High Spirits

#020 - Live from Las Vegas! ft. Michael Cooper (MadisonJay Solutions) and Chris Lindsey (ATACH)

November 30, 2023 AnnaRae Grabstein and Ben Larson Episode 20
High Spirits
#020 - Live from Las Vegas! ft. Michael Cooper (MadisonJay Solutions) and Chris Lindsey (ATACH)
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

We're live in Las Vegas for MJBizCon 2023 and giving you the realtime update with some surprise guests. Join Ben and AnnaRae as they welcome Michael Cooper from MadisonJay Solutions and Chris Lindsey from ATACH. We discuss the main takeaways from the week and the general sentiment felt in and out of the conference and the numerous events surrounding the show.

Navigating the labyrinth of rules in the cannabis business is a sport in itself. But, much like sports, it’s all about strategy and adapting to ever-changing rules of the game. That’s why we'll take you inside the MJ Biz conference to learn from industry pros about the latest developments and strategies. And let’s not forget about the world of hemp. We discuss the extension of the farm bill and what it means for hemp legislation, while exploring the exciting burgeoning market for cannabis beverages. 

We share insights on everything from the need for a federal framework to the dangers of unregulated products. We also chat about the lessons learned in forming effective trade associations and the importance of representing diverse interests. We wrap things up with a call to unify our vision to end the war on drugs, and discuss the pressing need for a clear strategy in the cannabis industry. 

We did it! 8:30 AM on Thursday of MJBiz. Episode 20 is in the bag! 

--
High Spirits is brought to you by Vertosa and Wolf Meyer.

Your hosts are Ben Larson and AnnaRae Grabstein.

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Remember to always stay curious, stay informed, and most importantly, keep your spirits high.



Speaker 1:

Hey everybody, welcome to High Spirits. I'm Ben Larson and actually with me today, Anna Rae. Hello everyone. So for the first time since we first started recording, this, yeah, in person.

Speaker 2:

We had to come to Sin City to do it.

Speaker 1:

This is great.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I'm so happy. I'm tired and delirious and just stoked to be with you.

Speaker 1:

This episode brought to you by Morning Recovery. Have you tried Morning Recovery?

Speaker 2:

I have not.

Speaker 1:

Pretty great. I don't know how good it is for my health because you drink it while you're drinking. If you're a drinker and you wake up in the morning without a hangover.

Speaker 2:

I don't know much about it, but I love a brand that has an obvious name. You don't need to explain it. Yeah, it's called Morning Recovery. I know what that's supposed to do.

Speaker 1:

I now buy them not only in advance, so like I traveled to Vegas with them just to make sure I had them, but I buy more than I need so I can gift them to people and elate them with a hangover for you morning.

Speaker 2:

Have you talked to them about infusing them with cannabis yet?

Speaker 1:

That's a good idea.

Speaker 2:

I'm going to write that down. Yeah, this podcast is not brought to you by Morning.

Speaker 1:

Recovery, no, no, no, in fact, actually today. So we're having our morning mixer, which is just like I want to like. I want to give ourselves a pat on the back. It is high five, high five, it's 830 and change, and we're here on a Thursday in Vegas.

Speaker 2:

This is day four of Vegas for me.

Speaker 1:

So today I woke up at 645.

Speaker 2:

I got fresh for y'all, yeah, but I feel really stoked to be having this event this morning because we've had all these amazing people that have been supporting us and making this content. That's right. We both have been in this industry for feels like a lifetime and have a lot of friends and colleagues. There's just all this business transacting going on all around Vegas and I keep running into people at 1130 at the chandelier bar at the Cosmo and I have no voice left. So I'm just excited to be like fresh showered and not having an agenda, just to like build community and hang out.

Speaker 1:

I too showered this morning, so we are winning. Oh, but no. But so today, you know, I would love to to thank Genetica for sponsoring our event and making sure that we're here and we have a bunch of lovely beverages I can I'm not going to rattle through the list right now, but a huge thank you to all the beverage sponsors, for today we people are not going to leave thirsty Absolutely or uninfused.

Speaker 1:

More drinks here than humans coming, but yeah, and Sarah Falvo is out in the other room just making sure that everything looks perfect and and everyone's going to be fed. So so yeah anyone in Vegas is not watching this. I'm pretty good I could say swing by, but like who am I talking to?

Speaker 2:

Well, so those that are listening or watching, maybe we should just do a quick rundown of what's going on in Vegas right now.

Speaker 1:

What is going on in Vegas, I mean, I think things are feeling pretty positive.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I'd say the sentiment is high, no pun intended. Yeah, so I have actually been at the Remind conference, which is the psychedelic arm of the MJ Bizcon, for the past two days, nice. I've been going to that during the day and then moving into my cannabis networking and meeting business business thing afterwards.

