keynotecannabislabs

Nic Easley Delivers Keynote at Cannabis Labs Conference

By Cannabis Industry Journal Staff
No Comments
keynotecannabislabs

Nic Easley, chief executive officer at Comprehensive Cannabis Consulting (3C), delivered the keynote address at the first annual Cannabis Labs Conference, co-located with Pittcon. Easley set the tone of the conference early on by identifying safety and quality concerns in the current cannabis marketplace. “We can choose to do business as usual or we can create a new model with outside industry expertise to help guide this industry forward responsibly,” says Easley. Noting the existing comprehensive standards in food and agriculture, Easley emphasized the value of the Cannabis Labs Conference in bringing that expertise to the cannabis space. “We have the guidance and expertise in this room alone to help move the cannabis industry forward out of the closet and into the sunlight,” adds Easley.

 

Aaron_headshot

California Legislature Votes to Slow Local Bans on Cannabis Cultivation

By Aaron G. Biros
1 Comment
Aaron_headshot

SACRAMENTO, CA- Lawmakers in California voted to pass Assembly Bill 21 this morning, a bill aimed at slowing local municipalities from placing bans on cultivating cannabis. Earlier this week, the California Senate passed the bill in an overwhelming 35 to 5 vote, sending it to the Assembly.

The bill, AB 21, won unanimously in a 65 to 0 vote this morning, according to a lobbyist on behalf of CalCann Holdings. The bill now heads to Governor Brown’s desk to sign it before it becomes a law. The governor has twelve days to sign it into law because of an urgency clause. 

“Over the past several months, local governments throughout the state have been banning marijuana cultivation and dispensaries right and left,” says Aaron Herzberg, attorney and partner at CalCann Holdings. CalCann Holdings is a California-based medical marijuana holding company building a portfolio of licensed MMJ businesses and properties.

“Assuming Governor Brown chooses to sign this bill into law, cities will have the time to take a more reasonable approach to this issue and, ideally, allow licensed marijuana to be cultivated and distributed throughout the state,” adds Herzberg. “This is a vitally important piece of legislation that fixes a serious drafting error, and the sooner it can be signed into law, the better.”

The bill fixes an important mistake in the regulations that previously allowed the state to license growers operating in municipalities without written laws in place yet by March. Because of that deadline, cities were rushing to ban growers and dispensaries before they lost autonomy to regulate them. Governor Brown is expected to sign the bill into law, which would curb municipalities from shutting down cannabis businesses. 

New Business Accelerator Program, Greenhouse Ventures, Completes Pilot Semester

By Aaron G. Biros
No Comments

There are a few business accelerator programs that currently exist in the cannabis space, but Greenhouse Ventures (GHV), based in downtown Philadelphia, seeks to fill a gap in helping ancillary businesses get off the ground. Through a ten-week, 90-hour curriculum, program, Greenhouse Ventures assists startups by increasing their business model sophistication.

Bart Mowrey, founder & CEO of TokerWare in December on the 'Demo Day' in Center City Philadelphia
Bart Mowrey, founder & CEO of TokerWare in December on the ‘Demo Day’ in Center City Philadelphia

“The program consists of three hour sessions, three nights a week, for ten weeks, covering topics such as general business development, go-to-market strategy, growth strategy, capital formation, legal & financial due diligence, fundraising, valuation, and exit opportunities,” says Tyler Dautrich, founder of Greenhouse Ventures. Business startups in the program are paired with industry experts who serve as mentors providing advice, guidance and strategic introductions.

The program culminates in a pitch event where the startups are given the opportunity to pitch potential investors and advisors in an effort to strategically advance their business model. According to Dautrich, Greenhouse Ventures’ overall mission is to increase the level of business sophistication of ancillary startups.

Courtney Rudolph, founder & CEO of Green Seven, in December during the program in Center City Philadelphia
Courtney Rudolph, founder & CEO of Green Seven, in December during the program in Center City Philadelphia

They differentiate themselves from other startup accelerators like Canopy Boulder and MJIC’s Gateway by using a curriculum-driven program. Participants in the accelerator work closely with GHV staff, industry services providers and industry experts to learn exactly what they need to secure capital and get their business to the next stage.

