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3 Areas of Focus for Cannabis Companies in California: Regulation, Technology and Scalability

Change is the only thing guaranteed in the cannabis industry. Fast-moving companies are constantly having to keep on top of evolving regulations, while fine-tuning the scalability of the business and making adjustments to keep costs down. This truth was evident at the 2020 International Cannabis Business Conference in San Francisco last month. At the Hilton in Union Square, entrepreneurs and lawmakers at California’s longest-running cannabis industry B2B event traded insights on industry trends, state regulations and theories on the market’s future.

These were the hottest topics at the event:

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In addition to trying to master the growth or sales of their products, cannabis companies in California are dealing with various regulations from community to community, licensing issues, and a host of other requirements. Regulation is a major driving force behind businesses’ need to find and adopt technology solutions that might make their operations more efficient, but that can also lead to higher operating costs, threatening to cut into their bottom line. Examples of technology investments needed mainly for compliance purposes:

  • Video monitoring of business premises, with footage kept for at least 90 days
  • Meeting the accounting requirement for IRS Code Section 280E
  • QR codes, required for California-licensed cannabis retailers
  • Mobile payments to ease the process and recordkeeping of legitimate transactions

Technology: Always Aiming for Better Efficiency

Of course, compliance is not the only driver for adopting new technologies. But the decision to take on a new system may depend on the maturity level of your cannabis company. A common sentiment we heard is that more established cannabis businesses see the value in investing in technology and taking advantage of helpful and useful features that can streamline the business and automate processes. But startups in this space don’t see that value — without the tough experiences of going through unnecessary mistakes, they may wrongly believe they are operating error free. The fact is, efficiencies and the accuracy of your information increase the more you can move away from manual entries.

How to know whether to move forward with a particular technology? Tips we heard at the conference:

  • Get reviews (experts who know your industry can help with this).
  • Ask for testimonials from existing customers similar to your situation.
  • Inquire about ongoing service you will receive and the expertise of the support team once you move forward with a purchase.

Scalability: How to Smartly Grow the Business?

When expansion is the goal, upfront work is needed to grow at the right pace. Speakers at the conference emphasized the need to leverage technology solutions, focus on building efficiencies, and ridding the company of manual processes that will bog you down as you grow. When evaluating how to become more efficient, pen and paper processes should go first (are you still keeping a log on a wipe board in your office?).

Conclusion: How to Keep Up with Changes in This Industry?

The ICBC confirmed what we already know: The cannabis industry is moving quickly. Leafly’s annual Cannabis Jobs Report reported a 15% year-over-year increase in the number of full-time jobs in the legal cannabis market as of January. The latest figures have the cannabis website calling “legal marijuana the fastest-growing industry in America.”

To keep such statistics going in the positive direction, cannabis companies should be equipped for making the right calls in the midst of an ever-evolving market. In high-margin times, you can make mistakes and still be profitable, but it won’t always be this way. Margin compression and rise in competition are bound to be around the corner. That means the company needs access to credible, timely data. Comparisons are necessary for noticing trends and for building reliable forecasts so that you can make smart decisions. Build in flexibility in your infrastructure for when a change in strategy becomes necessary. And you need to have a pulse on what is happening in the market and insights on making the right moves for growth. Finance experts who have helped startups and growing companies like yours can help you find the way forward.

Lauren Kershner keeps the marketing engine humming at Kukuza Associates. She joined parent company RoseRyan in 2016 and runs campaigns and programs, digital marketing and more. She also hosts The Joint, an ongoing event series for Kukuza Associates featuring hot topics in the cannabis space.