cannabis industry nationwide. Drafted into 807 pages of law is Sec. 10113 [Hemp Production] and Sec. 10114 [Interstate Commerce] of Title X.  Sec. 10113 adds “Hemp” to the list of “agriculture commodities” among other things.  Sec. 10114(a) allows for “the interstate commerce of hemp or hemp products” and “the transportation or shipment of hemp or hemp products produced in accordance with [section 10113] . . . through the State or the territory of the Indian Tribe, as applicable.” [Sec. 10114(b)] 

Hemp Means CBD

Federal Legislators defined “Hemp” as:

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

States May Regulate Hemp Production, But Not Interstate Commerce

The bill allows States and Indian Tribes to regulate Hemp and expressly provides for “No Preemption” of any law of a State or Indian tribe that “regulates the production of hemp” and is “more stringent” than federal law [Sec. 10113.] 

However, Federal lawmakers went on to expressly provide for interstate commerce of Hemp and Hemp products [Sec. 10114] – the express language of the bill further states that “No State or Indian Tribe shall prohibit the transportation or shipment of hemp or hemp products produced in accordance with [Sec. 10113.]”  

While the Federal government occupies the field of interstate commerce under any circumstances, it will be interesting to see what happens in light of existing state cannabis regulations which make illegal the transport of marijuana across state lines. 

Either way, when the President signs this landmark legislation into law, the entire cannabis industry, and commerce alike, will finally have breathing room. For marijuana businesses, hemp would be fully legal according to the Federal Government. Every barrier to entry in banking, commercial real estate, intellectual property and everything in between will lift – advancing the industry one monumental step further to social acceptance of marijuana as simply a commodity just like any other commodity – like cabbage perhaps.  

If you would like a highlighted copy of the legislative text for the hemp sections under the 2018 Farm Bill, contact Eskaton Law.


An experienced corporate litigator having worked in both the private and government sectors, Attorney Robyn Ranke has taken a modern business approach to the cannabis industry and in working with cannabis business startups. Throughout her legal career, Robyn has represented a diverse base of business clientele in a variety of industries involving both complex and novel legal matters. Her diverse experience as a business litigator provides a valuable legal platform from which she is uniquely postured to address the regulatory hurdles, costly pitfalls, unique business transactions, and business litigation risks that confront California cannabis business owners today and into the future as state regulations continue to evolve. 

Member Blog: Hemp & CBD Legalization, Regulation & Compliance – Key Language in the Farm Bill

by Michael Cooper, co-founder of MadisonJay Solutions

Few developments in the world of cannabis — whether marijuana or hemp — could match the impact of the 2014 Farm Bill. But the 2018 Farm Bill, approved by the House and the Senate this week, promises to do just that.

As a quick reminder, the 2014 Farm Bill created an exception to the federal laws that prohibit the cultivation and sale of cannabis. To simplify, to the extent that a state created a pilot program to study hemp cultivation and the plants were of a sufficiently low level of THC, the resulting plant would be considered “Farm Bill hemp” and not subject to the prevailing federal prohibitions. To state the obvious, this was a very significant change. In fact, as a result of a combination of the magnitude of the change and the narrowness of the exception, apparent confusion led to periodic enforcement actions and court challenges.

As 2018 draws to a close, Congress must once again reauthorize the Farm Bill. It’s worth noting that the periodic reauthorization has nothing to do with hemp policy, and everything to do with the federal legislative process.  

And the relatively narrow “exception” for hemp in the 2014 Farm Bill is on the cusp of significant expansion. Hemp, defined as cannabis plants and all their parts, extracts, “cannabinoids,” and derivatives with a THC concentration of less than 0.3%, will be subject to a regulatory scheme devised by the federal Department of Agriculture and will be removed from the federal Controlled Substances Act. States that wish to regulate hemp may propose regulations that the state “shall submit to the Secretary” of Agriculture. Notably, no state “shall prohibit the transportation or shipment of hemp or hemp products” produced in compliance with these new rules.

So, inquiring minds might wonder, what happens if 2018 Farm Bill hemp turns out to have a THC concentration of 0.31% instead of the permissible 0.3%? To the extent that higher THC concentration is the result of an honest mistake, Section 297B(e)(2) provides the answer: if the state has developed hemp regulations, and the state concludes the violation was the result of “negligence” (e.g., an unintentional oversight), the producer will be required to take corrective action. If that happens 3 times in a 5-year period, the producer will be ineligible to produce. If the state has not developed hemp regulations, the same standard will be applied by the federal Secretary of Agriculture pursuant to Section 297C(c)(2).

That is, a “negligent” mistake should not place the cultivator at risk of being placed outside of the protections of the Farm Bill (discussion of the reach of those federal laws is fascinating, but beyond the scope of this post). As a result, it will remain advisable for hemp cultivators to implement sufficient compliance efforts to avoid any potential inference that they are intentionally seeking a higher THC concentration.  