Tyler Dautrich, founder of Greenhouse Ventures
Tyler Dautrich, founder of Greenhouse Ventures

According to Dautrich, Greenhouse Ventures also differs from other accelerators because they are not an investment fund. “We do not invest any capital into any portfolio companies at this time,” says Dautrich. GHV does however invest $60,000 worth of services into each portfolio company and only takes an average of 5% common, non-voting rights, stock. “The goal is for the companies in the accelerator to validate some, if not all, their initial assumptions and prove that the company can progress without that capital infusion” adds Dautrich. “This serves as a great due diligence process for potential investors.”

Graduates of GHV and CoPhilly Fall 2015 semester
Graduates of GHV and CoPhilly Fall 2015 semester

The program successfully completed its pilot semester in December of 2015 with three ancillary businesses in the cannabis industry. The second semester will launch this Spring in the end of April and Greenhouse Ventures will be accepting up to 10 ancillary companies for its second semester. The application window is currently open for the spring semester.

BioTrackTHC Wins Bid for Hawaii Marijuana Tracking Software Contract

By Aaron G. Biros
No Comments

According to Phil Bergman, senior communications consultant at BioTrackTHC, just yesterday the company announced it had surpassed 1,500 locations that its software systems are used in. BioTrackTHC has a traceability software solution that provides “real-time visibility into the seed-to-sale tracking data of licensed medical marijuana dispensaries, including plant and inventory quantities, production activity, laboratory testing results, transportation activity, and dispensing activity.”

The Hawaii Department of Health’s Office of Health Care Assurance selecting BioTrackTHC for the contract marks five state contracts that the company has won. Currently, the software is used by Washington, New Mexico and Illinois and soon to come are New York and now Hawaii.BioTrack_THC_Logo_Re_Draw

The software essentially allows private businesses and regulators access to data on cannabis plants in real-time, tracking them through every step in the production process including growing, harvesting, quality and safety testing, transportation and sale. These state-mandated systems have the ability to prevent issues like diversion, theft and contamination, helping with transparency in regulatory compliance.

The software is used in both “medical and recreational cannabis facilities in 23 states, Washington D.C., Canada, Jamaica and South America. “The development of a healthy and successful medical cannabis program is a top priority for Hawaii, and we are extremely proud to have been chosen to be a critical part of it,” said Patrick Vo, chief executive officer of BioTrackTHC.

“We demonstrated significant interest in the state of Hawaii early on, including sponsoring the first ever Cannabis Business Expo there last year,” says Vo. “The Hawaiian people have their own special values and way of life, which is important to understand when working in Hawaii.” Winning the contract means their software will be used to track the production, transportation and sale of all medical marijuana in the state of Hawaii.

Aaron_headshot

U.S. Postal Service Memo Implications for Cannabis Marketing

By Aaron G. Biros
No Comments
Aaron_headshot

The U.S. Postal Service sent a memo to print publications in the Northwest this week reminding them of federal law regarding advertisements for Schedule I controlled substances. This comes as less of a directive and more of a reminder for many magazines and newspapers that ads for marijuana in print publications delivered via the postal service are not compliant with federal law.

While nothing has changed in the legislation, it produces some confusion for small cannabis business owners and publications alike that are in compliance with state and local laws when running ads involving cannabis. The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board’s frequently asked questions page on their website explicitly contradicts federal law.

One of the questions on that webpage asks: “May I use direct mail to households and inserts delivered via the Seattle Times and other publications?” And the answer provided by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board states: “Yes, inserts may not contain coupons.” This statement is clearly contradictory to federal law and to the memo sent by the U.S. Postal Service.

According to David Paleschuck, director of licensing and brand partnerships at DOPE Magazine, thinks this confusion will effect mainly small businesses. “As a business owner this tells me that it is OK to publish in newspapers like the Seattle Times which we all know is not directly delivered using the USPS.”

The memo does not directly affect DOPE Magazine’s distribution because it is not subscription-based. “We distribute via retail through dispensaries and recreational stores so it is not mailed directly to our readers,” Paleschuck says. “This will however affect many of our advertisers that are featured in subscription-based publications; Those companies and brands will not be able to advertise in publications sent through the postal service and thus non-subscription-based publications will pick up the slack.”

