Star Micronics Brings Mainstream POS Best Practices to the Niche Cannabis Industry

If you’ve worked with POS systems before, you’ve likely heard of Star Micronics, the world’s leader in innovative POS solutions that empower global businesses to properly manage their revenue and streamline operations to provide stellar customer service every time.

The company moved into cannabis early in the game—one of the first mainstream POS providers to do so, despite the stigma that still surrounded the plant at the time. They were determined to enter the space and add value based on their decades of expert experience with a wide variety of global retailers. And from streamlined printer solutions that boost dispensaries’ customer service skills to inventory tracking data and analytics that speed up the selling and ordering process, they’ve done just that. 

We sat down with Star’s Product Integration Manager, Mark Rasho, to learn more about the company’s secrets to success, the unique innovations they’ve introduced to the cannabis industry, and how they plan to keep pioneering how POS is approached by retail operators nationwide. 

Leafwire: How did Star Micronics first begin supporting the cannabis industry?

Mark Rasho: We got into cannabis pretty early on; we were probably one of the first hardware providers to get into the field. We started by developing integrated POS scales for cannabis operators—inventory-focused scales that are being used from seed to sale across the vertical. 

Today, our POS tools are found in about 90 percent of the nation’s legal dispensaries. Operators can use them to measure and weigh products, put them into the system, and move them to the next stage of the supply chain. 

LW: What informed your initial decision to move into cannabis?

MR: It was a new industry popping up that needed our products. It was very logical and straightforward for us to get into. Some of our competitors were hesitant about getting into the field, but we weren’t. We saw an industry in need of things like scales, scanners, cash drawers, printers, label printers, tablet stands, and kiosk stands. We had all of that available, so it was a natural next step for us. 

LW: What is unique about your dispensary support compared to the rest of your mainstream clients?

MR: It’s funny; we actually began developing a lot of our newest products with the cannabis industry in mind. For example, our new mC-Label3 printer, which prints linerless labels, features a motor and blade designed to cut labels quickly for easy labeling and sticking on products, and that need came from our cannabis clients.

LW: How so?

MR: It was the influx of online orders that first brought this to our attention, which really kicked in during the pandemic. At the time, you’d see a lot of receipts stapled to order bags, which someone had to do manually. 

With linerless labels, you can just take the sticker from the printer and slap it on. It has all of the necessary information printed for seamless delivery and pickup, and helps operators and consumers alike be much more efficient with their sales and purchases. 

LW: How else do you make operators’ lives easier?

MR: Our scales. They’re NTEP-certified for U.S. operators and Measurement Canada-certified for operators up north, and they’re great at helping operators stay compliant while also working efficiently and boosting revenue. We’ve also developed a number of portable printer solutions you can easily strap onto your body or belt buckle, which helps sellers complete their tasks quicker and easier. 

We don’t want to make products to sell—we want to create solutions that will inspire the industry to work more efficiently. 

LW: What advice would you give an operator on the hunt for a new POS system?

MR: You’re going to want to look for a POS system that is able to accept online orders and also integrates with other online ordering apps like Weedmaps or Leafly. You also want something with receipts, scanners, and a label machine integrated: a full POS solution so you don’t have to work with a bunch of different vendors or dedicate one POS for sales and another for online orders. It’s best to stick with one solution if you can. 

I’d also recommend looking into a standalone printer in the back for receiving online orders. Star offers CloudPRNT technology; if you opt for a CloudPRNT-compatible printer, it will pull from the server automatically instead of waiting to start printing. So, your printer will see the job in the queue, automatically pull it in, and print. 

This will streamline the process for you and your staff–you don’t have to accept an order before it prints. It just does so automatically, so whoever is in the back filling orders can see it going, grab that receipt, and start putting the products together for the customer. This process has helped restaurants and other retailers streamline their online ordering, so it would similarly make sense for cannabis operators.

LW: What’s on the horizon for Star Micronics?

MR: We’ll be coming out with a new version of our CloudPRNT printers. The machines will be faster, with the ability to print labels and receipts. They’ll also feature new hardware, including USB-C for iOS, Android, and Windows. USB-C is better at transferring information data, printing quickly, and charging all connected devices while it works. 

This update will be particularly beneficial for kiosks at dispensaries. Customers will be able to check out the menu, order what they want, and have the printer print out their receipt while they wait for the order. It does away with the need for Bluetooth, which is less reliable than direct connections.

Azuca Brings Fast-Acting Formulations That Will Reinvent How Cannabis Edibles are Consumed

Cannabis edibles are an increasingly popular category among consumers, but one major drawback to this form of consumption is its onset time. Effects can vary so widely from person to person, and that unpredictability has kept a lot of people away from the edible sector entirely.  

Azuca serves edibles and beverage manufacturers with fast-acting delivery systems and advanced formulations that directly combat this stigma, allowing consumers to have a stronger grasp on how much they’re consuming and when it will take effect. With chef-created, science-forward products powered by its patent-pending TiME INFUSION® process, Azuca’s products encapsulate individual cannabinoid molecules, making them “water-friendly,” for a predictable and controllable experience every time. 

We sat down with Azuca CEO and co-founder Kim Sanchez Rael to discuss the details of the company and the unique innovation they bring to cannabis edibles throughout the nation. 

Leafwire: How was Azuca first formed?

Kim Sanchez Rael: NYC-based Bubby’s Chef and Owner Ron Silver and I started working together in 2017 and launched Azuca in 2018. Prior to the opening, Ron realized the industry’s biggest issue was the lack of controllable, fast-acting and reliable edibles. As a chef and culinary innovator, Ron leveraged his love of both food and cannabis to solve the challenges of cannabis edibles, and he spent several years developing what is now our TiME INFUSION® process. Our solution has been revolutionary, filling a void in the industry, and we continue to transform the category with our groundbreaking delivery systems.


KSR: TiME is a science-forward, chef-created encapsulation process that enables cannabinoids to be absorbed in the soft tissues of the digestive tract. This process preempts the first-pass liver metabolism and delivers Delta-9 THC directly to the body. This is very different, both in terms of onset time and in effect from the 11-Hydroxy-THC experience of traditional edibles that are metabolized by the liver. 

LW: What sector of the industry does the company service?

KSR: We help edibles brands and manufacturers make their products the very best in the industry. We do this by licensing our cutting-edge advanced formulations for beverages, edibles, and topical cannabis products, setting new standards for excellence in quality and efficacy. Our formulations transform high-maintenance cannabinoids into chef-ready ingredients for edible and beverage manufacturers and brands, creating products that are both fast-acting and delicious. Our partnership model is completely scalable and empowers our brand partners to control their production process.  

LW: What are the main benefits of your infusions for edible consumers?

KSR: For consumers, Azuca’s TiME INFUSION® delivers great-tasting edibles that act fast. There is no guessing game as first effects are felt in 5-15 minutes. Our process encapsulates cannabis oil molecules, transforming them into hydrophilic (water-friendly) cannabinoids that can be absorbed in the soft tissues of the mouth, esophagus and digestive system. By preempting the first pass metabolism, TiME INFUSION® allows for greater Delta-9 THC absorption – providing a more euphoric high – typically associated with inhalation, instead of the heavy, couch-lock high from traditional edibles. (Read more on the difference between Delta-9 THC and 11-Hydroxy-THC here.) There is also no bitter, medicinal, grassy/hemp after-taste. These effects are attractive to both existing cannabis consumers looking for an alternative to smoking, as well as new cannabis consumers who may have heard stories about unpleasant or unpredictable edibles experiences

LW: What about for edible manufacturers?

KSR: For manufacturers, our process is simple, stable and completely scalable for companies of any size. The solution helps companies save money—it is easy to use, easy to store, and easy to implement, so our partners can quickly bring best-in-class solutions to their customers. Azuca can be incorporated into existing manufacturing processes, doesn’t require moving product or equipment across state lines and helps reduce active ingredient waste up to 65 percent (more here).

Also, of note for cultivators and manufacturers is our newest innovation: Whole-Plant ACTiVATOR®, which allows for edibles without extracts. This entirely new category of edibles and beverages uses whole cannabis flower as infusion material and delivers the true inflorescence of unique strains including cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. A first in the industry, Azuca’s process doesn’t require traditional extraction and the only solvent used is water, offering a significant reduction in processing costs and a natural approach to ingestible infusions. In addition to fast-onset, products can be made without any additional flavoring, highlighting each strain’s unique sensory effects and flavor. 

LW: Any upcoming news for Azuca?

KSR: We’re launching our “pay-it-forward” social equity initiative. We recently named Azuca’s first Social Equity Fellow—rising star Matha Figaro, CEO of ButACake. We’ve already worked with ButACake to bring their Hibiscus Elixir to Delaware’s medical market, utilizing Azuca’s new RTD ACTiVATOR® (“Ready to Drink”.)  They’ve since launched a Peach Elixir, and fast-acting baked goods. We’ll be formally announcing our partnership and plans for 2024 with CannPowerment so even more licensed minority and women-owned businesses can benefit from TiME INFUSION®, giving them a competitive edge in the market and the opportunity to scale sustainability.

We will continue to innovate in the ingestibles category and expand globally.  We’re already in over 100 SKUs, including whole-plant edibles and ready-to-drink beverages, in over 20 states plus Puerto Rico, across the US, Canada, and soon Australia.

Melody Kramer’s Green Leaves and Brownies Teaches Cannabis Law à la Dr. Seuss

The cannabis industry has been notoriously confusing when it comes to rules and regulations, largely due to the fact that it remains federally illegal. This continued status means cannabis law varies widely from region to region, and operators are required to jump through countless, ever-changing hoops just to remain compliant.

Trial lawyer and writer Melody A. Kramer has familiarized herself with cannabis law enough to know how complicated it can get, and that realization has fueled her latest effort and passion: writing Green Leaves and Brownies: A Paradoxical Explanation of Cannabis Laws, a lighthearted, Dr. Seuss-style book that educates people on the ins and outs of the plant from a court perspective. 

Leafwire: How did you first found your law practice?

Melody Kramer: I loved the intellectual exercise of sorting out legal problems. One of my middle school history teachers used to read the class case facts and have us guess the legal outcome. I tended to guess an outcome entirely different than everyone else in the class—however, it was always the right one. 

I was also inspired by my uncle, Wilfried Kramer. He wasn’t a lawyer and didn’t even have a college degree, but he worked his way up to be the Clerk for the Third District Court of Appeals in Sacramento. I loved hearing about his cases; it helped me realize I needed to get immersed in the legal world too.

I founded my law firm just a couple years out of law school and have been a trial and business lawyer ever since. Some of the work I love, but I also became disillusioned with the profession in many ways. I decided my quest needed to be making lawyers actually useful to real people—or at least humorous.

LW: What did that realization lead to?

MK: I founded Legal Greenhouse, which is a think tank and experimental playground for various projects to make legal information more accessible to everyone.  

Legal Greenhouse Publishing has published two books so far: Why Lawyers Suck: Hacking the Legal System, Part 1, and Green Leaves and Brownies: A Paradoxical Explanation of Cannabis Laws.

LW: What was your intention with publishing these books?

MK: I thought there were other ways I could share my legal expertise beyond one-on-one client work. I wanted to do things that would help educate and change the legal profession. Publishing books that talk about the legal system in a humorous, engaging way is one of those things.  