Speaker 1:

So the psychedelic conference in Colorado earlier this year was massive.

Speaker 2:

The maps conference. Yeah, there was, I think, 20,000 plus.

Speaker 1:

How is this in?

Speaker 2:

comparison, this is like a fraction of the size. There's probably about 500 people that have been there or were there for the last couple days, but it was a great. It was a great event. I had a lovely time. I would say that there's not much business to be business thing over in the psychedelic space right now, but there's a lot of really passionate, excited people that are exploring. Okay, and you know I'm always down to explore, so, yeah, really fun conversations. I got to meet a whole bunch of people doing cool, weird stuff with form factors. I saw some sublingual mushroom, some things or others. I saw some gushers that had all of the all of the psychoactive stuff taken out, but it was still a mushroom, something or other, I don't know. There's some. There's some fun stuff happening.

Speaker 1:

I have many questions, but on a Thursday in Vegas my brain can only handle cannabis, you know, and that's really what we're here to talk about.

Speaker 2:

But I do think that it's been interesting to get to have the psychedelic conference paired with the cannabis ones so that we can, I think, make it easier for people that are in cannabis to learn about it. But I do think that the two industries are really very different, yeah, and their trajectories will be different.

Speaker 1:

A lot of familiar faces right like I. Like one of my gripes is like how quickly we lost a lot of advocates to the mushroom. It's like they got tired of fighting for cannabis and like have moved on to like advocating for for psilocybin.

Speaker 2:

I don't see it that way, but I you know there are so few people there that I wouldn't say that. Say that there were tons of cannabis people there.

Speaker 1:

Okay.

Speaker 2:

Because it's still a small event and I hope that they stick with it and that they build it over time and that the whole space continues to grow in a positive way. Good, yeah, but yeah, then I went to a party on Tuesday night from the Flower Hire folks, which was really fun. Grassland's put on a massive party last night. They're a PR company in the space. I went to a kind of New York focused party sponsored by Pax last night also. Whoa, I've just I've been on, you know, on the party train. Who hasn't?

Speaker 1:

I me, I haven't.

Speaker 2:

What are you doing here? You want to know how many parties I went to Zero. So why do you think so much more hungover than me?

Speaker 1:

Well, I okay, so party. I did not go to a registered event. Well, with the exception of Attach, I did go to the Attach captains of the industry event. I go to that one every year. You know great to just see people rally around like the movement right, like the.

Speaker 3:

you know the work that we do on the Hill, all that kind of stuff.

Speaker 1:

So you know it was excited to be there. In fact, we have a couple guests today. I know, and one of them was there last night hanging out with me, the other, the other guest today. Was that an event that I probably should have been it, which we'll just talk about that less later?

Speaker 1:

Can't do it all, no, we can't do it all and I did very little and it was purposeful because I had a 9 30 am Meeting yesterday morning at this 8 30 today. Yes, I have a 7 30 meeting tomorrow which I'm supposed to be back in the Bay Area.

Speaker 2:

I thought you were sleeping tonight.

Speaker 1:

I am Just gonna happen miraculously. But yeah, interesting, interesting this year. I think what really frames it up for me is that there's just a lot of hemp activity. Yeah, a lot of people are heading to this MC nutraceuticals event last night.

Speaker 1:

I did not go, I didn't either, oh yeah but it's, it's interesting to be at a Cannabis conference and have like large, large, profitable hemp companies throwing these events and it's um, I Think it's. I think 2024 is gonna be an important time for us to kind of merge this conversation between hemp and cannabis and try to get people on the same page, because it's like just two different realities going in parallel at the same time except that I will say that the cannabis people.

Speaker 2:

I'm starting to see this intimate change. There isn't as much anger and snake oil talk. I think that there's more acceptance and understanding of what's happening on in the hemp space and People are starting to realize that they either pay attention and be open to that Maybe that's a path that their business should explore, yeah, but that fighting against it kind of blindly is gonna get us nowhere, and so I I see that there is a natural coming together and, yeah, I see that you know the networking and all that all the talking is is integrated, like there's everyone there's, there's not a line down the middle of the room. Interesting, so Should we bring some of our guests on?

Speaker 1:

I think so, okay, yeah, we're gonna do one at a time, one. Okay, we just got one extra. Yeah, so first up, We'll just go in order of arrival. So we we have my, my fellow board member, executive board member for NCIA, with Michael Cooper for from Madison J solutions. Michael, your mic is sitting there, thank you.

Speaker 3:

Yeah hey guys. Hey, how are you? I'm good. I was going to make it sound like I just heard you say you know, come on down at 830, and I just wandered over. I was watching live. Guys, you show up. You could be on air in minutes.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

So you guys clearly know each other. This is the first time yes yes, give me the, give me the two minutes sure.

