Hop Latent Viroid, a Fast-emerging Threat to Cannabis Businesses

Hop Latent Viroid (HLVd)–a plant pathogen common in the hops industry–is a fast-emerging threat to cannabis businesses across the nation. It causes stunting and reduced yields, is easily spread amongst plants, and is extremely difficult to kill on surfaces with heat or disinfectants. Viroids are naked, single-stranded, circular pieces of RNA that are very tightly bound together, so they are very difficult to destroy. They lack a protein coat, so they can’t enter cells by attaching to receptors in the cell membrane the way viruses do. They instead must enter damaged cells, where they replicate in either the nucleus or chloroplasts. 

HLVd is spread by mechanical transmission, so a plant can be infected by contaminated shears, razors, or even by rubbing against another plant in the grow. Currently, the most effective way to sterilize contaminated tools and surfaces is to use a 10% bleach solution for 60 seconds. Isopropyl alcohol, peroxides, chlorine dioxide, and other traditional disinfectants are largely ineffective; according to Dr. Tassa Saldi of TUMI Genomics, isopropyl alcohol actually helps the viroid infect plant tissue, and the viroid can withstand the heat of a blowtorch. 

To safeguard your business against HLVd and other plant pathogens a holistic approach is necessary. Proper quarantine and testing of incoming nursery stock, appropriate process controls for propagation and cultivation, and ongoing, preemptive testing of the crop are just a few of the requirements to maintain a healthy, disease-free grow. National Cannabis Risk Prevention Services can help your company identify and control major risks to your business, and our Academy can fill in employee knowledge gaps so that your business can not only succeed but thrive in this uncertain industry. Let NCRPS help you protect your business from HLVd and other preventable risks.

Author:
Andrew Hatch
Director of Product Safety

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Quality Management in Cannabis

Product quality management is still an emerging field in cannabis production. This has mostly to do with federal prohibition, and partly because legalization and its attendant demand moved faster than research could be done. This has created a situation where many veteran operators do not fully understand the risks posed by microbial contaminants in cannabis production. This is risky for both operators and consumers. 

Growing clean cannabis requires a quality management approach that encompasses the entire production process. Just as the HVAC, lighting, and watering have to be in balance for the plants to grow well, quality management in cannabis requires an understanding of which parts of the process are most vulnerable to product contamination, and a coordinated effort by staff and leadership to ensure that appropriate process controls are maintained. To help companies accomplish this, we have developed two continuing education courses: Cannabis Contaminants and Cannabis Microbiology and Pathology. 

Cannabis Contaminants covers the four main types of contamination commonly found in cannabis–residual solvents, pesticide residues, heavy metals, and microbial contaminants–and how to prevent them from causing harm to your business and customers. Cannabis Microbiology and Pathology is an in-depth look at the risks posed to cannabis operations by microbes. At over 140 slides, this course is packed with information on the microbes associated with cannabis, and provides practical guidance on how to avoid major risk. 

Microbial contamination can destroy entire crops, cause batch failures and recalls, or cause serious health problems in both employees and consumers. Until there are uniform quality standards in the industry, the onus is on producers to safeguard their customers, employees, and businesses. Fortunately, NCRPS has a stepwise process to identify and control product risk across an entire vertically integrated cannabis operation. Product contamination doesn’t have to keep you up at night, we can help.

Author:
Andrew Hatch
Director of Product Safety

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Cannabis Occupational Safety & Health Education

The cannabis industry is still maturing and defining standards. One of the places that the industry was lacking initially was in educating workers in workplace hazards. The industry has many of the same hazards as others, but it does have some that are unique. That was the main reason behind the development on the NCRMA’s Cannabis Occupational Safety & Health courses (or COSH courses as we like to call them). The courses were designed to teach cannabis professionals of the most common hazards and how to control them. Nobody should get hurt at work and each business should prioritize injury prevention and keeping their employees healthy.

The COSH curriculum covers all the major hazards of a cannabis workplace.

Cannabis Sanitation and Hygiene – This course covers the major microbiological and chemical hazards in a cannabis operation and how proper hygiene and sanitation can prevent and mitigate these hazards

Intro to Cannabis Occupational Safety & Health – This course gives the student an introduction to OSHA rules, standards, and enforcement. It also explains how to develop a business’s safety program.

The courses COSH: Biological & Chemical Hazards and COSH: Physical Hazards identify the major hazards in the cannabis workplace and goes over best practices and standards to prevent and mitigate these hazards.

