The legal cannabis industry is one of the most dynamic industries in the country and has the potential to change healthcare, the job market, and the criminal justice system in ways that are hard to overstate.
But it may also be a bit more simple than that.
“I think at the end of the day this industry is a compliance industry and we get to sell cannabis to the masses if we follow the rules,” Colin Mudd, the founder, and CEO of Colorado’s Konopé Compliance told Rootwurks.
It might not sound like the most romantic portrayal of the cannabis industry, but this insight is the result of well over a decade spent in the industry dealing with the regulatory hoops that cannabis operators have to jump through daily.
Mudd’s cannabis story began back in 2009 when he began working to help set up one of the first dispensaries in Fort Collins, Colorado. In the role, he eventually met one of the founders of Keef Cola and became a sales rep for the brand. After five years spent working in retail cannabis, the recreational marijuana market opened in Colorado, and Mudd took a job at the edibles company Incredibles. He would spend 8 years at Incredibles, eventually leaving as the compliance director for the company.
Mudd said that at the time, he was doing responsible vendor training on the side as an additional source of income. Last year, during “the worst possible time in our industry,” he decided to start doing responsible vendor training full-time and launched Konopé (“cannabis” in Slovak).
“After 10 years in the industry, I thought my place in cannabis is going to be helping people and trying to take advantage of my experience to be a resource for small and medium-sized businesses to help them mitigate risk and build a sustainable business. This is what I’m passionate about for the next 10, 20 years of my career.”
What is responsible vendor training?
Responsible Vendor Training (RVT) is a course or series of courses covering the safe and responsible sale and handling of cannabis products. It is in many ways similar to the “TIPS” certification training for bartenders and other professionals who are tasked with the responsible service and sale of alcohol.
“If you’re selling a schedule one, federally illegal substance, you need to have as much knowledge as possible so you don't tell the person who's consuming it anything that’s going to jeopardize their health or safety,” Mudd said.
The Colorado Department of Revenue states that its Responsible Vendor Program was launched to “assist Medical and Retail Marijuana Stores, Medical and Retail Marijuana Transporters, and Licensed Hospitality Businesses in finding appropriate public health and compliance training for staff.”
Cannabis companies that complete RVT training from a state-certified provider are then considered responsible vendors. Konopé is one of less than 20 providers of responsible vendor training in Colorado certified by the Marijuana Enforcement Division.
In states like Colorado, the regulatory authorities take these courses into account when assessing cannabis compliance violations. In the event of such a violation, these credentials can serve as a mitigating factor that can make the penalties less painful.
According to Mudd though, there doesn’t need to be a compliance violation for RVT to come in handy, and in fact, you don’t even need to work in cannabis at all.
“You have the ability to take the training, understand compliance, understand your liabilities and risks, and then be able to make the best decision for yourself and your career. So if you’re already in the industry or if you're not, you can take responsible vendor training and gain knowledge and experience.”
For cannabis business owners, Mudd said the training can go a long way toward helping make compliance a central part of the work environment.
“From the [cannabis] license holder’s perspective, it's really important and beneficial because you can utilize responsible vendor training to create a culture of compliance amongst your staff that is scalable and able to be replicated at a number of facilities.”
No compliance, no innovation
Konope has partnered with Rootwurks and the company’s responsible vendor training program will be integrated into the Rootwurks Learning Experience Platform.
Mudd said that the partnership was born partly due to the fact that he saw the value in a platform that melds compliance and operations together.
“What I’ve seen is that you can’t really have a successful operation without a compliance foundation. You can’t operate without following the rules and the rules are set to ensure that operations protect public safety.”
And compliance is a crucial component behind all of it, according to Mudd.
“There are many innovators in this space [cannabis], but you can’t have innovation in cannabis without taking compliance into consideration,” he said, adding, “a lot of operators will tell you that compliance can get in the way of operations and innovation and there’s some validity to that. But within cannabis, if you don’t figure out how to innovate compliantly, you're going to fail.”
Mudd - a former compliance manager - also stated that it’s not a matter of having one person in charge of compliance for a company. Rather, it has to be a team effort by the whole staff.
“The entire staff has to know about the rules and regulations and if you don't have a training program in place they're never gonna understand it,” Mudd said.
He added, "and quite honestly, with the amount of turnover in this industry, bad habits seem to perpetuate themselves.”