Why Lawyers Suck has some great stories that explain the lawyer mindset to the general public—essentially breaking down why we’re nuts, and how to deal with it as a client.

Green Leaves and Brownies was born from a simple writing prompt I received in a writing group. I sat down with a few people in my group, fleshed the topic out a little more, and realized it would be neat to have as a book. Later that week, I was at Toastmasters. Their speaker had to cancel at the last minute, and they asked if I could give a speech in their place. I decided to present what I’d been writing, and ended up receiving an award for Best Speech of the Night. I thought I was really onto something. From there, I connected with a childhood friend who is also an artist, and she helped pull together the illustrations that really bring the story to life. 

LW: How have you serviced the cannabis industry throughout your career?

MK: For about a year, I worked with California Cannabis Lawyers dealing with the business side of the industry. But, I’ll be honest, I got a bit spooked when a local attorney who had a similar practice got slapped with felony charges relating to that representation. I was a single mom, and that kind of risk wasn’t something I was willing to take on at the time.

But although I don’t service the industry directly, I still get clients coming to me for peripheral cannabis issues relating to their day-to-day business practices. “Can my company’s health plan pay for medicinal cannabis for employees? Can a trust pay for a beneficiary’s recreational cannabis? How do I handle employees that I suspect are coming to work high? Can my employer make me take a drug test and then fire me for off-the-clock cannabis use?” These are very real issues that require thoughtful review and legal research.

LW: What about cannabis law interests you?

MK: I love the intellectual challenge. As far as I’m concerned, cannabis law is one of the most complicated areas of the law. For example, in California, there are over 200 different “jurisdictions” governing cannabis growing, processing, sales, and use. From town to town, county to county, there are all different regulations and permissions. There is also the overlap between federal and state laws, and not just what is on the books, but also how various laws are enforced or not enforced. It’s totally fascinating.

LW: What do you find unique about cannabis laws? 

MK: Cannabis laws are significantly tethered to politics and social mores—and precious-little reliance on science. The substance we are talking about is a natural product derived from a common plant that grows wild in many places in the US, and it’s not nearly as well understood as it should be. Knee-jerk political reactions ended up with a Class I designation, even though that defies science relating to this substance.

LW: What are some of the challenges of cannabis law?

MK: The overlapping jurisdictions, and just trying to nail down what you can and cannot do with respect to growing, processing, selling, buying, and using. 

I’ve recently been doing some field research, visiting dispensaries in different states and talking to the proprietors. It has been so fascinating to understand what is working for their businesses and what challenges they have. 

Just a few months ago, I was on vacation and visited a local dispensary, looking to share my Green Leaves and Brownies book with them. Within 60 seconds of walking in the door and identifying myself as a lawyer, the owner handed me a letter he’d received from the state department that regulated dispensaries listing some new regulations. He pointed to one sentence in a five-page letter and said “Do you know what this means?” 

I took a look at the sentence and realized that, if you interpreted this vague language in one way, his business was toast, but if you interpreted it another way, he was totally in the clear. How do you run a business that way, not knowing from day to day whether your business is legally compliant or not?

This is what people in the cannabis business space are dealing with every day, and I cannot imagine how hard that would be having to constantly worry whether your hard work is going to be taken away by the government without notice.

LW: What’s your favorite thing about cannabis law?

MK: I love that it was fodder for my Green Leaves and Brownie Dr. Seuss parody book. As a trial lawyer, I spend a lot of time giving people bad news, or trying to dig them out of a bad situation. With my book, I’m hoping people can have a good laugh and learn a little about cannabis laws at the same time. And considering how rapid cannabis laws are changing, I’m sure I’ll need to do a follow-up book at some point.

LW: What does the future of cannabis law look like?

MK: Change, change and more change. Lawyers know that the law is an ever-changing landscape in most areas, but that’s so much more the case for cannabis law.

LW: What is some expert advice every cannabis operator should keep in mind when it comes to laws and regulations?

MK: Find a good, experienced cannabis lawyer—or two. Start meeting and collecting contact information for lawyers who handle various aspects of cannabis law, because you may need them at some point. Getting to know lawyers long before you need them is the best way to build trust when you aren’t in some legal distress. 

You should also be proactive when it comes to keeping up with impending legal changes that may affect your business. That way, it’s less of a surprise for you later on.

Be very deliberate, and do your due diligence with everyone you do business with. If something goes wrong, your legal remedies aren’t as straightforward as other industries’. Don’t get sucked into business with sketchy people or those with criminal connections either, because that can put an extra target on your back and nobody needs that.

LW: What’s on the horizon for you and Legal Greenhouse? Any upcoming announcements or news?

MK: I am exploring some additional ways to meet the legal and business needs of cannabis businesses, both through BuddingLegal—a curated directory of expert cannabis lawyers—and “Can I Cannabis?” an app for users that allows them instant access to what they can and cannot do in terms of possession, purchase, and use of cannabis where they are, and to connect them with local cannabis businesses. 

While I work through the logistics and legal parameters for those projects, I will be continuing in my quest to make lawyers useful—or at least entertaining. In the coming year I expect to publish my second book in my “Hacking the Legal System” series. It will be titled How to Train Your Lawyer, which is somewhat of an operational manual for dealing with lawyers and how to make them a useful part of your business team.  
For now, you can purchase your copy of Green Leaves and Brownies at (including discounts on bulk orders) as well as Amazon and other online booksellers. 

PLS Provides POS and IT Support to Cannabis Operators: Q&A with Gerson Cedillos

Technology that allows you to streamline operations is essential for any business, but for the Cannabis Industry, it hasn’t always been easy to access. With continued Federally-illegal status, operators struggle to find solutions and partners who are willing to work with a gray market; as a result, innovation tends to be slow-going and difficult to achieve.

Although this perpetual struggle keeps many third-party vendors far away from the cannabis industry, others are intrigued by the unique challenge and eager to help cannabis operators who are struggling to stay afloat amidst constant federal scrutiny. 

One such fearlessly curious partner is PLS: an IT vendor and managed service provider (MSP) dedicated to supporting the national industry with all of its POS/IT hardware needs.

One such fearlessly curious partner is PLS: an IT vendor and managed service provider (MSP) dedicated to supporting the national industry with all of its POS/IT hardware needs.

Leafwire sat down with PLS CEO Gerson Cedillos to discuss how and why the team decided to support the Cannabis Industry, and all of the ways they consistently innovate Cannabis IT.

Leafwire: How did PLS get its start?

Gerson Cedillos: We opened for business in 2015 in the metro Phoenix area in Arizona. Our organization started as a Zebra Technologies Channel Partner, exclusively selling Zebra products, but today, we sell a wide variety of other OEM products and solutions including ELO Touch, HP Retail, Star Micronics, and Epson. 

LW: What sort of clients do you service?

GC: We do a lot of business with the Cannabis Industry in the U.S.—basically any state where cannabis is legal, whether that be medical or adult-use. We also work with more traditional retail and IT-focused customers. 

LW: Did you always know you wanted to work with cannabis operators, or did that decision come later?

GC: That came along later. We started servicing Cannabis operators because we realized there was a shortage of partners willing to work with the industry, and that was for a variety of reasons. Essentially, it’s a really difficult market to learn: every state is different, and most of them have very different compliance regulations. It’s a great market to work in, but it’s not easy.

Despite all of the risk and fear, we were up for the challenge. Once we saw the industry needed assistance and knew we could provide it, we started building our own book of business, calling around and seeing who needed hardware and support. Operators were in need of better-quality POS systems, and we knew we were equipped to bring that to the table.

LW: What value does better-quality POS PCs and hardware bring to operators?

GC: The return on investment (ROI) is much better when you use POS hardware that was designed specifically for high-volume use. Consumer PCs or Macs that are available from traditional retail stores (WalMart, Costco) are all meant for home-use and won’t be beneficial for you in a retail space.

When you’re using a POS system in a dispensary, you and your team are touching and using it for seven, eight, or nine hours a day. And if you’re using those store-bought tools we mentioned, your machine will wear down very quickly. You’ll have to replace it often, and those PCs don’t come with commercial warranties.

If you use an ELO or HP Retail POS PC then you’ll receive a free standard 3-year warranty, along with a more durable touchscreen surface. ELO and HP Retail manufacture their touchscreens using materials like Gorilla Glass, so you can really beat down on them and they won’t break. You might be spending more at the start, but your hardware will last a lot longer than something cheaper, which is more likely to break and force you to replace it multiple times. 

LW: What services do you provide to the Cannabis Industry?

GC: We approach cannabis uniquely because it’s not Federally legal, so the money that our customers have to spend looks different. A lot of our clients don’t even have a line of credit from a bank or investor to work with, let alone regular access to checks or cards. We often have to do cash payments and pickup, which can get complicated. However, we understand it and we’re willing to work with our customers and accept different forms of payment wherever needed. 

LW: How has PLS helped innovate best practices in the Cannabis Industry?

GC: We’ve exposed operators to different solutions from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) like Zebra Tech, ELO Touch, HP Retail, and Star Micronics, including features like self-checkout kiosks or different types of barcode scanners and label printers. All of this is now starting to be considered “best practice” among our customers, who are everything from MSOs and regional chains to independent dispensaries and mom-and-pops.  

LW: How can other organizations in the Cannabis Industry be more efficient?

GC: Consolidate label and receipt paper purchasing from a single vendor, like PLS. You can leverage your annual order volume to receive extremely competitive pricing, and it makes it easier for team leads and managers to order from one vendor instead of having to keep track of several. It also allows you to consolidate billing, and you can access unique benefits, like Zebra Technologies’ free print head replacement offer. 

LW: What has been the biggest challenge of working in the Cannabis Industry?

GC: The market in a lot of states is oversaturated, and issues tend to arise where people don’t have a business plan or operating capital to begin with. The biggest challenge for us is making sure the industry understands it’s business—not just pleasure. You need to make sure you have enough money to stay open and operating, and to help open with a stable business plan, your best bet is to partner with a company like PLS. We have support resources that help you understand your plan thoroughly—and that make sense for everyone’s budget.

LW: What is the biggest pro?

A lot more OEMs are beginning to view cannabis as a “real” business, and the industry is being taken more seriously as a result. Ten years ago, the Cannabis market was like a joke to many OEMs. You’d talk to an OEM sales rep and they just wouldn’t understand—they’d think it was a fad. Today, we’re seeing it as a real industry and market, and we’re here to provide long-term support. 

LW: What are Managed Services and why should Cannabis operators use them?

GC: Managed Services is the practice of outsourcing the responsibility for maintaining a range of IT processes and functions. In other words, you can hire a third-party like PLS to manage your IT network and hardware verses paying an in-house IT team. 

This will provide operators with improved operations and reduced budgetary spend through the reduction of labor. 

We charge a monthly rate based on the size of your business/endpoints, and it’s a great way to help you manage your IT infrastructure while reducing operating expenses. 

The alternative would be to hire your own IT lead and build your own team, but then you’re having to worry about labor and other expenses. Operators can also handle their own IT, however they will want to eventually delegate this task to an MSP to be more efficient. 

Our plans are very affordable and we simplify the Managed Services process so we can help you grow and expand your business. 

LW: What’s on the horizon for PLS now?

