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. 

NexTec Group’s CannaBusiness ERP Helps Cultivators Save Money: A Q&A with NexTec’s Dan Wu

National consulting firm NexTec Group has over 25 years of experience offering tailored business management solutions to various industries, and one of their latest bespoke products was designed with the cannabis industry in mind. The CannaBusiness ERP brings expansive organizational software to cultivators throughout the market, supporting businesses in their pursuit of higher profit, lower overhead, and better products for retailers and consumers alike. 

We sat down with NexTec’s Senior Marketing Manager Dan Wu to discuss the importance of cannabis enterprise resource planning (ERP), how NexTec first developed their winning product, and how focusing on finances is just the start when it comes to boosting business.

Leafwire: How was CannaBusiness ERP first developed?

Dan Wu: The CannaBusiness ERP product was developed as a way to consolidate our efforts in the cannabis industry, which we began to pay closer attention to in 2017. At the time, we were having a lot of success with modifying our ERP products to suit specific manufacturing processes, which we’d been developing with the food industry in mind. 

Around the same time, cannabis legalization began to spread, and growers, distributors, and dispensaries were coming together to form conglomerates and MSOs. We realized the industry was lacking a specific solution for enterprise resourcing and planning, and we saw our product as a perfect fit.

LW: Why is that?

DW: Cannabis and food share similarities and challenges. Crops and livestock all undergo growth, harvest, packaging, and distribution, and the FDA regulations they’re required to follow are not unlike cannabis’s rigorous and ever-changing compliance requirements. It’s very similar to cannabis’s seed-to-sale journey. 

Once we realized that our product fit well in the cannabis industry, we began to modify it even further to really suit the market. We included a lot of additional resources that customize the product to deal with those differences in regulations—any hurdles that are specific to cannabis MSOs. 

LW: What benefits does the ERP bring to the industry?

DW: A lot of cannabis companies we work with are still fairly young. The industry is still going through a growth phase, and a lot of companies have just recently been funded. When you’re a business owner in the process of being purchased by private equity—or you’re seeking investors—your finances and transactions need to be totally transparent to potential investors and stakeholders.

Most of the time, if you don’t have some sort of financial tool similar to what we offer, you aren’t able to keep accurate track of every expenditure, every product that’s come in, the cost of your distribution, etc.—and that process alone can require a team of 10-15 people. 

ERPs help you get a better hold of your financial future without having to spend a fortune on additional labor. The tool grants you financial visibility, which also helps you predict your income and forecast expenditures. MSOs have a lot of moving parts throughout the seed-to-sale journey; an ERP tool can automate much of that for a business, making everything more streamlined and transparent for everyone involved. 

LW: So, do all of the ERP’s benefits revolve around financial planning?

DW: No. That’s what the ERP is the backbone for, but there are a lot of different functionalities that can be plugged into the software. Its basis is financial solutions, but you can also include a warehouse management tool, a logistics tool, crop forecasting, etc. The more functionalities you add, the easier it will be for your business to work together and understand what’s going on throughout the supply chain. 

LW: How has your software played a hand in innovating cannabis cultivation?

DW: As a grower, you want your yield to be as efficient as possible. You don’t want a lot of crops to go to waste, and you definitely don’t want your product sitting on shelves for an extended period of time.

Let’s put it this way: the word “planning” is in “ERP” for a reason. Our product allows your organization to be able to map out your yield according to your projected forecast for revenue and sales. We’re giving you a tool to see the future clearly—or, at least responsibly prepare for it. 

LW: What should cultivators keep in mind when considering ERP software?

DW: If you’re big enough to look for an ERP, you should already be looking forward to your future. There are multiple ERP solutions available to the market; when you’re making your decision, look at the longevity of the company and product. You don’t want to go with someone who cobbled together some poor code for a cheap solution. 

You should also look for products that understand your company and aren’t afraid to work with the cannabis industry. Larger ERP solutions might look fantastic on the surface, but the bigger companies might shy away from cannabis. That’s something for MSOs to be cognizant of. Go with companies that have software that was designed for the industry—and to take it a step further, go with companies who are willing to stand behind the industry and update their software to evolve with regulation changes, which are always something to keep in mind. 

LW: What’s on the horizon for CannaBusiness ERP and NexTec?

DW: We typically do a quarterly release for our products, where changes are pushed out to everyone who is on license via cloud. 

We recently added waste management and waste control to the ERP, and we’re looking to add features and functions designed to deal specifically with the packaging and distribution of products.

How Ceramic Vape Cartridge Innovations Address Vaporizer Health & Safety Concerns: A Q&A with TPK Ceramics Co-Founder Trey Kavooras

In the rapidly growing vaping industry, TPK Ceramics has emerged as a leader in innovation. The company was founded in 2019 by Trey Kavooras, who saw a need for safer, healthier vape cartridges. TPK Ceramics’ products are made with medical-grade ceramic, which is free of heavy metals and other harmful substances. The company also performs rigorous third-party testing to ensure the quality and safety of its products.

In this Q&A, Kavooras discusses the benefits of ceramic vape cartridges, the importance of health and safety in the vaping industry, and his thoughts on the FDA’s recent introduction of the Disposable ENDS Enforcement Act.

TPK has grown incredibly quickly and innovated the cannabis industry along the way — you invented ceramics in vapes. What was the motivation to incorporate ceramics into vaporizers? 

Several factors went into ceramic incorporation. First, states were developing more stringent heavy metals testing, and there was a need to develop a cannabis cartridge that contained little to no metal at all in order for operators to pass third-party testing. Second, there was an open market space to create a cleaner, healthier alternative with elevated aesthetics for concentrate consumers.

How can you maintain the pace of growth and innovation while producing some of the highest-quality products on the cannabis market? Do the two factors contribute to each other? 

This is something we stay extremely cognizant of at TPK. We have had opportunities to increase sales at a more rapid rate but have chosen to make sure we grow slowly and methodically. Increasing production is not an issue, but doing it in a way where quality is not jeopardized most definitely is. We want to continue our pace of innovation while maintaining quality. With all new innovations, even extremely subtle changes, we go through rigorous third-party stability testing to ensure we meet the failure requirements that we hold ourselves accountable to.

Do you work with other companies to refine your manufacturing, packaging or distribution processes, such as by using automation? What are your priorities there? 

Absolutely. We firmly believe in having as many “friends” as possible in the space. We don’t know what we don’t know, and if we can gain knowledge by communicating with automated filling companies such as Thompson Duke Industrial or Xylem, other wholesale partners or even other hardware manufacturers, then we will most certainly learn from them as much as possible.

What health and safety concerns do consumers need to know about the cannabis vape hardware they use? How does TPK Ceramics address these issues? 

The bottom line is that nearly all vape hardware products come from the same part of the world. With this sector being such a fast-growing space, there are many people looking to capitalize quickly in any way possible, leading to a lack of integrity. Unfortunately, there are products being made with harmful materials, unclean work environments and many other issues. It’s extremely important to know who is manufacturing the products. We have taken that responsibility on by performing third-party audits, regularly visiting our international production centers and continuing to test our batches to ensure our stringent guidelines are met.

What are your thoughts on the FDA’s recent introduction of the Disposable ENDS Enforcement Act? 

I think the Disposable ENDS Enforcement Act is extremely vague. To classify any and all vape devices as electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) is simply incorrect. There are thousands of Americans who rely on this form of consumption for their medical needs; This act is preventing access and making it more difficult and expensive to do so.

At TPK Ceramics, stringent health and safety standards are central to the mission. To learn more about how TPK Ceramics is revolutionizing the cannabis concentrate space, click here.

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: Breakthrough Formula for Mental Health: An interview with Paul Ramsay, President, CanaQuest Medical Corp.

The cannabis industry was founded on the plant’s medical benefits: the first states to legalize did so for patients seeking relief from severe illnesses, and although adult-use has gained a lot of respect and understanding since the early days, cannabis’s medical efficacy continues to be studied throughout the globe.

CanaQuest Medical Corp is a clinical-stage life sciences company that focuses on cannabinoids extracted from cannabis and hemp plants, advancing the industry through drug discovery and development of next-generation targeted therapeutics within the body’s endocannabinoid system and specific brain receptors.

Leafwire sat down with CanaQuest Medical Corp’s President and co-founder Paul Ramsay to discuss the company’s foundation, how their research is innovating the medical cannabis industry, and what they’re currently working on to continue advancing the plant’s medicinal progress around the world.

Leafwire: How was CanaQuest first formed?

Paul Ramsay: Canaquest was originally established as an algae company. After working with a professor at the University of Waterloo, we built an algae bioreactor, and that allowed us to learn all about essential fatty acids (omega-3s), which our bodies don’t produce. 

However, these compounds are still necessary for our health, so we typically have to consume essential fatty acids by consuming fish and/or supplements.

Seven years ago, we were asked if we could extract oils from cannabis. 

After digging into some research, we found that most of us have deficiencies in omega-s (DHA and EPA). Because of that, our receptors (omega-3 index) are not working effectively – or, at all. 

So, if people are taking cannabis – or any medication for medicinal purposes – the benefits will either be nominal or there will be no indications at all.  We wanted to help innovate that space.

LW: What exactly were you looking to contribute to medical cannabis and research?

PR: We wanted to enter the cannabis space from a scientific perspective, and we wanted to help people. 

When we first started building our team, Dr. Steven Laviolette was recommended as the number one neuroscientist in Canada. He had a team of 13 scientists and three decades of experience working on cannabinoids, with a focus on anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, PTSD, and addiction.

We gave a presentation to Dr. Laviolette regarding the combination of DHA and EPA with cannabinoid molecules. He embraced our scientific approach, and we signed an agreement as an industry partner to explore the concepts further. 

LW: How do your services innovate the industry?

PR: After partnering with us, Dr. Laviolette and his team made a breakthrough discovery: a new pathway discovery into the brain to address mental health neurological conditions and mental ailments.

In the study, CBD, DHA, and EPA molecules bonded, worked synergistically, and attached to the PPAR receptors, which facilitated a pathway to cross the BBB to the section of the brain that regulates emotions (like anxiety, depression, and PTSD) with amplified effects and efficacy. 

The team also found a notable reduction in inflammation in the brain, which could be highly beneficial for other neurological conditions. So, not only did this help innovate the cannabis industry, but the findings can be useful for the universal world of science.

LW: What sort of services do you provide to your consumers?

PR: Our formulated product, branded as Mentanine, is available for sale via the CanaQuest store in the U.S. 

We also offer an omega-3 product, branded as Omega-3 Index Booster with a high concentration of DHA and EPA, to help people build the effectiveness of their receptors to improve efficacy of their medications.  

Our e-commerce site is also quite educational for anyone looking to learn more about medical cannabis’s effects.

LW:  Who is your consumer?

PR: Our customers are professionals in the mental health field, such as psychiatrists and healthcare practitioners, veterans, and people who have anxiety, depression, PTSD, and addiction.   

LW: What is on the horizon for CanaQuest now?

PR: We recently signed a Master Service Agreement with Neeka Health. The agreement will encompass multiple clinical studies to evaluate the efficacy of Mentanine® on targeted populations struggling with transitional issues.

It’s important to point out that Neeka conducted extensive due diligence on 97 companies in our space, and CanaQuest was the only company chosen. 

Dr. Hunter Land, CSO of Neeka, who co-led the clinical development of Epidiolex® (FDA approved prescription CBD) for GW Pharma will lead all studies for Neeka and CanaQuest. 

We also plan to continue building our team to educate and help people in need, and ultimately improve their quality of life. 

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.

Get Metrc Certified in 4 Simple Steps

You may have heard of Metrc. You may have seen job opportunities calling for Metrc-certified candidates. And with the growing need for Metrc specialists, you may have wondered how you can open up job opportunities by gaining a Metrc certification.

The process is straightforward. We’ll explain here how you can get Metrc certified in four simple steps.

But First, Know Your Metrc Basics

As cannabis becomes legal in more states, the government’s need to track and ensure the safety of the product grows as well. With that, the Metrc tracking system has quickly become one of the government’s most trusted tools and businesses’ most reliable systems for gathering data and remaining compliant.

Metrc stands for Marijuana Enforcement Tracking Reporting & Compliance and is a cloud-based, government-mandated track-and-trace software. The platform is designed to track cannabis from the beginning of the supply chain to the end, popularly coined “from seed-to-sale.”

The majority of legalized states require all licensed cannabis industry businesses, both in the recreational and medical space, to submit data to the Metrc system to comply with tracking obligations. Each state has its own regulations, so be sure to check your state’s requirements. The Metrc website’s Partners Page conveniently provides detailed information for states currently using the Metrc system.

How Metrc Works

With the purpose of ensuring all cannabis growth and sales are legal, safe, and up to industry standards, Metrc’s main functions are to:

  • Monitor, within a given state’s industry, where cannabis products and plants are located, transferred, and sold (or even destroyed)
  • Track the weight and location of each plant and product
  • Maintain record of each transfer of ownership

Regardless of a company’s role in the supply chain—whether it’s farming, testing, distribution, or retail—every business involved in the cannabis lifecycle is required to obtain Metrc certification and track activity to remain legally compliant.

How Can I Become Certified

Most states that require the use of Metrc also require proof of completed Metrc training when an individual or business applies for a cannabis distribution license. If your state does not require the training upon license application, businesses still need to access the certification to remain compliant.  

Which is where you come in.

As a Metrc-certified employee, you can provide an employer with the critical certification that will keep the business compliant.

Metrc Certification in 4 Simple Steps

  1. Contact the Metrc team via their website to receive information on attending the Metrc webinar. You’ll learn terminology, workflow, and gain an overall understanding of how the platform works.
    Additional tip: You can access Metrc’s YouTube channel for additional resources and guidance in the process.
  2. Take a multiple-choice test administered by Metrc, approximately 40 questions.
  3. Once your test results are processed (and you’ve earned a passing score), you’ll be certified to use the Metrc system at your job site.
  4. To “register” you as a Metrc-certified employee, your employer is required to enter your information into the Metrc system using your worker permit number, email, and occupational role as part of compliance guidelines.

Most companies use integrated software to link the point of sale (POS) system to the Metrc database, which is where you’ll track all transactions occurring at your facility.

Once you’re Metrc certified, and depending on your role, you’ll be responsible for tracking your transactions in the database to maintain legal compliance.

And what’s a benefit of gaining this certification? It’s an industry credential that can give you an edge for gaining more job opportunities and growing your career.

At Higher Growth Search we help cannabis employers find Metrc-certified applicants who will help bring their businesses into compliance. Get in touch with our team today to find out how we can help you find the right person for this critical role.

Endexx Challenges the Nicotine Vape Market with Plant-Based, Non-Addictive Vape Hyla

The vape industry is booming, but nicotine vapes face increasing regulation and scrutiny. Flavored nicotine products are being pulled from shelves and losing favor with consumers. Endexx Corporation, a rapidly growing company making strides in the nutraceutical technology industry, is working to fill that void with non-addictive, plant-based vapes through its recent acquisition of Hyla. 

Hyla is a first-of-its-kind plant-based, non-addictive, and nicotine-free vaporizer using natural ingredients like guarana and L-Dopa. These revolutionary products are poised to offset nicotine-based products as more consumers search for alternatives. 

Today, Todd Davis, Founder, CEO and Chairman at Endexx, talks with us about Hyla’s astronomical success, the challenges and opportunities of this industry, and the future for vape products as a whole.  

What inspired Endexx to acquire Hyla, and how do you see this acquisition helping your company achieve its goals?

The power of plants is built into all of Endexx’s consumer products. Hyla’s unique approach to the vape market harnesses that power, so it was a natural fit.

What made Hyla a compelling investment opportunity, and how did you evaluate its potential in the market? 

Mounting pressure on nicotine-based vape companies has created a void of products that fit consumer demand. Shelf space is at a premium in the market; we have the products to fill that space.

What investment does Endexx plan to make in Hyla’s growth, and how will you measure success in this product line? 

The primary target is introducing Hyla’s innovative products to international and domestic markets. Our overarching mission is to become the dominant player in plant-based vape products.

What are the key challenges you anticipate in growing Hyla, and how do you plan to address them? 

There is a stigma against “flavored vape products” in the market. Ingredients like nicotine should be the target, but the only way regulators can push back on nicotine products is to target flavors. Hyla offers the absolute best alternative in the market to nicotine-based products.

How do you see Hyla contributing to Endexx’s overall growth strategy, and what impact do you anticipate it having on the company’s financials?

The impact has been immediate. In the first two quarters since we acquired Hyla, Hyla’s international revenues have far surpassed any previous year in gross sales of Endexx. International opportunities are opening tremendous cross-market channels as well.

What are Endexx’s plans for international expansion, and how does Hyla fit into this strategy? 

Hyla has established distribution in 13 countries and counting. These markets add tremendous potential for expansion in all of our consumer products.

What message do you want to communicate to investors and customers about Endexx and Hyla? 

Consolidating revenues from Hyla into Endexx exponentially expands top-line revenues by several hundred percentage points. These extraordinary numbers have put Endexx on a three-year projection in excess of 50 million in annual revenues.

How does Hyla differentiate itself from other nicotine-free disposable vape products?

Our high-quality ingredients and unique formulations set Hyla apart from the competition and bring new benefits and experiences to the consumer. Plant-based vapes deliver our natural, non-addictive ingredients in an effective manner.

What role do L-Dopa and Guarana play in Hyla’s formulation, and how do they contribute to the product’s effectiveness? 

Guarana and L-Dopa have unique qualities that bring myriad benefits to the user without the addictive nature of nicotine. Both ingredients are commonly said to enhance focus, aid in relaxation, boost energy, and encourage calmness.

What is your vision for the future of the vaping market, and how do you see Hyla contributing? 

Clinical tests of plant-derived molecules in the clinical setting indicate that vaping is a superior delivery system for low-dose and micro-serving portions of these powerful plant derivatives. A little goes a long way with plant power.

Who uses Hyla and who should use Hyla? What kinds of customers have you seen attracted to these products?

Our early customers primarily enjoy vaping but seek a different experience than tobacco or nicotine-based products. Plant-based alternatives offer a potentially healthier option for people who enjoy vaping.

What kind of feedback have you received from consumers and retailers about Hyla, and how have you used this feedback to improve the product?

Quoting user feedback can be viewed as making claims, so we must be prudent in this case. Many consumers say they experience a sense of calm and a reduction in stress. Some have indicated that there is a significant reduction in the need for nicotine after using Hyla products.

What has been the response to Hyla from retailers and distributors, and how do you plan to continue growing your distribution channels?

Our retailers are reporting rapid sell-through as the customers feel they are getting extreme value with 4500 puffs per device. Customers also love the form factor, flavor profiles, and ease of use.

How do you see the regulatory environment for CBD and nicotine-free vaping products evolving, and what impact will this have on Endexx’s business? 

HYLA’s success is adding exponential growth and increasing revenue for Endexx. The regulatory environment will continue to be challenging as policymakers try to regulate flavor instead of addictive ingredients like nicotine. Our products are non-addictive, and the flavors are derived from plant-based natural sources, separating them from flavored nicotine vapes.

What kind of consumer education efforts will you be undertaking to promote Hyla and its benefits to the market? 

Endexx will separate education from sales to maintain compliance with current regulations. Educating consumers on the potential benefits of individual ingredients will provide a stronger basis for informed decision-making for customers.

How does Endexx ensure the quality and safety of its products — including Hyla — regarding concerns about vape product safety? 

HYLA manufactures its proprietary formulations in American laboratories. Each batch is tested for purity and safety in accordance with current regulatory and compliance standards in the USA.

How do you manage risk and uncertainty in the highly regulated and constantly evolving CBD and vaping markets? 

Compliance and engagement with regulators help keep us at the forefront of regulation. Preparing and ensuring continuing compliance are the investments we make in our evolving markets.

How does Endexx ensure that its products, including Hyla, comply with applicable regulations and laws? 

Endexx constantly monitors rules and regulations in the industry. We work with experienced legal and compliance partners before producing products for the consumer market.

How do you balance the need for innovation and growth with maintaining quality and safety standards for your products? 

Since we launched our consumer product lines, science and compliance have been the cornerstones of Endexx’s development and production. Innovation comes from science, and quality comes through compliance with industry standards across established industry protocols.

What is your approach to product innovation, and how do you plan to continue improving Hyla? 

The vaping device industry offerings have limited value propositions to the consumer. Hyla has designed high-output, long-lasting products that offer a price point and formulation that consumers can support and rebuy over time, creating strong brand loyalty for HYLA.

What lessons have you learned from your experience in the CBD space, and how do you apply them to approaching Hyla? 

Consumers are getting more educated and more interested in high-quality products. CBD Unlimited built and sold the highest quality products on the market. Hyla reflects that exact same model: producing the highest quality products at affordable prices to meet the needs of our consumers.

How do you prioritize and balance the demands of your different product lines?

Not all products can survive in the market. We focus on the products adopted quickly and generate high rebuy rates. In the first six to 12 months, the consumer clearly indicates to us which products they like the most. Once we have that information, business decisions are much easier to make for long-term success.

What kind of partnerships or collaborations do you see as crucial for Endexx’s growth in the nicotine-free vaping and CBD spaces? 

Hyla is targeting the largest and most efficient distributors in each country they pursue. There is a huge gap in the tobacco and vape industry now that nicotine products are being pulled from shelves. Endexx, through Hyla, is here to fill that void and provide an entirely new product that fills the needs of the current market and offers a “Better Product for a Better You.”

Q&A with Senior High


We’re here with Karen Lustman, the founder and CEO of Senior-High. Karen is a passionate advocate, patient, researcher and speaker focusing on cannabis and its positive affect on active adults and seniors suffering from chronic pain and all other ailments concerning those of us of a certain age. Senior-High was created by Karen to gather factual information about cannabis products and how they can help active adults alleviate specific health issues using safe, effective medicinal alternatives to expensive and potentially dangerous pharmaceuticals. Armed with a laptop, an AARP membership, and a medical marijuana card, Karen and her team are determined to gather and share the latest developments and research from experts and Active Adults who have found relief by using cannabis. Karen, welcome.

So Karen, why the cannabis industry?


Almost 10 years ago. I missed a single step leading to the pool at a hotel where my husband and I were staying. I fell hard and flat on my face, knees, elbows and feet. My knees were badly swollen and excruciating painful.

I saw many doctors, each of them prescribing x-rays, pain pills, and therapy. It got to the point where I was taking 8 to 10 pills a day. My husband asked if the pills helped. My reply was “I don’t know, but I’m afraid to not take them.” I tried acupuncture, pain management, and even had a spinal cord stimulator implanted to try to mask the pain but nothing worked. I had to use a wheelchair and walker to get around.

We went to visit my daughter. We were discussing my pain and my son-in-law said he had something in the garage that would help. He showed me how to use his bong. I was 60 years old and had never smoked pot! I inhaled way too much but it was the most life changing experience I had ever encountered. Within a minute my pain was gone. But I was completely stoned. Even in that state, all I could think about was how I could use cannabis to escape the horrible neurological pain I was feeling and function during my workday. I couldn’t live my life high! Was there a way to reduce or eliminate the pain without getting stoned? That set off my journey to wellness.


That’s exciting. It may have been a happy accident but this event led you to create a vision for Senior-High.


Actually “Senior-High” found me. I immediately started researching cannabis brands, clinicians, dispensaries, manufacturing companies and everyone else with practical knowledge of cannabis. I started following thought leaders regarding any research on medicinal cannabis. I took several certification programs just to educate myself. But still, the information I needed was not available. There was no protocol that would tell me what I needed.

And I found a neurologist who diagnosed my condition, which is called an ataxia. It is not a condition that can be cured by traditional medical science. That was troubling but served to accelerate my research into the application of cannabis for its medicinal value.

So I started learning about the brands, ratios, how to consume and I started sharing that information. I blogged and called my experiments “human trials,” me being the human. I purchased as much as much as I could afford from dispensaries and tried every product, still not understanding how to use THC to relive pain without the psychoactive effects. For the most part, I learned what NOT to do, and shared my mistakes too. But I did learn how to use cannabis to help relieve my pain safely and effectively without getting stoned. It was a revelation!

And the more I learned, I found I was able to create a regimen of tinctures and other cannabis products that helped me cope with my ataxia. Soon I was able to get around much easier. I no longer needed a wheelchair or even a cane. I felt more capable. I felt younger. For the most part, I was able to live my life pain-free. And I still am.

I lived in a senior community in southern California and slowly the word spread that I was using cannabis for my pain and was making some progress. My neighbors started knocking on my door asking me what they should use for arthritis or sleeplessness. I became known as the cannabis lady. They still knock on my door, and I’m still known as the cannabis lady!


Obviously with Senior-High, you’ve created a platform to educate people that’s recognized by the senior community.


My husband and I realized early on that the color of our hair and my wrinkles allowed seniors to feel safe when we shared our understanding of how this plant had helped me manage an “orphan” disease and my husband’s arthritis from playing guitar for years. We were asked to speak to groups of friends and neighbors. We began Senior-High to provide organization and a formal structure for our efforts.

The numbers of seniors using cannabis has continued to grow at a phenomenal pace. And so has the number of seniors being admitted to ERs due to “greening out.” So we teach them about the importance of the ECS, about cannabinoids, onset times, delivery systems, and dosing. Too often our followers have ingested too much THC or have heard horror stories about their friends who have. Usually the culprit is gummies. They look so innocent, like their grandkid’s candy! But they can be chocked full of THC and can take up to two hours to have an effect. So, they take another one since they think the first one didn’t work. Then they’re off to the races!

THC is really misunderstood. We break it down so that our audience can get the desired affect without getting too high. From my own experience, I need THC to stop the pain but balance it with CBD. I vape and I don’t need the high amounts of THC normally within the products sold in dispensaries. Most seniors don’t.

We give them the education necessary to purchase and use what they need, not just what they are being told they should try.


You mentioned arthritis as one ailment seniors seek relief for. And that’s a good opportunity since topicals are easy to use, effective, and many products don’t even use THC. So there’s no reason to be concerned about getting high, if they’re concerned about that.


Right. My husband has arthritis in his shoulder and he’s our guinea pig for testing creams and balms that can help relieve the pain. He’s written a number of reviews that appear on our website. We also believe that a combination of the right tinctures combined with a good topical can help relieve the problem from inside and out. Pain can also be a component of sleeplessness, which is the number-one ailment we hear from our clients.


What type of events have you held, and what kind of events do you plan to host?


We’ve held scores of events during the past five years. When COVID reared its ugly head and our community’s meeting rooms were shut down, we held seminars in our living room, keeping the audiences small and practicing social distancing and masking. As word spread, the volume of people wanting to attend grew and we couldn’t fit them in our living room. That’s when we started getting invited to many community centers, HOA clubhouses and senior centers.  

