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Ep.277: Aaron Smith, NCIA

Cannabis Economy Podcast
Ep.277: Aaron Smith, NCIA

Ep.277: Aaron Smith, NCIA

Aaron Smith returns and shares his thoughts on the industry with NCIA’s Cannabis Business Summit as the backdrop. He notes that over 1,000 businesses are now members and that it’s a good time for the industry. NCIA is seeing well capitalized investors and ancillary industry’s involving themselves in cannabis. Aaron shares that Attorney General’s stance is certainly unsettling but not too far from the norm of the approach taken by past Justice Departments. He notes the numbers of course are with the industry with 90% support of medical and over 70% support of adult-use.  And on NCIA’s Lobby Days, Aaron notes that there has been exponential growth in involvement and the reception from elected officials continues to warm.

Transcript:

Speaker 1: Aaron Smith returns. Aaron smith returns and shares his thoughts on the industry with ncia cannabis business summit as the backdrop. He notes that over a thousand businesses are now members and that it's a good time for the industry. Ncia is seeing well capitalized investors and ancillary industries involving themselves in cannaBis. Aaron also shares that our attorney general stance is certainly unsettling, but not too far from the norm of the approach taken by pass justice departments. He notes the numbers of course are with the industry, with 90 percent in support of medical and over 70 percent in supportive adult use. Sand on ncIa has lobby days. Aaron notes that there's been exponential growth in involvement and the reception from elected officials continues to warm. Welcome to cannabis economy. I'm your host seth adler. Check us out on social with the handle can economy. That's two months in the word economy. Aaron smith, here we are yet again,

Speaker 3: right? A yet another cannabis business summit. There's so much new. So many things. first off, congratulations. Everywhere I look, there's boots. So let's just start there, right? I mean, a little bit of happiness I would imagine for you. Yeah. Ah, yeah, thanks so much. You know, this is a really exciting time to be in this industry. It's not really a surprise that the fastest growing industry in the United States would see so much interest in its, in its trade show trade association. And I'm really proud That nci has been able to grow to represent well over a thousand businesses and across the country and host a capacity conference like this. Yeah. So, I mean, we want it to take this as an opportunity for you, kind of give us from

Speaker 4: your point of view, kind of a state of the industry. And even before we got to start, uh, we saw a letter from attorney general sessions to congress saying, hey, the whole rohrabacher farr amendment thing, can you get rid of that? Because I really need to enforce the controlled substances act. So every day, you know, it's something new. What I know that you have been organizing this and this didn't just come out today or yesterday. So I know, you know, what are your thoughts?

Speaker 3: Well, you know, I mean, I, I think that certainly it's unsettling, but, uh, the department of justice traditionally under any administration has taken this approach that, you know, they, they shouldn't have their hands tied from enforcing any law that they, they see fit. And of course we don't agree with that and congress doesn't agree with that. And the vast majority now 71, 73 percent, depending on the poll. You look at rep a of americans actually say no, they don't want the federal government interfering with any state marijuana law when she started asking a poll poll polling questions about medical, then you're looking at 90 percent support, right? So, you know, I think that, uh, the, the adMinistration does see the writing on the wall and while there is some saber rattling a, beCause I'm sure that if mr sessions had his way, he would make the industry go away tomorrow, but he's also made statements like it's not Possible for him to do thAt. Uh, and That the cole memo is the guidance that they're currently operating under. And that was also in the letter,

Speaker 4: I think he called the cole memo was pretty good. Pretty good, yeah. Which will take right. And as far as making the industry go away, uh, you empirically know that that's impossible. Take us through a little bit more. You mentioned a thousand members. I'm now, you know, uh, and, and maybe even more than that, where are we with the types of organizations, the types of executives that you're seeing? How much of a difference is it from this time last year in this industry?

