In the new episode of the Cannacurio Podcast from Cannabiz Media, my co-host, Amanda Guerrero, and I discuss the latest U.S. cannabis cultivation licensing data. We also speak with Kaliko Castille, Director of Marketing, and Amy Rose, Brand Partnership Manager from the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), a leading cannabis industry professional organization focused on defending and expanding the industry at the federal level.

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Follow the Link to Listen to Previous Episodes of the Cannacurio Podcast.


Cannacurio Podcast Episode 4 Transcript

Amanda Guerrero: Welcome to the Cannacurio podcast, powered by Cannabiz Media. We’re your hosts, Amanda Guerrero and Ed Keating.

On today’s show, we’re joined by the National Cannabis Industry Association and their Director of Marketing, Kaliko Castille, and their Brand Partnership Manager, Amy Rose. We’d love for you guys to tune in with us later on in the show, but as always, we’re going to check in with Ed and see what’s he’s learned from the Data Vault this week.

Ed Keating: Thanks, Amanda.

The team recently finished up on getting some periodic updates from states like Washington, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Oregon. These come in on a pretty regular basis, and this is how we update the files.

We’re also continuing to get responses from the dozens of open record requests we’ve been sending out to the states, so they’re tending now to focus a lot on hemp because the states are finalizing those license lists. We continue to send those out. We expect throughout the month of April to be getting more of that information into the team, and then eventually into the product itself.

Amanda Guerrero: Understood, understood. We’ll be on the lookout for those updates come April.

Ed, we talked about this a couple podcasts ago, regarding new license holders being granted cultivation licenses and starting construction. But, I saw a news article today that Acreage Holdings just began construction on one of their Northeast Florida licenses. Do you think that we’re going to start to see more operators begin construction amidst COVID-19?

Ed Keating: Well, that’s a good question. I think the one in Florida that you’re talking about, they got approval back in October 2019, and there were a lot of news stories about that. And then the one today that came through, that basically said they’re rocking and rolling on it. It used to be, I think, a roofing factory down in Florida.

Amanda Guerrero: Oh, wow.

Ed Keating: Yeah. We’re working, actually, on a podcast and data piece on what the first quarter has been like, in terms of cultivation licenses. Just a sneak peek that it’s been California and Oklahoma that have been cranking out those licenses, but we can talk a little more about that at the end of the podcast.

Amanda Guerrero: Sounds good to me, Ed. Well, thanks again for the updates.

As I mentioned, on today’s show we’ll be joined by Kaliko Castille and Amy Rose of NCIA. Stay tuned for more updates from the Data Vault.

Welcome back to the show everyone. Today, I’m joined by Amy Rose and Kaliko Castille of NCIA. Welcome to the show, everybody.

Kaliko Castille: Hey, great to be here. Thanks for having us.

Amy Rose: Hey. Yeah, thanks again for having us, excited to be here.

Amanda Guerrero: It’s our pleasure, it’s our pleasure. For our listeners out there, you may not know but we have partnered with the National Cannabis Industry Association over the last year. They were actually one of the first trade associations that joined us for our partnership program that we started, so we’re so excited to have you guys on the show here. I know you guys have been working on a lot of things here in quarantine.

Why don’t we give our audience a quick introduction? Kaliko, tell us a little bit more about yourself and NCIA. And Amy, you as well.

Kaliko Castille: Yeah, thank you Amanda. I really appreciate the opportunity. My name’s Kaliko Castille. I’m the director of marketing at the National Cannabis Industry Association. I’ve been at NCIA for about three years now.

NCIA obviously started in 2010. We’re heading into our 10th year in operation right now, representing the cannabis industry at the federal level. Really, my job at NCIA is helping to grow the brand and get more information out to our members so that they can help grow their businesses and ultimately help us grow our voice in Washington, DC.

Amy Rose: Hey everybody, my name is Amy Rose. I am the business development and strategic partnerships manager here at NCIA. I’ve been with NCIA for about three years as well. Kaliko and I actually joined around the same time.

Yeah, I’ve been in the industry since 2016, so it’s been, I guess, some people say a lifetime. But, I worked at a dispensary and a testing lab before this, so I’ve seen a few different aspects of the industry before. So, just bringing all that knowledge here at NCIA and just building our partnerships as well as member base here at the association.

Amanda Guerrero: Wow. You guys both have had some deep seeded roots here within the industry. Why did you choose to work with NCIA?