GC: We’re always looking to partner with new Independent Software Vendors in the industry who might want to delegate hardware support and procurement. We’re also keeping an eye on different states as they approve Medical and Recreational Cannabis sales. New states often bring new opportunities, as well as new challenges for meeting specific compliance guidelines. 

If you’re interested in connecting in person, we’ll be at MJBizCon in Vegas from November 8 – December 1. Come and see us in the IT Pavilion: Booth 7412. 

How The Right POS Software Can Make Or Break Profits For Cannabis Retailers: Q&A with John Yang, Co-Founder and CEO of Treez

Since the inception of the legal cannabis industry, navigating the financial aspect of business operations has been an intricate conundrum, exacerbated by the plant’s ongoing federally illegal status. As a result, cannabis operators have found themselves entangled in a web of complexities, compelled to overcome numerous obstacles in order to maintain profitability.

The ever-present specter of theft and security threats looms over retailers, while the rigid restrictions imposed by financial institutions often shut them out from accessing crucial loans and other forms of financial aid. Amidst these challenges, forward-thinking technology innovators have recognized the industry’s needs and stepped up to create financial and technological solutions that embrace the ever-changing regulatory complexities of the cannabis industry.

We sat down with Treez, a cannabis technology company focused on fueling industry growth through insights, analytics, and creative solutions to problems that have plagued the legal market for far too long. In an interview with CEO John Yang, we delved into the company’s origins, its diverse range of offerings, and the invaluable role its platform plays in empowering retailers to achieve sustained profitability and long-term success.

Leafwire: How was Treez first founded and formed?

John Yang: I co-founded Treez over six years ago, alongside Chief Strategy Officer Shareef El-Sissi. He is also the CEO of California-based vertically-integrated cannabis brand Eden Enterprises, so he came into Treez with a lot of on-the-ground experience as a cannabis multi-operator.

His background helped me realize that all of that activity throughout the cannabis supply chain is hugely reliant on the sale, which is represented by retailers. We saw that section of the value chain as most important for ultimate industry success, so we decided to narrow in on a product that would best optimize that step.

I come from an enterprise software background, so combining that experience with a grassroots cannabis operator in one of the largest cannabis markets in the world – Northern California – was a great way to kick off our beginnings as a company.

LW: As the cannabis industry progresses, what are the prevailing challenges it still confronts concerning critical areas like payment processing, inventory management, and reporting?

JY: Within the cannabis industry, retailers have been grappling with the lack of access to essential tools and financial resources that their traditional retail counterparts enjoy. In our six-year journey, we’ve come across a lot of deficiencies such as access to payment options, banking, sales software programs, inventory management, and efficient sales software programs that ultimately help businesses convert and complete a sale.

Our entry into the industry was driven by the recognition of this need, leading us to establish ourselves as a dedicated POS software provider catering specifically to the unique needs of cannabis retailers. Through our comprehensive suite of solutions, we aim to empower cannabis businesses to unlock their full potential and navigate the challenges they face, paving the way for a more prosperous future in this ever-evolving landscape.

LW: How exactly does Treez provide solutions to retailers?

JY: We help retailers become and stay profitable by providing essential tools such as point-of-sale software, data and analytics, e-commerce, cashless payment options, and customer relationship management tools.

A point-of-sale (POS) system is the backbone of a retail cannabis business. It is the central operating system that creates and adjusts product pricing, tracks products as they first enter the store, and traces the product as it is unloaded and processed by dispensary staff. A great POS system will do more than enable smooth transactions. It will have a larger focus on consistently keeping retailers 100% in compliance with their state traceability platform via automatic integration and data syncing. In addition to smoother transactions and lower waiting room times, you’ll see an increase in transactions and orders prepared while having a better insight into what inventory sells and what doesn’t. A strong POS system scales to a cannabis retailer’s needs and will allow you to reconfigure and adjust your business accordingly. Inside a robust POS system, there are a few vital characteristics you should find – inventory management, compliance, and multistore management.

Vertical operators require a seamlessly integrated system that effectively communicates with the entire supply chain, ensuring data visibility and streamlined workflows to achieve resounding success. Our software serves as the missing link, encompassing all the necessary technological layers a retailer may require, thereby enabling them to reap optimal outcomes with unparalleled efficiency.

LW: What sort of solutions do you provide when it comes to one of the biggest ongoing issues in the cannabis industry – cashless payments?

JY: In the nascent stages of our journey, a staggering 90 percent of cannabis businesses were constrained to operating on a cash-only basis. Today, we have witnessed progress, and that number has decreased to approximately 65-70 percent. However, in comparison to other types of retailers, this percentage remains relatively high. In the broader consumer retail landscape, the prevailing trend leans towards cashless transactions, with many retailers not accepting cash at all.

The three options you will traditionally see are PIN Debit, Automated Clearing House (ACH) and Cashless ATM. As the cannabis industry evolves, dispensary owners know that consumers expect cashless payment options. In fact, four in ten Americans say they make zero purchases in cash in a typical week. Offering a cashless payment option increases profitability, so much so that cashless payment adopters can see an increase in monthly revenue of up to 40%. The most successful dispensaries provide customers with secure, convenient, and integrated cashless payment solutions.

LW: How does your platform help ensure that companies stay profitable? What specific aspect of your offerings addresses this?

JY: When running a dispensary, a key indicator of success is profitability. Our POS system stands as the backbone of our enterprise, seamlessly optimizing workflows and facilitating high-volume transactions crucial for achieving profitability in the cannabis industry. But that’s not all; our software takes it a step further by efficiently reducing labor costs, providing long-term benefits for your business. By harnessing the power of our retail analytics, it helps dispensary owners make data-backed decisions.

Retail Analytics is the tool that transforms complex data into easy-to-understand visualizations and helps dispensary owners with tasks like tracking product performance, assessing the success of promotions, and monitoring customer behavior. It is important to invest in quality data reporting metrics, like sellable velocity, a unique metric created by Treez to judge how quickly products move, but only when they are available to be sold. Treez data shows that a dispensary on average loses over fifty thousand dollars ($50k) a month in sales due to missing restock opportunities. By tracking sellable velocity, dispensaries can see how quickly a product sells out after a restock and shows you when somebody didn’t replenish the sales floor when they should have. Sellable velocity removes the gut instincts approach and replaces it with solidified data that is easy to understand as a business owner.

LW: How can people stay up to date with your latest innovations and offerings?

JY: Check our website! We are constantly improving our products to take advantage of the latest technology.

Q&A: Technical Packaging Systems, Steve Scafaria

The cannabis industry’s legacy operators played a major role in the market’s transition from underground to legal, and they continue to influence how things are done as legal cannabis expands even further across the nation.

However, those that entered the industry from adjacent professions have also contributed significantly to today’s legal market – especially in regards to innovation and expansion.

Technical Packaging Systems has almost five decades of experience in the food and pharmaceutical realms, and they’ve brought that highly-regulated and safety-forward expertise to the cannabis industry in order to increase productivity, establish customer loyalty, and set impeccable standards for cannabis packaging. 

We sat down with TPS’s president Steve Scafaria to discuss their entry into the cannabis market.

Leafwire: How was TPS initially founded?

Steve Scafaria: The company started back in the mid-to-late 1970s. It was originally a packaging supply equipment and distribution company, and it eventually morphed into more automation: specifically upstream and packaging. 

We recognized a need to offer more to our customers in terms of turnkey solutions, like packaging equipment, product handling…a complete integrated solution for our partners.

LW: So, why the decision to service the cannabis industry?

SS: Let’s fast-forward to 2018, when Michigan’s adult-use cannabis market became legal. We picked up a couple of lines that would allow us to participate in the cannabis industry: a cone-filling line, and a cannabis grinder line. We had a couple of customers approach us with manual systems for other products that were very labor intensive and just didn’t work well.

That began our initial development of our machine, Vape Filler Capper VFC100. It took around 2-3 years to develop. It was a difficult project because cannabis was a controlled substance, and we couldn’t have the oil in our facility. 

LW: What sets you apart from competitors today?

SS: Our customer base is still over 50 percent food processing and pharmaceutical. We work with food safety, and all of the equipment we sell has to be food safe and built with sanitary design in mind. Because of that, every machine we develop takes in all of those basic principles – and that’s very important for the cannabis industry, because it’s a human consumption product.

We saw what was out there for operators, and it didn’t make sense to us from what we understood for automation – and for products that involve human consumption. 

We started by building the VPC100 – a machine that fills and caps cartridges in one line, on the same platform. Most other technologies for operators involve secondary processes, like separate machines for filling and capping. 

It made sense for us to have it all done in one process – especially for a product that needs to be closed or capped immediately. This eliminates leakage, and prevents a consumer from calling the cartridge faulty down the line.

LW: What other innovations have you brought to the cannabis industry with your designs?

SS: Our machine is all electric. Most other technologies require air compressor purchases, and that can cost anywhere from $15,000-$25,000. Our machine was built with the idea to keep developing, and as we learned more about the needs of our end user, we adjusted accordingly.

For example: our operators have to have a low-temperature machine to move this often-viscous oil. If you overheat it, the product is ruined, or at the very least, terpenes are diminished. Our machine operates at a very low temperature to prevent that issue. 

Also, from a capping standpoint, our system accommodates press-fit and screw-on caps. Rather than having to purchase yet another machine, ours will work with whatever type of cap you’ve got. 

We also have a clean-in-place system. In between strains, it’s required that you clean your system out completely, because strains cannot be commingled in Michigan. Our system’s cleaning cycle is entirely self-contained, so within about 15 minutes or so, you’re good to start on your new strain.

LW: What other innovations have you brought to the cannabis industry with your designs?

SS: Our technology is so different that no one really knows who we are yet – especially MSOs who are just sticking with whoever they’ve purchased from in the past. We want to show more people our technology, and keep building that base.

LW: What’s your favorite thing about working in cannabis?

SS: I’ve found it very enjoyable. It’s a new vertical to participate in, and it’s changing all of the time. 

LW: What’s on the near horizon for TPS?

SS: Right now, we’re working on further automation. Our system currently requires an operator, but our next development will aim to essentially run without one.

Q&A: Jessica Cranney, GRN Mile High – Attract, Develop & Retain High-Performing Leaders

The cannabis industry expands every year, and with that comes the creation of thousands of jobs and accompanying opportunities for employment. And as more states roll out legislation, more cannabis brands and organizations are slated to open for business, which means they’ll be looking for quick and reliable ways to review candidates.

Recruiting agency GRN Mile High is the ultimate middleman, using their resources to connect capable sales, marketing, finance, and operations professionals to the cannabis community. With over 194 global offices, GRN Mile High excels at attracting and identifying qualified candidates – largely thanks to their dedicated people-first approach. 

We paired up with GRN Mile High’s President and Chief Connection Officer Jessica Cranney to discuss the company’s inception, what makes them unique in cannabis, and what’s on the horizon for their weed worker recruitment strategy.

Leafwire: How was GRN Mile High first founded?

JC: I used to work for AT&T; I spent 17 years in Fortune 500 telecom, leading large retail organizations. My last role with the company – as the VP of 250 retail stores – landed me in Denver. But as time went on, I found myself not totally enamored with the job anymore.

I ultimately decided to leave AT&T, planning for a six-month “funemployment.” That lasted about three weeks, before I was recruited by LivWell to become their Head of Retail. At the time, cannabis was nowhere on my professional resume, but it was all over my personal resume, so I decided to go for it.

