Ian Rassman – Medical Cannabis Donation, Payments and Banking in Cannabis industry

Hawaii Cannabis Expo 2024 – Blaisdell Exhibition Hall (Honolulu, HI) February 2-4, 2024 

Ian Rassman – Executive Director of Los Angeles NORML Feb 3 – Room 1: 5PM – Activism at NORML , the medical cannabis donation program, and Insights into payments and banking in the Cannabis industry Feb 4 – Room 2: 10 AM – Activism at NORML , the medical cannabis donation program, and Insights into payments and banking in the Cannabis industry Ian is a devoted cannabis advocate, currently serving as the Executive Director of Los Angeles NORML. His organization’s unwavering commitment to facilitating compassionate cannabis donations under California’s SB34 legislation has resulted in over $5 million worth of medical cannabis contributions to veterans and patients in need across California. With a remarkable 13-year background in the Banking and Payments sector, including a dedicated 8-year focus on cannabis payments, Ian brings a wealth of knowledge and financial expertise to assist operators in the cannabis industry. His profound grasp of the industry and extensive global network, highlighted by his popular Cannabis Business Event Calendar on his website, establish him as an invaluable asset to the cannabis community.

Aloha good morning everybody uh I’m very excited to be here back in Hawaii uh Igrew up here in the 70s and 80s and it’s really quite a thrill to come back here now and to talk about cannabis with allof you so uh few things I’m going to talk about today I’m going to talk aboutactivism uh getting involved uh uh with normal uh or other organizations thatare helping to change uh the cannabis laws uh in your state in Hawaii I’m also going to talk about uhcompassionate medical donations uh this is a program uh of giving cannabis uhmedicine to uh all of the people that need it um and then I’m also going totalk a little bit about events and participation and how you can get involved uh in the industry and how youcan find um wonderful events like the Hawaii Cannabis Expo so first let’s talk about normal alittle bit so normal stands for the National Organization for the reform of marijuana laws normal was founded inAugust of 1970 think about that for a second 53 years old heading into their50 4th year uh truly amazing that there’s been somebody or a group advocating for consumer rights for thatlong and let’s be clear normal is advocating for consumer rights this is not an industry industry uhrepresentative organization normal represents us we the people it’s we thepeople that want to be able to consume uh have a safe place to do it pay appropriate taxes um and these are manyof the issues that normal has been working through uh nationally and federally for 53 years now so itrepresents uh us we the people so I talk about normal here for uh a little bit sonormal’s got a great website normal.org uh and regardless of where you are in the country you can come hereuh and you can take action in your state or at the federal level so one thing that normal does really really well I’mgoing to show you over here if we click on the take action button um these are some of the uhFederal priorities that are going on um Nationwide So normal’s currently working on uh all of these issues stoppingFederal housing discrimination against lawful cannabis users it’s very important um letting the VA doctorsrecommend medical cannabis in a in a military spending bill um supporting thesafer Banking Act um uh telling your representative to support the Cure actsupporting medical cannabis research telling Congress to prioritize cannabis policy reform and the veterans equalaccess act so these are some of the larger Federal issues that normal has their attention on and on this takeaction section here let’s just go to this one here for um supporting safe banking so briefly let me tell you whatthe safe Banking Act is here okay so the senate committee on bankingHousing and Urban Affairs is about to hold their uh first ever markup here on cannabis banking reform legislation witha newly introduced safer Banking Act uh and this safe Banking Act has beenintroduced uh many times and it’s already been approved by the House ofRepresentatives seven times um and so the issue here is that lack of access toproper banking creates the serious threat to the safety of Canabis consumers and employees of thebusinesses that serve them and it limits transparency and accountability for the legal industry and severely hinders theability of small businesses to effectively compete with the Underground Market uh and you folks know this verywell here in Hawaii uh the the Legacy Market here in Hawaii it’s very very oldit’s been around for decades decades before I was ever around uh in Hawaii and um and it’s it’s not going awayanytime soon is it uh as we all know canis just grows wonderfully here in Hawaii so it’s very easy to you knowhave some plants growing in your uh out in your little backyard that nobody knows aboutso um safe access to banking really important to help all these businessesuh push forward um there are approx I think there’s a misnomer that it’sdifficult to bank cannabis or it’s impossible to bank cannabis businesses and that’s just not true at all thereality is is there are many banks um in