One of the most fun events we ever did was to take 30 seniors in limousines to a dispensary lounge so that they could experience the environment and perhaps enjoy products they’d heard about but never tried. We had a blast and spent quite a lot of time educating the gang on pre-rolls, gummies, vape pens, cannabis-infused drinks, and flower. We invited brand reps from a few manufacturers to conduct short presentations about their products. Our group started shopping and my husband said, “Look at them, Karen They’re like kids in a candy store.” And, you know, they were! It was an awakening! When the seniors left in the limousines, they all wanted to know what’s next with Senior-High!

It has just been such a wonderful passion project for me. I feel that I’m giving back to the community. I am helping people of our age really enjoy their senior years and it has just been great.

But as Leafwire members know, it’s a challenge infrastructure wise. We’re not even a grower or a dispensary, but we face the same obstacles as they do in terms of working with financial institutions, doing advertising, and getting affordable coverage from insurance companies.

The plus side is that there is a need to talk to seniors about these products and that pushes us to continue doing what we’re doing. In addition to offering a select number of products on our website,, we provide tons of useful information for the 55+ crowd. We offer one-on-one consultations either in person, via Zoom meetings or on the phone so we can learn about an individual’s issues, what they have done for treatment, what their goals are, and hopefully set them up on a regimen that will improve their quality of life. And we’ve earned the trust of a local pain management clinic who refers patients to us that they believe can benefit from medical cannabis.


Do you collaborate with some of these brands too that maybe are focused around products that can cater to seniors?


The senior market is the fastest growing segment of the cannabis-buying market, so it only makes sense to reach out to them through Senior-High. We are funded by the sale of our products. The education is free. So we are consistently seeking partners interested in collaborating.

The products we sell are all highly recommended. Our top-selling products are manufactured by a leading doctor, scientist and thought leader within the industry. I continue my own education through classwork that follows the science.

According to NORML, the percentage of all US adults ages 65 and older who report cannabis use in 2020 increased significantly in recent years to 4.2 percent. They’re already consuming. So why is a platform like Senior-High important?


Well, like I said, I think we’re offering information so they can determine the appropriate products for their individual conditions, from occasional sleeplessness to pain and inflammation, to mental worry and stress. We’re enabling this enormous market segment to understand retail labels, delivery systems, ratios, terpenes, the entourage effect, and other critical information seniors can’t find elsewhere.

We took it upon ourselves to learn from the experts and pass along that knowledge to our audience. That is our mission – to keep seniors safe and help improve the quality of their lives. We don’t want them to buy products that may not be right for them. We counsel them how to talk to their doctors before they use cannabis, how to use tinctures, balms and capsules and then how to buy products at a dispensary that will work for them.


Any last words?


Well, first of all, thank you so much for Leafwire’s interest in Senior-High. As more Baby Boomers become seniors, our audience continues to build, both locally and in the growing number of states where medical cannabis has become legal. We hope your audience will come to and contact us to develop mutually beneficial relationships. We welcome suggestions to keep improving our brand and our means of helping educate seniors – and their families – to the wonderful medicinal and recreational benefits of cannabis.

Metrc for Business Owners: Everything You Need to Know

In 2019 public health officials began to warn the public of harmful vape-related respiratory illnesses, and in just a few months some states had declared a public health crisis. Thanks to Metrc track-and-trace software, government officials were able to identify where and in what quantity dangerous vaping products were being sold.

Today, Metric has become the standard for helping cannabis suppliers identify potentially dangerous cannabis products and keep them off the market.

What is Metrc

Metrc stands for Marijuana Enforcement Tracking Reporting & Compliance, a government-mandated software to facilitate track-and-trace efforts within the cannabis industry. The cloud-based platform’s key function is to track products within the industry, from “seed-to-sale.”

Metrc was created in 2011 in Colorado when governments were challenged to implement comprehensive frameworks that effectively monitored and enforced cannabis regulations. Metrc is now the recognized way to ensure that consumers obtain regulated, certified marijuana products through legitimate enterprises.

To operate within the legal framework of sales in the U.S., cannabis suppliers must now register with the government to track their compliance metrics. Cannabis companies in over 20 states, as well as the District of Columbia and Guam, use Metrc.

Most legalized states mandate all licensed distributors to submit data to the Metrc system on a daily basis to meet their compliance obligations. Regulations vary from state to state, but the Metrc website makes it easy to stay informed with your state’s regulations through the “States” page, such as this example from Alaska.

Through close monitoring, the Metrc database allows officials to keep cannabis products safe, legal, and regulated. Each supply chain function is required to log information into the software, which collects data such as:

  • Inventory Tracking – monitored in real-time, and inventory status is reported from seed to sale.
  • Tracing – should any concerns arise, such as health issues, tracing allows licensees to be notified.
  • Data Trends – allow for analyses to determine noncompliant behavior and assess risk.
  • Reports – provide data that can be used to share with the public, update stakeholders, or use in the event of a criminal case.

How Can I get My Employees Certified

Once you receive a permanent distribution license, you have five days to complete the Metrc training. With the vast landscape of Metrc software, five days is not much time to get the lay of the land. Fortunately, you can access information and study materials before receiving your license, and you can obtain certification with three simple steps:

  1. Contact Metrc to receive an invitation to an introductory webinar. You can also access the Metrc YouTube channel for additional training materials.
  2. Take a multiple-choice assessment, approximately 40 questions. Upon passing, you’ll be administered a unique vendor API (Application Programming Interface) key to access the Metrc system.
  3. Contact your point of sale (POS) software vendor and provide your license number and API key to register your operation with the Metrc database. From here, you’ll have access to track and manage your entire cannabis cultivation operation.

The Benefits of Metrc for Business Owners

Metrc was created with the consumer in mind to ensure that cannabis that is sold is safe and regulated. But the Metrc system also offers great benefit to business owners.

For starters, government regulation is a great step toward destigmatizing cannabis use and promoting integrity within the industry.

Additionally, Metrc software allows businesses to integrate with various POS systems. This integration facilitates organization, simplifies order processing, and allows companies to perform regular audits and avoid fines for oversights.

Hire for Metrc Certification

While obtaining your certification requires a bit of preparation, the true work begins once you’re certified. Many cannabis suppliers are bringing in compliance officers to help their businesses adhere to Metrc requirements.

Getting set up within Metrc requires a complete audit of inventory, and government regulations require 100% reporting accuracy. Therefore, hiring an employee who’s dedicated to Metrc reporting and integration is a great way for cannabis companies to confidently navigate this reporting system, remain compliant, and avoid missteps.

At Higher Growth Search we help cannabis employers find Metrc-certified applicants who will help bring their businesses into compliance. Get in touch with our team today to find out how we can help you find the right person for this critical role.

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. 

Canadian Retailer, AR Cannabis, Manages Supply Chain Stability with Cova’s Dispensary Software Solution

AR Cannabis
With six popular cannabis dispensaries across British Columbia, Canada, (and two more on the way), AR Cannabis has earned a reputation for stellar customer service that’s a notch high above the competition. The retailer trusts its staff to tune into each unique community they serve, provide the finest quality cannabis products, and build strong, lasting relationships. 
“We empower our managers,” Matt Chernoff, AR Cannabis Chief Operating Officer, told Cova in an interview. “They know the community, they know who their clientele is, and they order products accordingly to what is best for that community rather than telling the community what’s best for them.” 
But like any cannabis retailer, AR Cannabis constantly faces the forces of competitive pricing, the need to quickly respond to changing market dynamics, the ability to keep inventory flowing, all while at the same time having shelves stocked. This was particularly challenging in the summer of 2022 during a B.C. labor strike.  

Canadian Cannabis Supply Chain Issues
In August of 2022, the worker’s strike forced B.C.’s provincial cannabis distributor to endure a warehouse shut down. A press release from the Cannabis Council of Canada at the time, stated, “The result of the strike on the cannabis industry has been a disrupted supply chain with no shipments in or out of distribution centers, resulting in the halt of cannabis products from licensed producers and processors to retail stores and consumers.” 
In the wake of the strikes, many Canadian cannabis retailers found themselves struggling to keep shelves stocked with products and employees on the clock to serve customers. “We’re out of that product,” is a phrase no customer wants to hear, and without stable inventory, it became an unfortunate, repetitive reply for many Canadian budtenders in B.C. at the time. 

Enter Cova Software
With Cova Software as their cannabis technology partner, AR Cannabis was able to quickly generate advanced, comprehensive reports enabling the retail cannabis chain to gain actionable insights to navigate supply chain challenges. The company was able to track real-time dispensary performance, and make quick AI-powered decisions in, and around, four critical questions important to every cannabis retailer.

– What does our Customer Traffic Look Like During the Day/Week/Year?
– How Are Our Different Cannabis Products, Brands, and Categories Performing?
– How Do Our Promotions and Discounts Perform?
– How Is Our Cannabis Retail Business Performing, Overall?

Cova’s deep reporting functionality answers key questions that helped AR Cannabis make smart buying decisions and stay one step ahead of its competition. With the “Reorder” report, the retailer was able to see which products to buy, at what quantity, when to reorder, what to stop reordering, and how much cash was attributable to their inventory.

During the strike, the retail chain ran Cova inventory reports for every location to determine which stores had excess products, making inter-store transfers according to where more of the same product was needed elsewhere. 

“I used Cova to check the inventory for all our locations, making sure it’s distributed to our busiest stores,” said AR Cannabis general manager, Lorelle Kjarsgaard. “We just tried to keep all of our stores at a base level of inventory according to how much sales they were putting out.”

And each store is uniquely different in its clientele base and buyer preferences. “The new advanced reporting was critical to identifying things like our busiest store cannot run out of pre-rolls,” Kjarsgaard explained. 

With Cova’s “Discount” dashboard, AR Cannabis was able to determine the frequency of discounts used, for which products, by which employees, and in which location. With this AI-driven cannabis reporting dashboard, the company was able to discover what cannabis promotions drove higher sales and how profitable they were for their stores.

To better control supply and demand, AR Cannabis used this reporting module to make the data-driven decision to halt daily promotions during the labor strike, to better control supply and demand forces across its set of stores.  

Understanding dispensary traffic patterns further empowered AR Cannabis to plan and efficiently manage its cannabis retail staff and inventory around the labor strike. With Cova’s “Scheduling & Traffic” dashboard, the retail chain was able to identify what time of day and what day of the week each store was busiest and was able to move around employees to better optimize resources and manage customer traffic. 

In the end, with the help of Cova, and because AR Cannabis had so many stores, the chain was able to distribute products to make it down to the last week of the infamous Canadian cannabis labor strike of 2022 with a little bit of stock in each store. 

“If it had gone for another week, it would have been a different story,” Matt warned. “But with Cova Software’s inventory management capabilities and advanced reporting, we managed supply chain efficiently and came out of this strike stronger and wiser.”

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!

Ask a Dispensary Owner: David Alport, Founder and CEO of Bridge City Collective in Portland

Industry veteran David Alport shares his experience as a multi-store operator and the lessons he’s learned after years of running two successful dispensaries in Portland’s competitive marketplace.

Peter –

First, tell us a little bit about how you got into the industry?

David –

I started out as a professional cultivator, went from a novice grower to a professional grower back in 2009 when I made it my full-time job.

We moved into a warehouse and started cultivating at a larger scale. And then in 2010, founded Bridge City Collective as a direct to patient resource.

So initially, it was going to be kind of a gray market center but we waited until the first licensed framework came online in Oregon, and that happened in 2014.

So that’s when we opened up the first two brick and mortar stores that we have here and those stores are still open today.

Being one of the first stores in Portland is worth pointing out, not everyone can say that. We were one of the original top 10 stores that were licensed right at the outset. There’s only maybe one other one that’s still in the market with the original operators.

Peter –

Portland’s definitely a crowded market. Would you say that is the main reason why you’re one of the only last few standing of the original licenses?

David –

Yes, it’s a saturated market. There’s a lot of competition out here. We’re in the middle of, or middle to end of the second major down cycle we’ve had in Oregon since the regulated market came online.

So yeah, just a lot of turbulence in the market, M&A activity, and people really needing to get focused and lean to be able to weather these storms. That has been really important for us.

Peter –

Yeah, and that’s obviously happening industry-wide now.

David –

Absolutely, yeah. So I started out as a cultivator then started these stores and realized pretty early on that we had some expertise and knowledge that may be beneficial to other states as they bring their cannabis programs online.

And so we started entering other markets by way of partnerships and structuring deals as isolated entities to capture opportunities and bring what we know to the Midwest and the East Coast.

we first did that in Ohio, and then we went to Missouri, Illinois, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Jersey.

So parts of the Bridge City Collective ecosystem have a presence in all of those states. And then we’ll also have some involvement in Florida, pretty soon, hopefully.

Peter –

And is that for your company, is that a for profit initiative or is that just being a good actor in the industry?

David –

Those are for profit initiatives, but we think of ourselves as conscious capitalists, right? Like we feel like it’s really important to be aware of our impact in the communities that we’re engaging in and try to get involved at the community level.

Education is really important to us. There are people on our team that are teaching at community colleges in Illinois and New Jersey and we help facilitate mentorship opportunities for people who just want to learn.

So as we build a business in a new place we think about what kind of community organizations are in our immediate sphere wherever we’re operating.

We think about how we can engage with them and give back as a company These are things that we’re constantly thinking about as we carve out our path.

But in the end, yeah, they are for-profit endeavors.

Peter –

It’s now been many years since you’ve been operating two dispenseries. What do you wish you had known kind of before you started the first one?

David –

Understanding the impact of 280E is critical. And at the outset, we were spending a lot more on marketing than we needed to.

So over the years, that’s something that we’ve really gotten good at.. understanding what works for us and what doesn’t. we tried many different things, but on a really small scale and to see what works and then ramping up where it’s effective.

If we had known earlier how much of an impact 280E would have on the bottom line, we wouldn’t have spent as much on marketing right away.

Peter –

That’s a common theme I hear from people, the impact of 280E is often underestimated when getting started.

David –

Also, I think it’s really important to note that when you’re thinking about spending your marketing dollars or devising your marketing strategy to not get too wrapped up in what your competitors are doing.

And that’s true from an operational standpoint in general. It’s really important to understand the landscape and the nature of the industry and what people are doing, but it’s also important to not let that overly impact how you’re making your strategic decisions to operate the company and spend your marketing dollars.

You really need to figure out what works for you, what works for your business and what works for your business’s mission and lean into that.

Peter –

Over the last couple of years, how have you adapted the dispensary based on feedback you got from customers?

David –

Sure, I think, product and pricing are really important. Offering products that suit the needs of the neighborhood that the store is in.

These two stores in Portland are in drastically different neighborhoods, and the people that are frequenting our stores have different needs.

So being aware of that and offering what they need is something that took us a little bit of time to figure out.

Peter –

Do you have a practical example of an adjustment that you made based on customer feedback?

David –

Sure, at one of our stores, people have a pension for more top shelf flour. At the store, people have more of a pension for affordable flour.

It’s a challenge for us because we are so focused on quality, the challenge is finding the right flower to offer at a cheaper price.

But we’ve been able to do that, typically just through smaller buds. So we’ll buy what’s called B buds from top shelf producers so that we can offer top quality flower at a cheaper price to our customers.

Peter –

How have you dealt with the challenges of payments over the years?

David –

we’ve gone through everything from just cash to at one point to taking Square, to now having ATMs and a compliant merchant processor that’ll do debit cards.

We’re leaning into that debit card transaction more and more. That drives up the average basket price. And it takes cash out of the store, right? The more cash we have in the store, the more of a security risk there is.

So trying to encourage people to use the debit card machine is important to us.

Peter –

And have you tested out or do you use kind of any loyalty programs, frequent shopper programs, and kind of how have you found those to work or be valuable, I guess at all?

David –

Yeah, we’ve had several programs over the years. When we were first starting out, we had a program that was 5% on cash, point accumulation that our customers could use to purchase products that are not infused.

So shirts, lighters, paraphernalia, books, .. we have like a huge book selection. That’s pretty unique about us.. And at some point we tried out something called SpringBig.

And that’s mainly a text messaging platform, but we also used it as a loyalty program. And in Oregon, that actually allowed us to offer points for products that actually have THC.

And it’s been tough to really maximize those programs for us and get the most out of them.

So we’ve been backing off of that. It’s just in Oregon, the market is so saturated and there’s so much convenience that its tough to use those tools to build loyalty.

You build more loyalty, I think, just by having good relationships with your customers. and treating them really well and just, you know, building a welcoming atmosphere for them.

Peter –

What are some kind of creating market of efforts that you’ve tried that have been, you know, pretty successful in driving some new business in?

David –

Event-based marketing works really well. Having a party at your store and getting people out, getting them into your store and letting them know, hey, we’re here, we’re in the community, that really helps.

Peter –

And how do you let people know you’re having a party?

David –

So over the years we’ve… We amassed an email list, which is probably one of our biggest strengths, of around 12,000 people here in the Portland market.

And when we send out emails, we get a really strong response rate from those. So that’s not just for events, but also if we have promotions or are trying to raise awareness about something.

So that’s our biggest tool that we use.

Peter –

Your budtenders are the people on the front lines. How challenging is it to keep kind of like your best people on staff or to find new people?

David –

It is very challenging. especially in this market. People are always looking for job opportunities, and so you have to work really hard to make sure that they feel comfortable and at home.

We pay above average wages. We treat our staff really well. And for the longest time, that’s all we really needed to do.

I mean, we have one of the highest retention rates in Portland but now we need to think about the other attributes that make a good employee and plan for that.

Nowadays, we might hire someone who doesn’t have the industry experience but has everything else that we need and then we will train them on the products and what we’re offering our customers.

And I think for any operator, it’s really important to just make sure that you have open channels of communication with your team and your staff.

And that if they have something that they need to say, that they can say it, and that they know they’re going to be heard.

Peter –

Do you have any hopes or thoughts on what you’re thinking might happen this year, in regard to the industry conditions and any potential reform?

David –

I’m hoping that by the end of 2023, we get to the end of this down cycle. In the industry, I think that we’ll start to see the market kind of loosen up a little bit.

People will have a better understanding of what’s happening with the economy, the impact of the war in Ukraine and kind of where we stand there.

And so I think there’s going to be less fear around job security which will create more spending. So for that reason, I’m optimistic.

I think by the end of this year, we’ll start to kind of level off and get back to normal.

I think we’ve gotten through the worst of it.

Peter –

What advice would you give a brand-new dispensary owner?

David –

You don’t know what you don’t know, right? So, try to talk to people who have been through it before and listen to what they have to say.

Ask a Dispensary Owner: Ry Russell of Budz Emporium in Medway, Maine

In the first installment of Leafwire’s exclusive ‘Ask a Dispensary Owner’ Series, we spoke with Ry Russell, owner of Budz Emporium in Medway, Maine – one of the most northern cities in the entire continental states.

Here are some great insights on the importance of pricing, transparency and truly listening to your customers.

What do you wish you had known before starting the process of starting your dispensary?

There is so much I wish I had known before I started opening the dispensary. I think the most critical is truly understanding your tax obligation. We learn a lot about 280e but until you actually process your taxes it’s hard to truly understand the impact. Taxes eat up roughly 35% of total revenue and you need to prepare for that. Remaining profitable while meeting your tax obligations is ultimately the name of the game.

What surprised me the most about opening a dispensary?

What had surprised me the most about opening a dispensary is the fine attention to detail. I came into this project with an extensive retail background and I felt confident and prepared for this undertaking, however, it is the hardest challenge I have taken on. Balancing vendors and prices with the value your customer expects is no easy task. Creating the ultimate in store experience that brings customers back over and over requires listening and adapting to everything that comes your way. A constant pivot is needed in this industry. 

How have you had to adapt the dispensary due to customer feedback?

The thing I am most proud of when talking about our dispensary is our commitment to customers. When we opened the store we were following the market. Our prices were too high and our selection was too small. We listened to our customers and we fight like hell for the best value and now budz emporium is the first store in the state of maine with a price match guarantee and the widest selection of top shelf flower from across the state. People now drive hours to visit us because we have the best value in the state by far. We wouldn’t have pulled this off if we didn’t have a deep and passionate relationship with our customers. 

What sort of payment challenges have you dealt with and what is working for you now?

Payment solutions is always a challenge. We started out with ATMs and then shortly after we opened the banks pulled them out. We went to a debit pay system and that network was taken offline a month later. Now we have a pin debit solution but we still do not rest easy. We always make sure we have a backup plan in the works in case a system provider goes offline. It is quite a headache and something we must be always paying attention to. 

Have you found any value in using loyalty programs or frequent shopper programs in order to drive loyalty?

Personally, I don’t use loyalty programs. We guarantee the best price in the state. We are often asked if we offer a loyalty program and we usually joke and say “we could, but then we would have to raise prices.” The customer usually understands and appreciates that we are sacrificing huge margins in effort to provide a fair price each and every single day. Honestly, I believe this fair and honest pricing strategy is the main reason we are doing so well. 

What’s some creative marketing efforts that you’ve tried out to generate business?

Marketing for an adult use business is challenging. The state has many restrictions that make it near impossible to communicate with customers outside of your store. However, we have found clever and crafty ways to advertise on the radio while remaining compliant. The radio has been our most significant source of customer acquisition. We do some newspaper advertising as well but the radio is where we see the biggest impact currently. 

Was hiring and managing a staff a bigger challenge than you expected?

Staffing is always a challenge, for any business. However, I think dispensaries have to be extra careful. We don’t have any job applications and I don’t post jobs online anywhere. I go about my day in the community and if I see someone providing extraordinary service I do my best to get to know them and invite them to join our team. I believe the best way to find good people is to observe people doing what they are supposed to be doing out in the world and then rewarding good behaviors. if people are doing their best work when they expect no one is paying attention they will do excellent work for a manager that cares about them! I am very proud of the team we have built at budz emporium! 

Any predictions for what the industry should expect in 2023?

I think mature markets are going to see the price of products continue to drop and the industry is going to have to get extremely invested in their communities in order to stay in business. The more things change the more they stay the same and at the end of the day the community needs to remain the center of attention.

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 Reakiro Continued Their Hemp Business in Ukraine in Spite of the War

It’s hard enough to run a growing business in a new industry with constantly changing regulations. And then your country is attacked by an invading army.

This is the exact situation that Stuart McKenzie, CEO of Reakiro, a hemp and cbd business, faced when Russia invaded Ukraine.  Many of their employees were able to leave Ukraine and move to Poland where Reakiro had another facility, however, many of their employees stayed in the Ukraine. Reakiro committed to help their employees to find safer places to live and work, but the invasion continues and Reakrio continues to find ways to thrive and serve their growing customer base.

How has the war in Ukraine affected Reakiro? What decisions did you have to make as CEO?

When the war first began, our priority as a company was finding out who wanted to leave Ukraine, who could leave Ukraine, who was going to stay in the country, and how we could support them. Reakiro has a facility in Poland which many of us relocated to as our new home when we had to leave Ukraine

To help those who were staying in Ukraine we helped members of the team move out of apartment blocks and into houses, and out of the city centres and into more rural areas where risk and danger has been considerably lower.

In many ways, the last few years of adapting to the pandemic had prepared us well for working together when we were physically apart, but saying that, one of the bittersweet silver linings from this year is that many of us have been together in Poland living and working close to one another, which has made us that much stronger as a team.

As CEO I knew that we had to find a way to continue as a business through the war. I know that’s not what many people would think about if they found themselves in a warzone, but the reality is we need to make sure the business is solid so that we can continue to support all of our employees through this turbulent and uncertain time.

What challenges has the Reakiro team met this year?

One of the most difficult things we’re dealing with is that no matter what we’re doing these days, we’re always thinking about the people who are still in Ukraine. While many of us managed to leave, there are many who had to stay. 

As I mentioned before, a big group of Reakiro employees relocated to our facility in Poland at the beginning of the war, and as a team we repurposed part of the facility in order to receive and distribute donations such as clothes, food, and medicine, which were coming in from all over Europe to go to those still in Ukraine and to those who had become refugees in Poland. Our staff have been dedicating voluntary hours throughout the day and night to help sort and distribute these items.

In October we were honoured at the World CBD Awards in Barcelona for our charitable work this year, which was a lovely moment for the team to be recognised for everything that they’ve been doing. Now we need to continue to emphasise that the war is ongoing and people in Ukraine need support from those around the world even more than they did at the beginning. We really hope the global attention doesn’t wane as time goes on.

What does the future look like for Reakiro and the CBD industry?

The future of the CBD industry is very, very positive. There’s new legislation coming which will allow new innovation, greater awareness of the capabilities of CBD, and ultimately for the industry to grow. It’s currently near impossible to innovate new products because of the restrictive Novel Food regulations. But as this changes the industry will be receiving more investment from other sectors, allowing reach and awareness to grow hand-in-hand. The momentum of the CBD industry continues to grow and grow as the products continue to bring positive change to people’s lives.

As for the future of Reakiro specifically, we’re looking to move into the medical cannabis space and we’ve partnered with a company in Malta to produce medical grade cannabis to distribute around the world . Medical cannabis products contain CBD and a high THC level and can only be accessed with a prescription. 

The doses of THC in question would be low enough not to make someone ‘high’ but medical cannabis is something that could help so many people experiencing many different conditions including pain management, neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, and also anxiety and panic attacks. We’re working towards closing the distance between doctors and medical cannabis, to help health professionals understand just how instrumental these natural products could be to helping their patients.

What are the challenges that the industry as a whole faces?

The biggest challenge we’ve always faced as an industry is how people perceive the hemp plant. Hemp is one of the world’s most resourceful plants, it can be used to make houses, batteries, clothes, and superfoods. This was recognised for thousands of years while people used hemp for a variety of reasons, but then when its growth was prohibited for 100 years all of that knowledge was erased. Now it’s our job as an industry to erase the image of a stoner with a joint and replace it with the knowledge of a plant that offers so many resourceful natural solutions. We need to do this in order for all our work in other areas, like product development, to have the true impact it deserves.

What drives and inspires you to continue on this mission every day?

The sense of being on a mission to change the world for future generations is my biggest motivator, and I think this would apply for many people in the industry. This isn’t a sector that people go into to get rich quick; it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. We’re thinking about generations and generations ahead, our children and grandchildren, and hoping that the work we put in now is going to make a difference.

I know that sounds like quite a lofty ambition, but we can already see things changing now. In the relatively short time the CBD industry has been truly alive it has shifted firmly into the mainstream and we can see that people’s attitudes, and people themselves, are changing. Not a week goes by that I don’t get a message from someone whose quality of life has dramatically improved since using CBD, whether it’s helping with sleep quality or managing pain and mobility so that they can now do things like go on bike rides with their children with ease; nothing motivates me more than this.

Will the Cannabis Cashless ATM Crackdown Continue in 2023?