Speaker 3: We're certainly seeing a well capitalized investment investors getting involved in the space at a, at a rate we really never had experienced in the past. Uh, the, the level of seriousness that the way that this industry is being looked at by other industries looking to get their piece. I mean, for example, if you look down on the expo floor, you've got a company like sunbelt rentals that you see, you know, that they sell rental equipment for, for any basically construction in anything. Well, they, they have a booth here at the cannabis business summit because they see the cannabis markets expanding. And they want to be a part of it and there's other, a well established companies down there, uh, that, uh, which would I am very proud of is not only are they in the cannabis space, but by exhibiting here and by being members of ncia, these businesses are supporting the only effort on behalf of the industry to change these federal laws once and for all. And uh, it's the business sector that I think is, that is going to be the driving force to finally get us over the finish line to end prohibition.

Speaker 1: Aaron Smith returns. Aaron smith returns and shares his thoughts on the industry with ncia cannabis business summit as the backdrop. He notes that over a thousand businesses are now members and that it's a good time for the industry. Ncia is seeing well capitalized investors and ancillary industries involving themselves in cannaBis. Aaron also shares that our attorney general stance is certainly unsettling, but not too far from the norm of the approach taken by pass justice departments. He notes the numbers of course are with the industry, with 90 percent in support of medical and over 70 percent in supportive adult use. Sand on ncIa has lobby days. Aaron notes that there's been exponential growth in involvement and the reception from elected officials continues to warm. Welcome to cannabis economy. I'm your host seth adler. Check us out on social with the handle can economy. That's two months in the word economy. Aaron smith, here we are yet again,

Speaker 3: right? A yet another cannabis business summit. There's so much new. So many things. first off, congratulations. Everywhere I look, there's boots. So let's just start there, right? I mean, a little bit of happiness I would imagine for you. Yeah. Ah, yeah, thanks so much. You know, this is a really exciting time to be in this industry. It's not really a surprise that the fastest growing industry in the United States would see so much interest in its, in its trade show trade association. And I'm really proud That nci has been able to grow to represent well over a thousand businesses and across the country and host a capacity conference like this. Yeah. So, I mean, we want it to take this as an opportunity for you, kind of give us from

Speaker 4: your point of view, kind of a state of the industry. And even before we got to start, uh, we saw a letter from attorney general sessions to congress saying, hey, the whole rohrabacher farr amendment thing, can you get rid of that? Because I really need to enforce the controlled substances act. So every day, you know, it's something new. What I know that you have been organizing this and this didn't just come out today or yesterday. So I know, you know, what are your thoughts?

Speaker 3: Well, you know, I mean, I, I think that certainly it's unsettling, but, uh, the department of justice traditionally under any administration has taken this approach that, you know, they, they shouldn't have their hands tied from enforcing any law that they, they see fit. And of course we don't agree with that and congress doesn't agree with that. And the vast majority now 71, 73 percent, depending on the poll. You look at rep a of americans actually say no, they don't want the federal government interfering with any state marijuana law when she started asking a poll poll polling questions about medical, then you're looking at 90 percent support, right? So, you know, I think that, uh, the, the adMinistration does see the writing on the wall and while there is some saber rattling a, beCause I'm sure that if mr sessions had his way, he would make the industry go away tomorrow, but he's also made statements like it's not Possible for him to do thAt. Uh, and That the cole memo is the guidance that they're currently operating under. And that was also in the letter,

Speaker 4: I think he called the cole memo was pretty good. Pretty good, yeah. Which will take right. And as far as making the industry go away, uh, you empirically know that that's impossible. Take us through a little bit more. You mentioned a thousand members. I'm now, you know, uh, and, and maybe even more than that, where are we with the types of organizations, the types of executives that you're seeing? How much of a difference is it from this time last year in this industry?

