Member Spotlight: INB

Member Spotlight: INB

About INB

 

Katie Hahn

INB, inb.com

Katie Hahn is the Assistant Vice President of Business Solutions at INB, a Springfield-based bank that provides banking services to cannabis businesses in Illinois.

Tell us about your company?

INB has provided a full range of traditional banking services to individuals, businesses and government entities for over 21 years.  INB opened in 1999 with one straightforward expectation: to bring community banks into banking. That meant knowing your customers, being involved in your communities, caring and showing you care by using your resources to help the people you live and work with. INB is headquartered in Springfield, IL and has 13 Illinois branches and a loan production office in Chesterfield, MO. www.inb.com

Can you offer a general overview of the kinds of cannabis clients you serve?

We bank cultivators, dispensaries and many businesses that provide services or other operational items to cannabis operators, such as payroll providers, equipment providers, and investors who have experienced difficulties banking with their traditional banks due to the transactional nature and recipient of their investments.

Katie Hahn, Assistant Vice President-Business Solutions, INB

Katie Hahn is Assistant Vice President of Business Solutions at INB, a Springfield-based bank that provides banking services to cannabis businesses in Illinois.

What role does your company play in servicing the cannabis industry and how did that start?  

INB started its program in 2019 after hearing stories about and researching the movement of cash in the industry. Management believed it could create a program that would provide a secure solution to the movement in cash and give licensed operators access to some traditional banking services previously unavailable to many Illinois cannabis-licensed businesses.

We offer most of our traditional deposit services to licensed operators by working with couriers who specialize in cash-in-transit services designed specifically for the licensed-cannabis trade. We have offered loans on a limited and very conservative basis when there is real estate involved.

 

As a bank working in the cannabis industry – which is still not legalized at the federal level – explain how INB is able to operate here in Illinois.

The US Department of Treasury issued guidance through its Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) that set certain rules for banks who are receiving cash proceeds from or suspected to be tied to cannabis-related sales in states with licensed sales. INB’s primarily regulator, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) is also a division in the US Department of Treasury, each of which do not necessarily condone the open banking of cannabis-related cash, but require the bank to comply with the rules established by FinCEN and other traditional anti-money laundering regulations.

 

Why did INB get involved in the cannabis industry?

There are very few industries facing cash-logistic challenges like the cannabis industry. Banks were built to keep depositors’ money safe and provide financial services to protect the flow of its customers hard-earned gains. Our management team prides itself on finding innovative solutions for our customers and being on the forefront of new technologies and financial solutions. While INB started with a small, community bank charter, it began essentially as a start-up operation in the Capitol City and grew to compete with many older, established financial institutions

 

What excites you about the cannabis industry?

The cannabis industry presented an opportunity to meet new people who also faced unique challenges as they grew their businesses from the ground up in a heavily regulated industry much like the heavily regulated financial industry. The energy our licensed cannabis customers present when they discuss the unique paths to finding capital, building their operations and their difficulties working solely with cash is contagious. We share the excitement and relief that many of our customers experience when they feel the liberation that our cash logistics and banking services provide.

 

What are the biggest challenges facing your business?

There is a lack of diversity of services, which presents monopolies on pricing for certain services. Debit cards remain an issue, despite our continued pursuit with Visa to open their rails to licensed-cannabis operators. Loans are often difficult to extend because they are harder to wind-down if our regulators or the federal government changes its (somewhat) hands-off approach to banks in the cannabis space. We can close checking accounts, but we cannot really just exit loans that easily. This is a challenge for every bank looking to bank the cannabis industry. Loans are also difficult to make without real estate collateral, and the value of the collateral is hard to ascertain for very specialized projects such as cannabis cultivation and dispensaries (no standard appraisal rules or bases for cannabis industry operations).

 

As a company that services cannabis businesses, how has CBAI membership been valuable?

The Association can lobby for many of the obstacles we also face, but the education and access to other resources provide additional avenues for greater knowledge that can benefit our existing customers.

Connect with Katie Hahn and

INB!

 

Member Spotlight: Fox Rothschild, LLP

Member Spotlight: Fox Rothschild, LLP

About Fox Rothschild

 

Bill Bogot

Fox Rothschild, LLP: foxrothschild.com

Bill Bogot is a Partner and Co-Chair of the Cannabis Law Practice at Fox Rothschild LLP based in the firm’s Chicago office. After years spent focused on Illinois’ gaming industry, Bill transitioned to the cannabis space when medical cannabis was approved in 2013. 

Tell us about your company?