Speaker 3:

So Most notably for this, I I'm the secretary of the board of NCIA. That's how Ben and I get to spend a lot of time together. Ben is doing a very important work for us as the treasurer, so For everyone out there listening, another thing that Ben does for this industry it's volunteer his time for the arduous task of being the treasurer for a nonprofit trade association. I Also co-chair policy, which is how I first got to know Chris, who is sitting off camera, but I promise he really is here and people get to get to hear from them soon enough. But I'm a lawyer. By training Madison J solutions, we provide regulatory strategies for our clients.

Speaker 3:

Essentially, if you're in this space, you need a regulatory strategy exactly a business strategy is inherently dependent in this space, in our view, on what the rules let you do or they let your clients do. So we help people build out a plan To leverage opportunities that are going to be there in the launch markets, expansion markets, over time, across industries. If you want to be in hemp and cannabis, how do you make a singular brand that works there? So that's what we do.

Speaker 1:

That's my two-minuteer awesome and and If you're ever in New York, michael knows where to get pizza, that's true.

Speaker 2:

Ben and.

Speaker 3:

I, new York, is home, so we're based at a New York City and when Ben was in town, I think I sent him like 20 different Neighborhood specific pizza suggestions for where we could go, depending on where Ben is going to be, because I feel like that's my job as the New Yorker. There's a lot of great food in the Bay Area, but I feel like pizza is a thing that people would say okay, new York, I should get pizza. Yeah.

Speaker 2:

Well, let's talk about regulatory strategy for a minute, because actually one of my favorite topic. So thank you very much.

Speaker 3:

Thank you.

Speaker 2:

So I you know, when I started my first cannabis business, I thought of myself as an entrepreneur and not an advocate or an activist. And I realized pretty fast but if I was gonna build in cannabis, that I needed to know what the fuck was going on the policy and also understand how to affect it. Yeah, and that really did turn me into an advocate and.

Speaker 2:

I, while I haven't been on the NCA board, I have been on the CCA board in California and I have, and now I mostly work on business strategy, and I often talked I use a sports metaphor when. I talk about Regulatory strategy, so I'm gonna give it to you please.

Speaker 2:

Which is that I think that there's a lot of folks who are building and they don't like compliance. That's maybe why that they're in cannabis rules have never applied to them right. But I think about it is like if you are a football player running back and you're trying to like get across To get a touchdown, and I don't even like sports. I'm really bad.

Speaker 3:

But I still see it trying to follow. Know what are they?

Speaker 2:

good at are they gonna come at you from behind, from the side, and and that is how you win the game, and so I think that folks that don't understand all the regulations that play they just are also then not executing on the business opportunity that's in front of them to understand, because it's not about loopholes, it's actually about winning. Um. So that's really cool, but that's what your focus says. I love it.

Speaker 3:

Look, I'm with you a hundred percent. I think maybe I'm a bigger sports fan, but to me it's a great example of I always tell people you don't want you. Nobody comes to me and says, hey, give me a business strategy. Right, ben, with an incredible business background, he is a business concept. But that business concept that's like being the quarterback. I love your analogy because the offensive line may not be as glamorous, but you're never going to get where you want to go if you don't have a good offensive line. If you don't have even and this was a very granular analogy because I liked it right you need to have somebody set the protection. You need to know okay, this person's blitzing, this person is coming, this person's dropping back. You need a plan that actually works, because if you block someone who's dropping into coverage, this is getting very football late. But yeah, I'm just.

Speaker 3:

I'm loving this analogy that, if you if you Allocate resources to block someone who's dropping into coverage, you're going to miss somebody else and, in business sense, you're wasting money right. So you want to know where are the risks, where are the real risks, how real are they? And then you can make a business decision. That's how the Fortune 500 I used to work with make decisions right, and that's how cannabis companies should make decisions in this industry.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, everything's changing, of course.

Speaker 2:

Rapid pace, yeah all times and and risk, I think, is so much more about black and white. It's. It's really about like what's on the other side of that risk and what happens? And so like you're running across the field and like you know that someone might come at you when you run towards them, but it's like are you willing to accept the consequence on the other side of that for what, for how, for what the wind might look like and and I think that that's an important part of it too as entrepreneurs, to kind of assess those consequences and Understand what the penalty will be?

Speaker 3:

and so much of it is unsettled. This is a new industry we talk about, so we spun our company out of a Player in the spirit space and in spirits there are many, many, many decades of trade practice that you can point to and say this is something that ttb Believes falls under this rule and this is something that ttb doesn't believe falls under this rule. The thing that we all face as an industry, and why I think that this is such an interesting place to be in is that it's all changing. This is all unsettled. A rule comes out, it may have never been applied, and so that's one of the reasons. Then you know this one of the things we're doing at NCIA now, as we have a monthly Webinar series with different state regulators.