That job was my entry into cannabis. I got to scale the retail operations from 15 locations to 21, and the experience I gained was tremendous. I also realized I added value because I had this traditional background in enterprise America, and I was able to take from those playbooks and apply them to cannabis. 

After being there for around one and a half years, I was recruited by four or five other companies to do the same sort of organizational development. I came onboard with all of them, handling hierarchy structure, headcount analytics, compensation modeling, new hire onboarding training, leadership coaching, and whatever else it took to establish customer retention and brand loyalty.

Eventually I realized that through all of these engagements, I was organically recruiting. And that inspired me to start my own business.

Leafwire: What sort of assistance does GRN Mile High provide to cannabis operators?

JC: We consult for cannabis and cann-adjacent operators, leading with three critical people-first initiatives: attracting and recruiting, training and developing, and retaining. 

When it comes to the first initiative, we’re dedicated to winning with people first, and we lead with the end in mind. We help teams commit to cultural cadence, which will ultimately help them set themselves apart when hiring. 

Culture is so critical to successful organizations, but when I ask people what it means to them, I’m often met with snooze-worthy answers – like, “We do pizza on Fridays and work from home one day a week.”

Those things are great, but they won’t get people out of bed and inspire them. I ask organizations, “How are you differentiating yourself? Do you have defined interview processes that are comprehensive? Are you transparent? Once you bring a person onboard, how do you set them up for success with new hire training? How do you leverage referral programs to inspire your team to have their friends and family join your team?”

Ultimately, people will bring their own lunch and work wherever you want them to, as long as they feel like you’re invested in them first.

As for training and development, we focus on identifying what employees are looking for in their careers. Not everyone wants to be promoted or has major leadership aspirations. Some people just want to be the best budtender they can be. So how can you grow in place? And if you do want to be promoted, how can we offer you career advancement opportunities that help shape that?

Leafwire: How does the retention initiative work?

JC: Every good business owner knows the cost of backfilling an employee is one and a half times their salary. So when we talk about cultural cadence earlier in the framework, this is where signature moves come into play.

When you create one non-negotiable initiative as a company when it comes to attracting and retaining, your employees will respond well to that structure. And then think about, at a high level, who owns that pillar of retention within the company? How does that owner (or owners) keep that alive with regularity?

LW: What is on the near horizon for GRN Mile High?

JC: This year, we launched a new initiative called Connect & Contribute. So many of our clients have a passion or interest in giving back to the community, and we’ve decided to share that commitment. Every time we engage in any service, we give $420 to a 501c3 charity of our clients’ choosing. 

If they’ve got a cause that’s really important to them, we will make that donation on their behalf. And if for some reason they don’t have one, we’ve partnered with four (the Last Prisoner Project, the Wounded Warrior Project, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, and a service animal facility) that people can choose from. 

We also offer a referral bonus to our partners. For any clients you refer us to, we give you a kick-back off those invoiced services as a Thank You for the kind referral.

Sustainable Leadership Awards in Cannabis Wrapping Up for 2023 Soon

Sustainability has become a popular buzzword throughout the cannabis industry as many brands and companies race to claim they’re the most environmentally friendly – but how many of said entities are actually practicing what they’re preaching?

Sustainable living is increasingly prevalent and necessary throughout the globe, and for an industry that has been notoriously wasteful, it’s essential that cannabis operators are held accountable for their carbon footprints. 

 Award-winning quarterly publication Cannabis & Tech Today is at the helm of this sustainable scrutiny with their Sustainable Leadership Awards, which closely examines qualifying cannabis operators to ensure they’re being compliant and ethical when it comes to things like sustainable growing practices, eco-friendly packaging, and every other step along the line of production.

We sat down with Editor-in-Chief Charles Warner to discuss the awards ceremony, the submissions process, and what to look out for in regards to sustainability for 2023.

Leafwire: What are the Annual Cannabis & Tech Today Sustainable Leadership Awards?

Charles Warner: One of the main things we focus on as a publication is sustainability, and the intersection of sustainability with businesses. We don’t just view it as a nice thing to do – it’s bottom-line-oriented and strategic, and we treat it as such.

We are the tip of the spear when it comes to sustainability in cannabis, and this awards process is our chance to champion and celebrate thos companies that truly are leading the way when it comes to sustainability. 

LW: When did the Sustainable Leadership Awards first come to fruition?

CW: We launched the Leadership Awards in 2019 at MJBizCon, and we saw a lot of success there. This year is a continuation of that – our third annual awards process thus far. We’ve taken applications from companies who feel they are leading the industry in sustainability, and we offer multiple categories they can enter to win. 

LW: What’s new or different about this year’s awards?

CW: We’ve added some new categories. In the beginning we had about four, and this year we have nine: water, energy, innovation, packaging, stewardship, events, ESG standards, social impact, and sustainable development goals. 

The category additions were actually at the suggestion of cannabis advisory and resource board Regennabis, who we’ve partnered with on the judgment process each and every year.. They came to us and said, “Let’s make sure this is inclusive to everyone who wants to be part of it, and really ensure we’re not leaving any aspect of sustainability out of the picture,” and we fully agreed.

However, we don’t have categories just to have categories: if we don’t feel like we have worthy entrants for any of the categories – which actually happened in a few cases last year – we won’t give out that award. We’re discerning and careful with our choices, and we want to celebrate and honor all of the companies who truly deserve it. 

LW: How are the awards measured and decided to be given out?

CW: When companies enter, we ask for them to describe their project, their focus, and their goals, and then we dial in on those results. We want this to be something that is quantitative, so we need to see measurable results.

We dig deep when it comes to asking for proof and not just taking their word for it. A lot of companies try to green-wash, so we really dive into those claims, which we feel helps raise the bar for the entire industry. 

LW: What sort of value can companies gain from earning a Sustainable Leadership award?

CW: For the companies who win, it’s a nice feather in their cap. They get a physical award, along with digital assets – like graphics and logos – that they can use on their websites and social pages to really be proud of. They’ll also get coverage and recognition throughout the year in our magazine, podcast, and CBDTV, while we continue to talk about sustainability both online and in print.

It’s a win-win for everyone involved. Companies love to tell their employees how they won something, because it does matter for recruiting, and for those employees who care about saying they work for a company that really values sustainability. That’s a powerful thing to be able to verify through winning an award that is recognized within the industry.

And for us, it gives us a major opportunity as a magazine to get what we celebrate. If we celebrate sustainability, we think we can help the entire industry by putting these deserving companies in the spotlight and encouraging others to follow.

LW: Where and when does the awarding take place?

CW: The entrance cuts off at the end of January. At that point, we’ll update the winners on our website, and we’ll be announcing them officially in our next issue. 

We’ll also continue to talk about it throughout the entire year, including them in podcasts, stories, features, etc. This is an annual event, so once we have the winners determined, we’ll be talking about them and celebrating them up until it is time for 2024’s awards.

LW: What is the entry process like for interested companies?

CW: It is so easy. Interested companies can enter for consideration here.The Annual Cannabis & Tech Today Sustainable Leadership Awards.  There’s a nominal entry fee, which helps us pay for the awards, promotion, and the time our staff spends pouring through entries and ensuring we’re picking good winners. 

We’re also looking for someone who would want to be a title sponsor, so if there’s an interested brand out there who really wants to associate themselves with this awards program as a whole and shepherd the industry forward, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly. 

How Purchasing Technology is Solving the Cannabis Finance Problem

Cannabis financing is one of the most difficult aspects of the industry for operators to navigate – and with recent global financial struggles plaguing a variety of industries, accessing plant-friendly capital isn’t getting easier. is uniquely positioned to remedy this issue by providing secure financing options for business owners throughout the retail and cultivation spaces by streamlining the entire buying process from early phases to scaling.

Leafwire sat down with’s Head of Embedded Finance Warren Brown to discuss the limited number of options that cannabis businesses have for capital, recent changes in industry pricing, and how continuously creates solutions for shifting and growing needs.

Leafwire: What are some of the biggest setbacks that cannabis businesses face when it comes to financing and accessing capital?

Warren Brown: A lot of cannabis businesses are startups, or still in their early stages of development, and they might have barely any cash flow – or even negative cash flow. A lot of banks will lend to profitable businesses, but for early operators, they’re less likely to want to help out.

There’s also that stigma that’s still attached to the industry, and this definitely still applies for many banking organizations. The reality is: banks who understand the rules and regulations of cannabis are more willing to lend and provide capital, but a lot of folks are still uncomfortable. 

That forces cannabis companies to self-fund, which slows down growth – or, they have to raise equity in order to grow. Three or four years ago, raising equity was new, exciting, and fairly easy. A lot of equity capital wanted to get into cannabis. But that rush has since cooled off.

That’s where alternative capital providers come in and make a difference – players like us who provide a core service and embed access to capital as part of that service. 

LW: What sort of aspects of business are cannabis operators typically looking to finance?

WB: That varies depending on whether you’re working with a dispensary or a cultivation facility. But in general, opening new locations requires a big capital demand. We see dispensaries investing in remodels, delivery vehicles and equipment, or even just marketing campaigns. Bigger operators might want to spend $100,000-$200,000 for one digital marketing push.

On the cultivation side, it can be anything from installing a new kitchen or adding a new room to upgrading their harvesting technology or launching new products. 

LW: What sort of options do cannabis businesses currently have for secure capital?

WB: A small number of banks will be willing to lend, but they tend to only want so much of their portfolio in the cannabis space, so they’ll max out at a certain limit. In general, the choices are: a select group of banks, private finance companies, and equity markets. And then, players like us: embedded capital providers. 

LW: How have recent changes in global finances affected financing options for cannabis?

WB: It’s still early days, but we can look at mature markets and deduce that price pressure means we’re seeing some consolidation, and will likely continue to see that trend. In Colorado or California, for example, we see some turnover in the number of dispensaries available, or square footage of those locations.

That means capital providers need to be thoughtful about where they’re investing, and ensure to look at folks who are doing well. That’s one of the advantages for embedded capital providers. We’re not just providing capital: we’re helping people manage their daily spend. Because of that, we have a unique insight into who’s doing well and who isn’t, and we can make better and faster decisions about who to finance. 

LW: What sort of long-term effect do you think these global financial setbacks will have on the industry and its capital options?

WB: Personally, I think it’s structural. While cannabis is still state licensed and federally illegal, we’re creating these small, sub-scale markets. As an operator, you have to have your production and distribution local within your state, but when we get to a place where cannabis can cross state lines, those locations might change. People will be more likely to optimize around the best environments to grow in, and will also be able to transport their products farther. 

LW: What sort of solutions does provide the cannabis industry when it comes to financing and buying?

WB: We simplify the end-to-end buying and fulfillment process for businesses (including dispensaries and cultivators) and vendors – folks who sell to those businesses. 

We make it fast and easy for dispensaries and cultivators to get all of the things they need to run a business. On the flip side, if you’re an accessory, packaging, or grow supplier, we can help you access more customers and process your orders more efficiently.