Kaliko Castille: I’ll jump in first, real quick. I actually started as an intern from NORML, back in 2011. At the time, most politicians wouldn’t touch marijuana with a 10 foot pool, they were very quick to let you know that when you would reach out to them trying to lobby them on marijuana issues. I started as an intern.

From there, I went on to start a political action committee in Oregon, raising money for legalization up there. Started up my own dispensary in Portland, Oregon when medical dispensaries first went live. Then, have done sales and marketing for various cannabis startups up until this point.

So really, working at NCIA has been this really awesome opportunity to marry both the activist roots that I came into this industry, or this movement with, and the industry skills that I’ve taught myself through opening a dispensary, and writing the business plan, and doing all the things that it takes to get a business off the ground.

Working at NCIA really, for me, is the perfect marriage between activism and, I guess, capitalism if you want to.

Amy Rose: Yeah. I guess, my story’s a little bit different. Actually, I don’t come from the policy side of things. NCIA’s the first organization that I’ve worked with that is really focused on policy. I more came from hospitality and just more interest in the industry in itself. Not to say that I’m not interested in …

I mean, the whole thing with NCIA is that we all care so much about the passion, and I think that all of us staff can say that – that we really just care about the mission. It’s been an honor to be a part of it, and just looking forward to what the future holds with it at NCIA and the industry in general.

Ed Keating: Great. Congratulations on your 10th year anniversary. One of the things that I wanted to dig in is what makes NCIA unique as a national trade association? There aren’t many that can carry off that national reach like you do. So, what makes you stand apart from the others that are out there?

Kaliko Castille: I would say one of the things that really makes us stand apart is, obviously, how long we’ve been around. I think there have been a lot of organizations who have tried to stand up and be able to start trade associations or member organizations.

Ed, I know you have some trade association background, and it’s not as easy as it may look sometimes. So, I think one of the things that makes us unique is that we have been at this for a really long time.

Really, the movers and shakers of the industry are either members of this organization or have been members of this organization and exited from the industry.

I think most people who are seriously considering or are seriously operating inside of this industry see us a resource both for educational purposes as well as just making those business connections so that they can help grow their business.

Ed Keating: Absolutely. You’re right, I used to work at a trade association in the software and publishing space. One of the things that I learned in my seven years there was that most associations, and I think NCIA may fit under this as well, typically fulfill three big roles. They’re there to protect, promote, and inform for the industry.

What I’d like to do is dig into a little bit of that, especially on the protection side to start with. Right now, with the COVID crisis, we’re seeing the importance of a trade association to represent the industry on topics like essential versus non-essential businesses, whose open, whose not.

Also, our industry is being left out of the stimulus package, so I wonder if you and Amy could comment on that and what NCIA is doing on both those two big issues?

Kaliko Castille: Absolutely. For the essential versus non-essential business conversation, I think for us, this is something at a macro level. I don’t think anybody really could have expected, prior to this pandemic, the idea that the cannabis industry would be deemed essential by most states across the country.

But, we are finding that the cannabis industry, and the movement in general, has done a really great job of getting themselves embedded into the communities that they serve. These communities are also calling to make sure these people are still staying open.

From our standpoint at NCIA, we’re really trying to help promote this conversation as much as possible. We’ve really been pushing the hashtag on social, #CannabisIsEssential.

We’ve started up a COVID-19 resources page on our website that people can check out from our homepage that actually gives regular updates about news from the industry and the different states that are having this conversation around essential businesses, as well as regular updates from our government relations staff.

As you mentioned, cannabis being a federally illegal business is something that is barred from getting any sort of federal relief funds, so a lot of these programs that are happening through the Small Business Administration necessarily keep out cannabis businesses, so that is something that our government relations team is hard at work on.

We actually just sent out a call-to-action email yesterday to all of our members, and anyone who’s in support of the cannabis industry, to reach out to your representatives. Congressman Blumenauer and Senator Rosen, Jacky Rosen from Nevada, are circling a letter to leadership to bring up this specific issue – to see that state legal cannabis businesses do get the necessary relief they need for this super important time.

Ed Keating: Pivoting over to Amy on the state association side, what are you seeing from the states? There’s that old adage that all politics are local. Are you seeing anything interesting in any particular states that you could share with us?

Amy Rose: Yeah. We have our Allied Associations program, where we work with the state and local associations, and it’s really because we don’t really focus on the state policy. We’re more focused on federal.

But, I think the main thing was really just making sure that cannabis was deemed essential when the states were deciding what businesses were going to be staying open during this time. It seems like a lot of the states have been on top of that.

