Tag Archives: dispensary

From Seed to Storefront: Why Cannabis Retailers Should Know How to Cultivate

By Itali Heide
No Comments

There isn’t one simple formula that holds the secrets of success in cannabis branding, but there are some things that might give you an advantage. The possibilities of cannabis are endless and understanding the cultivation process can be incredibly advantageous to brands who want to become involved every step of the way and build a trustworthy brand from seed to storefront.

Some of the most successful brands in the cannabis industry have built their name on quality and the best way to ensure that is to know exactly where your bud is coming from.

The Advantages of Understanding the Cultivation Side of Cannabis

Understanding the cultivation side of the cannabis industry can be quite valuable for many reasons. If you’re in commercial cannabis, getting up close and personal with the cultivation process can lend cultivation expertise to your brand name and help connect you with the process from the very start so you can offer your customers a guarantee of high-quality products with a hands-on approach. Being close to the process allows you to develop the highest standards when it comes to better yields, stronger plants and more potent cannabis. In short, it gives you complete control of your brand and its reputation.

Radiant Huoang, CEO of Delta Munchies, shares how a deeper knowledge of the brand’s cultivation has affected and given Delta Munchies an advantage. “The years of experience on the cultivating side of cannabis, gave me an appreciation for the craftsmanship and the hard work that is essential to creating a great product,” says Huong. “In a crowded market, it’s impossible to build a lasting brand without a product of undoubtable quality, and that starts with the flower we use, thanks to our cultivators.”

Essentially, when you have control of the cultivation side of the business, you are able to craft strains, edibles and other products that are unique to your company. It gives you control over the quality of your product and gives you a consistent edge over the competition.

Being close to the process allows you to develop the highest standards when it comes to better yields, stronger plants and more potent cannabis.

“This level of craftsmanship bled over [to the retail side] when creating our brand and what we choose to offer to our consumers,” says Hoang. “Always trying to craft and improve the best products possible that deliver a similar effect to your traditional cannabis is our goal.”

Anyone buying a cannabis product wants to know that what they’re consuming is cultivated with passion and a careful eye for the details. As a retailer, cultivating their own crop allows Delta Munchies to ensure the integrity of the final product and deliver a true plant-centered experience to their clients.

Beyond retail, growing is an excellent place to start in the cannabis industry. It sets up a solid foundation for you to understand cannabis and allows you to bring the highest quality products to the market. Especially since a rise in the use of cannabis calls for more growers and cultivation-centered businesses.

Understanding the Headwinds of Cannabis Cultivation and Cannabis Retail

Not everything in the cannabis cultivation and retail world is perfect, as with any other industry. Making it can be challenging, especially as local regulations fluctuate while nationwide legalization remains in limbo.

The first challenge is legalization: as of now, hemp is federally legal and hemp-derived products containing less than 0.3% delta 9 THC are technically legal in all states. It can be difficult to keep up with new laws and constant changes. Right now, cannabis businesses can still struggle with access to banking services and insurance.

It’s important to follow general federal regulations for your product, such as the nutrition facts section

Growers are also faced with the bureaucracy and costs of regulations, testing conditions, label requirements and other additional investments that come with constant change. Still, change is a part of any budding industry, so it’s important to keep this in mind and remain adaptable.

Some states place a limit on the number of licenses they’re allowed to issue to cannabis businesses and growers, which can make it challenging for new players to join and results in the market being dominated by the top dogs, but this isn’t unlike any other industry. Making sure you can commit to a business of this type is another thing to consider deeply before endeavoring into the world of cannabis.

What About the Future of Cannabis Cultivation and Retail?

The future of cultivation and retail is bright, although not without speedbumps along the way. The good: we can expect more consistency and structure after regulation becomes the norm, advances in technology are being used to make exciting, creative products and growing interest and preferences make for a promising future of growth.

On the other hand, regulation could go a bit too far. When asked about the future of the industry Huong believes brands need to be given the freedom to innovate. “We think that cannabis cultivation will always be a beautiful art, but with so much saturation and over-regulation it makes it extremely difficult to operate,” says Hoang. This is an important factor to consider, although regulation can have its advantages, states need to consider whether their regulations are truly aimed at improving quality and safety, or just acting as barriers to entry.

Technology will surely play a role in the future of cannabis cultivation and retail. Advances in the agricultural sector grow exponentially, with systems that are developed and optimized to grow hemp and cannabis with a variety of top-of-the-line technologies that help ensure high-quality raw materials.

The future of the cannabis industry will be shaped by many things, but nothing can influence the market as much as its consumers. Customer preference, brand trustworthiness and effectiveness, and legality will ultimately lead the way for cannabis trends.

soslticefarms_feb
Getting involved with the cultivation process can be important for overall quality.

One way to do this is to be in complete control of your product, from seed to storefront. Being able to cultivate the product you sell allows you to pivot more easily when the market demands it. Rather than seeking out new suppliers, a nimble cannabis brand will be set up to shift its cultivation operations as consumers switch from high THC strains to CBD or any other novel cannabinoid to hit the market.

Final Thoughts

Getting involved with the cultivation process can be important for overall quality. If you own a cannabis brand, having a close relationship with your grower or growing your own cannabis can lead to a product that’s higher in quality, as you can achieve a deeper understanding of the unique effects that you want your product to have and the quality necessary to achieve them. At the end of the day, what customers care for most is the product inside the packaging that you’ve designed to catch their eye. This is what will keep them coming back. It’s that quality that will imprint the packaging in their minds on their next trip to the dispensary.

