How to Effectively use a Lobbyist in Marijuana
Quantum 9 has worked with 15 different lobbying firms and independent lobbyist over the last 4.5 years providing cannabis licensing consulting. We have seen the good, the bad and the ugly. We have been taken advantage of, lied to and learned how to protect our investment and ensure we get a work product that will give us a unique advantage when applying for a cannabis license. As a cannabis consultant we typically engage the lobbying firm directly for obvious reasons, lobbying firms have to register with the state who they work for, in the likely event the lobbyist gives our client a unique advantage we don’t want a direct line from our client to the lobbying firm.
Why Engage a Lobbyist for your Cannabis License Submission?
Depending on when you engage a lobbyist your approach can take one of many forms. If a medical cannabis bill has not yet been written, you can suggest specific language that can help narrow the field to your advantage. For example, in Florida, it required a 30-year continuous partnership with a local nursery. The state of Florida requires a $5M performance bond even to apply. Creating a higher barrier to entry and high submission fees will also narrow the field.
In Pennsylvania, the required licensing fee when submitting your application was $200,000. In other states, the required submission fees are due when awarded and not prior. Another way of narrowing the financial fees are with nonrefundable submission fees. Be careful on how far you go with narrowing the field; the Responsible Ohio group tried to create a monopoly which ultimately blew up in their faces.
If you find a great lobbyist try to negotiate an exclusive deal with them. Even if you have to pay a little more, do it. What should you do if your lobbyist refuses to do an exclusive deal? Consider others or ensure that they do not take a client that would conflict in your pursuit of the license. Lobbyists prefer their profession to go by the term Government Relations. They mean the same thing so using Government Relations carries a more professional tone and shows you might have experience.
Price: Ranges from $2,500-$20,000 a month
Background: Your lobbyist should be a former Representative or former Senator, we have worked with others that have been very effective, but the ones that have held previous official government positions have the types of connections that can help you with your goal of internal governmental promotions.
Cannabis Lobbyist Scope aka Specific Intent:
Set up Meetings: At the top of the list of items your lobbyist should aid in is lining up closed-door meetings with legislators, chief of staffs, mayors, city planners, commissioners, and department heads
Help Determine Site Locations: Your lobbyist will know what areas are pro-cannabis and which areas are opposed. The areas where the lobbyist has the most relationships also play a role in determining the best site locations.
Help Recruit Team Members: Most lobbyist will have high power friends and former clients that would love to join a cannabis group. Utilize these relationships.
Obtain Local Approvals: Your lobbyist should be able to get closed-door meetings with city planning and all local officials to get special use permits and letters of support.
Obtain Letters of Recommendation: Depending on the relationship your lobbyist has with elected officials, letters of recommendation can be received by simply them asking. Most likely you will need to meet the elected official in person and potentially share your business plan. Sharing any information is sometimes risky due to the fact they could send to a competitor. Make sure you have a mutual NDA in place prior to sending a business plan.
Attend Local Events: If you are an out of state applicant, your lobbyist can attend a cannabis conference for you.
Competitive Analysis: Being local and hearing what is happening in a territory can make your lobbyist one of the best sources for competitive analysis. We suggest using a Google Sheets document that everyone can access and update.
Advanced Copies: The best lobbyist can obtain advanced copies of the rules and regulations, even the application.
Office Space: Your lobbyist can provide office space for you when you’re in town. This should be cheaper than your lawyer since most lawyers charge for this service. It depends on the relationship.
How do you know if your lobbyist is actually working for you? Great question. We require all of our lobbyists to submit a monthly report that lists the following: exactly what they did, who they spoke with, what emails they wrote and the time spent on the account. Simply sending you articles from the local news is not a sign of an effective lobbyist.