It’s official. Cannabis is well on its way to becoming a thriving industry in the United States. More and more people are consuming this dynamic plant for both medicinal and recreational reasons. While trade organizations have been lobbying for regulations that benefit big business, Larisa E. Bolivar saw a need to create a consumer advocacy organization that acts as a watchdog group over the growing cannabis industry. That’s when the Cannabis Consumers Coalition (CCC) was born. A voice for the cannabis consumer, the member-based organization works collectively to address issues like poor customer service, quality control, price gouging, mislabeling, lack of testing and the use of harmful chemicals. The CCC strives to set industry standards for YOU, the consumer.
So, get involved, become a member, fill out their first behavior report and spread the word. MERRY JANE recently caught up with Bolivar to discuss how we can affect change through unity, fostering a healthy industry for everyone for years to come.
MERRY JANE: Why is a watchdog organization necessary for the developing cannabis sector?
LARISA BOLIVAR: Quality and safety are paramount. Cannabis is a consumable that consumers use for both medicinal and recreational purposes via a variety of delivery methods. These methods include flower combustion, vaporization, edibles, capsules and topicals. This puts cannabis consumers at risk to being exposed to potentially harsh chemicals and poor quality products. Consumers need to be confident that what they are purchasing is the quality that is being advertised and that they are safe. We are at the helm of a new industry, which gives us a unique opportunity to create a model industry that is ethical and consumer-centric for existing and future industries. A watchdog organization helps keep the industry honest by helping to create best practices.
What standards of quality can readers expect from legal cannabis?
Like alcohol, cannabis is also tiered from discount to top shelf quality. Discount quality is usually cannabis that is mass produced, machine manicured and fast cured. Top shelf cannabis, which is now being referred to as “craft cannabis,” is grown in small batches, hand-trimmed and slow-cured. It’s typically cultivated with natural chemicals, without pesticides altogether or with organic pesticides and fungicides.
Why do cannabis consumers need advocates just as much as businesses do?
Individual cannabis consumers have less influence than businesses when it comes to the legislative process, which is the case in many industries. This is, of course, related to money and access to legislatures. Businesses can afford to pay for lobbyists to make laws that protect their businesses. Consumers deserve the same access to lawmakers who are almost always making laws that ultimately affect them.
Cannabis Consumers Coalition Executive Director Larisa E. Bolivar
What are some of the issues cannabis consumers can report?
We receive reports for a variety of issues. Poor quality products and bad customer service are, of course, the main issues that cannabis consumers can report. Employees can report the misuse of chemicals and pesticides, as can consumers. We have access to testing labs outside of the "closed-loop" system to examine products that consumers bring to us if there’s any reason to suspect the quality is poor or contaminated. Businesses are also contacting us to report other businesses they believe are behaving unethically.
What is the protocol for reporting an incident or leaving a tip?
Cannabis consumers can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 720-460-0152. All tips are anonymous and we take major precautions to protect the privacy and safety of those that report any issues to us. After we receive a tip, we investigate the issue and help problem solve by reaching out to the offending businesses and issuing statements and alerts via various social media channels.
What are the benefits of becoming a member of the CCC?
People can join via our website. All members receive 10 to 20 percent off products and services from merchant shoppers, secret shopper opportunities, organizing opportunities and newsletters. Supporting members also receive a t-shirt and hat pin. Founding members receive all of the benefits of regular membership and supporting membership, including a t-shirt and hat pin, their names listed on the CCC’s website, a building block with your name and year of contribution engraved on it as well as recognition at our annual events.
Why is it important for people to participate in the CCC’s reports?
By participating in our surveys and reports, we are able to aggregate important cannabis consumer data that can then be given to lawmakers and businesses to be used for advertising and making rules. In policy, lawmakers can use the data to create laws that are based on actual cannabis consumer behavior and needs. Businesses can use the data to make wise decisions on products and services that are actually in demand by cannabis consumers as well as to create effective marketing strategies.
What will you do with the information you’re gathering?
We are going to create reports available for purchase by businesses. We’re a federally recognized 501(c)(3) public charity non-profit so the money goes back to education and advocacy efforts on behalf of the industry and consumers. We will also be making the report available to lawmakers so that they can consider consumer demographics, needs and behavior while creating regulations. Cannabis consumers can take the anonymous survey via Survey Monkey.