Tag Archives: data

Data: The Key to Success in Today’s Cannabis Market

By Rick Maturo
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As the cannabis industry continues to evolve, recent market challenges have created an environment that is more difficult for industry leaders to navigate. To find success in today’s marketplace, company leaders need to adopt a robust, data-driven approach to combat the influx of rising brands, emerging markets and pricing challenges, among other obstacles. By leveraging data, cannabis brands and companies can better make well-informed decisions to refine their business strategies and drive growth.

The Evolution of the U.S. Cannabis Market

The cannabis industry maintains its ranking as one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S. as the legalization of adult-use and medical cannabis continues to expand. When California first legalized medical cannabis in the 1990s, a lack of regulations in the market created space for new cultivation businesses and dispensaries to form. These early cannabis players leveraged capital to expand and grow, developing a business model that has been replicated many times over the years in markets like Washington, Michigan and Arizona.

“Keystone pricing is a common strategy in today’s cannabis retail market, and manufacturers would benefit from reevaluating how wholesale products are priced to determine the ultimate impact on the bottom line to maximize profits.”Some of the strongest cannabis brands today were formed during this time. Today, the U.S. cannabis landscape looks vastly different, and strict government regulations and stagnant federal policies make it more difficult to find success. Brands that are surviving and thriving in today’s landscape have invested heavily in data operations.

Investing in Data Operations

While data wasn’t essential for cannabis operations in the past, today, it can mean the difference between success and failure for a company. Cultivators, processors and dispensaries that analyze data have a broader perspective that allows them to pivot quickly and stay relevant.

Data-driven decision making is critical for cannabis companies looking to meet and exceed revenue goals at every level. For cultivators, data can help create an optimal environment for growth. Manufacturers can utilize data to improve environmental conditions, reduce waste, cost and more. By leveraging data, retailers can benefit significantly from learning precisely which products should have a place on their shelves.

Business leaders in the emerging cannabis industry benefit from embracing the infrastructure and business practices that are already standard practice in other industries. Many top-performing cannabis companies today are structured similarly to other CPG organizations, and those who employ these tried-and-true strategies will be primed to win. One successful approach that many cannabis companies are adopting is a three-tiered system for manufacturing and selling products similar to the one employed in the beverage alcohol industry, providing economic, regulatory and commercial benefits for all.

Unlocking Efficiency with Pricing

Pricing challenges have plagued the cannabis industry for the past 18 months. While an inflationary environment has caused the prices of products in many sectors to rise, cannabis has been largely unaffected. Yet, because cannabis is not yet legal at a federal level, markets have become segmented, and prices are highly dependent upon demand factors in each state. This unique dynamic, combined with increased competition, has forced many producers to accept lower profit margins rather than pass on costs to consumers.

“Outside of point-of-sale and distribution data, consumer insight panels are also important for gaining valuable information about what consumers truly want and need.”These challenging market conditions have made it critical for companies to drive more efficient operations. By implementing data-driven technology, cannabis leaders can operate more precisely to minimize costs and produce high-quality products. Keystone pricing is a common strategy in today’s cannabis retail market, and manufacturers would benefit from reevaluating how wholesale products are priced to determine the ultimate impact on the bottom line to maximize profits.

Leveraging Data for Growth and Innovation 

For retailers, running a successful cannabis operation with sustained growth is nearly impossible without leveraging in-depth industry data and analytics. Consumer data offers key insights to guide in-store activations, including promotions and discounting, to boost sales for retailers. By utilizing data, including data from loyalty programs, retailers can optimize their product mix based on what consumers are actually buying, and improve scaling and segmenting. From analyzing a store’s traffic to monitoring product, brand and category performance, data is indispensable when it comes to elevating business performance.

Data is also essential for innovation planning, pipeline building and analyzing location-specific variances. Seasonal trends influencing cannabis products often depend on various geographic and socioeconomic variables. While in the past large retail chains often ran the same shelf assortments at each location, utilizing data allows retailers to account for variances that make a significant impact based on location and consumer set.

While some cannabis industry leaders are accustomed to making business decisions based on their gut instinct, data enables them to quantify predictive levels of success and plan for what sales will look like once products hit shelves. Outside of point-of-sale and distribution data, consumer insight panels are also important for gaining valuable information about what consumers truly want and need. As the cannabis industry continues to expand quickly, an increasing demand for products will encourage innovation that will be powered by data-driven intelligence for years to come.

Catching up with Jushi Creativity: A Q&A with Dre Neumann

By Cannabis Industry Journal Staff
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Jushi Holdings is a large multi-state operator with a massive national footprint and a presence in key markets, including Pennsylvania, Illinois, Virginia, Massachusetts, Nevada, Ohio and California. 

About a year and a half ago, Aaron Green interviewed Andreas “Dre” Neumann, Chief Creative Director of Jushi Holdings to learn about his journey to the cannabis industry, Jushi’s market presence, brand development and key trends in the marketplace. 

This time around, we’re checking in with Neumann to hear about his progress since the last time we spoke. In this interview, we delve deep into the world of creative influence, brand building, technology, what Neumann is working on now and what he is excited about in the future. 

Cannabis Industry Journal: It’s been a while since our readers have heard from you. What’s new at Jushi? What Are you currently working on? 

Dre Neumann: When I joined Jushi, we were building the foundation and laying the groundwork for a lot of the things we’re doing right now. One of them of course is our online pre-order platform. We have been focused on connecting all the dots in our vertically integrated markets to make sure our retail experience is really fine-tuned and represents what a diverse range of cannabis consumers find helpful and truly enjoy. In my time at Jushi, I have gained a much better understanding of the average cannabis consumer through constantly analyzing data from our retail spaces, and I very much look forward to analyzing more robust data that’s coming in through our new smartphone app. 

Andreas Neumann, Chief Creative Director of Jushi Holdings

The data we have now is allowing us to look at what product developments are most important for us to move forward with and what product categories we should be focusing most on. Because we may be on the cusp of a recession, the consumer value of our product is that much more crucial. With the introduction of new categories of fast-acting edibles and unique and exciting genetics and types of flower, we are paying close attention to how we can innovate in ways that will both excite our current customers and attract new customers to our brands. 

Jushi is interesting because the company really came together from two key pieces: the first being our strong financial and management backbone, and the second, the powerful creative team that I am a part of. We have such a special focus on the quality of products, with the goal of creating high-quality and consistency across our house of brands.

We have had a lot of acquisitions, which have played out very successfully over time, but early on, through these acquisitions, we found there were products and procedures that weren’t up to our standards. It takes time to fix those things from a quality, genetics and consistency perspective, and I’m thrilled to say we’re really getting there. Notably, we felt the need to improve our edible fruit chew brand, and we poured a ton of time into reinventing and relaunching simple, but high-quality, organic, 100% real-fruit chews. 