We work with over 200 dispensaries and cultivators to help them spend around $7-8 million per month, across 4,000 different vendors per day. Through that process, we’ve quickly learned about the opportunity to embed financing in that process. We basically offer folks four different vehicles for accessing forms of capital:

  1. We offer our customers the option to consolidate all of their vendor purchases on one invoice, and then give them 30 days to pay that total bill. That option is free and included with our platform, and we’ve found it to be super powerful – especially in the cannabis industry, where many payments are net 1. If you’re stocking up on product, handling digital marketing, etc., pushing out that payment by 30 days can help you better align your expenses as revenue comes in.
  1. Our second option is extended terms, for anyone who needs more than 30 days to pay that bill. We can extend our terms by an additional 30-60 days for a small fee. And rather than business owners having to negotiate individual terms with 50 different vendors, they’re able to easily come to us, make one request, and all of that spend gets moved into whatever time period they need. 
  1. The third option, which we just launched, is our cash advance product. This is for anyone who needs to access capital and back it back over a 6-12-month period. We’ll do a quick underwriting on the business, approve them for up to $500,000, and they’re able to take that money, invest it, and pay us back over a 6-12-month period as a percentage of monthly revenues.
  1. Our last option is targeted more at vendors: mid-sized vendors in the space whose customers want to pay them on net 30, 60, or 90. Mid-sized businesses may struggle to agree to these terms because they have to spend money upfront to produce their product, and this can make cash really tight for them. 

Because of this, a lot of vendors have to turn away business because they can’t offer these net rates to customers. That’s where we come in. We offer net terms as a service, so the vendor will bring that customer to us, tell them to order their product or service through our platform, we pay that vendor net 1, and the customer pays us net 30, 60, 90, or whatever we’ve agreed to.

This allows vendors to win deals they might otherwise lose, while also growing revenue that doesn’t tie up the balance sheet in the interim.

LW: What makes unique from other cannabis financing solutions?

WB: We’re pretty deeply embedded with our clients. Whether they’re MSOs or single location operators, we’re helping them manage what they buy on a daily or weekly basis. It’s a lot easier for us to understand businesses and make decisions on credit extensions when we have that deep relationship, versus a finance company coming in from the outside and starting that relationship by offering credit.

Companies like that they’re using our benefits while building credibility, and increasing that ability to access reliable capital. We’re big believers in the combination of being the embedded software that people use to run businesses and manage spend. It makes things a lot easier for us when it comes to delivering capital, and it’s a powerful win-win.

Blazing the Trail: Star Micronics Leads the Charge in Cannabis POS Technology

The nation’s cannabis industry is continuously expanding. With another round of proposals for new state markets to be voted on throughout the year, the demand for cannabis products is slated to increase exponentially.

This means the retail space is gearing up to be well-stocked, dynamic, and busier than ever – and dispensaries will be looking for a new level of solutions to streamline productivity and optimal success.

Star Micronics has acted as a reliable point-of-sale (POS) solution for a variety of U.S. industries since 1976. As an iconic and innovative leader in the cannabis industry, Star is well-poised to support this evolution.

Leafwire sat down with Channel Partner Executive Christine Stima – who has 25 years of experience with Star Micronics – to discuss the company’s formation, its original foray into cannabis, and the latest from Star Micronics when it comes to cannabis POS metamorphoses. 

Leafwire: How was Star Micronics originally founded?

Christine Stima: The company was founded as an electronics company in 1976. Receipt printers were just emerging, and once we entered the space, we fell right into the POS industry with our impact printers. Then, we gradually merged to offer both impact and thermal receipt printers.

Over the past decade, we’ve added cash drawers, scales, barcode scanners, POS stands, and tablet enclosures to our offerings. We’ve encompassed a full suite of solutions for POS systems, which sets us apart from competitors just offering printers. 

LW: How did you enter cannabis from there?

CS: It all started with a leaf on the TSP100 Eco: our eco-friendly printer. It has an ENERGY STAR on it to signify its eco-friendly status (it’s made entirely of recycled plastics). That logo, which is a green leaf, allowed us to fall into the medical cannabis industry.

We got one software partner from the cannabis industry about 15 years ago, and they were our only partner in the industry for many years. But as the industry grew, so did our printer sales, and that leaf logo became almost a standard for cannabis operators.

The TSP100 is still widely used among canna-businesses. Everyone recognizes its reliability and quality, and the notoriety of Star Micronics in the cannabis industry just kept going.

LW: How did you transition from the medical industry to adult-use? Did it just sort of naturally happen as the industry began to grow and expand? 

CS: Well, it was an easy transition because most dispensaries use tablets with their POS systems, and we’re one of the first printer companies to work with iOS and Mac drivers. Years ago, most people just used Windows drivers, but Star took the initiative to begin offering Mac – and then when iPads and iPhones came out, we upgraded to iOS drivers. 

Also, the cannabis industry was a cash-only industry at the time. Since many dispensaries still only accept cash payments, we evolved our product line to include various cash drawers.

Dispensaries also weigh a lot of items for sale, so we evolved even further to offer POS scales. We have two types of POS scales: precision scales, which are more for determining the weight of cannabis itself, and larger-capacity scales, which are great for edible bakery items and weighing items in bulk. 

Our scales offer Bluetooth communication as well – so if you have a tablet, you don’t have to connect any wires to connect the tablet to the scale. 

It’s definitely been a natural progression for us to move more into the recreational space.

LW: What sector of the industry do you service?

CS: We’re present in all aspects of cannabis. The majority of our partners are retail, but we’ve interacted with seed-to-sale, and we’re also deeply involved in the cannabis delivery space.

LW:  How do you think your services have innovated the industry? 

CS: We employ an integration team to help any new software company that comes to Star, and that team strives for perfection. We offer free equipment demos and work with software companies until they succeed. Our integration department is key for us because of the personalized, highly-technological services they offer. 

LW: What is on the horizon for Star Micronics?

CS: We just released some new POS hardware products, including scales, barcode scanners, and tablet enclosures, but we have much more coming down the pipeline, so stay tuned!

Don’t Take Chances. Partner with PowerQwest for 100% Compliant ATMs

Finance and banking continues to be one of the cannabis industry’s most negatively impactful issues. With the plant still rendered federally illegal, many banks are reluctant to do business with cannabis operators – and that forces many dispensaries to continue relying on cash-only transactions.

There are a number of problems with this approach: 

  1. Customers being less willing to engage with the business 
  2. Dispensaries being left especially vulnerable to theft 

Because of this, financial solutions to the notorious nationwide cannabis cash problem are in high demand throughout the industry.

PowerQwest Financial, the cannabis-focused subdivision of Paramount Management Group, was founded in response to this resounding cry for help. The company offers 100 percent compliant ATMs to cannabis operators: mitigating risk, maximizing profit, and educating business owners on their most viable options within the cannabis financial sphere. 

We sat down with PowerQwest Financial Director of Retail Sales Jim Krawczyk to discuss the company’s foundation and explore how PowerQwest helps bridge the confusing gap between consumer and operator at nationwide cannabis transactions. 

Leafwire: How was PowerQwest first formed?

Jim Krawczyk: PowerQwest is our cannabis entity that we brought to life a few years ago. We wanted to get into the cannabis space, and one of our private equity partners had some interest in the market. We formed PowerQwest in response to that – and as a way for us to jump into the cannabis arena.

LW: What sort of services does PowerQwest offer the cannabis industry?

JK: We offer 100 percent compliant ATM solutions to our customers. It’s a closed loop system: the money comes from a credit union to the federal reserve to an armored car guard, and is then deposited directly into the ATM.

This means no one can interject their own cash, which renders it 100 percent compliant. ATMs can easily be turned into money laundering machines, and that’s where things get murky for operators under federal scrutiny. 

LW: Why do cannabis dispensaries need ATMs in the first place?

JK: Since cannabis isn’t legal on a federal level, Visa and MasterCard don’t allow retailers to accept credit or debit cards for cannabis purchases. That means they have to rely on cash, and the safest and easiest way to provide customers with that cash is via ATMs – preferably one or more per store. 

LW: What are some cannabis industry-specific challenges you’ve come across since founding PowerQwest?

JK: The industry has a lot of rules and regulations. When you’re talking about putting an ATM in a convenience store, there aren’t many rules to worry about. We can sell an ATM to the owner and install it – we can do whatever we want. Cannabis is much more rigid.

With dispensaries we have to own the ATM, load it with cash, and from our benefit and backend, we have to make sure the dispensary owner has their best interest involved as well. It’s important to ensure we’re doing everything we can to make sure they don’t get investigated by the Feds because they’re doing something that is illegal. 

LW: In your experience, are dispensary owners commonly uneducated when it comes to what is and isn’t allowed for ATM transactions?

JK: Yes. There are consultants in New York state, for example, where cannabis was very recently legalized telling dispensary owners the wrong information already. I have a partner who’s run across a few owners whose consultant told them, “Oh, just buy an ATM and you’ll be good” – and that’s not the way we do things.

Every state will be a little different, of course. We try to reach out to newer states who are just getting new licenses, focusing on educating them before they get saturated with too much misinformation. We partner with other companies as well, which is how we get a lot of our referrals.

LW: How does your referral program work?

JK: If you work in the cannabis industry and run across a dispensary that is in need of an ATM, you can refer them to us. That will get you five percent of the monthly profit for every location that goes live for the life of the contract. And in addition to that recurring income, our partners receive a one-time $150 payment for each location once it becomes active.

To refer someone, you can simply reach out to your dispensary contacts, provide them with the marketing materials we supply, and introduce them to our team. We handle the rest.

LW: What is your ultimate goal as a company when it comes to helping advance the industry’s ongoing banking issues?

JK: We want to continue educating dispensary owners on the rules and regulations of the ATM: what is acceptable, what isn’t, and what will keep them out of trouble with the federal government. 

LW: Why should a cannabis operator work with PowerQwest for ATM solutions?

JK: Inflation is at a record level, and as a result, everyone can use a little extra money every month. We are one of the only ATM companies that provide surcharge income to the dispensary owner. That’s why we created this unique program. But more importantly: our partners can trust PowerQwest to provide nationwide service, reliable 24/7 support, and customized programs that meet the unique needs of the dispensary every time.

How VRF Technology from Mitsubishi Electric Trane Can Help Your Indoor Grow

Some of the most successful contributors to the cannabis industry are those who’s products are well established outside the industry. By leveraging prior success, these contributors are delivering measurable value and leading innovation to the cannabis industry.

One such contributor is Mitsubishi Electric Trane HVAC (METUS) – a joint-venture of HVAC industry titans Mitsubishi Electric and Trane Technologies who’s Ductless and Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) air conditioning systems are renown for long term reliability and energy efficient operation.

METUS has brought their decades of product design excellence and innovation leadership to cannabis professionals providing indoor cultivators with lower monthly operating expense, reliable operation, consistently higher output, while helping customers decrease their carbon footprint.

We sat down with Senior Manager of Strategic Programs Michael Hampton to discuss the company’s history, their initial foray into cannabis, and their current position when it comes to industry progress and innovation.

Leafwire: How was Mitsubishi Electric Trane HVAC first started?

Michael Hampton: Our parent company, Mitsubishi Electric is one of the world’s leading names in the manufacture and sales of electrical and electronic products and systems used in a broad range of fields and applications. Our products are used in factory automation, visual info systems, energy systems, power generation, and of course air conditioning systems.

