Between cultivation, the manufacturing of edibles and other products, and retail responsibilities, cannabis companies from all corners of the industry have a lot on their plate — and the hyper-regulated conditions that cannabis operators wade through each day create even more complications and potential pitfalls. Luckily, companies like Simplifya, the automated operational compliance platform, can help safeguard cannabis entrepreneurs from regulatory penalties.
In this Q&A, Simplifya’s General Counsel and Chief Banking Officer Katrina Skinner discusses the role of compliance technology in the industry and describes how automating compliance can both boost efficiency and reduce costs. This interview also covers how Simplifya stays on top of shifting regulations, how the company onboards services for a new market as it opens up, and more!
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Ganjapreneur: What is Simplifya’s role in the cannabis industry?
Katrina Skinner: Simplifya is the country’s leading automated operational compliance platform. Our products can be used as critical components of a comprehensive risk-based compliance plan to automate tasks, create accountability, communicate successes and challenges, and provide the reporting management needs to identify and mitigate risks.
As Chief Banking Officer and General Counsel for Simplifya, what do your daily duties look like?
Much of my day is spent evaluating opportunities and helping implement strategies that help drive the adoption of Simplifya’s products and services. In doing so, I am privileged to work across all departments as well as work with outside third-parties that are close strategic partners. I also spend time educating others about effective cannabis compliance programs for businesses providing financial services.
How has compliance-oriented technology helped to evolve the cannabis space?
Compliance-oriented technology has modernized the cannabis industry by bringing much-needed tools that traditional highly-regulated industries have had for years, including financial services. Automated compliance platforms create efficiencies and cost savings by helping to protect cannabis licenses and by creating a digital paper trail that proves such efforts have been undertaken, making compliance easier for those who are tasked with implementing programs. By using these tools, rather than having to divert a ton of time, energy and money to handle compliance tasks that can be automated, businesses have the ability to redirect staffing to areas that support and facilitate expansion. Compliance becomes drastically easier, even in a difficult regulatory environment that lacks standardized regulations.
As a new cannabis market matures, does the demand for compliance services fluctuate?
I think it’s a common misconception that demand for compliance services decreases when a market matures. While regulations and compliance tasks may become more familiar and easier for licensed operators to understand and adhere to over time, regulators are also becoming more adept at enforcement and coming to understand the industry, its players, dynamics and intricacies inside and out. New regulations are issued each month and current regulations are constantly changing. The fact of the matter is: the cannabis industry is incredibly complex, and the complexities and nuances will continue to grow; thus comprehensive compliance programs are essential. The demand for specific compliance services may shift, but the overall need for compliance services will always be there.
Another misconception is that once federal prohibition ends, compliance services will become obsolete. In reality, rules will just get more complicated and layered and enforcement will ramp up when the federal government can get involved. Like alcohol laws, local jurisdictions would still be able to ban cannabis and impose their own restrictions. Federal laws will just be layered on top of state and local ordinances.
How does customer feedback influence Simplifya’s services?
Unsurprisingly, Simplifya is like any other service provider – we want operators and ancillary companies throughout the cannabis ecosystem to recognize our value-add and to be motivated to buy our products and services. Simplifya is committed to obtaining and reviewing client feedback, as well as constantly working to improve our products by implementing suggestions made by our current customers. Simplifya will even make significant changes to its content and product offerings if clients ask; however, of course we must consider the return on investment before doing so, as well as gauging popular consensus among clients.
What people don’t always appreciate is that our Regulatory Affairs team is constantly reviewing current regulations, proposed changes to regulations, and new regulations coming into every market in real time. The team goes through great pains to “simplify” the content to make the rules understandable for all compliance team members who use our products. Since the cannabis industry changes all the time, so does Simplifya’s content. We understand keeping abreast of the most current information is critical to ensuring compliance, and we want to be the tool compliance departments rely upon. Ultimately, Simplifya brilliantly combines automation with human insights, and to the extent we can refine our products to meet demand, we will do so.
Could you describe the process of expanding Simplifya’s services to a new state, market, or industry?
Simplifya’s Regulatory Affairs and Sales teams constantly monitor developments in new states. Using a proprietary process, our policy experts streamline final rules and regulations into the Simplifya format that the developers use to create content. Then our teams review the content, and then it goes through a legal and quality assurance review before being released. After new content is released, Simplifya team members watch for bugs and fix any that may arise. Once we wrap up putting out our core products in a state, the Reg Affairs team moves to the next state where there is sufficient demand and/or a request from a current customer, to repeat the process. It takes roughly 30 days to bring a new state online. So far our core products, which include SOPs, digital document storage, self auditing and license tracking are in 28 states and this number is growing.
What are you most excited about for the future of Simplifya and the cannabis industry in general?
The adoption of more automated compliance solutions is going to be exciting for Simplifya because we are committed to supporting the industry with relevant and useful technology, so as the markets grow, so too will Simplifya. And as for the cannabis industry in general, I am most excited about watching how the industry will continue to navigate tough market conditions so it evolves and becomes stronger and more mainstream with each passing year.
What’s your advice to entrepreneurs as they enter and/or navigate the cannabis space?
Prepare yourself for constant change, embrace learning opportunities, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. The learning curve is steep, so why not make the climb easier with advisors, mentors, and colleagues?
Thank you, Katrina, for sharing with our audience! Readers can visit Simplifya.com to learn more.