Now, we’re dealing with this issue that the states that cannabis is deemed essential, but yeah, they’re not given the opportunity that any other businesses with access to funding or anything else like that. That’s really what the states are dealing with right now, I think.

Ed Keating: Well, I’m here in New England and seeing what’s going on here in Massachusetts, where suddenly, well, the recreational businesses, they’re not getting all the love. I guess, from what I’ve read they’ve seen an uptick in lots of people suddenly getting medical cards in the state. I think with the hodge podge of state rules and regulations, even with essential, non-essential, it definitely makes for some challenging times.

Amy Rose: Yeah. When they decided here in Colorado, specifically, when they said cannabis is an essential and only medical is going to stay open, that caused chaos in the state. It was actually quite frightening to see, so I’m glad that they changed their mind, and I’m hoping that the other states that aren’t allowing it right now will, too.

Ed Keating: Yeah, absolutely. Now, earlier I said protect, promote, and inform. A lot of what associations do is make their members smarter and make people who are stakeholders smarter. From an events and from a training perspective, what is NCIA doing in addition to the website updates, Kaliko, that you referred to earlier?

Kaliko Castille: You mean specifically around the COVID response?

Ed Keating: Well, COVID and really, everything else. Just because we have COVID doesn’t mean that the industry comes to a halt.

Kaliko Castille: Sure.

Ed Keating: General issues that you guys are trying to fight, as well.

Kaliko Castille: Yeah, I appreciate it. At NCIA, we put on four annual trade shows, up to 40 networking events a year, so we very much pride ourselves on putting together unparalleled education for our members, and usually do serve that up through events.

This recent pandemic has definitely had us re-imagining how we can be getting this information to our members, and helping them continue to operate their businesses, even during a global pandemic.

One of the things that we have been focusing on is in 2019, we started finally doing some webinars. We were doing one a month. It was working out really great. We had some great responses. Now that we’re in this new digital era where everybody’s sheltering in place, and everyone’s trying to keep up to date, we are now doing weekly webinars.

We just recently launched what we’re calling our Industry Essentials webinar series, and this really will be the place where we will be pushing a lot of the education throughout the upcoming months.

Our trade show that would be in the San Francisco Bay area in June was postponed until September, so we’re going to be repurposing a lot of the content that we would otherwise be putting through our trade shows and our regional networking events, we’re going to be repurposing that to push it out through this webinar format. Definitely check out our website, and go to our webinar page and you can see our latest schedule for those.

Ed Keating: Well, that’s terrific, and I’m sure the industry will appreciate that because it’s so important to stay informed and also to stay connected. I think for a lot of people, it’s a great way to make sure they’re getting all the resources that they need.

Now, looking ahead, as hard as that is given the environment we’re in, are there any new initiatives or legalization efforts that NCIA is working on or embarking upon?

Kaliko Castille: Well, I know right now, obviously there’s a lot of attention being paid to the state level initiatives that are going on right now, which obviously as Amy said, we’re focused on the federal level. So we’re not intimately involved in those campaigns, but certainly keeping our eyes on what’s happening, whether some of those initiatives will ultimately be successful, despite not really being able to do a lot of in-person signature gathering.

Then, at NCIA as it relates to legalization in general, part of that blends into this COVID-19 response conversation, where our government relations team really is looking for any avenue to potentially continue to move the ball forward.

Obviously trying to get relief for cannabis businesses through the SBA and through some of these stimulus programs, but then, also, potentially looking for avenues to get, say, banking passed during this response to COVID.

Then also, we put out a white paper. Our policy council developed a white paper last year that really is NCIA’s vision of what a post-prohibition plan would look like, and what sort of regulatory framework, and what agencies would be involved with regulating what part of the cannabis plant. We do have that white paper available on our website.

Our team is currently working on potentially crafting a federal bill that would mirror that framework. I definitely would encourage folks to check out our website, go to the policy council page, and download that federal regulations white paper, because that really is the roadmap that we hope to turn into legislation and ultimately get passed at the Federal level.

Ed Keating: Terrific, terrific. One last question that I wanted to ask is as you both look back on the last 12 months, what has been your biggest achievement? You can answer that as corporate or personally, but which ever one you choose is up to you.

Amy Rose: I guess I’ll start here. I mean, I don’t have anything that’s been huge, I guess I could say, but over the last couple years, just the road to really having actual career goals, and working with NCIA, and just really coming to a place where I actually feel like I believe in the mission.