Speaker 3: We're certainly seeing a well capitalized investment investors getting involved in the space at a, at a rate we really never had experienced in the past. Uh, the, the level of seriousness that the way that this industry is being looked at by other industries looking to get their piece. I mean, for example, if you look down on the expo floor, you've got a company like sunbelt rentals that you see, you know, that they sell rental equipment for, for any basically construction in anything. Well, they, they have a booth here at the cannabis business summit because they see the cannabis markets expanding. And they want to be a part of it and there's other, a well established companies down there, uh, that, uh, which would I am very proud of is not only are they in the cannabis space, but by exhibiting here and by being members of ncia, these businesses are supporting the only effort on behalf of the industry to change these federal laws once and for all. And uh, it's the business sector that I think is, that is going to be the driving force to finally get us over the finish line to end prohibition.

Speaker 4: Absolutely. I mean, sunbelt rentals know when, when energy is involved, whether they're renting you a generator or a, you know, helping you with the, you know, your lights, you know, that is just traditional industry. They get more traditional than sunbelt rentals when you mentioned federal laws, uh, we haven't caught up since the last ncia lobby days just last month, uh, which I'm sure it feels like longer for you, but a key takeaways from this lobby days versus past lobby days.

Speaker 3: Well, again, exponential growth seems to be the theme. We had almost doubled the number of attendees that we had from what we had in 2016. We were looking at almost 250 members out there. We had over 300 sit down meetings and appointments in congress and then overall when we included the drop ins that were done, we, we, we reached almost every single of the 535 congressional offices and the reception continues to be warmer. I mean this is change in dc is gradual. She was always incremental and so ncia is about taking our, our soft supporters and turning them into champions and getting people who are members of congress who are neutral and moving them up into the supporter category and then neutralizing the opponents and a and some opponents might not be neutralized but there are at least quiet down their opposition so it doesn't spread to the in the, in the, in congress and where's being taken more seriously than ever before. Even by Those who don't support the issue and Maybe won't support the issue if it Comes to a vote, but they are still much more willing and accePting to hAve a conversation and be receptive to our message when year after year we're getting more and more meetings because last year many of these offices they just wouldn't have met with us and the year before that even more would it have met with us and we keep seeing that progress year after year.

Speaker 4: How much of it is the sunbelt rental, the vacation of the industry, meaning they see back at home that their constituents are polling the way that they're polling or how much of it is tax revenue to states like Colorado. How are we connecting where we haven't before with folks that we know aren't even with us yet, but you know, why are those eyes open a little bit more ears open a little bit more

Speaker 3: mean. I think it's all of those things you mentioned and it's also that, you know, I think that that when a member of congress who represents a state that doesn't yet have legal cannabis, epa, they see the writing on the wall, they see what's happening and they're, they're hearing from their constituents, either they're not hearing anything or they're hearing that their are, they want access to medical cannabis or uh, and are getting more exposure to not just the consumers but also the business sector and the industry. And so, you know, as the industry grows, more people including policy makers and elected officials have exposure to the professionals that make up this industry and then they can easily understand that we are a legitimate professional business sector. No different really than any other in this country if that's what the general movement is both positive and forward any, not to quote them, but offline conversations about the change in administration and how that affects what we're trying to do here.

Speaker 3: Whether it be with a to 80, whether it be with anything else, more positive, more negative either way. Well, I mean, the administration and congress right now are consumed with issues that have nothing to do with cannabis, which is good and yeah, and that there's definitely a, that is definitely good on a lot of reach for a lot of reasons for us. maybe not for the country. Uh, but uh, so I mean the fact that this is even being discussed at any level during this kind of a really what I would consider it almost a crisis in our country is amazing. The fact that we had 300 meetings during this, during this situation where, you know, comey was fired and all this happened in the week of lobby days and we still had 300 congressional offices are more willing to sit down and meet with us.

