Navigating the Confusing Licensing Landscape with Sumer Thomas (Canna Advisors)

Episode Description

As a licensed attorney, Sumer Thomas offers a unique perspective on the legal landscape of the cannabis industry as well as a critical eye toward new laws. Thomas’ expertise in the evolution of cannabis regulation is bolstered by her law degree from the University of Florida. Her legal background in tax, business, and administrative law brings a broad perspective for solving businesses' complex problems.

Thomas has an in-depth understanding of mature and developing state cannabis markets, along with a global perspective gained while living abroad. Thomas speaks Chinese and is licensed to practice law in Florida and Colorado. She is a member of NORML, the State Regulations Committee of the NCIA, and the International Cannabis Bar Association, and she volunteers for Expunge Colorado, the NACDL, and the Last Prisoner Project.

As an advisor for cannabis operations in emerging markets, Sumer shares her insights into licensing and business operations in emerging cannabis markets. She also unpacks the results of the recent 2022 Mid-Term Elections and their impact on businesses.

She gives a road map for dispensaries to come online in new markets, and shares about her volunteer work with organizations like Expunge Colorado and the Last Prisoner Project.

Find out more about Canna Advisors

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Episode Transcript

Sumer Thomas: Licensing is always a difficult piece. Getting everything you need together, right? Because the state wants you, they wanna see that you have everything, you know that Sure. You're, You're barely even. A business, right? You're barely a going concern.

And they wanna know that you have a facility, that you have your finances put together, that you have all of the people on your team are at least the main leadership figured out. They wanna know what your processes are, that you have standard operating procedures and that you're gonna be compliant.

Tom Mulhern: One of the most challenging things about working in cannabis, especially if you're in a company that crosses state lines, is throughout the United States, is that every single state, the legislation, the application, licensing, compliance rules, everything is different from state to state. And so being on top of the different compliance rules, the different legislation, the different things that you need to know to even get a license in the first place, the different tracks you can go down can be so confusing.

And that's, where hiring a cannabis advisor who can really give you valuable insights into the industry, into the changing legislation can be priceless. And today on the show, I am talking with Sumer Thomas from Canna Advisors. Canna Advisors, is working out of Colorado, helping cannabis companies that are wanting to open an emerging markets and Sumer dives deep into some of the processes that are involved in opening a cannabis retail operation.

And really, she knows everything about licensing from start to finish. And so she goes through, you know, what's happening in these emerging markets, what's sort of the result of the midterm elections in November and what cannabis retailers need to know.

Sumer is a treasure trove of information. And I am so grateful for this opportunity to talk to her and to really dive into what it takes to get started in cannabis how to get licensed, everything. So let's jump right into the show.

Tom Mulhern: As a licensed attorney, Sumer Thomas offers a unique perspective on the legal landscape of the cannabis industry, as well as a critical eye toward new laws. Thomas's expertise in the evolution of cannabis regulation is bolstered by her law degree from the University of Florida. Her legal background in tax business and administrative law brings a broad perspective for solving businesses complex problem.

Sumer Thomas has an in-depth understanding of mature in developing state cannabis markets, along with a global perspective gained w She is a member of NORML, the State Regulations Committee of the NCIA and the International Cannabis Bar Association, and she volunteers for the Expunge Colorado, the N A C D L and the Last Prisoner project, so Sumer, welcome to the show. It's so great to have you on the podcast.

Sumer Thomas: Thanks so much for having me, Tom. Great to be here.

Tom Mulhern: The last time we met I had long hair. We met in Vegas,

Sumer Thomas: Yeah, I think it was a mullet, if I remember correct.

Tom Mulhern: It was a full mullet. It was awesome. Like I was living out my dreams. Having a full mullet with, you know, eighties glasses. So I look a little different, but it was great to meet you in person and it's great to have you on the podcast

Sumer Thomas: Yeah, absolutely. It was great to link up in Vegas. I think I'm still recovering from that. So, just about

Tom Mulhern: So Sumer, tell me a bit about your background and how did you end up in cannabis?

Sumer Thomas: I'm like what they call a recovering attorney. I went to law school in, at University of Florida. I worked in business and tax consulting before I got into the cannabis industry. So I was a tax consultant in downtown Miami for a little while. Miami wasn't quite my jam, personally.

