Ask Me Anything: Gershom Spengler from National Cannabis Risk Management Association [Wednesday, April 4th, 11 am MST]


Hey everyone!

Growers Network is hosting an Ask Me Anything event on Wednesday, April 4th, 2018 at 11 am MST with Gershom Spengler from the National Cannabis Risk Management Association (NCRMA!)


From NCRMA’s Vendor Corner:

Welcome to the National Cannabis Risk Management Association Website—the first and only nationally-dedicated organization for reliable cannabis-specific risk management and insurance services. On behalf of our board members, staff, stakeholders, sponsors, and other cannabis industry partners, we hope that our platform is transformative to how your business, investors, and employees strategically approach your company’s existing insurance and risk management programs.

NCRMA’s Contact Info

Website: 3
Phone: (833) MY-NCRMA
Email: [email protected]

Gershom Spengler @gershom.spengler and Charlie Hunter @charlie.hunter are representing the association on Growers Network! Feel free to @ tag them in your questions to alert them beyond the AMA!

Feel free to start posting questions now for Gershom & Charlie and looking forward to seeing the community at the AMA!



Don’t forget about the AMA at 11 AM MST today! See you all there!

1 Like

Might as well start it off.

What was the impetus behind starting the NCRMA? I’ve seen a fair few insurance companies delving into the cannabis industry, but never any attempt to unify them.


I’ll start off with a few as well:

  1. What does “risk management” mean when it comes to cannabis related businesses? What kind of businesses in our industry need an evaluation?

  2. What happens when you find risks? What’s the standard procedure when you’re working with clients and you see some red-flag activity?


There’s only a handful of insurance carriers in the marketplace providing some form of broad coverage to the adult-use and medical cannabis industry. We aren’t trying to unify those providers. We are providing a comprehensive grouping of risk management services, resources, and education to help the cannabis industry better understand insurance but also the components that go into their underwriting and cost of insurance. Sound risk management programs, as the cannabis insurance and industry continue to evolve, results in a more normalized industry for its participants and lower cost of insurance.

While we are working on putting together a more comprehensive insurance solution for members of the NCRMA, our services, resources, and education stand on there own an can be implemented now to improve operating efficiencies, address compliance and licensing issues, reduce operating costs, gain competitive advantage, and improve both top-line revenues and bottom-line net income.


What new trends are you seeing in the industry in regards to the health and safety of workers?


Risk Management is about recognizing areas where there is potential for loss and/or mitigating the impacts of that loss. There’s 32 states now with some form of cannabis law or licensure on the books or in the process of being regulated. Strategic risk management is not about a particular point in time, but rather for the entire duration of any cannabis business remaining a going concern–from the initial planning stage to licensure, to growth stage, to mature business.

We are continuing to add to our network of service providers and educators in the various states to help those cannabis businesses in whatever stage they are in. While most people get bogged down in the federal discussion and state discussions, most real issues to current operators are really at the local level.

Sprinkler requirements for processing spaces are different, odor mitigation is different, waste disposal, waste water, dealing with bio hazards, legal issues, energy issues , while universal across the cannabis spectrum are different in each locale.


What states are ahead of the game with regards to compliance and regulation…vs…states that are struggling.


Red Flag activity is straight forward. Our service providers can make recommendations on corrective action, but bottom-line, if it’s not corrected you may face a heavy fine. That’s pretty good motivation.

This is more about the integrity of any one operators existing programs and whether they are built to withstand a myriad of ongoing issues. We have very resourced and experienced professionals to help with that along with ongoing guidance.

Designing strategic programs at the onset and then adapting to the fast-paced changes in the marketplace are what we see as vital. 4 years ago, for example HPS lighting still made sense, then LED, then building into the operation from jump start renewable energy that can power the facility at a lower cost, which allows a business to withstand the competitive pressures on margin and cost of production. Hard to believe, but these are risk management issues and we have programs for this. It’s more than just too many wires being plugged into a power strip. We are really about positioning our member businesses to be competitive in a very deep pool of other businesses.