just about every state that is currentlyserving legal cannabis that are ready willing and able to serve uh crbs cannabis related businesses so there’sapproximately 14,000 financial institutions in the United States including Banks and credit unions andsomewhere maybe around 700 or so of those are currently providing services to cannabis businesses so there’s uh youknow they don’t really put out a lot of advertising to say oh you know come here bring your business here there’s noBillboards for banks saying bring your Canabis business here uh most of the banks that doing it are doing it um andthey’re just not all that vocal about it umand it takes a bit of an effort there’s more of an effort to bank a cannabisbusiness than any other business so as you all probably know if you were to deposit $10,000 into your checkingaccount or anywhere the bank automatically files notification with the government that hey there a largemovement of money here uh and they do that in the form of a s AR it’s a suspicious activity report it’s notalways suspicious that’s just what they call them but uh there are certain triggers where reports need to get filedwith the government and banks have a responsibility of kyc which is to knowyour customer and AML which is anti-money laundering so the banks arerequired to know who their customers are and to know what kind of business their customers are in and where this thismoney is coming from and how how it’s getting into our financial systemso there’s extra effort for banks that are willing to serve cannabis businessesextra effort on their reporting and and on the things that they have to do so fees are slightly higher for cannabisbusinesses there’s more work for the bank to do for your account but there are absolutely Banksall across the country ready willing and able to serve um I have uh I’m not abanker I’m not in the banking business however I do know a lot of people that are in the banking business and I havehave Partners um Nationwide partners that have access to the banks that you’re looking for so if you’re everlooking for a bank in your state you can hit me up text message me I’ll get you some introductions in your state um tohelp you find some banking so as I mentioned I’m not a banker myself but I’m actually in thepayments uh business so when I go to set somebody up for payments whether uh it’sa dispensary or an e-commerce uh cannabis business or something like that usually one of my first questions iswhat’s your banking situation you know the minute that they say oh we’re with uh Bank of America and um yeah theyprobably know what we’re doing you know like that’s just a red flag for me like you know if you can’t uh unequivocallysay oh I’m making it XYZ and they know I’m a Canabis business that’s the kind of response I’m looking for from peoplewhen I go to set up their payments because if if your bank doesn’t know what you do you’re building your entireFinancial uh platform on on really shaky foundation and once the bank figures outthat they don’t want you as a customer they’re going to shut your account down and they freeze it and you know 30 to 6090 days they send you a check for the balance of your account but they just freeze it instantly when they don’t want you as a customer anymore so it’s reallyand that messes everything up you know if your bank account gets frozen I can’t do deposits to your checking account uhanymore because your your basement shut down so uh it’s super important that weuh that all businesses are with a bank that knows exactly what they’redoing uh let’s see so couple other things here about normal I want to gothrough I want to actually normal does a great job of listing out all the laws in your state let’s just take a look atHawaii since we’re here um okay here we go actually Statelegalization so normal does a great job of keeping uh us all posted updated onyou know what’s coming up in different states and what we can see right here at the top is the Hawaii uh legislationthat’s currently pending which of course everybody here is very excited about um and we hope that that goes through umso uh just briefly I think many of you know about the bills that are currentlypending in Hawaii HB 2600 and SB 3335 to legalize adult use marijuana inHawaii so and under this proposal adults would be able to legally possess growand purchase cannabis and cannabis related products now there’s there are elementsof this legislation that normal believes really Falls a little bit short uh suchas the law does not provide for the automatic review and expungement of Prior cannabis related convictions andwe all know how important this is it’s crazy to imagine that people are in jail today for selling cannabis when thestates are passing out licenses to sell cannabis so like clearly if you’re going to give this person license then thatperson needs to come out of jail it’s so clear but there are very few uh statesthat have actually stepped forward that way unfortunately Hawaii has not um butthere’s always room for improvement and we hope that that will come along uh maybe next uh and that we can get all ofthe prisoners in Hawaii uh that are in jail for nonviolent uh cannabisconvictions they need to come out right away so there’s also uhsomething in the current legislation that normal opposes and this