The technology our cooling and heating products are known for – inverter-based – came to the US in the early ‘80’s. Our ductless and VRF air conditioning systems have helped stimulate the US adoption of energy efficient products into homes and businesses.

LW: When and why did Mitsubishi Electric Trane HVAC begin servicing the cannabis industry?

MH: We’ve been in the cannabis business for a long time as our products are uniquely applicable due to their small, modular, and easy to install features.

Because the cannabis industry has experienced incredibly strong growth over the last 6-7 years, we’ve increasingly worked to partner with informed and motivated owners who need their facilities operating reliably and profitably month in and month out.

LW: What were some issues with cannabis HVAC systems you identified and hoped to solve when you entered the industry?

MH: Large, inefficient, very inflexible products. Typically, cannabis HVAC systems are either large packaged units that sit up on a roof – which requires steel structural support – or, they sit outside, and you have to run duct work across the building in order to move air around in the right places.

These products were large, heavy, and inefficient when it came to energy consumption. This resulted in high energy bills for owners and growers, because the machines either had to be 100 percent on or off to work.

Grow rooms also tend to be fairly smaller in size, so there is usually very little room to run duct work or have large pieces of equipment hanging from the ceilings. Our small modular design really addresses those issues and benefits operations.

LW: What are some of the most popular trends you’ve found in today’s cannabis indoor grow world?

MH: The need for the ability to use a single system and spread its energy across multiple rooms, which our modular approach easily addresses. Instead of having one system service one room at a time, we’re able to take a single system and spread it across multiple grow rooms in a way that creates both efficiency and helpful redundancy. If you have one system down but it’s spread across four different rooms, you can still optimize 50-70 percent of your grow capacity. 

LW: How does this approach support the industry’s growing need for sustainable operations?

MH: Across all industries, we’re experiencing a growing concern for the environment: reducing high energy costs, and moving away from fossil fuels. This fits right into our products. They’re all electric, they provide cooling and heating, and they reduce the cost of energy by being so efficient. 

LW: What are some top tips every indoor grower should know about their HVAC system?

MH: Growers are paying their electric bills every month, and that’s an expense that reduces profitability. If they can reduce those electric or utility costs, it will have a profound impact on their overall success. As a grower, you need to make sure you’re investigating the best solutions for your grow room in terms of efficiency and energy use. It’s sort of like buying a car: you can buy a car that gets 10 miles to the gallon, or a car that gets 40 miles to the gallon. Be aware of that efficiency margin.

You should also make sure you’re taking advantage of redundancy capabilities. Design your rooms in a way that, should a mechanical system experience a failure (which will happen at some point in time), you won’t lose your entire room. You might go from 100 percent down to 75 or 50 percent, which gives you time to keep your crops growing while you wait for that system to be repaired. Take advantage of any products that can enable your progress in that area.

Finally, be aware that there are systems that can average temperatures within a grow room, and therefore do a better job of cooling it. Areas within a grow room can be warmer or cooler at any given time, so having things like multiple sensor locations or multiple averaging temperatures can provide a more uniform cooling experience, which also saves energy.

LW: What sets Mitsubishi Electric Trane HVAC apart from your competitors?

MH: Our support. As a manufacturer, we provide support from the design stage through startup and beyond. We have people whose sole job is to ensure our products are working and reliable. We have tech support, design support, and training support for people who are installing and servicing our products.

We’ve been in the U.S. market since the early ’80s, and we’re basically the first manufacturers of this technology. We’ve been doing it the longest, have the most experience, and we made the investment to support customers throughout the country.

Finally, part of the total cost of an AC system isn’t just the initial installation. You also have to factor in how much it costs to operate, and how easy it will be to maintain.

A lot of our competitors require major maintenance costs to run efficiently. Our products do not. Our filter changes are easy to perform, and there’s no water treatments necessary, or drives or bearings to lubricate or oil. As long as you keep your coils clean on a yearly basis and change your filters on a quarterly basis, you’ll have a system that performs reliably and consistently for many years. This is a cost that no one thinks about until something breaks and everyone is panicking, but we’ve factored that in from the start.

How to Increase the Value of Each Transaction with Interactive Offers

With cannabis still federally illegal, the industry finds it consistently difficult to advertise and create brand awareness without violating federal guidelines.

The branding, advertising, and marketing space in the legal industry is notoriously murky to navigate, with constantly-changing regulations and wildly different requirements depending on what state or region you’re advertising in.

This has forced the hand of strategic brand agencies to get more creative than ever before – like Interactive Offers, who utilize native advertisements to elude restrictions and connect with target audiences in a lasting and impactful manner that can have a transformative effect on how the legal industry markets itself.

Leafwire sat down with Interactive Offers co-founder Wesley de Souza to discuss their unique approach to branding and the impact it’s already having on legal cannabis today.

Leafwire: How was Interactive Offers first founded?

Wesley de Souza: Originally, I ran an ad agency that handled a lot of media buying and placements for major publicly traded companies not in the cannabis or CBD space. We focused on buying media, placing content, and other forms of advertising. We found ourselves spending so much money on programmatic advertising and some of the media we had to utilize just wasn’t great, so we decided to start our own platform.

LW: What sort of needs does Interactive Offers meet for the industry?

WDS: interactive offers focuses on smaller niches. Google and related companies have programmatic ad features on a monopoly, so we found a little niche within the email space. Running a programmatic ad stack within email and programmatic Click to opt in. That’s our main focus: helping companies build out their own data base which lead to much higher conversions / ROI. 

LW: Why did you decide to focus on cannabis and CBD?

WDS: For us, it was a two-step process. A CBD company actually acquired us to begin with. They’ve since switched their focus to be more of a brand aggregator, but at the time they were strictly CBD. So that was one reason, but another is that we don’t have to abide by any ad exchange rules, because we don’t tie into any ad exchanges. The bigger ad exchanges will deny campaigns simply because they don’t understand the industry. Which allows us to take full advantage of the over looked markets. 

LW: What sort of benefit does that provide you?

WDS: All the publications we have on our platform are directly coded either in newsletters or on the website, so we don’t need approval for any ad exchanges or a  DSP or whatever the case may be. Essentially, a lot of those regulations the CBD industry has to abide by on Google, Bing, or any other platform – we don’t have to worry about those setbacks.

LW: Without those headaches to worry about, what other tricky things have you come across operating within the cannabis/CBD space?

WDS: Well, I think our biggest setback is the option for scalability. If a client wants to spend $50,000 or $100,000 on advertising per month, we can easily do it for the financial industry, for example. But for CBD or Cannabis , we might find it difficult to spend a budget on that level – it’ll take us longer and be on a smaller scale than other industries, which can pose some issues.

LW: How does the Interactive Offers platform work to help build a cannabis or CBD brand?

WDS: With cannabis, we can get really specific with targeting, because we base it all on email address rather than IP address, which uses households. We also focus on click-to-opt-in funnels instead of cost-per-click or cost-per-impression, meaning the advertisers will only pay us per lead delivered. 

Take the brand Peet’s Coffee as an example – we help them build out an email funnel to reengage clients, but only charge them per email that makes it into their funnel. This allows brands to have more than one chance at an upsell. 

Let’s say a consumer subscribes to an email newsletter for a thirty percent-off coupon on their next purchase – that advertiser now has another chance to contact that user until they purchase a product or hit unsubscribe. We’ve taken that concept and applied it to every industry we operate in, including CBD and cannabis. 

LW: What do you think the future of cannabis ad tech is? Do you see more brands turning to this style of advertising?

WDS: Absolutely. This model provides more value to the advertiser. They can get instant sales off the database we’re constantly acquiring on their behalf. Our platform also allows you to work both ways, meaning an advertiser can also be a publisher and increase that cart value for every sale they have.

For example, on an advertiser’s transactional page, we’ll display a series of ads that aren’t in competition to what they’re selling – more e-commerce ads like Macy’s, Peet’s Coffee, etc. Then, they’re able to increase the value of each cart because they’re selling that lead, if the user accepts and clicks.

An advertiser can also publish and increase each value of their cart, essentially making more money off each buyer. 

Add Your Voice to the Higher Growth Search Cannabis Hiring and Employment Survey

As the legal cannabis industry continues to expand, so do the opportunities for employment within the market. Cannabis companies are constantly looking for new talent to flesh out their teams and adjust to the growing demands of the industry, and with that comes a need to partner with a staffing firm to make employers’ search for prospective employees that much easier.

Based in California, Higher Growth Search is a cannabis employment and HR solutions firm that offers industry-specific expertise and a spectrum of à la carte services to both job seekers and companies looking to expand their teams. 

Higher Growth Search just put out its annual survey – the 2022 HGS Pulse Check – to get a feel for how cannabis operators are addressing a range of employment-focused challenges. 

Cannabis employers are encouraged to participate and add their voice to the conversation. Survey respondents can request to receive the results, along with the Higher Growth Search 2023 Salary Guide, both of which will be published in early 2023.

The survey takes less than five minutes to complete. The data will not be sold and is for HGS’ internal use only to develop the survey results report.

We sat down with HGS’s SVP of Marketing and Business Operations Melita Balestieri to learn more about the survey, what it will cover, how it will aid the industry, and how it will help innovate the team’s approach to helping companies find the employees they need. 

Leafwire: How does the HGS Pulse Check Survey work?

Melita Balestieri: This survey is for cannabis companies and will illuminate industry hiring and business trends. Once the survey results are in, we’ll assess the data we’ve come away with and write up an industry-wide report that will reflect our findings, to be published in early 2023.

LW: How do you hope the Pulse Check survey will help inform cannabis companies on their approach to operations?

MB: We want to provide hiring managers with insights into hiring trends and employment practices within the cannabis industry. The report findings will help employers learn how their colleagues handle various recruiting and hiring challenges. The report will also provide cannabis operators with insight into how to build and refine their recruiting strategies, allowing them to set themselves up for success in today’s ever-changing cannabis business environment.                   

LW: What are some of the most important things you’re hoping to learn from the survey?

MB: We’re interested in learning what strategies employers are using to recruit qualified candidates, whether they’re providing employee benefits, and how they’re assessing the state of the cannabis industry in our current economy.

LW: How are you planning to implement new strategies moving forward based on the results?

MB: As a staffing and HR solutions partner to cannabis companies in all stages of development, we customize our services to each client’s most pressing needs. That being said, we’ll use our survey results as a guidepost to keep refining our offerings and ensuring that we provide effective, cost-conscious solutions, whether for executive search, direct hire, recruitment on demand, or human resources solutions. 

Want to join in? Take the Higher Growth Search Pulse Check Survey today.

CannIntelligence: Helping Cannabusinesses Navigate The Market

Compliance is a difficult arena to navigate within the cannabis space, especially considering the plant has different regulations placed on it depending on the various governing regions. Because of this, companies that focus on cannabis compliance are essential for operators hoping to stay profitable, successful, and safe for consumers.

CannIntelligence – formerly known as CBD-Intel – has gone from focusing on CBD to other cannabinoids, approaching the plant and its regulations and compliance standards as a whole on behalf of operators throughout the country. 

As the industry evolves, so does the need for thorough legal and market compliance analysis, and that is exactly what CannIntelligence brings to the table. Leafwire sat down with Head Legal Analyst Anthony Traurig to discuss the company’s formation, how their initiatives have transformed along with the industry, and where they are today. 