The end of 2022 gave the cannabis financial world a glimpse of what some experts believe will be the inevitable fate of popular alternative payments used by most of today’s U.S. dispensaries. Cashless ATM network shutdowns, beginning in early December, had concerned and affected American dispensary operators scrambling to find alternative ways for customers to pay for products.

Some of the largest alternative payment processors of ATM transactions, such as NCR’s Columbus Data Services, turned off the ability of processors to use their service at the time. Both small, and multi-state operators, were impacted by these shut downs, and it was predicted as much as one-fifth of the industry’s Cashless ATM payment systems were unavailable at one point.

The Cashless ATM Quandary

Cashless ATMs, also called “point-of-banking” systems, have long been the go-to method for marijuana retailers that don’t have access to traditional banking services to give their customers cash-alternative payment options. These systems allow cannabis buyers to use a bank card, pin pad, and card insertion device in lieu of an ATM terminal.

With Cashless ATM cannabis retail payment solutions, the total dollar amount selected by the customer is directly transferred to the retail dispensary operator for a purchase, while the customer receives the remaining balance in cash, along with their products.

For a customer purchasing $110.50 worth of cannabis goods, for example, a cashless ATM transaction would have the cannabis retailer returning $8.50 in cash. While accounting logic is consistent in both ATM and Cashless ATM payment scenarios, the latter transaction is considered bank fraud and the $8.50 of change paid to the consumer is considered money laundering.

But this technology is made to have ATM withdrawals appear as if they are coming from separate entities, and sometimes different addresses altogether, such as a neighboring Massachusetts McDonald’s, as a Bloomberg article reported in April, 2022. At that time, such transactions looked likely to move about $7 billion past the usual money-laundering controls of the banking system last year — or about a quarter of all U.S. cannabis sales.

“A Cashless ATM doesn’t make much sense, because instead of an automated teller machine that dispenses cash, but what it’s really doing with cashless ATM transactions is hiding their origination,” said Ethan R. Smith, an Executive Assistant with Las Vegas based ATM Merchant Systems. “So, it’s not giving the right address, it’s not giving the right business name, or industry the business is in, which is important, especially for ATM regulations and transactions.”

The Crackdown Will Continue in 2023

This past December’s round-up and shut down of select Cashless ATM service providers came exactly a year after Visa had said it was aware of the scheme, and declared it prohibited on its network. And unfortunately, most cannabis business locations are relying on these non-compliant ATMs to do business, resulting in “outlaw” ATMs.

So, what we saw just last month was merely a foreshadowing of what we can expect in 2023 with greater federal banking enforcement. “This is a pivotal point in cannabis banking,” said the CEO of one payment-technology provider affected by the chain of events.

“It’s left merchants in the lurch because it happened overnight, but the writing has been on the wall for a while now,” said Peter Su, senior vice president at consulting and software firm Green Check Verified.

Cashless ATM Works, It’s Cannabis Cash That Doesn’t

It’s worth clarifying on thing about Cashless ATMs. From a customer standpoint, they’re convenient and effective. Essentially, the Cashless ATM is just a normal payment at the counter, rounded up to the nearest dispensable increment, and given back with change.

For the retailer, the process itself wouldn’t be illegal were the money put into a bank and not the owner’s bank account. A proper solution does exist, and it’s one where a compliant, 3rd party provider owns the end-to-end solution, the funds that finance it, and keeps them distinctly separate from the dispensary’s money.

This is where ATM Merchant Systems has emerged as an industry leader filling the void as an ATM/vault cash services provider completely independent of cannabis business ownership and involvement.

“With ours, we own the ATMs, we’re bank sponsored, we’re regulated by the networks, we follow all the rules and compliance, we load the cash (which is bank funded since it’s loaded completely out of the loop from the dispensary), and none of the dispensary money touches the ATMs,” explained Smith.

“So, it’s clean going in, and clean going out, which is then used to purchase, the customer can purchase it wherever they’re at,” Smith continued. “Our machine just happens to be in the dispensary and they’re able to use their money, understand and purchase the product.”

This is what it takes to be truly compliant with ATM systems in the realm of cannabis dispensaries. Up until recently, it wasn’t necessary, as enforcement hadn’t tightened up on the prevalence of onsite dispensary money fueled workarounds. But look for all that to change in 2023 as authorities firm up regulations and cannabis banking draws nearer and nearer to a federally approved reality.

Sowing the Seeds of Safety and Security 

By Justin Wilmas, Netwatch

There’s no denying the tremendous evolution we’ve seen in the cannabis market over the last few years; all signs point toward this demand continuing to increase. The U.S. cannabis market is projected to reach $72 billion annually by 2030, according to New Frontier Data.

Currently, 21 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized recreational and medicinal marijuana use, and 38 permit medicinal use. As more and more states come online with various levels of production and need, it is more important than ever to explore this market’s security and monitoring requirements. 

Security plays a critical role in the success of facilities in this industry, mainly because of security and compliance. Production and retail facilities rely on video monitoring services to monitor product from seed-to-sale and ensure safety throughout. Video helps stakeholders extract relevant information and events from captured video to save time and enhance responses. Intelligent video solutions take it a step further: prioritizing resource management, enabling various security components to merge into a typical picture, and increasing situational awareness. 

Challenges Abound 

From needing to provide a sitemap detailing security to ensuring various locations are correctly set up for security monitoring – compliance regulations are tedious, evolving quickly, and may vary from state to state, county to county. In cultivation operations, video surveillance cameras are required throughout, assigned to plants and specific areas within the manufacturing facility. It can be challenging for growers and sellers to keep up with the changing laws and regulations. 

Additionally, there is a need to protect a cultivation facility or dispensary from criminal action and liability. Some cannabis businesses may be targets for various types of crime, whether inside the facility or on the premises. With high levels of footfall in and out of dispensaries, it is essential to be protected from claims. 

Cannabis providers rely on robust security infrastructures to address these needs, and more often than not, they include video surveillance and security guards. But COVID-19 changed the landscape as more businesses looked to add intelligent technologies to protect sites that were now unmanned. Concurrently, contract guard companies endured challenging times due to the difficulty of hiring and retaining personnel and the rise in wage rates and health insurance costs.   

Today, companies are looking at finding ways to leverage both services. With technology designed to augment guards, there is an opportunity to embrace a process that will bring both together.  

The introduction of AI supports greater automation and augments the efforts of security personnel on the ground, allowing them to focus on more crucial tasks rather than everyday operations. By combining AI with guards, businesses gain an effective force multiplier that works to ensure the highest levels of security.  

One such solution that can be highly valuable is proactive video monitoring. Proactive video monitoring (PVM) empowers security personnel to focus on high-impact activities while an AI-based engine “watches” for potential security events. By monitoring, engaging in intervention, and reporting, PVM is proven to be highly effective at stopping criminal activity.   

PVM also augments on-site security staff by increasing their ability to see, hear and identify danger. Hazardous activities — such as responding to a dangerous situation — can now be managed by PVM. This approach significantly reduces liability and ensures the continued safety of on-site personnel. It can also help support less desirable jobs, such as working the night shift, where perimeter rounds are completed several times each hour. Using PVM removes the monotonous, sometimes risky work and leaves more strategic duties to your security guards.  

But there is far more to these types of intelligent video solutions.  

PVM detects threats and unauthorized activity and, within seconds, can alert a highly-trained intervention specialist to verify the incident-in-progress. Intervention specialists assess and confirm the danger over a live video feed from a remote location during a security event. When necessary, intervention specialists can proactively intervene by speaking directly to the intruder through a live audio warning advising the individual that they are being recorded and should leave the premises immediately.

These interventions can deter loiterers and other potential criminals from proceeding further onto the premises. In 98 percent of cases, a live warning through an intervention specialist will stop criminals from proceeding. 

Unlike traditional methods of video monitoring which are prone to signaling false alarms, PVM can reduce false alarm frequency by verifying actual actions through intelligent technology and the experience of highly-trained specialists. When necessary, operators will immediately alert the responding police department and management and provide insight into what is occurring to ensure response teams have the correct information at the right time.  

Though on-site monitors and third-party remote monitoring companies can successfully initiate an alarm should an incident occur, PVM companies can assist a cannabis business even further. When contracting with a PVM company, cannabis businesses can customize their alarm response and set pre-determined protocols for the PVM company, depending on the situation and threat level. These protocols may include live auditory interventions, alerting management of the cannabis business, and notifying law enforcement, depending on the incident. 

The Heart of the Solution 

“Proactive” is the driving force behind PVM and what sets it apart from traditional offerings. PVM always has an active presence behind the scenes, observing the situation. Organizations can rest assured they won’t need to pick up the pieces left in the wake of a destructive and potentially costly crime.  

PVM is effective at preventing criminal activity by monitoring, engaging in live intervention, and reporting. An intervention specialist is automatically alerted in real-time of risks caught by the built-in intelligence. If an intruder is detected, the operator can communicate with them directly to tell them to leave. PVM delivers numerous benefits that should be noticed.  

The video surveillance market is full of outdated solutions and reactionary measures that leave businesses with a steep bill to pay. Organizations can achieve guaranteed peace of mind by investing in proactive solutions.    

For those businesses in the cannabis market looking to supplement their security operations, PVM is a solution you should consider. With the experts handling all the heavy lifting, organizations can focus on growth. And, right now, in the cannabis industry, the sky’s the limit in terms of opportunity. 

Netwatch has been preventing crime and protecting assets for cannabis businesses and other organizations with proactive video surveillance solutions for almost two decades. The company’s technology and processes are designed to streamline the flow of live incidents across thousands of sites, enabling faster response with no nuisance alarms. 

Driven by machine learning, the system continually improves, increasing accuracy and quality. This enables faster reaction times and a reduction in false alarms, allowing Netwatch intervention specialists to work to the highest industry standards, including the strictly regulated conditions in the cannabis industry.  

Learn more about our unique approach by visiting our website at 

Cannabis Vape Landscape and the Hurdles to Future-Proofing Your Dispensary Operations with Andy Signh of Nuvata

Andy Singh, CEO of Nuvata, Discusses the Cannabis Vape Landscape and the Hurdles to Future-Proofing Your Dispensary Operations

How have the cannabis and nicotine vape markets looked similar or dissimilar over the last decade?

Before technology was where it is today, consumers had to buy e-liquids, juice, and mods in the nicotine market. This was similar to initial dry-herb vapes of the time, which were stationary, less portable, and not super well-equipped. 

In the nicotine industry, we saw technology advance to a place where Juul could be the leader. They came out with portable hardware and interchangeable pods, which were sold separately, revolutionizing the industry. They became a hot commodity and did exceptionally well. Altria, a tobacco giant, invested billions of dollars in them.

While Juul was positioned as the leader, many brands started coming out with disposables. Puff Bar, for instance, blew up because they focused on a few simple concepts: 

  • Phenomenal flavors
  • Ease of use
  • Single-use disposables
  • Compact and convenient form factor

Many different players recognized this is where the industry is headed, and many new nicotine brands have originated from that concept. 

Fast-forward a few years. Before getting banned in the United States, Juul was losing their market share because disposables were capturing it, along with other regulatory issues they were facing. Everyone leaned into disposables because of their convenience, flavors, and form factors. 

Simultaneously, cartridges were the only available product in the cannabis industry. A few years ago, there weren’t many disposable cannabis vapes; The focus was primarily on cartridges. When Nuvata launched in 2019, we predicted this trend would change. We didn’t know when, but we knew it would. We were ahead of the game. What we’re seeing today is a testament to this shift.

Now, we’re seeing cannabis disposables trending upwards and becoming more popular. We’ll see this trend remain consistent over the years, and I wouldn’t be surprised if demand for disposables took over cartridges in the future. 

It’s interesting to recognize the parallel between the cannabis and nicotine industries. Traditionally, you have two components: the hardware and pod for nicotine, and the cartridge and battery for cannabis. Now you can package those technologies as single-use and price them similarly.

What has your personal experience in the cannabis wellness space suggested about the importance of mindfulness in the consumer experience?

My personal experiences in the cannabis and wellness spaces inspired me to start Nuvata and define the principles of what we stand for. Personally, when I consume cannabis, I experience this sense of transcendence. My endocannabinoid system is stimulated, and certain parts of the brain are unlocked that may not usually be active without cannabis. 

When you recognize the changes that are taking place mentally and physically when you’re consuming cannabis, you can harness these effects to enhance whatever you’re doing. Cannabis can help you “be a better version of yourself” — be more reflective, slow down, and look at things differently. We’re so self-absorbed that we often forget to be in the moment and instead always live in our thoughts. Cannabis can help alleviate that and bring us a sense of presence. Nuvata’s curated product line is linked to various lifestyles and helps to bring consumers the mindfulness of cannabis in a convenient package. 

Are there any consumer purchase trends pointing to success with certain vape features, such as controlled dosage, disposability or other design elements?

Headset has shown a 15% increase in demand for cannabis disposables in 2021. That should remain consistent in 2022. 

I imagine that as technology advances, you could have a controlled temperature feature on cannabis disposables based on the terpene profile and the ideal temperatures for each of those terpenes. As technology advances, there will likely be a combination of controlled dosage and disposability. A convenient form factor combined with advanced disposable vape technology to allow for the perfect smooth dosed draw will drive the vape market.

Tell me about the hardest lesson you learned from the unpredictability of the cannabis market.

For me, the hardest lesson was recognizing where the limiting factors are in the supply chain. 

If you look at California specifically, the lack of retailers is the bottleneck of the industry. There are not enough retailers to service California, but there are many distributors, cultivators, and manufacturers. Creating that imbalance causes saturation on one end of the market and limitations on the other. Already, you’re positioning the industry for failure by enabling this disconnect. At any given time, regulations can change, hindering businesses and how they operate. You can never anticipate how the industry will shape itself, but you can look at where it stands at the time and position yourself to mitigate as much risk as possible.

Other markets, like New Jersey, limit the number of cultivators but not the number of retailers. We can already predict commodity prices will be high. Product pricing will also be relatively high because there will be a lack of supply. The overabundance of retailers will create a bottleneck because they will compete with each other and fight to survive. The state could always elect to stop issuing retail licenses when the market becomes too oversaturated, or they may allow an influx of cultivator licenses to come online. It’s essential to think about the entire landscape and the economic consequences of a shift like this. The cannabis industry is so dynamic and ever-evolving. Regardless of the state or municipality you operate in, success requires adaptability, analyzing the facts in the moment, and bracing yourself to mitigate as much risk as possible.

We can look at Oklahoma for one more example. There was no cap on licenses in the state, so there are several thousands of cultivators and manufacturers and retailers. You had to realize early on that you have to achieve a certain level of scale to operate with longevity and remain competitive, which is very capital-intensive. Given the regulatory framework, commodity prices will inevitably plunge down, which we are seeing today. You must operate somewhat on an industrial scale to sustain the lower margins required for success, especially if you are a cultivator or manufacturer. If you recognized this supply chain pinch early on, you might have been able to steer your business in the right direction. 

The last two years have been a rollercoaster. How do dispensary owners and operators stay ahead of unpredictable sales cycles?

Dispensary owners have to recognize that the cannabis industry is very dynamic. There could always be some regulatory change that results in reconfiguring how they operate their business. Dispensary operators must be adaptable in this type of environment. 

Many dispensary owners operate on net terms, which is essentially a function of a debt instrument. If a shop operates like that and you experience an economic downturn — be it a  massive sales decline or inflation — it puts them in a bad position and a worse bind. Dispensary owners need to do a few things to stay profitable:

  1. Recognize how to operate sustainably
  2. Limit the level of debt they operate under
  3. Keep the overhead adaptable by syncing overhead with their revenue performance 
  4. Budget out 280E implications in real time while operating their business

What’s the biggest hurdle to matching client health and wellness needs to cannabis products in the dispensary setting?

The biggest hurdle is the information flow from brands to customers, which is essentially in the hands of the budtender. That’s why brand education is hugely critical for dispensaries. It doesn’t help that budtenders have a pretty high turnover rate. The budtender staff is constantly rotating because it’s an entry-level position, which makes it even more challenging to keep brand education fresh and consistent. 

Brands must conduct budtender education consistently, either quarterly or semi-annually. Even so, when budtenders educate customers on multiple brands and products, their memorization capacity is limited. Budtenders must keep all this information fresh to best guide customers based on their needs and what they are looking for, which is challenging. 

It would be beneficial if there were a more direct, consistent connection between the customers and the brands, like some sort of in-store pod, catalog, kiosk, or virtual library with brand and product information. Few dispensaries are doing that. Most rely on the budtenders to support and guide the customers, which is a human limitation. 

How does a dispensary figure out how many vape products to carry and identify which are best for their target market?

Many dispensaries position their brand partners in distress by carrying too many vape brands and similar products. Stores are already limited by the number of customers they see, and creating a saturated sales menu makes it very difficult for brands to stand out and be successful.

Dispensaries must be intentional and strategic about their brands, particularly regarding vapes, as products are very similar. If you’re carrying seven or eight cartridge brands with similar potencies and strains, you’re essentially pitting brands against each other. It then comes down to whichever brand can spend more marketing dollars to acquire customers and be successful. That is often not sustainable for the brands themselves. 

Accordingly, dispensaries need to be strategic about the number of brands they carry in each category and how they differentiate between the products. That’s why Nuvata picked the disposable category and why we focused on effect-based flavors; no one was doing this. We were intentional in that sense to differentiate ourselves. We also differentiated ourselves to customers by offering a more guided and tailored experience to make it easier for them to find what they’re looking for with an emphasis on terpene education. 

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.

From Slopes to Sand, Winter Greens Cannabis Delivery Finds Steady Solution in Dama Payments

It was a big day for Winter Greens when I spoke to owner Todd Winter, as his Orange County, California delivery-only cannabis store had finally arrived at opening day. This Costa Mesa, California location is the second of two such Winter Greens delivery locations, the first having been established in 2018 in Truckee, California, near Lake Tahoe.

Winter had relocated his family to the area from Orange County and found the need to service both the Tahoe region’s local and tourist population with dependable, compliant cannabis delivery service when he started his first store. But the Winter Greens Orange County location was a bit more challenging to get up and running.

A cannabis-progressive city in an otherwise largely conservative county, Winter Greens’ Costa Mesa location came after over a year of regulatory compliance requirements. Something to be expected from a city new to the recreational cannabis market and still discovering what regulations work, and which are merely bureaucratic.

A practicing attorney by trade, Winter was able to navigate the challenges. With a portfolio of notable clients including Eureka Vapor, Pacific Stone, Humboldt’s Finest, and Kush Bottles, WINTER LLP has helped small and medium hemp and cannabis businesses navigate the ins-and-outs of regulatory nuances.

Despite the unpredictable hurdles he would encounter opening his Orange County operation, one thing Winter had in place the whole time was his payment solution.

The Problem

It’s customary for cannabis operators to encounter struggles managing a primarily cash transaction business in a world of traditional banking. With cannabis still federally illegal, business owners face severe limitations on how to manage their banking and payment needs. Cannabis operators frequently try to apply traditional solutions to an untraditional business, and for Winter, the experience was no different.

Winter Greens first attempted to manage transactions and banking with a traditional bank account. That works for so long, until the bank finally, and ultimately figures out you’re not selling Beanie Babies or whatever other business you’ve claimed to be conducting. This leads to a nightmare scenario where a cannabis operator’s funds are either held indefinitely or never released.

It never came to that for Winter Greens, but the interim solution was short lived. The company next tried to conduct its banking business through a credit bureau, but that proved to be a temporary solution as well. Limitations on cash withdrawals, deposits, and the availability of funds make credit bureaus a patchwork of difficulty to work with. As a last resort, Winter Greens used Square as a transaction solution, but that, too, proved short lived.

The Dama Solution

Ultimately, Winter discovered Dama Financial and its suite of financial solutions tailored for cannabis operators. With an account managed by Dama there are no limits on deposit frequency or amounts, and no frustrating end-of-month caps on account size. Dama follows all FinCEN and BSA/AML rules, adheres to Cole Memo priorities, and stays current with state and federal regulations to ensure clients remain fully compliant, something important to Winter. 


Once Winter Greens was up and running with Premier Banking, Winter integrated Paytender into the company’s point of sale system. Text-to-pay electronic payments now account for nearly 40 percent of overall sales at his Truckee location.

“We love Paytender, we try to get everyone on it,” he said. “Once you’re set up, it’s really incredible, and so easy to use. Everyone who uses it loves it. Our drivers love it too. The tip feature is great.”

Once users have signed up on paytender solution, and have successfully linked their bank account, the system generates a “QR code” which, sent to a user’s phone, enables the payment will be continued on a mobile device. Next, the user receives a text from Winter Greens with a link to paytender to complete the transaction to pay for their delivery before it arrives.

With Dama’s proven, reliable banking and transaction solutions in place, Winter Greens Orange County is poised for success. The company has even created a rewards program for its customers converting 3% of every order placed into “Winter Greens Rewards” to be redeemed at checkout.

In an Investment Tight Cannabis Market, Debt Financing Has Become a Capital Resource Alternative Canna Business Resources Has Perfected

2022 has been a tough year for cannabis companies seeking equity investment. Global equity raises have declined 77% year-to-date, to $962.1 million. I’ve seen even promising, patent-holding cannabis companies struggling to find the right investment partners.

This is likely not going to change until corporate valuations improve, according to some industry execs.

“Cannabis is a defensive industry,” Andrew Fellus, CEO of Canna Business Resources (CBR) told me in an interview. “Investors in general view this industry as defensive because it’s not going anywhere. Even if it does slow down a bit, it’s not going to zero.”

Fellus remarked that industries like electric vehicles have a lot more investment risk than cannabis. His point is well taken, as California based electric vehicle manufacturer Rivian lost $1.7 billion in the second quarter of 2022.

Equity investors know the cannabis industry will always be an investment option, are holding out for a stronger market, and are meanwhile looking for some meaningful short-term fundamental results elsewhere.

Still, cannabis operators need to expand in light of the fact that there is less capital available in the market. Many are left to find consolidation parters that can provide some liquidity or better access to capital. For operators like these, accepting multistate operator stocks at current discounted levels presents a potential upside in a merger or acquisition deal.

Viridian Capital Advisors tracked 75 mergers and acquisitions transactions globally with a total value of $3.5 billion through the end of April 2022, up 3.5% from the same year-to-date period in 2021.

Cannabis Debt Financing on the Rise

By contrast to equity investment, cannabis debt financing is up 73% year-to-date in the U.S., to $729.3 million. This bodes well for the team at CBR that specializes in cannabis debt financing.

CBR provides cannabis companies with growth capital, acquisition financing, equipment financing, CRE financing, or special situation financing. The company can provide funding up to $20M as a bridge to an equity deal or a just general working capital facility, both first and second lien loans, and is often able to structure financing that is complementary to an existing credit facility.

The company is a market leader in providing 2nd lien loans to cannabis operators with additional capital needs beyond what their existing senior lender is willing to provide. A unique product is tailored to companies that have an existing senior lender, can demonstrate sufficient cash flows, and are looking for a creative capital solution.

“We’re not equity players, we don’t invest in the equity, we don’t own the equity, we provide financing options for working capital for businesses that either need to grow or that are just getting off the ground,” Mr. Fellus explained. “And instead of taking eight months in investor discussions and going out of business in the meantime, we can close a financing in as little as one week.”

Financing New York Cannabis Operations

CBR prominently represented itself as a capital source and viable alternative to equity investment at the recent Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference in Chicago, IL. With timely progress in New York’s Adult Use licensing activity, CBR presented cannabis operators with a faster, non-dilutive financing option to quickly tap into the state’s market opportunity.

CBR knows that cannabis entrepreneurs and existing companies in the licensing process must line up their working capital today to prepare for a surge of demand next spring. The New York market is bound to be supply constrained and that means manufacturers can be a bottleneck, or they can be a resource. Having the right amount of working capital to launch a thriving and critical part of the supply chain.

For soon-to-be New York dispensary owners, shelves need to be fully stocked with enough supply in inventory to make it through an expected surge in demand upon opening. And for cultivators, massive amounts of working capital will be needed to bring much needed high-quality flower to the regulated New York market on a timely basis.

Mr. Fellus, himself a lifelong New Yorker, said that the New York market will require billions in investment in infrastructure, marketing, product development and compliance, and that CBR has set up a separate division and allocation to underwrite and finance New York market participants.

CBR has a track record of success assisting new and growing cannabis businesses with capital resources to seize opportunities brought about by regulation and legal change. When final regulations were approved for consumption lounges in Nevada, CBR was able to help a client acquire a suitable property with which the operator could vertically integrate its existing cultivation operation into a retail store with attached lounge.

The company provided $3.5 million in loans, consisting of a $2.5 million in real estate acquisition and $1.0 million for working capital needs. The working capital needed for the facility included tenant improvements, furniture and fixtures, personnel, and inventory. The loan was structured at a 75% Loan-to-Value ratio with a three year-term and interest only component.  The cannabis real estate loan has a three year balloon.

In some cases, CBR even offers exclusive interest only structures.

Understanding Hurdle Rates

A the halfway point of the year, interest rates began to rise, impacting the cost of capital for borrowers. At the same time, it’s also impacted hurdle rates for investors. As Mr. Fellus explained it, “The Hurdle rate being the hurdle you need to overcome in order to be a profitable investor.” So, the hurdle rate being your total cost of capital.

“So the way you would look at it if you’re an investor is, ‘Okay, I’m borrowing money from somewhere, whether it’s investors or otherwise,” Fellus said. “The cost of that capital is ‘X’ plus your cost of overhead investment committee compliance, all of which are going up. So, it’s not getting easier to run one of these lenders or investor groups because the regulatory burden is increasing and so that means your hurdle rate is going up.”

If your hurdle rate going up, then the cost of capital to the borrow is also going up. As an investor, to be
profitable on your investment costs you more. “I think a lot of people don’t know that cannabis is still a nascent industry when it comes to talking about really openly talking about the inner workings of finance,” Fellus continued.

The Future of Cannabis Debt Financing

Many, many successful entrepreneurs are in this industry and they’ve done well for themselves and they
haven’t needed outside financing. But when they do, as Mr. Fellus pointed out, they begin to see how the hurdle rates work for private capital and it’s more expensive than they anticipated.

“As the cannabis industry becomes more competitive, it’ll become prohibitive to bootstrap it and you’ll need outside capital,” Fellus said, “So I think it’ll become more prevalent to the discussion of cost of capital in the industry in the next couple years.”

As a family office with its own money, CBR “We don’t need to get our capital from anywhere else, and we have set rates for borrowers that we’ve been doing for years that are not economically sensitive,” Fellus explained, citing his company’s advantage for its borrower clients. “I call them clients because they really are–like half the time I spend my time helping them learn how to run their business.”