Now, we are really seeing the value in our three retail brands and the unique attributes of our branded flower, pre rolls, vapes and edibles. Also, we have been really focusing on improving sustainability as we move towards using much more sustainable, standardized mylar packaging across our product suite. This packaging not only reduces our carbon footprint, as mylar is a much more sustainable, recyclable and lightweight material, but also offers us more real estate to express Jushi’s personality through artwork on packaging and allows us to display our products with a larger presence in stores. 

CIJ: You mentioned Jushi’s new app and you sound so excited about it. Tell us more: how are you using the data to analyze what your customers want? 

The Jushi app, The Hello Club (THC)

Neumann: When we were building our online platform, we knew we needed to better understand our customers. What we found was that the most important marketing tools in cannabis are promos – specifically promos through text messaging. Our loyalty program has become our biggest channel to reach consumers, as we have over 200,000 people we can reach with a simple text message. The big problem with texting campaigns, however, is that mobile phone carriers can limit your deliverability if you don’t have the right verbiage and messaging. So working with and figuring out how to deliver the right message to our customers can be very challenging. 

Our smartphone app, The Hello Club (THC), came about as a natural progression of our customer loyalty program. Our team has a lot of experience working in UX and UI, so we were able to dive right in and build the app through Apple. We really took our time to build something that would add value to our customer, and it’s paid off. For instance, starting out we launched an exclusive weekly deal only available in the app. So, guess what happens? Just yesterday, on the 15th of November alone, 11,000 people downloaded the app. 

Their retail location in Alexandria, Virginia

The app will be something that we play around and experiment with as more and more customers download it. It provides us with a platform to be creative and have fun with our customers, where we can launch exclusive events and strain drops and grant exclusive access to our products before they’re available to the general public. 

The Hello Club was completely designed from scratch. It allows customers to choose their local, preferred store, with the ultimate goal of it becoming the central hub of their cannabis needs. The data we get from the app is so vast and there are so many opportunities on the horizon – we have only just scratched the surface. In the future, as we look to enter new markets, we’re excited to utilize the customer data from our app to guide us in deciding what to sell and where and create unique retail experiences tailored to each market. As we’re just in version 1.0, there’s tons of untapped potential ready to be unearthed and applied. 

CIJ: Around this time last year you said that PA was the most important market for y’all. Tell me about the states that Jushi does business in. Are you paying particular attention to any market more now given the midterm elections?

Neumann: Yes, so Pennsylvania is still our most important market today, mainly because we have so many retail locations in the state (18). Pennsylvania is interesting because it’s also the site of Jushi’s first acquisition ever. I think the inevitable move from medical to recreational in the state will be extremely significant; it will be one of the greatest transitions in cannabis history. Because of our footprint and brand presence in Pennsylvania, we are in an excellent position for when adult use comes online.

The Palm Springs retail location

We call Virginia the sleeping giant because it’s a market we have really cornered. We will have six stores in northern Virginia, close to Washington D.C., in areas with large populations, very diverse demographics and a lot of young people. Our retail locations in the state are freestanding buildings with ample parking – key attributes that benefit customers and lift sales, as we found from the data we collected in Pennsylvania. Virginia has incredible potential because we have made such a formidable early presence with our vertically integrated, IKEA-sized grow operation there. We have applied our findings from other states to Virginia, and we’re thrilled about the opportunity for us to showcase high-quality products in this market. 

California is such a tough market to be in, as it’s the most competitive cannabis market in the world, with some of the most discerning customers, so operators often fear entering the market. But it’s proven to be great for R&D for us, and we continue to learn how to navigate and work in this competitive market through our Palm Springs, Grover Beach and Santa Barbara retail locations. By necessity, we’ve been particularly creative with our marketing and operational strategies to carve a place in the market; we have to show people we have better products and a better experience, which is very difficult with stringent regulations in places like Palm Springs. So California, for us, continues to be a proving ground where we are learning how to be as competitive as possible, and this benefits Jushi as a whole.

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The Coming Cannabis Data Squeeze – And Why So Many Companies are Flying Blind

By Michael Blanche
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budtenderpic

“Data” is a hard concept to picture. It’s even harder to visualize what your data is saying about your business. Many important insights are processed on different systems, never to see the light of day.

In the digital advertising industry, we call this “data silos.” In the cannabis industry, we call this the cost of doing business.

Without traditional tech tools or a source of truth on market sentiment and trends, there’s no common picture that can show us the day-to-day behavior of today’s cannabis consumer. Companies are often guessing what consumers want based only on the data they have available.

To keep growing, dispensaries and brands have to modernize how they understand, activate and measure customer data. Luckily, it may be easier than you think to start making better use of your customer data right away, which means it’s easy to simplify how you connect to both existing and new consumers, driving more engagement and revenue.

Cannabis companies that started digital-first have a head start on legacy businesses: phone numbers, emails, customer preferences are all first-party data that can help you find and advertise to new customers.

Here’s how:

1. Build Your Customer Database with a Rewards Program.

A 2022 YouGov survey found that when cannabis consumers are asked about how they make purchasing decisions:

  • 36% said quality and safety
  • 34% said lowest price
  • 32% said location (proximity to home)
  • 31% said preferred products

Most cannabis businesses know the power of rewards programs, but usually depend on steep discounts to get customers back in the door. Rewards programs can also offer promotions for new product releases, exclusive access, community events and other things that offer information about things you know your customers already care about.

The most valuable thing about a rewards program isn’t just the sales – it’s the data. If a customer makes a profile with an email and a phone number, you have the basic building blocks for a first-party data strategy. Just make sure you have a way to keep that data organized on the back-end.

Want the real secret? Segment your email and SMS list by what you know your customers want. Send different communications for different customer groups and behaviors – like edible users and pre-roll buyers or monthly buyers and weekly buyers. Figure out what resonates and repeat!

2. Budtenders that Care. 

A relationship with a budtender is sometimes transactional. Other times, it’s confessional, fun, or, if a consumer is new to buying cannabis or trying different products, educational.

As one survey found: 22% of customers always decide what to buy based on budtender advice and 69% said they seriously consider their opinions.

Good budtenders get to know the customers and can become advocates for staying in touch. Training them to sign up customers for a rewards program or exclusive offers can help build the relationship that keeps people coming back and allows you to stay in touch. This is how you can link your data efforts with your frontline employees.

3. Find a Secure Way to Manage Your Customer Data. 

To segment customer data and build customer profiles with additional information – like purchase history or demographics – you need to find a solution built for a growing customer database. Some options, like an email marketing platform, can get you halfway there. But a lot of companies still rely on Google Sheets, which can take hours to understand and end up exposing a lot of customer data out in the open.

