CCIA and NCIA Team Up for California Cannabis Business Conference

If you hadn’t heard of the CCIA (California Cannabis Industry Association) or the NCIA (National Cannabis Industry Association), then you have now.

For the casual stoner (as opposed to a Kingsmen stoner), the CCIA & NCIA have one thing in common.

That’s right, it’s the CIA!

They are probably watching you through your computer and through various other devices (including your toaster) so you may want to throw all of your electronic devices away ASAP (better yet, donate them to Puerto Rico whenever they ever get their electricity turned back on. Seriously, it’s a pretty dire situation after being devastated by Hurricane Maria so please donate generously to help your fellow citizens living in Puerto Rico).

Ok, calm down bro. Nobody is watching you so you can stop being paranoid.

In fact, what the CCIA & NCIA have in common is that they are both cannabis industry advocates (again with the CIA) and are helping businesses navigate the bureaucracy (admittedly I had to look up how to spell that word) and understand (and negotiate on the industry’s behalf) the requirements for getting a license to do business legally.

Did you know that the CCIA and NCIA actually have lobbyists who meet with our elected officials to educate them on everything and anything related to cannabis and the various businesses that make up the robust cannabis industry? Yeah way. And you thought all lobbyists were douchebags (and you were approximately 93.782% correct to think that).

According to Aaron Smith, the Executive Director of the NCIA, over the past 3-4 years, cannabis lobbying has shifted dramatically (cue dramatic music).

Smith admits that several years ago, he couldn’t get enough meetings scheduled with elected officials in DC because our “public servants” (ain’t that a misnomer) weren’t all that interested in taking meetings with him or other Cannabusiness leaders. However, in 2017 they changed their tune (to a classic rock guitar riff, I hope). This year many of our elected officials, even opponents of legalization, have been taking meetings with Mr. Smith and other Cannabusiness leaders.

Some opponents have even changed their position (insert sexual innuendo) over the past year as the industry continues to grow (no pun intended, ok fine, I intended it) and bring a windfall of tax revenue for states that have legalized cannabis for medical and/or recreational use.

Smith went on to encourage Cannabusiness owners to support congressional leaders and other government officials who support legalization. He also encouraged dispensary owners and other cannabis industry leaders to support their local community leaders, participate in food drives and contribute to local and national non-profit organizations.

Following the introductory remarks by Aaron Smith and Lindsay Robinson, Executive Director of the CCIA, came a fascinating keynote delivered by Lori Ajax, chief of the Bureau of Cannabis Control, the government agency tasked with ensuring that all cannabis-related businesses are licensed and regulated (among other things, I would imagine). Ajax was more positive and forward-thinking than any government official I have ever met. She said that she would be hiring at least 40 new people in her agency (tripling existing staff levels) in order to process all of the requests for licenses she anticipates flooding her office over the next several months and into 2018. So get off the couch, wipe the shake off of that resume and throw your hat in the ring.

Throughout the month of October, Ajax and her team will be offering licensing workshops in various cities throughout California to help ensure that business owners know what the requirements are. They have a new website (with an AWESOME Countdown Clock to January 1, 2018) for updates and information about the California Cannabusiness licensing process.

Mid-November is when new regulations are slated to be released covering both medical and recreational use. Regulations such as advertising restrictions and excessive use guidelines. In late November or early December, the state of California will begin issuing temporary licenses which will expire in 4 months but can be extended for 90 days (if requested prior to the 4-month expiration date) to Cannabusinesses that are currently operating and already have local approval under existing medical marijuana legislation. Applications for a full license must be submitted within the 4 month (or 7 months with an extension) window. Licenses will be emailed to business owners, who will then print them out, in order to expedite the process.

Lori Ajax had this to say about the Cannabis industry, “This industry is so positive. It’s such a pleasure to work with you guys.” She openly admitted, “We may not get it right on day one but we are open to your comments and you can help us to get it right.” Then she humbly added, “It has been an honor to be part of this historic process. We will be the largest adult and recreational use market in the country.”

Following these remarks, David Jones (not to be confused with Davey Jones of The Monkees), the California Commissioner of Insurance, had some positive comments of his own. Mr. Jones, whose agency oversees all of the insurers in California, said that he had already been approached by at least one large insurance company that is interested in ensuring businesses in the cannabis space in California. He wouldn’t say which one (I personally asked him), but he did say leaders in the insurance industry were meeting with cannabis industry leaders to get a better understanding of what their insurance needs will be.

Furthermore, Jones said that the banking industry typically waits for insurance to be in place before considering lending money and processing payments. Understandably they do this to protect themselves and their shareholders. Echoing the positive sentiments of Ajax, Jones said that he will do whatever he can to help facilitate cannabis businesses not only having access to insurance but to having a variety of insurance companies and types of policies to choose from so that prices remain competitive.

The conference featured many more sessions (thankfully none of them were Jeff) and panels covering all aspects of the cannabis industry. There were also all kinds of exhibitors, including insurance companies, legal services, testing labs, various nutrient and lighting companies, packaging, and various marijuana magazines such as Culture and Sensi, who sponsored an after party with a dozen vendors, a DJ and all you can eat tacos!

Speaking of all you can eat (darn, now I’m hungry and I just ate), one thing that differentiated the California Cannabis Business Conference from all others that I have attended, was that they provided lunch to all 2,000 plus attendees! There were delicious sandwiches, chips, pasta salad, drinks, and cookies!

How did they know we would have the munchies? I bet someone from the CIA tipped them off.

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