The compliance officer’s dilemma

Rick MatsumotoCompliance, Culture

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Compliance OfficerThe true measure of success for a compliance officer lies in creating a culture of compliance that permeates the organization. He needs to make every employee a compliance officer of sorts, and the greater his degree of success in doing so, the less the need for any one individual with “compliance” in his title. He is working himself out of his job. This is the compliance officer’s dilemma!

Did you notice the word cannabis doesn’t appear in the paragraph above? The dilemma exists in any industry where there is a high penalty for not following the rules.

  • As the former COO for a start-up that wanted to hold an IPO on an American stock exchange, I was responsible for compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX). Failure to comply meant not getting listed on the stock exchange.
  • As the former CISO for a company that stored and transmitted payment card data, I was responsible for compliance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). Failure to comply meant losing partnerships with suppliers and service providers that were critical to the business.

The penalty for non-compliance in the cannabis industry is usually a fine. Since the first retail store opened in January of 2014 and through the end of 2015, Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division has imposed nearly $1 million in fines. As long as the business is financially strong enough to handle the fine, it at least has an opportunity to continue operating. In many cases, however, businesses have their licenses suspended or even revoked. Over that same time period, the MED suspended 65 licenses and revoked another 47 licenses. Operational license renewal rates have dropped by 50 percent, primarily because of the challenges of running a compliant marijuana business.

As a result, many cannabis companies have hired compliance officers and tasked them with full-time compliance. Ironically, the mere existence of a compliance officer gives everyone else permission to say “it’s not my job, go talk to the compliance officer.” But it’s foolish to think that one person can achieve 100% compliance 100% of the time. Everybody from the CEO to the part-time hourly staffer needs to share in the compliance mandate. It only takes one person to slip up to create an expensive problem.

Jordan Wellington is the Director of Compliance at Vicente Sederberg, the law firm that led Colorado’s Amendment 64 campaign and drafted the original rules governing medical and recreational marijuana in Colorado. In any given meeting, he’s likely to share this nugget:

You may think you’re in the marijuana business, but you’re really in the compliance business. If you’re good at compliance, you get to play around with weed. If you’re not good at compliance, you go to jail.

For full dramatic effect, you need to hear it in person. Jordan is not afraid to drop an F bomb! Drama aside, his point is well taken. Marijuana business owners need to understand that compliance is at the top of the priority list, each and every day. Those that don’t understand are literally putting their business lives at risk.

So here’s my advice to compliance officers. Embrace the dilemma. Do your best to work yourself out of a job by creating a culture of compliance. Be the compliance champion and rally employees around the cause. Advocate and teach at least as much as you scold and advise. Do these things and you will be successful. And in the unlikely event a short-sighted boss thinks you’re no longer needed, know that your success will quickly carry you to the next opportunity!

Simplifya launches groundbreaking cannabis compliance software in Colorado

Rick MatsumotoCannabis Law, Compliance, TechnologyLeave a Comment

compliance-checkboxes

Denver-based company helps local marijuana businesses stay compliant with complex industry regulations

November 15, 2016

DENVER, CO – Today, Simplifya launched its highly anticipated software, making it easier for businesses, law firms, consultants, financial institutions and regulatory agencies to monitor cannabis licensee operations for compliance with state and local regulations.

Some of Colorado’s most recognized marijuana licensees are currently piloting Simplifya as their compliance solution, and several local companies have already begun self-audits with the software.

“Compliance is critical in our business,” says Don Novak, Groundswell Cannabis Boutique founder and Simplifya customer. “We are looking forward to seeing how Simplifya can help us run an even more compliant operation and give us the tools to train a more informed team.”

Simplifya’s cloud-based web, tablet, and smartphone app are working together to provide cannabis business owners with the peace of mind that comes with knowing they are properly managing risk. Leveraging the industry’s most current database of rules and regulations, the software streamlines and simplifies the audit process, reducing the time and cost involved.

“We’re recommending more stringent and more frequent self-audits for our customers and we’re providing them with an easy way to do that,” says Simplifya CEO and Co-founder Marion Mariathasan. “I’m excited about creating higher standards for the cannabis industry, and helping our customers achieve those standards.”