Cannabis 6S - 6S (otherwise known as 5S + Safety) is a system that aims to promote and sustain a high level of productivity and safety throughout a workspace. While adhering to the 5S principle of Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain, the 6S method adds the concept of Safety. 6S not only helps cannabis organizations promote efficient working environments but also establishes a sustainable culture of safety.

Because of the unique repetitive motions in cannabis operation, there are musculoskeletal disorders the workers face that can turn into lifelong disabilities. In order to combat these hazards, the NCRMA developed four courses with our service partner Atlas Therapy. Dr. Hughes of Atlas Therapy believes workers are ‘Industrial Athletes’ and describes how to protect them and optimize their performance. The ergonomic courses are Introduction to Cannabis Ergonomics, Lift Like a PRO, Prune Like a PRO, and Trim Like a PRO.

While it’s impossible to predict and prevent all hazards to workers, these COSH courses cover all major hazards found in a cannabis businesses workplace. Keep yourself, your workplace, and your coworkers & employees safe by educating yourself. Stay safe out there everyone!

Author:
Alex Hearding
Chief Risk Management Officer

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PCRM Certification Released and NCRM Academy

We are proud to announce a new professional certification available through The National Cannabis Risk Management Association (NCRMA): Professional Cannabis Risk Manager (PCRM).

This is the premier certification for demonstrating knowledge and understanding of the broad scope of operational risks in the cannabis industry.

The program consists of 33 courses covering general risk management and insurance for cannabis businesses as well as specific subjects such as occupational safety & health, compliance, medical cannabis, and talent optimization. Upon completion of the courses and passing a final exam, the PCRM certification is designed to educate and expand on the professional’s awareness and understanding of the many risks of cannabis operations. The courses are delivered by 14 different subject matter experts that are recognized and respected in their fields and the cannabis industry.

Click to go view the PCRM Curriculum on the NCRMA Academy Website

Professionals in many fields obtain various types of certifications and designations to demonstrate the level of knowledge and training in cannabis risk identification and control, as well as their commitment to excellence and best practices.

Whether you are an experienced cannabis operator, compliance professional, safety professional, insurance broker, or you’re transfer your expertise to this rapidly growing industry, attaining the PCRM certification will make you stand out in a crowded industry and show your breadth and depth of knowledge in managing the numerous risks found in cannabis operations.

In addition, attaining the PCRM certification is a worthwhile goal as you plan your career, consider ways to expand your breadth of specialized knowledge, or simply to satisfy ongoing training and development objectives within your company.

Features:

  • 33 courses across 6 areas of focus
  • Delivering by 14 subject matter experts with diverse and deep cannabis experience.
  • Over 26 hours of education
  • Comprehensive final exam
  • Certificate of completion

Pricing: Regularly priced at $1,995 with a special introductory offer of $995 until the new year!

The certification is obtained through the NCRM Academy.

Author:
Jack Palis
Lead ESG Risk Manager and East Coast Regional Manager

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Webinar Video - Minimizing Risk and Maximizing Opportunity in High Growth, Highly Regulated Environment

With great opportunity comes great challenges and unwanted attention. In order to maximize opportunities in financing the cannabis industry’s growth, both capital providers and operators need to navigate unique issues in multiple areas to minimize risks and develop best practices.

https://youtu.be/GoeqLSmmQLo

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No More Risky Business

In today’s increasingly complicated cannabis marketplace, business owners must employ every tool in their toolbox to ensure success. Fresh new products, increased digital engagement, and consumer-friendly retail spaces can grab all the attention and help drive profits. Still, there is one critical area that is routinely overlooked.

We are talking about risk management. While it’s not as sexy as many other parts of the industry, it is crucial to ensuring your long-term health and possibly survival. Ensuring that inside any cannabis business’s four walls that their property, product, worker safety, banking, and on-premises risks are secured is no simple task. While many people think that by having insurance, they are safe, they are incorrect.

“Any risk has the potential to make your business worse, period,” says Rocco Petrilli, the CEO and president of the National Cannabis Risk Prevention Services (NCRPS). “So, if you can mitigate and eliminate that risk, you improve your business. Nobody has ever mitigated risk by buying insurance coverage. Insurance simply shares or transfers the risk that can’t be fully reduced. What successful businesses do is take care of any risks up front.”

NCRPS is a pioneering and innovative risk management platform that solely focuses on the complexities of the cannabis world. Their members enjoy access to a whole suite of educational materials and access to cannabis-focused partners, and insurance plans. But one of their most critical offerings is their expert risk management assessment.

By crafting a complete risk assessment from time spent by one of their team, they identify and completely break down everything into easy-to-understand sections. Each facet of your business has a risk score detailing any identified issues and a list of recommendations to solve them. By using tried and true safety standards for non-cannabis industries and the many cannabis-specific problems, they know and understand, they can create a detailed action plan to ensure a safe workplace and peace of mind.