Moved up to the mountains of Colorado, gosh, I mean almost a decade ago now. Passed the bar exam again here, practice law a little bit. Wanted to get kind of back into more consulting type roles, and a friend had what they call the Mindful media company in Boulder, Colorado. They had tons of followers, but they had very little business development department.

So kind of was on that initial team, got them running learned a lot about business development and sales. And once, you know, once they were functioning, was kind of looking for my next thing and Canna Advisors came along and Canna Advisors you know, was looking for someone who pretty much had exactly my skills that I brought to the table.

Legal, marketing, business development lots and lots of writing of course. And yeah, so I've been here for, at Canna for over four years now.

Tom Mulhern: When I was reading your bio, it said you lived abroad. So where did you live abroad and has that, how has that kind of shaped what you're doing now? Or did it have an influence on it?

Sumer Thomas: Yeah, I think it definitely did. It was a, let's see, I did a study abroad program at the end of my university study. So the last semester I kind of had a choice whether I wanted to graduate or I wanted to keep studying. And some friends actually came up and they said, Hey, did you know you could use your last credits anywhere?

Like in China, I was like, really? And they're like, yeah, we wanna go to China, let's go. And I was like, okay, I guess let's go to China. That sounds fun. I didn't speak any Chinese when I got there. Didn't even really, you know, I think I could say hello, maybe Neha. That was it. When I got off the plane.

And then, So I was just winging it. Was supposed to stay there for four months and wound up staying for about a year and a half. Just, yeah, really enjoyed living in China. I did a lot of travel while I was over there, so, you know, went to other Asian countries, took the overnight trains all over China.

It was a great experience. Very eye opening. A good lesson in that, there are a lot of ways to do something and just because there's one way, it doesn't mean it's the right way. And yeah, it was, China's a different universe for sure. , they do things differently, but it, it mostly works.

Tom Mulhern: And when you get that perspective too, of like living. In a different country, like leaving the States. I know for me, you know, I graduated high school and moved to England and just having that perspective of living in a different country it really shapes the way you think for the rest of your life.

Like, you kind of see the world differently. At least that's the way that I kind of experienced it, was it shaped who I am now.

Sumer Thomas: Yeah, it had had been having some kind of doubts, I guess, about law school. I mean, probably who doesn't. And whether I wanted to go back to school for three more years, but then going to China and seeing the United States from afar and seeing other countries their, their opinions, perspectives on the US um, made me want to be more involved in crafting our regulations in shaping the United States more.

And I saw that law school was probably the best way for me to do that, to get that legal education

Tom Mulhern: So now you've been at Canna Advisors, you said for four years. So tell me a bit about what Canna Advisors does

Sumer Thomas: So Canna Advisors is a business cannabis business consulting firm. We focus on emerging industries. And startup businesses and even multi-state operators getting licensed in new states. So mainly we focus on license pursuit, application consulting. We also do a lot of business planning, financial modeling and post license services, helping businesses get up and operational.

Tom Mulhern: And what is your role at Canada Advisor?

Sumer Thomas: I'm the director of regulatory operations, so I oversee our whole consulting arm. So all the delivery of those services is my domain. We have experience now in uh, 36 states Canna Advisors has worked in um, so most of the, the cannabis markets in the US that are available. We've also done a little bit of work internationally.

Canna Advisors was started by Jay and Milke Czarkowski over a decade ago now, so really a long time for the cannabis industry.

I mean, they started one of the first medical dispensaries and cultivations in Boulder, Colorado 13 years ago. Boulder Kind Care.

Tom Mulhern: So now you know we can focus on the international market, but let's kinda look at this market, the United States. What are some of the largest legislative roadblocks that dispensaries are facing in those emerging markets? So let's just start off with the biggest pain point. What's that big roadblock that most of them run

Sumer Thomas: I mean, of course the federal landscape is no help. Right? And we can, you know, we can dig into that maybe a little more later, but obviously 280e not having access to banking, to financing, you know, all those kinds of things. Those are huge roadblock roadblocks especially for dispensaries because they can't really capitalize on the cost of goods sold deductions there to offset their expenses.

So, yeah, that's definitely a huge roadblock. I mean, in my specialty, licensing is always a difficult piece. Getting everything you need together, right? Because the state wants you, they wanna see that you have everything, you know that Sure. You're, You're barely even. A business, right? You're barely a going concern.

