Trade associations and nonprofit organizations help cannabis industry professionals connect and have a unified lobbying voice
The backbone of any industry is the entrepreneurs and workers doing the day-in, day-out tasks to make any sector of the economy thrive.
But beyond the daily workload, there are always other concerns, needs or issues that arise and require representation. Industry trade associations are a vital component of any business sector, providing avenues for collaboration and lobbying on behalf of their memberships.
The cannabis industry is no different. Various trade organizations are popping up throughout North America; however, the state-by-state nature of cannabis laws and the relatively young age of the entire legal industry make it difficult to know which groups represent which interests.
Marijuana Venture reached out to dozens of nonprofit cannabis industry trade groups, asking each its focus, mission and cost to join. The following list represents the organizations that responded.
Cannabis Trade Alliance of Canada
About: The Cannabis Trade Alliance of Canada (CTAC) represents a wide spectrum of stakeholders in the cannabis industry with the belief that transparent guidelines must be balanced with inclusiveness and a willingness to provide all stakeholders a voice.
Mission: “Through evidence-based policy, CTAC works with legislators to develop a sustainable, inclusive and transparent model for the Canadian cannabis industry.”
National Cannabis Industry Association
About: The National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) is the largest cannabis trade association in the United States and the only organization representing more than 1,400 cannabis-related businesses at the national level.
NCIA offers its members various benefits, including industry-specific committees, high-level point-of-sale reports on cannabis sales from the BDS Analytics GreenEdge data platform and free or discounted tickets to NCIA’s networking events and conferences, as well as opportunities to expose your company through member blogs, podcast interviews and speaking spots. There is also the ability to participate in the Expert Calling Network and the newly launched Cannabis Industry Digital Marketplace.
Mission: “To promote the growth of a responsible and legitimate cannabis industry and work for a favorable social, economic and legal environment for that industry in the United States. The NCIA was founded on the principle of power in numbers. The thousands of American businesses involved in the state-legal cannabis industries represent a tremendous economic force in this country. As the industry’s national trade association, NCIA works to ensure our growing business sector is represented in a professional and coordinated way on the national stage.”
Cost: Membership dues start at $100 per month or $1,000 annually. Sponsoring memberships are $250 per month or $2,000 annually. The top-level, Sustaining memberships are $500 per month or $5,000 annually.
Alaska Marijuana Industry Association
About: The Alaska Marijuana Industry Association (AMIA) has almost 400 supporters and more than 100 active dues-paying members from Nome to Ketchikan. The statewide association also has individual chapters in South East Alaska (SEAMIA), Fairbanks and the Interior (FNSBAMIA), in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley (MVCBA), and an Anchorage base where the AMIA is headquartered.
Mission: “The AMIA mission is simple: Information, advocacy, support. Our mission is to promote and advocate for a vibrant and reasonably regulated Alaska-based marijuana industry. The AMIA serves to strengthen and enhance a network of connected, independent, informed, regionally and community-directed Alaska Marijuana organizations.
We are really all about cannabis advocacy, and we support our members by helping out the chapters however we can, working on campaigns when we get push back at the ballot box and supporting the communities where our chapters are located. Benefits range from advocacy when members can’t get to locations where they need to have a voice (we will actually go to meetings and voice their concerns), to position papers for the industry, to educational assistance.”
Cost: Annual dues range from $300 for Executive memberships down to $20 for employees of cannabis businesses.
Arkansas Cannabis Industry Association
About: The Arkansas Cannabis Industry Association represents medical cannabis patients, caregivers, physicians, cultivation facilities, dispensaries and other ancillary businesses within the industry. It advocates for laws, regulations and public policies that foster a healthy, professional and accountable medical cannabis industry in Arkansas. The association rolled out its membership program for physicians and ancillary businesses in December and is currently working to develop a program for cultivators and dispensaries, which is expected to be announced in early 2018, before dispensaries open for business.
Mission: “Our mission has three main components:
– Education: Knowledge is the main limit to the success of the medical cannabis business in Arkansas. The more patients, physicians and industry businesses know about medical cannabis, the better off the industry will be.
– Protecting patients: Patients in Arkansas deserve high quality, safe and affordable medical cannabis. We aim to promote cannabis product safety by educating our members on proper production, testing and packaging procedures. We also protect patients by advocating against overly burdensome laws and regulations that would make medical cannabis more expensive in Arkansas. For example, we fought against proposed bills that would have prohibited the sale of cannabis in Arkansas until it becomes legal federally; we fought against bans on smoking cannabis; and we fought against a ban on cannabis edibles, which is often a preferred method of ingestion for the elderly. We also aim to help patients by working to add additional qualifying conditions to the list recognized by the Arkansas Department of Health. We are working with the Arkansas Drug Policy Education Group on adding conditions known to be effectively treated by medical cannabis including ADD/ADHD, anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, migraines and more.