In today’s capital sparse cannabis industry, having a lending partner that will not only provide the resources to operate and grow, but guide your business along the way is an ideal scenario. And for small and medium sized cannabis operators not looking to participate in an M&A, CBR offers an appealing alternative and an opportunity to have a financing partner that will evolve as their business does.

Cannabis Payments Meets Industry Advocacy with Paybotics Agent Ian Rassman

I ran into cannabis payments expert Ian Rassman recently at a Sunday night Cannabis & Movies Club viewing of “Nacho Libre” in downtown Los Angeles. There, he was manning a table for the local chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), an organization that works diligently to build community through cannabis advocacy and their compassionate medical donation program. 

“Do you have everything you need from me for that Paybotic article?,” he inquired, having sent me some follow-up answers to an interview I’d conducted with him on the topic weeks earlier. “I’m all set,” I replied.

There’s something to be said for his enthusiasm. After all, payment processing isn’t a necessarily a sexy or riveting topic. Adding “cannabis” to the mix only makes it mildly more exciting. To be passionate about payment processing in what’s considered an alternative and risky market, requires understanding just how fundamentally important it is to the backbone of the industry.

The cannabis industry brings with it, a set of stringent guidelines and regulations, policies and procedures, requiring vendors to seek out alternative avenues to the traditional point of sale (POS) systems available. 

Banking and payments for cannabis is a frustrating process in the cannabis industry. Nearly every business owner has horror stories about having their banking or merchant services accounts shut down, funds seized, or a myriad of other financial nightmares. 

As an authority on niche industry payment offerings, Rassman has built a national network of partnerships with banks and credit unions that are willing to offer full-service cannabis banking solutions to state licensed cannabis related businesses, and is able to offer merchants practical solutions.

Industry Beginnings

Rassman honed his payment expertise in the limo industry, and rapidly expanded his client base out to other traditional retail merchants and verticals such as restaurants, attorneys, automotive, and plastic surgeons to name a few traditional businesses that frequently receive payment via credit cards.

In 2017, sensing the wave of impending legalization of recreational cannabis in California, he decided to go deep into the cannabis vertical.

“Not realizing how truly different the cannabis industry is when it comes to financial services, I was in for a quick and rude awakening,” Rassman told me. “The traditional credit card processing that I was familiar with was forbidden in the cannabis industry and compliant alternatives were required.”

It’s been over a decade now that he’s been in the business, and Rassman offers traditional merchant services outside of the cannabis industry, along with a specialized suite of compliant cannabis payment solutions for Cannabis Related Businesses (CRBs).

Atop his portfolio of vendors of choice, Rassman cites Paybotic as his recommended go-to cannabis payment and banking solution provider.

Paybotic Solutions

Paybotic’s custom payment solutions include debit card processing and PIN-authorized credit card acceptance, ACH processing, check service, gift card programs, merchant cash advances, cannabis banking, and more.

Paybotic helps clients with accountancy services, cash management, including online tools like bill payment and account analysis, as well as business insurance providing top-tier coverage for any risk situation.

Rassman attributes his long-standing cannabis industry involvement and activism as part of the reason he serves as one of Paybotic’s leading cannabis industry representatives, and cites the company’s reputation for remarkable customer service as one of the reasons he’s so passionate about the provider.

This Trustpilot review and an average 4.7 stars illustrates his point.

Q&A with Ian Rassman

I dove into a Q&A with Rassman on the topic of cannabis payments, industry struggles, and how activism plays a role in his success.

Q: What can you tell me about the origins of your interest in cannabis?

Rassman: I grew up on the Big Island of Hawaii during the late 1970s and 80s and I was definitely aware that cannabis was around me with some regularity. We called it Pakalolo which is the Hawaiian slang word for cannabis. By the time I was in high school I knew many people who were using it, but in all my years of living in Hawaii, I never tried it. 

Looking back, like most of America, I was most certainly influenced by much of the media on TV during the failed War on Drugs; “This is your brain on drugs,” “Gateway drug,” that sort of thing.

In the mid 90’s I was fortunate enough to get a job in Europe as an international traveling software engineer. After a year of being based out of London, my boss offered that I could live anywhere I wanted as long as I had quick access to a large International airport. So, within weeks I packed up a right-hand drive U-Haul and moved to Naarden Vesting, just 20 minutes outside of Amsterdam. 

One of my software partners there was a retired police officer from the famous Red-Light District in Amsterdam. I learned a lot from him about Holland’s long-standing, sensible, and non-criminal approach to cannabis. From my local Dutch friends, I came to understand more of the cultural and medical aspects surrounding cannabis during the several years that I lived there. 

By the time I returned to California in 1999, Proposition 215 had been enacted and California’s approach to cannabis was picking up speed. The culture was coming out of the closet and becoming more mainstream in California. I had just moved to Marina Del Rey and was within a 10-minute rollerblade of Venice Beach where dispensaries and script-writing doctors seemed to outnumber Starbucks.

Q: Can you give us a quick breakdown on the difference between ACH transactions and the cashless terminals Paybotic uses?

Rassman: ACH payments are electronic payments that go through the Automated Clearing House (ACH) network. Funds move from one bank account to another with the help of a centralized system that directs funds to their final destination. 

Most people are already familiar with ACH payments either from direct deposit from their employer or when they pay bills electronically from their checking account, where the customer would need to know their bank routing and account numbers to transmit funds. 

Paybotics brings you a cashless ATM (point of banking) terminal supports PIN-based card transactions: ATM/debit cards. When the customer inserts their debit card, a digital transfer is initiated. This gives your customers the ability to pay with their cards at the point of sale, increasing customer throughput and average ticket price. 

The secure countertop and 4G mobile terminals that we use are easily updated with the latest software, and on the first day that the card brands allow for it, we will patch the terminals to accept those cards. Customers must have their card present and know their ATM PIN number to transmit funds.

Q: What are the benefits cannabis retailers can experience by using Paybotic digital payments? Do customers spend more? 

Rassman: Retailers typically experience increased average ticket price as compared to cash payments. 

Other benefits include:

  • Eliminating the liability of having cash at the counter.
  • Safe, Secure and Compliant.
  • No processing fees to your business.
  • Quick and easy approval process with only a cannabis license, a driver’s license, and a voided check. 

Q: Cannabis delivery services are subject to robberies and other hazards on the field. How can digital payments make deliveries safer?

Ian: The new normal brings health and safety concerns to both customers and drivers alike. First and foremost, on everyone’s minds these days is the current COVID-19 pandemic. No one wants to touch cash anymore, so digital payments via a Cashless ATM with limited contact is a much safer alternative for everyone. Eliminating the cash also makes drivers less of a target for robberies.

Mobile terminals providing digital payments, can enable safe home delivery and curbside pickup. 

Cannabis payment processors have always been a shaky part of the cannabis industry. There are horror stories of accounts getting shut down and assets being frozen. If your bank throws you out for being a cannabis business, your merchant services account dies along with it.

However, there was a time when some CRBs and processors, to get around restrictions put in place by the card brands (Visa/MC/Amex, etc.), would mis-represent who the merchant was by coding the dispensary as a “pharmacy” or a “florist.” Eventually it would become clear that there were no aspirins or roses being sold and that account would be shut down. 

Misrepresentation was a common contractual reason for closing a merchant services account. It should have been the responsibility of the processor to lead their customer down the road to compliant solutions, rather than the many work-arounds (crypto, blockchain, stored value, etc.) that exist to undermine the card brand policy of not accepting credit cards for cannabis. 

No matter how much everyone wants it, there are simply no air-miles for your cannabis purchases. Transparency is critical in this process. For our cannabis clients that work with Paybotic, we only utilize Point of Banking (POB) where all transactions are PIN-based and through your ATM card

Paybotic’s solution utilizes the ATM rails. In the simplest possible terms, a payment rail is any form of digital infrastructure that transfers money from one individual or business to another. These are a completely different set of payment rails than the ones owned and operated by the card brands. At this time, there is no Visa/MC/Amex for cannabis. 

Q: What are three concerns that you have as the industry continues to grow?

Rassman: I am concerned that we are not doing enough about expunging criminal records for non-violent cannabis convictions. We can’t leave a single person in prison for selling cannabis while our regional governments are handing out licenses to sell cannabis. I am concerned that we need to do more on social equity, especially here in Los Angeles. 

As well, we need expanded licensing for those social equity applicants and faster timelines on that approval process. I am concerned that the Federal Government has not taken more decisive action on legalization when 70% of Americans believe cannabis should be legalized, and less than 30% oppose legalization. 

The last decade has seen a steady increase in support for legalization and the disparity between these numbers continues to widen. The path towards Federal legalization and de-scheduling (not rescheduling) is critical for enabling additional banks and credit unions to determine their own risk assessment and willingness to bank CRBs, without the threat of being afoul of Federal Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) issues.

Q: What motivates you to volunteer your time with NORML and what else do you do in the industry?

Rassman: My entrepreneurial instincts made me realize that I needed to spend more time and energy to help change the things that I thought needed addressing within the industry. I also felt it was important to volunteer my time and pay it forward to support the business community from which I expected to make a living. With its national effort to reform some of the banking issues we were all facing in the industry, NORML became that vehicle for me. I found that NORML’s mission aligned very well with my core values. 

I learned everything I could about consumer activism, safe access, social equity, expungement policy, employment protections, and education. I ramped up my time and effort within the organization and realized that Los Angeles, where I have lived for over 36 years, is a perfect microcosm of the industry as we are undoubtedly the largest cannabis-friendly city on the planet and well-positioned to set a positive example. 

With a mature medical marijuana market, a plethora of cannabis companies basing themselves in Southern California, a liberal government policy on cannabis and a county population larger than 41 U.S. states, Los Angeles is where consumers, industry, and policymakers come together to define how cannabis will become integrated into our communities.

I also run a very popular Event Calendar for the cannabis industry. I believe in building community. The cannabis industry is very old school in terms of relationship building; the people that you do business with are usually the people you have met face to face. 

I created the cannabis event calendar to provide a quick view of what is coming up in your area where you can meet so many of the amazingly talented people working in the cannabis industry. The calendar has promotional codes for reduced ticket prices and full event details that you can click to add to your own personal calendar on your phone so you know where you are going. 

For more information on cannabis payments and banking services, Ian Rassman can be contacted at

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.

How Talent and Innovation Keeps Flower at Native Roots Ahead of the Curve: Director of Cultivation Operations Jason MacDonald

In a pioneering market like Colorado, what does it take for a cannabis business to become a fixture in the marketplace while growing year after year?

Established in 2010, Native Roots Cannabis Co. is one of Colorado’s most successful vertically integrated medical and adult-use cannabis operators. An independently held dispensary chain, its 20 locations serve thousands of customers every day and has the state’s largest number of registered patient members. Over the years, Native Roots has won national recognition for sustainable business practices, retail design, high-quality products and employment practices. Native Roots creates nearly 50 products, including concentrates, vapes, flower, pre-rolls, shorties, infused blunts and mints; and has three brands: Revel, Spectra and Mr. Moxey’s. 

In this exclusive Leafwire Q&A with Director of Cultivation Operations Jason MacDonald, we discuss how Native Roots stays innovative and competitive through its evolving approach to cultivation, post-harvest processing, research and development, and product effects testing.

Leafwire: What is your background? What led you to growing cannabis?

Jason MacDonald: Believe it or not, I’ve been a grower all my life. It’s in my blood – as far back as I know, there are farmers in my family. I got a degree in biochemistry from the University of Colorado and was on the path to go to medical school. But in 2009, the day before I received my MCAT scores, I got my first job consulting in cannabis. They paid me such a ridiculous amount for something I saw as fairly simple, I decided to switch paths. 

I grew medical cannabis as a caregiver and consulted for companies and individuals looking to grow at home. In 2015, I was hired on the spot by Native Roots to build the irrigation system at the Mothership, our main cultivation facility. Over the next year, I built a nutrient line with the head of sciences, developed strains in the tissue culture program, facilitated product as a bay manager, and landed in the head grower position. Now I am the Director of Cultivation Operations, overseeing all cultivation and post-harvest operations at both of our cultivation facilities. Native Roots has the largest indoor grow operation in Colorado with 75,000 plants when combining both facilities. At the time it was built, it was the largest in the U.S., which was humbling and very exciting to be a part of.

LW: What sets Native Roots flower apart from others in the market?

JM: The brain trust we have at Native Roots includes a lot of really talented individuals operating in the cultivation and post-harvest spaces, and that expertise allows us to stand out. Our teams are constantly researching, growing and testing new strains and techniques. We operate in an atmosphere of trust and cooperation, and the team likes to swing big for the bleachers with innovative experimentation and new products. I am a firm believer in building a team full of individuals that are smarter and more talented than I am in their areas of expertise – this is how we grow and stay competitive as an organization. 

LW: Native Roots recently launched its Gold, Onyx and Green cannabis labels – can you tell us the differences between each? 

JM: For our relaunched labels, we hand-picked and grew each strain with strain-specific cultivation methods to maximize potency, flavor and quality. All strains undergo our proprietary curing process that eliminates rapid terpene evaporation and discoloration, maximizing cannabinoid content. Before being selected, each strain is tested extensively by our team. The final strains selected fall into three flower tiers: Gold, Onyx and Green. Green Label uses all of these growing and post-harvest upgrades to offer higher quality flower at an economical price. Gold and Onyx label strains are hung dry and hand-trimmed to preserve trichomes where high concentrations of psychoactive compounds reside, maintaining beauty and potency. After the curing process, Gold and Onyx strains are hand packed to preserve trichomes. Our premium Gold Label strains are grown from seed and offer a minimum of 24% THC potency. Gold Label flower is packaged in glass drams that block UV rays and are non-porous, smell-proof and airtight, preserving the bud. All strains are available at our 20 locations across Colorado.

LW: Do you have any favorite strains? Why?

JM: I really like Queen Mother Goji. I don’t know what it is about that flower but it gets me ridiculously high. It’s nice to shut down every now and then. We just got the GMO strain, and it’s really tasty, it offers a smooth high that I’ve really enjoyed.

LW: How do you identify the strains you’re going to grow? How is your team involved?

JM: Native Roots has research and development departments at both grow facilities. At one facility, we focus on popping seeds and monitoring each strain/phenotype for specific traits during the grow process. Once we find one that ticks all the boxes in terms of traits, stability, yield, etc., we clone the plant and start testing it for production. The clone is flowered three separate times and each pheno is monitored closely for different traits. Next, the selected clones go to R&D at the Mothership, our main grow. Only a lucky few make the final cut. The team is involved in seed popping, pheno hunting, production testing, consumption testing – every step from beginning to end. The process from seed pop to going into production takes roughly two years. 

LW: What is your approach to cultivation, and how is it different?

JM: My approach to cultivation is constant experimentation. There are 1,001 ways to grow cannabis well. Even if you’ve got something good going, you can always make it better. This industry is very competitive – if you aren’t constantly experimenting, you will fall behind. Stagnation is poison for innovation.

LW: How do you preserve the buds after harvest before they get to the customer?

JM: Buds are only packaged just before going to store shelves so they are as fresh as possible. Prior to packaging, we use a storage bag developed by Grove Bags, which retains the gases we want while releasing the gases we don’t. It is similar to produce bags that keep your peaches fresher longer, except for cannabis. Cannabis in Grove Bags maintains peak quality for several months, but it is packaged and off store shelves much sooner than that.

LW: What is the Mood State Matrix? What led you to go in this direction with your customer experience?

JM: Rather than simply classifying a strain as Sativa, Indica or Hybrid, we wanted to offer our customers a more personalized experience. Now our budtenders can lead customers and patients through the Mood State Matrix, which classifies strains based on effects such as sleep, relax, focus, energize and uplift. The Mood State Matrix was designed by an engineer after a comprehensive digital analysis on cannabis effects descriptions, extensive group testing on each strain, and mathematical modeling around results to ensure consistency and accuracy with the final five descriptors. The Mood State Matrix is a suggested guide and effects cannot be guaranteed. 

LW: What other tech investments has Native Roots made that support growth?

We have made several investments around testing equipment, lighting, water and energy usage. The RADSource uses photonic decontamination technology to ensure flower passes all state testing regulations. We are working on adding a CoGeneration plant that will allow us to produce our own electricity. A CoGeneration plant is more efficient than a conventional power plant since the heat produced during electricity generation is captured and not wasted. CoGeneration means less energy waste, less emissions and lower bills. We are also moving away from reverse osmosis (RO) water–which requires two gallons of water to make one RO gallon–to plain tap water. RO was the industry standard five years ago, but internal research has shown that filtered tap water works just as well for our plants. We are always testing new lighting solutions and a switch to LED systems allowed us to save two megawatts of power per year over our previous lighting solutions. 

How can folks find out more information?

You can follow me on Leafwire. You can also find out more about Native Roots’ products and locations at

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.

From Research to Data Solutions: How New Frontier Data Helps the Cannabis Industry Grow with CEO Gary Allen

As the cannabis industry evolves, having access to current market trends and consumer data is critical for success.

Founded in 2014, New Frontier Data provides unparalleled access to actionable industry intelligence and insight. Through Equio, New Frontier Data’s cannabis business intelligence platform, and NXTeck, the company’s AdTech division, New Frontier Data delivers solutions that inform strategic decisions for growth in a fast-paced and dynamic industry. 

In this exclusive Leafwire Q&A with CEO Gary Allen, we dive into how New Frontier Data is growing and evolving to meet the needs of all cannabis industry stakeholders globally.

Leafwire:  How did you end up joining New Frontier Data? What is your background? 

Gary Allen:  I came in as the COO of New Frontier Data five years ago. I hadn’t considered a career in cannabis, but New Frontier Data was bringing professional, vetted research, technology, and data to bear on one of the world’s fastest growing industries. I found this challenge very appealing and quickly got excited about all the company had already accomplished and the many untapped opportunities it could capitalize on with the right business strategies in place. We are leading an effort to create a culture of cooperation throughout the cannabis industry, partnering with other companies to bring powerful solutions to the market quickly. 

My background is primarily in digital marketing and technology. After developing an early mobile banking and trading application in the nineties, I helped develop a leading retail-to-consumer affiliate marketing platform called ConnectCommerce at Performics, which was wildly successful. After expanding the platform to incorporate bid management and paid search, Performics was acquired by DoubleClick before Google acquired it, kept the affiliate marketing piece, and sold the rest to Publicis Groupe. Since then, I’ve led other technology companies and agencies to exceed growth projections or later be acquired by the likes of Kantar Media and Bain Consulting. 

LW:  What is New Frontier Data’s mission?

GA: New Frontier Data was founded to fill a market need for vetted, trustworthy cannabis market research. Any mature market in the world has a company like us following it and analyzing what it is that enables and empowers the market to grow from nascent seed operations full maturity. It must be powered by vetted data, good contextualization, and some trusted advisors. 

Our charge is to bring that vetted data and professional contextualization to the market so operators, researchers, governments, and investors to understand the market opportunities, the risks, and the potential. I used to say we track everything from power to pesticides. But over the last three years, we’ focused on helping operators understand the consumer, and how they can effectively interact with them. 

In 2020, the legal cannabis market was worth about $23 billion with more than 40.1 million consumers. In 2021, that market value reached $30 billion with about 70 million consumers. To get a complete understanding of these consumers, we profile them through consumer surveys, POS data, and shopping cart analysis. Then we track footfalls and visits for every single dispensary in the US. We then use that data to model 167 million potential consumers, which is difference of about 90 million which shows the as-of-yet-untapped potential growth in the market. Operators want to understand how to onboard those potential consumers. How do they safely onboard 90 million consumers? New Frontier Data can help. We contextualize every piece of the market in a way that can make the consumer experience safe and can make the operator’s experience fruitful and profitable. Hopefully, along the way, we help guide the industry from nascency into mature operations.

LW:  The Equio and NXTeck platforms are powered by your data. How do they work?

GA:  At the end of the day, all of the market research and data ingestion we did over the last eight years, we put into powering these two platforms. One is called Equio. That is our platform designed for the participants in the industry: researchers, investors, and very specifically operators. It contextualizes the market in a way that each of those constituencies can use. For example, we have a series of dashboards, like the hemp dashboard, or a global dashboard that provides data from 217 countries to demonstrate what’s happening in cannabis markets around the globe.

The retail dashboard, however, is designed with an operator in mind. We track foot traffic into every dispensary in the United States, contextualizing who the consumer is, how often they visit dispensaries, which dispensaries they visit, what they buy, how much they spend and how often they purchase. 

The NXTeck platform is designed to take that information and enable someone to take action. So, for example, in the Equio platform, if I am at Rachelle’s Dispensary in Maryland, and I see I’ve had 1500 visitors over the last two weeks, I can match them to certain kind of profile based on demographics, product preferences, and visit frequency, I can find more of those consumer profiles in NXTeck to reach out and engage them with meaningful content that resonates. 

LW:  Do you foresee any major changes happening in the cannabis space over the next year?

GA: We expect to continue to see consolidation in and around the MSOs as smaller dispensary and dispensary chains open in key new markets as well as established mature markets. We also expect to see a continued push for social equity programs in cannabis that help level the playing field a little bit.  Different communities who have been greatly impacted by cannabis criminalization compete as independent operators against MSOs that are flush with cash (though not necessarily flush with profitability). Those social equity programs can greatly help stabilize the market. 

California has always been a trailblazer in the industry. In some way, shape, or form, California that will continue as it presses for interstate commerce. They have a proposed law under consideration to legalize it which would open the door for imports and exports across state lines. One of our common refrains is “normalization has to come before legalization,” and California’s efforts may be the latest example of that. It’s possible the state could tell the federal government, “You can chase us down, but we’re starting import and export.”

LW:  What else should the Leafwire readers know about New Frontier Data?

GA:  New Frontier Data has spent a number of years operating by looking into the cannabis industry, but shifted our focus focused more recently on operating within the cannabis industry. 

The data that we have, and the services that we provide, are there to help the industry grow. If it’s one operator at a time, that’s fine with us.  We want to give technology and data to people who need it; we want to buy data and technology from people who need to sell it. We’re here to help the industry grow. 

Making Cannabis Compliance Easy with RFID – Michael Pavlak CEO of StashStock

In the legal cannabis space, compliance is one of the most important things to consider for plant-touching operators. This often includes deploying track-and-trace tools to maintain records of plants from seed to sale. 19 states and counting utilize METRC for their legal marijuana industries and while the platform is indeed useful, it often falls short of providing the most efficient tools for cannabis professionals.

StashStock is a third-party integrator for the METRC system that focuses on RFID-based solutions to ensure cultivators maintain compliance with state regulations for growing cannabis. With a full suite of solutions including an RFID scanner, integrated scales, and a reporting and analytics tool, StashStock offers an extra layer of convenience and efficiency for grows of all sizes.

Discover the benefits of the StashStock platform, learn what sets the StashStock apart, and what’s ahead in this exclusive Leafwire Q&A with Co-founder and CEO Michael Pavlak.

Leafwire:  How did StashStock come to be?

Michael Pavlak:  I have been a software engineer for about 15 years. I also grew (cannabis) for ten years under Michigan’s Caregiver Act. I worked with several patients during that time and met other cannabis professionals in the industry. I began to learn of compliance frustrations; similar to what I had been facing myself. In turn, I decided that instead of growing cannabis for patients, I would work on software to solve compliance pain-points for cultivators big and small. Mind you, this was even before METRC went into effect here in Michigan.

In addition to learning about cultivators’ struggles, I was also home invaded about 6 years ago and the culprits were after my grow. This prompted me to get involved on the cannabis software side, instead of growing, due to safety concerns. The timing to move into another area of Cannabis just seemed right for me.  We actually looked at Weedmaps and Leafly first, as our platform was similar in that it featured where you can find cannabis in your local area, see who’s carrying what, view menus, offer the ability to bring in patients, etc. 

Then, METRC came to Michigan in 2016. When we noticed that METRC requires RFID tags on all their plants, we looked around the industry and said, “Well, no one’s providing a solution to use these RFID tags — why not let us do that?” We decided to pivot away from retail solutions and into cultivation solutions, specifically leveraging those RFID tags that are on all the metric plants.

LW:  Why should operators deploy your solutions?

MP:  The METRC system itself is a relatively simple tracking system. But there are a lot of nuances involved. If you’re managing 10,000 plants, you have to report on each of those, whether they’re vegging, flowering, or being harvested.

That’s a lot of overhead for cultivators. When I moved 500 plants, telling the system which 500 plants moved into a new room or a new phase can be extremely, extremely time-consuming. Using our tools, an operator can do an audit of, say, a 500 plant room in less than five minutes. We can tell you exactly what’s in there and if there is anything unexpected. A manual audit, with either a barcode scanner or physical tag checking with a list, could take all day. We took an event that took all day and brought it down to five minutes. That’s really where the power is because you are required to have these tags anyways — we’re just unlocking their full potential.

LW:  What has the reception been from the industry?

MP:  We see a few different phases of the industry and the response to our tools. When we started with Michigan, we wanted to make sure that we could deploy and scale so we only were selling to Michigan-based companies.  This allowed us to go on-site to troubleshoot anything that came up. It was also when the industry was starting to ramp up in Michigan. 

Upfront, it was actually a little bit difficult because the market was new, and many people didn’t understand how the tools fit into the picture. As the market evolved and matured, it became much easier to have that conversation. For instance, when we go to Colorado, where they’ve been operating for 10 years now, we show them our tools and hear responses like, “I need this! Where has this been for the last eight years?!” They’ve experienced all the pain and headache of the required tracking, they understand the benefit of our tools. 

Michigan is typical for market response when they’re first starting. People don’t really understand what they need to do or how much effort it’s going to be.  As that market matures and a few people get some experience under their belt, it becomes an eye-opener for them and they understand how useful the tools can be.

LW: Your two main products are the CannaScale and the CannaScanner. Can you describe these tools in a bit more detail and the corresponding app?

MP:  We’ve taken an approach of a very modular toolset, meaning they can be deployed independently. If you were only looking to improve your harvest time and effort, we would deploy the RFID-enabled CannaScale and use the RFID scanner when logging the plants. You can also use a barcode scanner, or manual entry.  There’s always a way to manually enter if needed. Effectively, you put the plant on the scale, it’ll log your plant weight, you scan the tag, and our software will associate the correct plant with the logged weight. 

When you’re harvesting cannabis plants, all the plants within a harvest batch must be the same strain, per METRC. Sometimes a team can be chopping down a room, and they’ll have a staging area where all the chopped and not yet weighed plants are stored. The scale operator is taking a plant, weighing it, logging it in, and then progressing it to the next stage in the process. At that point, the scale is also doing an audit and saying, “Hey, you have completed 50 out of 100 plants so far in this room of this strain,” or “Hey, this plant that you just scanned is not a Cherry Bomb, and you were just harvesting Cherry Bomb. You might want to handle this plant differently.” 

