Talking Shop: GreenSea Sits Down with Aaron Smith of the NCIA
Author – Max Richardson-Davis
Edited by Noah Persin & Jon Russell
GreenSea had a chance to sit down with Aaron Smith of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), a national cannabis lobbying group, to discuss what the NCIA does and the important role it plays in the emerging cannabis industry. Aaron Smith is the co-founder and executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association.
According to Smith’s biography, before launching the NCIA, Smith first distinguished himself as a public advocate for marijuana policy reform. Originally working with California-based medical cannabis advocacy group: Safe Access Now, Smith has also worked as the California state policy director for the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project. Smith has lended his opinion to prominent publications including the San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times and New York Times. Originally from California, Smith currently works and resides in Denver, CO.
Max – Thank you for taking a moment to speak with me. For those who may not be familiar with you or your organization, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and the NCIA?
Aaron – In 2010, after working as the Marijuana Policy Project’s California State Policy Director for several years, it was clear that legal medical cannabis — and soon adult-use cannabis — was about to become a booming industry in several states. And that industry needed a voice at the national level.
Myself and other cannabis reformers and early industry pioneers came together to form NCIA in order to be that voice and to ensure the cannabis business community was well-represented in our nation’s halls of power.
We’re in our 6th year now with more than 1,000 member companies across the country and a full time staff of more than 10 employees. It’s great to see how hard we’ve worked and how far we’ve come in that time.
Max – Thank you. What is the mission of the NCIA?
Aaron – NCIA’s mission is to “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.”
What that means in practical terms is representing the political interests of our members through federal advocacy and lobbying in Washington, D.C. — both through the full time staff in our Capitol Hill office and our two retained lobbying firms. We are also working within the industry to educate about best practices and to develop a community of cannabis industry leaders who can learn from and network with one another to continue to raise the bar for our industry.
Max – Now, I know the NCIA offers membership services. Can you tell us what the benefits are to being a member?
Aaron – In addition to supporting the crucial advocacy work we’re doing for the industry in the Halls of Congress, we also bring our members together with informative and inspiring networking receptions called Quarterly Cannabis Caucus events, and we also offer access to the GreenEdge Data Platform created by BDS Analytics with high-level sales data from several states so that business owners can make informed decisions about products. We also offer space for our members to write a guest blog post for our website or submit a press release with company news. Those are just a few benefits we offer, and we’re continually looking for new ways to provide even more value to our members.
Max – Tell us a little bit about your quarterly cannabis caucuses events.
Aaron – Held in 12 regions across the country, NCIA’s Quarterly Cannabis Caucuses provide both networking space and an educational platform for our members. Caucus attendees are also equipped with a quarterly “Call To Action” making it easy for them to plug into our advocacy work in Washington. We are also utilizing a social media campaign which I encourage your readers to join in on. The hashtags are #WeAreTheCannabisIndustry, #CannaBanking, #Reform280E, #DescheduleNow, and #CannabisCallsCongress.
Image Courtesy: National Cannabis Industry Association
Max – Now, let’s move on to the cannabis industry as a whole. Do you foresee national legalization, or decriminalization in our industry’s near future? If so, how do you predict this will impact the Oregon cannabis economy?
Aaron – National legalization is not inevitable but it’s certainly feasible if the industry steps up its financial investment in NCIA’s federal lobbying efforts post-election. The industry is educating lawmakers that regulating marijuana is the thing to do for our economy, for our criminal justice system, and for the health and well-being of everyone.
Max – As a cannabis industry expert, what are some of the biggest problems facing cannabis businesses today?
Aaron – Foremost, state-legal cannabis providers are prohibited from taking ordinary business deductions due to the unfair tax code provision 208E. This makes turning a profit nearly impossible for some and is hampering the industry’s ability to grow to its full potential. Additionally, the banking crisis caused by federal law poses a public safety threat to cannabis business owners, employees, and the public at large. These two issues are NCIA’s top legislative priorities.
Max – Last, but not least, you know I have to ask… What is your favorite cannabis strain?
Aaron – I think a lot of people find cannabis to be a great way to help regulate sleep patterns, especially for those of us who are constantly on the go running these time-intensive businesses. I usually look for strains that are good for relaxing in the evenings, particularly those with a high CBD profile.
Max – Thanks Aaron, you’ve been a great sport. I appreciate you agreeing to sit down and talk shop with me. I look forward to sharing your answers with all those interested and working in the cannabis industry. You’ve certainly shed some light today. Thank you!
Aaron – Thanks for helping us spread the word about NCIA and the work that more than 1,000 member-businesses are making possible. Hope to see you at the upcoming Seed To Sale Show being held in Denver on January 31st through February 1st.