– Advocating for the industry: We are charged with protecting those in the industry from overly burdensome regulations and laws that would infringe on the rights of patients to access their medical cannabis. We monitor new, proposed legislation and advocate against those that would do harm to the industry. For example, the state added a 4% value-added tax to the sale of cannabis at every step in the process. The law has a sunset provision, and we will strongly advocate that the tax cease as scheduled to keep medical cannabis as affordable as possible for Arkansas patients.”
California Growers Association
About: The California Growers Association (CGA) represents more than 1,300 cannabis growers and businesses in California, from small family farms to some of the biggest brands in the state. Voting membership is restricted to businesses that touch the plant, but there is a member category for individuals and sponsorship options for ancillary businesses as well. A large component of the CGA’s membership is the regional council, a group of about 12 locally focused advocacy organizations and trade associations.
Mission: “The mission of the California Growers Association is the promotion and protection of the independent farms and businesses in the cannabis marketplace and the protection of the public health and patient’s rights, the restoration of natural resources and watersheds, and to provide for the welfare of communities and the mutual benefit of public and private interests.”
Cost: Annual dues for cottage growers start at $500 and range up to $10,000 for larger business with multiple licenses. Dues are determined by the size of the grow or the number of licenses a business holds. Dues may be paid monthly. There are also membership classes for supporters (individuals) and sponsors (ancillary businesses).
Cannabis Business Alliance
About: The Cannabis Business Alliance (CBA) represents those who wish to build a better and more sustainable market for the cannabis industry. It brings together leaders in the medical and retail marijuana industry and advocates for sensible, safe and collaborative public policy that protects employees, patients and clients.
Membership benefits include: board membership eligibility; working group eligibility; meeting and webinar access; working closely with the association’s lobbyist to have your voice heard; participation in public relations, including involvement in trend news stories on the industry; newsletters and legislative updates; voter’s guide; event listings; website listing and sponsorship discounts on events, brand promotion and more.
Mission: “The Cannabis Business Alliance encourages sensible policies that stimulate economic development and consumer transparency for the medical and retail marijuana industry. CBA promotes best business practices through advising and communicating with its members and other industry representatives, thereby invigorating the communities we serve. CBA also supports education and safety to further protect employees and purchasers within regulated marijuana commerce.”
Cost: CBA membership is a non-tiered flat fee of $500 per month, in which every member has a say in the direction of the association.
Hawai‘i Dispensary Alliance
About: The Hawai‘i Dispensary Alliance (HAD) represents nearly 100 individuals and businesses from Hawaii’s legitimate cannabis industry including dispensaries and producers from across the islands and the country, ancillary businesses interested in expanding Hawaii’s industry, patients looking for quality medicine and interested individuals who support the future of the cannabis economy in Hawaii. The HDA works with patients, dispensaries, related businesses, local communities and government actors to develop inclusive policies, a robust ancillary marketplace and best practices to ensure the implementation of a patient-centric cannabis industry for Hawaii. The organization’s goal is to deliver the benefits and realities of a new cannabis economy to its members, its community and the state of Hawaii.
Specific corporate membership benefits include unique business marketing and networking opportunities, a direct voice into the industry’s lobbying efforts and proprietary, Hawaii-specific industry information from the association’s trade publication, “Cannabis Insider.”
Mission: “Our mission is to bring together patients, dispensaries, related businesses, local communities and government actors to promote favorable developments in Hawaii’s legal, social and economic environment.”
Cost: Patient memberships are set at $25 annually and corporate-level memberships range from $500 to $2,500, annually.
Maryland Wholesale Medical Cannabis Trade Association
About: The Maryland Wholesale Medical Cannabis Association (CANMD) represents the growing and processing companies that have been awarded preliminary Stage One and/or full Stage Two licenses in Maryland. CANMD promotes the responsible advancement of the medical cannabis industry in Maryland by fostering a favorable social, economic and legal climate including improved public health, patient advocacy and the advancement of science.
According to the association’s website, its members include 16 of 23 companies selected for preliminary license approval, representing 10 of 15 cultivation pre-awardees and 13 of 15 processor pre-awardees (seven companies received preliminary approval for both cultivation and processor licenses).
