The spread of the COVID-19 virus has placed even more uncertainty into an already uncertain industry. Many industry experts expected this election year to drive the expansion of cannabis programs throughout the country, but the recent developments have changed expectations throughout the country.

Some states, such as Illinois, have already made systemic changes to the licensing process to stem the spread of COVID-19. Applications for craft growers, infusers and transportation organizations were originally scheduled for a March 16 deadline and applicants were required to submit their applications in-person. Days before the deadline, the Illinois Department of Agriculture extended the deadline to March 30 and strongly encouraged applicants to submit through certified mail. This sudden and commendable decision allows business to continue with minimal interruptions while also protecting applicants and the community at large.
As other jurisdictions begin to implement changes, there are several crucial areas that operators should keep an eye on that can significantly impact the application process.

The easiest and least impactful means of adapting the application process to the new business environment is to allow for online submissions and online payments. Several California cities, such as Pasadena, have already implemented fully digital application submissions and payments. While this process can be efficient, applicants need to prepare for technical issues. We strongly encourage all applicants to have their application finalized at least 48 hours before the deadline to ensure unexpected technical issues to not hinder the submission process.

The spread of COVID-19 has slowed down many businesses as non-essential services begin to shutdown in various jurisdictions. For applications with real estate requirements, one of the most significant capital expenses is the acquisition of real estate through purchases or leases. The process for reviewing applications and awarding licenses can already take several months, and the limitation on non-essential travel and personnel could extend this timeframe, causing costly delays for operators paying rent. The search for compliant real estate also requires significant travel for physical inspections. Applicants have an opportunity to reach out to regulatory agencies to discuss accommodations and to educate them on the additional burdens real estate requirements impose in these finals of financial stress and uncertainty. Both applicants and operators should reach out to current or potential landlords to discuss the terms of their leases to try and secure flexible terms and agreements if the spread of the virus continues.

While applications and licensing opportunities are ongoing (Pomona, CA will be accepting applications until April 20th), ultimately the opportunities are only available if state regulatory agencies introduce them. For jurisdictions that have already announced application timeframes, applicants should be aware that proposed deadlines and dates are subject to change to adjust to the threat of the COVID-19 virus. Shutdowns of non-essential services can severely impact the number and frequency of these opportunities. However, applicants that have the ability and resources to prepare and submit complete applications may benefit from lower competition during this period of economic slowdown. Maintaining communication with your employees and your team is essential. By ensuring everyone is on top of current and future development, applicants position themselves to be able to capitalize on licensing opportunities that may have less competition due to the economic downturn.

Applicants are encouraged to reach out to regulatory agencies and civic organizations to develop initiatives and measures the applicant can take to provide meaningful assistance a giveback to the community. Ultimately, the crisis we are experiencing goes beyond borders, commerce and cannabis. Providing support in critical areas of your community can not only position applicants for a successful submission, but can build invaluable local support and brand equity by giving back to a community at the time they most need it.

We at SIVA are committed to providing you with the same high-quality support you need to successfully take advantage of these upcoming opportunities. SIVA will be accepting one more applicant for Pomona, California. To schedule an appointment, please email info@sivallc.com or call 818-562-3362.