Cannabis companies must keep up with constant changes in industry rules and regulations

In the absence of any formal, legally required training for workers in the cannabis industry, business leaders are taking compliance, rules and regulation training into their own hands.

Suppose new regulations were just announced in your industry. How long would it typically take to have all your workers notified and trained to understand them? Now, imagine a new set of regulations comes out just a few months later. And then again, a few months later.

In the cannabis industry, this is actually happening. And because cannabis regulations vary across city, state and sometimes county lines, there’s an added pressure felt among cannabis companies to ensure complete compliance under these laws.

Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia have passed laws legalizing cannabis in some way. Illinois was the 11th and most recent state to legalize the plant for recreational use. Each state has its own unique set of rules and regulations that its cannabis businesses are required to follow.

Compliance issues exist and are ongoing throughout the entire cannabis landscape. While the cannabis industry is heavily regulated when it comes to compliance, training, on the other hand, has very minimal requirements, said Max Simon, founder and CEO of Green Flower Media.

“It’s something that we’re trying to lobby for in government, because cannabis is a psycho-active product that has tremendous different types of implications for how people use the product. Yet for the most part, the people who are dispensing the products, and even a lot of times the people who are making the products, really aren’t required to do very much training at all to make sure that they’re thoroughly comprehending the importance of their role,” Simon said.

Green Flower Media, which was created in 2015, is a cannabis education platform offering certification programs and courses on regulations and compliance, sales, cannabis extraction, medical application and more.

“We also have an upcoming cannabis compliance and regulation certificate, which is really designed almost for the macro-level of understanding all the layers of compliance requirements throughout the entire industry,” Simon said. “At Green Flower, we’ve really taken on the breadth of covering the enormity of different compliance issues to make sure that whether it’s the individual retail employee or it’s a company that needs to understand the entire landscape, we’ve got training to support them.”

New Kids on the Block

Because it’s such a new industry, some of the people joining it have zero cannabis experience or education, said Brian Dewey, vice president of sales at Kiva Confections, a California-based cannabis edibles company.

Simon said this is an enormous problem that the industry needs to solve because of the seriousness of having untrained, uneducated people providing service in the space.

“It happens every day — where people get terrible service or products,” he said. “All it takes is one overdose of a cannabis edible for somebody to never want to do it again.”

Dewey said Kiva Confections employees at all levels, from delivery truck drivers to the retail workers to the C-suite, take Green Flower Media courses that are relevant to their positions and earn various certifications through the program.

“And when laws and regulations change so rapidly — every six months — you constantly have to pivot so you have to continue your learning and education in cannabis along the way,” he said. “It’s difficult to do that if you don’t have that sort of initial foundation that Green Flower provides us.”

Additionally, Dewey said Kiva Confections sits on a number of state and national boards that allow them the opportunity to comment on laws and regulations prior to them passing.

Planning for the Future

As cannabis companies continue to grow, some executives have decided to expand their C-suites to help scale, regulate and unify their operations. Chicago-based cannabis company Cresco Labs recently added Chief People Officer Angie Demchenko to the team to help its stores and businesses across 11 states operate around a shared talent management strategy.

Demchenko is the first female in Cresco Labs’ C-suite and their first-ever chief people officer. The organization doesn’t have a chief learning officer, but in the absence of one, Demchenko said training is a really big focus.

All new Cresco Labs hires learn the company’s standard operating procedures for the company’s systems and equipment. If an employee’s position requires them to know certain regulatory requirements — which most employees do, Demchenko said — training on those is also offered. The rest of a Cresco employees’ training happens within their department.

“We also have onsite compliance individuals,” Demchenko added. “Specifically at our grow facilities, if something were to change, the onsite compliance folks would actually meet with the different departments and divisions of the grow facilities and give them a rundown of what changed, why it’s changed and what would change in our process, and that would very quickly at a quality level get incorporated into our standard operating procedures.”

Like Kiva Confections, Cresco Labs is also sometimes tapped in to comment on upcoming legislation or new industry regulations, Demchenko said, which has been helpful as Cresco continues to grow.

“We’re growing so quickly that we can’t lose sight of why we all started in terms of helping patients from a medical standpoint, but also from a social equity regard,” she said. “I think that as leaders think about how we scale these operations, we’re also always focused on how to tie that back to the vision and our corporate goals.”