Before they sell out: Get tickets to NY Cannabis Insider’s conference on Nov. 4 in Tarrytown, featuring a slew of expert panelists, free business consultations and professional headshots, networking, lunch and a happy hour.
Roughly 120 people gathered at The Rail Line in Syracuse for NY Cannabis Insider’s third in-person live event on Friday, a few days before the application window for Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) licenses closed in the state.
New and old members of the marijuana industry heard from cultivators, consultants, laboratory personnel, nonprofit experts, lobbyists, and others across three panel discussions focused on the biggest issues in NY’s cannabis ecosystem.
The first discussion, “Must-haves: Hiring, banking, insurance and security,” featured Cecilia Walsh from the NYS Department of Labor; Liz Ely from Dutchie; and Dave Myers from Cannaspire.
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Under the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), registered cannabis dispensaries must have a security plan. To maintain effective security, Myers advised being strict with hiring practices.
“One of the items that we consult on in the security aspect is hiring,” Myers said. “It is a cornerstone, it’s a backbone to a successful security plan, and it starts with a pre-employment background screening and vetting process.”
Obtaining a good insurance plan can give entrepreneurs some form of comfort when worrying about employee or business liabilities, according to Myer. However, Elizabeth Ely, another panelist and a senior insurance manager for Dutchie, said that when it comes to all things cannabis, there’s actually very few companies offering coverage.
This despite the fact that businesses are in need of general liability coverage, as well as product liability, commercial property, crime coverage, employee dishonesty, workers compensation, employment practices liability coverage, crop coverage and cargo and transit coverage.
“So, more often than not, you can package all of your property and your liability products into one policy,” Ely said.
Cultivators have their own lists of liabilities to consider when growing cannabis in the state, and New York’s outdoor grow requirements only complicates the growing process and increases product loss.
“For growing perfect flower outdoors, it’s going to be very challenging,” said Beak and Skiff CFO Mack Hueber, a panelist during the second discussion on “Understanding upstream: Growers, processors and labs.”
Testing products can also be hit or miss. After cannabis is harvested and broken down into flower, it’s tested and sent to labs for sample results to be confirmed. Shawn Kassner, the lab director at Kaycha Labs and another panelist, said his company tests for heavy metals, pesticides, salmonella, E. coli, and microbial and potency levels while processing the substance.
“Laboratories are more concerned about having accurate results, making sure that we provide the best information that we can so that the best decisions can be made,” Kassner said. “We want to make sure that we’re working with our processors and growers to be as open and transparent as possible.”
To Hueber and other panelists, such as Aaron Leentjes of UNIFI Gardens, it’s critical to have accurate lab results all the way through, so that time and money contributed to their product is not wasted.
After watching her mother use medical cannabis to subdue cancer side effects, Danna McMullen, a Syracuse native, attended Friday’s event to learn more about the plant. Now that recreational use is legal, McMullen wants to know what happens next in terms of starting a business and using the product to help others like her mother.
“I’m just like, what happens now as far as the processing,” McMullen said. “If I’m someone who wants to open up some type of medicinal business, like a store that has different smokes or cigarettes, things like that, then how would I go about doing that?”
During the third discussion, “Free to low-cost resources for cannabis entrepreneurs,” panelists highlighted a need to prioritize a supportive community.
For cannabis entrepreneurs coming from marginalized backgrounds or applying for a CAURD license, Scheril Murray Powell, COO of the JUSTÜS Foundation, advised attendees to not be overwhelmed by the application process or the amount of work that goes into running a business.
“A lot of people recognize how important the first round is,” Powell said. “People will discourage you and say, ‘Don’t apply, it’s not a perfect fit, you don’t meet all the qualifications.’
“If there’s any opportunity for you to apply for a first round or second run round or an early round, apply,” she said.
At the JUSTÜS Foundation, Powell works with legacy operators (those who worked with marijuana before legalization) to include them in the new industry without facing the fear of legal retribution. The organization works to eliminate the barriers of costs, fees and stressful applications by giving legacy members access to experts involved in the cannabis world.
Marie Poisson of Syracuse aspires to open a consumption space for anyone to visit and learn more about cannabis while also having the option to use recreationally at the space. Before she can start her establishment, she attended the Friday conference to learn how to run a successful cannabis business and network.
Poisson said building relationships with people with similar business aspirations allows more opportunities to stay up to date on regulations and need-to-know details
“Information changes really fast, and having a solid network gets you that information that’s going to be accurate and helps with your business planning,” Poisson said.
Lantern, a cannabis delivery service, is another company focusing on the social equity and social justice components of legalizing cannabis. Katie Neer, general counsel for Lantern, said during the panel that the company runs an incubator program dedicated to social equity applicants in any market, but agreed with many of the panelists throughout the night that better communication and resources from the Office of Cannabis Management are beneficial now and in the future.
“There’s a lot of resources coming from community-based organizations, community groups, industry associations, private companies who want to live and breathe the values that they preached when they were advocating to end prohibition, like Lantern,” Neer said. “What we need to see is OCM and the state start to implement the mandates for the resources they’re supposed to provide that are included in the MRTA.”
NY Cannabis Insider’s Syracuse conference was sponsored by the New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association, Cannaspire, Syracuse University College of Professional Studies, the Cannabis Workforce Initiative, LakeHouse Cannabis, Chimera Integrations, and NYSIF. The social equity sponsor, LaToya Monique LLC, provided complimentary tickets for select attendees and Married Iguana Media provided complimentary professional headshots for attendees.
Sponsorships and vendor spaces are also available at our full-day conference in Tarrytown, NY, on Nov. 4, 2022. Reach out for pricing and availability by contacting Lindsay Wickham (email@example.com) for more information.