That’s an interesting one. Cannabis is like a lot of other manufacturing businesses–rife with repetitive tasks.One of the things that we are studying are some of those tasks (i.e. trimming). Progressive businesses are building this into their operations from the start as well. Bringing trays up to waist level on movers, automating a lot of the processes where worker’s comp injuries could happen. Eventually that’s going to be an issue that either the state worker’s comp fund has to address (claims) or private carriers. That’s why we are studying employee behavior now to get ahead of the curve. However, it’s like everything, much of the mitigation and reduction in risk is in the operating design. Personally, I spent a lot of time on this during the design of a 100k square foot facility in Washington State and have years experience in the construction and food industries. Good processes yield good outcomes.

It’s hard for a lot of folks to think when they are in the process of scaling from their garage to a 20k sq ft grow, but the savvy guys are or using resources like we have.


Are there any particular trends that you see (in your opinion) needing to stop in this industry to get to that “normalcy.” Anyone setting a bad example for what “not to do?”


We are all about the growers and manufacturers focusing on core competencies. Do that, grow the best plants, make the best edibles. Your opportunity cost to worry about the risk issues is high and we are an incredibly diverse resource.


Countless, but as we all know this space is so crowded. Ask growers in Washington or Oregon or anywhere else. Production outpaces demand. Cutting corners to improve margins in the short-run is bad for the industry and not likely to be a good strategy for solvency. The businesses with sound risk management in all facets will help normalize the industry and the next wave of customers want that message. Senior citizens replacing opioids for cannabis will require it as will women (+55) replacing wine for WEEEEED!



Does NCRMA touch financial services at all? Do you delve into credit card processing or things like that with dispensaries and facilities?


Honestly, Washington has done a tremendous job, if not perhaps taken too far. But they (and Colorado) do have a model that seems to be working. California will as well because the whole world is watching. Massachusetts is solid. Regardless, I like states where government listens to those involved and all those states are getting direction from the industry participants.

However, assume for a second that the regs were universally bad across the spectrum. Businesses that approach good risk management as a competitive advantage as opposed to just some b.s. requirement being forced onto them will reap the rewards in their pocketbooks. The effects make for better staff, better products, and a better consumer message.


I harken to Upton Sinclair’s the Jungle. Any business that needs a governing body to tell them how to treat people should have their products pulled from the shelves. Nonetheless, I think that the industry itself (from my experience) has always done a good job of policing itself. However, paying attention to repetitive tasks, pest management, emergency response plans (namely in the event of burglary) are necessary–being a good citizen in dealing with waste water and disposal. These are environmental issues that touch everyone.

The bigger challenges that I see are really for dispensary owners. The stereo-typical stoner is already accounted for in the marketplace. The medical customers and middle-aged women using cannabis is growing at 18% and that growth will last through the current boom. These customers need budtenders who are educated about cannabis science and the medical needs of patients. That isn’t there yet and retailers know it. They struggle with reliable and qualified people.

We have a great program with a partner organization in Portland (Sativa Science Club) and are forming an east coast resource with several doctors and medical specialists to help these businesses and their employees.


We will be sharing a solution with a partner organization very shortly. However, the payment processing solution still requires that operators have a bank account on the bank end and that that account is underwritten to accept cannabis deposits.

Still the solution is not comparable to what an average/ordinary business has access to–a lament of the federal and FINCEN positions on banking. You can read the FINCEN guidance in our legal resource section.

Like other financial service offerings, cannabis businesses still have to face sometimes difficult underwriting, higher rates, etc. It’s crazy the risk premium we get and we are tirelessly working to alleviate that. Shocker to the world at large, but cannabis businesses actually have very thin margins.


The idea for the NCRMA was hatched about 2 years ago. From my direct involvement in the industry and seeing the struggles of the hard working people that make-up the industry, the demands on their time, the balance and opportunity cost of investing in their core business vs. spending time understanding the regs, compliance, legal issues, etc as well as the vacuum in the insurance offerings to the industry, I knew there was an altruistic opportunity to truly help folks in this industry. That’s what we are about and we are constantly seeking good organizations like the Grower’s Network and many of our service providers to continue to address all the areas in all the small towns, counties, and states across the country.


So, I was perusing your site and was curious. When a grower or dispensary signs up with you, does the NCRMA itself offer the plans, or does it open up a reduced rate marketplace to them?