CannaScale is going to do all the safety checks in real time to make sure that at the end of your harvest you understand if you actually harvested all your plants and whether they were all the same strain.  If you need to have multiple strains active at once we can manage that for you in the app as well. 

If you have a really large grow sometimes one scale is just not enough. Those operators can use two, three, or four scales in tandem, and it will create one master harvest for them so they don’t have to worry about “this strain has to go into this scale, all of that strain has to go to that scale” — it doesn’t matter. The StashStock system will bring it all together and give them a report at the end that says “these are all the plants that were harvested, and the strains that those plants fall into”. It’s an extremely useful tool that just about anyone can immediately realize the value and it’s very easy to drop into any process. 

LW:  What about the CannaScanner?

MP:  CannaScanner has more features to learn, but once they’ve mastered it, it’s their best friend. Essentially, the tool does auditing. I can go room to room and say “Okay, I’m in Flower Room One” and the device will know what’s supposed to be in there. As you’re going through and scanning that room, the device will tell you, “I found 190 out of 200 plants that are supposed to be in here. And I see three that aren’t supposed to be in here.” It will also tell you what plants are missing and some key details that may help you find them. 

There’s a “finder” feature that will act as a metal detector. Let’s say you have an incorrect plant in your room. You can lock onto that plant and as you walk around the room, it’ll tell you how close you are to it, you can zoom into it and deal with that one oddball plant. And again, doing something like that manually or with a barcode scanner could be an all-day event, right? Manually checking tags, especially if they’re under a mesh, or in a multi-tier system just takes an unreasonable amount of time. 

We have other value add tools, like a sales and fulfillment module that lets you track your sales, what needs to be repackaged, what inventory is actually available for sale based on pending orders, all that kind of stuff. That is the extension to METRC — we do things that METRC doesn’t.

LW:  Do you have any exciting things you’re working on releasing?

MP:  We’re looking to extend our sales into a wholesale marketplace similar to LeafLink, The Trade, APEX or any of those kinds of marketplaces where you as a cultivator can list your product for dispensaries to purchase. We also have a lightweight version for processing where you can track sales and fulfillment, recipes, and costing, as well as do audits. METRC doesn’t track edible recipes down to each ingredient. Now you can see “This manufacturer actually has a pesticide in this flavoring, and it’s causing my test to fail, now I know what to recall.” We’re looking at making that a bit more robust. 

Those are the two big things we have on the agenda for this year. As we work on this new feature set, we have hopes to also add a dispensary component. Right now you can use our tool in the dispensary for weekly inventory auditing, but we want to expand our capabilities.

LW:  What advice do you have for new operators getting into the space?

MP: I have a few things. First off, build a good team. I see a lot of places maybe go a little bit cheap on their employees or not really focus on finding motivated, passionate, high-performing people. Secondly, is to learn. Learn from others in the cannabis space – continue adapting as the industry adapts. Oh, and make sure you stay compliant!  Those three things combined, I think, really make or break being profitable or not. 

The last thing I would say is branding. I think a lot of companies don’t focus on building their brand and using that as a differentiator. A lot of companies will make a wholesale product and not try to strategically position themselves in different dispensaries or really make their brand something that people are looking for. 

If you’re doing those four things right, you’re way ahead of the game.

LW:  What else should Leafwire readers know about StashStock?

MP: One of the biggest things we focus on is customer service and we’re one of the oldest players in the game. There are not many companies that have been doing this longer than us — there are not many companies that utilize RFID technology in general. 

When we talk to our customers, we frequently hear feedback like, “you’ve changed my life for the better.” We are fundamentally shifting how they’re managing their grow, and the effort required to do compliance-related tasks. We provide the confidence at the end of the day that everything is right; they KNOW they are compliant. A lot of people who come onboard with us are starting from a shaky platform.  They don’t know if their compliance data is actually accurate. And when we come in and baseline them, it’s a huge relief. “I finally know that I’m compliant. And I have a way to keep it compliant. And if anything happens, I know I can fix it.” This is the feedback we hear on a regular basis and this is the feedback StashStock strives for.

Key and Asset Control for the Cannabis Industry – Interview with Morse Watchmans

In the cannabis industry, security is of the utmost importance. Operators must often go above and beyond to ensure their product is safe at all times. Additionally, compliance regulations often require multiple layers of protection in the interest of both license holders and the community.

Morse Watchmans has been a trusted provider of key control and access management products for generations. Originally founded in 1882, the company has evolved alongside technological revolutions to become the top name in business security for a wide variety of industries, from healthcare to casinos.

Learn more about how Morse Watchmans is helping cannabis operators stay safe, their visions of the future of security compliance, and what industry newcomers should know in this exclusive Leafwire Q&A interview.

Leafwire: How did you come to enter the cannabis space?

Morse Watchmans:  We started to research this industry probably three years ago. We would say that it’s really been over the last year and a half, that we’re really becoming more active in the industry. We are the only ones doing this, we’re the only ones putting our toes in the water within this industry. So, we think that we’re ahead of all of our competitors.

We’ve been dabbling in it for a few years. We look at it like any sector, we think that the opportunity for growth is tremendous. We believe that the cannabis market is going to grow exponentially and that there will be a need for our products with upcoming legislation.

We look at it as the casino world in the early stages. The casinos didn’t have much legislation in the early days. However, gaming commissions came into play and state legislations fell into place. They have specific laws for key control and asset management. We believe the same is going to happen to the cannabis industry. It’s still in its early infancy stages. We believe that source key control is a part of the security package that cultivators, distributors, and retailers should have as part of their security package.

The first thing that comes to mind is that string of burglaries in San Francisco, we We believe there were 27 facilities that were hit in a short period of time. When we we read that story, we we thought that all of that could be prevented if they had that key control and more security over those things. So, we really do think that something will happen when things are legalized federally, when that will happen, we’re not sure, but we really do believe that we will be the standard 100%.

Another point to look at is, aside from legislation, we believe we’re going to see larger organizations start to acquire smaller organizations within the industry. And when that happens, there will be some governance and some rules that will have to be put in place by the new owners to control their assets and control.

LW: How exactly does security play into compliance?

MW: It’s an audit trail, to know who had access to a particular area at any given time. Again, we go back to the casino world where we created a functionality called dual and triple authentication, meaning that to get into certain areas like the cage of the casino, there’s a requirement where you authenticate yourself to get the key out of the system. However, you need another person from another department or a supervisor to authenticate that it was you who put in your access information. We believe that’s going to happen in the cannabis world in terms of creating an audit trail for knowing who has accessed what areas when, and the state’s going to ultimately require that information.

LW: What sets you apart from potential competitors?

MW: If you look at Morse Watchman there’s a large, competitive landscape out there. We remain at the top for a variety of reasons, but one of them is that we listen to our end-user – we listen to the industry – to understand what their true needs are. That’s how we became number one in the casino world. And we keep going back to that because that’s what’s most affiliated with the cannabis world in its current stage. But we listened to the casino operators AND, and the states who needed to control them. We created features and functionality that they needed, whereas others didn’t. So, we think that one forte of ours is that we listen to our clients, and we will build a system based on their needs.

We’re also made in the USA. Nobody else can say that. But we’re 100% made here in Oxford, Connecticut. Our service department and tech support are by far, the best globally.

LW: Do you foresee any major changes happening in the cannabis industry this year?

MW: This year, we foresee all of these massive MSOs continuing to take over. We do see a kind of monopoly happening. However, we’ve also seen an increase in a lot of family-run cultivation ops or dispensaries. And so we think that as these MSOs continue to try to close in, we think that these smaller places are going to rise and we actually think people will be more compelled to buy from somewhere that’s local and family owned, so they can know where everything is coming from. 

we don’t think that we will see federal legalization this year, unfortunately. And we also do think that the gray market will continue. For example, here in Connecticut, we have legalized recreational cannabis, but no one is selling it yet. The licenses are beginning to be awarded. We also have medical, and that’s a strong program that’s been going for a few years. But something interesting is this gray market area that’s popping up where you don’t pay for the product, it’s a donation. And we think that’s something that is going to continue to rise as we have this disconnect between the state laws and the federal laws. And until they meet in the middle, we do think these gray area markets will continue to be popular and expand.

LW: You were recently acquired, speaking of M&A. How has that benefited your suite of services?

MW: Back in December, we were acquired by a large organization. And this is an incredibly positive thing. We now have available to us 30 manufacturing facilities around the globe. We have a sister company now based in the UK and based here in the States that makes smart locker systems. We’re working with them every day to develop systems for Morse Watchman.

LW: What advice do you have for newcomers to the industry?

MW: we say this to anybody in any industry, operational efficiency is key. In starting a business and getting into something relatively new in terms of the industry, understanding and knowing how to run a business comes first, but fully understanding the market they’re getting into is also crucial. When we say operational efficiency, we’m speaking in terms of the technology that’s available to do everything that needs to be done in a business and of course, asset management is one of those. 

LW: What else should the Leafwire readers know about Morse Watchman?

MW: we think that knowing that we have the experience –  we are the leader in what we do. We know how to control keys and assets. That’s all we do. They should know every system we build is custom made for the client. And they should know we will listen to what the industry has to say, to help us develop what the industry needs for them.

Paving the Way for Federally Legal Cannabis Products – Sheri Orlowitz Founder of The Council for Federal Cannabis Regulation

Cannabis legalization continues to spread across the country, and federal reform seems to be right around the corner. With this comes a crucial need for lawmakers, government agencies, and leaders from all industries, not just cannabis, to join forces to ensure a solid foundation is set to set the space up for long-term success.

The Council for Federal Cannabis Regulation (CFCR) is a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit seeking to unite these groups with the overall goals of de-stigmatization, normalization, and legitimization of cannabis. The CFCR offers scientific expertise on cannabinoids while at the same time advocating for small business, social justice and further research on these compounds as well as being the bridge to legitimization.

Learn more about the organization’s mission, the important work it’s doing, and how to get involved in this exclusive Leafwire Q&A with CFCR Founder and Chair of the Board Sheri Orlowitz.

Leafwire:  You’ve been referred to as a pioneer. What is your background?

Sheri Orlowitz:  I guess it would be fair to say that I’ve done a lot of pioneering things. I am attracted to the huge opportunity of unchartered paths, and I have had the multi-faceted career to bring an informed and unique perspective to cannabis. I started my career as an actor, then did some commodities trading, then became a Justice Department lawyer, then a federal prosecutor and a real estate developer. In the early 90’s I was one of the first women to undertake leveraged buyouts of companies.  That was really a pioneering journey. I not only structured and raised the capital for the LBO’s of 8 companies, I also operated them as the CEO. The companies were acquired from Fortune 500 corporations and my expertise, turn arounds, restructuring, finance, and manufacturing was unique for a woman at the time, probably still is.  After my last exit I continued to invest in start-ups and began consulting for companies that needed a solid business strategy, finance, differentiation, connections, and money.

LW:  How did you break into cannabis?

SO:  I was hesitant about the cannabis industry. A couple of people had asked me to invest in it. I said no. And then a woman engaged me at Starbucks and asked if I could help her daughter raise $5 million. That’s such a sweet spot for me, helping women access capital and I said yes immediately. Turns out what she wanted was someone to help her write her application for a license in Maryland in 2015. 

To make a long story short, they won one of 15 licenses awarded in the state and today, they are called Grow West, Merida was the key investor, and I would guess they’re stake is well over several hundred million dollars. That’s how I got started in the industry, making someone else rich. 

I continued looking at the industry and did some work for Privateer and Brendan Kennedy who was considering where to build a facility in Southern Europe. I had an influential Greek woman friend who took me on a 3-week blitz of meetings with cabinet officials and the current Prime Minister Mistotakis. We were able to convince the Greek government that Privateer would bring jobs and investment and it agreed to allow Privateer to build an export only facility for the EU in Greece. This is before Greece legalized medical. But, Privateer decided to build its EU facility in Portugal. 

I undertook a couple of similar type projects that, from my lawyer’s perspective was “arguably” legal. And, then, several years later, 2018, I agreed to sit on the board of the Marijuana Policy Project and I invested and helped Jessica Billingsley, fill out MJ Freeway’s C-round right before its IPO when it was renamed Akerna.  As far as I know this was the first reverse takeover (RTO) in the industry. And that was the end of my being able to stay “arguably” legal. The law is changing and is being ignored by banks, the Nasdaq and SEC, lenders, private equity funds and doctors who “recommend” cannabis. So, it’s been a really an interesting journey for me from someone who used to enforce anti-money laundering (AML) and asset forfeiture laws to the Founder and Chairman of Council.

Leafwire:  How did you come to found the Council For Federal Cannabis Regulation?

SO:  As I shared with you, I was a Justice Department lawyer. Aside from prosecuting AML I represented many of the federal agencies, from the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) to HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development). I have also held positions or worked with State, SBA, Commerce, and our current president, Joe Biden. I understand how federal agencies develop a regulatory framework and how they begin the process. Absent this regulatory framework there will be no federal legalization. The 50+ federal agencies that will be affected by legalization need guidance and education to begin the process of implementing legalization and creating regulations. You only have half the job done once legalization bills pass.  

An example – the hemp industry. The 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp. Moving into the fourth year of legalization and cannabinoids cannot be put into product and the industry is stalled.  Another example that may hit home, if we legalize cannabis with high levels of THC (HighTHC Cannabis) tomorrow, smoking flower will likely remain illegal at the federal level unless and until the FDA agrees that smoking flower is safe. And that’s part of what we, the Council for Federal Cannabis Regulation (CFCR), do. The work with the federal agencies to educate, including on new technologies, protocols, and approaches to simplify and frankly discredit old ways of looking at things and to educate regulators to the potential of this plant. 

Cannabis has been outlawed for over eight decades and the stigma remains. As the federal government embraces the cannabis industry through engaging with and regulating it, the stigma begins to dissipate.  Again, legalization is only half the battle, “regulation is the implementation of legislation” and there is no federally legal industry without regulation. Regulation gives shape, structure, and dollars to the promise of DEI policies, federal money for R&D, the groundwork for interstate commerce, and so much more.  

Finally, CFCR, is the only non-profit, built with a team that can work with regulators.  It’s elite experts across industries and professions, many of them former government leaders, engender trust, not only with regulators, but also with corporate America who we term “hesitant stakeholders.” Hesitant stakeholders are from various industries that are currently dabbling in cannabis, such as Perrigo, Pfizer, Nestle, and so on, and the industry, frankly the country, needs them to begin to invest in the regulatory process.

LW:  How did you manage to begin to engage with these so-called “hesitant stakeholders?”

SO:  Again, our people, they are known to and have worked with these large corporates like Unilever, Pfizer, Perrigo, Amazon and others that are quietly participating in the industry.  We are starting to engage with the corporates on specific initiatives as they recognize they need the expertise provided by CFCR.

LW:  What are some of the initiatives CFCR is working on right now?

SO:  At a 50,000 foot view our goal is to mainstream cannabinoids, to create a federally legal marketplace and remove unsafe products from the stream of commerce.

At this time that means engaging with FDA to remove legal and safety roadblocks, guide industry to develop the science needed by FDA to deem cannabinoids safe, provide for funding of FDA’s efforts and fight preclusion of cannabinoid isolates because at high dosing levels it is a pharmaceutical, Epidiolex is an example.

Our first initiative was to develop a relationship with the FDA and engender trust.  We wrote a letter to the HHS (Department of Health and Human Services which oversees FDA) discussing the legal and regulatory roadblocks and we were invited to meet with the FDA within 3 weeks. I encourage your readers to read the letter sent to HHS here

A mission critical initiative we are working on, is to help secure funding to create an Office of Cannabis Products within the next year. We submitted a request through Representative David Joyce (R-OH) to fund the Office of Cannabis Products (OCP) and prepared and submitted Congressional Testimony for FY 2023 Budget, to support an appropriation of $10 million to fund the OCP. Another initiative your readers may find interesting is on June 14th our Science Chair, Dr. Vicki Seyfert-Margolis (former Senior Advisor to the FDA Commissioner) will testify to the FDA Scientific Advisory Board about new technologies and protocols available to help bring cannabinoids safely to market in a cost and time effective fashion. A recording of the hearing will be available on our website at  And we produce top draw webinars with current FDA and other government leaders, corporate exechosted by our Executive Director and co-hosted by Jack Jacobson from Thompson Coburn. Often these webinars create a platform for the industry and the federal government to speak to each other.  We are expanding this communication to a thirty-minute podcast hosted by Benzinga and much more.

Our most important initiative is underway, to develop the trust of the federal regulators, currently the FDA, that, our interests align, we are objective and trustworthy, and we have the expertise to weigh in and help balance the safety of the consumer and maximize the value and accessibility of this plant. The FDA has been receptive and it part it helps that our organization has an exceptional group of FDA and HHS leaders

LW:  What advice do you have for newcomers entering the cannabis space?

Don’t be in such a hurry. Don’t think that this industry is passing you by if you don’t hurry up and get involved. Yes, there was a lot of easy money in the early days, and those early days are long gone. People love to handicap what inning we’re in. And frankly, I think we’re in the first inning. So, there’s plenty of time to get involved in the industry.

The second thing I would say is: bring your skills to the industry. Don’t try to learn how to be a website designer, because you think that’s what the industry needs. If you are a content writer, or if you’re a lawyer — these are skills that you’ve developed over the course of time. If you’re interested in the industry, bring those skills. This industry needs skills, leadership, and talent from everywhere.

LW:  Do you foresee any major changes ahead for the cannabis industry?

SO:   I don’t think that any of the bills that portend to legalize cannabis will be passed. However, the socialization process is critical; bills make our Congress think about and discuss the issues heretofore, illegal. That’s a heck of a mind shift.  And I see a different growth trajectory than many in the industry. While growth will continue in adult use, the legal cannabinoids is where I see interest, significant investment and a trillion-dollar market developing over time. The federal government will invest hundreds of millions over the next decade to support research and the development of “medical marijuana.”

What I understand from this President and what he supports, is robust R&D and the creation of a medical pathway. That’s what I see happening in the next three years. And that medical pathway is not only THC but CBN, CBG, etc. Many of these cannabinoids seem to offer a lot of promise but have not had the opportunity to be researched in any significant way in the United States. 

Think about this, CBD is the active ingredient and the first cannabinoid drug approved by FDA, Epidiolex, and it sold over $500M in 2020. 

LW:  How can people support CFCR? How can they get involved?

SO:   Join us at the CFCR Cannabis Café, the first Friday of every month at 1 PM,  check out the website and please join CFCR’s ED Sarah Chase and Jack Jacobson on the 4th Thursday of every month as they host webinars to educate and build bridges between industry and regulators.  CFCR is diverse and dynamic and has strong values around a safe, credible, and healthy industry. If you share our values, you will meet people of similar ilk and similar values that are looking to create an industry that is a little different than what we’ve had in the past. At CFCR, because we share a value system, you will find friends and colleagues for life.

So go to the website, fill out the basic information form, and tell us what you’re interested in. We’ll call and talk to you about you and your company and interest.  We want to know what you, as an integral part of this community, think and we will share all about CFCR, the interactive programs, initiatives, networking, and opportunities designed for our members interaction. CFCR needs members that share our values and will help shape our vision of creating a safe and accessible cannabis industry.  So please contact us and learn about us and how you can become involved and how you can help educate and advocate.

LW:  What else should Leafwire readers know about the Council for Federal Cannabis Regulation?

SO:  I think what people should know and try to understand is: why regulation matters? I mean, for goodness sakes, we don’t even have a legal industry so why does regulation matter? 

Well, we do have a legal cannabinoid industry – most of the plant is federally legal and yet we have no products, the industry is stalled at the FDA. What’s going on with the with hemp cannabinoids and how they develop is going to influence how the adult use industry develops.  

Legalization without regulation is where we’re sitting today with legal cannabinoids sitting on the shelf. 

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Canna Business Resources is proud to offer a wide range of products and services that we believe any cannabis business would need for their financing goals. To get a better understanding of what we can provide, here is a list of a few of our services. 

When it comes to starting or expanding your current business, you can be sure that Canna Business Resources will be there every step of the way to help you make the right financial solution.

Being a Trusted Source for Cannabis Research and Scientific Developments – Rich Whitworth of The Cannabis Scientist

The cannabis space continues to evolve. As research reveals more about the plant and its many chemical compounds, industry professionals and consumers alike need a trusted source to reveal the latest developments that matter.

The Cannabis Scientist is an online magazine and media outlet that provides up-to-date and unbiased articles by some of the leading minds in the space. Covering a wide range of topics – including cannabinoid analysis, medicinal cannabis, business news, and even psychedelics – The Cannabis Scientist has been a respected authority since its inception in 2016.

Find out the origins of the magazine, what sets the publication apart, and the industry trends that lie ahead in this exclusive Leafwire interview with Rich Whitworth, Content Director at Texere Publishing, the company behind The Cannabis Scientist.

Leafwire:  What is your cannabis journey? How did The Cannabis Scientist come to be?

Rich Whitworth: I’ll give you the short version. I gained a degree in medical biochemistry many years ago but somehow ended up working in Tokyo for a publishing company. Eventually, I came back to the UK and combined my academic and publishing background to work for a pharmaceutical magazine. In 2013, I joined Texere Publishing when it was a young startup with staff you could count on one hand. I was the launch editor of a magazine called The Analytical Scientist, which is still going strong. And that is where I first encountered the cannabis industry. Specifically, we published an article calledUnraveling the Cannabiome by Scott Kuzdzal and William Lipps in 2015. I was hooked.

In 2016, I was at an analytical conference called Pittcon and had a number of fascinating conversations around cannabis and the increasing need for improved analytical methods. I figured I was in a good position to connect the worlds of analytical science and cannabis to help everyone move forward – and The Cannabis Scientist was born. Initially, it was simply an exciting supplement to The Analytical Scientist. But, as we began to talk with different people in the field, we realized that cannabis science was, of course, much wider than testing. We started to seek contributions from people doing everything from plant genetics to randomized control trials – and The Cannabis Scientist fledged the nest! 

LW:  What can visitors to The Cannabis Scientist expect in terms of content?

RW:  First and foremost, they’ll find many articles that shed light on all aspects of cannabis science and research. They’ll also meet plenty of characters – predominantly scientists – that work in this field and have very interesting things to say. The words science and research should not be seen as off-putting to readers who don’t consider themselves scientists as such. Clearly, we cover the science and research, but we’re not a journal and we don’t tend to drill down into super technical details – our focus is on making all corners of the field accessible to all. We provide a high-level view of what the science or research is telling us – what it actually means for the field – and what needs to happen next. To gain those insights, the focus is very much on the people doing the science rather than the science itself. In fact, that’s the case for all of Texere’s publications. And that’s also why it’s called The Cannabis Scientist and not Cannabis Science. We’re interested in what people are thinking, where they want to see change, what motivates them, and what frustrates them. These are all very emotive angles.

You’ll also find some interesting articles that aren’t afraid to delve into the darker corners of the cannabis industry – for example, Chris Hudalla talking about the field’s unicorn, aka delta-8.

What you won’t find is a lot of flag waving for cannabis as a panacea. Content and contributors are selected on the basis of credibility. It’s great to have all-or-nothing advocates in the industry, but it needs to be balanced by what the science actually tells us.

LW:  What, if anything, has surprised you since launching The Cannabis Scientist? What have you learned?

RW:  My first surprise was my lack of knowledge in the subject area. When I learned about all the many different chemicals that exist in this plant, and the potential that they have, I was fascinated and wanted to find out more. I was also surprised when I learned more about the endocannabinoid system — and the fact that cannabinoids act upon this system that is far more complex than we first thought.

The level of stigma and regulatory issues have prevented more scientists from delving into this, frankly, fascinating world. We have a complex plant that directly acts upon a very complex signaling system in our bodies, and we’re only just scratching the surface. That’s amazing. But it’s also sad; what would we know now if we’d have been researching this in more detail with a greater amount of resources for the last 50 years or so?

LW:  Do you foresee any major changes ahead for the cannabis industry this year?

RW:  I don’t know about this year, but I see some important ongoing trends, which I covered in a 2019 editorial that is still relevant – probably because the pandemic stole a couple of years. One is Big Pharma’s march into the cannabis space. We’ve already seen examples of pharma companies purifying certain compounds and taking cannabis down a very different path. I also foresee clashes when it comes to overly broad patents, if and when cannabis is made federally legal. There is likely to be an almighty amount of confusion over what people own in terms of IP or what they can claim to be their own version of cannabis. It’s hard to predict when the fallout will occur, but it seems inevitable.

The other trend that I see is growing acceptance of cannabis and its constituent compounds. Acronyms like CBD are now household names even though most people wouldn’t have had a clue five or so years ago. Even my own elderly and quite conservative parents know about this stuff now.

LW:  What else should the Leafwire community know about The Cannabis Scientist?

RW:  The Cannabis Scientist has a growing readership of people from across the cannabis industry, as well as the cannabis curious – and everyone is welcome. 

Reaching the “cannabis industry” is not easy given its disparate nature, and we can help. If you’ve got a story to tell, if you’re working on an interesting project, or if you’ve seen (or conducted) some great research – please get in touch. Equally, if there’s an important topic that we’ve not uncovered, let us know. We’re an open platform and we want to be accessible to everyone. 

In short, my message would be: tell us your stories, and we’ll share them with our readers!

How Precision Drying Technology Ensures Product Quality, Consistency, and Max Yield Per Sq Ft, While Preventing Microbial Growth – Jeremy Basha of Sonoran Roots Cannabis

Mostafa: So, let me ask, what’s the main benefit of METER Group’s SKALA dry module’s ability to provide in-process, real-time water activity during the drying of cannabis?

Jeremy: That’s a great question. Basically, it takes away the touch and feel approach, and replaces it with the science of drying and curing. That individual or those individuals who are responsible for making the determination of when something should or shouldn’t come down, the vast majority of those people are basing [their decisions] on touch and feel and historical working knowledge. Basing it on the science really elevates the quality.

Mostafa: And have you seen in terms of ROI, have you been able to quantify increased yields just through the ability to really nail those water activities? 

Jeremy: Yeah. We were already using the water activity device and we absolutely loved it. And when [METER] said, “Hey, we also have this other platform. You guys should really do it,” they really focused on increased production. And we have increased our yields. But for us, the intention of this technology, the primary focus, has always been to elevate the quality and really deter microbial growth and spread. And we’ve been able to accomplish both goals. We’ve overall increased the moisture in our products by 3.7%, which increases quality, protects terpenes, provides a better product. And while avoiding any significant mold event.

Mostafa: I know one of the more dangerous molds is Aspergillus. Was that that ever an issue for you, and since deploying have you been able to prevent the threat of dangerous molds?