Speaker 3:

So the next one is going to be Brian Hannah, from Michigan, and you can see in Michigan one of the things that I'm excited to get into. There's a change over time. They started out At one place on enforcement and now they clearly are enhancing enforcement as they try to mature their market, and it's a fascinating transition from launch Michigan to today's Michigan. How do you deal with that? And then how do you make a plan around that, because you don't want to build your business and then have what looks okay, no longer work. In two years You've lost a heck of a lot of brand equity planning resources. So to me, I love this.

Speaker 1:

Bringing it back to.

Speaker 2:

Vegas yeah.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, what do you feel like, what's top of mind for people as far as like strategy goes right Now and policy, like you know, I always, I always use MJ. Biz is like my kind of my check-in. Yeah, like where were we at as an industry. Yeah you know we were talking about him earlier. Yeah, that's coming up.

Speaker 3:

That's I mean discussions, that's got to be at the top of the list. Hemp, obviously, the farm bill Functionally extended for a year. That's something that people are. They're focused on what that means and also what it'll mean in the states, because Some states were hoping that Congress would give more clarity and sort of take this off of their plate to some extent.

Speaker 1:

Do you think this just ends up with like a further patchwork of legislation, like across all the states over the next year?

Speaker 3:

I don't. I think that what's going to be very interesting is what happens in 12 months, and that in 12 months Congress will have the opportunity to readdress this, and I will be interested to see. I feel like in the probably the two months before the farm bill was reauthorized, which just happened, there was an increasingly public push by a number of groups To put more limits on him, and so I will be interested to see if those groups say okay, it's not 12 months away, it's not a four-year renewal, it's not a five-year renewal, it's 12 months away. We're just going to keep on pushing, and so I think it's going to be fascinating to see what shakes add.

Speaker 3:

And you know, there are, frankly, things on the hemp side we talked about hemp like it's a monolith. There are very different products in hemp across the hemp spectrum, and I think that sometimes, particularly on the the regulatory side and on the policymaking side, the worst examples, the worst actors, are what regulators tend to be most aware of in some states. And so I think that it will be very interesting, because there are things that, frankly, I don't think that any of us work with or Know the people behind some of those products. That are the ones that are most concerning to regulators. They're just not. They're not in this industry circuit. I certainly don't bump into them in Vegas. Maybe you guys do. Maybe you go to cooler parties Zero parties.

Speaker 2:

A thousand miligrams right exactly, that's like the size of right someone shared that on a podcast, but I mean, someone shared it, I think, in the comments but yeah.

Speaker 2:

Yes well, interestingly, I think that what I notice is this confidence in the people that are developing products on the hemp side that Whatever does happen next year with the farm bill will still create a pathway for them. And and then there's the people that aren't in the space yet, that are just like very nervous that like maybe it's all gonna fall apart and so they don't want to get started because Because in 2024 all of a sudden hemp's gonna disappear from the face of the planet. There's like confidence on both sides right and yeah, I don't know.

Speaker 3:

I I would bet almost anything that there are certain products that are on the market today that will not exist in five years, as hemp products.

Speaker 2:

Um, I have yours, but what about one?

Speaker 3:

It would not shock me if a number of them come. So if there is not federal reform in 12 months, I think that they will come under increasing scrutiny at the state level. Those products, specific Kinds of products that we could all think about. The example you gave is a perfect one the really super potent, though sufficiently heavy, hemp edible. That is a thing that regulators have a lot of strong concerns about, and so I think that that's what I'll be interested to see.

Speaker 3:

I think that there are I agree with you 100%. There are lots of people who I talked to at events like this who tell me oh, I have, I have a product, and you know, there's no way that it's ever going to be impermissible. And in my head, I think well, there are many states where you couldn't sell that product, including, yes, and and I'm guessing, if I look on your website, you probably ship it right there. But you know, I always say there are certain people who are Inherently more likely as people to hire someone like us to give regulatory advice, and there's some people who just like to. You know, this is Vegas, their gamblers, they like to, they like to put the, put it on the table and see if they can make it. So I do think that there are products that will not survive, but I think that as a general category, it's hard to imagine all of this disappearing right.

Speaker 1:

Too big to fail. Michael, I Appreciate you taking the time of joining us 8 30 in the morning.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, good as do you for Brad? I can bushy tailed. Will you be enjoying a cannabis beverage this morning?

Speaker 3:

You know, what I'm drinking right now is his tea. It's regular tea, it's caffeine. That is my drug for the morning.

Speaker 1:

We have some products over on the table here. Yes, you can just pour into the tea.

Speaker 3:

Before I make way for Chris, let me just say I feel badly for everyone here because one you can't see the beautiful view. I promise this is not. It's not a soundstage, it's beautiful behind, and you can also not see the incredible Plethora of products that are sitting just out of the shot on this table. It is amazing when you think about this industry, just the amount of beverages that are so cool and differentiated, that that you all have a Hand in and that exist in this space.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, thanks for bringing that up. I mean it's, and the beverage space has grown so much and it just overall. I mean I think of myself as someone that knows all the people and knows all the products and knows all the brands. And then I come To Vegas and I realize, holy shit.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, there's.