And they wanna know that you have a facility, that you have your finances put together, that you have all of the people on your team are at least the main leadership figured out. They wanna know what your processes are, that you have standard operating procedures and that you're gonna be compliant.

So, that's always difficult at the state level to get past those licensing  

Tom Mulhern: Are those licensing hurdles pretty different from state to state? Like, you know, I've talked with other people that are involved like Sapphire Risk in that licensing application process and it is so different. So, you know, from state to state, I'm sure you're always shifting and adjusting and trying to.

You know, counter what is needed and you know, how do you work within that?

Sumer Thomas: We have our own internal processes, you know, and ways of sorting information. Honestly, we love spreadsheets because you can't keep it all in your head at once, right? We have to really go above and beyond to stay organized. But my background actually helps me a little bit here cuz I worked in state and local taxation before cannabis.

So tax are salt, as they call it, state and local tax is similar to the cannabis industry in that it's a patchwork of different laws all over in different states, have all different tax laws. And. States have had to figure out in the tax realm how they're gonna work together, right? How, you know, they'll have different agreements with states and different policies on how they're gonna interact with different states.

So that's kind of helped me to see past a little bit of what might happen in the future in the cannabis industry and how those all of these different rules might work together. As far as the licensing processes in each. They're very different. So they'll be, for example either limited or unlimited licensing.

So limited licensing can come in all different shapes. You could have a limited number of licenses. That's a lottery, that's a merit based application. You can have unlimited licenses that are given out on a rolling basis and all different shapes and sizes in between. We've hardly seen any state have the same licensing process which is good I think because we haven't seen any state do it perfectly.

So they're still searching, I think for the best way to do it. Then over the last, really only the last three, four years, social equity has really become a big part of the licensing process as well. So that throws another I guess another challenge in for legislators to try to figure out, wait, how are we gonna create a system that not only fairly distributes the licenses, but then gives a priority to certain groups of folks without it being unfair in any way that could open the door to a lawsuit because these lawsuits then stall the process, right? So that's really gotta be any state's goal when they're coming up with these different programs.

How do I keep my state? Lawsuits and how do I keep the the process moving so that a lawsuit doesn't stall the entire thing.

Tom Mulhern: Do you think that's part of the reason that some of these states are moving so slowly in you know, making a final decision because they have to balance. Cuz I hadn't even thought about, like from a state's perspective, making everything fair, you know, without getting a lawsuit because there's so many different trigger points that could end in a lawsuit for the state.

So is that what's kind of slowing down that process in so many places?

Sumer Thomas: Yeah, in this, in most of the states, where you've heard that maybe they've accepted applications, but they haven't given out the awards of licenses yet. It's generally because there was some kind of a lawsuit, for example, in New York right now for the card applications for the retail dispensaries. We're trying to get the New York market off the ground here.

They've already licensed some conditional cultivators, some conditional processors, and they're, you know, now just getting these conditional. Retail dispensaries license, but someone from Michigan filed a lawsuit in New York and they were granted a temporary restraining order so that the state couldn't give out further licenses in the zones that person applied for a license in.

So there were five places that this person from Michigan. Applied in, they can't then give those out in New York right now. They were able to give out the other zones. But for example, Brooklyn right now is held up and they can't give out the dispensary licenses. That's halting the whole rollout of the market.

The cultivators need the retailers to sell to get their product going. It's slowing the process. It could wind up hurting the conditional cultivators who are those hemp producers, those kind of legacy hemp producers that were, they were trying to help, they winds up kind of hurting them.

Tom Mulhern: So one individual can. Basically throw a wrench in a whole system like that and stop an entire rollout because of one, one issue. That's crazy.

Sumer Thomas: One person.

Tom Mulhern: Has that happened in other states or is that unique to New York?

Sumer Thomas: Illinois was held up, over and over. They would resolve a lawsuit, new lawsuit, resolve new. Some states have been able to push by, you know, push through and get some of the licensing out. And then they just deal with appeals afterwards. Missouri, for example, that's one where there, there are still ongoing appeals from medical licensing that happened in 2019.