They are not finished once they hand over their report. That’s when NCRPS can bring their whole host of in-house and service partner resources into play to ensure their clients succeed. This hands-on execution ensures your business safety, security, and success are secured.

Author:
sensimag.com

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Is the Delta 8 Loophole Closing?

The Nineth Circuit ruling created a loophole to sell psychoactive substances, like Delta-8, without an age limit, without a possession limit, and without any product safety or contamination standards.

Delta-8 is a cannabinoid found in cannabis but its natural quantities are low. Shortly after the glut of hemp and CBD oil in 2019 people started to synthesize the CBD oil into Delta-8 products. As of early 2021, Delta-8 was one of the fastest growing segments of products derived from hemp. The list of psychoactive substances derived from hemp keeps growing with Delta-8, Delta-10, THC-O, THC-P, etc. and they all fall under this loophole.

To recap recent history in this country: The voters in states that have legalized medical and recreational marijuana voted to regulate a psychoactive substance to patients and adults and to require the product be tested for potency and contamination. Then the 2018 Farm bill legalized hemp nationally. The understanding at the time was THC (Delta-9) was THE psychoactive substance. With hemp being define as 0.3% THC, the assumption was no one would ever get high from hemp products. That was obviously a wrong assumption…

When Delta-8 came on the market some states banned or regulated it while most have done nothing. Most people do not know what delta-8 is. Some products make it more confusing, like Delta-8 Flower. Most people I have talked to that have purchased it say they think it’s ‘natural’ and ‘grown that way’. What most don’t know is ‘Delta-8 flower’ is hemp flower sprayed with delta-8, and in many cases, it has not been tested for chemical residuals, pesticides, metals, or for potency other than THC (Delta-9). The lack of understanding of the product has led to product safety issues.

As of November 21, 2022 - 21 states have banned or regulated delta-8 while four are reviewing its legal status. Currently Delta-8 is legal in 29 states and DC, but that might all be coming to an end with another federal ruling.

‘A federal judge threw out a lawsuit against Kansas’ governor and attorney general that alleged $120,000 worth of delta-8 THC products destroyed by police were legal.’

https://mjbizdaily.com/federal-court-tosses-delta-8-thc-lawsuit-against-kansas-governor/

In dismissing the suit Tuesday, the judge wrote that, “in short, no part of the 2018 Farm Act demonstrates an unmistakable focus to benefit plaintiff or other unlicensed possessors and sellers of hemp products.

“The 2018 Farm Act does not create a private right for plaintiff to (possess) and sell hemp and hemp products, either under Section 1983 or as an implied cause of action under the 2018 Farm Act itself.”

The question now is ‘what's next?’. Is this the end of the Delta-8 loophole? If so how do the feds enforce its new position. Many hemp operations will be impacted by this ruling and should prepare themselves for the change.

Author:
Alex Hearding
Chief Risk Management Officer

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You are Justifiably Confused, and Likely at Risk

Merriam Webster defines:

RISK- possibility of loss or injury PERIL

INSURANCE- An arrangement by which a company provides a guarantee of compensation for specified loss in return for payment of a premium.

COMPLIANCE-the act or process of complying (to conform, submit, or adapt (as to a regulation or to another's wishes) as required or requested) to a desire, demand, proposal, or regimen or to coercion

RISK MANAGEMENT - The discipline of forecasting and evaluation of financial risks together with the identification of procedures to avoid or minimize their impact.

Unfortunate for grass roots cannabis businesses, varying “professionals” travel the industry using these terms interchangeably. If you are confused…don’t feel badly…you have every right…

As detailed by the definitions above, however, each are distinctly different with all having their place in a cannabis company’s strategy and business plan.

Let’s try to untangle this web...

Risk management or mitigation is fundamentally defined as taking an action to reduce the possibility of an event taking place. Insurance is designed to supplement these actions by financially transferring the portion of certain risks whose probability can’t be lowered to an acceptable level.

To further understand the differences between risk management and risk transfer, let’s look at the comparison below

Risk Management vs Risk Sharing

Risk Management

  • Lowers the odds of a happening
  • Keeps you whole
  • Makes you better

Insurance

  • Partial compensation for damage if it happens
  • Never, ever makes you whole
  • Always creates a setback

Additionally, many risks cannot be insured affordably, and certain risks can not be insured at all. Take talent optimization for example. One of the largest risks facing not only the US cannabis market but American businesses in general is finding the right people, putting them in the right paces and retaining them. There is no insurance market that transfers an ounce of this risk. Risk management is the only route of control (SEE PRESS RELEASE LINK).

