Weed Wonks Episode 9 - Knocking on the Golden Door with Genevieve Meehan

Jan 23, 2020

Weed Wonks is a weekly cannabis policy podcast co-hosted by Jordan Wellington and Andrew Livingston. The show goes beyond the headlines to examine the implications and evolution of the complex world of cannabis regulation. Each episode features a special guest with in-depth knowledge of cannabis law and regulations, including regulators, operators, investors, legislators, experts and lawyers.

Episode 9 welcomes back an old friend and former VS licensing specialist, Genevieve Meehan, to breakdown the nuances and intricacies of cannabis compliance, regulation, and activism. Listen here!

Genevieve's Cannabis History

A longtime friend of the Weed Wonks, Genvieve Meehan, found her interests in drug policy reform around high school but didn’t see it truly blossom until she became involved with her college’s Students for Sensible Drug Policy chapter. Her trajectory was set from there. Following graduation, Gen went to work for Amplify but later moved to Denver after attending the Drug Policy Alliance Conference. This move allowed her to better pursue her interests in drug policy reform and advocacy. Once in Denver, Gen joined the Vicente Sederberg LLP team and spent the next few years working alongside some of the biggest names in cannabis.

It was just six months ago when Gen made her most recent industry transition to Coda Signature — a premium cannabis brand offering high-end products ranging from infused truffles to bath bombs to pure CO2 extracts — where she now works as the compliance manager. Gen’s introduction to Coda leads us to the main topic of this episode’s show: navigating and understanding marijuana compliance and legislation outside of your primary state (Coda was founded in Colorado and has recently expanded its operations into California).  

Cannabis Company Expansion to New States

So, what happens when a cannabis company is popular and therefore, successful, in their home state of Colorado but wants to expand their reach to new markets like California? 

Can’t they just take some managers, budtenders, staff, and product from their existing storefronts in Colorado? Of course not!

It is critical to first note all the differences in regulations on a state-to-state basis. For Gen and Coda, the operations in Colorado that yielded the level of success they’re seeing wouldn’t be completely transferable or even legal in California’s market. Moving into the California space means taking on great levels of unknown variables. Transferring one’s IP, know-how, etc. is also important, as this is part of what sets a business apart from the competition.

In Colorado, Coda has long-established industry ties with testing labs, distributors, suppliers, and retail accounts. They trust these partnerships based on years of ongoing successful collaboration. In California, Coda has a significantly smaller circle of industry ties and knowledge (as do many of the new entries to California). Because of this, brands must almost completely reestablish their network, procedures, and brand identity in the new state. However, as touched on briefly, no one’s in this struggle alone.

Because of the differences surrounding state-by-state cannabis legislation, many compliance managers have formed de facto “collab” groups where they help each other sort out confusing parts of legislation or other issues that may arise, such as advertising and marketing restrictions, labeling requirements, testing procedures, licensing nuances, and much more.

Barriers to Entry in the California Cannabis Market

Genevieve laid out the major barriers she and her team have faced in their foray into the California cannabis space:

  • Complicated process for applying for provisional licenses
  • Nuances and issues surrounding Metric accounts
  • Incredibly high number of competitors
    •  Black market competitors included in this population
  •  Length application process
  • Testing requirements
  • Establishing strategic industry relationships
  • Differences in training requirements for staff

The Weed Wonk guys and Genevieve covered so much vital information in this episode — you’re sure to learn something! Listen to Weed Wonks Episode 9 to get the full story.

Weed Wonks is produced by Shea Gunther and part of the family of MJ Today Media podcasts. The podcast is designed to be entertaining and informative but does not provide legal advice. If you have any comments or questions, please contact jordan@vicentesederberg.com.