Even though they've licensed most businesses, there are hundreds of businesses operational. There's still appeals ongoing. So they're able to roll it out and then still deal with the folks that were, you know, that have complaints because they weren't awarded a license. New Jersey also. New Jersey, right now.

They've done, they have a new, like a two step process that's different than we've seen in other states where you can apply for a conditional and then you convert that to a full license. So that conditional has very limited requirements. It's then on the applicant, once they get that approval to go out and get their financing, their property and everything lined up, if they can't get that lined up, then they can't get the conversion.

It's not the state's problem at that point, they can't sue the state saying, we can't find a property. The state's like, oh, well then don't apply for the conversion and don't sue us about it. So I think they've kind of the, well, the knock on wood for their sake. I think they've skirted a lot of lawsuits.

Especially probably good for Jersey since they did have so many problems in their previous medical licensing rounds that took years and years.

Tom Mulhern: Well, looking at the US what are some of the most important emerging markets that you guys are working in? Like, you know, you've named some New York and New Jersey and some states like that. What do you think it, where should we keep an eye on in those emerging markets across the US?

Sumer Thomas: Let's see. So right now uh, we're working heavily in Alabama. That'll be the kind of next medical market to roll out. They're expecting. So those license applications are due the end of December, and they're expecting to award licenses in July of next year. So we'll have a market open sometime the end of next year for Alabama.

That'll be great. Good to get another medical market online, although no flower sales in Alabama, it'll be a bit of a limited market. And then New York, of course, that's the, you know, most exciting. We just got those regulations for dispensaries.

So great to have more to go off there, get some more planning and more wheels in motion there so folks can start doing some more serious financial modeling and business planning with the regulations themselves in mind. And then those regulations have a 60 day comment period, then followed by another 45 day window, and perhaps more if there are continued iterations of the regulations.

But we could see applications starting sometime in probably early Q2 next year for New

Tom Mulhern: We just had a recent midterm elections and you know, there was a few states, Maryland and Missouri who voted yes. And a few states, Arkansas, North Dakota and South Dakota voted no. So tell me some of your reactions to that because I mean, you know, you think in this common, this modern day and age, like everybody would just be vote yes.

That's not the case. You know, maybe that's a CanaMilk's view of , how the politics should work, but what was your reaction to those elections?

Sumer Thomas: It already passed in some in South Dakota already. How in the world it could pass once and not pass again. That's kind of, that's kind of beyond me. I would say from from a whole kind of market perspective. The two that passed Maryland and Missouri actually make up 75% of the population in question on the election.

So of those five states, Maryland, Missouri have 75% of the population. So really, more of the business opportunity lies, you know, lies in those states than in the others anyway. From that regard, it's positive, right? We got the biggest states on board. The most people have increased access now, so that's a good thing.

Obviously North Dakota and South Dakota in Arkansas, I would've liked to seen it. Like to see it happen. I mean, in South Dakota they've. Been slow rolling out their medical program already. So I, maybe that had something to do with why folks weren't didn't maybe have a lot of trust in the adult use program coming out already since they, they said, well, where's the medical program that we supposedly licensed already and have going?

And they have, you know, just a few shops running. But yeah, Maryland and Missouri. Definitely exciting ones and we've worked in both before Maryland a couple of times, and then Missouri in the last medical round. I think Maryland was actually the second state that Jay and Milke worked in when they started Canna Advisors and they won some of the original licenses.

Tom Mulhern: Wow. So it's been that long to get up to this point. That's a pretty long timeline for a.

Sumer Thomas: Yeah. Let's see. I think we won licenses in Maryland for the medical round in 2016. Yeah, so long. A while ago. And they already have a pretty established market. Really. Maryland and Missouri both have fairly established markets. In Maryland. Their timeline is. It had a little bit of a different situation, right?

So the legislators put the question on the ballot and they said, do you want legalized cannabis? The people said, yes. They have had a little bit of a law already drafted up. That automatically goes into effect, but they still have to draft most of the regulations. The statute and regulations on how the program's gonna be laid out, the licensing process and number of licenses and all that kind of good stuff.

So we know what the exact business opportunities are gonna be. We'll have to wait a little bit in Maryland for that.

Tom Mulhern: So that timeline, it sounds like it's pretty long, like from the moment that they, you know, say yes in November, when they do those elections, what does that timeline usually look like? Is it usually this, like a long term, we're looking at a year, two years or what does that kind of look like for most states?

