A note from the editor: Joseph Chicas is an exceptional advocate and all-around person that we are excited to announce as a contributor for NUGL Magazine. He offers insight into the complex legalities of the cannabis industry and has deep knowledge of the labyrinthian hurdles facing business owners today.
I’m very excited to join the NUGL team and lead our efforts to inform readers about political and policy news affecting our industry.
NUGL is undergoing rapid transformations as we embark on our journey to help people find compliant cannabis products and connect the industry.
An Unexpected Journey Towards Fighting For Economic Justice And Equity
My own journey to this moment has not been a linear one. As a graduate of UCLA and USC, I never thought I’d find myself this deep in the cannabis industry. College was a fun time for consumption but the notion that cannabis would be a legit, thriving legal industry, was incomprehensible to me.
Reflecting back on my 10 years working for civic, academic and non-profit organizations, I realize that I’ve always worked at the intersection of cannabis and social justice throughout my career. Many of the families and communities I’ve worked with, especially in South Los Angeles, have been devasted by cannabis prohibition and the so-called “War on Drugs.”
With recreational cannabis legalization in California entering its second year, I’m most passionate about and interested in the potential to create economic opportunities that promise to reverse the negatives effects of the War on Drugs. The notion that millions of families across the U.S. have been devasted for an offense which is now legal and highly profitable leaves open a space for us to achieve economic justice.
My passion also extends to groups that we’ve left behind, especially our veteran community. As a former staff member for Mayor Eric Garcetti, I led our efforts to create the Office of Veterans Affairs, which to-date has resulted in over 10,000 veterans connecting with employers and over 12, 000 homeless veterans receiving housing. We’ve had to take on these efforts in large part because of the immense trauma our veterans face while serving overseas and their inability to access healthier alternatives to damaging opioids, such as medical cannabis.
In the time since leaving LA City Hall, I’ve gradually expanded my role in the cannabis industry and have focused on ensuring that consumers have access to safe, compliant and medically effective cannabis products. However, I understand that the road here is not easy. In California, a hodgepodge of legislation coupled with complex, ever-changing regulations makes it difficult for companies aiming to transition into the legal market. Understanding and adapting to the policy landscape is essential for survival. I hope to bring my policy and political perspectives to NUGL readers in order to add value to everyone’s individual mission in the cannabis industry.
As a co-founder and Executive Director of Cannabis Advising Partners, I’ve had the honor of working alongside a strong team of compliance experts led by CEO Gasper Guarrasi. Together, we’ve secured over 100 cannabis licenses for our clients in all licensing platforms.
While still at CAP, I hope to curate policy and political content for NUGL readers that serves as a real-time “report from the field.” Day in day out we walk our clients through the hurdles of our modern-day licensing and compliance issues, which essentially means our clients (and I am sure some of you) are building the plane as they are flying it.
Through this content, I hope to make the ride less bumpy, more enjoyable and even offer up some tips to help you ground your plane, or recalibrate to prepare for another liftoff.
Making connections in the industry is the first step towards educating yourself as a consumer or business owner. A great place to start is by looking at cannabis industry events and NCIA San Jose, held from July23-25th, happened to be one of the largest in California. Here’s a look at what you can learn just by showing up.
Coming Full-Circle At NCIA San Jose
For NUGL and thousands of other attendees, NCIA offered an opportunity to connect with old friends and new — all while learning about current trends in the industry and generating new business. Ultimately, the setting offered an opportunity for us to continue building community.
If you attended NCIA conferences prior to 2016, this year’s conference most assuredly offered a sharp contrast. In the past, the showroom was full of dispensaries and products. Fast forward to 2019 and it’s a whole new environment. The exhibit hall is now rampant with extraction equipment, manufacturing technology, and ancillary service providers.
Workshops featured leaders of multi-state operators, investors, regulators, and industry leaders sharing real-world examples of the challenges and opportunities they confront every day.
Attendees also heard from the former CEO of Canopy Growth, Bill Linton, who was recently ousted, despite taking that company through rapid growth and emerging as an industry leader. His candid reflections on what transpired and what the industry future holds was an unprecedented performance at NCIA. This seismic shift in the industry was definitely a sign of things to come.
The industry is clearly maturing before our very eyes. The introduction of the Canna Vest component within NCIA also demonstrates where things are heading. Investors and MSO’s packed the rooms and exchanged vital information everyone should hear.
Investor interest in the space is clearly on the rise, but the investment community is becoming savvier as it evaluates real versus perceived opportunities in the cannabis industry. As their interest in the industry rises, investors are looking intently at the makeup of teams and evaluating how companies adapt to regulatory environments, how they meet consumer demands, how they weather exponential growth in competition as well as many other key variables. A company’s ability to scale operations across multiple states and adapt to complex regulations is clearly an edge that investors are seeking in a prospective partner. Multi-state operators have secured the majority of investments in the space and are looking to acquire licensing and real estate assets across the nation — especially vertically integrated operations.
Aside from business investment, NCIA attendees were offered a healthy dose of information relating to other areas, from improving human resources to compliance. In the latter case, attendees had the opportunity to hear directly from the Chief of the Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC), Lori Ajax. Ms. Ajax was joined by other state counterparts and Cat Packer, Executive Director of the LA City Department of Cannabis Regulation.
In her remarks, Ms. Ajax announced the launch of BCC’s new educational campaign, #Weedwise which aims to educate consumers about purchasing licensed products and other health and safety tips. We are looking to incorporate some of these campaigns within NUGL media channels. More to come on this.
Ms. Ajax also reported, much to the delight of the crowd, that BCC is beefing up their enforcement efforts through partnerships with other state agencies. Together, they will conduct more widespread and consistent compliance checks throughout the state.
Ms. Packer also echoed similar efforts that are underway in Los Angeles, especially as a coordinated effort with the Mayor’s Office and LA City Council. She mentioned enforcement tools they are using such as partnering with the Department of Water and Power to shut off power, and beefing up penalties against property owners. To augment such efforts, LA has also created an enforcement task force led by Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti. She also stressed the importance of city-state coordination in ensuring that the consistency of ownership changes so that individuals, especially social equity partners, are not circumvented in the process. Ms. Ajax stated that this has become a key issue at BCC and they will have a team dedicated to mitigating such issues.
Further, Ms. Packer shared some good news regarding consumption licenses. She stated that in the next several months the city will be looking at and announcing new provisions to approve consumption licenses in LA City. In the meantime, Los Angeles is focused on Phase 3 licensing, which will allow for 250 new retail licenses under the social equity program – a program I truly believe in and which offers a historic opportunity for individuals most affected by the War on Drugs.
All and all, NCIA was an incredible experience — definitely a full-circle moment for myself and, undoubtedly, others in attendance. Seeing the industry organize and grow makes fill with pride —I couldn’t be happier to be a part of this community.
There’s so much more to reflect on from NCIA, but I welcome you to share your takes via our digital channels. We would love to hear your experiences and, more importantly, any vital lessons you’d love to share with our audience.
I look forward to sharing more with you and growing together as we collectively seek to expand access to this powerful plant.