The right customer data platform should help you connect and integrate all your different data sources, from website and ecommerce platform to point-of-sale. This allows you to understand macro and micro market trends by making your customer segments transparent and easy to manage as they move down the path to purchase. You can also identify which segments drive the most value over time and what attributes and behaviors they have in common.

By managing customer data from one platform, you can dramatically increase the transparency across all the valuable insights that affect your business. And then make use of those in your next big advertising campaign.

Combining Co-Marketing with Community

You can avoid the cannabis data squeeze by modernizing how you handle customer data. Dispensaries with advanced data management practices are often processing thousands of transactions a day and constantly enriching their understanding of customers and their target markets. Unlike dispensaries, brands don’t have the same volume of new data. This has a lot of implications when you’re trying to reach new customers, because when a brand launches a digital advertising campaign, a lot of budget can get wasted if the audiences are based on a limited dataset.

That’s where co-marketing digital advertising campaigns can help. Cannabis companies collaborate to activate events and retail displays. To really build awareness and drive sales, cannabis brands should reach a dispensary’s existing customers and advertise in coordination with the dispensary. With the right dataset, you can show ads just to a dispensary’s best customers, and the ones most likely to buy your product.

The most exciting part about the future of the cannabis industry all comes down to data. The community grew together, and now businesses can innovate together – building a better customer experience by understanding every stage in the journey. In a relationship-first industry, cannabis digital advertising has to be as personalized as a budtender’s recommendations.

Intimate Care Products with Cannabinoids Need More Safety Data

By Cindy Orser, PhD
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Cannabinoid products for intimate care use are now being sold in the unregulated cannabidiol (CBD) marketplace without proper evaluation of their impact on the vaginal microbiota or women’s health. Cannabinoids can exhibit complex and at times contra intuitive actions. The addition of CBD to these products is presumably for its anti-inflammatory pain-relieving qualities even though little is understood with regards to dosing and formulating. Moreover, in states where cannabis is legal, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) along with other minor cannabinoids are also being added to intimate care products without purview of any federal agency. In general, the impact of vaginal products on vaginal microbiota is poorly understood. Ten years ago, Jespers et al. (2012) proposed to monitor lactobacilli indicator species of the vaginal microbiota in safety trials of intimate care products. Yet today, human safety data are not required prior to commercialization of intimate care products which are currently regulated like cosmetics except for lubricants which do require a 510K filing with the FDA.

The vaginal microbiota (VMB) of healthy women is dominated by Lactobacillus species, which exert important health-promoting effects to their host through the production of antimicrobial compounds, including hydrogen peroxide and lactic acid, to prevent invasive microbes from establishing in the vaginal epithelial mucosa (Pino et al. 2019). It was established almost 40 years ago by Speigel et al. (1983), that changes to the dominant Lactobacillus species, a process called dysbiosis, and overgrowth by diverse anaerobes can result in symptomatic conditions including bacterial vaginosis (BV), vaginal candidiasis, pelvic inflammation, and endometriosis (Taylor et al. 2013). The conditions resulting from dysbiosis are also linked to fertility problems, poor pregnancy outcomes, spontaneous miscarriages and preterm birth (Laniewski et al 2020).

An example of an infused intimate care product, the Foria Awaken Arousal Oil with CBD

Complications from dysbiosis of the reproductive tract can be serious in women wanting to become pregnant and in already pregnant women, including preterm premature rupture of membranes, spontaneous preterm labor and preterm birth (Ventolini et al. 2022). Reproductive tract microbiomes from idiopathic infertile women differ from fertile women’s VMB (Tomaiulol et al. 2020; Wee et al. 2018). Numerous studies have documented the vaginal community type microbiota associated with occurrence of BV around the world showing that HIV load is inversely proportional to lactobacilli species but positively correlated with BV (Sha et al 2005) as well as endometrial and ovarian cancer development (Walther- Antonio et al. 2016; Zhou et al. 2019).

Sexual lubricants often contain antimicrobial preservatives that have been shown to directly impact lactobacilli species in the cervicovaginal microbiome. The deterioration or absence of the lactobacilli-dominated vaginal mucosal biome through exposure to over-the-counter lubricants has been linked to increased incidence of BV (Brotman et al. 2010) and release of IL-8, a proinflammatory innate immunity mediator, produced by human epithelial cells to recruit leukocytes in response to infection, initiating an inflammatory response (Fashemietal.2013). The addition of under-researched cannabinoids to these products introduces the potential for further biological activity. Cannabinoids are widely reported to exhibit anti-microbial activity in vitro. The mechanism of CBD’s anti-microbial activity is thought to be due to its ability to intercalate into cytoplasmic membranes (Guard et al. 2022) and thereby modulate membrane vesicle (MV) release from bacterial cells which is associated with cell-to-cell communications (Kosgodage et al. 2019). Treatment of the gram-negative bacteria, E. coli, with CBD inhibited MV release and resulted in higher susceptibility to antibiotics but had minimal impact on gram- positive bacterial MV release. And CBD has recently been documented to inhibit the common human fungal pathogen, Candida albicans, from forming biofilms due to increased membrane permeability, reduced ATP levels, and modified cell walls (Feldman et al 2021).

In other reporting, the in vitro antimicrobial properties of CBD were demonstrated to have selective activity across a wide range of gram-positive bacteria, including several antibiotic resistant and anaerobic strains, with minimum inhibitory concentrations (MIC) in the low ppm range (Blaskovich et al. 2021). The conditions of a study impacted the observation of inhibition; for example, if human sera were present in the assay media, the antibacterial activity was drastically reduced. This has been attributed to CBD’s propensity to bind to non-specifically to proteins and thereby become unavailable (Tayo et al. 2018). Surprisingly, CBD does not exhibit broad antibacterial activity against Gram-negative species except against the human pathogens: Neisseria gonorrhoeae, N. meningitides, Moraxella catarrhalis, and Legionella pneumophila (Blaskovich et al. 2021). Bacteria do not develop resistance to CBD, but CBD is also non-systemic because of its high serum binding activity (Tayo et al. 2018).

The active ingredients in intimate care products can impact beneficial microorganisms but also deleterious ones. CBD has become a widespread, understudied active ingredient for women’s health. Today the molecular screening tools exist to conduct large scale epidemiological studies to further understanding of the consequences of dysbiosis and document the adverse effects on women’s reproductive health outcomes. Preventative treatments to reestablish dominant lactobacilli, in particular L. crispatus could have big impacts on not only women’s health but public health (Borgdorff et al. 2014).

As Ley R (2022) recently opined on the human microbiome, “there is much left to do.” Microbiomes are essential to the proper functioning of our bodies affecting social engagement, mental health, obesity, and disease states, and little is known about differences in microbiota across different groups of humans. More research is needed on the biological activity of cannabinoids as well as regulatory oversight to protect the health and safety of consumers.