Mission: “The Maryland Wholesale Medical Cannabis Association promotes the responsible advancement of the medical cannabis industry in Maryland by fostering a favorable social, economic and legal climate. The catalysts for our work are improved public health, patient advocacy and the advancement of science. Providing a unified voice for medical cannabis growers and processors in Maryland, we support efforts to create transparency, accountability and consistency in the state’s medical cannabis industry and strive to educate and act as a resource to lawmakers, medical providers and patients.”
Cost: $10,000 to join with all additional costs for education efforts, etc, are voted only full board membership.
Maryland Medical Dispensaries Association
About: The Maryland Medical Dispensaries Association (MDMDA) represents about 70 medical marijuana dispensaries in Maryland. Benefits of joining include: listing on the MDMDA website; vendor discounts; access to Maryland-specific industry information; public and governmental relations efforts promoting interests of medical cannabis dispensaries in Maryland; dispensary-only networking and social events; and eligibility to serve on the board, as an officer or on standing committees.
Mission: “To promote the common interests and goals of medical cannabis dispensaries in Maryland.”
Cost: $450 for dispensary members and $995 for vendor members.
Montana Cannabis Industry Association
About: The Montana Cannabis Industry Association (MTCIA) represents a diverse group of professionals within the industry. The group has 50 members, ranging from small and large providers to chemists and medical professionals.
Benefits of membership include being part of a highly organized trade organization with full-time, experienced political representation. Montana medical marijuana providers come together in the organization to consider the medical marijuana delivery system as a whole and engage in meaningful conversation about the direction of the program market.
Mission: “At the MTCIA, our priority is the system, the basic infrastructure necessary to do business from a functional standpoint. Our commitment is to a competitive system where the terms that are competed on are quality, safety, service and responsibility to our clients and communities. We work at the levels of electoral politics, the legislative process and with government agencies and other stakeholders to carry out our mission and reach our goals. The MTCIA is the only cannabis trade organization in Montana. The MTCIA was the leader in the five-year lawsuit to keep the doors of medical marijuana providers open after a legislative act to shut the program down in 2011. The organization also forwarded the second medical marijuana initiative in Montana to reinstate the program (2016) and the MTCIA also passed Montana’s first regulatory system for the program with wide bipartisan support (2017).”
Cost: Annual donations range from $100 to $1,000.
Nevada Dispensary Association
About: The Nevada Dispensary Association is a nonprofit trade association comprised of dispensary and marijuana retail store owners. It represents more than 80% of Nevada’s dispensaries and more than 90% of the dispensaries in Southern Nevada. Many of the members are also vertically integrated with production and cultivation licenses.
The Nevada Dispensary Association has effectively pursued legislation and policies that strengthen Nevada’s marijuana industry.
In the 2017 legislative session, the association successfully pursued legislation that protected and improved Nevada’s medical marijuana program by, among other things: allowed for a single-stream of medical and adult use products, reduced the cost of a patient card, changed the process for a patient to obtain medicine, and prevented imposition of tax rates that would made it difficult for licensed operators to compete against the illegal market.
The Nevada Dispensary Association also promotes communication and collaboration between marijuana establishment owners as well as communication and collaboration between the industry and various stakeholders throughout the state. The Association also offers educational programs and supports members in regulatory compliance, as needed.
Mission: “The Nevada Dispensary Association is dedicated to developing and promoting best practices among Nevada marijuana dispensaries as well as supporting the efforts of marijuana establishments to provide high quality, safe marijuana to Nevada’s consumers.”
Cost: Memberships are not open to the public; contact the Nevada Dispensary Association to apply.
Oregon Cannabis Retailers Association
About: The Oregon Cannabis Retailers Association (ORCA) represents retailers, producers, processors, testing labs, wholesalers and ancillary businesses in the marijuana industry. The group currently has 223 members, of which approximately 60% are retail businesses.
Membership dues support the organization’s full-time staff, which fights for smarter cannabis policy, preventing legislative and regulatory disasters and defending the industry’s interests. Additionally, ORCA also provides valuable member services such as access to banking services, advertising discounts in cannabis publications, weekly wholesale reports and monthly meetings.
Mission: “Our primary mission is to create and support a thriving, safe and respected legal cannabis industry through lobbying, advocacy and community organizing.”
Cost: ORCA has three membership levels: Green Level is $35 per month; Silver Level is $100 per month; and Gold Level is $500 per month.
Oregon SunGrowers Guild
About: The Oregon SunGrowers Guild represents outdoor and greenhouse cultivators across the state, as well as medical cannabis patients. The group has more than 250 members, mostly comprised of cannabis growers.