Jeremy: I absolutely would say that the water activity and the SKALA system is a great tool to prevent those. It’s unfortunate when you do find Aspergillus, but the AQUALAB Water Activity device has helped us make game-time decisions on leaving something in the room a little bit longer. 

It also helps us prioritize and see if stuff that’s been taken down needs to be continuously burped or, if enough fresh air is flowing in through those bins, and if they’re retaining that moisture. 

It was within that threshold – that kind of the danger zone — that accuracy with water activity level is most conducive to preventing microbial growth. So absolutely – yes, it’s a fantastic tool, as a preventative and a proactive device and technology to really combat those microbial issues that most cultivators face at some point in time or another.

We were having some microbial issues. That was the genesis, why I was doing the research for the water activity device in the first place. During our first summer in production, we had a relatively wet summer and during the monsoon season we were having some microbial issues. So, after some due diligence on what’s out there, we found that measuring water activity really helped us determine a lot of things from both an organization and coordination standpoint.

It enabled us to create a scheduling process for what gets trimmed first. 

We have the finished flowers or the curing flowers. Once it’s brought in down from the dry area, we put them in the bins, where they are stacked up in a climate-controlled inventory cage. Before working with METER, the trim managers were just coming in and grabbing the oldest bins first.

And the problem there was that the oldest bins weren’t necessarily the ideal bins to be trimming. Some were a bit wet, and other times, there were more recent plants that just dried earlier. 

By using the water activity device, we were able to create a trim schedule and start collecting that data, and, for example, determining everything from harvest date 11/9 is still super wet, so we should we probably let that go a little bit longer. And so that’s how the conversations and the in the increased collaboration into the SKALA platform developed – from those early conversations about water activity and drying. 

We soon realized it was a great way for us to have more consistency, more redundancy, and less of the art and feel of, “yeah, I guess this looks right.”

Before SKALA, our head of cultivation would go in and snap a bud off of the stock where it felt right when he pinched it. And so, we would just go ahead and take down half a million dollars’ worth of product based on that. It was really, really key for us to get rid of those practices and move in more of a scientific and logical manner where we could create SOPs and redundancy and not have to rely on some of that subjective analysis.

Mostafa: Explain a little bit more about the benefits a scientific approach over touch and feel.

Jeremy: The subjective approach is based on “oh, this looks and feels a certain way and because I’ve grown this strain before, that it is good to go, right?” And while there is value in such historical understanding, METER’s drying tech eliminates the need for guesswork. It’s more systematic and allows us to use a more scientific approach that can be replicated across different facilities.

Mostafa: It really is very cool stuff. So, one of the things METER brings to the table is several PhD level scientists with skills ranging from drying expertise to data science, to environmental biophysics, and physiology. Could you talk a little bit about how their professional services team has helped you improve processes based on scientific methods? 

Jeremy: Absolutely. What I just mentioned about the ability creates those systematic SOPs based on the data and on the science keeps us from being reliant on one or two key individuals with the historical working cannabis and cultivation knowledge. METER has really allowed us to expand our operations to multi-facility. We’re actually in the middle of an expansion project right now for our second production facility. 

I would say that, yes, the professional services are really helpful and, in a non-invasive or abrasive way, allowing us to see or understand the value in of these insights without having to be reliant on one or two key team members. Also, it allows those one or two key members to oversee the operation and management of the platform and of the device to achieve that kind of target range for maximum quality, maximum safety, organization, and coordination of the product as it moves through the different production cycles in the facility.

METER Group’s team has been absolutely key, helping us realize that there is this data-driven, scientific basis for these things, breaking it down into simple terms that even a dummy like me can understand – and showing us the range we need to be in. The predictive model tells what range it’ll be in at a specific time. 

And, once in the bins, the scheduling and organization tools that the devices and the technology provide, with the support of METER’s team, has been instrumental in allowing us to achieve our goals.

Jeremy Basha is the VP of Sales for Sonoran Roots Cannabis located in Mesa and Tempe, Arizona. Sonoran Roots takes great pride in cultivating premium quality cannabis including top sellers: MAC Cap Cut, Joel’s Lemonade, and Grateful Breath. Jeremy has been key to the growth of Sonoran Roots and embraces technology to advance the cultivation and dry/cure of craft cannabis.

How to Acquire a Loan for Your Cannabis Venture – Judy Rinkus Founder and CEO of Seed to Sale Funding

It’s no secret that one of the biggest challenges facing cannabis operators is the lack of lending options. With banks unwilling or unable to get these entrepreneurs what they need to succeed, businesses are often left scratching their heads. 

Enter Seed to Sale Funding. The group of finance experts works with an expansive network to help canna-businesses secure the capital they need to start or grow their operations. With tens of millions of dollars in deal flow acquired since its launch three years ago, Seed to Sale Funding has quickly become a go-to resource for the booming cannabis industry.

Discover more about Seed to Sale Funding, the myriad ways they support clients, and what new entrepreneurs should know before entering the space in this exclusive Leafwire Q&A interview with Founder & CEO Judy Rinkus.

Leafwire:  What is your background? How did you get into the cannabis industry?

Judy Rinkus:  For most of my career, I was in commercial banking, employed by large, regulated banks. During my banking career, I primarily worked with privately-owned companies, reviewing and structuring their loan requests. I left that industry in 2016, and shortly thereafter, the voters here in Michigan approved recreational cannabis. I started being contacted by my former banking clients who wanted to get into this cannabis but were not able to get financing through banks. Through my financial industry contacts, I found 25+ private lenders located throughout the country who were interested in doing cannabis loans. I then pivoted from banking into starting my own consulting company, working with cannabis operators in placing these loans to these private lenders.

LW:  How has the reception from the industry been since founding Seed to Sale Funding?

JR:  We’ve been very successful, having placed around $70 million in transactions since launching in 2019. Most of the projects have been in Michigan because that’s where I’m located. But as I mentioned earlier, we can go into any state in the country. I currently have a pipeline of $80 million in transactions in 15 states that will probably close this year.

One of the things that I really enjoy about is working with both the entrepreneurs and the lenders, and the latter are very happy to have me involved as well. I speak “lender” – I know how the lenders view transactions. So when I send them opportunities, they’re already partially vetted, and the lender can make a fast decision.

LW:  What sets you apart from other cannabis financiers?

JR: There are a couple of reasons to do business with us. First, we have very high integrity. We are very transparent in terms of what can be done realistically for the clients we work with. I typically don’t bring on a client unless I’m certain that I can get something done for them.

Second is my expertise and my three team members. Between all of us, we have over 100 years of commercial lending experience. We’re able to bring all those years of experience to this really underserved industry. We are one of the very few consulting firms out there that can provide this level of service, professionalism, and expertise.

Third, and I believe this is the key differentiator:  We save the clients so much time, so much energy, and importantly, we double or triple their chance of getting an actual loan closed. For example, if a borrower were able to find a private lender directly, it is true that they might save our consulting fees. However, it’s not unusual to have the lender change its mind at the last minute, or maybe modify terms and conditions in a way that beyond that prevents the borrower from moving forward. In that case, they’ve wasted weeks and weeks of their time. At this point, they’re back to square one, and must find another lender. And these aren’t lenders that are household names – they’re called private lenders for a reason, they’re difficult to find. 

Contrast this to our process. With us, clients essentially apply once, and we can keep all their information in a secure data room. Then, if there’s a problem with the first lender we approach, we can just pivot to another one. Sometimes we restructure the request to make it fit into a lender’s box. This is an example of how our expertise is a huge benefit to our clients. So as you can see, the client has much better chance of getting a deal closed, at terms and conditions that work for them, as well as being able to close much faster.

LW:  Tell us about a memorable client success story?

JR:  There are a couple I love to share. The first story is about one of the first loans we closed in very early 2020. It was a $9.3 million transaction to build a sizable greenhouse cultivation facility in Michigan. Over the past 2 years, we’ve kept it touch with this client, and were thrilled when they started reporting some great financial results. Based on those results, we recently closed on a refinance of this deal at a much lower interest rate. We also able provided some additional funds for working capital. The lesson here is, it’s not a one and done with us, we build a relationship with our clients. As the lending options change out there in the market, we keep our clients informed, always trying to get them the best cost of capital that we can.

This next one is my all-time favorite story. The client came to us after it had already received a commitment from a construction lender (the client found this lender on their own). The lender reneged on the deal two days before closing, leaving the client in a huge predicament since they’d already made commitments for the use of the proceeds. Luckily, they contacted us immediately. We were able to restructure the entire package using two different loan products that basically got the whole deal done for them, providing all the funding they needed. We were able to close 10 days after they called us. 

This is a cautionary tale for people who are trying to work directly with a lender. Because that’s exactly what happened here. They ended up working with somebody who was probably not the best player out there. The original lender couldn’t close, leaving the entrepreneur hanging out to dry. Luckily, we came in and saved the day!

LW:  What advice do you have for entrepreneurs entering this space?

JR:  First of all, you should have experience in the cannabis industry. My lenders typically don’t like somebody who’s coming in with no knowledge of the industry and is trying to put together a team of employees who have expertise in the industry. So, the actual entrepreneurs themselves should have some cannabis experience. 

The entrepreneur should also have financial experience, and a broad range of other business experience. The other thing that you must keep in mind is that when we’re talking about debt capital, I almost never can provide 100% of the need to, say, build a large grow facility or other large capital project. There is going to have to be equity capital that comes in behind me. This usually means that there must be some financial resources on the part of the entrepreneur personally to meet that need. 

LW:  Do you foresee any major changes happening in the industry any time soon?

JR:  There are a lot of people thinking that maybe the SAFE Act may pass before the end of the year. Here’s the thing: that just means banks are allowed to make commercial loans to the cannabis industry. It doesn’t mean they’re going to do it.

There are a lot of other reasons why a bank may choose not to make commercial loans. And even if they do, they probably are going to pick a relatively small set of the array of different loans and lending products that already I have. So the SAFE Act will be a good thing for the cannabis industry in general but it may not change the lending and funding aspect of the industry as much as some people might think.

LW:  What else should Leafwire readers know about Seed to Sale Funding?

JR:  My team and I are passionate. We’re “deal people”. We like doing deals, and we like to get things closed. It’s a whole different attitude than somebody in a bureaucratic position. We operate very quickly, we respond to the market very quickly, and we have excellent customer service. On our website we publish a list of featured transactions, using the name of the client. We have clients who are willing to back up what we say. We can show that we close business with actual deals. 

The only other thing is our results really do speak for themselves. We have closed over $70 million in transactions in just about three years, which is a pretty big number! I really look forward to talking to any entrepreneurs out there, because I’d like to add them to our list of successful clients.

Using Data and Technology to Grow Healthier Plants – Michael Prows of Cubed Labs

In the world of cannabis cultivation, an ounce of prevention is worth far more than a pound of cure. Having the ability to fully grasp the health of the plants throughout their lifecycles helps guarantee higher yields and better quality while simultaneously reducing the risk of crop loss.

Cubed Labs provides farmers peace of mind with rapid in-field nutrient and pathogen testing, data capture, and interpretation. The company currently offers easy to use tests and are currently developing even more advanced detection tools, including tests for powdery mildew. Their CRD Scout app captures and tracks any issues in the grow with photo detection technology that’s simple yet powerful.

Discover more about Cubed Labs and how they’re helping cultivators thrive in this exclusive Leafwire Q&A with Vice President of Business Development Michael Prows.

Leafwire: How did the relationship with Cubed Labs evolve?

MP: We were working on a testing technology for the food safety industry and they asked me about testing for pesticides, heavy metals, and other targets. At the time I was really looking for potency tests for producers, nutrient testing, and then the big pathogen tests: bud rot, botrytis tests, powdery mildew, pythium, some of the pathogenic tests. 

I asked them if we could use that technology, especially pathogen testing, on the farm. I thought if we could get ahead of those big issues, it would be of interest to the industry. So, we pivoted.

LW: What was your go-to market product? 

MP: The first test we have out now is for botrytis. It’s a lateral flow device that takes 10 minutes, it’s very similar technology to the at-home COVID test. If you’re concerned about something, you can just run a test to get early detection results right away. It’s very easy, anybody can do it. I say it’s like one more step than testing your pH; where you scoop up the water, put the drops in, shake it up and then compare to the color chart. The only extra steps to run our test is to stick a test strip in and compare the results to a graph. 

LW: What is your brand promise?

MP: When I met Cubed Labs, they asked: What does the market want? My interpretation is live data.

We wanted to be able to focus on plant health, as a preventative measure versus “just spray it.” We’re addressing it a little bit differently where you’re just testing the plant health measures, including nutrients, where you can avoid most of those problems, whether it’s pathogenic or pests, and give the plants a chance to fight them off themselves.

LW: What is the CRD Scout platform?

MP: CRD stands for Cubed Rapid Diagnostics. The Scout platform is our first software app. It all starts with image capture which is done directly through the app. Then you mark the location after the photo and report what you see. You can map out your garden, whether it’s an indoor greenhouse or a large acreage plot. You can go down to the individual plant or if you’re a large acreage hemp farmer, you can do it by the acre, whatever you choose. 

If you have a nutrient issue, if you see some burning tips, some pest in the growth space or you suspect a pathogen, whatever it is, you mark it down, write some notes, and post it to a live feed for everybody involved in the organization to see what’s happening with the plants directly. It’s a new take on IPM protocols. 

We’re currently integrating our pathogen tests, so you can photograph test results and track the results in the app. It will even be able to quantify the levels of the pathogen. For example, you can run a botrytis test, upload a photo and then Scout gives you a specific pathogen level. After that, we’ll be integrating our N-Sight device that is used for the nutrient, plant health scan and potency testing. 

LW: Could this technology become mandatory through regulation? 

MP: We don’t intend for our tests to become mandatory. But I think we can really help people. We have spoken to some regulators in the state of Colorado, and we’re working with some people in California as well. Our potency test is accurate enough to detect down to 0.2 percent of THC. You could use our test to tell if the crop is hot or not. 

In our next test coming out, we’ll be able to catch Aspergillus, Penicillium, fusarium, and botrytis, all of the main microbial agents that prevent people from selling their products. I don’t think that we will replace lab results but as far as the farmers are concerned we’ll allow them to know exactly what’s going on with enough time to remediate.

The other thing that we’re seeing is that several groups are using our tests as a kind of service record. So when you go to the market, sell wholesale or to a dispensary, you can show the history of the crop with photo capture and test results all the way through. Transparency and clarity are key, so you can get a report on the crop health but don’t have to get into the nitty-gritty of what the farmers are doing. But I think confirming that you didn’t need to spray because you were testing regularly will become something that can set farmers apart in the industry.

LW: What advice do you have for people looking to enter this space?

MP: Being able to replicate things is so critical. I’ve seen so many farmers who are always trying new technology, new nutrients, new pH, chasing humidity — they’re always changing things. And if I ask a farmer, what’s their cost of production, per pound, or whatever their metric is, almost nobody knows how much it costs them per pound. Only the exceptional growers who have tracked everything meticulously and don’t change things, except in a controlled setting where they can experiment on one thing at a time can answer that.

You need to be precise, so things like testing using laboratories. I’d recommend sap analysis, tissue samples, our pathogen tests — any point of data that can help you steer the crop, reduce input costs, and increase yield is going to pay dividends. Make sure you track and monitor everything you possibly can so that you know where you are compared to the last point in time throughout the growth cycle. That way you know if you are improving. But if you don’t measure it, you’ll never get there.

LW: What else should the industry know about Cubed Labs?

MP: Our N-Sight plant health testing system is revolutionary. We’ll be able to test for chlorophyll, sugar, Brix level in the leaf as well as in the flower, protein content, fats and lipids, potency, NPK, Cal mag sulfur — we will be able to give you a live reading on those things. Then by bringing in some traditional agronomists to look at this these points of data we have a whole new way too look at plant health. Instead of environmental first, it’s all about planning and health first. Over the next two years we will be optimizing N-Sight not just for cannabis, but for all crop production at large. 

I think that’s the biggest thing coming out of Cubed Labs. Instead of just relying on what you’ve done and past results, you can make changes accurately by using a scientific method. If you’re low on calcium, you now know by how much. If you’re low on potassium, you’ll now be able to know by how much and adjust accordingly without any extra inputs. You eliminate some of those risks.

4/20: An Important Day To Remember How Far We Still Have To Go – Courtney Mathis and Kelly Perez Founders of Cannabis Impact Fund

At Leafwire, we enjoy 4/20 as much as everyone else and view it as a day to celebrate the advances that have been made after decades of work by advocates world-wide. Cannabis is now more accessible to the general public for medicinal and recreational use than ever before.

But, we also realize we have a long way to go.

We’d like to use our ‘platform’ on 4/20 to recognize the powerful work being done by one of our favorite not-for-profit organizations, right here in our home-town of Denver, Colorado, The Cannabis Impact Fund. Cannabis Impact Fund’s mission is to promote racial justice, heal the planet and support communities in need by leveraging a conscious cannabis sector.

It was my pleasure to recently have the opportunity to learn more about the Cannabis Impact Fund directly from the visionary founders, Courtney Mathis and Kelly Perez.

Leafwire: What initially drove you to found the Cannabis Impact Fund?

Courtney & Kelly: Since our inception, CDG has been working to support communities and prioritize racial justice in our sector. After Mr. Floyd’s death we knew we needed a bigger, more impactful vehicle; a way to galvanize the industry towards supporting the movement for Black lives and make the right thing, the easy thing. 

Nearly every single Black person killed by police in the last few years, from Trayvon, to Sandra Bland, to Philandro Castille to Micheal Brown has a direct cannabis connection to justify (in the minds of law enforcement) these race-based murders. This is not the story we want to continue; the war on drugs was and continues to be about race. We had relationships with national efforts supporting the movement for Black Lives and we wanted to help cannabis to easily be a part of that. Nothing is easy in cannabis, not racial equity, not being a nonprofit, not doing good. In our many years crafting CSR for companies we knew the barriers and had some ideas about solutions. 

After deep conversations with Sensible Colorado and with rapid support from PufCreativ, we founded, the Cannabis Impact Fund in July 2020. We, as a cannabis community, have enormous power to shift our narrative from one of harm to one of repair and equity. We believe CIF and our 5 grantees are an easy, meaningful way to support the movement and make social change. 

LW: Why is it especially important to shine a light on your organization’s mission on a celebratory day like 420?

C&K: 4/20 was historically a moment for cannabis activists and consumers to gather and protest against prohibition and the injustice of cannabis policies. Today, it has largely become a day to celebrate and to party. We all love a party, especially now, but a party with a purpose–that is a real celebration.

Our collective cannabis story is rife with racial injustice. To party without an understanding of the weaponization of cannabis and how drug policy in general has been used to harm Black and brown communities is not a celebration, not unless we use our collective gatherings to continue highlighting the injustices still happening today.

There are folks getting arrested for drug crimes daily, whole communities’ capacities for self care historically have been destroyed, families destroyed, resources pulled or only used for policing even now. We want to celebrate progress, and to create real change in our dynamic space. We are change makers and disruptors who have used this medicine for ourselves to heal, to work, to create financial health and community health. CIF helps us to invite our whole community to activate in a way that matches our intent with our impact. So today on 4/20, while you gather, consider that while we can celebrate the end of prohibition (in some places), we must still bring awareness to the ongoing decimating effects of the drug war and the long road we have ahead to make repairs. 

CIF does this by driving cannabis dollars towards our 5 grantees, working on racial justice, nationally. We are not done advocating for what is right; cannabis is still a nascent industry. It’s our privilege to operate here; let’s use that to continue influencing the social change that can meaningfully save lives. Together, we can create a celebration that shifts from extractive policy towards models of business and policy that are truly liberating, and racially just. Our work isn’t done – so let’s be sure today and every other day – we party with a purpose.

Click here if you’d like to take action today to stand-up for Racial Justice on 4/20 and beyond, your support WILL make a difference today AND for future generations.

LW: Have we made much progress over the last 5 years?

C&K: Absolutely, Mr. Floyd’s death provided folks with the language and a deeper understanding of systemic racism. It’s not about how you and I relate to one another, but a self-perpetuated system of interconnected systems, (education, public health, criminal/legal etc.), that none of us chose to be born into. We live in a racialized capitalist society, but if we can get past the shame about that, the defensiveness, and be brave, we can dismantle it and build something that honors the plant—cannabis can be a leader for other industries to learn from. We can interrogate the ideas, institutions, banking/capital, education, public health and beyond and begin to craft and retrofit policy to include our whole community, centering on those who paid for our privilege with their lives.

This moment in time has never happened. We are a special group of people; it makes a lot of sense for us to understand being anti-racist as something that is good for business, and improves operations and function in the world and is humane and just. DEI efforts have cost traditional US sectors–about $8B without meaningful change. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) are metrics to be measured, tracked and impacted to determine if we are becoming the anti-oppressive (anti-racist). If your DEI is not centered in anti-racism, it won’t be successful. They are not the end game. When BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and women are seen for the value that we bring, not as a check mark, that is when we belong. As the People’s Ecosystem likes to say, “are they making P/L decisions? That is when change happens. That is when the power of the Black dollar, the Latinx dollar, the power of female leadership, and the value of power-sharing come to life–and impact your revenue. Being anti-racist is good for your bottom line. We know it is hard for folks to do. Our for-profit sister, Cannabis Doing Good, supports companies with how to do this.

In the last 13 months, CIF has deployed nearly $50k to our 5 grantees. We have activated businesses previously unsure of how to participate in the racial equity movement. We have created our Anti-Racism Guide for cannabis businesses, a landmark collaboration that provides accessible tips and tools for deploying racial equity throughout your business. We have trained hundreds of people with our premier Anti-Racism training and are training companies who seek to have antiracist Human Resource efforts–it’s much beyond DEI efforts. We have a lot of work to do – but are actively curating a committed cannabis community to do it with. Let’s see what the next 13 months bring. 

LW: How did you select the grantees that you chose to support through CIF’s efforts?

C&K: CIF contributes to the efforts we contribute to because they are part of the larger movement for Black lives, and we see the application of a racial equity lens to cannabis as one of our time’s most compelling opportunities. 

Michael Brown’s murder was partly justified by the police because they smelled marijuana—Alicia Garza and others created the Black Lives Matter movement from their base in Ferguson protesting Mr. Brown’s murder. What erupted in Ferguson (St.Louis, MO) brought much attention to many criminal legal irregularities that were examples of systemic racism—like the rates of Black people arrested, detained, and held because they were unable to make bail. A federal investigation unveiled systemically racist practices by the criminal/legal system in MO. The Bail Project came out of that deep need to get people out of that (found to be illegal) system that drastically impacted Black folks in St.Louis by racial profiling and holding folks in jail. Black Futures Lab is the policy/think tank arm of the Movement for Black Lives, Alicia Garza founded it to develop solutions to what was happening in Ferguson and beyond engaging the community in policy solutions. The Color of Change was the organization President Biden called when the Capitol was being stormed as one of our nation’s most trusted contributors to moving people through digital campaigns to engage in racial justice in the way that miliennials and Gen Zers engage. We support Hood Incubator and Minorities for Medical Marijuana because from within our sector these two national nonprofit efforts have since the industry’s inception focused on racial equity. They have never moved from being actively engaged advocates seeking policy and business approaches that support racial justice (economic, social equity, etc.,) 

LW: What do you think the biggest preconception people have about social equity programs in the industry?

People think that social equity programs will be enough to create a racially equitable industry, or enough to repair the harm done. Policy is necessary, but not sufficient to make change. Folks think the goal of social equity is a social equity program. Nope. The goal is BIPOC folks benefiting from the sector we built and repairing whole communities harmed. Let’s take the unique-ness of this moment, the cultural sea change available for us to help to lead. What would a racially just sector look like? 

We meet white folks daily in our work, who when we make the connections between their business outcomes and being actively anti-racist, they immediately see the connection. It’s the HOW that has been so elusive. Not being racist isn’t enough. We need system disruptors to inform investors, banking, real estate, etc. We can honor our legacy by helping to create actively anti-racist HR practices–working with our sister company,  Cannabis Doing Good. We have a racial equity self assessment that is very high level to help folks objectively measure how they could become more racially just. If 90+% of the industry is white-owned, we need to call those folks in, show them these racialized systems (none of us built) and undo them. It’s good for business. It’s good for humanity. It’s good for business. Let’s start by calling people in, not just calling them out. None of us were well educated in what anti-racism looks like. No other industry has done it. Being shame resilient and understanding perfection isn’t required, but progress is. Let’s match our intent with measurable impact. We can save lives, grow businesses, infuse communities with regenerative wealth, and build a sector that prioritizes people.  

Social equity alone won’t do this. But an activated business sector that curates purpose-driven consumers? Now we’re talking about new economic models that demand purpose, demand equity, demand better. It will take policy, private sector and consumers to hold equity accountable. Looking for partners? Check out Cannabis Doing Good and Cannabis Impact Fund.

C&K: How can the average person who works for a cannabis business, whether its plant-touching or ancillary, do something to make a difference?

Lift up the work of folks doing it. Commit to being actively anti-racist. Accept you will likely need to rinse and repeat. Educate yourself and make different choices based on what you are learning. It’s not the glamorous work, but it is the community work we are privileged to do. Know our cannabis history if you are in this space and join in the movement of continuing to free the plant and the people (as Hood Incubator likes to say). Do not stop making change because you have access to cannabis. Think about folks across the country, and the world, and use your power for good. Each of us can’t do everything, but each of us can do something. Contribute to CIF. When we understand all the ways that it has been orchestrated for us to be separate and imperfectly use our power for good…well that changes the cannabis world and beyond. Activate. Engage. Rest. Renew and do it again; in community.

Check out the recently created our Anti-racism guide for Cannabis Businesses (with the help of 9th Block and PufCreativ, which lives on our website, link here

Cannabis Impact Fund’s 5 Grantees:

Combats mass incarceration by disrupting the money bail system- one person at a time. Paid bail for over 20,000 people to date. 

Designs campaigns powerful enough to end practices that unfairly hold Black people back, and champion solutions that move us all forward. 7 Million members strong.

Centers cannabis justice in the fight for racial equity focusing on economic justice, power building, and policy advocacy.

Serves community by providing information, referrals, advocacy, coordination and education regarding cannabis legislation, events, activities, initiatives and discussions. Over 27 Chapters across the globe.

Transforms Black communities into constituencies that change the way power operates—locally, statewide and nationally.

Click here if you’d like to take action today to stand-up for Racial Justice on 4/20 and beyond.

Article sponsored by Cannabis Technology Partners

How Cova Became the Most Trusted Cannabis POS in North America – Gary Cohen CEO of Cova Software

Cannabis retail is no ordinary ballgame. The regulatory frameworks in place demand point-of-sale systems go above and beyond the normal transactions typically seen at mainstream stores, requiring track-and-trace capabilities at all times. The team at Cova understand this notion, putting it at the forefront of all they do. The POS, inventory management, and compliance software company puts the focus on the success of their clients, deploying easy-to-use and reliable solutions that help dispensaries run efficiently and within the letter of the law.