is the arbitrary per se THC blood limit formotorists so um there’s been more and more studies coming out all the time uh about THCwhen it comes to driving um and so I think that the morestudies need to be done um and at this point it’s probably hard to conclusivelylink it like we do with alcohol and say oh once you hit a 08 you’re legallydrunk well what is this number in cannabis I mean how do we say that somebody’s impaired and I don’t know that we’re totally there yet on on onthe science on how to do that obviously nobody should be drivingimpaired um so in in the past year what’s happened in Hawaii lawmakers andthe governor have stood firmly against these legalizations but this year there we see a potential path to passing thisuh as it becomes much more clear and so I think that 2024 could be a big yearhere in Hawaii uh where we move from a medical Market to an adult use market solet’s hope that that happens uh one of the things you can do here on normal like if you’re in Hawaiiyou come here uh to uh click on the Hawaii legislation and right here at the bottom you have the ability to put inyour name uh your email address and some of your basic details and your ZIP codewhen you put your ZIP code in the normal website is going to look up who your representative is okay and then you’regoing to get this form letter right here you click start writing we’re going to write the letter for you um add yourname to it you send it off to your uh representative just by start writing and then clickdone a nice form letter telling your Senator hey my name is Ian rasman I live in your District um there’s thislegislation coming up this is how I’d like you to vote right like these people work for us so we need to tell them wewant and so normal provides a great tool right here for just banging out like these are the issues that I’m concernedabout I want you to know that and so you can just go here and send uh letters off to your representatives and as you sawthere are actually many letters that you can send uh you should be sending um youcan click on these uh Federal issues because we’re going to look up who your representative is um uh nationally andyour local uh Representatives here in Hawaii so this is a great website to go you should just hit this once in a whileand you know send your support remind your senators and your congressmen uh what you’d like fromthem so moving on a little bit we were talking here aboutum uh I want to talk a little bit about uh activism when it comes to uh cannabismedical donations so the way that normal is organized is is it’s very much like our government we have local uh localcity state and uh Federal representation right um here in the United Statesnormal is really structured the same way there’s a national normal the website that we’re looking at here right now uhand then there’s also state level uh chapters like California normal of course there’s a Hawaii normal um andthen in bigger States like uh California uh we actually have additional chapters like we have um uh a Los Angeles normalfor example which is uh my chapter uh and so I run Lanormal as I mentioned normal is the National Organization for the reform of marijuana laws so I live in LA uh and Lavery easily is the largest cannabis friendly City on the planet so my teamand I we were not really motivated to spend our time running down to City Hall and complaining about how the the uhlaws in La could be better they’re not all that bad there’s certainly things that could be uh better taxes and accessand more licensing and all these things but uh my team and I we decided to focusour efforts on some amazing legislation that we have in California it’s called sb34 um it is the Dennis Peron andbrownie Mary act Dennis Peron and brownie Mary were activists um in the 70s 80s um in San Francisco uh they werevery specifically um brownie Mary was baking brownies the good brownies andshe was passing them out uh in the hospital to AIDS patients um and umEverybody noticed very quickly that uh cannabis helped in the wasting syndrome that a lot of AIDS patients were uhfacing so Dennis prone and brownie Mary really made it their mission to bringcannabis um to the to the patients in San Francisco that needed so badly so this bill is named after them and veryappropriately so so sp34 War come over to that so this is uh the donationprogram that my team and I built um based off of this and it is the uh herewe go sb34 Dennis prone brownie Mary act named after two pioneers of the medicalcannabis access uh was the community-driven response to revive compassionate cannabis donations uh inCalifornia Senate Bill 34 creates that legal pathway by which licensed cannabis companies can donate legal and testedproducts to eligible patients so we decided that we would help bring the Cannabis industry our non-profitpartners and the community together to provide medicine fellowship and charitable services to patients inneed uh over the last three and a half years uh we have donated over $4 millionworth of medical cannabis products California medical products to Veteranscancer patients lupus Crohn’s Ms Huntington Parkinson’s all these things that people have been suffering fromwhere cannabis has been known to provide some relief um we are helping the industry donate back into the communitywe