Knowing more about cannabis from the ground up can be beneficial when it comes to innovation opportunities. Being able to apply your own knowledge or that of your trusted growers to a new product can help you grow your brand in a way that’s uniquely yours.

Hoang says harmony between the grower and the brand is important: “Seeing something you grew yourself come to life bleeds into the brand.” Becoming involved in the cultivation process of cannabis allows you to gain perspective that can be beneficial for your brand.

FDAlogo

FDA Punts on CBD Rules

By Cannabis Industry Journal Staff
No Comments
FDAlogo

On December 20, 2018, Former President Trump signed the Farm Bill into law, which removed hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) from the Controlled Substances Act, stripped the DEA’s authority from hemp and gave states the ability to regulate hemp markets of their own, with approval from the USDA.

FDAlogoWhen that Farm Bill became law, it paved the way for state-sanctioned hemp and CBD product markets and it seemed as if the floodgates were opening for legal CBD, but some caveats and gray areas remained. The same day the Farm Bill became law, the FDA released a statement asserting their authority, threatening enforcement actions for things like unsubstantiated drug marketing claims.

Over the past four years, the FDA has dealt with dozens of enforcement actions involving CBD products. The agency said they were “working quickly to further clarify our regulatory approach,” but that seems categorically false given how long it took them to tell the public they don’t know what to do. Finally, after four years and change of comment periods, industry frustration, warning letters and state-sanctioned gray markets, the FDA announced they need help from Congress.

Janet Woodcock, M.D., principal deputy commissioner at the FDA

Last week, the FDA published a statement from Janet Woodcock, M.D., principal deputy commissioner, that says, to paraphrase, they’ve given up. Industry stakeholders have long agreed that the food and dietary supplements regulatory framework is adequate for CBD products, citing minimal public health risk and a pre-existing framework that CBD could fit into easily. “The FDA’s existing foods and dietary supplement authorities provide only limited tools for managing many of the risks associated with CBD products,” says Dr. Woodcock. “Under the law, any substance, including CBD, must meet specific safety standards to be lawfully marketed as a dietary supplement or food additive.”

The reasoning behind the agency’s unwillingness to regulate it as a dietary supplement is because of safety concerns, like potential liver damage, possible drug interactions and reproductive harm. Scientific data available to the FDA shows that they cannot say that CBD is generally recognized as safe (GRAS). “Today we are announcing that after careful review, the FDA has concluded that a new regulatory pathway for CBD is needed that balances individuals’ desire for access to CBD products with the regulatory oversight needed to manage risks,” says Dr. Woodcock. “The agency is prepared to work with Congress on this matter.”

A Guide to Dispensary Insurance

By Itali Heide
No Comments

As a business owner, insurance is always a must. If you are interested in entering into the cannabis industry or you already have, it’s important to know what to expect when it comes to insuring your cannabis-related business.

That’s why we’ll be exploring what dispensary insurance is, different options for business owners and general advice regarding dispensary and other CRB insurance.

What is Dispensary Insurance?

Insurance for cannabis-related businesses refers to policies that protect the business against risk. This can include dispensaries, cultivation centers and testing labs – all of which require different levels of coverage and liability.

We spoke to Alexander Marenco, an insurance broker from Marenco Insurance, who explained what dispensary owners should know before seeking out insurance. Marenco says it’s similar to shopping for insurance for other businesess. “You need to have full details of the business and location to receive a quote.” He adds. “The applications will ask questions such as location, renovations, or improvements to the location, ownership information, payroll details, and sales or projected annual sales.”

How is Dispensary Insurance Different From Other Forms of Business Insurance?

Because non-hemp-derived cannabis is still considered a schedule one controlled substance under the Controlled Substance Act, cannabis insurance can be more expensive than regular insurance for non-cannabis businesses. Because of the risks associated with being considered a potential retailer of a controlled substance, liability policies and other options can cost a pretty penny.

budtenderpic
The cash-only nature of the business makes insuring dispensaries more costly

Additionally, when asking Marenco about how dispensary insurance differs from other brick-and-mortar retail insurance, he says: “With more states increasingly legalizing medicinal and recreational marijuana, insurance carriers have started to open risk acceptability. However, since marijuana is still federally illegal, businesses will find it difficult to find multiple quotes from different carriers.”

Types of Insurance Available for Cannabis-Related Businesses

What kind of insurance is available for cannabis-related businesses? Let’s find out.

First off, it’s important to keep in mind that CRBs are at risk for a lot of things: workplace accidents, damage to property, theft, general liability and product liability. Plus, the fact that most dispensaries work on a cash-only business model until the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act is approved by Congress, CRBs tend to handle big amounts of cash, further putting them at risk of theft and liability. CRB insurance can be as low as $350 and as high as $7,500 depending on the type of business and policy.

Here are some of the most common types of insurance for CRBs and what they cover:

  • General liability: third-party claims for bodily injury, property damage and reputational harm.
  • Commercial property: damage to a business-owned property.
  • Professional liability: third-party accusations of negligence and mistakes.
  • Workers’ compensation: employees’ medical bills and lost wages due to injury or illness.
  • Inland marine: damage or theft of business-owned property in transit.
  • Crop: costs from damage to seeds and plants.