The trade group represents the interests of patients and sun-growers with lobbying efforts and works with all state agencies and various local organizations to collectively develop solutions to industry concerns. It hosts monthly meetings that are open to the public, in which the Loney Law Group informs growers and the community about the ever-changing rules and regulations. The group also hosts a variety of events including the state’s first cannabis auction, the annual Terpene Cup and a Trim-A-Thon. It also has an “Oregon SunGrown Certification” that is a benchmark for sustainable cultivation.
Members receive discounts from a variety of partnering companies.
Mission: “To educate, advocate, promote and protect traditional sun-grown cannabis production. We are dedicated to the development and preservation of sun-grown cannabis seeds and genetics. We believe that sustainable sun-grown agricultural methods produce a superior, holistic medicine.”
Cost: $500 a year for growers and $2,500 for business-tier members.
Pennsylvania Medical Cannabis Society
About: The Pennsylvania Medical Cannabis Society (PAMCS) represents the commonwealth’s medical cannabis industry in public venues, including the government, private sector and media. The PAMCS provides members with information, expert services and professional support, as well as working toward advancing medical cannabis policy, science, education and ethics.
The group has more than 1,000 members, including doctors, patients, business professionals, caregivers and advocates. It hosts industry events and professional education seminars in addition to an annual conference. The PAMCS has also partnered with Slippery Rock University to facilitate medical cannabis research for public health.
Mission: “Our mission is to foster a model medical cannabis industry through education and leadership. Our vision is to see a diverse and sustainable medical cannabis industry in Pennsylvania, known for its exemplary standards, extraordinary products and compassionate practices.”
Cost: Annual memberships are $45.
Texas Cannabis Industry Association
About: The Texas Cannabis Industry Association (TCIA) represents aspiring entrepreneurs, business owners and operators, industry supporters and those working within the industry.
Mission: “The Texas Cannabis Industry Association works to promote and ensure a favorable social, economic and legal environment necessary for a legitimate and responsible cannabis industry in Texas. It serves as the voice of the industry, devoted to providing resources and support to legal cannabis businesses in the state.
The benefit of joining TCIA is to support the progression of the industry within the state in a favorable way through grassroots education and political representation. We also provide a network of like-minded individuals already in the industry that can support and educate others on how the industry operates and what to expect post-legalization within the state.”
Cost: Business memberships start at $1,000, while supporter memberships are $100 annually.
Cannabis Farmers Council
About: The Cannabis Farmers Council is an advocacy group established by a group of licensed cannabis farmers in Washington with the goal of bringing the views of cultivators to regulatory and legislative bodies. It is an all-volunteer, unincorporated, nonprofit open to all state-licensed producers in Washington and led by a 15-member executive board.
The Cannabis Farmers Council is not a membership organization. It is a grassroots group that grew out of the need for producers — by far the largest group of industry stakeholders — to have a voice in the regulatory process.
Mission: “Survey and collect the views of cannabis farmers on current issues; advocate the views of cannabis farmers before the Liquor and Cannabis Board, Department of Agriculture, Department of Health and other regulatory agencies, while working to establish a cooperative and mutually supportive relationship with all such agencies; provide a forum for cannabis farmers to share their views and concerns among one another, with a view toward finding areas of broad agreement to bring before regulatory agencies and otherwise support and promote the positive development of cannabis farming; provide a clearinghouse for information regarding legal, regulatory and other topics of mutual interest to cannabis farmers; encourage ethical, safe and sustainable cannabis farming practices; and engage in outreach programs intended to educate the public on facts regarding cannabis cultivation, processing and responsible use, as well as its effects, risks and special concerns regarding minors.”
Cost: No membership fees are requested or accepted.
The Cannabis Alliance
About: The Cannabis Alliance has more than 170 dues-paying members. Of the members, 51% are businesses licensed by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, 38% are ancillary businesses, 6% are individuals or patients and 5% are other cannabis industry groups.
The Cannabis Alliance sends out an email newsletter to more than 3,000 people every month.
According to executive director Lara Kaminsky, “all of our members, regardless of whether they are individuals or ancillary businesses, know that we are working on issues for licensees within the legal and regulatory framework. These individuals and businesses choose to be our members because they realize that we have the whole picture in mind, we care how the laws and rules effect everyone along the chain, including the end consumer. This diversity gives us a perspective that no other group or association has at this time.”