Simplifya recently closed the second part of its $1 million Series A funding round. After its Colorado launch, Simplifya plans to launch in California, followed by several other states where marijuana has been legalized.

About Simplifya

Simplifya, headquartered in Denver, Colorado, is the industry’s leading cannabis compliance software company. The company was founded in 2016 by partners from Vicente Sederberg, the law firm that led Colorado’s Amendment 64 campaign (legalizing recreational marijuana), and investors with proven track records in technology start-ups. Its cloud-based web, tablet, and smartphone app work in synchrony to simplify the process of staying current with state and local regulations.

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CONTACT: Shannon Kaygi, 877.464.8398 x706, shannon@simplifya.com

In PDF format: Press Release 2016-1115 software launch

Simplifya completes Series A funding

Rick MatsumotoCompliance, TechnologyLeave a Comment

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Hypur Ventures leads investment in cannabis tech company

September 22, 2016

Simplifya Logo squareSCOTTSDALE, AZ – Simplifya, a portfolio company of Hypur Ventures, announced today that it has completed its Series A capital financing stage.

Simplifya is a software company operating in the legalized marijuana industry that assists businesses, law firms, consultants, financial institutions and regulatory agencies with monitoring cannabis licensee operations for compliance with state and local regulations.

Simplifya was founded by the partners at Vicente Sederberg, one of America’s top cannabis law firms, because they wanted a technology solution to help them effectively manage the complex and intensive licensee monitoring process for their legal cannabis customers.

“We realized that there are many others in this rapidly growing industry who would benefit from our solution, so we saw an opportunity to scale this beyond our own firm,” said Simplifya CEO and Co-founder Marion Mariathasan.

The underlying database of compliance verification checklists was created by and is constantly updated by Vicente Sederberg, ensuring that the system stays current as laws and regulations change and licenses come up for renewal.

Hypur Ventures logoHypur Ventures, the largest Simplifya investor, added the company to its portfolio as part of it’s focused strategy of investing in emerging markets with high growth potential.

“Simplifya is a synergistic match with our other companies in the legal marijuana space, and it fills an important market need,” said Christopher Galvin, Co-founder and President of Hypur Ventures. “Vincente Sederbeg has an impressive track record of navigating the complex and ever-changing world of the legal cannabis market, and they’ve translated that expertise into Simplifya’s automated solution to achieve simplicity, usability and scalability in monitoring cannabis licenses.”

Simplifya will launch first in Colorado and will later roll out to other states where cannabis has been legalized.

About Simplifya

Simplifya is an easy-to-use, cloud-based SaaS (Software as a Service) application for web, mobile, and tablet use to help ensure a cannabis business is legally compliant. Learn more at Simplifya.com

About Hypur Ventures

Hypur Ventures is a venture capital fund dedicated to investing in businesses that operate in the legal cannabis industry. Our strategy is to invest in companies that are known by consumers, competitors, regulators and investors as trusted members of the cannabis community. Learn more at HypurVentures.com

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CONTACT: Jessica Lee, 480-409-4599 x514, jlee@hypurventures.com

Powerhouse MJ law firms team up on compliance software

Rick MatsumotoCannabis Law, Compliance, TechnologyLeave a Comment

Two legal powerhouses in the marijuana industry are branching into the software business, hoping to generate profits in a new line of business.

California-based Greenbridge Corporate Counsel and Colorado-based Vicente Sederberg have tapped Denver tech entrepreneur Marion Mariathasan to develop a software package to help cannabis companies and others involved in the industry comply with the law. While dispensary owners and growers have diversified their businesses by getting into consulting, this may be the first time that marijuana-centric law firms have have waded into a new field in the industry.

The new compliance software package is dubbed Simplifya. It will launch in Colorado in July, and in other states after that, according to a press release. The new venture will be bankrolled through a nearly completed Series A fundraising round. Details weren’t disclosed.

The software is cloud-based. It will target stakeholders of all stripes that work – or are involved in – the cannabis trade, including law firms, financial institutions, regulatory agencies, and marijuana businesses themselves.