With so many things to watch out for, insurance for cannabis businesses and dispensaries isn’t cheap. Here, Marenco says what CRB owners can do to keep their premiums as low as possible:

A smart safe like this one can help secure cash handling

“Premiums are primarily based on sales (actual or projected). After the term expires, the insurance carrier will conduct an audit for the prior term to confirm the information from the application. The audited discrepancy will adjust the next term’s sales figures. Dispensary insurance will typically be placed through an excess & surplus market which do not provide traditional discounts.”

So, in essence, the best thing a dispensary owner can do is be honest about their projections.

Navigating premiums can be a detailed process, as we learned when speaking to Jesse Giffith, an owner of Smokeless CBD and Vape: a chain of retail shops across the twin cities Minneapolis–Saint Paul, Minnesota:

“Our shops carry insurance that has been offered with a modified rate for vape retailers. This route was not as straightforward as some traditional retail insurance options, but may offer benefits, and a better fit for coverage than other dispensary insurance options.”

A Growing Number of Dispensaries Across America

With the growing legalization and normalization of adult use, medical and hemp-derived cannabis across the nation, it should come as no surprise that the number of dispensaries across the country grows exponentially.

In 2021, the cannabis market in the U.S. was valued at 10.8 billion dollars, with an expected annual growth of 14.9% annually. This is a sign of what’s to come. Cannabis may be an industry that’s been considered taboo for decades, but the growth shows the growing acceptance of the plant for medical and adult use reasons.

Insurance providers remain cautious as cannabis laws are still in flux.

With that growth comes a greater need for insurance providers, opening the door to the possibility that these two industries will grow in tandem. The future may bring a greater variety of options for coverage at cheaper prices. But for the time being, insurance providers remain cautious as the fate of federal and local cannabis laws are still in flux.

Are There Limited Carriers that Issue Dispensary Insurance?

Every CRB needs insurance, just like any other type of establishment, business or company. The issue within the cannabis industry is that there is still a limited insurance market, with insurers willing to provide insurance constantly exiting and entering the market. Plus, the overall capacity and variety of policies that cover different types of risks are limited. Lastly, it can be difficult to use CRB insurance when you read between the lines of the policy. Because cannabis with THC is still federally illegal (excluding hemp-derived cannabis products containing less than 0.3% THC), insurers can negate coverage when a loss or claim occurs.

Because of the complications that may arise even if you do have insurance, Marenco offers some advice for dispensary owners that are searching for the right insurance option for them: “Before shopping for insurance make sure you have all your licenses and are in full compliance with all regulations. Insurance carrier’s requirements from the state. Additionally, consider different coverage options.” He continues. “At a minimum, a business needs general liability insurance. Insurance companies can also consider covering business property including inventory, betterments, and improvements to a rented space, among others. When shopping for insurance make sure your agent reviews different coverage options.”

Compliance as a Revenue Center: Banking & Cannabis, More Similar Than You Think

By Kevin Hart
No Comments

Have you ever been to the DMV, only to be turned away because you didnt have the countless forms of identification needed? Sometimes it feels like no amount of ID or proof of residence is enough, whether its your 2nd grade report card or an electric bill from 25 years ago.

That feeling is what its like for anyone working in compliance; regardless of industry. Banks are no different. They need to possess compliance documents such as Consolidated Reports of Condition and Income and other Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) reports that work like the laundry list of documents you need to get a drivers license or get your car registered.

The same can be said for newly licensed and legal cannabis companies. They often need state and local inspection documents, federal background checks and a list of other documents that make a CVS receipt look minuscule in comparison.

Historically, across all industries, the whole process of gathering and providing these sorts of documents can turn into a bit of a charade. Many companies do the bare minimum to check the compliance box and achieve certifications. Various teams and stakeholders try to skate through the compliance process by providing answers that reflect what they think the enterprise customer wants to see (vs. the reality).

In order to achieve long term growth, financial institutions (FIs) and cannabis companies alike need to start executing compliance plans. FIs are always seeking new growth and revenue opportunities, and cannabis companies are constantly under the scrutiny of regulators. Identifying new solutions that can help companies grow quickly while also maintaining compliance should be an essential part of the roadmap.

Financial Institutions and Cannabis

Many think that financial institutions and cannabis businesses would be on opposite ends of any spectrum. Banking is a mature and established industry, while legal cannabis is a new, fast moving and constantly evolving space. So, on one side, there is a risk averse fiscally conservative and traditional business model, and on the other side is an industry that is outside of the mainstream.

Lets look at this perception from a different angle though. What is true is that both industries are highly regulated and must comply with the rules placed upon them by regulators; and if their house isnt in order, the consequences can be disastrous (Read: Massive fines or even losing the ability to operate). CRBs and FIs deal with the security and dual control of inventory, and making sure customers are properly identified and of legal capacity to conduct business. In most cases, both are small businesses within their respective communities. ‍

Moreover, each of the industries are forced to navigate nearly-constant regulatory change, making the act of complying with applicable regulations a moving target. For most of these types of businesses, regulatory compliance is cited as one of the largest (and most expensive) challenges they face in day-to-day operations.

Compliance as Revenue Protection 

When financial institutions make the decision to offer services to the cannabis industry, they naturally look at the market opportunity to determine whether the effort associated with the increased compliance obligations outweigh the potential benefits. Traditionally, compliance is viewed as a cost center, but in reality, its a revenue protection center. As the old saying goes; an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.” Compliance is that prevention.