are focused largely on Veterans um terminally old people elderly mentalhealth uh Financial also you know cannabis as a medicine can be expensive so not everybody can affordit so this uh website here sort of basically tells the industry uh how theythey can get involved so you know whether you’re a cultivator or retailer or a distributor or a lab or a brand orwhatnot you can participate uh in this program so uh here’s some of ourpartners uh that have been donating a uh not at all comprehensive list there’sbeen a lot of people that have been kicking into this program we have this program has been built to be copied andreplicated we uh want other states to build programs like this other countriesas they come online when their cannabis markets um should be putting out a community program similar to this so wehave put all of the California legislation right here on our website and you can just click this get the fulldocument on what the legislation is in California take that if anybody’s listening in the audience take thisright here um open it up do a word replacement change California to Hawaii and startright there send that off to your representatives and say hey why don’t we start with something like this uh thelegislation could definitely be improved the way that it is today um is thatallows the licensed supply chain to deduct the taxes that they wouldnormally owe the government if they’re donating that medicine so in our track and Trace program in Californiaeverybody has the option to check mark a product as an S sp34 donation and thatmeans that that particular um part of the supply chain will not have to pay pay their taxes on that but they stilluh they don’t get to write off the Cannabis that they’re giving away and that’s what I mean by the legislationcould be better I mean they should be able to write the whole thing off but that’s not the way it is today they just don’t owe this the state taxes so uh theprogram could use some improvement but at the same time it’s still an amazing program uh and it’s had a real impact onthe community and I’d like to show you uh a little brief uh video uh we werefortunate enough to get written up in High Times magazine um for this program and you can see that the tagline is thatum medical donations help reduce opioid use now this is a huge thing as Imentioned we’ve uh we’ve been targeting a lot of veterans with the program we’ve partnered with organizations likeAmerican Legion Post because that’s how we find the veterans so we’ll go into an American Legion Post and we’ll do adonation maybe about uh usually these are about 50 people at a time they’re pre-registered all of them have amedical card in California this is requirement 50 people will come in we’llhave bags set up ahead of time let me just show you a few pictures of what an event looks like here’s some peopleinside uh of a dispensary uh in Santa Anaum a few more pictures here people looking at the products that they gotyou there’s everything on the table there maybe tinctures it may be topicals uh it may be flow it may be Vapescartridges um uh all kinds of products whatever we get goes into thesebags there we go veterans cannabis Coalition one ofour founding uh Partners on this program uh Eric Go Eric goel and ShelleyMcKay really two of the pioneers of our program and designing it uh these twoare wonderful Eric’s a veteran himself also that founder of that cannabis Coalition so I want to show you brieflittle video here uh this is an actual event ongoingum our partners here our dispensory partner Pineapple Express uh was hostingthis donation and so I’ll going show you a little video so you have an idea of what one of these events lookslike all right looks like we are going to have some sound great because you’re going to hear fromuh some of the recipients of this donation what it means to themokay[Music][Music]awayso what you can see in the background there there’s food in there so this is not just a cannabis donation this is really a donation of all[Music]services[Music]C[Music] y what’s amazing sometimes is you you seesome of these veterans like in tears when they’re opening up their bag of of medicine it’s going to last them for themonthEX [Music][Music][Music]l[Music] of[Music]TR going to stop right there but the what I hope you were able to see here isum all these patients really getting jazzed up about this donation bag as we talked about cannabis can be veryexpensive uh and a lot of people need it on a regular basis so this program has really been set up to be copiedreplicated and spread out across the country and it’s really a mission of Love Light and mercy and and veryimportantly this is a mission about changing the stigma right so uh we all need to remember that we’re in aconstant Battle of changing the stigma and teaching the general public that cannabis is a medicine and it’s not adrug right so this is very important part of changing the stigma and legalization programs like this uh helpto do that um so this is the Cannabis donation program and I also wanted to talk uhbriefly uh about uh uh we covered payments banking I want to talk brieflyabout uh events so it’s really important umfor people that are in the Cannabis industry to know where to find greatevents like the Hawaii Cannabis Expo things like this are so