Mission: “The Cannabis Alliance is a nonprofit, membership-based association of individuals, businesses, government officials and nonprofit organizations dedicated to the advancement of a sustainable, vital and ethical cannabis industry.”
Cost: The Cannabis Alliance has three levels of membership: Bronze Level is $220 per year; Gold Level is $1,080 per year; Platinum Level is $2,160 per year. Each level offers different benefits and opportunities.
Cannabis Organization of Retail Establishments
About: The Cannabis Organization of Retail Establishments (CORE) is a nonprofit that represents licensed state-licensed marijuana retailers in Washington state. The organization has 35 members and representation at the state Legislature and Liquor & Cannabis Board. In addition to its lobbying efforts, CORE hosts educational events where members can send their staff to learn about rule changes, responsible business practices, etc. and networking events with local and state elected officials throughout the state. CORE also offers access to health insurance specialists that can help members set up the right plan for their business and group message boards for members to discuss current events in the industry. The organization has staff available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to answer members’ questions about rules or violations.
Mission: “As a coalition of retailers, we create a unified voice that advocates for a safe, effective and healthy retail environment for the sale of cannabis and related products in an economically sustainable and well-regulated marijuana industry. CORE believes that by providing a strong vision and a united message, we can establish Washington State as a leader in a safe and successful cannabis market nationwide.
Cost: CORE has three membership tiers: Bronze is $99 a month; Silver is $499 a month; Gold is $999 a month.
Washington CannaBusiness Association
About: The Washington CannaBusiness Association (WACA) represents licensed marijuana businesses of all sizes and from all four corners of Washington state, as well as affiliated support businesses. The group currently has more than 150 individuals and 75 companies in its membership.
WACA has a dedicated, professional team that provides lobbying efforts, a robust program focused on building its members’ relationships with elected officials and assistance to members if they need help navigating the regulated environment. WACA hosts at least two conferences per year with dedicated access to regulators, elected officials and professionals that are focused on helping cannabis businesses succeed.
WACA is currently in the process of establishing an association health plan that will offer health insurance benefits to member companies and their employees. This plan is expected to be up and running in 2018.
Mission: “WACA’s mission is to advocate on behalf of our member companies at the local, state and national level. WACA exists to assist and represent our members in the legislative, regulatory, legal and public policy arenas. WACA has developed productive working relationships with the state Legislature, the governor, the U.S. Congress and all regulatory agencies — from the Liquor and Cannabis Board to the Department of Health to the Department of Agriculture — that oversee the industry. WACA exists to provide the advocacy and attention to these arenas so that our members can focus on building their businesses.
We are dedicated to helping to foster a thriving marketplace that supports all sizes of business and fulfills the will of the voters who enacted Initiative 502. In that spirit, we are committed to a safe, quality-controlled, fully-regulated marketplace for cannabis that keeps marijuana out of the hands of kids.”
Cost: Membership fees range from $500 to $5,000 a year based on annual revenue. Non-voting memberships are also available at $500 a year.
Washington Sungrowers Industry Association
About: The Washington Sungrowers Industry association represents state-licensed producers, processors and retailers who are passionate about sustainable environmental practices, ethical business development and sensible regulation.
Among other benefits to its members, the nonprofit organization works with county and municipal governments to ensure land use and zoning requirements do not discourage or place undue burden on sun-growers; directs lobbying efforts in Olympia; helps members realize the tremendous advantages in marketing value and lower production costs created by their decision to grow under the sun; works with private and public partners to advocate for the development of an environmentally sustainable and less energy intensive cannabis industry; and works independently and with partners to research the environmental benefits of sun-grown cannabis to formulate and craft effective press releases.
Mission: “WSIA serves to unite Washington state’s sun-growers to speak with a powerful voice at all levels of state government. We also seek to educate consumers on choosing truly sustainable products in lowering the carbon footprint and the negative environmental impact. We work to inform entrepreneurs and educate lawmakers, locally and in Olympia, to the unique aspects and impacts of this new and evolving industry. We are dedicated to shaping policy that is environmentally and economically sustainable in Washington state and ensuring the responsible use of our product related to unlawful diversion to minors.”
Cost: The WSIA has multiple levels of paid membership depending on the unique needs and position in the market of each participant. Qualifying producer/processors can receive a free, six-month membership.
This is not a complete list of nonprofit trade associations operating within the cannabis industry. Marijuana Venture staff researched and attempted to contact dozens of groups that did not respond, and there are likely more that did not turn up in searches. If you are involved with a nonprofit trade group that was not included, email Editor@MarijuanaVenture.com to be included in future publications.