National Cannabis Group Creates Program for Budding Organizations

Under its Allied Associations Program, the National Cannabis Industry Association will provide guidance and education for related state and local groups.

As the cannabis industry expands—since 2012, recreational marijuana has been legalized in nine states and in Washington, DC, and medical marijuana legalized in 21 more—a host of related supporting associations has emerged. Now the industry’s national trade association has created a program to assist them.

Last week, the National Cannabis Industry Association launched its Allied Associations Program, which is designed to provide guidance to state and local organizations in the industry. Participants in the program receive free access to NCIA workshops and conferences, product discounts, content-sharing opportunities, and other benefits. The program has launched with 15 participating associations.

NCIA Outreach Manager Rachel Kurtz said the program’s creation was prompted in part by the association’s decision to abandon a struggling affiliate program, through which NCIA was supporting groups in California and Ohio. “It was becoming clear internally that we just didn’t have the resources required to make sure that these affiliates really got off the ground,” she said. “But we were trying to think, with all these people reaching out, what do we do instead of that? And there’s already other states like Washington and Oregon that had trade associations that were pretty successful.”

It just felt like maybe that should be a role of ours, to assist other associations around the country.

For the new program, NCIA is looking to assist groups that are new and even embryonic—according to the program’s memorandum of understanding [PDF], participants need only be in existence for a year, with at least 20 dues-paying members, and formally incorporated as a nonprofit with a board and bylaws. NCIA also plans to launch an “incubator” program to assist those hoping to start an association.

“Some associations are pretty small,” Kurtz said. “They have maybe one staffer, if any, or they’re just volunteers and they don’t necessarily know how to run an association, or how to get more members, or how to raise enough money to pay staffers. Being the only national trade association in the cannabis industry, it just felt like maybe that should be a role of ours, to assist other associations around the country.”

But the program is also designed to work as a two-way street for NCIA: Through regular calls and other communications, the association hopes to learn about issues and challenges at the state and local level that can inform its own activities. “This benefits us because we’re getting to hear what’s going on out there that we don’t necessarily hear from members,” she said.

The program will not only communicate NCIA’s federal lobbying efforts with smaller groups but also provide assistance through its government relations department for groups planning their own lobby days. But Kurtz says NCIA makes no demands that participants be on the same page when it comes to advocacy.

“We’re not using [program participants] for policy,” Kurtz said. “We don’t want policy to get in the way of them being part of the program, because the goal is really just to help build strong associations so that the industry as a whole does well.”

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Mark Athitakis

By Mark Athitakis

Mark Athitakis, a contributing editor for Associations Now, has written on nonprofits, the arts, and leadership for a variety of publications. He is a coauthor of The Dumbest Moments in Business History and hopes you never qualify for the sequel. MORE

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