Cannabis Industry's Top Tech Talent Answers Key Questions: Legalization, Challenges & Consolidation

As an emerging market that is not yet federally legal, operating in the cannabis industry can be quite complicated. Regulations vary from market to market, changes happen often and scaling alongside the rapidly growing industry can be challenging.

These top tech minds in cannabis exemplify the resilience, grit and intelligence it takes to persevere through the hurdles and provide great cannabis software.

David McCullough, Chief Technology Officer, Akerna

Prior to being appointed CTO of Akerna (NASDAQ: KERN), David McCullough served as Akerna’s Executive Vice President of Product & Engineering for the last five years, overseeing all software development, development operations, quality assurance, automation, systems and security operations.

McCullough has over 16 years of Software Engineering experience. Before joining Akerna, he was the CTO of StudentPublishing.com, where he actively managed the technical aspects of Student Publishing’s sale to and systems integration with lulu.com. McCullough also has extensive government systems experience and was a professor at New Mexico State University where he taught courses in data communications and networking.

  • What have been the struggles of working in cannabis tech versus other mainstream industries?  

Although cannabis has been legal in various American markets for over 20 years, it is still an emerging market because it is not federally legal. The lack of action has brought issues such as various mainstream technology providers not operating in the industry and federal banks being barred from working with cannabis businesses, causing business optimization and financing problems. 

The cannabis industry is constantly evolving, from new markets legalizing, changing regulations, ongoing modernization and more. Keeping up with that evolution is the challenge we work to solve for cannabis businesses through technology.

  • How would reform impact cannabis technology? 

Legalization  

When the US federally legalizes cannabis, the market will graduate from emerging to mature market. Federal action will create a framework that states will have to adopt to maintain compliance. However, like alcohol, each state and jurisdiction will set specific rules and regulations, but there will be overarching laws and standards for the industry. 

For Akerna, we have been building our business for this inflection point. Knowing that regulations will vary per state and jurisdiction, we’ve built our compliance gateway so that it can quickly integrate new requirements without having to re-write code for each product offering, which allows our clients to scale rapidly with the industry. 

SAFE  

The SAFE act will legitimize the cannabis industry. So many of the issues operators and ancillary providers face today are due to the nature of cannabis being a cash-based business. With access to banking opens greater capital, payments, and accounting feasibility to the industry. 

Through our current partnerships with payment providers, the passage of the SAFE bill will allow our clients to accept credit card payments, which will integrate with our robust compliance solution to create a comprehensive point of sale solution.  

  • Consolidation is happening in the cannabis industry. How have you, as a CTO, navigated and/or contributed to the trend?

For Akerna, we've been building our business to meet the industry's needs. As operators grow through new markets and acquisitions, we have worked to acquire cannabis businesses that answer those needs, creating an ecosystem of products and integrations that will grow with their companies, from the day they apply for a license to when they become a multistate operator (MSO). Our acquisitions and product launches give our clients a range of tools to run any size business.  

I have evaluated each potential acquisition by looking at potential targets' aspects of functionality. I have prioritized compliance through each strategic acquisition – which is table stakes for the cannabis industry – to become more efficient with industry changes. This has maximized my team's output by preventing the need to make changes across multiple business units.

Marc Sherman, Chief Information Officer of HERBL

Marc Sherman is a highly-skilled Information Technology Executive with over 20 years of experience designing, delivering and supporting innovative Enterprise Supply Chain System solutions that drive business growth and profitability for all stakeholders.

Prior to joining HERBL, Sherman was vice president, information technology for FedEx (NYSE: FDX) supply chain, a $1.6B subsidiary of FedEx focused on Third-Party Logistics in multiple verticals including technology, retail, consumer products and healthcare across over 130 sites in North America.

Before joining FedEx, Marc served on …

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