Speaker 2:

That is just like a lot going on. There's so much and and that is one of the things that's most fun about coming to Vegas is just Getting to share the energy with the people that are building in the similar space and running up against the same challenges that we all are.

Speaker 1:

So, yeah, thanks for this fantastic awesome. Thank you so much, guys, it's a pleasure.

Speaker 3:

Yes, I'm getting out of here, guys, ben yeah.

Speaker 1:

And next up. Next up, we have Chris Lindsay.

Speaker 4:

Who is hello, greetings and salutations. Well, thank you, I got I. Often, when I walk through the casinos and I'm dressing up for a meeting, I often get confused for Somebody that works here, and so I found myself actually giving directions to the elevator.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah so.

Speaker 1:

So, chris you, you've been a long time policy advisor in the space. You've done it for MPP, yeah, obviously like had a policy for for. Attached. Now is Sorry, I'm butchering the official title.

Speaker 2:

Obvious for the listeners.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, man, and, and even before all that, with the the US.

Speaker 1:

Cannabis council yeah sorry I get all my, my councils and associations jumbled up sometimes, which, which is actually, I think, an important topic as we continue this, this threat of, like cannabis and hemp in the intersection. You know, we, we, we were hanging out last night at the, the attached captain of the industry event and Michael Bronstein, the president, gave us a very passionate talk about. It just takes one bad operator to really kind of label the, the industry, and create regulations and right I don't know if we've seen a big backlash yet Like it. Is this kind of this, like impending threat?

Speaker 1:

I guess is, like you know, I think a lot of people especially on the cannabis side is like you know, the hemp I'm opportunists Mm-hmm, it's flooding in the industry, but I mean, luckily I don't.

Speaker 2:

I don't think we've had any like major headlines come out about Him, you know like the Really big thing I'd say that, and it wasn't hemp related, was was vape date in 2019, and so you know what's, what's the what's the next one. I hope there is it right, yeah.

Speaker 4:

Well, that was kind of the entry point. So first of all, I Actually go back. I've been in this space since 2008. So a lot of that was in Montana, lot of pregame, that sort of led up to my work at MPP, which is for ten years, and then that sort of eased into the trade Association world, and that was largely because of how Money was starting to shift. I mean, way back in the day it was philanthropists and a lot of those philanthropists are now over in psychedelics and it's the business community really that has been active in moving the ball in terms of marijuana reform, and so I sort of adapted in that sense and and MPP helped launch the US cannabis counsel, and that put me in touch with a lot of folks in this and and shared my passion.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, well, it was in that context at the at the US cannabis counsel that we started to have members say hey, you know, we're seeing these products show up down the street at gas stations, and in Chicago there were companies that were just simply setting up businesses that looked exactly like the licensed businesses, but they were hemp and and they started saying you know what's going on with all of this? This is like in 2020, so pretty early. And that was the entry point and it was really kind of just a curiosity. It was like, oh, wow, what, who are these guys? I, why, how did they operate?

Speaker 4:

And the the regulators, were pulling their hair out because the, the licensed marijuana businesses are heavily regulated, like they have inspections every week in Illinois, there's like a state inspection that happens, and so they have a really high bar. They have to pay a lot of money, do all these licenses and the hemp folks with a basically identical looking store and products that are Along the same lines it's smokables, it's edibles, it's the full smear. They don't have to do any of that and the regulators couldn't walk in there and tell them anything, and so it immediately set up the sort of tension and and the concern was really just Well, what's going on? Is this fair? Because you know to get these business licenses is extraordinarily expensive in a state like Illinois and then to have somebody next door literally it pays nothing but rent was was sort of like what's going on? What's going on?

Speaker 4:

Well, that was the start, and the next wave was when we started realizing how many people are going to the hospital after taking these products, because the process to convert non intoxicating CBD into intoxicants is itself a pretty hardcore process and you can end up with a final product that contains a lot of junk and that's what was actually getting people sick and so Starting to see this in it. And there hasn't been like an E valley gate gate blow up. But if you Google poison control center him driving intoxicants there's no shortage of incidents in which this is happening, and here's my concern If you want to risk your health on something that you buy from a gas station. I was around for a dream.

Speaker 4:

I remember trucker speed yeah yeah, that's what we've got right now with these products and if, if you understand that that's what that is you're willing to take the risk, I'm not gonna stop you.

Speaker 1:

but it's like the stacker pills right like.

Speaker 4:

They were like little at the little white yeah yeah, I remember right, it took a while the FDA finally shut all that down.