References

  1. Blaskovich MAT, Kavanagh AM, Elliott AG, Zhang B, Ramu S, Amado M, Lowe GJ, Hinton AO, Thu Pham DM, Zuegg J, Beare N, Quach D, Sharp MD, Pogliano J, Rogers AP, Lyras D, Tan L, West NP, Crawford DW, Peterson ML, Callahan M, Thurn M (2021) The antimicrobial potential of cannabidiol. Commun Biol 4:7
  2. Borgdorff J, Tsivtsivadze E, Verhelst R, Marzorati M, Jurrrians S, Ndayisaba GF, Schuren FH, van de Wijgert J HHM (2014) Lactobacillus-dominateed cervicovaginal microbiota associated with reduced HIV/STI prevalence and genital HIV viral load in African women. The ISME J 8:1781-1793.
  3. Brotman RM, Ravel J, Cone RA, Zenilman JM. (2010) Rapid fluctuation of the vaginal microbiota measured by Gram stain analysis. Sex Transm Infect 86(4):297-302.
  4. Fashemi B, Delaney MA, Onderdonk AB, Fichorova RN (2013) Effects of feminine hygiene products on the vaginal mucosal biome. Microbial Eco in Health & Disease 24:19703-08.
  5. Feldman M, Sionov RV, Mechoulam R, Steinberg D (2021) Anti-biofilm activity of cannabidiol against Candida albicans. Microorganisms 9:441-457.
  6. Ilha EC, Scariot MC, Treml D, Pereira TP, Sant’Anna ES, Prudencio ES, Arisi ACM (2015) Comparison of real-time PCR assay and plate count for Lactobacillus paracasei enumeration in yoghurt. Ann Microbiol 66:597-606.
  7. Jespers V, Menten J, Smet H, Poradosu S, Abdellati S, Verhelst R, Hardy L, Buve A, Crucitti T (2012) Quantification of bacterial species of the vaginal microbiome in different groups of women, using nucleic acid amplification tests. BMC Microbiol 12:83.
  8. Kosgodage U et al. (2019) Cannabidiol is a novel modulato of bacterial membrane vesicles. http://doi.org/10.3389/fcimb.2019.00324.
  9. Laniewski P, Ilhan ZE, Herbst-Kralovetz MM (2020) The microbiome and gynaecological cancer development, prevention, and therapy. Nat Rev Urol 17(4):232-250.
  10. Laniewski P, Owen KA, Khnanisho M, Brotman RM, Herbst-Kralovetz MM (2021) Clinical and personal lubricants impact growth of vaginal Lactobacillus species and colonization of vaginal epithelial cells: an in vitro study. Sex Transm Dis 48(1):63-70.
  11. Ley R (2022) The human microbiome: there is much left to do. Nature p. 435
    Pino A, Bartolo E, Caggia C, Cianci A, Randazzo CL (2019) Detection of vaginal lactobacilli as probiotic
  12. candidates. Sci Rep 9:3355
  13. Sha BE, Zariffard MR, Wang QJ, Chen HY, Bremer J, Cohen MH, Spear GT (2005) Female genital-tract HIV load correlates inversely with Lactobacillus species but positively with bacterial vaginosis and Mycoplasma hominis. J Infect Dis 191:25-32.
  14. Spiegel CA, Davick P, Totten PA, Chen KC, Eschenbach DA, Amsel R, Holmes KK (1983) Gardnerella vaginalis and anaerobic bacteria in the etioloty of bacterial (nonspeecific) vaginosis. Scand J Infect Dis Suppl 40:41- 46.
  15. Taylor BDP, Darville T, Haggerty CL (2013) Does bacterial vaginosis cause pelvic inflammatory disease? Sex Transm Dis 40:117-122.
  16. Tayo B. (2018) Exploration of the potential for plasma protein binding displacement and drug-drug interactions of valproate in combination with cannabidiol [abstract] Amer Epilepsy Soc Ann Mtg. New Orleans LA.
  17. Ventolini G, Vieira-Baptista P, DeSeta F, Verstraelen H, Lonneee-Hoffmann R, Leeev-Sagie A (2022) The vaginal microbiome: IV. The role of vaginal microbiome in reproduction and in gynecologic cancers. J Lower Genital Tract Dis 26(1):93-98.
  18. Walther-Antonio MRS, Chen J, Multinu F et al. (2016) Potential contribution of the uterine microbiome in the development of endometrial cancer. Genome Med 8:1-15.
  19. Zhou B, Sun C, Huang J et al. (2019) The biodiversity composition of microbiome in ovarian carcinoma patients. Sci Rep 9:1691.
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CBD Safety in Edibles: What Regulators are Thinking

By Steven Gendel, Ph.D.
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FDAlogo

Despite the popularity of cannabidiol (CBD) infused edibles among consumers there are storm clouds on the horizon for this market. The potential threat stems from continuing uncertainty about the regulatory status of CBD in the United States (US) and the European Union (EU). Recent statements by government agencies in both areas are reminders that regulators could make decisions or take actions that would suddenly end the viability of this market. Any company that sells, or is planning to sell, CBD infused edibles such as bakery items, candy and beverages needs to understand what the regulators are thinking now and what might happen in the future.

in the US, the 2018 Farm Bill created a category of products called hemp that are derived from the Cannabis sativaplant and contain less than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This law also explicitly confirmed the authority of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate the safety of hemp-derived infused edibles. This means CBD needs to navigate the New Dietary Ingredient pathway for dietary supplements, and either the food additive petition process or the Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) pathway for foods before it can be used as an ingredient in a food. All three of these processes require that someone (an individual, a company or a group) acting as a petitioner or notifier must submit safety data to the agency or arrange for a safety evaluation by independent experts.

Just some of the many hemp-derived CBD products on the market today

In the EU, CBD is regulated as a Novel Food in a process that is triggered by a submission to the European Commission. The submission must include safety data that is evaluated by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). In England and Scotland, CBD products are also novel foods and are evaluated using a process like that in the EU. As in the US, it is the responsibility of an applicant to provide the safety data.

The standard used by the FDA to judge the safety of new food substances in all three pathways is that there should be a “reasonable certainty in the minds of competent scientists that the substance is not harmful under the conditions of its intended use.” The standard used by EFSA for novel foods is, “the food does not, on the basis of the scientific evidence available, pose a safety risk to human health.”

It is important to realize that both in the US and the EU the safety standard for evaluating new food substances only considers the safety of that substance. The laws or regulations that define agency authority do not allow for consideration of any potential benefits. Approval (or rejection) must be based solely on the safety of the substance. Further, safety is evaluated in the context of the intended use of the substance, the planned level of use and the resulting consumer exposure to that substance.

What do we know about FDA’s and EFSA’s current thinking about CBD safety? 

