Commercial Integrator March 2022 - 14

THE SERVICE DESK
Opportunities in the Cannabis Business
MSPs weigh in on factors unique to the space.
THE ASCII GROUP, a membership-based
community of independent North American
MSPs, MSSPs and solution providers,
posed a series of questions about the
cannabis industry to its members, seeking
insight into how they feel about opportunities
within the space. Here, we present
views from three ASCII Group members:
Wayne Hunter, co-founder/CEO, AvTek
Solutions, Inc.; Dawn Sizer, CEO, 3rd
Element Consulting; and Zina L. Hassel,
CEO, ZLH Enterprises.
CI: The cannabis industry is growing incredibly
quickly, with revenues already
exceeding those of the NFL. Have MSPs
begun to capitalize on this emerging
opportunity?
Hunter: AvTek's primary target market
is the financial industry. We have already
onboarded a banking customer that
specifically provides banking services
for the cannabis industry. We believe we
will see the banking industry client base
grow for us.
Sizer: Some MSPs have and have been for
a few years. This is our third year with the
cannabis industry, and it isn't just a cannabis
vertical. It's medical, retail, pharmaceutical,
manufacturing and agricultural. It can
open more than one vertical or niche for
your business.
Hassel: For at least the past year, we have
been working with people in this industry
as they set up their storefront operations.
ISP services, and sometimes VoIP, have
been requested. They have typically
presented themselves as very low-budget
operations (which, to me, is surprising,
given the revenue/profi t being derived).
CI: With state-to-state variation with
respect to cannabis legality, are there
any legal or practical considerations
that MSPs should be aware of before
working in this category?
Hunter: It depends on what client you are
serving that works within the industry. It is
14
Commercial Integrator MARCH 2022
The cannabis industry might be controversial given the ever-evolving, state-bystate
legal situation surrounding it, but one fact is beyond dispute: It's a big
business. And some MSPs have already found ways to provide essential services.
prudent to review each state's compliance
requirements on the industry - just like you
would for any other industry - to make sure
you are [in] compliance in the way you provide
services. You also have to keep in mind
what is happening in the federal stance on
legality, as this is a very fl uid industry currently
- and for the foreseeable future.
Sizer: You must know what the health
department regulations are for IT, as well
as [for] security, and follow them to the
letter. The client can lose their license to
sell or grow if you, as a partner, don't follow
the letter of the law. Background checks
are required as a vendor, so you should
be checking your employees fi rst so [that]
there are no surprises later.
CI: What distinctive processes, functions
and services might cannabis businesses
present that would off er MSPs
unique opportunities to add value and
generate revenue?
Hunter: At this point, there are the basics
that we do for anyone else, but we see IoT
device support being a growing revenue
area for this industry. The monitoring of
climate sensors will be a critical service.
Sizer: The processes, functions and services
you can off er to cannabis clients will
vary, as some may only have a retail presence,
and some may have the entire cycle
from agriculture to retail sale. You can look
at IoT, security, AV and the typical MSP offerings.
HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability
and Accountability Act] and PCI [Payment
Card Industry] compliance services as well.
Hassel: I would think that security would be
of utmost concern, including physical security,
such as surveillance and panic buttons.
CI: Would you have any personal
qualms about servicing or working with
the cannabis industry?
Hunter: I have no issues working with
the cannabis industry as long as the client
addresses the compliance and legality
appropriately. We will always approach it in
the same way [as] we do any other industry.
Sizer: I have no qualms about servicing
any industry if they follow the law and the
decision-makers are decent businesspeople.
Helping our clients grow their business
is one of the things we truly enjoy as an MSP
[because] it grows our business, as well.
With cannabis, as an industry, growing
exponentially, you never know where your
client will take you.
Hassel: Not particularly. This seems to
have become yet another part of our society.
The fact is that we provide services to a
legal entity similar to a general business or
professional-services company.
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Commercial Integrator March 2022

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