Cannabis Compliance Clockwork

December 10, 2021
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Proactively Managing Compliance Year after Year


There’s never enough time in the cannabis industry. Ask any owner, operator, manager, or employee. Often, not having enough time to get to compliance matters puts them on the back burner for another day. This back burner can catch fire, and waste even more precious time in reaction to putting it out – metaphorically speaking.


This reality is all too true in our experience which is why we teach and train cannabis workers in the magic of knowing the cannabis compliance clockwork. The clockwork is a metaphor for the ticking of time over the year in which clients can proactively manage their compliance instead of it managing them. 

For the sake of simplicity, iComply defines these “Clockworks” into the following categories:

  • Regulatory Clockwork
  • Operational Compliance Clockwork
  • Facilities and Equipment Clockwork

Each Clock represents a cycle of repeating patterns inherit in the compliance management “gear work”, so to speak. These patterns generally repeat every year making them easy to manage and giving cannabis businesses the ability to anticipate and plan for their inevitable “ticking”.


Regulatory Clockwork


In cannabis, it seems like the rules are always shifting and changing. That’s because they are. Understanding why, when, and how they shift is what the Regulatory Clockwork is all about. When we say regulations, we mean rules, but it’s important to understand that rules come from the authority of legislation.

Every year, politicians meet (usually from January to May) to discuss data, stigmas, threats, and concerns regarding marijuana policy, law, and business operations. Most politicians aren’t as educated on licensed marijuana businesses as regulatory agencies are, yet they set the “tone” for the Regulatory Clockwork. 


If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.


Meaning, cannabis businesses should belong to and support their state industry associations who are engaged in educating politicians, protecting business interests, and ensuring new laws don’t turn into burdensome regulations down the line.

Generally, after each legislative session, new laws on marijuana businesses are passed and the Regulatory Agency in each state is tasked with translating the intent of politicians into the regulatory code governing marijuana businesses. This is the next phase of the “Clock” in which rule making occurs with industry, opponents, experts, and others to best craft exactly what rules will look like. 

Finally, these rules are published into a final form and may include delayed implementation or effective dates within them. Because of these effective dates, it can feel like a cannabis business is changing the way they operate to react to compliance multiple times a year. 

The truth is, by participating in, and anticipating rule changes, marijuana businesses can proactively manage their compliance by scheduling what’s to come and starting earlier on implementing these changes. For iComply clients, we proactively monitor this clockwork to work with our clients throughout the year and provide updates including seminars and training programs to ensure they don’t fall behind and needlessly put their license at risk.


Operational Compliance Clockwork


In conjunction with changing rules, are a myriad of changing operational realities that cannabis businesses will have to deal with. In over a decade of compliance management, we’ve never seen a 100% compliant business. That’s because compliance can be a moving target and this clockwork is often specific to marketplaces, operators, staff, and circumstances.

For example, the 4/20 holiday can increase sales and cause the gears to spin faster – causing some areas of operations to get off track. Similarly, slow seasons or intermittent harvests can cause supply shortages or gluts which may impact sales and cause the focus of the business to move from compliance to other areas.

Employee turnover is often a challenge that occurs all the time on the Operational Compliance Clockwork and having a shallow talent pool, having to replace talent, and retaining employees are a major cost that can have staying on top of compliance feel like a distant dream.

While marijuana businesses cannot anticipate all circumstances of disruption, they can work within their processes and people to mitigate the risks of this clockwork as much as possible. By ensuring backup plans for contingencies that threaten operations, for emergencies, and for staffing shortages, much of the common mistakes made by other companies can be avoided by being planned in. Beyond SOPs, employees that have a clear understanding of their roles, responsibilities, and career path, tend to stay at companies longer. People want to know what they can expect and what they should do to grow, develop, and contribute to a company that values them rather than jumping ship at the next opportunity.

Employee training manuals, compliance training programs, and career development protocols are all key components of effectively managing the operational compliance clockwork. By reducing turnover, increasing the speed of training, and providing advancement opportunities in a clear cut manner, marijuana companies can reduce one of their biggest costs and more consistently ensure that their people stay on track.


Finally, iComply works with our clients to establish measures and management of compliance on a proactive basis with internal audits, inventory reconciliations, SOP reviews, packaging & labeling, and books & records audits periodically every year to identify compliance issues before they become problematic and to help clients resolve non-compliance proactively.


Facilities and Equipment Clockwork


In every cannabis facility, there is a ton of equipment including computers, DVRs, cameras, extractors, fertigation systems, meters, scales, etc. With every piece of equipment or tool, there are manufacturer specifications outlined in the manuals for such equipment. Often, these manuals are tossed out or overlooked by cannabis businesses.


While this may be acceptable for small tools or affordable, non-essential equipment that’s easily replaceable, a lot of other equipment is expensive, sensitive, and greatly depended on to conduct operations in a consistent and compliant manner. In such cases, its important to include manufacturer maintenance, calibration, cleaning, and replacement schedules into SOPs for facility maintenance. This can often mean the facility itself as well.

By anticipating when these required activities should take place, cannabis businesses can proactively ensure they do not run into operational interruption, create inaccurate or faulty equipment, or put their own staff in needless danger due to this oversight. In each of these Compliance Clockworks, iComply helps clients ensure the gears are greased and running smoothly. Rather than have a broken clock that’s only right twice a day, iComply makes sure the tone of compliance rings true year after year. 


Whether it is by watching the changing rules and implementing them into operational SOPs, reducing staff turnover through effective training and development, or mitigating risky expenses caused by non-conformance, we support our clients year round in managing the inevitable ticking of time. 


Otherwise, too often we find, time manages you.