Cannabis companies need to demonstrate reliability and a history of compliance in order to attract investors and accumulate capital

Failing to fully comply and meet regulatory compliance standards can cost organizations billions. Having a trusted system of compliance established should not be looked at as a cost-sucking measure for businesses, when it really is negligible when the cost of getting it wrong is far more substantial. Setting up a truthful and transparent compliance program isnt just the right thing to do, it also protects revenue.

As the cannabis industry continues to grow, navigating around pain points is becoming increasingly expensive for the companies participating in it, many of whom are still struggling to turn a profit. Specifically, an IDC forecast shows global revenue from GRC solutions growing from $11.3 billion in 2020 to nearly $16.2 billion by 2025. And the average business hires and spends upward of $50,000 to $200,000 on consultants to manage compliance. Its not uncommon for companies to dedicate five to 10 people working on compliance every week for hours and months on end.

Many in the banking industry are worried about forging into a stigmatized stream of revenue like cannabis, but with the right compliance solutions in place, they can have peace of mind. These solutions guarantee that revenue from cannabis is done legally by analyzing where each dollar came from, and denying those that dont meet the minimum criteria. Having visibility into cannabis-related business (CRBs) accounts that do the enhanced due diligence is the only way to operate.

By implementing purpose-built compliance management solutions, financial institutions are able to unlock new revenue streams and scale cannabis banking operations. Meaning that as cannabis continues to gain mainstream momentum, and becomes less scrutinized locally and federally, these FIs that take part will be ahead of the curve. 

Looking Ahead

With recent movement towards legalization in the House, cannabis investors are optimistic about the industrys future. So how can the cannabis market overcome these hurdles and remain highly profitable?

To start with, CRBs must have greater access to accredited financial institutions like banks and credit unions. Owning bank accounts, obtaining credit cards, and applying for small business loans is essential to growth. Providing CRBs with access to proper financial support and compliance control is crucial for the cannabis market to continue to thrive.

Federal legislation such as the SAFE Banking Act is currently thought of to be the silver bullet that will open the floodgates for CRBs and FIs to work together. But in reality, this is a myth, as the SAFE Banking Act will simply make the current compliance rules stricter.

To be a first mover FI in your area, businesses must start by implementing a scalable, verifiable cannabis banking program. The real customers and financial opportunities are out there, and are even greater than what you might have modeled given the growth of the industry. The ability to do this today is real.

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

By Rick Maturo
No Comments

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.

Connecticut Launches Adult Use Sales

By Cannabis Industry Journal Staff
No Comments

The Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection approved nine licenses for dispensaries to commence adult use sales on Tuesday, January 10. While nine were approved, just seven began adult use sales today. Connecticut also launched its “Clean Slate & Cannabis Erasure” website, as the state’s Clean Slate bill went into effect on January 1, effectively erasing thousands of cannabis convictions.

Governor Lamont at a press conference on January 9, discussing the Clean Slate bill.

Connecticut’s legislature voted to legalize cannabis back in 2021. On June 17, 2021, Governor Ned Lamont signed the bill into law, marking the beginning of the state’s journey of building a legal adult use cannabis market that culminates today.

In a speech he delivered on January 9, 2023, Governor Lamont told reporters that the bill eliminating past convictions makes a big difference. “Under a new state law that went into effect on January 1, our administration has marked 43,754 low-level cannabis convictions as erased,” the Governor tweeted, alongside a video of his speech. “An old conviction for possession should not hold someone back from pursuing their career, housing, professional, and education aspirations.”

Lt. Gov. Bysiewicz speaks to an audience Tuesday morning outside of the ZenLeaf Meriden dispensary.

At the ZenLeaf Meriden dispensary, one of the nine retailers authorized to commence sales, politicians, stakeholders, the press and customers met outside of the store for a news conference at 9 a.m., shortly before the store opened for business an hour later. Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz delivered a speech at the news conference where she celebrated the occasion, shared details on the launch and emphasized the importance of “not losing sight of a very robust medical program.”

In a video shared by WFSB, Lt. Gov. Bysiewicz said they are requiring all businesses to have a “medical preservation plan” to ensure safe, adequate and fair access for patients continues as the adult use market opens up. Part of that plan is a state-mandated cap of ¼ ounce of cannabis for all adult use purchases to make sure inventory remains available for patients.

Cannabis in 2023: Here to Stay, but Major Challenges Remain

By Joshua Weiss, Osiris Morel
No Comments

2022 brought more change and visibility to the cannabis industry than nearly any year before. Two of five legalization ballot measures passed, bringing the total number of states with legal medical or medical and recreational laws to 39. President Biden issued an executive order pardoning nonviolent offenders and directing a review into rescheduling cannabis. The Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act was enacted. Cannabis arose prominently in legislatures across the country, with over 50 federal bills and hundreds of state-level measures introduced.

We’ve yet to see the full impact from Biden’s October 6 announcement

But as 2022 came to a close, only a handful of actions are being carried into the new year, and the industry faces more hardship and turmoil than it has since the inception of legalization. Legal cannabis retailers and cultivators in markets across the country continue to struggle with onerous regulations and competition from the illicit market, and oversupply in these markets is driving down prices as West Coast growers and manufacturers anxiously await interstate commerce.