Unfortunately, both the FDA and EFSA have made it abundantly clear that they believe the available scientific data does not meet the required safety standards. FDA has issued multiple warning letters to companies that sell CBD products and has rejected two NDI notifications for CBD. Although these actions were primarily based on non-safety issues (illegal health claims and the drug exclusion provision in the FD&C Act, respectively), in each case the FDA also raised safety concerns. This was done by saying that the agency is not aware of any data that would support a GRAS determination or that the products raise “concerns about the adequacy of the safety evidence.” This doubt echoes statements from the agency in public meetings and advisories. These doubts were expressed as recently as June 2022 during a meeting of the FDA Science Advisory Board.

Similarly, EFSA has stated that they feel that there are critical gaps in the existing CBD safety data. In April 2022, they published a statement with a detailed analysis of the relevant scientific literature and explicitly identified critical data gaps. EFSA said that these data gaps prevented them from evaluating CBD as a novel food.

What do the regulators see as data gaps?

Although the details of each of the data gaps are technically complex, for both the FDA and EFSA they fall into few broad categories.

FDAlogoThe first is that the agencies feel that they need better information on how CBD behaves in the human body. This is described as understanding the absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion (ADMA) of CBD. The agencies also would like to see data on whether repeated use of CBD might cause damage to specific organs that does not occur from single exposures.

The second need is for more data related to the negative effects that have been observed in some previous work. This includes effects on the liver and reproductive system.  In particular, the agencies would like to know whether it is possible to identify a level of exposure that is low enough to not cause any negative effects. This is termed the No Observed Adverse Effect Level (NOAEL). In an ingredient safety assessment, the NOAEL is used to establish a safe intake level, called the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI). Comparing the ADI to the expected exposure for the intended use allows the regulators to assess overall safety for a substance.  If the expected exposure is below the ADI, the substance is considered safe. Both agencies feel that the existing data do not allow them to identify a NOAEL for CBD.

The third data need relates to the composition of the CBD products used in safety studies. Food safety determinations are based on the total composition of an ingredient that is produced using a fully defined process. Even if the potential ingredient is 95% or 99% pure, a safety evaluation needs to know what is in that other 5% or 1%, and that this is the same from batch to batch. For example, the presence or absence of residual processing chemicals (such as extraction solvents) and the nature and concentration of substances such as other cannabinoids and terpenes will differ between manufacturers and processes. These differences could affect the overall safety profile for each CBD product. Therefore, it is considered important that studies supporting a safety determination for a new substance be carried out with the actual article of commerce.

Unfortunately, many different CBD preparations have been used in past studies, and in most cases these preparations were poorly characterized. This makes it difficult or impossible to combine the safety data obtained using one product with data obtained with a different product. For example, data obtained using CBD isolates from two different sources cannot be combined unless it can be shown that they were made using the same process and have the same overall composition.

What does this mean for the future?

Neither the FDA nor EFSA is likely to take any positive action on CBD until they receive safety data that fill the gaps that they have identified.

Given these data problems, it is likely that there will be little or no movement on regulatory approvals for CBD in edibles (or dietary supplements in the US) for at least several years. In the US, these products will remain in legal limbo, with state regulations playing the leading role in determining what is allowed on the market. Products with health claims will continue to be particularly vulnerable to FDA action.  The situation in the EU will be at least as confusing because, in the absence of action from EFSA, the regulatory and market status of CBD edibles will be determined by each member country independently.

In view of this uncertainty and business confusion, that are three ways that companies making CBD and CBD edibles can respond. First, in the short term, they can develop and implement manufacturing processes that ensure that their products are consistent from batch to batch and that they have the intended dose of CBD per serving or per product unit. This includes working with the analytical community and organizations such as AOAC and ASTM to ensure that there are validated testing methods available for the CBD and for the final edible products.

In the medium term, business risk management plans for companies that make CBD and CBD infused edibles should consider the possibility that new scientific data will push food safety authorities to actively conclude the CBD does not meet the current regulatory safety standards. In that case, the regulators might start to act against all CBD-containing products.

The structure of cannabidiol (CBD), one of 400 active compounds found in cannabis.

Businesses should also be aware that the agencies could make a positive safety determination but that they would use the available data to establish a low maximum allowed dose per serving or set very low limits on the presence of specific contaminants such as other cannabinoids.

In the longer term, the CBD industry as a whole might consider advocating for legislative changes. The best statutory fix is likely to be one that that regulates all cannabis-derived products in a system or agency that is separate from the food safety system. This approach is being used in Canada under the Cannabis Act. It is also similar to the way that alcoholic beverages are regulated in the US. This approach, if appropriately designed, could avoid the need for safety determinations but might also limit market access. While this approach could bring clarity and certainty to the market, it is important to remember that it will take time and effort to create a functionally system under this scenario.

There are many market reports that forecast on-going high rates of growth for the CBD market.  However, the regulatory and scientific developments that are likely to occur of the next couple of years will determine whether those projections can become reality.

Companies making these products need to monitor changes and prepare to respond to either positive or negative events.

These companies should also remember that edible products are mostly made from food ingredients using standard food product processes. It is critical that these products be made under a system that prevents food-borne hazards.

An Interview with Flowhub CEO Kyle Sherman

By Aaron Green
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At its core, Flowhub is a point-of-sale and compliance software company, but they offer much more than that. After becoming the first company to integrate with Metrc in 2015, the platform quickly became a leading software company in the space.

The system helps dispensaries manage inventory, report sales data to regulators, manage payment processing, manage workflows and simplify compliance. Following a few stints at Dixie Elixirs, Weedmaps, and Neos Vape Pens where he saw the day-to-day inefficiencies of cannabis compliance, Kyle Sherman launched Flowhub about eight years ago.

As Founder & CEO, Sherman and his team have taken Flowhub to the next level, with over 1,000 dispensary partners processing $3 billion in annual sales. We caught up with Sherman to ask about compliance challenges facing the industry, 4/20 sales data, integration technology and more. 

Aaron Green: What are the major inventory and point-of-sale challenges that retailers face?

Flowhub Founder & CEO Kyle Sherman

Kyle Sherman: Cannabis has yet to be federally legalized and the industry remains a highly regulated environment that’s subject to a patchwork of state and local regulations. Dispensaries face an influx of challenges compared to traditional retailers due to strict compliance requirements. Cannabis retailers are required to report all sales activities and inventory movements to their state regulators, sometimes in real time. If physical inventory does not match what has been reported to regulators, their license is at risk for suspension. Maintaining accurate inventory records across systems (including point of sale, Metrc, and ecommerce menus) is one of the biggest struggles we hear from retailers.

In addition to compliance, lack of financial services and support from large banks and credit card companies is a big challenge for the cannabis industry. This means most transactions in the industry are limited to cash. Managing such large quantities isn’t easy and it puts dispensaries at risk of theft, both internally and externally. While cash alternatives like ACH are becoming increasingly accessible, some retailers are choosing partners with predatory financial terms or those that don’t operate in compliance.

