DENVER, CO - JANUARY 1, 2014: At midnight, Rudy Garcia shares his pot smoke with his girlfriend Kalaja Olguin as the two celebrate not only the new year but the beginning of the legalization of pot in Colorado while thousands of people celebrate the new year on the 16th Street Mall in Denver, Co on December 31, 2013. (Photo By Helen H. Richardson/ The Denver Post)

Marijuana insiders: These are the most critical issues facing a maturing industry

Banking, testing and philanthropy top their lists

Things are working up for this to be quite an intriguing year for cannabis enthusiasts. The Cannabist Show’s host, Ricardo Baca, asked his guests, “What’s the one facet of legal marijuana you’d like to see worked out in 2017?”

Weighing in were: Bong Appetit co-host Ry Prichard; BDS Analytics director of dispensary relations Greg Shoenfeld; Scott Jordan, director of business development for Dynamic Alternative Finance; and Ricardo himself. Here are some of the views from deep within the cannabis space:

Greg Shoenfeld, BDS Analytics

“I’m always interested in seeing this market become more legitimized,” says Shoenfeld. “Obviously the elections in November showed how much momentum cannabis has across the country, but at the federal level there are as many question marks if not more than ever. Taxation and banking are still really holding back growth at a national level and even within some of the states.”

Shoenfeld would love to see “a little bit more clarity and acceptance that this industry is here to stay. The cat’s out of the bag. Now let’s bring it into the mainstream and let these businesses operate like any other business.”

Ry Prichard, Bong Appetit

For Prichard, an area needing attention is the testing of cannabis and infused products. “I feel like there’s the most amount of regulatory work to do there, and oversight needed,” he says. “Because literally every business — at least in Colorado — is subject to the testing labs, whether or not they can release a product. … And the fact is (the testing labs) all use different standards, they use different equipment, they have people who may or may not be trained to actually operate that equipment on a high level, and certainly not interpret those results.”

As a result, he says, marijuana production businesses are “sort of held hostage by other businesses who are not necessarily doing everything up to the standards that you would see in other agriculture testing industries.”

As for who should figure out how to conform the testing industry, Prichard says: “I think ultimately the state of Colorado or the state of California or any of these other localities needs to make the hard call and say, ‘We’re taking this on.'”

Scott Jordan, Dynamic Alternative Finance

Jordan agrees with Shoenfeld that banking is key. “I would love to see that the business owner has access to banking and banking services,” he says. “It just seems to be so unfair and so hypocritical that the government will take tax revenues, whether it’s in cash, or whatever form, but they won’t allow the legal marijuana business owner that’s abiding by all the laws to be able to deposit money into a bank, as well as pay electronically like every other business does.”

“I’m hoping (federal tax code) 280E is going to be resolved and changed, because it just is unfair,” he adds. “That law was never designed for the legal marijuana business owners, and it’s unfair that they’re saddled with 30 percent or so higher amount of taxes. In some cases they’re not able to actually make money when you have to factor in the expenses that they are unable to deduct.”

For Jordan, these banking issues are about fairness. “I hope that the marijuana business owners will get treated fairly,” he says. “Because right now, they are treated like third-class citizens and I don’t think that that’s right.”

Ricardo Baca, The Cannabist Show

Baca says that the most important thing the marijuana industry can do in the year ahead is “to start looking at this idea of corporate responsibility and giving back to the communities that house them. This is an industry that leaves an impact on its neighborhoods.”

He gave a few examples of philanthropy by marijuana businesses. “For every vape pen cartridge Bloom Farms sells in Califonia, they donate a healthy meal to a food bank. The Clinic in Colorado throws a massive golf tournament and also does the MS Walk and donates hundreds of thousands of dollars to the national MS Society. … Good Chemistry, a Colorado marijuana business, they’re just all over the place. They are giving cannabis to patients in need who can’t afford it and they’re also donating money to the causes they believe in most, including a lot of money to … LGBTQ-friendly organizations, which are close to Good Chem’s heart.”

Watch the full episodes of The Cannabist Show featuring:
Greg Shoenfeld & Ry Prichard
Scott Jordan
Ricardo Baca

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