Speaker 2:

But in college we used to buy them and I thought they were caffeine pills. I know you really knew what they were right to go.

Speaker 4:

Oh, it got you going. We're in that kind of situation now, and the problem is that those products don't enjoy the same safety profile that marijuana has. I mean, you can consume a whole bunch of marijuana and you'll pass out, but we would have people that are consuming these other products and they're going to the ER, and that's not ever really been part of the scene. And so it's when these products started to just flat out show up dangerous that we got concerned, because the public does not understand the difference.

Speaker 2:

They do not get that Consumers don't have the responsibility to I think it's not on them like. This is why we live in a society like this is what this is what our government is about. This is why we have health departments like. We're trying to create systems where consumers can feel that when they purchase a product through channels that are overseen by the government, theoretically that they're saying Well. So talk about then how this is translated to your work now, and, in particular, I would love to hear your perspective about how you align policy goals across broad spectrums of people that you represent.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, when you're working in trade associations, yeah, everyone's great question like different, different ideas, like business things to the table and and it's, I think it can be really challenging. It is what do you advocate for?

Speaker 4:

No, that's, that's a great, great question. So, and I'm, and I'm thinking about that when your first question is how does all this hemp stuff, how is that manifesting now? So so, in the wake of all of these products emerging, I started writing and researching about it, and that culminated in a paper that was published by Michael Bronstein at attach, and so I worked with him and his team and we it's basically it was an attempt to say here's what's going on with this, and it was not saying it's evil, it's not saying this is the best thing that's ever happened, it's just to say what is this? And then, in light of the fact that it's now here, what are we gonna do? And so what is a regulatory framework that is Workable? Because it's it's not a should we or shouldn't we, it's what do we do now?

Speaker 4:

And so that was the sort of the way it got set up, and then, once we got that published, it really naturally informed what our lobbying work needed to be, because we had very specific Recommendations for what the federal government ought to do and what states ought to do. So we had it down that path and right now the farm bill is under consideration. The farm bill is where a lot of this hemp stuff, where all the hemp stuff really came from, and so it's a one every five years kind of bill. It was natural that we should get into that conversation while it's happening, and so we started lobbying pretty heavily both committees that are called committees of jurisdiction, which means that they have hands directly on this issue in that farm bill. So we've been talking to them extensively over the past many months about what the reality is, you know, cutting through a lot of the. Unfortunately, there's a lot of BS that gets thrown around about these products, and so educating lawmakers and helping them understand where can we address this in meaningful ways, and so that's been the focus.

Speaker 2:

So what is your when you look in the crystal ball? Yes, what do you see?

Speaker 4:

Well, the reality is is no matter what the federal government does, states are going to have to deal with the problem, because the federal government can say this is all completely, 100% illegal and we hate every inch of it and it's no different than marijuana. Well, states have gone their own way. Three out of four regulatory program, so that aspect of it is not going to change. So, federal government, there's definitely things that can happen, but states is where the heavy lift will be.

Speaker 4:

And here's the concern that I have right now is, while a lot of hemp lobbyists right now in DC are saying, oh, this is a state's rights issue, let's say it's handle this because they do it so well with marijuana at the state level, they are going to federal court and blocking states from imposing regulations, saying you're preempted by federal law, and so they're literally trying to create a completely unregulated lane for themselves. And I can't support that, because there are people going to the ER on these products and we will all be judged on the worst of us. If we are complicit or seen as complicit, in products that are sold to kids or which put people in the hospital, we're all going to go off the rails because the public does not say oh, that's one of those new hemp guys that was doing in their basement. That's not legalization. People don't make that distinction, and so we have to be adults about the fact that when people put products in their body, if they get sick, we're going to get accountable for that, and that's where we're coming from.

Speaker 1:

So Chris, you've been doing this for some time now. I think you said you were MPP for 10 years. Mjbiz 2024 we're sitting here. What do you think has happened over the last year? Are we going to see progress as far as kind of getting our hands around this?

Speaker 4:

Yes, Well, states will end up with a solution. They have to. I think the courts need to have better advocacy in order to avoid some of the constitutional pitfalls that have been. There have been some early gains that were made in cases in which the hemp guys were going in and trying to keep states from trying to treat this like marijuana, but I think the courts are starting to come around on some of those early arguments and seeing that this isn't quite so black and white.

Speaker 4:

Clearly, congress did not aim to legalize marijuana. If they did, biden wouldn't have asked about rescheduling. We wouldn't have bills before Congress that they're dutifully ignoring. That would legalize marijuana. So that was never the plan and so we're going to see a recalibration on that. Fda is very concerned about this State and federal attorneys general are very concerned. The regulators that's not who I would fear if I were in that industry right now. I would fear the tort bar, the guys who are going to go after businesses for selling harmful products, and I would go, and I would fear the US attorneys general who are looking for every reason to go in there and start shutting these businesses down.