Learn more about Cova, its unique philosophy, and the company’s journey to the top in this exclusive Leafwire interview with CEO Gary Cohen.

Leafwire: What is Cova’s purpose? What is the company’s brand promise?

Gary Cohen: The purpose is to simplify the complexity in managing a dispensary. What people don’t usually realize is, you not only have a retail store, and all of the elements of that, but you also have online elements. On top of that, you have compliance, and all of the different regulatory requirements. Our purpose was to make that easier to manage — to be able to take a lot of that complexity out.

Our brand promise is to do everything possible to help our clients preserve their licenses.

LW: What sets Cova apart from potential competitors? What is your company philosophy?

GC: We were the last ones into the game of the big POS players and we focused on simplicity of use and compliance. We were very fortunate to have the resources and the experience to build Cova in a way that can deliver superior service and support — that’s a people thing. 

Our philosophy from day one was to be the lovable software company in the cannabis space. We really wanted our client’s experience with Cova to be positive in every single touchpoint, in their journey of discovering what software is out there, and which technology can help their stores through the entire purchasing process, setup, launch, and beyond. We’ve always strived to make that the differentiator. The technology is great but the interactions with us are just as great. Hopefully, when someone asks a customer, “Tell us about Cova,” they say “I love those guys.” That was our goal.

LW: Cova was able to beat 40+ POS companies to become the single POS that dispensaries trust the most — how did you achieve that?

GC: It’s this focus on the success of the retailer that really propelled us further faster. It begins with compliance and reliability. It’s what makes our industry so difficult and complex, compared to other spaces with retail. For other industries, if the software doesn’t work properly, or accurately, or it’s unreliable, it’s not the end of the world. But in our industry, they can pull your license and you’re out of business. So the stakes are much, much higher to do things well and do them correctly. That’s where reliability kicks in. ‘

These are incredibly lucrative businesses. If the POS doesn’t work, then you can’t do sales. If you can’t do sales, you don’t have revenue. 

One of the things Cova did that was and still is unique: we built this thing called offline mode. If you lose your connectivity, Cova is caching all of the inventory on the tablet itself and all of the employee credentials. Meaning you can still do transactions even if you’ve lost your connection or you lost the power to the store. Once you get connectivity back, we sync everything back up, not only to your POS platform that does all the accounting, but it syncs it up to the state traceability system so that you’re still in compliance.

All the elements I talked about around service and support are reinforced by the capabilities of the technology. 

LW: Why is support so often overlooked, when retailers are evaluating a POS system?

GC: Because we’re a new industry. What typically happens is, if you’re in a new market, and you’re just getting to open your dispensary, you don’t have experience with other cannabis POS companies. So, you don’t know good from bad support. It’s not until you actually get into the process to open, that the differences become super apparent. But then it could be too late — you might have chosen the wrong one.

In the case of Cova, we put so much emphasis on that initial relationship, to open your dispensary, that we assign a project manager, specifically to every single store, and then they work with them through the entire process of getting up and running. This person is really trying to work with you to get everything right, to understand how the software works, and to set the business up. It also lends to the success that you’re going to have. 

If you understand how to use the software at a high level, it makes you more efficient in your operations, and that makes the whole company run smoother and better, which helps you be successful. 

We have nearly 2,000 stores using our software. We’ve got a lot of people who will attest to the fact that that matters.

LW: How do tech ecosystems help your retailers achieve their vision of success?

GC: The truth is, dispensaries always use other solutions, whether it’s menu boards in the store, an online presence, even an E-commerce capability to place the order and come and pick it up in the store or have it delivered. There’s a whole ecosystem around the way dispensaries operate.

What’s really important is how easily the POS, which is the heart of the technology of a store, connects into these various elements or other companies in the ecosystem? The easier they connect and the relationship of the POS company with those companies just makes it easier and better for the store to operate. 

Having a really good partner like Cova that has purposely built the connectivity between and all these services to be straightforward just makes it easier for the dispensary to get what they need.

LW: What advice do you have for budding cannabis entrepreneurs? If they’re entering retail, what’s the best way to evaluate technology options?

GC: I have three pieces of advice. First, try to determine what the best-in-class for anything you need is, if it’s the POS, or if it’s eCommerce, or if it’s CRM, or loyalty. Evaluate what makes a certain partner provider the best, especially in service and support. 

Second, know what you’re about. You need to have a brand and a brand promise. Cannabis is a repeat purchase type of business. It’s not one and done. So, you want to try to build that loyalty and build a customer base. But you need to give them a reason to come back. Be consistent. 

The third piece is education. Everything about this business revolves around education, educating the consumer or the new customer about cannabis. This is a brand new industry. As new markets open up, there are a lot of people who have no idea what’s behind those doors in a dispensary. They’re a little nervous. If you could make it an educational and fulfilling experience, not just a transaction, you’ll build trust and trust will bring people back over and over. 

LW: Do you foresee any major changes taking place in cannabis this year?

GC: Yeah, I do. And this is coming out of the clear blue sky. But if you look at New York and New Jersey coming online in the next 12 to 18 months, there’s no way they’re going to be able to have the supply necessary to meet demand. Then you look at the West Coast — you have a surplus of supply.

I think something’s going to happen between Chuck Schumer in New York running the Senate, and Nancy Pelosi in California running the Congress. I think there’s a deal to be made for interstate supply to meet demand. 

Funding Options for Emerging Cannabis Brands – Micheal Tew of Canna Business Resources

It’s no secret that there’s a serious lack of funding sources in the emerging cannabis industry. Despite explosive growth and the majority of states enacting reform, the continued federal prohibition of cannabis prevents financial institutions from providing services to operators within the space. This creates quite the challenge for companies looking to grow.

Canna Business Resources aims to rectify this issue by offering a wide range of funding options to plant-touching and ancillary companies alike. The firm provides both secured and unsecured loans as well as working capital, equipment or real estate financing, and accounts receivable lines of credit. But more importantly, CannaBusiness Resources is focused on relationships, helping their partners evolve their operations and achieve success.

Learn more about Canna Business Resources and what sets them apart in this exclusive Leafwire Q&A with Michael Tew.

Leafwire: What is Canna Business Resources and how did you get into the cannabis space?

Michael Tew: CannaBusiness Resources provides business services and lending to business operators in every state and every market in the United States — and only in the United States. I’m the lead underwriter on the lending team. I help underwrite and analyze and review every single transaction that comes across our desk. We are currently originating about $30 million per month in lending transactions. 

We are a family office. We started back in 2008, during the financial crisis. The family that started CBR was lending to small businesses in primarily the tri-state New York area under the name TVT Capital. They grew that into a multi-hundreds of millions of dollars lending business over the last decade, and then in 2018, they saw the opportunity in cannabis. These are the very same types of small businesses that could not access banks in the financial crisis. The underwriting of the analysis is similar, except you have all these really interesting and unique cannabis nuances.

LW: How does Canna Business Resources financing structure differ from traditional investment?

MT: There are investment firms that provide lots of access to what I’ll call investment capital, right? There’s the Poseidons of the world, the private equity groups, but there’s still not enough of them. There’s just not enough capital in the space. That presents opportunities, but it also presents challenges. One of the challenges is that private equity firms provide growth capital and private equity capital, but they don’t provide day-to-day working capital that banks or other lenders usually would. And that’s exactly the type of capital resource that cannabis companies need. 

For example, let’s say harvest season is coming up and a manufacturer needs a million bucks to go buy bulk flower because they’d be getting them at a 40% discount over financing with the cultivator. You’d rather pay a significant interest rate on that capital because you’re still saving money, rather than paying a higher price at the pump so to speak, to pay the cultivator to finance it for you. You’re better off borrowing that money and paying upfront, because you can have control over your inventory, have control over pricing and margins. And you don’t have to chase the dollar every day to pay it off. We provide that type of working capital that just doesn’t exist in the industry at this point.

LW: What sets Canna Business Resources apart from potential competitors?

MT: I think what makes us unique is we look at on-the-ground operators every day. Big, small, medium-size whether they’re acquiring retailers, or a cultivator building out a new facility, and they need a million or two for that over a 12 or 18 month period. We can tranche it out. Here’s a half-million today, here’s another half-million in six months. Nobody does that.

We actually set it up so that the loan packages are bespoke to the borrowers. So we can tranche it out. We can do it all at once. We can structure it anyway that’s effective for the borrowers, which is extremely uncommon at this point.

LW: What advice do you have for entrepreneurs looking to enter cannabis?

MT: First of all, it’s not cheap — and do not nickel and dime, you’ll lose. This is not a cheap industry. It’s incredibly competitive. Particularly for licensing. It’s a lot of limited license markets, but the unlimited license markets are even more competitive. You have MSOs eating the world. 

My advice is you dive in headfirst, but you have to realize that it’s not going to be easy. Having passion is a prerequisite. Having the business acumen, all that stuff is a prerequisite. But you need a nest egg. You need the ability to operate a business in an all-weather environment.

LW: What should Leafwire readers know about Canna Business Resources?

MW: We’ve recently opened our investor group up because we just can’t keep up. We have a technology platform with real-time data and analytics. We want to open our doors up to more investors that have an interest in learning about what we do and how we can help the industry further. 

We have a lot of resources that we can access. We have unsecured lending. We have secured loans, and equipment lending. We also have real estate lending. And we have our financing like accounts receivable factoring and lines of credit for that as well. We know every part of our client’s business because we lend into different for different reasons, different structures and that’s how we develop relationships. 

We reinvest with our clients all the time. It’s a great model for us actually, because we already know who they are. They know us. We’re basically betting on our friends. And if things go sour, we restructure. Because we know that when things recover, they’ll come back to us again. 

“Well, hey, you guys just gave me some startup money for this new facility.  I got my dispensary up and running. Now I’m going to go buy this grow facility, but I’ve got the real estate, I need the money, I need the equipment.” We’ll look at that too and say, “Okay, great. Yeah, that’s a good idea. Go vertical. Here’s the money for that.” 

We help these businesses actually grow, we don’t just write a check for them, and then suck the cash out of them. There’s always a goal in mind.

Building a Seed-to-Shelf Hemp Empire – Franny Tacy Founder and CEO of Franny’s Farmacy

Franny Tacy is a cannabis icon. The founder and CEO of seed-to-shelf hemp and health company Franny’s Farmacy changed the face of hemp cultivation in the South. A farmer’s daughter, Franny studied forestry and education, eventually earning a Ph.D Q&A. She spent 15 years in pharmaceuticals before returning to her roots in North Carolina. A longtime supporter of cannabis reform, Franny began to assist with efforts to bring the state online to the country’s legal hemp program. Fast-forward to today: Franny’s Farmacy online business is booming with brick-and-mortar franchises across multiple states.

Learn more about how Franny’s Farmacy got to where they are today, the disruptive model that garnered national attention, and what’s to come in this exclusive Leafwire Q&A.

Leafwire: How has Franny’s Farmacy evolved since its inception?

Franny Tacy: I planted the first crop in 2017. I then organized and helped start a women in hemp nonprofit, expanded into a three-year research trial with the university for hemp as a crop in 2018. I was the first person in the country to do a TED Talk on health as a crop to start showing people what this was all about. It’s also the year I pivoted to grow hemp for CBD. 

In 2018, we opened our first dispensary. And from then, we were the first to put UPC codes and tracking, seed to shelf, where all our products are coming from. We were involved with legislation. We were educating police forces. We spent two years helping build the supply chain. All of our farms and our products got implemented into the research program. We were working with single crops. We were testing. We became vertically integrated, and in the process, the most reputable people that were involved in research.

LW: How does Franny’s Farmacy set itself apart?

FT: All our budtenders go through all sorts of training, they are specialized in helping other people. We also invest more in GMP practices at our manufacturing facilities over marketing and advertising of our products. We have discovery day, twice a month where people can actually come to our facilities and tour. Transparency is so important in our space, especially since it’s highly unregulated.

LW: Your franchise model was quite disruptive. Tell us why?

FT: In our franchise model this year, in my first year as CEO, we worked on software programming to give our franchisees opportunities for a percentage of the E-commerce business that they can operate. They also have multiple revenue streams beyond the brick and mortar. It made the national press. People are like “she’s either crazy mad or a genius,” which is yet to be determined. And that won many awards. From being on the cover of Franchise Times to being in Entrepreneur Magazine. I’ve been in every major media, ABC, NBC Fox, on 90 podcasts, have won awards in our community for best in business, entrepreneur of the year. There is a lot of recognition for what I’m accomplishing doing things a different way.

It sets us apart because we’re a brand. And there’s a person that stands behind everything who also takes responsibility. We’ve set up a system to help people be successful because nothing happens alone.

LW: What advice do you have for entrepreneurs looking to enter the cannabis space?

FT: Find a mentor, or a franchise company like us, and don’t go at it alone. There is a lot that is moving. And together, we make a better impact, move it in the direction that it’s beneficial for all people, the invisible impact. 

When you find a mentor, it needs to be somebody that has the experience, which is hard to find right now. Fortunately, the number’s growing. Lots of people have advice. So make sure that your mentor is somebody that has more than lip service that has the experience.

LW: How else is Franny’s Farmacy evolving?

FT: Franchisees now have other opportunities to integrate their businesses. The Canna Cafe is super fun and exciting. It’s not all CBD or cannabis-infused. A lot of this is bringing hemp for food to the forefront. We’re more than just a dispensary. We are an example and advocate for hemp. All aspects, even building materials. For our franchises, we incorporate hemp wood. And that’s super exciting. So everything in this experience is an immersive experience. Oftentimes people don’t even understand how embedded in this industry our company is.

We also have 46 products in the queue that we will be launching, so stay tuned this year.

LW: What else should Leafwire readers know about Franny’s Farmacy?

FT: We are a high-quality, trusted, seed-to-shelf business that’s building a brand that will always remain true to seed to shelf through quality and trust. We walk our talk.

Supply Chain, Automation, and Predictions for 2022 – David Kessler, CSO of Agrify

The rapidly evolving cannabis supply chain is quickly becoming more efficient. In order to give consumers consistent, high quality experiences in a cost-effective manner, cultivators, manufacturers, and retailers must deploy the right tools. Agrify provides end-to-end solutions for the booming cannabis industry, blending science, data, and technology to propel the market forward. 

Leafwire spoke to Agrify Chief Science Officer David Kessler about the company’s cutting-edge product offerings, the future of the industry, and his advice for up and coming entrepreneurs.

Leafwire:  Agrify provides premium cultivation solutions — what are the direct benefits to the supply chain?

David Kessler: When we look at the entire industry, what we noticed was that it really didn’t have enough repeatable processes. There’s some great producers, there’s some great businesses out there, but in terms of delivering a consistent product, whether that’s a flower product, a concentrate product, or an edible, the processes, the technology in place just didn’t exist. So what Agrify did was really take a different approach by designing cultivation solutions to deliver a level of consistency, a reproducible consumer or patient experience and expectation, and then combining that with facility optimizations, workflow optimizations, and the incorporation of artificial intelligence. What we’re really trying to do is deliver a sustainable method for cultivating high quality cannabis and delivering a consistent consumer and patient experience.

A lot of that comes from our demand-based planning algorithms. If cultivators are seeing an uptick in the demand from dispensaries, for example, of three of their key strains, they can use our software to quickly transfer over production and increase the capacity of those varietals based on the information that they’re receiving.

So it delivers a lot of actionable business insights, the ability to rapidly adjust and change based on the market demand, the market conditions. Ultimately, when we start talking about the supply chain, we just want to make sure that not just cultivation is accounted for with this level of technology service, we also want to ensure that that level of service technology is delivered to the entire supply chain and that’s everything from your genetics, which we’re not plant touching, but we do have plant touching partners through the cultivation equipment into the extraction formulation of products, and ultimately even with the brands deployed so that consumers and patients can have a consistent experience, and when they purchase a product from one of our cultivators, that they’ll have an expectation and a repeatable experience each and every time.

LW: Why is automation so important in cannabis?

DK: We’re a maturing industry, we’re still quite nascent, but what we are seeing is the scale up of production capacity. You’re seeing larger and larger businesses merge together. You’re seeing the formation of MSOs marching across the states taking larger shares across the country. As you start increasing the production, you would of course expect and require increases in automation, essentially the ability to lower costs and do processes more efficiently. So what Agrify does is we look at each individual task that’s a part of the production process and we look at where the addition of technology, the addition of science, the application of data can yield results.

We’re not trying to replace growers. This isn’t the kind of automation that’s robotic that, for example, would prevent or replace a grower from trimming a flower. What we’re talking about is the kind of tools that empower growers to remove some of the unnecessary. If you will, grunt work things, like fertilizing and irrigating the plants and taking notes. All of that is being automated and so it’s a tool to empower growers to really allow them to produce the finest quality cannabis repeatedly. That’s both on the process side and the environment side. So when we look at automation, what we’re really doing is kind of parsing the different processes of cultivation, extraction and so forth down, and seeing where we can use the technology, use the data to really improve the process.

We still believe that it has to be a hands-on, eyes-on, human-centered process, but we can alleviate some of the work and allow the human spent hours to be more efficient. So I think that’s the future of cultivation. I mean, we saw these big mega facilities in Canada at the Aurora Sky facility where they used robotics and automation to do things like plant movements and harvesting the plants. While I love that, I don’t think the industry was ready and their approach yielded very low quality cannabis. In fact, a lot of those facilities have been shuttered. Our approach is really designed to foster the highest quality, the most consistent cannabis produced at a lower price point to allow competitors, to allow our clients to successfully maintain their position and actually increase market share over time in this competitive space.

When we think of automation, I don’t want people to think that it is big box cannabis. The fact of the matter is our technology is modular and scalable. What we’ve done is we’ve taken cultivation and we’ve miniaturized the cultivating environments down to very small 300 cubic air feet chambers. What that allows is the production of craft quality cannabis at scale. So I just don’t want people to think that the move towards automation is this move towards low cost, low quality cannabis. I think that automation and craft quality are not mutually exclusive. In fact, the adoption of technology like ours allows producers to produce craft at scale and that’s going to be the key differentiator moving forward because people can always produce lower quality for a little bit less. It’s been documented time and time again.

LW:  What brought you specifically into the industry?

DK:  Well, I am Aristotelian by nature. My grandmother had me on nature walks as soon as I could walk and my mother used me as free labor in the gardens as soon as I was able. So I was always very in touch with nature and plants. I just didn’t think it was a viable career path. So I went to school and while I consumed cannabis as a college age youth, my focus was on law. I was going to be a lawyer. Eventually my love of cannabis, my love of plants, really guided me away from the study of law and towards horticulture. So I studied horticulture. I started a tropical plant nursery specializing in orchids. Again, I didn’t think cannabis was a viable career path at that point, and I was working for a woman from Harvard who had one of the largest rare plant nurseries in the Northeast.

She really encouraged me to just dive headlong into horticulture if this was my passion, and it was, and so I set up the orchid nursery. I moved to Atlanta, Georgia and became a judge with the American Orchid Society, which took about seven years. From there, my day job was to do commercial agriculture, closed environmental agriculture, and farm design. So I had a wonderful experience working with Georgia Tech, KSU, designing STEM curriculum for the Georgia Public School Systems. I wrote grants and was funded by Google and Chase banks and I got into consulting for Hollywood films, such as Black Panther, the Legit series, Hunger Games. All of that was just fascinating and it allowed me a lot of very unique experiences, related in surrounding horticulture to widen my expertise.

At the same time, I was designing a vertical food for the farm for an Atlanta business person and this actually became the early technology that is now Agrify. After a few years of working with them, they said, “Would you ever move to Colorado to do R&D testing on cannabis?” I said, “Absolutely.” So it was probably about six years ago, packed up the family and moved to Colorado, started optimizing the technology for cannabis and really evolved it to the state it is in today with Agrify and I’ve never looked back. It’s been something I love to do. I love to teach. I love to design. I love cannabis. I love horticulture. So every day is just a delight. While each day is a little bit different, I continue to grow professionally, I continue to kind of use my passion for horticulture and for cannabis to better the plant and to better Agrify’s ability to cultivate. So it’s really just a confluence of my own personal interests, unique opportunities, and a unique skill set.

LW:  Are there any major changes ahead for the industry in 2022?

DK:  I would say we’re seeing an increased rate of mergers and acquisitions. MSOs are now having access to debt based capital instead of just equity based and that’s increasing their ability to take market share. I also think that instead of the days where businesses were being purchased in their entirety, now you’re starting to see segments of businesses being acquired. So not a vertically integrated player, but maybe just someone that has specialized in just extraction in two states or just cultivation in three areas. So I think you’ll continue to see that as the larger companies try and strengthen their offerings in specific areas. I think that you’ll continue to see brand penetration into new markets.

I think where MSOs and larger businesses have to take the slower steps necessary caused by regulation, brand adoption is quite easy. I mean, if you have consumer recognition and you have a following, let’s say, out of California on the West Coast, when that brand penetrates, say, Cookies into a new market, you have immediate consumer recognition, immediate consumer demand. So I think that you will start to see more brand penetration continuing. Ultimately, though, I think that this brings up a real issue for the industry as a whole and something that Agrify looks to solve, which is consistency. When I was on a tech panel, it was the primary panel at the Michigan Cannabis Aid conference, we were asked by the audience, “Why is it, with all of our PO data, do we see so much repeat consumerism and very little three-peat consumerism?”

So the lecturers and I conferred and we all agreed it’s because we’re in legal cannabis, everyone’s excited to shop, there’s lots of options. If they try something that they like, be it a patient or a consumer, then when they go back, they want to experience that again and they will absolutely try that product a second time. But if you can’t deliver that same expectation of the experience or the medical benefit, then you’re not going to have a third chance. So it’s the need for CPG-like product consistency, right? Every Pepsi tastes like every other Pepsi, regardless of whether it’s bottled in Texas or in Vermont, and that’s the consumer mindset. That’s where we are as cannabis consumers. Until we can deliver that level of consistency, that expectation, it’s going to be hard for these brands to build larger footprints because it is different every time.

Agrify’s technology, which really takes cultivation down to a very granular level, allows fine-tunable control over the micro climate for cultivation. Because cannabis produces over 550 different chemical metabolites and the environment has a tremendous influence on which chemicals are produced and in what quantity and proportion ratio to one another, the need for consistency is even greater than with traditional food and beverage products. So I think that what you’re going to see is that as the consumers become more educated as they have more of these options in front of them, you’ll see this move towards CPG, the consumer product good form factor, this demand for consistency increasing. I think that’s a trend that’s going to continue for several years and where the adoption of technology like Agrify’s vertical farming units can minimize that variability, most of the cultivation today still suffers from that problem quite markedly.

LW:  Why is that product consistency piece so crucial?

DK:  If I told you that you should take between one and 50 Tylenol for your headache, we would never be able to prescribe it as a medicine. We would never consider it a medicine if it was variable like that. So I think that we all know that this push and change towards a more consistent production methodology is coming. I just don’t think everyone has figured out how.

What Agrify has done is by shrinking the cultivation environment, and then focusing on a very uniform reproduction across the entire 300 cubic feet of aerospace, what we’re allowing is the minimization of plasticity, the minimization of chemical variability based on that environment, and because we’re automating the environmental control, because we’re automating the data collection, each chamber records at least 1.5 million data points per year at minimum. That is all data used to recreate very specific internal environments for each individual strain, which can be different strain to strain to elicit different outcomes, different chemical profiles and so forth.

So what we’ve really done is create a reproducible micro climate that allows growers to minimize the variability to deliver a higher level of both quality and consistency, and if they found a recipe that worked, they can go back through the software and just simply say, repeat because whatever they did last time was the best it’s ever been. That’s going to allow cultivators using Agrify’s technology to deliver the consistency that the market is really starting to demand and ultimately is going to require.

LW:  What are some benefits of utilizing AI in cannabis that may surprise people?

DK:  Agrify is really about the incorporation of artificial intelligence. So we’re incorporating cameras with the ability to look at images in real time, detect pests and pathogens from visual camera feeds, which again, foster the ability of cultivators to do their job without requiring as much hands-on, eyes-on, but it still is just an alert that cultivators need to go and take a look. Then we’re also using technology to do a lot of other wonderful things. I see that as cultivation narrows, we talk about the future. I think that what we’re going to see is cultivation improvements based on a couple of key factors. One, improvements in genetics. We’re behind a hundred years on every other major agronomic crop because of the illegal nature of cannabis.

I think you’re going to see tremendous improvements based on biofeedback. So right now, for example, the growing media has always been well, you water it, you add fertilizer, you don’t get droughted. But what we’re realizing now is the ability to steer a crop to really foster and elicit a specific outcome from a plant. You have a lot of tools at your disposal, but what you need to do is have biofeedback from the plant in order to capitalize on that. So by understanding the moisture in your growing media, the EC or the level of fertilizer, you can use those levers in addition to CO2, light intensity, light spectrum and so forth and many others to really drive the best expression from the plant, the highest yield, the highest quality. As you control all of those factors as Agrify documents each individual change, we are enabling you to improve the recipes for cultivation and then hit repeat.

So I think what I just want to say about the inclusion of automation and technology is really that as we move forward, you’re going to see more of this biofeedback, whether it’s biofeedback from the media on the moisture and EC, biofeedback from the leafs, looking at vapor pressure deficit and photosynthesis rate of transpiration rates, and having these pieces of data is going to allow us to move cannabis forward more rapidly. Because it is so far behind other agronomic crops, I think that you’ll see a more rapid evolution and improvement, and it’s going to be to those that incorporate technology, look at data, review the new scientific literature to really lead that path forward. That’s where Agrify is leading the way through the adoption of technology and the application of data to improve production of both cannabis cultivation, extraction and process, all the way through the supply chain.

LW:  What advice would you give to a budding entrepreneur in cannabis?

DK: The first is stolen from real estate agents: location, location, location. You have to understand how licenses and regulations matter in this industry. The difference between starting a business in Oklahoma and in New York is profound. Oklahoma, it’s very simple. It’s not a limited license state. It’s low cost of entry and the assumption will be that the cream of the crop will rise and attrition will occur because not everyone can succeed. They’ve licensed almost as many cultivators as the state of California with 10% of the population. So while Oklahoma is a great location for low cost entry, it’s also going to be high competition. Whereas you have more restrictive states like New York that are coming on with more regulations, higher capital demands to enter the market and a more competitive space overall, and it’s just going to be a very different experience for an entrepreneur starting that business.

