May 7, 2019 Rob Rinderman

By popular demand, the Jersey City Tech Meetup held its second Green Rush “Cannabiz” event, on April 16 at the Zeppelin Hall beer garden, almost a year to the day since the successful first Green Rush event.

Drawing an all-time record attendance, according to Meetup organizers, the event included two panels and an industry vendor trade show, which ranged from companies selling medical CBD to an organization pitching prospective (canna) customers, inviting them to visit its floating therapy tank, which helped them to relax and truly get away from it all.

Whether you are currently working in tech or just about any industry one can think of, the panelists said that there is ample opportunity to transfer your skills and experience to some area of the cannabis industry.

One of the panels, titled “Cannabiz & Beyond,” addressed a wide array of topics, from advice on how to successfully break into the industry to sophisticated medical discussions exploring the human endocannabinoid system (ECS).  

In fact, many medical practitioners believe the ECS to be the most important physiologic system in the human body, as it is involved in both establishing and maintaining health. Like other systems in the body, the ECS modulates and communicates with other systems, so it can help you stay in homeostasis and heal faster.

The “Staying Legal” panel | Rob Rinderman

The event’s other panel, “Staying Legal,” delved into many of the legal aspects surrounding cannabiz. At present, cannabis product use for nonmedical purposes is illegal under federal law. More than 30 states allow citizens to purchase cannabis for medicinal purposes, but less than half that number permit recreational cannabis use, and they don’t include New Jersey or New York.

Meanwhile, Canada is one of the few countries in the world that does permit recreational use, due to legislation passed in 2018. In the United States, it remains unclear when or if it will become fully legal at the federal level, but some think that may happen after the 2020 election.  New Jersey and New York are expected to permit recreational cannabis usage in the near future, although the timing is still a bit murky in both states.

Here are some of many highlights from the panel discussions:

  • If you are going to launch a cannabis-related business, employ an attorney who has specific industry-related experience, as well as relevant intellectual property (IP) experience. He or she will help guide you through the process of maintaining proper compliance, which obviously varies across states, and across local municipalities.
    • For example, many areas have strict regulations about locating businesses near a school or house of worship.
    • A lot of industry research is available from many outlets, such as New Frontier Data, based in Denver and Washington, D.C.
    • Many of those already in cannabiz are willing to help fellow industry participants in the spirit of mutually beneficial collaboration.
    • Lawyers routinely provide invaluable assistance in navigating trademark, patent or other intellectual property requirements, as well as legal parameters.
    • There are many ways to successfully deploy patents or IP to one’s advantage in cannabiz. These might include: cultivation methods, lighting (for indoor cultivation) and proprietary soil or seed formulas.
  • Women and minority business owners, including military veterans, should take advantage of laws in New Jersey and elsewhere that mandate ownership diversity.
    • Pending “adult use” legislation in the Garden State contemplates certain reparations and restoration provisions.
    • Prospective or existing business people should be aware of what this could mean for them individually or for their companies.
  • One panelist in the legal discussion mentioned that the “scoring” process that awarded the initial New Jersey licenses has been called into question due to alleged fraud and favoritism. An appeal is planned.
    • This panelist also stated that the license filing process had an excessively short turnaround time, making it difficult for many to legitimately apply for the available licenses.
    • Another panelist noted that a proposed New Jersey bill did not include a cap on the number of licenses.
    • The proposed legislation suggests a flat tax per ounce at the cultivation level.
      • Many are concerned that high tax rates could encourage more illegal activity to avoid taxation.
      • There is a lack of transparency for customers purchasing in the “underground” (aka illegal) market. … Caveat emptor!
  • With regard to cannabidiol (CBD) as an additive ingredient, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) currently bans CBD in food-related products, pending further review.
    • CBD doesn’t actually fix anything when taken for medical purposes. Rather, it inhibits receptors in the body, allowing the body to heal itself.
      • Different product/seed strains are often bred to address specific problems.
      • CBD has been linked to the reduction of inflammation and alleviation of pain, among other benefits.
  • Commercial banking has been a minefield for many participating in cannabiz, given the illegality at the federal level. Solutions have cropped up, but lots of organizations have had difficulties when trying to accept credit card payments.
  • New Jersey would be wise to learn from Oregon’s experience. Oregon issued too many cultivation licenses, but not enough licenses for dispensaries. As a result, a surplus of product occurred with a lack of outlets to sell it.
    • Not surprisingly, cannabis prices in Oregon dropped, given the supply–demand imbalance.

The moderator of the Cannabiz & Beyond panel was Ben Yurcisin, lead organizer at the Jersey City Tech Meetup. The panelists included David Serrano, CTO, Harvest 360 Technologies (Denver, Colo.); Laura Lagano, cofounder, Holistic Cannabis Network (Boulder, Colo.); Michael Zaytsev, founder, High NY Meetup Group (New York); Sonia Singh, executive director, Center of Inner Transformations (East Brunswick); Salam Diri, cofounder, SannaOhana Yoga & Wellness (Hoboken); and Thomas Murphy, cofounder, Wholly Health (Jersey City).

The moderator of the Getting Legal panel was Joseph Shapiro, partner, Middlebrooks Shapiro (Springfield). The panelists included Alex Lleras, associate, government relations, Weedmaps (Orange County, Calif.); Joshua Bauchner, partner and head of the Cannabis Law Practice Group, Ansell Grimm & Aaron (Woodland Park); Jessica Gonzalez, cofounder and partner, Moyeno Gonzalez & Associates ( Hoboken); Matt Miller, founding partner, MG Miller Intellectual Property Law (New York); Chelsea Duffy, copywriter, Monday Creatives (Jersey City); and Rosemarie Moyeno Matos, cofounder and partner, Moyeno Gonzalez & Associates.