Looking ahead to the coming year, industry watchers can anticipate certain issues and legislation: further investigation into cannabis’ classification on the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) from federal agencies, federal cannabis pardons coming to fruition, a follow-up from the Department of Justice’s technical report, and the reintroduction of high-profile federal legislation, like the Cannabis Opportunity Act (CAOA), the States Reform Act, Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, Harnessing Opportunities by Pursuing Expungement (HOPE) Act and the Secure and Fair (SAFE) Banking Act.

Below, we recap some of the big moments of 2022 and what to expect in 2023.

A Presidential Pardon for Simple Possession

On Oct. 6, President Biden made a historic announcement to “grant a full, complete, and unconditional pardon to all current United States citizens and lawful permanent residents who committed the offense of simple possession of marijuana in violation of the Controlled Substances Act” and “all current United States citizens and lawful permanent residents who have been convicted of the offense of simple possession of marijuana in violation of the Controlled Substances Act.” His executive order also encouraged governors to follow suit for cases regarding state offenses and requested that the secretary of Health and Human Services and the attorney general “expeditiously” review how cannabis is scheduled under federal law.

Biden signing his executive order back in October of 2022

The president’s strategic plan attempts to at least partly address some of the adverse impacts of the United States’ war on drugs on certain populations like low-income and Black and Latinx Americans. While an admirable and important effort, certain portions of his executive order will take much longer than others to yield tangible impact. A federal pardoning can take anywhere between two to five years, and the laws and duration of state-level pardoning vary—depending on the state and its governing practices. Additionally, since governors are not required to pardon individuals following the president’s executive order, some convicted persons may never see or be able to seek justice. And the most uncertain timeline relates to the review of cannabis’ classification on the CSA. Rescheduling or descheduling a substance under the CSA can be tedious and grueling, and, as seen with other substances, the process can range from four to ten years. However, the exercise is ongoing, and although results may not be shared in time for the 118th Congress, it is to be expected that the issue will be discussed at length in 2023 and beyond.

Descheduling, Decriminalizing & Banking Legislative Efforts  

1. CAOA.

When it comes to legislation, there is no question that Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) will reintroduce the CAOA in 2023. The comprehensive legislation aims to decriminalize cannabis by removing the drug from the CSA and tackles issues related to research, public safety, restorative justice and equity, taxation and regulation, public health and industry practices.

2. States Reform Act.

Sen. Schumer unveiling the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act

Another piece of legislation we anticipate seeing in the 118th Congress is Rep. Nancy Mace’s (R-SC) States Reform Act. Coming from a state without any cannabis laws, the freshman congresswoman introduced a measure that would federally decriminalize cannabis by fully deferring to state powers over prohibition and commercial regulation and regulate cannabis products like alcohol. In 2022, the bill received positive feedback from the industry and dominated the discussions during the Developments in State Cannabis Laws and Bipartisan Cannabis Reforms congressional hearing. With its bold cannabis sponsor, who will now serve as the House Oversight Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties chair, the States Reform Act will undoubtedly take center stage in 2023.

3. MORE Act.

Sponsored by Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), the MORE Act will also be reintroduced in 2023; however, it remains to be seen how much attention the bill will receive. The MORE Act aims to decriminalize cannabis by removing the drug from the CSA and eliminating criminal penalties for anyone who manufactures, distributes or possesses cannabis. In the 117th Congress, Rep. Nadler served as the chair to the House Judiciary Committee and was able to advance his measure through the chamber with ease. But since the House majority has flipped, and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) is likely to serve as the chair, getting the MORE Act to the floor for a vote may be challenging—especially given Rep. Jordan’s opposition to the cannabis sector.

The House passing the MORE Act back in 2020

4. HOPE Act.

The HOPE Act often flies under the radar, but this Republican-sponsored bill made headlines during the 117th Congress. Sponsored by Co-Chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus (CCC), Rep. Dave Joyce (OH), the bipartisan legislation aims to help states with expunging cannabis offenses by reducing the financial and administrative burden of such efforts through federal grants. Although it was not considered in the House, the language of the bill was heavily debated by the Senate, particularly toward the end of the year when the chamber was negotiating the final text for end-of-year must-pass packages, like the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the Omnibus and the Continuing Resolution (CR). Alongside the SAFE Banking Act, the HOPE Act was one of the only cannabis bills that had a realistic chance of advancing as part of a larger legislative vehicle, so there is no question that the congressman will reintroduce the measure in the upcoming congressional session.

5. SAFE Banking Act.

And last, but certainly not least, is the most discussed cannabis bill this year: the SAFE Banking Act. The legislation aims to create a safe harbor for financial institutions to provide traditional banking services to cannabis businesses in states that have legalized the drug. It also allows cannabis businesses to access lines of credit, loans and wealth management. It has now passed in the House seven times, with bipartisan support. And although the SAFE Banking Act was debated by the House several times throughout the year, the Senate did not tackle the bill until November. By the time discussions for the bill’s language had taken off, Sen. Booker remained firm that he would only support a cannabis bill if it included criminal justice and social equity reform language. In an attempt to satisfy the senator’s demands, Majority Leader Schumer considered marrying the SAFE Banking Act and the HOPE Act as part of a larger package.

However, and much to the cannabis industry’s detriment, not only was the timeline for those bills a little too late, but Democrats were, unfortunately, unable to fix the money laundering and cash legacy concerns of Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and other Republicans.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ)
Photo: Nick Fisher, Flickr

After attempting to attach the SAFE Banking Act to multiple vehicles, retiring Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), sponsor of the legislation, and Sen. Schumer were unsuccessful in getting the bill over the finish line. In a final Hail Mary, Sen. Schumer attempted to include the language to the Omnibus, but compounded with the technical assistance report from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and ongoing media flurry, he and the Democratic party yet again came up empty-handed.