Sumer Thomas: It's different in medical versus adult use markets. Adult use markets can get up and running a lot quicker than just medical. And Missouri is very different than Maryland. So Missouri is already getting their current medical operators converted. They have emailed them, they've said, look out it's coming down the pipe.

We're gonna, they're gonna try to get rec sales started in the, within the next month or few weeks. So missouri's in a hurry. And so that'll be to convert the medical, the current medical licensees to be able to produce and sell for the adult use market that doesn't allow new entrance to come into the market yet.

So we're still gonna have to wait for Missouri's regulators to draft regulations on the new license types. So, Missouri's market already has a, is already very strong for a medical market. A lot of licenses for a medical market. But one of the licenses we're excited about there is a new micro business license.

So that's gonna help smaller operations get into the market. So, you know, think anti the anti MSO crowd, more of the craft grower style boutique businesses. Will be able to get into the Missouri market.

Tom Mulhern: Now for those markets that have been online for a long time, like you know, the California. Or the Colorados, do you guys do work there as well and what kind of would that look?

Sumer Thomas: I almost forgot about California and the election results. So this is, good example of the local level of licensing. Every state has their own way of doing things, their own licensing process. Well then once you go below the state level, there's the local governments and they have their own way of doing things as well and their own licensing.

So cities in California had been banning cannabis operations for the last what decades? Have now finally had put questions on the ballot that they're allowing cannabis to be sold within their boundaries. So I think the number was about 70 new licenses available in California.

And that'll be in those cities that had never allowed it before. So yeah, some. Increased access there. Hopefully it will help some of the oversupply issues in California. Opening up some more dispensaries. Some more outlets to get things sold in the city and in those towns that weren't allowing it.

Tom Mulhern: Wow, that's, it's funny cuz you. California is this like, you know, market that's been around for so long, but I forgot about that too. That it's, there's so much at the local, like town level, and you see that in Colorado. You see it in a lot of these places where you think, oh, they're just, it's, there's just, you know, cannabis flowing through the streets, like milk and honey, but it's not necessarily the case.

Like it's still an uphill battle.

Sumer Thomas: Colorado's another one. So Colorado Springs is one of the largest cities in Colorado. They had cannabis legalization on the ballot. It didn't pass, but you know what did pass a separate question whether or not to tax adult use cannabis. If it were to have passed, so if it were to have passed, they would've taxed it.

They said yes to that question, but to legalization, they said

Tom Mulhern: What is it gonna take for us to get to that point of not even full legalization, but just helping people to get rid of that stigma and be like, you know, maybe it is the tax, maybe it's something else.

You know? In your estimation, what do you see?

Sumer Thomas: A lot of it for Colorado Springs is because they're a military town, they're looking to the federal government. They're saying this is illegal are, what are you all thinking? We're not gonna pass this. We're not gonna put our military folks in jeopardy of being, you know, dishonorably discharged because we legalized cannabis and someone thought it was okay and then they got in trouble with their military role.

So for Colorado Springs, I think. That's mainly their biggest concern. If the federal government were to jump on board, they would also, and we've seen other states like that as well. I think I just read in the news this morning that Iowa is gonna try to ask the federal government for an exemption to roll out their a cannabis program.

You know, so a lot of states are. Just stuck on the fact that it is federally illegal. Also many states it, it's their ballot process that's keeping them from being able to make the changes. So some states don't allow individuals to start up a referendum to get a ballot measure put on the ballot.

Our initiative put on the ballot. So, you know, you see in, in states where, Going out and canvassing, collecting signatures, and there's a certain quota they have to hit and then they have to get it approved and all that. Some states just don't do that. So in those states, it has to go through the legislative process.

That's obviously difficult. We have to see, I mean, we are seeing approval for cannabis on both sides of the aisle. It's becoming almost a non-political issue, you know? And I feel like sometimes our politics is only interested in the most polarizing thing. So I hope that we don't just like all agree on cannabis and our politicians then forget about it.

Tom Mulhern: What about the international market? Like I was just reading today, Ireland is looking at legalizing adult use cannabis and Germanys come online. What do you see as the future of international licensing opportunities?

Sumer Thomas: Yeah, we're definitely keeping a close eye on Germany. I think it'll probably mirror in some ways the United States programs.