Barring the unexpected, the 2018 Farm Bill will have a seismic impact on the hemp and hemp-derived CBD industry. With the nation watching, a smooth, well-regulated transition can only help to bolster calls for broader cannabis reform. As a result, once the 2018 Farm Bill becomes law, the industry will undoubtedly be paying close attention to the regulations promulgated by federal and state hemp regulators. And they will be working hard to demonstrate that they are staying within those guidelines.


Michael Cooper is the co-founder and managing member of MadisonJay Solutions LLC, a leading regulatory advisor to the adult-use cannabis industry that helps businesses understand the latest rules and build effective compliance infrastructure to address risk. He is the Vice Chair of the NCIA’s State Regulations Committee, and publishes and speaks frequently on cannabis regulation.

He is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, and previously served as General Counsel of MHW, Ltd. and in the litigation department of Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP.  He began his legal career as a law clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. He can be reached at mcooper@madisonjaysolutions.com.

New Study Proves CBD Helps with Addiction, Anxiety, Impulsivity

by NCIA Editorial Staff

A new study reveals CBD (cannabidiol) can be used as a treatment in curbing cocaine and alcohol relapse in lab animals. The Neuropsychopharmacology study from Nature Journal serves as further proof that cannabinoids do, in fact, have therapeutic value.

Much of the cannabis-focused scientific community and business owners are well aware of these benefits. However, this study is a welcomed addition to the mounting evidence in favor of treating patients with CBD- as well as calling cannabis medicine.

Mary’s Medicinals is a trusted leader in the therapeutic CBD industry. Their Chief Scientific Officer, Jeremy Riggle Ph.D. isn’t surprised with the study’s outcome but hopeful it may result in human clinical testing in the future. “While the outcome of this study is exciting, there are literally hundreds of other animal/preclinical studies that have demonstrated the potential of CBD for human health,” he said to NCIA in an exclusive interview. He added, “Until the federal government allows comprehensive double blind randomized placebo-controlled studies on human populations these studies will continue to pile up without any action or validation.”

The Executive Director of California marijuana dispensary, A Therapeutic Alternative, agrees its a step in the right direction. “When a study like this comes out it corroborates the decade of anecdotal evidence that I have been seeing first hand,” said Kimberly Cargile. One of the top reasons members come to her shop is to reduce their use of pharmaceuticals, street drugs, alcohol and cigarettes. Her go-to recommendations for new members: CBD products.

Cargile said she sees it as the fastest growing market because anyone can use CBD without the psychoactive effects of products with THC. You can learn more about the differences between THC and CBD as well as how CBD helps patients with debilitating conditions in our recent MarijuanaDoctors.com blog post.  

Facts from the published study:

  • CBD attenuated context-induced and stress-induced drug seeking without tolerance, sedative effects, or interference with normal motivated behavior
  • Following treatment termination, reinstatement remained attenuated up to ≈5 months
  • CBD also reduced experimental anxiety and prevented the development of high impulsivity in rats with an alcohol dependence history

Mary’s customers and patients can shop online for vaping oil, topical muscle freeze, and their CBD-releasing transdermal CBD gel pen – the same method of delivery used by researchers for the new study.

Unlike products with THC, CBD can be shipped across America because CBD is found in industrial hemp. As Dr. Riggle explained, “Industrial hemp is legal across the United States and most of the world so that gives hemp-infused product manufacturers more freedom than cannabis product manufacturers. Being able to sell products online and ship them nationwide is a game changer, and it allows for plant-based remedies to quickly and easily reach those who need it most.”

The team at Mary’s is also breaking new ground in the scientific community as they were the first to release products with lesser known compounds of the plant including; THCa, CBN, and CBC. “We dedicate a significant amount of resources to R&D so that we’re able to stay ahead of the curve and pave the way in releasing products that target different human indications,” said Dr. Riggle.

This new era of cannabis research is great for patients and for business. Savvy small business owners like Cargile know that by providing consumers with the option of CBD products, their business can increase sales. In addition to providing a higher level of customer satisfaction, “CBD products hold a higher sales value and will give a larger return as opposed to high-THC products,” she explained.

In the past decade, the medical community has seen more cannabinoid-related studies than any other time in history. As the industry and medical communities continue to establish cannabis as medicine, it’s only a matter of time until the U.S. Government removes cannabis from it’s list of banned substances without medical benefits.

The political implications of the study aren’t lost on the authors. They wrote, “the findings also inform the ongoing medical marijuana debate concerning medical benefits of non-psychoactive cannabinoids and their promise for development and use as therapeutics.” For Dr. Riggle, the issue of marijuana legalization and the medical application of CBD are completely separate. “I’d like to think that the vast number of studies being conducted, and the mounting amount of evidence can help move the needle,” he told NCIA.

 

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