Flowhub’s point of sale software enables a dispensary to provide best-in-class customer experiences without worrying about compliance. The software is purposefully built for the cannabis industry, focused on making the jobs of dispensary owners and staff members as streamlined as possible. Flowhub also helps dispensaries hide the complexities of a cash-intensive industry by allowing customers to use alternative forms of payments at checkout, like ACH and Point of Banking. Cannabis businesses should be able to transact as easily as if they were selling coffee and doughnuts.

Aaron: We’re about a month past 4/20, how was 2022 different and how can retailers prepare for next year?

Kyle: 420 2022 was the highest cannabis sales day in history! Dispensaries brought in twice the revenue compared to an average Saturday which is typically the busiest day of the week.

While ecommerce has become a major trend for dispensaries since the pandemic, traditional retail shopping is still by far the preferred mode of purchasing for consumers. With loosening COVID restrictions, 420 2022 saw a return to in-store shopping and in-person events. We also saw that while flower still stands as the most popular product category, customer product preferences are beginning to shift toward alternative options like edibles, beverages, vapes and concentrates.

To prepare for next year, retailers should analyze their 420 data to understand customer preferences. Dig into customer demographics to find out who was shopping, at what times, and for which products. This information can be used to curate a strategic marketing and execution plan in 2023. With many dispensaries offering similar products, it’s more important than ever to have a distinct experience that differentiates from the competition. Consider forming unique partnerships, ways to give back to your local community and how you can facilitate a shopping experience others cannot replicate.

At Flowhub, you can track your dispensary analytics from your smartphone with our mobile View app. Retailers can see real time performance metrics including sales data (track your sales, before and after-tax, by product category, average basket size, and total number of transactions), employee data (see top selling budtenders for the most recent day, week, month or quarter), and inventory data (view total identified inventory discrepancies by room, or see your most popular vendor and products at a glance). With data at your fingertips, you can stay on the pulse of your business and more adequately prepare for key dates and specific times of year, like 420.

Aaron: Flowhub was the first to integrate Metrc. What synergies were unlocked with this integration?

Kyle: Flowhub has always been involved in federal legalization advocacy. In 2014, I lobbied the CO Department of Revenue to build an open API to Metrc. Integrating with Metrc opened the door for cannabis operators to accelerate workflows, increase accuracy and simplify compliance. Prior to the API, tracking and reporting cannabis sales was painful. We were all handcuffed to manual pen and paper processes. Flowhub paved the way for other software companies to integrate to the Metrc API which is now the standard for track and trace systems in most legal cannabis markets.

Aaron: What’s next for Flowhub?

Kyle: Flowhub is strategically growing alongside the cannabis industry. We’re looking forward to supporting newly legal markets like New Jersey, where AU is now legal. We also recently integrated with Aeropay to offer dispensaries compliant ACH payments. Later this year we’ll have some major product developments coming out that I can’t disclose just yet but they’re very exciting! Stay tuned.

Top Five Insurances Cannabis Businesses Need in 2022

By Eric Rahn
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Cannabis remains one of the fastest growing industries with no signs of slowing down. According to a recent article in Forbes Magazine, the legal cannabis market is poised to grow 20-30% per year to the tune of $50 billion by 2026.[1]With great opportunity comes numerous risks. Claims and lawsuits against cannabis businesses are increasing in frequency and magnitude. As an insurance broker who specializes in the cannabis industry and works with a wide variety of cannabis, hemp and CBD businesses in every state where cannabis laws are established, our recent analysis has unveiled the top five insurances your cannabis business needs in 2022.

  1. General Liability

General liability is the most essential coverage your business needs to protect you from a variety of claims including personal injury, bodily harm, property damage and other situations that may arise including slander, libel, copyright infringement and more.

Since general liability is not always required to obtain a cannabis license, many businesses are tempted to forgo the expense. This is one of the biggest mistakes you can make as one single lawsuit has the potential to cripple your business. With a comprehensive, cannabis-specific general liability insurance policy in place, your insurance company, not you, will pay medical expenses and property damage claims from third parties, in addition to hefty legal fees and fines.

  1. Property & Casualty Insurance
P&C insurance is an important part of your security and protection plan.

If you own a dispensary, grow operation, warehouse, testing facility or any other type of cannabis business with inventory, you need to protect your assets from potential loss or damage. Property & casualty (P&C) insurance safeguards your business against common and costly perils such as a fire, lightning, explosion/implosion, and even less common – but still possible – risks like riots, strikes and terrorism.

P&C insurance not only pays for damages to your business property resulting from a covered loss but it also covers the contents within your place of business, including office furniture, computers, inventory and other assets essential to your business operations. There are policies that will also provide the funds required to keep your business afloat until the damages from the loss are repaired. Any cannabis business with a physical property and location(s) should have a comprehensive property and casualty P&C policy in place.

  1. Product Liability/Product Recall

Recently, we’ve seen a dramatic influx of product liability claims, and in particular, product recalls. Lawsuits have ranged from a single plaintiff seeking damages for personal injuries to class action lawsuits where a defective product is tied to an entire group of claimants.

control the room environment
Preventing contamination can save a business from extremely costly recalls. Having the right insurance can prevent a recall from becoming costly in the first place.

As a cannabis business owner, you can be sued for any damage resulting from products that cause harm to others, this includes false advertising, mislabeled or defective products. No matter where you are in the supply chain, your business could be held liable. The process of defending litigation or reaching a settlement agreement can completely drain a company’s resources. You’ll have to deal with regulatory compliance, producing and distributing product warnings, recalling products, claim investigation, product testing and additional risk assessment.

Product liability insurance is often overlooked, especially by small to mid-size businesses. However, your cannabis business needs this type of coverage if you sell any goods or products that end up in the hands of the public. In fact, your business may be contractually obligated to have product liability insurance. One such lawsuit is enough to fold a business due to costly legal fees and fines, as well reputation damage beyond repair.

Product liability insurance is designed to protect your cannabis company from claims that can happen anywhere along the supply chain, including product contamination, mislabeled products, false advertising or defective products. With proper coverage, your insurance company will pay for damages and legal expenses if you are sued, up to your policy limits. Your product liability policy will also cover any medical expenses for those who are harmed by your business. Making sure your insurance policy includes product liability insurance should be a top priority in 2022.

  1. Cyber Defense/Data Breach Insurance

Cyber fraud and data breaches are two of the greatest risks facing cannabis companies in 2022. With so much cash pouring into the space, cannabis businesses of all sizes are bulls-eye targets for cybercriminals. Even the smallest of cannabis businesses are at risk of data breaches because they are part of a larger interconnected network of seed to sale vendors. These types of crimes can have detrimental effects on your business in numerous ways. In the case of a data breach resulting in the disclosure of a third party’s private information, the third party could sue your business. The SEC could also find your company negligent in cyber fraud cases and impose significant fines.