Speaker 2:

So you clearly have a position and an opinion and the way that you're approaching this work and sounds like my guess that you have some really great key talking points that you're that you're using when you're talking with people in the government. And so, going back to that question, I know you're not just speaking for yourself. You're speaking for larger groups of people that are trusting you to carry a message forward. And so how, how do you make sure that you're representing multiple parties at once, like, how does your position come to?

Speaker 4:

be. Yeah, well, in the way that you set it up was, you know, when you're at the trade association, how do you represent a whole bunch of different individuals? And that's a great question. So, and I've seen a couple different entities sort of form, and I have to say that I have learned some lessons and I think that the key is to Well, let me start with where everybody likes to start, which is, hey, there are a lot of groups running around in DC right now and everybody's kind of got their opinion, and it's confusing when you have different groups go in and talk to the same lawmaker.

Speaker 4:

So you know what we need and you have one organization that's going to be the umbrella. Let's bring everybody together. We all line up. We all want to see the end of the war on drugs and yada, yada, yada. Right, that sounds great. Yeah, we all agree on that. We all agree on that. Everybody in the room together. Hey, everybody, let's talk about our backgrounds and what we think should happen.

Speaker 4:

The problem with that is that you don't start with a vision. You start with well, I think we all ought to get together, and that's easy. The hard part is to say this is what we need to do and I want you all to come with me on that and that is what has actually not happened in our industry. Very often we tend to have sort of the we ought to be a big tent, and so whoever has that idea, well, guess what? They want to put that big tent up and have everybody join their plan. And a lot of these organizations are like, well, we kind of have our lane and we're good with that, and so they don't want to just sign on in the name of let's all have a kumbaya moment. It's a completely different thing when you have somebody that says here's something that needs to be addressed. And if you agree with me, come along.

Speaker 4:

And that's where Michael Bronstein and Attach has been, where he identified the hemp-derived intoxicants issue and said we need to address that. As a trade association working with state licensed businesses, this is something that has to be responded to. And he did the same thing with rescheduling. He said if we can possibly get it to three, does it mean legalization? It doesn't. But 100% of the businesses that are cannabis businesses in America would eliminate the worst tax on the planet. That is a win. And so he went in those directions. That's vision. So the folks that support the work that Michael and I are doing, they understand what we're there to do, they share that passion, and so it doesn't come from a vote and then I go and run and do the thing. It's really out of Michael's laptop and his vision and the work that he's been doing all this time.

Speaker 1:

So from the earlier days in the industry, going back to the early teens it was this idea that we'd go state by state legalize, and even at one point it was like let's go medical first and then we'll transition to recreational, and then things started going before the other. Has the strategy changed? Because things just the government does silly things sometimes and it's like that wasn't supposed to happen. That was not in my playbook. Has the strategy changed because of what has happened with him over the last couple of?

Speaker 4:

years. It hasn't yet, but it will. I mean, we're definitely at an inflection point and we're in the middle of it. We don't know where we're going to be on the other side of this.

Speaker 1:

I'm often saying it's like we shouldn't suffer the sunk cost policy. We need to see the pieces that we have and what is the best way to get broad legalization done. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Speaker 4:

And there is this interesting parallel, so I actually did a video on this. So, on the one hand, we've got the state story, the legalization, the classic legalization story California, the West Coast, everybody else. They voted either through voter initiatives or states adopted it through legislative process. There's a chosen few that go get licenses, they operate, they get hammered in the market and all the rest. We all know that story.

Speaker 4:

In the meantime, here comes Congress 2014, then in 2018, and they tweak the definition of hemp and it opens up this lane for non-intoxicants to be converted into intoxicants and for there to at least be a legal argument that that is okay.

Speaker 4:

And so now the products that come from that are, at least right now, considered to be completely outside of the Controlled Substances Act and outside of the state regulatory system. So now we have a parallel set of drugs basically same intoxicants and exotic new ones that do not participate at all in the state regulatory systems and they have effectively fallen off of the regulatory framework for the federal government. They technically belong to the FDA, because anything that you put in your body on purpose in the United States is regulated by the FDA, and so marijuana and hemp-derived intoxicants are FDA regulated. They just don't have any capability to go do any enforcement. They've always relied on the DEA to handle all the people doing the marijuana stuff. Well, now we have hemp and the DEA is like you broke it, you bought it, it's not in the Controlled Substances Act anymore.

Speaker 4:

It's not our jurisdiction, at least that's one version. They haven't come out officially with anything, and so we have these two different products that are really operating at the same time under completely different sets of rules. So if you're a hemp guy, you want to know what states don't have limits on your products, and I'm just going to start selling to those and I can get UPS to send it. If you're a marijuana guy, you're operating under a state license system and you operate in your dispensary or you sell to a dispensary. So we're doing both of these at the same time. Now on the state side, we've really kind of taken the ball as far as we can. States can't do more than what they've done already. They're as good as they can be to banks. They're as kind as they can be on taxes. Their systems are dialed in.