Leafwire: How was CannIntelligence first founded?

Anthony Traurig: Our company started in the e-cigarette sector with ECigIntelligence. However, after spending time in that arena, we figured out that we wanted to cover other emerging sectors that operated in legal gray areas. We were providing value to e-cigarette  clients to help them navigate those environments, and we wanted to expand that help to other murky markets.

So in 2018, we launched our second platform, CBD-Intel, which provided independent market and regulatory data for the CBD sector. As the industry evolved, so did we, and we naturally began covering cannabis and other cannabinoids more broadly. Because of this, we changed our name to CannIntelligence to reflect that evolution. 

LW: What does CannIntelligence focus on, and how does the team service and contribute to the industry?

AT: CannIntelligence is focused on providing objective market and regulatory data that the global cannabis sector can rely on to make informed decisions. We currently have regulatory data on over 60 countries, with analysts and correspondents positioned all over the globe. 

We are in constant contact with authorities and stakeholders in the industry, which helps us gain a global perspective not only on where the industry stands, but also where it is headed at any given time. Our clients – who range from companies to regulators to NGOs – have come to trust us for our unbiased, detailed analysis of the cannabis industry.

LW: You mentioned that the company just changed its name from CBD-Intel to CannIntelligence. What’s the reason behind the name change? 

AT: We have been operating as CBD-Intel since we launched the platform in 2018, but a lot within the industry has changed in the meantime. Our coverage of cannabis has evolved along with these changes, and we have gradually been covering more cannabinoids and cannabis products – rather than just CBD – as a result. 

Today, we cover a much wider range of cannabis products, like intoxicating hemp-derived cannabinoids (IHDCs) and medical and recreational cannabis. Overall, we remain committed to providing the same premium data to the wider cannabis sector that made our services indispensable in the CBD sector.

LW: What parts of the plant do you research from a regulatory perspective, and how do findings from the different cannabinoids you work with vary, if at all?

AT: We analyze the regulation of all cannabinoids globally. But at this point – with the exception of a few jurisdictions – regulations are focused primarily on CBD and THC. However, that will inevitably change as the properties of more cannabinoids and combinations of cannabinoids are better understood, and we will be tracking those developments closely. 

Lawmakers and regulators remain more concerned about intoxicating cannabinoids like THC and HHC, but consumer demand for these products is forcing policymakers to inform themselves more about cannabis, and I think that’s a positive development for the industry and for society as a whole. 

LW: How do IHDCs factor into your work?

AT: We have been tracking IHDCs closely since the boom of delta-8 in the U.S. began, and have also been monitoring their creep into Europe and other markets. We have in-depth market and regulatory analysis of IHDCs in the U.S., and will soon release IHDC data from outside of the States. 

As a company, we have witnessed how IHDCs disrupt the hemp and cannabis industries, and we firmly believe that anyone operating in those industries needs to pay attention to IHDCs regardless of whether they ever intend to make or sell them. We have focused a lot of our resources towards covering IHDCs because their legal status is so murky and they are so difficult to track through traditional retail channels. Our coverage of IHDCs on a global level is truly one of a kind.

LW: What is the future of IHDCs in the industry?

AT: Although our market data has found that IHDC products are increasing their presence in many global markets and we have identified a few potential legal markets globally, the U.S. is currently the only market in which IHDCs are thriving. IHDCs have enjoyed a greater recognized legal status in much of the U.S. due to the unique language in the 2018 Farm Bill that isn’t included in other countries’ laws. 

In the U.S., all eyes have to be on the upcoming 2023 Farm Bill – especially for cannabis operators. Although we have noted a region-based legislative shift, from states banning IHDCs to states regulating their sales instead, the federal government could effectively shutter the IHDC industry if they amend the hemp definition to close the “loophole” that allows IHDCs in the upcoming farm bill. 

I do not think it would be politically wise for Congress to close the loophole and restrict access to cannabis products when citizens have voted time and again for more access to cannabis, but the chances of the loophole getting closed are significant enough that the industry should be paying close attention.

LW: What is your opinion on Oregon’s recent ban on CBN? How might it affect the rest of the nation and market?

AT: It is certainly understandable that regulators would want to subject “artificially derived” cannabinoids – which Oregon considers CBN to be – to stricter testing standards by keeping them within the state dispensary system for the short term. However, I hope that there can be some sort of compromise to appease regulators’ concerns during the one-year grace period before those products are completely banned. 

While there is some valid concern about byproducts in synthetic products like CBN, the world is chock-full of synthetic products that are consumed by the masses without anyone thinking twice about it. If testing can ensure that potentially harmful byproducts are not present in these types of products, then those cannabinoids should be treated the same whether they are derived directly from the plant or synthetically. This concept has been accepted in many other industries. Going forward, I hope that testing to ensure the safety of the products is the solution instead of banning them.

Why Cannabis Companies Worried About Recession Should Double Down On Brand Experience

Although the cannabis industry was able to survive recent COVID-fueled supply chain shortages, few industries under the sun can successfully withstand a recession, and in the midst of one, brands and dispensaries are scrambling to remain relevant and successful throughout the difficult times.

Cannabis POS, inventory, and compliance company Cova Software deals with these issues on a regular basis, utilizing their platform and expertise to help brands and dispensaries consistently pivot to exceed the industry’s latest demands.

Leafwire sat down with Cova Software CEO Gary Cohen to discuss the dangers of cutting costs and the importance of brand experience for long-lasting success.

Leafwire: What is brand experience, and how might a brand or dispensary develop this concept in their favor?

Gary Cohen: In the midst of a recession, a big hesitation brands and dispensaries will have is spending more money. However, this is the exact time brands should not only be reinforcing what they stand for, but also executing better than ever on it. And you can do that without spending any additional money.

LW: How might a brand or dispensary begin to approach that?

GC: It can begin by revisiting what their brand promise is. If I open a store and I never clearly defined what the store is about or stands for, or if I’m a manufacturer making just another gummy and there’s no differentiator, distinction, or appreciable added value – you’re in trouble. 

This is a good time to revisit what you stand for: it’s all about the ability to convey what makes your brand different. Get clear on that, and align all stakeholders on it. That’s the starting point and costs you nothing. 

Secondly, you can look at how the spend you’re currently utilizing is pushing that message forward. How far have you deviated from that brand promise or message? Take a look at your content and marketing – where you’re spending money, and what you’re spending it on. Is your message consistent with what you’re trying to put out there?

Again, this won’t cost your business a lot. It’s more about realigning yourself with what you were trying to succeed with in the first place.

LW: A big problem with today’s industry is oversaturation. How can dispensaries and brands utilize this brand experience to mitigate the effects of oversaturation?

GC: In all cases of failing cannabis businesses, the first excuse people will use is oversaturation. But then, you have to ask the next question. Okay, so you failed, but that guy across the street didn’t. Why not? 

In the case of businesses failing, it always comes back to this: they were winging it. They didn’t have a plan or a brand promise. The dispensary wasn’t distinctive or unique at all. And that takes me to the next piece: customer experience. Customers vote with their wallets, so why did they go to the guy across the street and not you? 

Brand positioning and brand promise can look like a dozen things: convenience, selection, value, etc. So if my brand promise is the cheapest prices in my region, then I better not have a flashy store in a super expensive location, because that incongruity won’t match up for your customers.

LW: Third-party tech partners are undeniably more popular with cannabis retailers, especially since COVID. How might they be helpful for establishing brand promise?

GC: The cannabis industry has this big technological ecosystem, and there’s a lot that can go into improving operations and the customer experience. When curbside pickup became essential, Cova built a model that efficiently managed it. But, it’s important to make sure everything is going to be cohesive.

If we’re going with delivery, do we have partners who have all regulatory required capabilities to execute that? Do our systems talk to each other, so it’s a seamless, well-delivered experience from end to end? Our brand promise is tied to compliance.  Therefore, our “delivery partner” needs to fulfill our promise of providing a completely compliant solution.

LW: How might third-party tech companies be a hindrance to brand experience?

GC: Some of those companies in our space will provide a service with an ulterior motive, like using/selling the data running through their platform. So on every order running through their online set of menus, they’re going to use that data.

Then, over time, they might want to own the relationship with the customers. For example, I put my dispensary on one of these marketplaces, and then the consumer comes looking for Red Mango. The marketplace might say, we have four people on our site with Red Mango, and even if I’m paying them to display my store and my inventory, this other store might pay them more to prioritize them and their products. 

LW: With all of this economic turbulence in mind, how can retailers ensure their approach to brand experience is the right one?

GC: It’s simple: just keep reevaluating whether or not you’re delivering by asking your customers why they are or aren’t choosing you.  If not, make adjustments to stay true to that promise.

The worst thing you can do is pull back on spending. To remain viable, you have to look at your data and utilize it to make good decisions. What are our customers’ tendencies? What do they buy? When do they buy? How can we smartly push our revenue to best align with their needs?

Another important piece is advertising, marketing, and community outreach. Something we coach people on is going to meet their neighbors, mayors, fire chiefs and clergy and letting them know all the precautions they’re taking to protect kids. It’s a great way to build community support, but a lot of brands will forget and stop doing it after two months.

Cannabis has a grassroots nature: this is medicine, and it’s an industry with a large number of customers who aren’t just buying it to get stoned. I think one of the greatest things you can do is educate your community and constantly reiterate your desire to build a safe environment that gets people to stop buying from “Steve the Dealer.” 

These are all simple things you can do, and you’ll notice I haven’t said: “Go spend more money” once.

Myron Ronay of BelCosta Labs Discusses THC Potency Obsessions and Need for Better Consumer Product Education

Cannabis research remains incredibly limited thanks to its still-federally-illegal status, but several industry operators have taken this matter into their own hands, providing cannabis testing that allows for safety and credibility throughout the legal market.

Based in California, BelCosta Labs provides cannabis lab testing from an agricultural, educational, and technology-driven approach. Utilizing state-of-the-art technology to ensure only high-quality cannabis products enter the legal marketplace, BelCosta labs provides both operators and consumers peace of mind when it comes to all things cannabis.

Leafwire sat down with BelCosta Labs CEO Myron Ronay to discuss consumer trends, product assessment and evaluation, the importance of terpene-to-potency ratio, and more. 

Leafwire: How did the THC potency percentage become a fixation for consumers and growers?

Mryon Ronay: The COVID-19 pandemic undoubtedly accelerated the high-potency THC trend for cannabis flower. Historically, consumers could interact with cannabis flower before purchasing by smelling or examining the product closely. This model encouraged consumers to discover new cultivars by following their noses to the tastiest-smelling terpenes. But post-pandemic, opportunities for consumers to interact with the flower pre-purchase were reduced and often eliminated altogether due to health concerns.

With interactivity limited, the only readily understood measure budtenders could base sales strategy on became potency. While this trend did take hold in cannabis concentrate products, high-test THC cannabis flower has become the most noticeable way consumers discern the increase. This is because while high-THC concentrates may spike THC levels in your blood, they don’t get you noticeably higher. Meanwhile, flower potency standards for growers and dispensaries have been creeping from a goal of 20 percent THC a decade ago to cultivars today soaring past 30 percent THC. The ramifications of this trend are numerous and damaging to the industry and consumers.

LW: Does the THC potency percentage impact the price stores sell a cannabis product for?