“States like Washington have very vague guidelines for marketing cannabis,” says Paleschuck. “There needs to more clarity for state and federal guidelines on marketing for cannabis businesses.” Moving forward, regulators will have to clarify these guidelines to determine how cannabis businesses can stay compliant.

Dawn Roberts, marketing executive at O.penVAPE, believes the memo will have a number of implications for her marketing strategies. O.penVAPE operates in nine states, manufacturing and selling oil cartridges and vape pens. “We are responsible for booking the advertising for all of our licensees to identify the best opportunities and provide support and direction for advertising and promoting their business,” says Roberts. “This [the U.S. Postal Service memo] affects our considerations for developing marketing strategies for all of the nine states we are in with regard to print publications.”

Looking at how the effects will impact their business development, Roberts needs to revisit every print publication they advertise in and check to see if it is subscription-based. “As a marketer for a brand that has a national footprint, I need to reevaluate my strategies for 2016 and look into certain publications that are subscription based,” Roberts adds. “We need to figure out how this will affect our marketing strategies for 2016.”

While this confusion gets sorted out, dispensaries and other cannabis businesses need to reevaluate their advertising and promotional strategies to stay compliant with federal and state laws.

Aaron_headshot

Pesticide Recalls an Ongoing Issue for Colorado

By Aaron G. Biros
No Comments
Aaron_headshot

In the wake of investigations this summer in Oregon and Colorado, which found that numerous marijuana products contain levels of illegal pesticides, state regulators, laboratories, manufacturers, and cultivators alike are acting fast to minimize risks to consumers and patients. The largest recall ever to occur in the cannabis industry happened on October 30, when two companies in Denver found potential pesticide contamination in tens of thousands of packages of edible cannabis products.

As of now, it is difficult to find information available on pesticide use and flowering, its effect on the body through combustion and inhalation, and its effect on medical patients with already weakened immune systems. Research suggests up to 69.5% of pesticide residues can stay in marijuana smoke. Of course, there is a need for more research, but it is safe to accept that pesticides already banned for use on foods by the USDA or state departments should not be allowed in cannabis production.

In Colorado, “Nearly six months after the city of Denver began a crackdown on unapproved pesticides in marijuana products, a spot-check by The Denver Post found that the chemicals were still being sold to consumers.” This presents a major problem to an industry still trying to change public opinion for wider legalization efforts.

The Oregonian and OregonLive investigation found pesticides in most of the 10 marijuana concentrates that were screened. “Many of the pesticides detected aren’t regulated by Oregon’s medical marijuana rules, which means products that contain these chemicals still can be sold.”

While state regulations on pesticide use continue to get hammered out, the U.S. Department of Agriculture along with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is currently working on identifying pesticides that might be safe to use on cannabis. That guidance is crucial for any industry in order to establish safe levels of pesticides allowed, as well as which pesticides are more dangerous to the consumer than others.

Just last week, two of the largest recalls in the cannabis industry occurred in Colorado due to potential pesticide contamination. According to The Denver Post, as many as 30,000 packages of edibles produced by two companies were recalled by the Denver Department of Health.

Alex Garton, a cultivator in Michigan, agrees with many proponents of organic methods, citing the need for close management of the plants without pesticides. “The best way to avoid pests is to keep the grow room clean,” he says. “Mites will come and go, as will temperature and humidity issues, but without using pesticides, there are some safe, natural products that are very effective.”

“I treat my plants with natural compounds that are permitted under the federal government’s guidance for use in vegetable applications for human consumption,” Garton adds. “Never use anything remotely resembling a pesticide on flowers particularly when maturing and in the flowering process.”

Adam Jacques, master cultivator and owner of The Growers Guild in Eugene, Oregon, agrees with the sentiment of caution shared by many in the industry. “I would say, nationwide, there needs to be a more in depth look at pesticides, even organic strawberries can have [the pesticide] Eagle 20 on them,” he says. “With cannabis, we can’t scrub and wash pesticides off like fruit that you take off the vine, and there is a real lack of research on residues and combustion.”

