Kim Stuck is the founder and CEO of Allay Consulting, a compliance strategy and services provider serving the hemp and cannabis industries nationwide.
She brings a regulator’s keen eye and wide-reaching knowledge on evolving compliance and safety mandates to support businesses in tightly regulated industries.
In this Q&A, we ask Allay Consulting’s CEO to discuss the importance of compliance and safety in cannabis and psilocybin businesses, the challenges she faces, how they helped them and what effects can be seen in consumers when companies aren’t being safe.
The interview also covers the similarities between cannabis and psilocybin, her experience with cannabis recalls, companies with contamination issues and more! Read on!
Ganjly: What is your professional background? How has this career brought you to consulting for cannabis and psilocybin?
Kim Stuck: My career originally started as a restaurant and wholesale food public health investigator in Denver County. Shortly after I started, cannabis became legal in Colorado for adult use. The state health department decided not to regulate it so when it came to public health and safety the onus was left on the city of Denver to regulate it.
After a while, they realized that cannabis was very unique and there were many more challenges to regulating it than we originally thought.
The city decided they needed one investigator that was dedicated to the regulation of cannabis and thankfully they decided that person was going to be me.
After a little over 3 years working for DDPHE, I fell in love with the industry and its people and decided I could make a bigger positive impact on the industry if I was helping people instead of regulating them.
So I launched Allay Consulting in 2017 and have been doing that ever since.
What is the biggest challenge facing cannabis and psilocybin businesses when it comes to evolving compliance and safety mandates?
We are constantly looking towards the future. Right now, the biggest challenge is being compliant with constantly changing state regulations but the real challenge will be when federal legalization happens.
Many companies aren’t physically built to be compliant with FDA or OSHA standards and those companies that aren’t preparing for that transition now are going to really struggle when they inevitably have to come into line in a very short time.
It will be expensive and stressful for them when it does happen. Right now, the CBD/hemp-derived cannabidiol industries are in the middle of this. The FDA is writing regulations for them as we speak and it’s going to be a challenge for them if they aren’t becoming compliant with basic FDA regulations.
Slower change is much more achievable than fast change. Thankfully, our clients understand this and are already on the path to success when it comes to the health and safety of their consumers and employees.
What sets Allay Consulting apart from other consulting companies? How does it help the cannabis and psilocybin businesses?
We have been a cannabis-specific consultancy from the beginning and many other firms that do similar things to us either came from other industries or don’t advertise as a cannabis supporting business to avoid the business challenges associated with supporting the industry.
We were all in from the beginning, we’ve been kicked out of banks, have been denied payment processing, kicked off social media, and all the other things that regular cannabis businesses go through everyday.
We know what they have to deal with because we have to deal with it too. Many other firms that are trying to get into the industry don’t understand the uniqueness of cannabis when it comes to health and safety—most of them have never been in a cannabis facility but for some reason believe they will be effective in one.
In all reality, they are just learning themselves, whereas our team has been in thousands of cannabis facilities and knows what we are actually doing.
We also come from regulatory backgrounds and that is very rare. My team consists of all ex-cannabis regulators who are all certified professionals of food safety (CP-FS), and Certified quality auditors (CQA).
We understand the regulatory jargon that is in regulations, we understand how to read between the lines and interpret what they are really looking for, and we are great at communicating with investigators and auditors, we “speak their language” so to speak.
You will not find this with any other firm out there. People with these kinds of backgrounds usually stay with the government for life or go to work for big corporate companies.
Our team loves the cannabis industry and wants nothing more than to help it thrive by creating the safest products and helping companies protect their workers.
Cannabis is our true calling and everyday we are reminded why we are here. It’s a very satisfying feeling to be where you truly belong and make a positive impact everyday. Our customer service is amazing as well.
We are truly dedicated to our clients and when they need something we are there for them.
I can’t tell you how many times a client will choose to go with another firm and shortly after come back to us because the other firm wouldn’t listen to their needs, wouldn’t return their emails or calls in a timely manner, or would talk down to their staff and be rude or condescending.