Speaker 4:

The federal government has proved by now that it doesn't have to do a thing about any of this Like change your laws, we're not budging. We won't even change banking laws for you. That's how dug in the federal government is. And yet at the same time hemp is running down the field as fast as possible because the federal government just has no capacity to handle this product right now. Now, in five years there will definitely be hemp derived intoxicants, no question about it. The question is what regulatory systems are gonna be around them. Are they gonna be dirty, trucker speed that everybody's like, ooh, you take those products. Or are they gonna be integrated into every single business's product line, because maybe it just makes sense, right?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and what occurs to me with these kind of broad policy visions is it goes back to what you were talking about, about the potential safety issues that come up when converting CBD into other compounds, and that really, if the intention is to allow low dose THC to be available widely and right now it's through hemp like wouldn't it be easier if we could all just take the plant that has the higher concentration more naturally and bring it out to the masses in a way that we're not needing to do a complicated conversion that creates like chemical side effects that nobody wants.

Speaker 1:

Well, I will pause and like there are ways to do it clean chemical conversion, Absolutely FDA regulated industries. This happens all the time. Insulin is like a synthesized product, right, and it's like it's not made from pig intestine name or whatever was the original source.

Speaker 4:

Right. The issue is not the hemp derived, it's the unregulated hemp derived. It's basically saying that the bathtub gin should just be allowed while we go figure out how to handle formal end of alcohol prohibition. And there are inherent risks, you know. When we know people get sick with those products, it may. We may need a different plan than just saying let's rip the Band-Aid off and then let's just see what happens, because the public doesn't get that. Those products operate in a different world.

Speaker 2:

Yeah Well, we're getting close to time, because we are. This is our pre-party live podcast.

Speaker 1:

I smell carbs, you know. There's like everything bagels or in the room which must go into my stomach soon.

Speaker 2:

Tell us about Vegas and just like your highlight of Vegas so far, if you would.

Speaker 4:

Well, I'm with Ben. I checked out pretty early last night. The highlight for me is being here today with these sophisticated companies at Vegas, of all places. I remember the very first MJ Bizcon was in Denver in a church, and I remember everybody was so impressed with how many suits are in the audience.

Speaker 2:

So now we're just disappointed with how many suits are in the audience. Now it's about sneakers.

Speaker 4:

So the contrast, the then and now, is pretty remarkable. We've come an amazing distance.

Speaker 1:

I did not get to attend that one. My first was at the Rio. It's right over there.

Speaker 2:

I think it was the next year that it was in San Francisco. Yeah, like maybe 2010 or something. I spoke at that one maybe 2011.

Speaker 4:

Anyway, yeah, I was on federal probation. I had to get permission to leave the state, but they let me leave the state because I was at MJ Bizcon to say this ain't over yet. You can still get in big, big trouble with the federal government. So that's the only reason I got to go to that event.

Speaker 1:

I'm warm on that later. I'm very cold. Well, Chris, I can't thank you enough. Sure, it's really cool.

Speaker 4:

Thanks for having me here.

Speaker 1:

I really appreciate it, Everything that you do with the industry.

Speaker 4:

Keep fighting Good fight Absolutely, and you too, you're tremendous support for the work that gets done.

Speaker 2:

I appreciate it. I really appreciate what you said earlier about just putting a flag in the ground with actually trying to lead with a position. I think that's a unique perspective.

Speaker 4:

I think it's what we need. Yeah, all right.

Speaker 2:

All right. Thanks for doing the hard work, thanks.

Speaker 1:

All right, and yeah, I think we're just going to wrap up now. I guess.

Speaker 2:

So Should we bring anyone in from the other room? I don't know. I think we're good OK.

Speaker 1:

We have some infused beverages to go consume and get our day started.

Speaker 2:

Yeah Well, las Vegas Bizcon. This has been fun. Success, yeah. And for anyone that's watching or listening from before, we hope we've given you a bit of a taste and you can come join us next year.

Speaker 1:

We'll do this again. Episode 20, we nailed it. Yes, live from Las Vegas. I'm very proud of ourselves. We'll be back to our regular programming next week, I think. Yes, yeah. A huge thanks again to Sarah Falvo for putting together the event today for our sponsors the beverage sponsors I'll drop up into the comments Genetica for being our prime sponsor and making sure that everyone leaves this event fed. We have people flowing in now. So if you're not here in Vegas come next year, Hit us up. This has been episode 20.

Speaker 2:

Episode 20.

Speaker 1:

All right, we're on the roll. Yes, All right everyone.

Speaker 2:

Thanks, everyone, have a good time.

Speaker 1:

Bye, see you soon.

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