The question now is: who will carry the SAFE Banking Act and Rep. Perlmutter’s legacy in 2023? Many will look toward cannabis industry champions like Reps. Joyce, Mace, Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Brian Mast (R-FL). However, it would be worth considering other members of the CCC and some of the incoming freshmen, particularly those from a state with legal cannabis laws. It is also entirely possible that Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) finds his own sponsor to carry his companion bill in the House since he has already announced that he looks forward to working on the legislation in the upcoming year. Regardless, it is highly likely that the SAFE Banking Act will be reintroduced in 2023 and considered throughout the year.

6. Other Measures

Other measures that are likely to reappear in 2023 are the Capital Lending and Investment for Marijuana Businesses (CLIMB) Act, Veterans Equal Access Act, the GRAM Act, Common Sense Cannabis Reform for Veterans, Small Businesses and Medical Professionals Act, VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act and the Homegrown Act. Additionally, the passage of the Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act and the advancement of many of these federal bills have opened the gates for new legislation related to medical and recreational cannabis, research, veterans’ access, financial services, criminal justice reform and social equity, and public health and safety to emerge.

For states with legal cannabis laws, bills related to enhancing the state’s medical or medical and recreational programs, preventing industry oversaturation and price gouging, expanding licensing opportunities, criminal justice reform, youth and advertising protections and impaired driving are likely to be introduced. States where cannabis ballot measures failed will likely see those measures resurface.

The continued growth of legalization across the country is all but inevitable. In the nearer term, the industry will focus on how to remain viable in the face of high taxes and oversupply in 2023. New Congressional leadership could lead to bipartisan cannabis legalization if enough members are willing to rally behind their colleagues who are pushing for cannabis legislation. While the road is long before we will see the full impact from President Biden’s Oct. 6 announcement, the action proves those in power cannot ignore the ever-growing numbers of Americans across party lines and demographics who agree that cannabis use should be legal and regulated.

Department Stores for Cannabis: The CEOs of Remedy on Cannabis Retail

Remedy currently has two locations, one in Baltimore and one in Columbia, Maryland. The first thing you notice at these dispensaries are the large parking areas. When you step inside, you’re greeted by an entrance that is less like a waiting room and more like a lounge.

Their massive open floor plans offer space for brands to have their own area, akin to branded counters in traditional department stores. Remedy has partnerships with big cannabis brands like Cookies, Curio Wellness, Holistic, Rhythm, Trulieve, Green Thumb Industries and others for this reason: to create the “store within a store” feel.

We met Mitch Trellis and Brandon Barksdale, co-CEOs of Remedy, in Las Vegas last year. After hearing about their ideas and vision for the future of cannabis retail, we followed up with them for an interview.

Cannabis Industry Journal: Give us some brief background on your company. How did Remedy get to where it is today?

Mitch Trellis, Co-Founder & Co-CEO of Remedy

Mitch Trellis: I have been a patient and consumer since 1994. I have always loved and respected the plant. I spent much of my career on Wall Street, but really I’ve been an entrepreneur most of my life. I started looking at the cannabis space for my next venture. 2014 was a very exciting time for cannabis with a lot of other states were coming online around that time. Colorado had legalized adult use and California had been going for a while. I was looking for an opportunity to jump into the space. Maryland wrote a very progressive law legalizing the plant for medical use, marking the first time on the East Coast where cannabis could be prescribed for pain.

I saw some real business opportunities there so I reach out to my business partner, Blaize Connelly-Duggan, whose family has a long history working with alternative medicine. We were both born and raised in Columbia, Maryland. About a year after coming up with the idea, we submitted an application for a fully vertical license. We did not win the growing or processing license, but we found out we had won a dispensary license.

We decided to move forward in late 2016. We opened in December of 2017 and we just had our five-year anniversary of operating a dispensary in the state of Maryland. We have seen over 30,000 individual patients and we’ve done around 45 million retail sales over that time. We are on a good pace right now with our two stores, each of which we call “superstores” with around 10,000 square feet of space. We have built some pretty interesting retail experiences, what we call our in-store ad network. We are a little different than other dispensaries; we’re not going for the Starbucks or corner store model.

Brandon Barksdale: I came from professional services. I was in a management consulting practice and a leader within our cannabis industry advisory group. We were working with clients on performance management, business improvement and organizational maturity that would help drive operational excellence within complex compliance and legislative landscapes.

Brandon Barksdale, Co-CEO of Remedy

The clients that I had spanned over a lot of different states, so I think a lot of my initial experience comes from California in 2015 and 2016. Outside of consultancy, I stepped into operations within a vertically-integrated cannabis operation in Colorado. From there I gained the full breadth of experience in understanding the business from cultivation to manufacturing to retail. We were also operating on both sides of the market, medical and adult use. This put me at a little bit of an advantage for new markets coming online, understanding the economics and how things would play out, you know, history repeats itself, just faster and faster.

I met Mitch and Blaze through a mutual acquaintance and we shared a lot of the same vision and thoughts for where the industry was heading locally in Maryland and nationally. Ultimately, I came on board in an advisory capacity and then joined the team full time.

CIJ: Tell us more about this Nordstrom business model. What brand partnerships are you developing and how is your idea different from the traditional dispensary?

