Over a decade ago, Kenny Morrison opened up two medical cannabis collectives in West Los Angeles and Venice. Years later, he founded VCC Brands (formerly the Venice Cookie Co.) and co-founded its Washington-based sister company, Evergreen Herbal. Morrison is taking the cumulative experience of owning and operating retail businesses, manufacturing and production businesses and applying it to the California Cannabis Manufacturers Association (CCMA) as President and as a Board Member of the California Cannabis Industry Association (CCIA.) CCMA has been actively lobbying for fair regulations for the future of legal cannabis business in California. These regulations are essential, as California’s cannabis industry is projected by New Frontier Data to be worth more than $6.59 billion by 2025.
Morrison recalls how he has seen California’s cannabis industry transition from the pre-Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MCRSA) “wild west” era to where it is now. “Over the past I have operated in a shadowy environment completely devoid of regulation, and I’ve navigated an environment that experienced overly burdensome freshman regulations,” Morrison told CULTURE. “I’m more of a survivor than a business man. But a friend recently pointed out that in corporate America those two things are often one and the same.” VCC Brands has expanded to sell infused honey, chocolate, cookies, candy and beverages. All of Morrison’s products, such as the award-winning Cannabis Quencher line, are all labeled clearly and concisely and are consistent with state regulations. Leading by example, Morrison has shown dedication to promoting responsible practices in this industry.
As president of the CCMA, Morrison is paying close attention to regulatory changes as California lawmakers attempt to build a bridge between MCRSA and Proposition 64. “Simply put, we want to ensure a strong business climate for California cannabis businesses, namely producers of cannabis and cannabis products,” Morrison said. “This keeps us very focused and allows us to rely on and work closely with other great cannabis trade associations, like CCIA and California Growers Association (CGA).” The CCMA represents trusted cannabis brands, many of which are represented by board members, including Jetty Extracts, Cheeba Chews, Altai Brands, Kiva Confections, 710 Combinator, Herbalcure and Hashman Infused.
Morrison is on the board of the CCIA along with Kristi Knoblich, who is COO of Kiva Confections. Knoblich also chairs the CCIA’s Manufacturing Committee. “CCMA is laser-focused on the issues of top concern to manufacturers. With this approach, we can more effectively tackle issues from two different angles.” The two groups are able to work in tandem on issues and support each other where needed. Knoblich said that each of the two groups support the other by working together.
“Simply put, we want to ensure a strong business climate for California cannabis businesses, namely producers of cannabis and cannabis products.”
Members of the CCMA are committed to tracking and tracing each of their product batches, and they use third-party testing multiple times. Consistency of their products is crucial for building a foundation of trust with their consumers. “Our members are some of the oldest and well-known brands in the business,” Morrison said. For those interested in becoming a part of CCMA, the organization accepts new members by invitation.
The CCMA helped to successfully lobby Gov. Jerry Brown to make alterations to state laws that regulate cannabis businesses. Many of the CCMA’s concerns were addressed in the governor’s Trailer Bill Language. Although nothing is finalized before the gavel strikes, few groups have done more to protect cannabis businesses in California than the CCMA and the CCIA. Originally, the exclusory distribution license in California was only available to third-party companies. The CCMA helped push for open distribution.
Open distribution helps infant businesses enter the cannabis space. By providing California cannabis cultivators with legal outlets of distribution, they are essentially discouraging out-of-state diversion. “Manufacturers’ products have logos imprinted directly on them, or packaging that says, ‘Made in California’ on it, so a manufacturer’s temptation to divert outside the state is far, far less,” Morrison said.
Morrison expects that California could face similar problems that plagued Oregon when recreational cannabis testing standards were first implemented. If necessary changes aren’t made, thousands of businesses and their investors may be negatively affected. “We anticipate the need for additional third party testing labs, or increased throughput at the existing labs to ensure that cannabis and cannabis products can get to market in a timely fashion,” Morrison said.
“Over the past I have operated in a shadowy environment completely devoid of regulation, and I’ve navigated an environment that experienced overly burdensome freshman regulations. “I’m more of a survivor than a business man. But a friend recently pointed out that in corporate America those two things are often one and the same.”
The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) is currently the only union that represents cannabis workers in California. When it comes to unionization, Morrison is comfortable with the UFCW than the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT). “[The IBT wants] more members. God bless ‘em. They are going to gain some from the cannabis industry, I would imagine,” Morrison explained. “However, the UFCW has been occupying the cannabis space for years, long before these Teamsters got interested and has demonstrated a much better understanding of the needs and culture of our particular industry.”
Other business owners could benefit from the way Morrison has handled his own businesses, prioritizing his employees while simultaneously prioritizing his customer base. “You have to treat your staff as good as you treat your customers,” Morrison advises. “And of course HACCP [Food Safety] plans and published [Standard Operation Procedures] don’t hurt either.”
Cannabis Survey Seeks Input from New Jersey Mayors
A survey put out by the New Jersey League of Municipalities (NJLM) and the Cannabis Advisory Group is seeking the input of state mayors regarding the newly legal cannabis industry in New Jersey.
“The purpose of this survey is to identify the most pressing challenges and concerns facing their communities in preparation for the sale of both medical and adult-use cannabis and help inform and guide our work with the State Cannabis Regulatory Commission,” said Mayor of Clinton, Janice Kovach, who is also the president of the NJLM.
The NJLM hopes to gather data to help them learn more about what challenges they may face as local government representatives. The survey asks about whether municipalities will be allowing cannabis businesses, and to what degree they will be allowing legal cannabis sales, grows or other facilities in their areas.
