With growing financial clout and an eye on expanding to more states beyond the 15 that have already legalized medicinal cannabis, leaders of the medical marijuana industry are forming a national trade association.
While there are smaller, local trade groups, organizers said this will be the first business organization working on the national level, reports Dan Frosch at The New York Times.
Organizers of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) said it is the first national trade group representing the interests of the cannabis industry and its consumers. More than 20 professionals from various sectors of the marijuana industry make up the initial board of directors of NCIA, which organizers said was formed with the express purpose of improving business conditions for the industry.
Based in Washington, D.C., the group will focus mainly on lobbying, but will also help medical marijuana businesses navigate the labyrinth of laws that differ depending on state, county, and city.
|Aaron Smith, NCIA: “These businesses have clearly earned the right to strong representation on the national stage”
”This is an industry that is emerging — from the dispensaries to the ancillary businesses that are now coming out of the shadows, said Aaron Smith, a medical marijuana advocate in Phoenix who is the group’s executive director. “While there is good work being done, there isn’t anyone out there representing the industry’s interests directly.”
The association’s formation comes on the heels of the decision by Arizona voters to become the 15th state to legalize medical marijuana.
“The ever-expanding list of state-sanctioned medical cannabis providers and ancillary businesses have easily become a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States, generating thousands of good jobs and paying tens — if not hundreds — of millions in taxes,” Smith said.
“These businesses have clearly earned the right to strong representation on the national stage and recognition as a true force for economic growth,” Smith said.
The group’s board members, which include some prominent names in the medical marijuana industry, said the need for a national trade association has become apparent with the explosion of the legal marijuana business.
|Portland Press Herald
|Becky DeKeuster, Northeast Patients Group: “I’m proud to be one of NCIA’s founding members”
Becky DeKeuster, CEO of Northeast Patients Group, which will operate four state-licensed, non-profit medical cannabis dispensaries in Maine, joined the NCIA board and hopes to encourage others in the medical cannabis community to support the new trade association.
“I’m proud to be one of NCIA’s founding members,” DeKeuster said. “This organization will be a great step forward not only for the medical cannabis industry, but also for the interests of the countless patients nationwide who rely on us to provide safe and effective natural medicine.”
Another NCIA board member, Kush Magazine CEO Bob Selan, said he believes that the association will be the force that finally unifies the industry.
“In my years working for a top cannabis culture publication, I’ve met an astonishing number of talented individuals who are experts in their particular field,” Selan said. “From cannabis cultivators to pipe manufacturers to crop insurance brokers, all will benefit from being collectively represented by the national industry association.”
NCIA officials pledged to ensure that the interests of the cannabis industry are represented in the halls of Congress and in the national media.
In addition to working to repeal the federal prohibition of marijuana, NCIA said it is already focusing on more immediate policy goals such as insuring that the nation’s revenue and banking policies are not out of step with state laws which allow medical cannabis sales.
The group will officially begin at a national convention in Denver next month.
NCIA memberships are available at three levels.
Sustaining memberships are on a sliding scale beginning at $5,000 annually or pledge $500 monthly.
Sponsoring memberships are $2,500 annually or pledge $250 monthly.
Regular memberships are $1,000 annually or pledge $100 monthly.
Medical cannabis patient centers and dispensaries, specialized grow equipment manufacturers and retailers, smoking or vaporizing equipment manufacturers and retailers, medical cannabis testing facilities, marijuana-related publications and websites, medical cannabis trade schools, medicinal edibles providers, cannabis seed providers, medical cannabis insurance providers, financial services companies catering to the cannabis industry, legal professionals, medical professionals specializing in therapeutic cannabis, cannabis-related local or state trade associations, and more.
For more information on the NCIA, visit TheCannabisIndustry.org.