Fox Rothschild is a national law firm with 950 lawyers in 28 offices across the country. My focus for years was on the Illinois gaming industry, including working for the Illinois Gaming Board.  When Illinois passed the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act, which legalized medical marijuana in the state, we realized that the competitive applications for medical marijuana licenses were not too dissimilar from competitive casino licenses, including the background information and all the regulatory requirements that need to be met.  My partners and I, as prior gaming regulators, had a lot of experience with competitive applications and intense regulatory scrutiny.   As a result, we got in on the front end of providing legal services to those seeking medical cannabis licenses in Illinois and other states, and later adult-use cannabis licenses as well.  

What role does your company play in the cannabis industry?

We provide a full spectrum of legal services to a wide range of cannabis-related businesses across the country and here in Illinois. Because we started this work very early on, initially we only worked with smaller-scale entrepreneurs who were exploring the industry. Some of these were family businesses or groups of friends that were trying to build a little team to get their business started. And we became a resource for these groups of folks just starting out. It was great to start here in Illinois because it became a breeding ground for some of the largest multi-state cannabis operators, which we then witnessed blossom and grow into national players.  

Bill Bogot, Partner and Co-Chair of the Cannabis Law Practice, Fox Rothschild, LLP

Bill Bogot is a Partner and Co-Chair of the Cannabis Law Practice at Fox Rothschild LLP based in the firm’s Chicago office. After years spent focused on Illinois’ gaming industry, Bill transitioned to the cannabis space when medical cannabis was approved in 2013. 

What guidance would you give to someone considering entering the cannabis industry?

People entering the industry understandably have so many questions, not only because they’re new to the industry, but because the industry itself is so new and still federally illegal. The biggest piece of advice I give them when dealing with a competitive application process is: be prepared for delays. It’s the unfortunate reality of the cannabis industry across the country, that with the byzantine regulatory structures,  politics and lawsuits, there are invariably delays. We see this of course in the delay in issuing new competitive dispensary licenses in Illinois. The more you’re prepared for it, the better you can manage it.

 

 

What excites you about the cannabis industry?

Because we’ve been involved in it from the start, we’ve really seen the entire industry form and grow around us. I’ve been in law for almost three decades and it’s very satisfying to still be finding solutions to new issues that arise every day, whether it concerns restrictions on advertising, constitutional challenges to agency regulations, or navigating a new state that legalized marijuana.  Every day seems to be a great legal challenge.

It’s also been really satisfying to see our clients grow and succeed. I still remember introductory meetings almost a decade ago with small would-be cannabis license applicants that are now public companies. To be a part of that success is really special.  Now we just need to see that happen again when and if the next round of licenses are finally issued.  There are so many talented applicants being held back right now, but I’m really excited to see them succeed when they are finally licensed. 

Connect with Bill and

Fox Rothschild, LLP!

 

Member Spotlight: Cannabis Facility Construction

Member Spotlight: Cannabis Facility Construction

About Cannabis Facility Construction

 

Andy Poticha

Cannabis Facility Construction, CannabisFacility.net

Andy Poticha is founder & CEO of Northbrook-based Cannabis Facility Construction, which designs and builds dispensaries, cultivation facilities and more in Illinois and across the country

Tell us about your company?

As cannabis has become legal throughout the country, we’ve expanded the projects we do beyond medical dispensaries to include recreational dispensaries, as well as facilities focused on cultivation, craft grow, infusion, processing and extraction. Here in Illinois alone, we’ve built a total of 26 facilities.

What excites you about the cannabis industry?

Because the industry is still very young, the opportunity is incredibly exciting, not only in terms of business growth, but in terms of working with clients to build unique and custom projects. The technology is changing daily as well as the speed and sophistication of processes and best practices.

 What are the biggest challenges you face?

I always say that good designers get inside their client’s head and help them articulate that which they can’t do themselves on paper.  That means the future of dispensaries really depends on the experience our clients want their customers to have: do they want it to be a type of self-serve store or do they want it to feel more high-end and service-focused? Ultimately, I think you’re going to see both: groups that are interested in selling volume and groups that are interested in selling an experience.

We have to remember that, in Illinois, most of the dispensaries that were here seven years ago were medical and were focused more on satisfying the regulatory requirements than visual appeal. So, as a result, they ended up looking a lot like doctor’s offices. Our initial three projects were experiential and wellness focused.  Many others have followed that lead.  Going forward, I think it’s going to be very interesting to see how dispensaries evolve.

What are the biggest challenges facing your business?

The biggest obstacle we’re encountering is the challenge businesses everywhere are facing: supply chain issues as a result of the COVID pandemic. I’ve been in this business for more than 32 years and right now this environment is truly unprecedented, particularly as there is such a high demand for construction work, materials as well as labor.

Connect with Andy Poticha and the

Cannabis Facility Construction team!

 

Andy Poticha
Founder & CEO

Mosaic Construction, LLC • 847.504.0177
Cannabis Facility Construction • 847.504.0177
Design Construction Concepts • 847.498.1676

 

Member Spotlight: Navāda Labs

Member Spotlight: Navāda Labs

About Navāda Labs, LLC

 

Ron Miller

Navāda Labs, LLC: Navāda Labs.com

Ron Miller and his siblings are the principal owners of Navāda Labs, which currently has dispensary and transportation licenses in Illinois, and plans to expand into the craft grow sector.