important for all of us to come together and have achance to meet each other and shake hands you know this is an old this is an old game in cannabis where you didn’t dobusiness with anybody until you knew who they were and you met them in person and you shook their hand right like you didn’t do that we’re still there todaywe generally don’t really do business with people that we haven’t shaken their hand and met them face to face so it’sreally important to come out to events like the Hawaii Cannabis Expo this is where it’s at this is where you meet everybody this is where you you you knowhow to push your business forward and meet the new partners that you’re looking for so uh I go to a lot of events Itravel all around the world going to cannabis events um I think I went to about a dozen countries last yearhitting cannabis events all over the place I’ve got a lot of things lined up again this year people are always askingme how do I even know where things are it’s it’s a lot of exhaustive uh Google research you know hitting googleingwhat’s going on this month in Oklahoma or what’s going on uh uh in Texas Nothing by the way in Texas um or what’sgoing on in you know this part of the world so uh um I was writing all thisdown on on really just like a list for myself uh plugging it into my Google calendar so I knew where I was going andpeople were asking me how do you always know and and and can you tell me when you when you know about these events andso I started sending out an email every couple of weeks about hey these are the events coming up this is what I’m goingto you might be interested in this and and then the pandemic hit and the events went tozero uh and soon as the pandemic hit I basically started taking my newsletterand I had this website built um that basically I could load all the events that were coming up onto thiswebsite make one shop One Stop destination for people to find out what’s going on so it’s chronologicalyou can skip ahead in the months uh it shows you a typical calendar these are all the days where there’s some eventsgoing on uh it starts listing them out chronologically so of course today the Hawaii Canabis Expo ison uh and then coming up uh again we have Hawaii Cannabis Expo Champs Trade show is coming up imperiousuh Connecticut Cannabis Expo uh ice bu hemcon flower con these are all thethings that are going on around the country and around the world um and if you come into something like uh theHawaii can XO and you’re like oh that looks interesting I want to go to that you can expand uh it out here and whatyou see happens is it pulls all the data from the Hawaii Cannabis Expo uh you can read a little bit about uh what the Expois you know the time you got the address over here and then this feature very cool you click add to your calendar andit Imports all those details the address the time and everything right into your own personal calendar your own cellphone so that when you land in Honolulu you’re like where am I going oh I know where I’m going blaz go so uh this is uhit’s available for free if you have events let me know I’ll put them on there and if you’re just looking for events come and check it out uh it’svery comprehensive uh list on everything that’s going on uh around the world thatin my humble opinion these are the events that you should have on your radar to go take a lookat uh that’s really all I have for you today it’s really been quite a thrill toreturn to Hawaii return to the to the land that I grew up in you know so manydecades ago uh and I’m and I’m quite excited about all the changes that are coming for Hawaii I think big things arein St for Hawaii’s cannabis Market uh and after meeting so many of theparticipants here uh at the Hawaii Cannabis Expo this weekend I’m impressedwith all the amazing people that are involved in this industry here uh and so i’ encourage you all to stay involvedknow what’s happening here in Hawaii and federally uh normal will keep youupdated on that you can sign up for our newsletter we’ll let you know when there’s things coming up in Hawaii that you should notify you know come back toour website send a letter to your Senator so we’ll keep you posted on all that so come check us out atnormal.org the Cannabis uh event calendar business calendar is available at rasman dcomrmn.com events you have all my contact information up here you can call me textme uh and get in touch with me as I mentioned I’m uh payments expert so ifyou’re looking for payments uh in uh dispensaries or e-commerce or reallyanything uh that’s cannabis related uh or psychedelic related you can hit me upthat’s what I do payments so once again super pleasure to be here in Hawaii today Mahalo Mahalo neoa uh and I’m I’mjust thrilled to be here today thank you all so [Applause]much good question yes you said there’s a normal chapter in Hawaii yes there is oh that’s great how can we go getting intou with the normal chap yeahabsolutely yes right over here we got uh on our chapters page you go tonormal.org Chapters uh you’re able to click on uh the states and I’m not surewhy Hawaii is not being listed here uh I have Hawaii normals contact informationI’ll give it to you I’ll connect you up with them for sure yeah absolutely heyany any other questions all right again Mahala Newthankseverybody [Music]