The Influx of Cannabis Trade Organizations
Finding the Best Organizations to Support Your Business and Advocacy by Jamie solis
s the cannabis industry continues to expand across cities, states and even countries, the number of trade associations representing cannabis businesses and advocates is growing. If you’re looking to find which organization is the best fit for your advocacy or your business, then it is important to do a little investigating before making your decision. Some trade associations exist in order to turn a profit, while others aim to have an influential impact on cannabis-related legislation, research, education and business. Depending on what you want out
For Advocacy, Not Profit If being an advocate for smarter cannabis legislation is your motivation to joining a trade group, you will find yourself with countless options of organizations to join. There are some long-withstanding nonprofit organizations that have been key influencers in lobbying for smarter cannabis legislation for many years now. Drug Policy Alliance is completely funded by private donations as a 501c3 private, nonprofit organization that has been working to end the “war on drugs” since July 2000. Whereas Americans for Safe Access is a nonprofit advocacy group for patients who are trying to get the medicinal properties of cannabis recognized and further researched. Another well-known, national advocacy nonprofit is National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), which also has local chapters across the United States. All three of these advocacy group have held a long and respectable relationship within the cannabis industry.
Business Comes First Being an advocate is great, but it might not be the driving force for an entrepreneur to join a trade association. The National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) is one example of a nonprofit association that focuses on 40
of a trade organization, there are plenty of options for both advocates and business owners. Ben Gelt, Executive Director of Organic Cannabis Association (OCA), spoke with CULTURE and provided insight into how to choose the right trade association for you, your business and the industry. The first step is to do research. “Understanding who has leadership positions and what their priorities are should be step one before joining any professional association,” Gelt said. “Pick one or two—and know what you’re getting. Many have bigger players involved and aren’t terribly transparent—but—they can give you great insight in to what’s happening legislatively and regarding regulation.”
the cannabis industry and advancing the interests of its jobs, revenue and economic activity. National nonprofit organizations are vital in furthering the political representation of the medical and recreational cannabis industries. However, localized cannabis trade associations also have an important appeal to cannabis business owners.
Local Flair CULTURE connected with Mark Malone, Executive Director of Cannabis Business Alliance (CBA) in Colorado, which is a nonprofit group that focuses on furthering cannabis businesses in the state. Malone shared the importance for interested individuals to join both a national and a local trade organization. “I would encourage membership in a local/state association and a national association. You join a local association, like the CBA, because it gives you a voice on legislation that is going to directly impact your business,” Malone said. It’s important to join a local trade association, however there are many choices available. For example, while cannabis cultivators can certainly find like-minded people in The California Growers Association, there are even more localized groups that focus on specific cannabis growing regions in the state. One word of advice for choosing a
local association is ensuring the benefits outweigh the costs. “You want to make sure you are getting good bang for your buck. Lobbying at the state level is not cheap, so a lot of associations are set up on a tiered model where the higher you pay in dues the more influence you have over the association,” Malone said. “You want to ensure that the board of the association is not in control over the members or that the higher tier members direct the association; the worst thing you could do is join an association where you do not have influence or control over the direction of the association.” It is also worth considering other benefits trade associations offer, from business-to-business events and social activities to advocating on your behalf to state government organizations, like the Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) in Colorado. “The CBA is also a big advocate for our members; not only do we propose and influence legislation, we act as a conduit between our membership and the MED, so if a member has a rule interpretation issue they can not only bounce their issue off of similarly situated business owners in the CBA, but the CBA will contact the MED and propose the question or request for a position statement,” Malone said. “A lot of owners do not want to bug the MED or raise any red flags with the MED, so the CBA acts on their behalf.” d