Hard knocks of the cannabis trade: The sequel

Feb. 22, 2022
Fluence CEO notes that it’s still tough out there, with bewildering rules and regulations sometimes stopping growers in their tracks.

Michigan cannabis grower Michael Ward wasn’t kidding when he recently described the regulatory rough and tumble of his trade. In case that message got lost, the CEO of cannabis lighting specialist Fluence by Osram has served up a stark reminder.

“A lot of things can go horribly wrong,” boss David Cohen reaffirms in the latest installment of Fluence Unfiltered, a videocast posted on the company’s YouTube channel.

It was on the same program last November that Michael Ward of Kalamazoo, MI–based Harbor Farmz first described a litany of licensing and regulatory hoops that made business a nightmare for Harbor in its early days. The legal odyssey entailed layers of laws and licensing on both the state and local level across different aspects of the business — not just growing but also dispensing and other operations. It also included surprise changes that forced unexpected stops and starts in Harbor’s plans.

As a provider of lighting to Harbor and many other cannabis growers, Cohen sees this sort of thing all the time.

“Its not just the license to cultivate, to process, for a dispensary,” he tells interviewer Lorrie Schultz, Fluence’s senior vice president of marketing. “It even goes down to the local township or village that you’ve started in, convincing the electrician to issue a permit. A lot of things can go horribly wrong. Make sure you’re doing a lot of ‘what if’ planning around that.”

With the cannabis industry in high growth mode, and with different states and countries still figuring out their positions — which vary from one to the other — the vicissitudes remain unsettling.

“It’s still very choppy, it’s different everywhere,” Cohen notes. “Nearly everybody we talk to tells us about licensing or permitting horror stories that just stopped them dead in their track.”

The good news is that Cohen describes an industry full of growers, suppliers, partners, and bankers that he claims work together in a collaborative spirit, with the aim of boosting the fortunes of all.

But he also points out that the rapid growth has created a shortage of skilled labor on the growing side, something which Fluence is trying to address in part by working with universities.

Cohen and Fluence will continue to address these issues under the auspices of Premstaetten, Austria–based ams Osram until it completes the sale of Fluence to Eindhoven, Holland–based Signify.

Meanwhile, Fluence continues serve both food producers and cannabis growers and to add new products to its lighting lineup, including a fixture with a 24% greater photon flux than the company previously offered.

You can watch the full interview on the Fluence YouTube channel.

MARK HALPER is a contributing editor for LEDs Magazine, and an energy, technology, and business journalist ([email protected]).

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About the Author

Mark Halper | Contributing Editor, LEDs Magazine, and Business/Energy/Technology Journalist

Mark Halper is a freelance business, technology, and science journalist who covers everything from media moguls to subatomic particles. Halper has written from locations around the world for TIME Magazine, Fortune, Forbes, the New York Times, the Financial Times, the Guardian, CBS, Wired, and many others. A US citizen living in Britain, he cut his journalism teeth cutting and pasting copy for an English-language daily newspaper in Mexico City. Halper has a BA in history from Cornell University.