Number two: know your business model. You have to find a niche. You have to decide what it is you’re going to do and what it is you’re going to specialize in. I’ve talked to lots of people that say, “Well, I grow cannabis and I’m just going to make lots of money.” It’s not that easy. I wish it were, but it’s not. I mean, the “green rush,” as they call it, is not something easily won and at the end of the day, what you need to do is have a solid business plan built on fundamentals. So that means understanding who your consumer is, understanding what the costs are that are going to drive your business and understanding what your niche is. What it is, what needs you are specifically going to fill and what’s going to make you different from every other Tom, Dick and Harry out there trying to do the same.

Then the final piece, this one is my favorite, it’s to delight your customer. That’s your job. Your job as an entrepreneur is to deliver a good or a service and the consumer to be delighted, to be elated. Whether that’s done through the quality of your product, the novelty of your product, the efficacy of your product, figure out a differentiator, delight your customer and make sure you set yourself up in the right location with a solid business plan and you’ll do wonderful.

LW:  What else should the Leafwire community know about Agrify?

DK: I think that fundamentally we need to be seen as more than a hardware company. A lot of people when they come and they see us at a trade show, they see our hardware on display and it’s pretty big and bold. I mean, a vertical farming unit is a cultivation chamber that’s roughly four feet by eight feet by nine feet tall, and they stack like Lego bricks. So it’s quite impressive and imposing when you see this laid out in front of you. The entire idea is that every chamber can be completely independently controlled from all the other chambers. So because of the novelty, because of the wow factor, a lot of people will walk away from an initial meeting with us and think, “Wow, that’s a really interesting hardware company,” but we’re so much more than that.

We’re really an ecosystem of solutions. It’s an integrated solution of hardware and software that was designed to work with one another. So the days of needing an integrator because you bought an HVAC system and then you bought the best of the best humidifier and the best of the best lighting and then you bought a building management controller and got a fertilizer system, all of that combined together, you still have disparate pieces of equipment that need to be integrated to work with one another in order to deliver a high quality product. Because we have taken more of the apple ecosystem approach, everything works with everything else. It’s all designed to work seamlessly to deliver that uniform environment, which ultimately leads to higher consistency, fosters brand building and the CPG form factor, and ultimately delivers consumers and patients the kind of experience that they’re seeking.

So what I want people to know about Agrify is that we’re really looking at this holistically, from cultivation to a branded product that people consume, and we want to deliver the best technology, the most data and the highest level of repeatability to our clients to foster the highest quality, lowest cost and most consistent cannabis on the market.

Transition From Legacy to Legal Industry Leader – Ruben Lindo, CEO of Blak Mar Farms

Ruben Lindo is a former professional football player, executive, and thought leader blazing a trail in the cannabis space. The founder and CEO of Blak Mar Farms and Phoenix Nutraceutical, Ruben is driven by a passion for plant medicine. His experience going from “the streets to the suites” as a serial entrepreneur has been both fascinating and inspiring, transcending industries and overcoming incredible odds to become one of the legal market’s first true success stories. 

Learn more about Ruben’s journey, find out the advice he’d give newcomers to cannabis, and hear his predictions for what’s ahead for the industry in this Leafwire Q&A.

Leafwire:  What is your cannabis industry origin story?

Ruben Lindo: I got into this space in 2016. I was a legacy guy for years. I dabbled throughout my playing career, I supplemented my income at times. For me, cannabis was always there for me to go to in the legacy world, to make some money, to tie up some loose ends, or make ends meet when they just didn’t seem to meet. Then I stepped away from it because after I went to prison I was scared to death to leave my kids again.

I was introduced to this industry by two very brave individuals who took a shot on a formerly convicted individual to step into leading a revolutionary company, a tech industry upsetting company, a disruptive company, in a brand new emerging industry called cannabis. When I stepped into this, it was still highly regulated, and it was still very, very, very illegal at the federal level. There weren’t those changes to the CSA yet, there weren’t changes locally in state law, and although we had a medical market, black and brown people were still going to prison at disproportionate rates still.

I came into this space with two things in mind: one, that cannabis has been a part of my life. My mother consumed it, my aunties, everybody around me consumed it, and it was medicine. It was truly medicine. I used to joke and say my mom’s got to smoke weed for her nerves because she’s got me, my sister, my brother running crazy. But when I think about it, it really was just medicine. It’s never been a drug to me. And getting out of playing professional sports, and knowing that I had teammates that were banned for playing, punished for playing, friends that were punished for consuming, really motivated me.

Before I jumped into the space I was on the verge of being homeless, I couldn’t get a job because of my felony conviction, and I had maybe $8. My wife said, “Go buy a cigar with this last $8.” But I couldn’t go to my normal cigar shop, because $8 was taboo, like who smokes a $8 cigar? So I drove to this place about 25 miles away and bought an $8 cigar, and was on the phone with Leonard Marshall having a conversation. Leonard and I were talking about cannabis, and my future employer, little did I know, was sitting in the same room talking about cannabis on a call, and thought that I was mocking him talking about cannabis, and we just hit it off. So I got into this space over an $8 cigar and two guys who took a real gamble on me.

My why was very clear. From the minute I walked into this industry, I haven’t worked a day. It’s not work for me. It is my passion. I love what I do. I love the people that I connect with. I love everything about it. But I knew that it was going to be my legacy to create a social justice change moment. As I delved deeper into the world of cannabis and started understanding the business side of it, I always said that cannabis legalization was the tip of the spearhead that would change the entire social justice and criminal justice system. And lo and behold, we’re seeing that. That was my reason why.

I brought a very corporate, Wall Street, B school mentality to it from day one, that we needed to have a level of maturity in order to be taken seriously as a future industry. When you started hearing numbers of $4 billion projected revenue in the state of California, I started saying, well there’s some real money to be made here, but I’ll never make that money, because I don’t have access to those things. I’m just here to lend my knowledge and build an industry.

LW: How did you come to launch Phoenix Nutraceutical?

RL:  We started out as a research and development company, studying the effects of CBD and how CBD, and hemp-derived CBD specifically, impacts the body. We expanded into products, and we have two product lines, Aminatu Beauty and Wellness, and we have Blitz Health and Wellness. Blitz is more focused on the sports side of the world, where we have our relief rubs, tinctures, and gummies. Then on the beauty side, we kind of stretch boundaries. We started out with shampoo. Now we have about 16 to 18 products in the Aminatu beauty line, and those products range from everything from skincare to eye care, hair care, all the way down to massage oil.

The company was really born out of necessity. My daughter in Canada was diagnosed with severe aplastic anemia in 2017. In 2018, treatment wasn’t really going so well, so I started to panic. I started reaching out to science guys and researching NIH papers on CBD and blood-borne illnesses, and I came across a doctor in Warsaw, Poland, who had written a thing on CBD and antioxidants in hair growth. I reached out to him and he was generous enough with his time, and then as soon as he found out that it was about my daughter, he agreed to fly to Toronto to meet me. He was coming to Canada anyway, so he was going to Vancouver, he flew to Toronto first. We spent two days in a hotel room, just going over different formulations and things that he thought would help, and things that he’s done in his research. Then I found a lab partner in San Diego to create the product.

I fell in love with doing custom formations, CBD products. We’ve created over 115 products. It costs a lot of money to release those products to the public, but we have them in custom formulation, and we’ve worked on getting some mechanical patents on some of the formulations. But that’s very tough in the United States, to get patented in general, but even more specifically in a hemp-derived CBD product. Because the United States government holds so many of those patients already. It’s been a wild ride.

Out of that, we started exploring THC and cannabis-derived products. We looked into two different areas. As you know, I broke into this industry designing and developing lighting spaces using natural light. We looked at building cultivation spaces, and I said, “You know what, I know enough about cultivating and I know enough cultivars; let’s jump in and create a company.” So we created this company Black Mar Farms in 2019, but we didn’t do anything with it until 2020.

LW:  How did you end up developing Black Mar Farms?

RL:  I partnered with some guys up in Eureka who had a grow, legacy guys as a matter of fact, and we transitioned them into legal, and we partnered. I managed and ran the business side, and they did the work. They grew the product. It was a marriage made in heaven. It gave me a chance to own a cultivation facility and be part of our first regulatory licensed environment.

Black Mar Farms really became my purpose project. Coming out of the tumultuous summer of 2020, I started really paying attention to things that were hurting us. One of the things that I noticed was, black and brown people, although social equity were words that were still being thrown around, and I was considered a thought leader in the social equity space, we weren’t doing it for our people. So I said, “Black Mar Farms is going to be the brand for the people.”

We made a low entry for investment for folks who wanted to invest, and we went up to Michigan and we partnered with another predominantly white company who, I didn’t realize that his daughter was black. He had adopted a black daughter. But we just never talked about race. But I always just knew he was super hip. Then he found out the name of our company was Black Mar and he said, “Would you be interested in a partnership, in doing a model?” I was introduced to him by a gentleman by the name of Errol Service, who was the first black McDonald’s multi-franchise holder. I reunited with Derek Coleman of the NBA, and DC and I have been doing this dance to put together this magical moment.

So I just jumped in, and we purchased the real estate, and we created the same exact thing that we had in Eureka. We created it in Michigan with these partners, and we own the real estate outright, and we leased the cultivation operation to the cultivar. My one condition was that he had to train some black folks in the business. He had to train them to be cultivars, not cotton pickers, not trimmers. And we did it, and it was wonderful.

LW: How can the industry go further when it comes to improving social equity opportunities?

RL:  I stand on the platform of social justice and social equity. But I changed the language and the narrative of social equity a little bit because we all know what the problems are. We need to now create social change, and people are starting to use the words social and economic equity. Yeah, there’s a problem with economics, but black people never have a problem getting money. We have a problem with getting access to the information that leads us to the money. So I’ve kind of changed things and say, it’s no longer about having access because just because you have access doesn’t mean you have accessibility.

These are the things, and this is the direction in which the messaging needs to go, because out of that is what spawns change. So now we have social equity, and the term social equity has been really watered down. It’s kind of like the term GOAT, in sports. Everybody’s the GOAT. Well now you have people calling people equity entrepreneurs, and I think that that’s a little bit of a slap in the face. We’re creating a subclass or a sublicense in our own industry by calling it a social equity license. No, they’re license holders. They have to follow the same compliance as everyone else, we have to do the same thing.

The only thing that made it equitable wasn’t a handout, it was just the fact that some of the barriers of entry were removed that were unnecessarily placed there in the beginning. And it’s not a reparation, it’s a restoration. Because again, if we’re being honest, this industry was built on the backs and liberties and lives of black folks. That’s how they criminalized it, they made money off of it when it was illegal, by capitalizing on the fact that black and brown people were prolific in the industry of cannabis, and they marginalized it, they criminalized it, and then they penalized it. 

Now we have black-owned businesses, and we have multi-state operators that have risen to the highest heights, and Al Harrington, Chris Weber, and guys like that are jumping in and putting their name behind it, but we still need to have accessibility. We need to be able to disseminate truthful information to people so that they can educate themselves and learn to become business owners rightfully, and operators in a once-in-a-lifetime industrial revolution.

As my brother, Steven DeAngelo said to me, “Ruben, you’ll never be able to operate in this space, in an opportunity like this, again.” And I take it a step further in saying, we took this from the streets to the suites. We’ve taken this from the dirt to the boardroom. And this is the only industry that this has ever happened in. We actually are seeing the formation of a new industry in front of our eyes that originated on the streets, in the alleys, and now it’s in boardrooms and banks, and low and behold, clergy breakfasts. It’s just amazing where we are.

LW:  If you could give some advice to budding entrepreneurs, what advice would you have for them for trying to get into this space, or for trying to start a new business? What would you say to them?

RL:  I’d say three things. First, I’d say find a mentor that is established and running a business. Find somebody that’s willing to invest in you. 

The next thing that would say is, become a sponge, become a student again. Learn as much as you can, from whomever you can, and discern what you can store in your toolbox. Because you’ll come back to it, especially in this industry, at some point.

Then the final thing that I would tell a young entrepreneur is to come into this industry with the desire to give back and reach back. Especially black entrepreneurs. Have a spirit of reaching back, paying it forward every chance that you get. Any time that someone shares the knowledge, go back and share the knowledge with someone else.

Our job is, like Jackie Robinson said, to knock on the door. And Reggie Jackson was supposed to hold the door open so that everybody else could come into major league baseball. I’m using a sports analogy, but my job was to crack the door. It’s kind of like I’m wedged in there, and I’m like, “Come on y’all, come on, come on, and I’ll hold the door open for you!” That’s what I want to see.

LW:  What’s on deck for Phoenix Nutraceutical and Black Mar Farms?

RL:  With Phoenix Nutraceutical we’re hoping to get funded so that we can push ahead with our bio-hemp research. Prior to the pandemic, we started researching hemp as a biofuel to power Trion Supercars. Then we pivoted and said we might as well create a fuel that runs at 82% octane or less that can run farm equipment. Because sustainability is really got to be the focus of this industry now, right, and where we’re headed.

For Black Mar Farms, my baby, and my pet project, some exciting things are in the works. We’re negotiating a deal to acquire three facilities in the state of Massachusetts and partner with two other black entrepreneurs. We’re looking at an expansion in Michigan, moving down into Detroit, and really launching our equity brand. We have a brand called Equity Farms, and Equity Farms is really twofold: we want to launch our indoor cultivation, and 50% of that cultivation revenue will go toward independent rooftop gardens throughout the city. Those gardens would provide the community with fresh fruits and vegetables.

And finally, we’re going to start a project working with the First Nations folks, the Senecas, here in New York. I’m super excited about that. We’re moving very quickly in a partnership deal, and we’re going to go there and teach the first real social equity folks of the Americas how to get into this industry, and how to run and maintain their business. That’s our path from now till the end of the year, and that will take us into second-quarter 2022, some of those projects. But that’s where we are, that’s what we’re looking at.

LW:  What do you think is ahead for the industry in 2022 and beyond?

RL:  Let’s look at cannabis on a global landscape. Let’s look at what’s happening in emerging economies like Lesotho, Zimbabwe, and Zaire. Even in Jamaica, Jamaica’s always been, the kaya plant, the plant of the people. But even in Jamaica as a business, it’s expanding. So we’ve already seen the growth in 2019, 2018, in Europe; now we’re going to see these other countries, these other places in the world globally, again, not making it a black or white thing, but predominantly black communities, black regions, of the world, really exploding, and changing the trajectory of this industry. I always say there’s a force multiplier of one and a half times when we get into these emerging economies because we’re going to teach people how to do two things: sell their culture, which is big, and then the second thing is, we’re going to teach them how to sell finished products.

So again, I’ll go back to this and mention Steve. Steve DeAngelo’s down in Mexico, and I’ve been following Steve, and Steve’s been active in talking to the people, and before he left I said to him, “We have to start teaching people how to sell finished products. We can no longer sell raw goods. Especially these African countries, in the continent of Africa, and South America, and indigenous folks. We need to teach them how to take finished products and combine it with their culture.” That’s what we’re going to see in 2022. We saw a little bit of it, and then the pandemic hit. Now we’re going to see the explosion of it through this industry globally.

LW:  You’re a role model for so many BIPOC entrepreneurs and legacy operators. How do you manage that responsibility?

RL:  I take it with a tremendous amount of gratitude, because of what I was able to overcome, and for those who gave me an opportunity. I feel like I worked super hard to get to a place, and some people will say, “Heavy is the head that wears the crown.” I’m not royal. I’m just loyal to this game and to life. But truthfully, it feels good to be a leader in the industry, and it feels good to be in this position.

It does force me to maintain my integrity at all times. And it forces me to operate transparently because of the things that I’ve gone through and the places that I’ve been. It really makes me remain accountable to my word. And there are two things I always say: with integrity comes justice, but also, with integrity, you have to be transparent. I am fortunate that I’ve gotten an opportunity to show this. The one thing that I regret the most is that two people who are very dear to me only got to see the beginning of this.

Communication, Advice, and Predictions – Let’s Be Blunt with Montel Williams

Montel Williams is a former television host, speaker, and plant medicine advocate. He has been an outspoken supporter of cannabis for two decades, and being a medical patient himself, Montel’s authenticity and passion never wavers. Having served in both the United States Marines Corp and the Navy, he has also championed the cause of veteran access to medicinal cannabis. Montel’s podcast, Let’s Be Bluntdives into the world of cannabis, providing honest and thought-provoking information in an entertaining format.

Montel chatted with Leafwire about his incredible cannabis success story, where he sees the industry going, and the advice he has for new entrepreneurs.

Leafwire:  How did you discover cannabis as a medicine?

Montel Williams:  I came to cannabis because when I was initially diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). I was put on a regimen of opioids that really didn’t do anything for me and had a doctor recommend cannabis to me back in 2000. The doctor basically said, “You need to go out and find out as much as you can about cannabis because I know that there have been some patients who have said that they’ve gotten relief from varied forms of cannabis, and I don’t know what I’m talking about, but if you do the study, you can figure that out,” and so really dove deep into cannabis back in 2000 and realized that this is a product that the federal government was in the process of granting itself a patent for.

And it extolled and talked about the virtues of cannabis in its abstract, in its own patent applications, so I felt like I was doing nothing different than what the federal government was doing, even though out of one side of the face, they were supporting cannabis by funding research all over the world and here in the United States, but out of the other side, claiming that it had no medical advocacy. So I really started the journey to gain relief from some of the symptoms that I was exhibiting from MS and cannabis was one of the only things that helped do that.

LW:  Tell us about the Let’s Be Blunt podcast — what can listeners expect?

MW:  Let’s Be Blunt is a platform similar to Leafwire —  a platform that provides good validated information, talks to other patient advocates, talks to doctors, talks to people who are trying to share valid information about cannabis and its effects. A platform to share information about the cannabis business and some of the pitfalls and some of the advances that are happening to make consumers more aware as they try to navigate this really ever-changing landscape. 

We live at a time now where we’ve got 37 states in the District of Columbia that all have some form of legal cannabis laws, but almost every one of them is different. Every one of them allows for different delivery systems. Every one of them has different practices for getting either registered in a medical program or even in their adult-use programs — they all differ. We aim to be a one-stop shop for people who want to learn more, know more. That’s what we set about doing with Let’s Be Blunt: it’s a blunt conversation.

LW: You dive into psychedelic medicine on the Let’s Be Blunt podcast. Are you looking at that space more?

MW:  I’ve used the platform to open up those kinds of discussions because a lot of people who are looking at holistic medicine and also botanicals of all types, need to have a place that they can go to get information. And we’ve received questions about psychedelics, and I’ve been digging in and talking to some of the people who are the industry leaders in what they’re trying to accomplish. This is a brand new field, a wide-open field that, just like when cannabis first started being discussed, there’s a lot of misinformation. So I want to try to get some legitimate information out there, especially for those who are inquisitive and want to know the benefits and allow for a discussion that doesn’t get to take place in many places.

LW:  You’re inviting the conversation and getting the information to the people in an accessible sort of way.

MW:  Yeah, I try to provide a safe outlet for those who want to be able to express their views without having to worry about being challenged as much, not over the veracity or the accuracy, but challenge only in helping them express themselves. I’ve spoken to people from as far away as South Africa and Australia and the EU, all living through different types of journeys with cannabis and trying to explain to people how this is being looked at around the world at a time where most of the world is wrestling with trying to provide decent healthcare to its constituents. 

Here’s an opportunity in the United States for us to be able to do the same thing with lots of countries, other countries have figured out is that when it comes to cannabis use, it literally, especially in the aging population, helps to reduce some of the pharmaceutical use that a lot of middle-aged and older people have routinely been prescribed that are unnecessary as we get older.

I’m a very strong believer that no matter whether it’s adult-use or not, people who gravitate to cannabis gravitate to it because of some form of underlying medical reason, whether they admit it or not. If it’s just to relax, that’s a medical reason, if it’s just to lessen some anxiety, that’s a medical reason. And so, I think providing space that’s safe for people to be able to share ideas and information that is usable for everyone is what we’re trying to accomplish with Let’s Be Blunt.

LW:  Your military experience has inspired you to advocate for medical cannabis access for veterans. How can people support these efforts?

MW:  There is a federally-sanctioned study happening on the West Coast right now, a study looking at cannabis and its effects on PTSD. I think that those who have done so much for us need to have every tool in their arsenal that they can use to fight the ravages of their remnants of war. So I am a huge supporter of cannabis for vets and hoping that some of our partners in this industry start to think in terms of that.

I will always be a supporter of ensuring that vets have safe access to cannabis. Some of the guests that we’ve had, guests we’ve brought have been people like Walking Dead, Tommy Chong, Redman. We’ve had Dr. Tishler from Harvard, Brooklyn with us, college and Dr. Michelle Weiner out of Florida, Kevin Greene, who’s got the Cleveland School of Cannabis, Chaunte Wayans, who’s the niece of the Wayans brothers, who talks about how cannabis helps to keep her sober. Believe it or not, this is a person who dealt with substance abuse but uses cannabis.

And then, we understand that science is now proving that cannabis can be a true exit drug rather than a gateway drug. An exit drug to opioid addiction and alcohol use. We should be doing more research on that and actually extolling the virtues. I think that we have some really engaging conversations on Let’s Be Blunt, but we also provide that kind of information that I believe that most people, once they start to hear, will start looking for you more.

LW:  Where do you see the cannabis industry heading in 2022?

MW:  I’m hoping that this industry wakes up and recognizes what it needs to do. We have done, I think, a fairly decent job in the last couple of years from a B2B standpoint, especially during the pandemic. Cannabis was considered an essential service and almost every legal state passed laws, literally making sure that their local officials and local politicians understood how important cannabis was. However, I think the industry really needs to grow up now and understand that we are just literally scraping the surface. We haven’t even really become a full-blown industry. This is like a Wright brother pushing a wooden plane down a hill.

We still have jets and other things that are down the road that we need to get ready for. And the only way we’re going to do that is through education. That’s what I like so much about Leafwire: that education is a paramount part of what you do, not only in connecting individuals in the business setting, but you also allow for individuals to share ideas and information that helps to educate the industry as a whole. And that’s what we really need to start focusing on, is not just B2B but B2C. We’re still caught up right now in trying to figure out how much THC we can raise the level of plant to and how many synthetic versions or modified versions of THC we can come up with when the truth to the matter is most consumers aren’t looking for higher than high.

That’s not what cannabis has always been about since the beginning. What we need to do is try to figure out how we can take apart over 250 component parts that have some form of medicinal property, and start figuring out how to utilize those and formulate those in their natural way. Maybe just by taking out the deleterious things and leaving in the positive things. And that’s where I hope the research leads us to and that’s where I hope this industry goes. 

In the next year and a half, I’m really a little jaded because I’m concerned about the fact that the industry jumps behind candidates for president, vice president that talk a mean game and basically lie to the industry. Claiming that in its first 100 days, they would make significant changes and none of that’s been done. And you don’t see anything getting ready to get done on the near horizon because of all the other setbacks that this administration is going through.

That means that we have to look to the next administration, and then we look to the next administration. That’s like looking into the eye of the storm because we have no idea who’s going to be the next administration. And if it happens to be the former one, you may as well kiss cannabis goodbye in the way that we are thinking about its evolution moving forward. Can you put this dog back behind the fence? No, I don’t think it’ll ever get back behind the fence. But can it be thwarted every step of the way? Absolutely. Can we put chains on it? Can the government put chains on it and leave it outside in the rain? Absolutely.

And we’ve already seen initiatives across the country from some of the deepest, darkest conservative bases that are trying to roll back even the will of the people, not just for the presidential election, but the will of the people who voted in cannabis for their constituents. And so, I think this industry needs to literally now begin the process of stopping the infighting, not worrying about your little piece of turf rather than figuring out how to come together to move this entire industry forward. 

I think that one of the things that I’m really excited about is that, I know I’ve been talking to Reggie Noble, Redman, who has been a staunch supporter of cannabis from back as long as I had been. He and a group have just launched something called NCP, which is the National Cannabis Party, which is a federally-registered cannabis party that is now capable of endorsing and being on a ballot in all 50 states. I think what we need to do as an industry is everyone who has a share or stake in this business needs to get behind this party and start impressing upon candidates that we’re not going to take it anymore. We need your support, and we need to be able to pass good and consumer-friendly cannabis laws across the country that allow those who are patients to have access to this incredible medication. And those who choose this over other products like alcohol, have safe access to that too.

We sometimes forget that the same people who fight so hard against cannabis are the ones who are sipping down on brown liquor when they get home, or sipping down a glass of wine, or going out to a restaurant, sharing a drink with a friend. What right do you have to tell me how I imbibe in something that is socially relaxing?

LW:  What advice would you give to entrepreneurs who are considering entering the industry?

MW:  I hope you’re getting into this industry for the right reasons. If this is an industry that you decided that you want to get into because you want to make a lot of money off of other people’s suffering, then I tell you, skip it. 

But if you are interested in helping to provide relief to those who are looking for relief, helping to provide an alternative substance for those who are looking for something alternative to alcohol, have that be your core. And then from there, build out what it is you want to build out. Do you want to be a grower? Do you want to be a processor? Do you want to be a salesperson? Do you want to be a formulator? What is it that you really think you want to do? Is it just all about making money? If it’s all about making money, then I have nothing to say to you, but if it’s all about keeping the consumer in mind and trying to develop products that can continue to be innovative, a space that is ripe for innovation, then I’d say jump in with two feet.

But you also have to understand that, because there have been so many before you that have come in looking to make money, this has now become an industry that is extremely expensive to get into. You get no support, really, and the support that you get is going to come with a pretty big price tag. So align yourself with those who can help you move your paradigm forward in what’s now becoming a crowded, greedy land space.

LW:  You have always been about patient access at the forefront. Is the industry losing sight of this?

MW:  Yeah. I think we, again put ourselves in a position where there are too many putting money first. Again, this is like the Wright brothers pushing a wooden plane down a hill. We have to remember. The last hundred years of aviation have created billions, trillions of dollars. The first 10 years of the aviation industry didn’t create millions. And so if we stop and think about this, we still have trillions of dollars on the table. So everybody’s going to make their piece. Why not try to do so, providing a better landscape than those out there eating right now?

LW:  What’s ahead for you?

MW:  I’m still in the industry. I’m a formulator myself with my own products and going back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, but I’ve got another contract manufacturer that I’m working with. And hopefully, we’ll have some broad-spectrum products in the marketplace very soon again. And I’m also working with multiple cannabis companies around the world, trying to innovate some new products in the space and keep your eyes open, because I think over the next year, some of those will start to actually come to fruition.

I can’t really dig deep into some of them right now because we have some of the ink that is just now drying on paper. However, within very short order, I’ll be able to talk about some of the relationships that I’ve been able to forge. And I’m excited because I’m working with a company from South America, I’m working with a company out of South Africa, I’m working with a company here in the United States. I am getting ready to start working with a company in Eastern Europe, all of which have one thought in mind, and that’s growing the most efficacious cannabis and hemp that they can grow to provide safe access to patients.