What makes your company interesting and unique?

Navāda is a social equity applicant that has been in business since 2019. We’re a family business, started by my siblings and I, and named as a portmanteau of our grandmother (Navie) and mother (Ada) names who inspired us to achieve personal and professional successes. We’re fortunate to be a part of Cresco’s Social Equity & Education Development™ program, which is helping us learn how to operate in the cannabis industry and further our work to provide health and wellness to the community through cannabis.

Based on our experience in developing a deep understanding of our shoppers and consumers, Navāda will provide branded products and a unique shopping experience of superior quality and value that improve the lives of consumers. We want to ensure that we are providing products that fit the needs of both recreational users and health and wellness users. Just like any industry, different consumers have different tastes and preferences, so we’re undergoing significant consumer research to ensure that we have the best understanding of what Illinoisans desire.

Miller Family of Navāda Labs

What role does your company plan in serving the cannabis industry?

We currently have transportation and dispensary licenses but are actively working to expand into the craft grow sector as well. Our goal is to build premium dispensaries and craft grow locations, with the intent to have some of the best products and best-in-class locations. One day – when home deliveries are legalized – we’ll be ready to use our fleet of electric transportation vehicles to transform the industry by delivering products directly to consumers, as well as transporting our brands across the state.

We also seek to leverage the capabilities of our architectural/engineering and technology affiliates to help other social equity applicants realize their market entry dreams.  As an outcome, we expect to create opportunities for a multitude of other disadvantaged professionals and tradespeople to participate in the lucrative cannabis supply chain a substantial and sustainable manner.

 

What excites you about the cannabis industry?

The biggest thing that excites us is the ability to provide a service to the community. Three generations of our family lived and grew up on the west side of Chicago, where we were witnesses to the war on drugs. So, it means a lot to us to have a role in this industry and help shape what it looks like, while providing opportunities to the communities and people that have been disproportionately affected by the criminalization of cannabis.

 

What are the biggest challenges facing your business?

The licensing process has proved to be a major hurdle, because we’ve been forced to recreate our business plan, financial strategies, marketing plan, facility plans, and our talent acquisition plan.

Additionally, we are concerned that continued delays will drain the diverse pool of qualified social equity competitors, who have had fewer resources to sustain the opening delays. So, if the market contracts too rapidly, it might be difficult for disadvantaged entities to enter the market compete effectively.

 

What do you like about being a CBAI member?

CBAI always has its ear to the ground on what’s happening in the industry and does a great job keeping members updated. It’s been a treasure trove of information and, in an evolving industry, that’s invaluable. The association also provides great opportunities for marketing with both established cannabis businesses and those working to enter and grow in the industry.

Member Spotlight: LK Pure Labs

Member Spotlight: LK Pure Labs

About LK Pure Labs

 

Stephen Keith

LK Pure Labs.: LKPureLabs.com

Stephen Keith is the founder and CEO of LK Pure Labs, the first testing laboratory to be licensed in the state of Illinois. Steven’s background is in biological research, with a particular emphasis on plant life.

Tell us about your company?

We started LK Pure Labs in 2013 and were the first lab in the state of Illinois that was licensed to test cannabis. The focus of our 20-member team is on providing accurate, timely results, without sacrificing our stringent standards and testing policies. We believe our methods and practices make us the most accurate lab operating in the state of Illinois.

What role does your company play in serving the cannabis industry?

We work with growers to test their cannabis to ensure it meets state standards for commercial consumption. LK Pure Labs is ISO accredited and state-certified to provide all testing requirements for cannabis-related consumer products produced in the state.  So we evaluate things like how potent the cannabis is and evaluate things like pesticides and microbials, all before it can be sold at the store.

Stephen Keith, Founder and CEO of LK Pure Labs

Stephen Keith is the founder and CEO of LK Pure Labs, the first testing laboratory to be licensed in the state of Illinois. Steven’s background is in biological research, with a particular emphasis on plant life.

What drew you into the cannabis industry?

From my background as a research biologist, I see cannabis first and foremost as a plant and I’ve worked with plants my whole life. And as far as a plant goes, it’s gotten a pretty bad rap over the years. But I’ve seen the benefits that cannabis has had on people’s lives, particularly those suffering from PTSD and people struggling with things like seizures.

So, when I saw an opportunity to bring the same stringent practices from my biological research business into the cannabis testing business, I jumped at it.

 

What excites you about the cannabis industry?

The industry is going so quickly: it feels like it’s gone from 0 to 100 in about two seconds. That makes for a really exciting environment and a lot of opportunities to shape what testing will – and should – look like. And there’s no doubt in my mind that we’re just at the tip of the iceberg in determining how useful cannabis can be.

