Ensuring a Path to Craft Cannabis
Guest post by Amanda Reiman,Secretary of the International Cannabis Farmers Association and Head of Community Relations, Flow Kana and Kenny Morrison, CEO, VCC Brands.com and President, California Cannabis Manufacturers Association
Wine clubs, microbreweries, farmer’s markets, are all opportunities for companies to interact with their consumers. Knowledge about where food and other products come from and the impact that their creation has on the environment is becoming increasingly important to the public. Fair trade labels, organic production and small craft production is important to the public and is beginning to enter the discourse around cannabis. This is especially true in California, which boasts a robust community of artisan farmers and product manufacturers. Lack of a statewide system for the past 20 years has created an environment where cannabis companies rely on the relationship with the consumer and the interactions with their base through direct to consumer sales and events.
With the passage of the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act and Prop. 64, rules and structure are being created for state level licensing. The goal of licensure should be to invite people out of the unregulated markets. Incentivizing people to voluntarily transition to a regulated market is of critical importance. Restrictive regulations, that are exclusive rather than inclusive, will lead to unintended choke points and delays, thus encouraging diversion.
The ability of cultivators and manufacturers to obtain distribution licenses and distribute their own product is crucial in ensuring the survival of small cannabis businesses and creating a holistic marketplace for patients and consumers.
A mandatory independent distribution system for alcohol has favored large producers at the expense of small companies. While newer regulations are seeking a path for small producers to access consumers directly, the historic use of a mandatory independent distributor has resulted in the current wine industry breaking down like this: Of the approximately 675 wine distributors in the US, the top 3 (0.004%) comprise 54% of the market. Of the approximately 9,000 wineries in the US, the top 5 (0.001%) comprise 61% of the total wine market.
Allowing small businesses access to dispensaries also encourages competition and results in dispensaries having a wider array of products on their shelves, and consequently increases choices for medical patients. Open–not mandatory– distribution ensures healthy competition. The ability of beer manufacturers to hold a distribution license has allowed for growth. Many of California’s best known brewers do their own distributing; including Sierra Nevada, Stone Brewing, Hangar 1 and Anheuser-Busch. Like craft beer, cannabis distribution would benefit to include many licensed participants so that products can get to market quickly, especially given the vast distances that California operators span.
Furthermore, the model of allowing these entities to distribute their own product encourages ownership of the product. Manufacturers and cultivators with distribution licenses would be held to the same standards as other license holders. It’s their name, brand, licensure, reputation, and livelihood at stake. Furthermore, the distributor makes their money on sales, not on quality. The distributor’s brand name is not on the product, so they have very little risk if the product becomes of poor quality due to lax storage or handling standards while in their possession, etc.
Finally, in contrast to the end of alcohol prohibition in the 1930’s today’s technology allows for a more flexible distribution model while still retaining the ability to track and trace the product through the supply chain. Safety measures like Track-and-Trace software, GPS tracking, monitoring systems for vehicles, barcodes, and RFID tags should be leveraged to preserve supply chain integrity and consumer safety, and to prevent diversion.
Allowing cultivators and manufacturers to hold distribution licenses is In the spirit of developing policies that will undo the illicit market rather than reinforce it, and provide opportunities for small producers to compete with larger players, allowing the flexibility to self distribute is crucial in reaching those goals. The future of cannabis in California can be craft, sustainable and driven by small producers and manufacturers, and consumers in California can enjoy relationships and knowledge directly from those who produce these products.
Amanda Reiman, PhD MSW, is an internationally recognized cannabis expert and public health researcher. Dubbed “The Brain” by Elle.com, Dr. Reiman is a leader the field of cannabis as a substitute for alcohol and other drugs and has presented her research all over the world. Also an expert in cannabis policy on the local, national and international level, Dr. Reiman was the first Chairwoman of the Berkeley Medical Cannabis Commission and currently sits on the Oakland Cannabis Regulatory Commission.
After receiving her PhD from UC Berkeley, Dr. Reiman was the Director of Research and Patient Services at Berkeley Patients Group, one of the oldest dispensaries in the country, and the Manager of Marijuana Law and Policy for the Drug Policy Alliance, a national non-profit that was engaged in the drafting and campaigns of legalization initiatives across the country and abroad.
Dr. Reiman is currently a lecturer in the School of Social Welfare at UC Berkeley and an Affiliate Scientist with the Alcohol Research Group. She also conducts research through Research Triangle International. Her research centers on cannabis as a substitute for opiates and how dispensaries fill the role as health service provider. Reiman also serves as the Community Manager for Flow Kana and the Secretary of the International Cannabis Farmer’s Association.
In 2006, Kenny Morrison co-founded two well-known medical cannabis collectives in West LA and Venice Beach. In 2008, Kenny founded VCC Brands – a manufacturer and distributor of infused products including top-selling brands, 4.20 Bar, Venice Cookie Company, and Cannabis Quencher. In 2012 he expanded to the state of Washington as Evergreen Herbal, assisting in the creation of regulations with the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board. Evergreen Herbal built Washington state’s first cannabis licensed hydrocarbon extraction facility, and allowed local fire departments to use it as a training ground. As a social entrepreneur and industry advocate, Kenny currently serves as President of the California Cannabis Manufacturers Association (CCMA) and on the board of directors for California Cannabis Industry Association (CCIA) and California Growers Association (CGA). He is a committee member of FOCUS: the Foundation of Cannabis Unified Standards. Please visit VCCBrands.com and FocusStandards.org to learn more.
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