I hope they learn from the mistakes that we've seen many markets make in the United States, right? We've really been the laboratory kind of testing ground for all of these different programs. So hopefully they're learning from us.

But then of course, you know, the European Union is gonna, I think, help it spread like wildfire, right? I mean, once, once it's going on in Germany, it's just gonna, you know, other countries are gonna start popping on, right? So we're gonna see not just, you know, not just the US more states coming online, but I think in the eu, a, a windfall of countries all coming online.

Giving us a lot more momentum on a worldwide stage.

Tom Mulhern: Hopefully they learn from, you know, some of the mistakes and some of the things that the US and Canada have done right. There are things that we've done that actually they could learn a lot from.

And so yeah, it'll, you know, it'll be interesting to kind of keep an eye on on that.

I wanna go back to licensing ideas. You said the idea of like a micro, was it a micro cultivator or a micro dispensary? Like more of like a craft?

Yeah, a micro business.

Tom Mulhern: What are some of those, like really creative licensing opportunities that you've seen like that, like I love that idea.

I just, I think it's such a cool idea to have like a micro business like that. What are some. Really creative things that you've seen that you're like, oh, that's a neat

Sumer Thomas: So one, one thing in the, the, the nascent cannabis industry is, regulators don't really wanna see your creative ideas very often as a consultant, that's one of my least favorite parts is shooting down folks' dreams. You know? Sorry. No, you will not be able to deliver via drone this year.

We're gonna have to put a pin in that for somewhere down the road. But there are still interesting things that we see. So you said the micro business different states actually have different meanings of the word micro-business. So sometimes a micro-business is just a small version of a standalone license type.

So maybe a cultivator that can only cultivate up to 2000 square feet of canopy. Might be a micro cultivator. But for example, in New York, this is a cool license type. Their micro business is a small vertical. So you can do cultivate, you can cultivate process and dispense, but just has to be a smaller version of that.

So that would be more like a craft brewery, right? You're producing it all in house and then you're kind of selling it right there. That, so that would be the micro business. That's an interesting one. One that is a, you know, it's a license type that we've seen in other states, the consumption lounge.

But no one's really done it well because most consumption lounges don't have a great model to make money, which businesses require. Shockingly, but I don't know, regulators aren't seeming to get that about consumption lounges. You have to give them a way to make money for this to work. So, Nevada's doing it finally differently and they're allowing food, entertainment.

Sales of the cannabis inside of the, or inside of the consumption lounge. So they'll actually be able to hopefully , have a chance of staying staying alive, making some money, and getting people to come in. You know, you have to be a successful business for marketing and to really get the consumption lounge idea going across the country.

I just don't feel like it's caught on and hopefully this will be a way for it to catch on. Right. People all. You go to Las Vegas, you go to your first consumption lounge. You see how it can work, hopefully, fingers crossed, you see how it can work successfully, and then we see that pop up. It start starting to happen in other states.

Tom Mulhern: Well, It's the difference between, you know, going to a brewery like in, in Colorado, like a New Belgium brewery going there, tasting the different beers that they have, and then taking home the ones that you like. It's that similar experience in a consumption lounge and there is a good business model there.

But like you're saying, the regulators sometimes don't remember the business side.

Sumer Thomas: Imagine going to a brewery or. Going to a bar, but you have to bring your own beer you.

What's the point exactly. So yeah, so many consumption lounges wind up being, you know, kind of run down or mostly private or moving to like membership models and trying to make money in other ways.

Like there are folks getting creative with it. Yeah, that's one that hopefully we'll see Nevada do well.

Can I say one more interesting one? One more interesting one for New York like an industrial production license where you can purchase waste material from the cultivators. For example, you could buy a pound of just fan leaves, just trash for the cultivator, right? And then you take those fan leaves and you could make them into whatever, a material that you make into a handbag.

You know that you co-brand with some designer. So you could, we could see more. Reused cannabis byproduct. I could see it put into fashion products in New York and things like that. You can use cannabis waste for lots of things, but I think that would be a cool one.

Tom Mulhern: There's a paper company in upstate New York called Botani, and they're taking byproduct from hemp producers and making rolling papers out of it. So cannabis rolling papers from byproduct. So it's giving a new revenue stream to these, you know, these hemp producers or these, you know, cannabis producers that they can't use that.

