Yesterday, CBE carried a press release announcing the formation of the Cannabis Trade Federation Board (CTF) and the appointment of industry veteran Neal Levine as its CEO. CTF was formed by a coalition of industry licensees, ancillary businesses and stakeholders and allies like the American Trade Association for Cannabis and Hemp (ATACH) which also has a board of directors of Cannabis Industry influentials. To a large extent, CTF was formed to fill a void on Capital Hill due to the ineffectiveness of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) which has been embroiled in internal bickering, a lack of professional leadership/management and a dysfunctional board which has resulted in multiple resignations and the dismissal of their Chief of Staff and ouster of NCIA Co-Founder Rob Kampia from the board as reported by CBE this year.
The latest NCIA Board turmoil came recently when long-time cannabis advocate, supporter and entrepreneur Christie Lunsford resigned. Lunsford, who headed the NCIA committee that recommended to oust Kampia, was a close friend and ally of NCIA Executive Director Aaron Smith. She shared the following resignation e-mail sent to Smith on June 19, 2018 with CBE.
I am writing to offer my resignation to the board of NCIA. I’m proud to have served over the last year and have chosen to step aside at this time to allow another to lead at the board level. It’s been a privilege and I look forward to continuing to support the organization’s efforts.
All my best,
Christie Lunsford, Endocannabinioidology
CBE caught up with Levine to share more about CTF’s mission, organizational structure and bylaws and plans to attract an active and engaged membership to advance the cannabis industry and to advance the those in the new profession.
CBE: Good morning Neal, you have been quite busy these last several months since your resignation from the NCIA Board earlier this year. Tell our readers why you left NCIA and your position as Sr. VP of Government Affairs to form CTF.
Levine: Thank you, Rob. It’s always a pleasure to chat with you.
I had no desire or intention to leave LivWell Enlightened Health. I quite possibly had the greatest job on earth, working directly with three of the most wonderful people I have ever had the pleasure to know in John Lord, Michael Lord, and Dean Heizer.
Truth be told, John and Dean approached me with the idea for CTF at the beginning of the year, and at first they had to talk me into it. I absolutely loved my job at LivWell. I have witnessed John Lord make sacrifice after sacrifice over the years to advance this industry. Even though he believed that my taking on this role wasn’t necessarily the best thing for LivWell, he thought that it was the best thing for the industry overall and for me personally. John’s selflessness, class, and genuine kindness is no act. I’m honored to be able to call both John and Dean mentors and friends, and they will always be family.
Then the board unanimously asked me to take the position. Take a look at the quality of the folks that we have on our board who are pulling together to launch CTF. When people like that ask you to do something like this, you say yes.
Regarding NCIA, there have been a lot of things written recently about quite a few people leaving the board, all for very similar reasons. I’ll leave it at that.
CBE: Tell us about CTF’s mission and its long and short-term goals.
Levine: Our mission is to end the federal/state conflict in a business-friendly way that creates a professional cannabis industry that is inclusive to all. Our long-term goal is to help to build and represent a diverse and vibrant industry. Our short-term goal is to bring as many allies together as possible to pool the resources necessary to pass the STATES Act.
CBE: Earlier this year, CTF announced an alliance with ATACH which also has an alliance with several state organizations, how does this alliance fit with CTF’s goals and mission?
Levine: Not an alliance, we are building a federation and ATACH is a founding member. What that means is CTF is going to hire professional fundraising, communication, and non-profit management staff, and offer to share those resources at no-cost upfront with aligned organizations who would like to join with us. We will help to professionalize and stabilize these organizations, in the process unifying and working collaboratively with many talented folks from different segments of the industry. It’s time that we all come together.
ATACH doesn’t need CTF to professionalize, they’re a fantastic group doing some really important things. We are going to work and grow together into a force to be reckoned with.
CBE: One of the major complaints about NCIA from many ex-members is that they didn’t feel that they got any bang for their buck (NCIA currently charges a basic membership fee of $1000/year), what are CTF’s plans for a basic membership and what will those members receive in the form of primary benefits and why should they join CTF?
Levine: That is all spelled out on our website, www.CannabisTradeFederation.com
CBE: What else would you and CTF like to share with CBE’s readers?
Levine: It is time for us to all come together to tackle the challenges that our industry faces, Rob. We need to unify and row in the same direction. If you’ve actually spent any amount of time in the industry, not just talking about the industry but actually working in the industry, you quickly realize that our legal and regulatory issues are vast and systemic. We need to focus on solving them and just get this done. Some of these old battles and personality driven conflicts do nothing except divide us and serve the agenda of the prohibitionists, not industry. This isn’t about any individual personality, or one group’s concept of whose turf is whose. This is about business, and creating a professional and sustainable new American and international industry.
There is this old African proverb that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” We want to build a diverse, inclusive, vibrant, and permanent industry. We want to go further than anyone realistically imagined we could just a few short years ago. And we’re going to. There is not a doubt in my mind that we are going to get this done. We welcome everyone and anyone who would like to take this journey with us. We appreciate you, and we need you.
Now let me go so I can get back to work!
So there you have it, companies in the Cannabis Industry now have a clear choice of where to put their hard-earned dollars to work to create a level playing field. With key stakeholders that have entered the industry to build professional, successful profitable enterprises, and like the Minutemen who first took on the redcoats in the battle for independence, CTF has fired the first salvo of the “shot heard around the world” and CBE is betting that their professional leadership of experienced operators will be an appealing choice for those that want to see an effective, unified and consolidated effort to level the playing field for the rapidly expanding Cannabis Industry, domestically and abroad.