Doing what I do best at NCIA is really creating this partnership program that we have with our associations, building that, and working with them to really have the same message when we are talking about legalization on a federal level, even though these different state and local associations are working, really, at the state level.

On a personal note, I did just get a puppy, and that’s been huge for me and a great distraction during these hard times, just to keep it light.

Ed Keating: That’s great.

Amy Rose: These times are tough, and I know that the industry will get through it, and I’m excited to see where we are at the end of all this crisis. As an industry, we’ve dealt with a lot of hardship, so I know that we can get through this together.

Ed Keating: Well said, well said. Kaliko?

Kaliko Castille: Yeah, I would say as an organization, within the last 12 months our biggest … maybe slightly out of the 12 months. Actually, it would have been August.

Last year, the Safe Banking Act passed the House, so it made it out of committee around this time last year. We had our Lobby Days in May, and then, ultimately, it ended up passing the full House in a vote of, I believe, it was 321 to 103. That was a huge win for our organization, because we’ve obviously been pushing that bill for six years since it’s inception.

But then, also, more broadly for the industry and the movement as a whole, because that’s the first pro piece of legislation for cannabis that’s ever passed any House of Congress. That was a really big deal for our organization, but frankly, our members who have helped support us and made this effort possible over the last 10 years. As an organization, as an industry, that was definitely one of the biggest achievements.

Then for me, personally, it’s really helping, right now, NCIA weather the storm. Obviously, putting on trade shows, we get a lot of revenue from that, so for us, it’s diversifying our portfolio, putting out new options for our members to be able to help grow their businesses, and then find new ways for us to potentially generate revenue as well, so that we can ultimately stay afloat during all the craziness as well.

Ed Keating: Excellent. Well, thank you for those very thoughtful answers.

Amanda Guerrero: Yeah. As I mentioned earlier in the podcast for our viewers, NCIA has joined the Cannabiz Media family as one of our trade association partners. This partnership began over a year ago.

I know both Amy, you and Kaliko are active users within the platform. But, I wanted to ask, why did you guys decide to join the Cannabiz Media trade association partnership program?

Kaliko Castille: I can jump in first. I think Larry, Ed, and I had actually connected a couple years back, when Cannabiz Media was first coming onto the scene. At the time, I was working on the business development side for NCIA.

When I first got a look at the platform it’s, to me, a no brainer. The ability to be able to search all of the various licenses across the country and have it updated on a regular basis is, I would say, not matched anywhere else, and also invaluable.

For us as an organization, we obviously want to be representing all aspects of the industry, especially licensed businesses. That was one of the things for me. I thought it was a no brainer when you get a look at the platform and realize that you have the ability to reach out to all of these folks.

Amy Rose: Yeah. From a sales perspective, just because I just joined the sales team a few months ago, and it’s been great for us to be able to navigate the industry through active license holders, where they are, and just being able to filter through the platform has been great.

Amanda Guerrero: Awesome, I love the feedback. I really do. I enjoy this section of our interview segment because it really makes my heart happy to hear other businesses and associations acknowledge something that I also see as a no brainer as well.

You guys might have already answered, but how does your team currently use this tool? As a trade association, you’ve got a few different aspects here. How do guys use the tool?

Kaliko Castille: Amy, you want to go ahead with that?

Amy Rose: Yeah, sure. From a sales perspective, we use it to reach out to the license holders, like I mentioned. Especially when new states come on, I love the ability …

Not new states, new licenses within the states, I get those email updates. Then, we can see whose been added as a license holder, so it’s been great for us to see how the industry’s been growing, what kind of businesses are popping up in those areas, and then being able to reach out to them when they first come on. Because just getting them involved with NCIA from the start is important for the industry and for the association.

Kaliko Castille: I think one of the awesome aspects, one of the ways we’ve used it is specifically for our regional networking events. The ability to be able to have a tool where you can actually draw a radius. We could put in the address of our event, draw a 100 mile radius, and find all of the licensees within that.

That really helps our team really be able to narrow down who are the folks in a specific region that we’re going into that we should know and should be talking to. It allows us to reach out to them ahead of time, and hopefully develop a relationship and a conversation even head of the even. Then ultimately, getting them to come out to an event and eventually join NCIA so that we can help grow the organization.

Ed Keating: That’s great to hear. Also, we do try and alert our customers when new states do come online. I think it was a few weeks ago, West Virginia shared information on their applicants, so people who will get licenses at some point.