By forgoing cyber defense & data breach insurance, your business will be solely responsible for expensive legal bills, significant revenue losses and hefty fines and penalties from regulators. Cyber defense & data breach insurance is a must-have coverage in 2022, and beyond, to protect your business from cybercrimes.

  1. Directors & Officers Insurance

If you are looking to secure venture capital or funding from investors in 2022, and/or attract and retain qualified leadership, you need directors & officers (D&O) Insurance. D&O protects corporate directors and officers, as well as their spouses and estates, from being personally liable in the event your company is sued by investors, employees, vendors, competitors, customers, or other parties, for actual or alleged wrongful acts in managing the company. In the event of litigation, your D&O insurance will cover legal fees, fines, settlements and other expensive costs.

D&O is often the most overlooked coverage because many cannabis businesses are independently run, and no one foresees the potential for operational failures and mismanagement. However, businesses with any sort of vision for growth should make D&O a top priority. It not only protects your current executives and board members but is critical in attracting leading talent in the space, as well as drawing in new investors to scale up your business. In fact, we’re seeing more prospective investors and board members requiring D&O insurance prior to engaging with a company to ensure they are fully protected in the event of litigation.

When it comes to mitigating risk in this business, the stakes are sky high. Cannabis companies that have not incorporated risk management into their business/operational plans will need to in 2022. It all boils down to the THREE P’s: being “Proactive, Prepared and Protected.”

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User-Generated Data Brings Revenue: It’s Time for the Users to Get Some

By Dr. Markus Roggen, Amanda Assen, Dr. Tom Dupree
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You generate the product, you should benefit from it too.

If you are not paying for the service, you are the product. This pithy phrase is often heard in discussions about social media’s use of personal information and user-generated content. The idea can be traced back to a 1973 short film that critiques television’s impact on culture and politics. Although about television, the quote, “you are the end product delivered en masse to the advertiser,” still rings true when talking about major online corporations.

We have all seen it with big corporations. In the first three months of 2021, of Facebook’s $26.2B revenue, a whopping $25.4B was from advertising sales. However, the space for an advertisement to be delivered en masse to the public is not the only thing purchased from Facebook. Access to personal information such as your search history, likes and posts are also purchased by companies to determine which advertisements they should target you with.Access to user-generated data by advertisers has sparked privacy and ownership concerns regarding large internet platforms. The idea of being surveilled all the time is uncomfortable, and many large corporations like Facebook have royalty-free and transferable licenses to your posts.

Similarly, many websites in the cannabis industry gain value from information submitted by consumers. As an example, the website Leafly provides over 1.3 million consumer product reviews that are often used for purchasing decisions. These reviews play a role in attracting more people to websites that operate with a similar system to Leafly, and in turn advertising space to reach those people is sold. According to their About page, more than 4.5 million orders for advertising space are placed with businesses on Leafly each year, generating annually about $460 million in gross merchandise value. So, the users work for free to attract an audience to these websites for the advertisers, and the websites make money from advertisers.

Can we empower users with ownership of their content, data and participation in profits?

Frustrated social media users exclaiming “We are the product!” does nothing to change our reality. It is unlikely we will change how big corporations like Facebook work, but can we ensure users receive some of the benefits in our own cannabis industry? Many of these websites, especially those for medicinal cannabis, are designed to genuinely help users. Can we further increase this feeling of having a transaction with the websites rather than feel like we are being sold to advertisers? The world of NFTs may offer some guidance.

An NFT (or non-fungible token) acts as a digital certificate of authenticity. Unlike cryptocurrencies (like Bitcoin), each NFT is unique, so it cannot be exchanged or multiplied. They are kept on a blockchain system, which is a growing list of computationally secure ledgers. The blockchain allows proof of ownership to be established for the person with the NFT, and prevents others from being able to tamper with or claim ownership of the artwork, game, tweet or cat picture it is assigned to. Although non-exchangeable, NFTs can be traded on a digital marketplace, like how a physical piece of art can be auctioned.

While NFTs and cryptocurrencies are certainly not without controversy and flaws, an NFT-like system that provides users with proof of ownership for their data and grants them control over what is done with it may be the way of the future for websites in the cannabis industry. Just like Facebook, when it comes to sales, online display advertisements are some of the top revenue generators for websites in the cannabis industry that utilize user-generated content. With an NFT-like system, users could be granted a royalty for their content, which would obligate websites to give a portion of their profits to the users when their content is sold to an advertiser. Users may be able to have a portfolio of their generated content, have some control over who can access their content and who their personal data can be sold to.

Websites that are more focused on cannabis for medicinal use often pride themselves on being more patient-focused and professional – no pothead puns or crass logos. An NFT-like system might be especially beneficial for these companies, as it would further increase the emphasis of trust and respect for users. In this case, an NFT-like system could be used to assign ownership of reviews to individual website users. Since these reviews attract new people to these websites, when access to a user’s data is sold to advertisement companies, then a portion of that revenue is given to the people who created the reviews. The estimated amount of revenue that reviewers help to bring into the company can be calculated and distributed accordingly. While this may seem like it would cause a significant loss of revenue for the websites, the increased trust that would come with this system would likely promote more users, generating an overall increase in revenue and credibility. Users could become more engaged and spend more time writing reviews, increasing web traffic considerably. Advertisers would be more attracted to the larger audience and the prestige of having their advertisement on a well-respected site.

An NFT-like system could hold large internet corporations accountable.

The new normal is corporations on the internet making money from the content created by users. In return, users receive none of the monetary benefits and have their personal information shared with hundreds of businesses. An NFT-like system, although theoretical, may be able to empower users to hold large corporations accountable for what is done with user-generated data. It is unlikely we can change big companies like Facebook, but if adopted early, this may be plausible in our cannabis industry. This in turn may not only give more ownership to the website users, but could also benefit the websites, and the advertisers. Overall, the product should be the website and the services it provides. An NFT-like system might help promote this and could make users who generate value for the website partners in business.

Keep ‘em Safe: Cash, Records, Products, People – Technology Helps Cannabis Businesses Succeed

By Dede Perkins
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It wasnt that long ago that cannabis was underground, sometimes literally, and operators protected what was theirs any way they knew how. Before legalization, cannabis operators needed to secure their plants, cash, supplies and equipment not just from people who wanted to steal them, but also from law enforcement. The legacy cannabis market is now transitioning into a legal one, and licensed operators are joining the industry at an incredible rate, but security is still part of the success equation. Like before, operators need to protect plants, products, equipment and cash, but they now also need to protect records, privacy and data, and do so in a manner that complies with state regulations.