Jacques tests all of his cannabis products for pesticides, molds, microbials and pathogens along with potency profiles, most of which is not required by the state. Growers should take lessons from Garton and Jacques by forgoing any application of pesticides until there is more confident state-level guidance on the dangers associated with pesticides on cannabis.

cannagrow event

CannaGrow: Expert Advice on All Things Cultivation

By Aaron G. Biros
No Comments
cannagrow event

As the cannabis marketplace grows and more companies gain interest in this space, so does the need for greater access to networking, expert advice and credible information. Events in the form of conferences with educational sessions and expos provide these tools in one location over a span of several days. Many of the conferences include valuable information regarding everything from cultivation to compliance for established marijuana businesses or those seeking to gain entry into the market. Some noteworthy events include:

 

cannagrow event
Kyle Kushman, president & CEO of VegaMatrix, leading the session, Beyond the Basics: Advanced Cultivation Techniques Plus an Open Q&A

Earlier this year the CannaGrow Expo, run by CannaConnections, took place in Portland, Oregon. This event combined the intimate setting of a hotel conference with valuable educational opportunities on all things cultivation. With presentations ranging in topics from the fundamentals of growing to integrated pest management and growing organically, this event provided information for everyone along the spectrum, including beginner cultivators entering the space and veteran growers who have run legal operations for years.

“We believe in great attendee experiences, which starts with a great education,” says Joseph De Palma, founder at CannaConnections. “This is not a festival or mega-expo; this is an educational conference for professionals. Our agenda is designed around providing attendees with actionable, non-salesy cultivation education.”

Clark Tippin, founder of the Organic Cannabis Growers Society, gave a noteworthy presentation called Growing Organically – Sustainable Practices & High Yields, which highlighted the benefits and technical details of various organic cultivation methods.

illumitex booth
illumitex, an LED grow light greenhouse supply company, and their booth on the expo floor

“Cannabis is a non-homogenous plant that requires extremely consistent and standardized conditions with good production techniques in order to homogenize CBD levels and terpene profiles,” said Autumn Karcey, CEO of CannaVize, Inc., a sustainable full-service consulting and design firm, during her presentation, Commercial Facility Optimization for Pharmaceutical Grade Cannabis. “The consistency of cannabis comes from maintaining these standardized conditions through good manufacturing practices, quality assurance practices and standard operating procedures.”

CannaConnections’ next scheduled event is the DispensaryNext Conference & Expo, which runs February 1-2, 2016 in Portland. The range of topics includes best practices, marketing strategies, and operational management for dispensary owners and managers.

logo for MPP massachusetts

Legalize Marijuana and Regulate it Like Alcohol: Marijuana Policy Project

By Aaron G. Biros
No Comments
logo for MPP massachusetts

The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) is a non-profit political organization, and has taken the leading role in several successful state-level marijuana policy reforms. Founded in 1995, MPP has most notably led the 2012 Amendment 64 initiative in Colorado to legalize marijuana for adults and regulate it like alcohol as well as the successful 2014 campaign under a similar name in Alaska.

logo for MPP massachusetts
The Massachusetts MPP Campaign Logo

While MPP has been active at both the federal and state level, Matt Schweich, director of state campaigns for the organization, works in a handful of states to pass bills through state legislatures. In particular, Schweich’s work has put an initiative on the ballot in Nevada, and MPP is working with a coalition of groups on an initiative in California, both of which are scheduled for 2016.

In both Massachusetts and Arizona, Schweich and his team are leading the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol campaigns, where they manage political committees and lobby for legalization.

MPP campaign logo AZ
The Arizona MPP Campaign Logo

“We named the campaign [Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol] because we want that to be the central message to the voter,” says Schweich. “We need to get the message across that marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol, and it makes no sense to punish users of marijuana.”

“It is common sense to understand that one is less harmful to the user and society in general, [and] in light of the fact that alcohol is legal, it makes no sense to keep marijuana illegal,” he adds.

According to Schweich, voters in their respective states should be given the independence to decide how to handle licensing and regulations, depending on the jurisdiction, just like state liquor laws.

On a national level, MPP has a federal policy team currently working on the fight for marijuana businesses to gain access to banking and financial services.