Mitch: We have basically built a platform for the brand and vendors to interact with the patients and the customers. There is a big gap between the two and we operate as a conduit between the two. In that plan, we need to have spaces for each individual brand to interact with the consumer, which is why we have such large floor plans. Brands set up semi-permanent stores within our store, almost like pop ups. Right now, on our floor we have Trulieve, Holisitic, GTI, Curio, Cookies, Sunmed and 2 or 3 more coming. That’s the equivalent of the Sephora and Nike in Nordstrom.

A Curio Wellness pop-up within a Remedy dispensary

We have a handful of our own brands we are working on bringing to the state of Maryland, which is kind of like those generic brands you see, like Nordstrom Rack or a 365 brand in Whole Foods. So, it is a more traditional retail model than what you might think of in the cannabis market.

People ask us, ‘well, what do you do differently?’ And really, we try not to do things differently. We try to do things like regular retail. At the end of the day, it’s about the experience, the price, the convenience, customer service, simple retail stuff.

The Curio product offering

Brandon: The differentiator that separates us from other dispensaries is that retail experience. On our floor, we have a massive amount of brand power coming from the strongest Maryland supplies and household brands entering Maryland from other thriving markets. From there, it’s really just about driving the patient and adult consumer experience, helping them come in and learn about brands, what makes them different, what drives their quality, price, etc. Ultimately it allows brands to present themselves the way they intended. That in itself is enough of a unique experience. Then it’s about execution. What we hope as we come into a new adult use market while we continue to support the medical market is that there will be a way for patients and consumers alike to learn about more products, wider brand selection and learn what best aligns with their values, their experience and the overall value proposition.

CIJ: With Maryland legalizing adult-use and the Virginia market expected to open soon, how do you expect your retail business will fare in the new, larger market?

Mitch: We have very large stores in incredible locations that are very well known with tons of parking and the ability to do tremendous volume. I think we are well prepared and our business is built for a larger volume scenario.

Adult use sales in Maryland are set to launch this year

Brandon: I am personally very optimistic. Maryland is leading the way in the mid-Atlantic market. We will continue to steamroll forward. Different states and neighboring states will be coming online at some point in the future. That potentially advanced runway will really pull us apart. Our strategy around retail is about growth and operational excellence. We’ll continue to find opportunities to support that broader market vision as it comes into view. We’re constantly seeking how we can expand our market footprint. When I think about Maryland in general, it is a pretty unique market. I don’t think we have seen a newer market come online that was as unique as this region, wrapped around this gray market and other states operating in this limbo.

I think we’ll see an increase in cannabis comfortability with the adult population in Maryland. I also believe that and other unique factors will drive a huge jump in the number of consumers and patients in Maryland as we mature into adult-use. There are a significant number of government employees in Maryland. There are other unique sensitivities to cannabis that will also become normalized. As Maryland moves forward with the rollout of the adult use program, that’ll be something that starts to pull uncomfortable stigmas away which will be increasingly favorable to the market.

CIJ: What are you excited about for 2023? Any new or exciting plans you can share with our readers? 

Mitch: We’re definitely watching all of our neighboring states and we’re keeping a close eye on our own state to see how everything shakes out. We will start our adult use sales in the state of Maryland very soon and we are moving forward in that direction. What do we look forward to? The beginning of adult use sales in Maryland. This is the start of our next big chapter and a culmination of a lot of work. 8 years later here we are.

Brandon: Maryland is next up. To Mitch’s point, that is where our main focus remains. We are constantly looking at opportunities within the state and nationally as well. I’d like to think of us as a market leader from a retail perspective. Our primary focus right now is how to capture a lot of the excitement in the Maryland market adult-use program, however, our eyes and ears are always open.

Soapbox

Investment Strategies for Entering the European Cannabis Market

By Niklas Kouparanis
No Comments

For U.S. venture capitalists (VCs), the burgeoning European cannabis market provides opportunities to break into the industry on the heels of adult-use legalization. Germany has set its sights on implementing a recreational market by 2024, and the country, along with several other European Union (EU) countries–Malta and Luxembourg–came together in September 2022 to draft a joint statement on why the EU needs a new approach to cannabis use for adult-use production, sale and consumption.

german flag
Photo: Ian McWilliams

In October 2022, Germany took further steps to solidify its plans for legalization further when its Health Minister Karl Lauterbach presented a cornerstone paper on planned legislation to regulate the controlled distribution and consumption of cannabis among adults. Such actions have signaled to both the EU and the world at large that cannabis legalization in Germany is imminent, and the country is championing the new age of cannabis policy.

With the new German cannabis market soon to be on the horizon, both foreign and domestic VCs are considering how to best leverage investment opportunities into existing cannabis companies within the current medical-only market that will transcend into adult use. For U.S. investors, it’s important to do their due diligence to find the company that will transcend into the next progression of cannabis policy. In addition, European cannabis companies must do their own meticulous research when it comes to aligning with investors to meet both their financial and business goals.

How U.S. VCs Can Evaluate Investment-Worthy European Cannabis Companies

As with any investment, VCs benefit from researching the company and market they are planning to invest in. Regarding the company of interest, it’s important to examine which part of the cannabis market the company is serving: growers, retailers, ancillary products, service providers and biotechnology companies all exist as potential investment options within the space. An investor should look into a company’s annual revenue, evaluating whether it has increased, remained steady or decreased over time. Revenue growth is often provided on a company’s income statement.