 

What are the biggest challenges you face?

From a business standpoint, we of course find ourselves competing with other laboratories, some of which don’t have the same practices and methodologies that we employ. In many ways, the standard operating procedures are still being developed. Illinois has implemented the strongest and safest product standards in the country. These “gold” standards are in place every step of the way when cultivating a product that can be sold, including batch size, equipment purchasing, timing, processing, etc. Other states are more lenient. Through CBAI, we are working directly with the current cannabis operators and relevant stakeholders to create best practices for the industry and our consumers, because while the standards are high, there are no set “rules” for the steps you take to meet them.

As for LK Pure Labs, we are never going to sacrifice our standards. Meeting the gold standard isn’t necessarily easy, but I’ve always told my team we’re going to keep our head down, stick with our practices and focus on our goal of getting the most accurate results.  

Member Spotlight: Justice Cannabis Co.

Member Spotlight: Justice Cannabis Co.

About Justice Cannabis Co.

 

Ashley Peterson

Justice Cannabis Co.: justicecannabisco.com/ 

 

Ashley Peterson is Executive Vice President of Operations and the Regional Head of Illinois at Justice Cannabis Co., a cultivation center that started in Illinois and has branched to seven other states.

Tell us about your company?

Justice Cannabis Co. (formerly Justice Grown) is a cultivation center based in Illinois, with operations in seven other states. We employ about 250 people across the country, including roughly 50 in Illinois. As our company name suggests, we’re founded on principles of civil rights and social justice and actively work to instill those principles in our business and in the industry. We host expungement education events, employ those who have been incarcerated and work to bring those who have been disproportionately affected by the criminalization of cannabis into the industry.

What role does your company play in serving the cannabis industry?

We grow what we refer to as “craft cannabis”, which is thoughtfully produced, high quality cannabis. We steer clear of synthetic pesticides and have implemented sustainable practices because we think it creates a better product for our customers.

Ashley Peterson, Executive Vice President of Operations & Regional Head of Illinois, Justice Cannabis Co

Ashley Peterson is Executive Vice President of Operations and the Regional Head of Illinois at Justice Cannabis Co., a cultivation center that started in Illinois and has branched to seven other states.

What drew you and your company’s founders into the cannabis industry?

Our CEO, Darin Carpenter, is a veteran who served as an Army medic, and he saw countless other veterans struggling to return to civilian life after returning from Afghanistan. And because of his medical background, he knew how cannabis could help, but at the time it was still stigmatized and hard to access. So Darin saw an opportunity to help this industry grow so that it could provide the product to help these who needed it.

On a personal level, I’ve benefited from using cannabis to address anxiety and insomnia. In my early twenties I was diagnosed with sarcoidosis and all of a sudden, I found myself lying awake, not being able to get out of bed and go to work in the morning. I tried anti-anxiety medication, but the side-effects were too severe. Switching to cannabis has been a lifesaver because it relaxes me and helps me sleep without interacting with my other medication or any other side effects.

So, these types of personal experiences really showed us how important cannabis could be in helping people and got us excited to enter the cannabis industry.

 

What excites you about the cannabis industry?

It’s thrilling to be in on the ground floor of the industry, where we’re all really shaping what exactly it’s going to look like. And what so many people in the cannabis industry are focused on is addressing barriers to entry for people of color and women and ensuring growth opportunities. But just wanting to create opportunities or have the conversation about it is not enough, which is why Justice Cannabis Co. is so focused on the principles of civil rights and social justice. We have the opportunity and the ability to make this industry inclusive and beneficial for generations. That’s the kind of thing that gets me out of bed in the morning.

One of the ways we’re working to make a difference is our work with non-profits. In keeping with our company’s commitment to community partnership and involvement, all employees are granted 16 hours each year to volunteer at a registered non-profit that we have partnered with. It is a program we developed in 2021 and will be available for employees to utilize in 2022.

 

What are the biggest challenges facing your business?

The first thing that always comes to mind is the banking aspect of it: because cannabis is still illegal on a federal level, banks don’t want to get involved in funding or providing financial services for the industry.

More locally, the Illinois hemp and cannabis industries should work more closely together to provide safe, regulated, tested products to consumers.

 

How is operating in other states different than in Illinois?

In addition to Illinois, we operate in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Michigan, Utah, Missouri and California. Illinois was our first state and it made us feel that, if we could operate in Illinois, we could operate anywhere. The regulations in Illinois are a bit stricter than in other states and it can be a little more difficult to navigate through the regulatory environment. But all in all, that’s a good thing because it means that Illinois has exceptionally high standards, which is exactly where you want to be for a burgeoning industry.

Connect with Ashley and

Justice Cannabis Co.!