Similarly, typical cannabis insurance and other financial services products are “pricey” as a result of the much overplayed “external risk of cannabis.” This is in a time where loss claims are low because of the presence of substantial coverage exclusions in a market where demand significantly outweighs supply. The likelihood of losses and their associated costs increases without effective risk management and further increases coverage prices.

Based on the above, one can only conclude that…

Risk management without insurance is imperfect …but insurance without risk management is illogical”

Now let’s look at compliance. The definitions cited above clearly point to compliance as something that YOU do to satisfy SOMEONE ELSE. I am in no way stating that compliance is not important as it provides many of the tools required for successful operation. Compliance is also key in maintaining licensing status and conformance with any multitude of regulatory requirements.

Where compliance falls short is that it does not necessarily teach one as to what tools to use and how to use these tools in certain situations. This is where risk management comes in. Where compliance is the tool box, risk management is the real application of the right tools to solve a cannabis company’s problems efficiently, reduce their fixed and variable costs and enhance their profitability.

Hopefully this clears some of the confusion. Now take action to put your compliance investment to work by clicking on the link below and completing the NCRPS 5-minute risk assessment.

Author:
Rocco Petrilli
CEO and President

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Reviving Seeds

Before legalization, most cannabis breeding was done with very limited numbers of plants to select from, and almost entirely with the aim of increasing yield and THC content. For these reasons many alleles—or specific variants of a gene that code for different traits—were lost. Some of these alleles contributed to the plant’s ability to survive, and reintroducing them into modern strains could result in plants that are more productive, disease resistant, and stress tolerant.

Enter the Seed Enthusiast! Dedicated seed collectors have been putting away cannabis seeds for decades, and there are many important collections. Despite the value of these seeds to our industry, many people are too afraid to try to germinate old seeds for fear of destroying them. There is very little good data on the viability of cannabis seeds in storage, but there are corollaries in mainstream agriculture. A date palm was grown from seeds that were 2000 years old a few years back, and the seeds of many other plants have been extensively researched. I also know an orchid grower who germinated 35 year old cannabis seeds from Afghan cannabis with a 75% success rate just by planting them.

More study is needed to determine the optimal methods for germinating old cannabis seed so that we can restore vigor and variety to the sea of cannabis strains on the market. If we want better cannabis, we need better genetics. Keep saving those seeds, but I challenge the industry to start cautiously figuring out how to get these genes out of storage and into our crop, the future of cannabis depends on it.

Author:
Andrew Hatch
Director of Product Safety

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New Service Partner: Kairos

Kairos Insurance Group Cannabis Division offers employee benefits plans including medical, dental, vision, disability, and life insurance. An agency founded in Colorado, we have over eight years experience helping cannabis businesses build multi-year strategies to provide the best value for the lowest premiums. Kairos is appointed with most major carriers and shops your plan every year so you don’t have to. Our founder, Summer Westerbur, has over twenty years experience designing employee benefits packages.

Open Enrollment:

The easiest way for a business to increase profitability is by decreasing costs. Does your broker quote every carrier at renewal? We have access to all major carriers. If you’ve been with the same carrier for several years, there’s a good chance you’re overpaying. Even if you’ve already renewed next year’s benefits, you’re not locked in. Carriers are required to honor those rates for a year, but you are allowed to switch carriers at any time. We still have time to reduce your premiums so your business can put that money to better use.

Current Trends in Group Health Insurance:

We’re seeing many healthy groups move to level-funded plans. Historically, these plans were only available to large groups. They’re now available to businesses with as few as five employees in some states. They require additional work upfront, but can be a great multi-year strategy for long-term premium stabilization. For healthy groups with lower claims, they also have the possibility of a refund at the end of the year. We also see businesses offering fully-insured plans with multiple plans options offering different levels of coverage to fit any budget.

What about Disability Coverage?

Many carriers continue to decline disability insurance to cannabis companies. Kairos has at least one carrier in each state willing to write disability insurance for cannabis businesses. We only write with A-rated carriers. Disability is a valuable benefit for businesses, especially during the Great Resignation. It’s important to offer a wide range of coverages in your benefits package to retain employment.

Easy Online Enrollment:

We understand the challenge of gathering your employees in one room for an annual enrollment meeting. However, employee benefits communication is an important strategy for employee retention. We work with you to schedule multiple in person or Zoom meetings to explain benefits, demonstrate finding in-network providers, and answering questions about benefits.

Call us at 719-331-1832 or email summer@kairosinsurancegroup.com for a free policy review. 

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