In addition to making sure they have a thorough understanding of the business model and its value proposition, investors should also familiarize themselves with the company’s management team to make sure that they are knowledgeable and experienced in both running a company and the cannabis industry. For those interested in entering the German market, VCs should consider the businesses that are currently key players in the country’s medical cannabis industry and that plan to expand their services into the adult-use sector once legalization comes into play.

For example, Tilray, founded in 2014, was one of Canada’s first licensed medical producers. When Canada legalized adult-use cannabis several years later, in 2018, Tilray was one of the companies that successfully transitioned to expand its market share in Canada’s medical to the adult-use cannabis industry.

Another consideration for VCs is the reputation of the business and its leaders. Investors should seek out those who have become authorities within the industry and the movers and shakers who are providing key insights into the market. These business leaders should be front and center, discussing everything from current operations and compliance to cannabis policy and legislation to new endeavors and growing their businesses. With recreational cannabis legalization being a completely new endeavor for the EU, it is important for leaders within today’s European medical space to be visionaries for the next phase of cannabis legalization and be guides for creating regulations for this new market to be safe, sustainable and scalable.

In addition to executive teams, VCs should check if the business is meeting the current marketplace’s expectations and is ready to adapt and evolve as needed. This means that the company has access to a steady supply of high-quality cannabis at an affordable price and access to consumers (medical patients) and potential consumers. With adult-use legalization soon to be a reality in Germany, investors must consider which players in the medical-only market will be able to not only survive the transition but grow to become leaders in Germany’s new recreational market and within the EU as a whole. 

What Do European Companies Look For in Terms of U.S. VCs

Just as VCs must find the right fit for them in terms of investments, cannabis companies must also align with investors that help them meet their financial and business goals. For cannabis companies, many seek to align themselves with VCs experienced in consumer, technology, and healthcare investments. While there are benefits to working with a VC with a cannabis background, companies should not deter investors who do not meet those specific criteria, as the cannabis market is still a fairly new and ever-transforming industry. In light of this, it’s important that investors approach opportunities with an open mind for both the industry’s current state and its potential.

european union states
The European Union

As with most investments, both VCs and companies should be prepared to agree to a term sheet, a document that outlines the relationship between the investor and the business. An ideal investor would need to be supportive, well-connected, and add value by providing relevant business knowledge. While some investors seek a more hands-on role, in most cases, the VC’s support will not be equal to the business’s micromanagement or control of its day-to-day operations. Generally, those responsibilities would remain with the company’s executive team.

As an investor, it’s important to be supportive of the business; be a cheerleader for the company when things go well, and lift up the business when challenges occur. In addition, offering a network of referrals and strategies to excel is key to being a good asset to the business. Also, having a diverse portfolio of companies with synergistic opportunities can be very beneficial to growing cannabis businesses.

A question many investors ask before entering the space is how much in assets they should have on hand to be considered an eligible investment size. Typically, this depends on the business and its financial needs. Small profitable cannabis businesses that want additional financing may be able to secure a bank loan, if possible, in their home countries or seek a seed investment-focused VC for some capital. Leaders in Germany’s current medical-only market are seeking investors, both from the U.S. and abroad, to partake in Series A/B funding, seeking financial partners that can help them reach a goal of $20-80M USD.

European cannabis companies are within a high-growth market, so U.S. VCs looking to enter through investment do not have to go through a private equity firm. An investor can approach companies through networking or direct outreach. It is also important to note that investors do not have to convert their assets from USD to EUR, as it is done automatically when making investments. For the first time in 20 years, the USD and EUR are about equal, so now is a great time for U.S. investors to consider making the leap into European cannabis.

New York Launches Adult Use Sales

By Cannabis Industry Journal Staff
No Comments

On December 29 just before the end of 2022, New York officially launched legal adult use sales in the state, but at only one location. The nonprofit dispensary Housing Works Cannabis Co. held a grand opening party complete with music, speeches from politicians and regulators and very, very long lines.

Chris Alexander, executive director of the New York Office of Cannabis Management (NYOCM), had the honor of making the first legal purchase, a pack of gummies and an eighth of flower, at the dispensary on the afternoon of December 29. “It’s been a lot of work that’s come to get us to this point,” Alexander told reporters on location. “We do have a lot more work to do, a lot more stores to open.”

New York originally legalized adult use cannabis in early 2021. Following almost two years of setbacks, missed deadlines and failed promises, the state just barely met one deadline: opening a dispensary in 2022. Governor Kathy Hochul has previously said that twenty stores would be doing business before the end of 2022. According to NPR, 36 dispensaries have been licensed, the NYOCM has another 139 licenses they need to issue and there are roughly 900 applicants that are still waiting.

To many in the cannabis space, New York is expected to become a massive boon to the country’s cannabis economy. It is just taking a bit longer than expected to materialize. Roy Bingham, CEO of BDSA predicts it will be the second largest contributor to growth in cannabis sales through 2026, just behind Florida. “With nearly 15 million residents over the age of 21 and tens of millions more tourists visiting the state annually, New York is one of the most exciting cannabis opportunities in 2023,” says Bingham. “Despite some expected growing pains in the early years, the market is expected to be the second largest contributor to sales growth through 2026, following Florida.” More dispensaries in New York are expected to open their doors in the early weeks of 2023.

In another second-place finish, New York follows New Jersey as the second state in the tri-state area to legalize adult use sales. New Jersey launched its market in April of 2022.