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It started as a success story. Sweet Leaf had over 400 employees and was on track to be one of the largest and most successful cannabis chains in Colorado.

Then it came to a screeching halt. Denver police arrested more than a dozen budtenders and destroyed roughly 7,000 pounds of cannabis, sentencing three of the owners to a year in prison for their roles.

The cannabis industry may feel like the wild west in many ways, but strict guidelines are in place that, when left unchecked, can lead to disaster. Compliance is critical every step of the way.

Where to start

The cannabis infrastructure is still monitored and controlled by the individual state markets. There is no federal oversight, so it’s essential to track state actions as they are developed and continue to change. This can be especially challenging if you’re trying to navigate and open stores in more than one state. You’ll have to adjust your protocol to ensure compliance at every level.

Each state has a dedicated agency that sets the standards. A quick search online should lead you to local authorities, such as the Oregon Liquor & Cannabis Commission. They each offer helpful compliance information on product labeling, license applications, tracking systems, and more.

What is compliance?

No matter how big or small your organization is, your cannabis business must have a compliance department. This is where designated personnel will study the rules and regulations in detail, and ensure implementation of standard operating procedures (SOPs). These documents will serve as blueprints for all business activity.


While even small cannabis businesses should have a dedicated team member to handle compliance issues, larger organizations may create entire departments to ensure all policies are implemented and secured. You should ensure that your teams follow all compliance protocols as defined by your state. It may include things like tracking sales or the harvesting process.

Compliance teams are in charge of training and ensuring all employees understand the requirements set forth by your state. This can start as early as the onboarding process, ensuring each employee meets the requirements of working within the industry. Some states require badges or certification to hold a position in a cannabis business, and you’ll be fined if this system is bypassed.


Most states require detailed security plans as a part of the licensing process. This includes essential information on things like surveillance and security cameras, door locks, product storage, and employee standards.

For cannabis businesses, inventory tracking is even more critical than for other retail businesses. Each state has distinct requirements on seed-to-sale monitoring and what to include in the tracking process. This isn’t an area you should start on a shoestring, hoping to grow into it as your business grows. It’s essential to have a system in place from startup and beyond.

What questions do you have about navigating compliance?

It’s important to get them answered even before you know to ask them. The cannabis business might feel like the wild west in some aspects, but regulatory organizations are also more sophisticated in watching businesses as they enter the marketplace.

If you hope to be one of the success stories in the future, it’s time to place compliance at the top of your to-do list, and ensure your business is concise in every way.

For IT Strategy, Security and Compliance, or Help Desk Services, reach out to us at Cannabis Technology Partners 360-450-4759.