One of the more prominent national marijuana trade groups, the National Cannabis Industry Association, this week cut its headcount by nearly half in order to save on costs and remain solvent through 2023.
The organization’s leadership said the situation reflects broader belt-tightening across the industry.
NCIA let go long-serving several senior staffers this week, including Communications Director Bethany Moore, Director of Government Relations Michael Correia, and COO Rob Kellogg, as well as two other support staff. Moore wrote on Facebook that her last day at NCIA will be June 14.
The cuts leave NCIA with six full-time staff, CEO Aaron Smith said.
“We’ve pulled the Band-Aid off. It’s not fun, but I feel confident that we’re in a place where we’re in the black, month-over-month going forward, and we can grow from here,” Smith said somberly. “This is a very difficult decision, but it had to be done for the sake of the members and the future of the organization.”
Smith said that at its height, NCIA employed more than 20 staff, but had been forced during the pandemic to downsize, in part because the nonprofit relied heavily on in-person events for revenues, alongside member donations.
But he said the most recent cuts are more a reflection of broader industry headwinds than pandemic aftermath.
“The general downturn in the industry, which is not really pandemic-related, is affecting us, just like it’s affecting everyone else,” Smith said. “We’ve had members who have been members for years who aren’t renewing because they’re doing layoffs, and how can they renew a membership if they just laid off their staff?”
But Smith also voiced frustration with wide sections of the U.S. marijuana industry that remain politically disengaged.
“It’s important for folks in the industry to know that laws don’t just change themselves. The lobbyists and people who are out there fighting, they rely on salaries to pay their mortgages and feed their families, just like any other business,” Smith said.
“What frustrates me is the vast majority of licensees out there are not doing anything. They’re not investing anything in changing federal law, yet they decided to invest their fortunes in an industry that’s in contravention of federal law,” Smith said. “If anyone is concerned about the state of the industry, they really need to be investing in reform, whether it’s with us or any other group.”
Smith argued that the failure of the SAFE Banking Act to pass last year – one piece of legislation that NCIA lobbied heavily in support of – had a financially compounding negative effect for the U.S. cannabis industry, but that fighting to get such reforms through is exactly the kind of investment that businesses need to be making for their long-term future.