And so let's turn it into something else. We have to think better for the future.

Sumer Thomas: New York is definitely doing that and they're doing that in their sustainable packaging and it's a different way.

Tom Mulhern: So Sumer you are really involved with a whole bunch of various organizations, including Expunge Colorado uh, NACDL, the Last Prisoner Project. Tell me about some of your volunteer work and what does that kind of mean to you and why are you passionate about kind of helping in these, you know, this nonprofit world.

Sumer Thomas: I really can't stand to see people that are still being negatively affected by the war on drugs when I know so many people who are making money off of this industry, and that there are folks that can't get housing or a job because they have some minor cannabis conviction.

It's such a vast imbalance. So, one organization. That I have volunteered with recently. It used to be called National Expungement Week when I first found out about it a few years ago. They have a chapter now called Expunge Colorado. It's based in Colorado, and it helps folks to seal cannabis convictions on their record.

So it's, a huge group of attorneys and paralegals and other folks who you know, help out with the administration and operations of it all to put together an event that it's all in person for one day a year. We get hundreds of people that come in. We pull all their background records, and we have attorneys that go through their criminal history with a fine tooth comb to decipher which convictions can be sealed.

So they're not visible anymore on their records. And then we have paralegals and other attorneys who filed the, you have to fill out all of these motions and forms and you have to pay filing fees. And then you have to wait for the court's response and finally get the records sealed. I had no idea how hard it is.

You can't do this on your own. It's so hard to get your records cleared on your own without an attorney's help, who you then have to pay for and then you have to pay filing fees. When you can't find a job or proper housing, how are you supposed to pay for an attorney to get these things off your record?

You wind up in a you know, catch 22 loop situation where damned if you do, damned if you don't, you can't really get out of it.

Tom Mulhern: Is there a lot of people in Colorado with cannabis charges on their records?

Sumer Thomas: So many, they're not new. They're not necessarily new convictions. But they're still on there. And there are a lot of reasons you can't clear things off their record. That's the thing. It winds up being a huge like logic puzzle to try to figure out what you can even get off of your record, right?

Cause it's like, if it's this level of a felony, you can't get it off. If it's in conjunction with a traffic offense, you can't get it off. If you've had a conviction within this many years, or if you have an open conviction, or if you still owe restitution. There are just all of these different reasons that you can't even get something sealed.

So there may be an avenue even available in the state, but there may be something in your record that precludes you from being able to get it removed.

Tom Mulhern: And Biden's announcement where, you know, he expunged federal crimes and did that make an impact or did that do anything?

Sumer Thomas: I mean, from what I read, it there wasn't a huge numerical impact on folks that were in prison for the level of charges, but it, he did send a message, at least to other state governors. Any movement on cannabis is move movement. I'll definitely take it.

I'd like to see state governors follow, follow in suit because it has to be on both levels of government, right. Federal and state. But it does take resources and that's a big part of it. You can't just say, oh yeah, you can get your records sealed. You can get your records expunged.

Okay. But how, who is doing? There needs to be a part of the government. There needs to be a budget that's put towards going through records and getting these things removed. If there's not, then it won't happen.

Tom Mulhern: When you start working in cannabis, you start seeing all of these things that need to change. So thankfully there are organizations like Expunge Colorado and the Last Prisoner Project and you know, being able to volunteer and partner with these groups to help change lives, really like, you know, that's so important.

Sumer Thomas: Really, it really is. There's no other work that I do that I feel as impacted is when I leave Expunge Colorado events . And that's one of the questions we have to ask them, how is this impacting your life? Because that goes into the motion that we file with the courts.

So they, you know, they'll list out the exact ways, you know, this job that I was turned down for this job, they said specifically it was because of this. I couldn't get this housing. You know, they have, people have laundry lists of reasons that, that this has hurt them.

Tom Mulhern: Now looking for dispensary owners what is one tip that you would give to, you know, a cannabis retailer or a dispensary owner or even a cultivator to grow their business?

Sumer Thomas: I have two for this actually. But first um, really is inventory management and procurement. A lot of people don't think about this. And securing your supply chain, so you know, a lot of dispensaries are maybe kind of flying by the seat of their pants for a while.