We know that some of our associations and customers use that, just to get a feel for where things are happening, are there any familiar names in there, maybe from some multi-state operators, et cetera.

One question that I wanted to dig into is trends you see playing in the industry now, as we look forward. Are there any markets that you think are interesting?

Or even, just going even more broadly, I’ve seen a lot of interest in hallucinogens and how some areas are trying to deregulate that, decriminalize it. I think it’s happening in Oregon, Denver, and a few other places. Any thoughts on that?I Is that anything that’s on your radar screen? Or, does it fall out of scope of NCIA?

Kaliko Castille: It unfortunately falls outside of the scope of NCIA. Personally, I think there are folks on staff, including myself, who definitely support those efforts to decriminalize. I think a lot of us who got into this industry came up as drug policy reformers, so I think, in general, we’re in favor of being able to reform those policies. I couldn’t speak much in terms of what the trend line is along that and what potential it may hold for crossover of industries or the popping up of a new industry.

I definitely think, moving forward, once we get out of COVID and back to, hopefully, some sort of normalcy around conversations at the federal level, we will get closer to having a real conversation around ending prohibition at the federal level, which I think from a standpoint at looking at licensees, I think that’s going to help lead us to a place where we can have more licensees popping up around the state and not see some of the consolidation that we’ve seen in the last couple of years.

Ed Keating: Yeah, that makes sense, especially looking at it from, as you said, that federal standpoint where NCIA has had this decade-long track record of, really, moving the needle and being able to maybe help guide others that are trying to achieve those same aims. That’s great information to hear.

Kaliko Castille: Yeah. I wanted to add, back on Amanda’s last question also, just about one of the other ways we use it is I know our government relations team really appreciates some of the information and insights that they can glean from the program as well, because it obviously helps them when they are making the case to elected officials and talking about what is the actual footprint of the cannabis industry.

For state level associations who are thinking about joining the partnership program, I would definitely say that’s another helpful tool – outside of trying to drive business directly to the association – is helping with the advocacy and the education you’re doing with those elected officials.

Ed Keating: It’s good to hear, and I think as you both know from being on the association side, sometimes the most powerful metric you can do is simply to do the arithmetic and count everything up and say, “There’s 100,000 cannabis and hemp licenses in the United States, and they employ this many people.”

That economic impact, especially when it’s aggregated, can be a really powerful number for all the stakeholders in the space.

Kaliko Castille: Absolutely.

Amanda Guerrero: Yeah, well, we definitely appreciate your partnership, as one of our first trade association partners, as well as our guests on today’s podcast.

Kaliko, Amy, thank you so much for your time today. It really has been a pleasure getting to learn more about you, as well as NCIA.

We’ll have all of their contact information included at the end of this podcast as well, for anyone that wants to get in touch with NCIA. Thanks again, guys.

Kaliko Castille: Thanks so much. We really appreciate it. Congrats on doing this podcast. You guys are doing a great job and really look forward to listening to future episodes.

Amy Rose: Yeah, thanks for having us, and I look forward to seeing you post-quarantine at, hopefully, a trade show or something.

Amanda Guerrero: Oh my gosh, that’s the dream. I do miss the trade show circuit. All right, when we come back, we’ll have some more updates from Ed as to what’s coming up next, so everyone stay tuned.

Ed, what’s coming up next?

Ed Keating: I’m working on the next Cannacurio blog post, and this one is looking back on first quarter and where did all the cultivation licenses crop up.

The top line view is we had almost 1,700 new licenses issued in the first quarter. Half were from California, and almost half were from Oklahoma. I think it’s about 94% came from those two states.

So, that has really continued the trend that we’ve seen for some time, but as we saw with dispensaries last week, it’s Michigan that pulled into third place. They’ve actually been increasing their license issuance, and I think they had 49 cultivations. Behind them, in fourth, was Oregon.

The other interesting point is that it looks like Oklahoma is slowing down. The trend line over the last four or five quarters is definitely pointing down, whereas California, it’s declining a bit but not nearly as much.

We’ll see with Oklahoma. Have we finally reached the saturation point, or are there lots more people with $2500 burning a hole in their pocket and a barn where they’re going to grow more cannabis? So, we’ll have to see.

Amanda Guerrero: Well everyone, Ed’s words exactly. You’ll have to stay tuned to figure out if the point of saturation has occurred in Oklahoma.

Thank you so much for joining us on today’s podcast. We’re your hosts, Amanda Guerrero and Ed Keating. Stay tuned for more updates from the Data Vault.