Speaker 3: They weren't canceling meetings when, when the shit hit the fan. Yup. Uh, it really, really is telling that how much more seriously were being taken. But you know, this is not a priority for the administration. It certainly, there are no, no friend of the industry, but they're certainly not prioritizing any kind of a crack down as far as far as I could see. but then I go back to, you know, this, this letter, I appreciate the fact that you see it as saber rattling and I hope of course that it is, but this is pretty direct. I mean, he's literally saying the thing, uh, that we don't want them to say he's, that's what he's asking for. I've spoken with a congressman blumenauer. I've spoken with congressmen more backer, you know, the namesake of the amendment that we're talking about. They don't seem to want to resend it.

Speaker 3: So is that some of why you think that we're going to be okay, that, you know, congress is where we need it to be or at least the players that we know and love for that matter are where we need them to be or you know, why shouldn't we be worried about something as direct of a hit as that? Well, wait a, to be clear, we should be a little bit worried. We should be a little bit worried, but it should also just kick us into action and we need to continue to be, of course, businesses in the industry need to be in clear compliance with our state laws, need to be politically engaged out in their communities, meeting their members of congress, contributing money in some cases to have members that are supportive, of course, supporting ncia, which is their lobbying everyday on behalf of the industry.

Speaker 3: Uh, but it's, you know, this is still a lot of work, but I do think that members of congress and the end of the day, if given the opportunity to vote on this rohrabacher farr a amendment or, or robot or blumenauer amendment, uh, which is, that's a big uncertainty by the way. But if, if, if they are given the opportunity to vote on it or if leadership includes it into the, the, the underlying budget. Yup. Then, uh, I'm pretty certain that we have the votes as long as we continue to make sure that members of congress and their staff understand that an attack on cannabis is not just an attack on marijuana users. It's an attack on state sovereignty, it's attack on good jobs, and it's an attack on the will of voters who, including truMp voters who overwhelmingly support these issues without question, not to mention personal liberty.

Speaker 3: Um, you know, hey, why not? Let's throw that in, right? As far as federal legislation to let's dive in. You know, we mentioned the amendment. What else are we looking at? What else should we expeCt? What else do we, what are, what are we working on? All of that. There are a myriad of marijuana bills out there that looks great and you know, ncia is suPporting, uh, Any reform effort, um, but our priorities really remained focused on protecting the existing industry, uh, through, uh, in keeping roebuck or foreign place. Also advancing past that to a, actually restricting doj funding for being used to undermine any state law. Even adult use. We, we came only eight votes away from passing a such a spending restriction that's called a. We came with an eight votes of that before we saw the tidal wave of support for reform and the election.

Speaker 3: November. Yeah, november. So I think again, if that gets a vote, I think we have a really good shot at it. And then also, you know, there's a lot of discussion around tax reform right now with the administration and members of congress and leadership, you know, are looking and hoping to get corporate tax reform passed, which presents an opportunity for us to get to 80. He introduced into the conversation and the need to reform to ate. What are you hearing? Well, you know, I think every day, especially as the scandals keep blowing up every day a tax reform is looking less likely. Okay. Specifically on to 80. He though I'm looking at you and, and, and, uh, wondering what you might share here as far as, you know, general thoughts. Well, I mean it's, it's, it wasn't that long ago that somebody, you know, when you talk about so ate people's eyes glaze over.

Speaker 3: They don't even understand what you're talking about. But now it's really an issue of tax fairness that mainstream republicans or picking up a brochure and we love our leaders. Long time leaders in congress like congressman rohrabacher, congressman blumenauer, who is specifically pushed on the two 80 esg for a long time, but I'm really happy to see new blood coming into this effort. A congressman carlos curbelo from Florida has signed on as the lead sponsor of the to add bill in the current congress, not a demo, not a democrat. That's very important. He's a republican. And, and also very important is he sits on the house ways and means committee, which is the committee were any tax bill will, will originate a. And so he's very well positioned as a mainstream republican, uh, in, on that committee that oversees the tax code to really help us get this through. And uh, I think that that's, you know, that really is a direct result of the work that nci hate, ncia has been able to do because of our membership. And also just seeing the shift in public opinion. I mean, Florida, he congressmen propelled, represents Florida 71 percent. Seventy one percent for medical cannabis. Yeah. And, uh, you know, that's hard for any elected official to ignore given almost no elected official winds with that margin,