But things are getting tight. There's a lot of price compression. You have to be an efficiently run business. You need your customers. You need to have consistent product available for your customers. All the time. You need to keep your loyal customers and consistency is how you can do that. So you can't look over and say, oh, we're outta wild gummies.

We gotta order some more. No, you have to always have what your customers want. Always have to have that. And that comes with keeping a tight handle on your procurement. Having a procurement manager, someone who's overseeing that, as well as your inventory and having. Close connections, relationships with your suppliers, buyers, you know, all of your supply chain.

And I think it's only now that a lot of dispensaries especially are like, oh, we are not doing that well. So we've had, yeah, we've had a lot of businesses come to us recently to help out with that. So that's definitely one thing. Kind of just tightening up your procurement aspects and making sure your retail is running as efficiently as it can and a little maybe more automated than a lot of folks are doing.

And then another way a lot of money that cannabis businesses are leaving on the table right now is in the form of the ERC credit. So I've been hearing about this for months. Thought it was a scam for a while. We had some friends of Canna Advisors actually, I think, Canna Advisors, client number one.

Came to us and said, Hey, we did this erc and it is real. All of these spammy looking emails you've been getting are just that, but you can really go to a, your trustworthy CPA or your accounting professional and they can help you apply for this credit. So it's the employee retention credit. You can look it up on the IRS website.

It even, it also applies for plant touching cannabis businesses, not just consulting businesses like Canna Advisors. Some of the MSOs have filed for it and they're getting back checks in the millions of dollars. So, essentially cannabis businesses, there's a pile of money with your name on it, just sitting there and all you have to do. Get your accountant to fill out some forms and you can get access to that.

They said it takes a few months to get paid out for it. But definitely if you haven't looked into that, I think every cannabis business needs free money right now. Cannabis businesses are feeling the headwinds, you know, so any anything that you can do to get a little more cash flow is a good thing.

Yeah, ask your CPA about that. I can point you in the direction of one if you need one.

Tom Mulhern: That's like a million dollar tip right there. It could be for some, for someone. So that could be the biggest tip anyone's ever given. How can people get connected to you? Some and Canna Advisors and find out more about like, you know, it's so important to talk to someone like yourself who knows these things that like, so how does someone get connected to you?

Whether they're just starting up or they're in an emerging market, or they're, like you said, looking at inventory control and how do we do this? How do they reach out to you?

Sumer Thomas: You can always check out our website, it's think You can always reach out to me at

And then one thing, We don't really advertise much, but I think is very helpful for people, our hourly consults. So if you ever have a random question or you're thinking about going into business in this state, or you wanna know about this state or this license type, you know, we can give you insights on pretty much any state, any license type, wherever.

And you can sign up for hourly consults on our website. Quick and easy and good way to get any random questions answered.

Tom Mulhern: Oh, that's cool. Well, Sumer, thank you so much for being on the podcast. We really appreciate you being a guest on the show.

Sumer Thomas: Thank you so much, Tom. I really appreciate it. You're always a pleasure to chat with.

Tom Mulhern: I know after my conversation with Sumer, I had a lot more clarity around what is required in some of these emerging markets. You know, even understanding what happens when a state comes online, when they pass the ballot measure to allow, you know, adult use cannabis or even medical. The timeline to get from that point to actually walking into a store and picking up your favorite item.

It's a long process. It's a long, confusing process. And so if you are in that state of trying to figure out how to get going, how to get started, or maybe you've been running your cannabis operation for a while and you're saying, ah, this inventory thing is a huge issue. Sumer, you're so right. Reach out to Sumer Thomas.

Or anyone at Canna Advisors, like she said, they do one hour consultations and you know, that's like going to the Genius Bar with an Apple product saying, how do you fix this? They are the geniuses. They know how to get your license approved. So reach out to Sumer Thomas. Check out

You can find out more about Canna Advisors and what they're doing on our website, kayacast.Fm, and that will bring you to the episode page where you can find out all the links to get connected.

Hey, I wanna remind you just to subscribe to our show. And actually, you know, what I'd love is if you were able to do a review of the show. So if you listen the show weekly or every so often, just jump onto iTunes. Leave a little review and just share your honest thoughts and opinions about the show. It really helps us out and uh, we can't wait to share more interviews, more insights into the cannabis industry that we have coming up.

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