“It’s an exciting new landscape in New Jersey, but marijuana legalization also poses a lot of unknowns, particularly on the local level,” said Jacqueline Ferraro of the Cannabis Advisory Group. “To help ensure the industry’s success, we felt it was important to gather a comprehensive understanding of the concerns, questions and predispositions of our municipalities. By teaming up with the League, we hope to help policymakers, entrepreneurs and community members strategically address those issues that are most pressing as legalization moves forward.”
She claims that the plan “is to hear from all of our communities on the impact of recreational cannabis—especially what they want to see from the League and the Advisory Group as resources.”
“We are a diverse state of 565 municipalities and there is no one size fits all,” she added. “This survey will help guide the tools that need to be made available for informed decisions.” The survey will provide more insight about cannabis and what New Jersey can expect when it becomes officially legal on January 1, 2021.
Medical Cannabis Success in Three-Year-Old Prompts Legal Review
The family of a toddler with a rare form of epilepsy is asking for a legal review of cannabis oil in Norwich, England.
Three-year-old Charlie Hughes suffers from West syndrome, a condition that can cause him to experience up to 120 seizures every day. With the addition of a proper medical cannabis oil regimen, his parents Alison and Matt Hughes report that he now suffers from less than 20 seizures per day. According to The Guardian, the National Health Service (NHS) prescribed Charlie with a number of pharmaceutical drugs in the past that not only caused him to experience lethargy regularly, but did not effectively reduce his seizures.
Ever since Charlie began taking medical cannabis, he has become more vibrant and alive than ever before. “Charlie is happier, more alert, far more vocal, constantly babbling and takes an interest in his toys,” Matt told The Guardian. “He can feed himself and loves nothing more than some rough and tumble with me. He’s come alive again. No one knows definitively what effect all those anti-epileptic drugs in combination with each other have on the development of the brain. If he wasn’t asleep or completely zonked out, he was just seizing. Cannabis has massively improved his general wellbeing.”
The Hughes family has found its medicine of choice, but it is a complicated process due to the fact that although medical cannabis oil is legal, it still remains unlicensed in England. The family is forced to source Charlie’s medicine privately, because the NHS will not prescribe cannabis to them directly. Similar instances for other families have caused hardships and stress, so the Hughes are taking the issue to court.
Having seen the impressive results, Matt has partnered with the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) for legal aid. As of July 30, a court justice granted permission to call for a formal review due to reasons such as “alleged inadequate consultation” and “alleged failure to take into account relevant considerations,” as stated in court documents.
Professionals such as Professor Harry Sumnall from Liverpool John Moores University believe that a formal review could help the NHS open up the conversation to prescribing medical cannabis in the future. “Nice has argued that the guidance is clear and that there is nothing stopping the NHS from currently prescribing cannabis-based products. Perhaps a successful outcome for the claimant will lead to clarity over this or generate momentum for prescribing in the claimant’s particular case,” Sumnall said.
NICE has provided the NHS with 35 days to contest this claim, which will conclude at the end of August.
Creating partnerships can prove to be beneficial in any industry, and the cannabis industry is no exception. When two institutions have something of value to offer, they often can accomplish more together. The researchers at Washington State University (WSU) and the team at the Biopharmaceutical Research Company (BRC) no doubt hope to realize this kind of successful partnership. Their alliance was announced in early November, in which BRC will provide analytical services to researchers at the university. The university’s researchers will also have better access to cannabis as a result of the partnership.
As a pharmaceutical manufacturer and analytics company, BRC was built by its founders to provide a solution to the lack of certified cannabis needed for scientific research. The team at BRC is comprised of horticulture experts, academics, pharmaceutical manufacturers and much more. The company website states, “We take our responsibility to provide the scientific community with superior quality cannabis seriously.”
The chair of the WSU Collaborative for Cannabis Policy, Research and Outreach, Michael McDonell shared with CULTURE, “We would like to have the ability to obtain cannabis for research that allows us to conduct animal and human research related to health and public safety. Once BRC obtains a schedule one license to grow cannabis for research, we are hoping we will be able to obtain cannabis for research from BRC.”
The university hopes to expand its work with cannabis once the BRC receives a license to cultivate cannabis. “Our ongoing work is primarily related to animal research focused on the impact of cannabis on health. We are also conducting human research, but none that requires a Schedule 1 license,” McDonell explained.
The research team at WSU has already been allowed cannabis possession by the federal government. However, other difficulties in conducting research linger. Despite the partnership McDonell said the “difficulties remain the same,” but the alliance gives possibility for future growth in research.
“We would like to have the ability to obtain cannabis for research that allows us to conduct animal and human research related to health and public safety.”
Traditionally, cannabis research has been met with resistance and multiple legal obstacles. It was only in August of this year that U.S. Department of Justice decided to expand the 2016 program by allowing other cannabis producers to obtain licensing to supply cannabis for research. Before this decision, those looking to study cannabis could only use product from one federally approved producer. As demand for “research cannabis” continues to climb, the federal government needs to meet the demand with better policies and accessibility for research.
Yet the question remains, why is it still so difficult to obtain cannabis for necessary and beneficial scientific research? Although recreational cannabis is not yet accepted at the federal level, it is hard to deny that more studies on cannabis would provide various benefits to public health.
While advocates, patients, caretakers and recreational consumers of cannabis wait for these necessary changes to cannabis research accessibility, BRC is currently looking to analyze, import and one day grow cannabis for itself. The company is already registered with the Drug Enforcement Administration to conduct research on cannabis derived products. Right now, BRC waits for the approval of the federal government as they have already filed for a cultivation permit. Products produced by BRC could then be used for federally approved studies.
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