Speaker 4: which, uh, that right there is a longer conversation because we've got a president with the numbers that are similar to that, that did win. But I digress. As far as to age, are you hearing any good or bad ideas as far as pushing that across the line? well, I mean, I've heard rumors is what I'm getting at and I wonder if you've heard the same rumors

Speaker 3: to add reform. I mean, we have a legislation bipartisan legislation introduced in the house and the senate and uh, we don't actually expect to see these bills pass on their own because that's just, it's very unlikely that congress is going to pass any legislation on its own. Sadly. It's certainly not a marijuana bill. Uh, but we have a really good opportunity at getting to 80. He, it should included in a larger tax reform package. Should that package actually make it out of committee and under the floor.

Speaker 4: Right. And so the, the bigger fish to fry, so to speak, um, you know, we're, we're in a repeal and replace a mindset as far as congress is concerned. I wonder if we're maybe starting to haVe conversations about a repeal and replace of the controlled substances act. in other words, if this is language that's acceptable in modern day society and were even acting to it, why not throw something out there like that? That's a more of a seth to aaron question as opposed to official business. But what are your thoughts there?

Speaker 3: Really a lot of talk about changing the way that we look at marijuana and natalie's taking a states rights approach. Uh, there's, you know, there's congressman rohrabacher, his bill and others that do that. Uh, and I'm actually pretty confident that within the next four to five years, we will see some form of legalization at the federal level, probably probably a, a form of legalization that defers to states. So you mighT have some states that don't still don't have marijuana available, but that the fed, the federal government will allow states to opt into a regulated program. You four to five years, I think we have a good shot at it,

Speaker 4: you know, I think Jeremy Wise, because I've been talking about the, uh, we've been talking about how nothing's moving as far as the administration is concerned. We've been talking about the current sitting attorney general who most likely be the attorney general probably a four to five years. What makes you say that? What, what are we, what should I be grabbing onto when I hear you say that? Well, I mean it's changed

Speaker 3: pins exponentially, you know, and it's been, when you see the change in public opinion, every single poll thAt comes out will show a higher number than the pole before report of adult use legalization. We keep going in the right direction, right? And the States as the state's in falling like dominoes, you know, and I think that we already have support for states' rights, uh, on this issue. When you look at, you know, we looked at mcclintock pull this amendment, which basically was a d federalizing the marijuana enforcement that, you know, almost past few years ago, I think it would pass if it were, were, were put to a vote today and it's really a matter of congressional leadership coming along and allowing this issue to be heard and deliberated on and also a matter of congress being able to get its act together and do anything. So

Speaker 4: tHe congress coming together do anything. That's one thing. what about leadership, you know, um, are the lines of communication starting to thaw as far as those specific offices? Can I ask you that that way?

Speaker 3: Yeah. Well certainly on the medical cannabiS issue there is a, there is some political will to advance that leadership because, you know, it's, at this point everybody knows somebody who's been a help tremendously through the use of medical cannabis or has as a child or a parent who has and including members of, of congress and congressional leadership. So I think that that's, you know, congress is 10 years or more behind the public on issues like this. And so, you know, it might be, you know, first we see a medical, you know, medical marijuana legislation passed at the federal level or hopefully at least medical marijuana plus a states rights component that allows other states to experiment

Speaker 4: half step. We'll take a half step. We're fine with that. That's right. A Mississippi half-step uptown to the loo if I'm. All right. So you mentioned, uh, we, we've named checked a congressman polis a couple of times. Someone I've certainly spoken with as far as early coNgressional races in Colorado. We've got both perlmutter and polis who have said that they're interested running for governor.