MR: Dispensaries can sell higher-potency THC flower for a premium price. This creates an economic incentive to falsify testing, mismatch medical cannabis patients with non-beneficial products, and generally mislead customers into thinking they are receiving a higher-quality product.

LW: How is the THC percentage misleading to consumers about the cannabis experience?

MR: You wouldn’t walk into a winery in Napa Valley and ask for the highest ABV wine. Taking the THC percentage of a cannabis product and considering only that when purchasing flower or concentrates is not the best way to look at the quality of the cannabis product. Like wine from craft winemakers, seeking a top-shelf cannabis product that is chemically balanced and delicious is imperative for taste and experience. 

Our studies found that higher THC potency did not equate to a better consumer experience. Consumers often mistakenly believe they will use less product or experience more euphoric effects from a high THC testing cannabis product. Considering just the THC percentage means you’re ignoring other components like terpenes, which contribute significantly to flavor and effects.

The same generalization holds true for cannabis flower: as THC potency increases, that crucial terpene content tends to decrease.  Some concentrate vape cartridges use real cannabis-derived terpenes when making a product and other cartridges use botanically derived terpene not from cannabis. These are aspects a consumer should consider when purchasing a product.

LW: If the indica/hybrid/sativa classifications and THC potency percentage are misleading, how can consumers evaluate the quality of a product?

MR: Identifying a true indica or sativa has become nearly impossible for consumers, partly because almost every cultivar is now a hybrid. Sativa strains in particular have been crossed with fast-harvest genetics to enable quicker growth cycles that match an agricultural production schedule. Discard outdated strain classifications and look to the composition identified on the label or the product’s website by certified cannabis testing laboratories.

While the THC potency percentage can be misleading when taken alone, it can be helpful when considered part of a consumer product analysis toolkit. Begin by asking your budtender which companies also report terpene and secondary cannabinoid composition on the container or their site. Seek out flower that contains a minimum of two percent terpenes (remember: the more terpenes, the more flavorful your experience), and ensure concentrates purchased are high-terpene and full-spectrum, such as the product commonly called “sauce.” 

Regardless of your chosen product, ensure it isn’t purely a high-THC product, but instead a terpene and cannabinoid composition balanced for the most enjoyable, quality consumption experience possible.

LW: What sort of cannabis education is absolutely vital for consumers to understand?

MR: If you are saying, “Wait, wait, but I know I love sativas. There must be something to the classification system,” it’s likely the terpenes you genuinely enjoy – not the strain type. For example, many true indicas contain the terpene myrcene, which is notable for its sedative properties. In combination with the other cannabinoid content of the individual cultivar, myrcene is responsible for the traditional association of “In-da-couch” indicas. Likewise, many cultivars labeled as sativa have terpinolene terpenes associated with cerebral, relaxing effects and limonene terpenes associated with increased energy and mood elevation.

THC content alone will never be a good indicator of the expected experience. Instead, terpenes are a “true north” of quality cannabis. Learn which terpenes you enjoy best by taking note of terpene lab testing results included on the product’s label and learning about balanced terpene-to-potency ratios.

LW: What are terpene-to-potency ratios, and what do they tell consumers about their cannabis?

MR: Simply put, a terpene-to-potency ratio tells consumers the relative volume of terpene and THC composition in a product. Remember what we said before: as THC potency increases, that crucial terpene content decreases. The terpene-to-potency ratio is a quick read of how enjoyable and effective your experience will likely be.

LW: What is a good terpene-to-potency ratio? What value will/should top-shelf flower show?

MR: The higher the terpenes, the more favorable the ratio. For example, a 25 percent THC cultivar with a 2.5 percent terpene composition will have a (very nice) 10:1 ratio. Contrarily, a high-THC but low-terpene composition could look like 35 percent THC and one percent terpenes for a rough 35:1 ratio. Cultivars with less THC have the most balanced ratios and display lower numbers, while the larger ratios are standard in higher potency products.

LW: How can brands utilize terpene-to-potency ratios? 

MR: BelCosta Labs arranged and organized a focus group to understand consumer decision-making based on product composition. We found that high THC or terpene content alone did not lead to the perception of a high-quality strain. The highest-rated strain had the most balanced (lowest) THC-to-terpene ratio. Brands stand to gain loyal, consistent and informed customers by selling better-balanced products with easy-to-understand metrics like the terpene-to-policy ratio.

Cannabis testing labs like BelCosta are making information available to consumers by offering brands QR report cards and easy-to-read COAs. Consumers want to know what their products contain, and a report card showing terpenes, ratios, potency reports and more will help them make the most informed decisions possible.

Additionally, training needs to take place at the point of sale. We provide budtender training to help dispel confusion around ideal terpene and potency combinations. Salespeople must try to match consumers with the best experiences possible to continue building trust in the cannabis customer base.

LW: Should regulators also eventually switch THC potency percentage with terpene-to-potency ratios? Will that help with consumer preferences?

MR: Regulators are still learning and adjusting to the cannabis industry’s trends and movements. The increase in cannabis potency has changed the way cultivators and manufacturers work, and regulators must react in real-time and with a vision for the future. More than any indicator, testing accuracy needs to be considered paramount to consumer safety standards.

Pennsylvania, for example, recently required two separate labs to test cannabis products at two different stages of the cannabis product lifecycle to help mitigate potency discrepancies and increase consumer safety for metal, pesticide testing, etc.

The practices of lab shopping, THC inflation, results fabrication and altering contamination data should concern regulatory agencies more than the potency labeling standards, with some states finding their labs fail to meet even basic standards

LW: How significant will the THC potency percentage be to consumers and the market in a few years?

MR: Already, low-THC cultivars that are old legacy market favorites are dying out because they aren’t high-test. So much of the cannabis market’s origins as craft growers will be lost or placed back into the hands of the unregulated cultivation market if the modern legal consumer isn’t given a way to access delicious, balanced strains. If we teach consumers to judge a product by THC potency, the flavors, unique combinations and perhaps even bioavailability of cannabis will be forever diminished.

THC potency will likely always remain present in much the same way ABV is denoted on a finished alcohol product. While there will always be some drinkers that go straight for the highest-proof alcohol, most consumers find balanced happiness between the effects, flavor and other beneficial components of their beverage, such as tannins. Likewise, there will always be cannabis consumers seeking the highest-potency product. By educating consumers, brands and budtenders about how to evaluate and consume cannabis most efficaciously and enjoyably, we can ensure THC potency alone is not driving market progress.

Innovation Born From Pandemic Spurs Emergence of New Event Model with Charles Warner

The past two years have been globally transformative as the COVID-19 pandemic forced many of us to reimagine our daily lives and how we connect with one another. Worldwide quarantines and lockdowns resulted in the expansion of the digital world and metaverse, where much of our correspondence still lives even as we inch back to “normal.”

For the cannabis industry, operators experienced a major boom in product demand, and curbside pickup and/or delivery service went from a rare option to the only option practically overnight. 

Cannabis business media platform Cannabis & Tech Today immediately recognized this shift in operations, organizing the digital-only Emerge Cannabis Conference as a way for like-minded movers and shakers to connect as safely as possible during very uncertain times.

Leafwire sat down with Editor-in-Chief Charles Warner to discuss the publication, the digital conference, and plans for future connection opportunities that can take place from the safety and convenience of your home.

Leafwire: How was Cannabis & Tech Today first founded?

Charles Warner: It originally began as a spinoff of our flagship publication, Innovation & Tech Today. We started to take a look at the cannabis industry, and we realized there was no magazine focused on technology, science, and innovation in the space. 

We were doing it in the mainstream CES world, and we wanted to bring that same level of great content and awesome packaging of a magazine and put it into the cannabis world. We ended up founding Cannabis & Tech Today in 2018. 

LW: What sort of topics and aspects of the industry do you cover?

CW: We cover everything in the cannabis business world. Anything that can be classified as innovative, scientific, or technological. That covers a lot of the industry, and we’ve made sure to put it together in a very easy-to-understand style, in both print and digital formats.

We also work a lot with cannabis-friendly celebrities and influencers to share our content. 

LW: Who is Cannabis & Tech Today’s target audience?

CW: Our audience is the same people who attend MJBizCon. It’s an interesting cross-section of the industry: people interested in cultivation, people in retail and dispensary design, people in the tech/innovation space, investors, and other media platforms and players. It’s truly a cross-section similar to the MJBiz audience, targeted to movers, shakers, and decision makers.

LW: Tell us about the Emerge Digital Conference! How did that come about?

CW: During the height of COVID-19, all in-person events were completely done. We had to come up with a quick solution for the industry that made sense. Basically, we all sat down together and said, “What can we do that would be better than an in-person session?” We wanted to look for a safe opportunity to network, get smart, and do business, despite what was going on in the world. That’s where we came up with the Emerge platform.

We found the Hyperfair platform, which allowed us to have avatars and 3D reality, wholly-immersive environments. It was a huge hit, and a lot of people gave us feedback that it was a great experience – especially compared to other virtual events at the time.

LW: That sounds incredible. What sort of offerings were available within the digital conference space?

CW: We put the same attention-to-detail in the Emerge content that we do for the magazine. We offer top-notch content, the best platform in the industry, and really sharp digital features to tie it all together. 

We have hosted a virtual job fair, pitch contests, and other similar opportunities for connection. It is very interactive – the closest we could get to an in-person event in a virtual environment. By the time the first Emerge Conference was over, we had 20,000 business cards exchanged among attendees. 

LW: Can you talk more about the other businesses and organizations involved in the event?

CW: We have worked with Minorities for Medical Marijuana, the National Association of Cannabis Businesses, Mary Jane media… literally everyone. There were other event organizers, other media platforms… we actually had the CBD Expo there too. 

The CBD Expo couldn’t have its event because of COVID, so they switched it up on the fly and were able to have an entire pavilion that their sales team sold in conjunction with their in-person events that would take place next year. 

LW: What’s on the horizon for this year’s conference?

CW: Emerge will continue to be online. It’s the best platform for us to do what we’re good at: providing the industry with the best virtual events so they don’t have to worry about airfare, Ubers, hotels, and other travel-related aspects so they can get things done and still be able to go to little Johnny’s soccer game at the end of the day.

The next conference will take place on September 13-14, with a focus on business innovation and cannabis technology. We’ll have another this winter, but we’ve yet to select a theme for that one.

LW: Do you think virtual events and innovative tech are the future of the industry?

CW: Absolutely. We’re going to see a lot more events with a hybrid and virtual component. Before COVID, that was almost nonexistent. But why would we continue limiting events to only those who are available to attend in person? If you can reach a wider audience, you might as well go for that.

LW: What’s next for Cannabis & Tech Today as a whole?

CW: Right now, we’re taking submissions for speakers, as well as looking for sponsors and partners to join Emerge. 

We’re also planning our launch of CBDTV, a streaming channel where all of the Emerge content will live. We’ll have podcasts, documentaries, and other events or related content available. We want it to work like a streaming channel that gives people a platform to access that content from anywhere, any time. 

We’re really growing right now – relaunching and rebranding ourselves as a publisher of fine magazines, but also as a digital marketing and media agency that helps other companies in the space get their word out.

We’re always looking to add to our team as well. Right now we’re looking for sales team members, designers, copywriters, and all kinds of contributors as we prepare to ramp up for the second half of the year.