Our success is linked to our clients’ success and we truly want to see them understand and succeed. We put in the time to make sure our clients understand the requirements as well as we do, so that they can handle issues in the future on their own, and if they need anything more they can always call us.
What are the dangers of cannabis and psilocybin in terms of non-compliance? What effects have you seen when companies aren’t safe?
Noncompliance can cause all kinds of issues; fines, recalls, disposals, loss of license, etc. Mostly it affects a company’s bottom line if they aren’t following the rules, but consumer safety is important beyond just the bottom line.
Non-compliance when it comes to health and safety not only will affect one company that was out of compliance, but also makes the industry as a whole look bad.
If it’s in an article that a THC product hospitalized several people due to contamination, then it makes people question the safety of all cannabis products.
When I was a regulator I was involved in recalls and disposals that cost the industry in Denver County millions of dollars.
For example, in 2015 alone I disposed of ~$28 million in products and plants putting several companies out of business due to contamination issues.
This was just Denver County and one investigator following regulations based on the FDA’s regulations.
When the FDA starts regulating, this is going to happen on a national scale and I don’t think anyone except Allay’s clients are prepared for what is coming.
Due to the lack of regulation in the industry, there is no way of knowing what products are actually safe and which ones aren’t unless they have some kind of third-party certification such as cGMP which we encourage our clients to get.
This not only protects our clients from regulators when they start regulating, but it also ensures consumers are safe and protects the industry’s reputation as a whole.
Have you noticed similarities and differences between the cannabis and psilocybin mushroom industries?
The psilocybin industry is very new, and no regulations have been released at this time, but yes I think there are and will be similarities to the cannabis industry.
License types and track and trace requirements will be similar along with labeling requirements. I just hope that the new psilocybin industry learns from the cannabis industry’s mistakes when it comes to writing regulations.
At the beginning of regulating cannabis, we didn’t include any industry people in the writing process and this was a huge mistake.
You need to understand the processes and nuances of the industry to understand the best way to regulate it, and unfortunately, I already see that same mistake happening in Oregon for psilocybin.
You need a wide range of people with different backgrounds and knowledge on your regulations writing board in order to understand all aspects of the industry.
When it’s a room full of regulators that don’t know how to cultivate or extract then you end up with huge gaps in regulations. This just causes confusion for the industry and more work for the council later down the line.
With psychedelic legalization gaining traction, how do you see the two industries (cannabis and psilocybin) merging in the future?
I’m not sure that they will ever be able to completely merge, since they will be under different sets of regulations and those will vary from state to state.
Some states may have both industries regulated in a similar way and some will not, some states may even allow psilocybin to be purchased in a dispensary and tracked in Metrc the same as cannabis, but we aren’t sure how that will work or if it’s even possible.
We will just have to wait and see how it all plays out.
What’s your advice for entrepreneurs who are launching their first cannabis or psilocybin start-up?
There are so many things that I could say, but I think the main thing that will ensure success long term is to become compliant with FDA and OSHA regulations as soon as possible.
This will not only ensure risk mitigation when it comes to consumer and worker safety but it will make the transition to federal legalization seamless and stress-free.
Also, make sure your physical facility is compliant with FDA standards from the start because changes to plumbing flooring, ceiling, etc. can be very costly and it’ll save you thousands to have it right from the start.
Thanks, Kim, for doing the interview. We really appreciate your time! For more information about Kim, go to AllayConsulting.com.
More about Kim Stuck:
Previously, Ms. Stuck held a pioneering role as the nation’s first cannabis and hemp specialist for a major metropolitan public health authority. During her tenure with the City of Denver, home to hundreds of cannabis businesses, she worked as an investigator covering cultivation, manufacturing and retail.
Her duties included facility inspections; conducting investigations into improper pesticide use and worker safety; creating regulations; instituting recalls, and public outreach. Ms. Stuck holds numerous accreditations, such as certified quality auditor (CQA) and certified professional of food safety (CP-FS), among others. In addition to serving on several industry advisory boards, she has been a member of ASTM International’s cannabis standards committee since its 2017 inception.