Speaker 3: I kind of liked the fact that we've got two guys that their voice is, there is no doubt where they stand on this issue. What are your thoughts there? Oh yeah. I mean, I think, I mean, you see somebody like governor hickenlooper that the current governor who was outspokenly opposed to the amendment 64 and is now one of our, you know, he's uh, he's uh, one of our biggest allies. They're in. I mean, it would be better, he could be better, but, but he has engaged with the administration and the department of justice, uh, and asked that they respect state, state law. uh, certainly, you know, he's not a, he's not a cheerleader, but, you know, I think that we're, we will, uh, probably on either side of the aisle who's elected a governor in Colorado will support the state law there by which by this time will be very well established already is.

Speaker 3: And you know, it would be, I think just as governor hickenlooper is seen as, it would be disastrous to try to undo what would have successfully been put in place in Colorado. There we go. As far as, uh, the 2019 mayoral race in denver, who do you have there? We haven't announced a candidate as I'm sure you know, our, our, our, uh, our friend kayvon, kalbarri aussies, he's certainly got my votes. If I'm voting in denver this year, love, love kayvon and his, uh, act of activism locally and nationally without question. And that does bring us to kind of Colorado, California. This is where we've been. We were in denver for a cannabis business summit for a couple of years now. We've been here a couple of years. We're kind of busting at the seams here, uh, at the convention center in, in oakland. What are we thinking for for next year?

Speaker 3: I mean, this is, you know, above and beyond expectations I would imagine. YeaH. Growth is just been at such a clip that it's hard for us to keep up with it and it's a great problem to have. Yeah. And we are excited to announce that we're moving to the san jose convention center next year, which is a much, much larger venue. Uh, this can be next july. You can check this out on the cannabis business summit.com and that will be a, the new home for this event for at least next year. And then who's to say what's going to happen in 2019? Who knows? I'd looks like aaron knows.

Speaker 3: Okay, fantastic. That is where we're going with the event. Uh, I very much appreciate that. Just as far as membership, you mentioned in early, if I'm not a member yet and I'm in the industry, are looking to get into the industry, what should I know about where my money's going and how else I can be confident in, in you and leadership and you know, the mission and the vision and the values. Anything that you haven't mentioned yet that you should to, to current and future members? Well, if you're involved in this industry and, uh, have any interest in your, in your own businesses future, it's absolutely imperative that you support the political efforts that nci is undertaking on behalf of the industry. We don't do, we don't lobby congress everyday because we just signed it. Interesting. We do it because our members pay us to do it.

Speaker 3: And just like if you are a, if you have a cultivation facility and you need lights in there to keep the plants growing, you're going to pay the energy bill. It's absolutely this. In the same way. We need to support financially lobbying efforts. So membership starts at $100 a month, goes up to $500 a month, very nominal rate, uh, all of our proceeds go to support a political advocacy in Washington dc through lobbying as well as advocating in the media, uh, to ensure that we're putting the industry's best face forward. ANd I enCourage anybody who's not yet a member but lIstening to this podcAst, visit us@thecannabisindustry.org to find out more. Love it. Fantastic. Thank you. A final question, always the final question on the soundtrack of your life. One track one song that's got to be on there. well, hang on. What did I say last time? Did you have this? I know that what we've discussed in the past certainly are your punk music knows. I know, we've certainly discussed that. We've also discussed, um, maybe, uh, some, some eighties, late eighties when we listened to the cure for that. Perhaps we discussed the last time. Yeah, that's right. I wouldn't classify them as a punk post punk post punk. Exactly. If we're being efficient, let's, let's go with susie and the banshees. Uh, this time around, I'm dating myself, of course you are. Aaron's making so much. Thank you so much.

Speaker 1: And there you have Aaron Smith, you know, he's, um, he's got a tough job in that he has to both be appreciative of the current reality. Yet also, you know, showcase the fact that things are positive in a different way than they ever have been. So very much appreciate a aaron's time. Appreciate your time. Stay tuned.

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Cannabis Economy is a real-time history of legal cannabis. We chronicle how personal and industry histories have combined to provide our current reality.