Cannabis regulatory authorities set security guidelines that cannabis business owners must follow in order to obtain and renew operational licenses. For instance, there are state-specific security regulations regarding video surveillance, camera placement, safes, ID verification, and more. While security measures help protect the business, they also protect the public. Its a win-win for everyone involved. Here are five best practices and techniques to protect cash, records, products and people.

Hybrid cloud storage

State regulations call for reliable video surveillance footage that is accessible, in most cases, 24/7 and upon demand by cannabis regulatory authorities and local law enforcement acting within the limits of their jurisdiction. SecurityInfoWatch.com reports that video data is the industrys next big investment, meaning there will be an increased demand and need to store video surveillance footage. Most states require video surveillance footage to be retained for a specific amount of time, often 45-90 days or longer if there is an ongoing investigation or case that requires the footage. While some businesses only retain video data for the state-required length of time, others choose to keep it longer.

Storing data on-site can become expensive and precarious. Best practices call for a hybrid cloud storage solution model as it provides on-site and both public and private cloud data storage solutions. This model provides users with the ability to choose which files are stored on-site and which files live in the cloud. Doing so improves file accessibility without impacting or compromising on-premises storage. In addition, its helpful to have two methods of digitizing data, for safetys sake. In the event an on-site storage method crashes—though hopefully this wont ever happen—theres a version available off-site via the cloud. That said, with cloud-based storage solutions come cybersecurity threats that must be managed.

Cybersecurity

Dispensaries are prime targets for burglary. Defending a storefront requires a comprehensive security plan

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, more businesses are online than ever before. Unsurprisingly, cyberthreats are on an upward trend, including in the cannabis industry. Earlier this year, MJBizDaily reported that a data breach exposed personal information of current and former employees of Aurora Cannabis. The incident involved unauthorized parties [accessing] data in (Microsoft cloud software) SharePoint and OneDrive”. Although this breach involved only employees, confidential customer information is also at risk of being compromised during a data breach. 

On a separate occasion, an unsecured Amazon S3 data storage bucket caused a large-scale database breach that impacted almost 30,000 people across the industry, according to the National Cannabis Industry Association. The breach included scanned versions of government-issued ID cards, purchase dates, customer history and purchase quantities. Unlike the Aurora Cannabis breach, this one included customer data. 

Just like other more established industries, the cannabis industry needs to protect and secure confidential data. If you dont have a cybersecurity expert on your team, consider hiring a consultant to evaluate your risk or partnering with a credible cybersecurity technology company to implement proactive solutions. Before signing a contract, do your due diligence. Does the consultant and/or technology company understand the compliance regulations specific to the cannabis industry? Do their solutions meet the regulations in the state(s) where your facility operates? Taking the time to protect your companys data before a breach occurs is proactive, smart business.

Smart Safes 

A smart safe like this one can helps secure cash handling

Smart safes help secure cash handling, which given the difficult banking environment for cannabis companies, means theyre on the list of best practice security technology products. What is a smart safe? A smart safe is a device that securely accepts, validates, records and stores cash and connects to the other cash management technology solutions such as point of sale systems. They connect to the internet and provide off-site stakeholders visibility into a facilitys cash position.

A high-speed smart safe counts cash by hand faster than a human and is an overall more secure way to deliver cash bank deposits. At the end of the night, making a deposit at a physical bank location can be dangerous, exposing your cash and the individuals responsible for making the deposit to unsecured threats. Using a smart safe reduces that threat and also helps cannabis operators comply with financial recordkeeping and documentation requirements. Due to federal cannabis prohibition, many cannabis businesses lack enough insurance to fully cover their exposure to cash theft, which has led to a trending industry-wide investment in smart safes.

Advanced access control

Best practice access control means more than a ring of keys hanging off the facility managers belt. Advanced access control gives cannabis business owners and managers the ability to manage employee access remotely via the cloud. This feature can limit access areas within a facility, enabling an individual to revoke access instantly from a remote location making it a useful tool in the event of a facility lockdown or emergency. A mobile app and/or website can be used to lock or unlock secure doors, monitor access in real time and export access logs.

Advanced access control devices arent a standard in the industry yet. Although many state regulators dont require cannabis businesses to utilize advanced electronic access control, using this technology is a best practice and may be required in the future.

Compliance software 

Understanding the ramifications and keeping up with state-mandated compliance is challenging. While state regulations can be found online, theyre often in pieces, leaving operators unsure about whether or not they have them all. Once an operator is confident that they have the most current version of all the laws, rules, and regulations that apply to their cannabis business, making way through the dense legal jargon can be exhausting. Even after multiple readings, it can be unclear about how to apply these guidelines to the operators cannabis business, which is one reason cannabis businesses work with a trusted legal counsel to meet compliance requirements. For trusted advisors and cannabis business licensees and operators alike, cannabis compliance software solutions are designed to not just check boxes for a cannabis business, but to help everyone involved understand how the regulations apply to the operation. These solutions improve accessibility so that employees at all organizational levels understand the rules and requirements of their position and the products they work with.

In addition, compliance software can help licensees and operators establish and implement best practice SOPs to meet regulatory requirements. Because the cannabis industry is young and many operators are moving fast, many cannabis businesses are vulnerable to security breaches and threats. Prioritizing security and compliance can help cannabis leaders protect against potential threats. Investing in the latest and most innovative security technology solutions—beyond what is required by state regulations—can help operators outsmart those who seek to steal from them and position their companies as industry leaders that prioritize safety and compliance, protecting not just cash and products, but the people who work in their facilities and the customers who purchase their products.

ASTM Introduces Retail Cybersecurity Standard

By Cannabis Industry Journal Staff
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ASTM International, the international standards development organization, has proposed a cannabis standard for establishing retail cybersecurity protocols. Their D37 cannabis committee is currently working on the development of the standard.

The standard is designed to establish best practices for protecting critical databases in dispensaries, like inventory data, customer and patient information. The guide, developed by subcommittee D37.05, addresses “the company or government organizational need to mitigate the likelihood of cyberattacks and reduce the extent of potential cyberattacks, which can leave sensitive personal data, corporate information, and critical infrastructure vulnerable to attackers,” reads the scope of the project.

Technical Lead for the subcommittee and president of ezGreen Compliance, Michael Coner, says they hope to provide SOPs for retail operations to protect business data while staying compliant. “Cybersecurity is among the most prevailing issues concerning the cannabis industry as well as the global cannabis economy,” says Coner. “Establishing strong cybersecurity protocols for dispensary retail owners will help ensure the protection of data to maintain the integrity of cannabis consumers’ personal information.”

The ASTM committee is currently inviting stakeholders such as retailers and regulators to help with things like “identifying new data security issues that arise while operating active retail dispensary businesses.”