Increasing Legitimacy in Medical Cannabis Community

While dispensary operations do business under increasing public scrutiny, it’s still the dark ages when it comes to growers. And this impacts the industry as a whole.

With such close public scrutiny and the ongoing debate about medical marijuana and compassionate use, dispensaries and patients reside in a legal “gray area.” Rights are protected to a degree, but slip-ups cost operations valuable time and resources, and tarnish the image of the industry.

To address scrutiny from law enforcement, neighborhoods and government agencies, dispensaries, collectives and cooperatives have begun to set new standards for operations, enlisting the help of business conscious and extremely savvy professionals from other industries.

Dispensary operations standards are being reinforced, in earnest, through the initiatives and involvement of collective operators, lobbyists and industry professionals. These medical cannabis insiders, working with dispensaries and providers of medical cannabis, acknowledge inherent problems. One issue is so pervasive, that collective members/owners like Michael McCauley of Redwood Coast Collective have begun to address the matter using hard-won experience.
Redwood Coast Collective is developing best-practices guidelines for their dispensary operations, from end to end. Enlisting the skills and knowledge of their own collective members, Redwood Coast is developing standards for the cannabis strains they distribute to patients through their operation. “We considered the available medical cannabis certifications,” says McCauley, “but found our own knowledge and cultivation expertise exceeded what was currently set out in the standards.”

M. Max Del Real of California Capitol Solutions echoes much the same sentiment. “There’s considerable gray area in the medical cannabis industry,” Del Real says. As a patient advocate, Del Real works with medical cannabis industry and local and state agencies to “bring increased legitimacy to the movement.” Del Real, whose lobbying, legislation and business efforts have put him on the front-lines of the medical cannabis movement with cities, municipalities and law enforcement states that: “the cultivation of medical cannabis is definitely a public safety concern.”

Storefront dispensaries operate under local municipal business guidelines. According to Michael Aberle, Director of the Statewide Insurance Services National Medical Marijuana Insurance Division, security, safety and staffing are all concerns of a successful business. “We work hand in hand with dispensaries and insurance carriers to address concerns of theft and operations, just as we would with any business,” offers Aberle. “Through the help of our dispensary clients, we’ve been able to develop some tremendous insurance options for dispensaries, increasing their legitimacy, value and viability in the eyes of conservative industries like insurance.” Acceptance by the insurance sector has helped change the perceptions of medical cannabis providers from one of a danger and liability to that of an asset, a necessary service, and potential revenue stream.

But, as these operations continue to increase their legitimacy and presence in cities and neighborhoods, the supply chain remains in what Max Del Real and others still consider that gray area. “Too many cultivators,” according to Del Real, “are still growing in the dark ages and without the legitimacy they deserve.” With growing operations in apartments, basements, or other potentially inappropriate locations, often with faulty wiring and makeshift irrigation systems, Del Real, Aberle and others involved in the industry, including cannabis cultivators themselves, recognize the cultivation concerns and are increasing their efforts – expanding their outreach – to include farmers and urban growers.

Aberle and his specialty insurance division work with a small number of growers to develop insurance coverage appropriate for their cultivation efforts, including insurance for crop loss and transport. Del Real’s initiatives have recently centered on urban revitalization efforts and city-sanctioned indoor cultivation zones.

These efforts will, at least, begin to address concerns of the likes of California’s Attorney General, whose Medical Marijuana guidelines repeatedly address the diversion of supplies (aka cannabis) into the black market. By cultivating industry oversight, professionals working with medical cannabis providers aim to establish quality and cultivation standards, reinforcing the burgeoning medical cannabis industry and eliminating many of the gray areas which now plague patients, providers, law enforcement and municipalities. “We have to be prepared to act,” says Del Real, “and acting means doing what is best for patients and their communities.” Cultivators would be advised to take note.