I met Kelsey while being enlightened by fellow journalist-centric friends at Grasslands out in Denver last month. She’s an absolute pleasure to talk to and true dynamo about her passion for the deeply misunderstood, regulatory side of the cannabis industry. When I listened to Kelsey speak, she speaks with a knowledge driven smile, and it makes her deep background in the cannabis industry makes certification easier to understand for the layperson, like myself! The time that I spent with Kelsey flew by, she’s engaging and downright fascinating. Thank you for listening. WB
Warren Bobrow: Please tell me who you are. Why cannabis? How long have you been acquainted
with the plant? What did you do prior to your current role? What brought you to the next step in your life?
Kelsey Hanley: My name is Kelsey Hanley and I never intended to work with cannabis. The stars aligned, however, which brought me to work in the wonderful cannabis industry. I began my professional career as an Environmental Health and Safety professional for a Fortune 500 company, then I worked at a large oil refinery supporting Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations to ensure workplace safety. After chasing money, I figured a career change would reignite my passion for safety in the workplace. I focused on earning my master’s in public health with an emphasis on food safety, which led me to a job in the public sector with the government.
I began this career path with the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment
as a public health investigator. When Colorado voters approved recreational cannabis in 2012, the department quickly began inspecting the newly legalized industry. The department was the first local health department to inspect cannabis facilities from seed to sale in the United States. Luckily, Denver had strong food safety regulations which were applicable to the cannabis industry. We learned many lessons as this recently non-legal industry transformed into a booming legal industry. It was refreshing to encounter such passion and creativity in the cannabis industry, despite the volume of regulations I began to see myself as a professional who can strengthen the industry’s longevity based on compliance. I wanted to promote workplace safety and ensure that the end product is made safely for end consumers. The passion and creativity behind the industry connected me with cannabis companies, a thrilling experience that I didn’t want to end. To continue working with the industry’s amazing leaders, I moved away from the government and began working with Allay Consulting, which focuses on federal (OSHA and FDA), state and local regulatory compliance support. Allay Consulting quickly specialized in supporting the industry by preparing cannabis and hemp companies for various certifications—GACP, cGMP, ISO, and USDA’s National Organic Program (hemp only). My role at Allay Consulting is similar to being a regulator, except for a few things—I work with companies that choose compliance as their priority, and we are able to provide solutions to violations.
WB: What obstacles do you face in your job? How do you anticipate removing them?
Who is your mentor? Do you mentor others?
Kelsey Hanley: There are a few perceived barriers the industry experiences when it comes to compliance. Many legalized states do not have health and safety requirements built into their regulations, which sometimes persuades companies to pay less attention to health and safety. Most often these health and safety requirements come from another state/local agency or not at all.
Safety at the workplace doesn’t get the attention it so deserves—and requires. Because cannabis is not federally legal, some companies believe OSHA doesn’t oversee their facilities. This is not true, as OSHA can oversee cultivations, manufacturing facilities and storefronts whenever it chooses. The good news is that increasingly more states are including health and safety requirements at licensed facilities, which is an excellent step forward for consumers and the industry as a whole. Consumers will be able to purchase high-quality, safe products and companies can mitigate their liability in terms of ensuring worker safety and product quality.
Two themes may help break these barriers: education and federal legalization. Education spreads awareness—educated consumers query dispensaries and brands about the quality and safety of their products. These savvy cannabis shoppers are able to make informed choices when purchasing marijuana products. Many of them will seek things like more transparency with testing results revealing which agricultural chemicals were used to grow the cannabis plant and the compliance histories of the licensees. Ultimately, educating consumers will result in cannabis companies becoming more and more transparent about the quality and safety of their products.
We all are aware that each state varies in its compliance requirements. Federal legalization can help clear up the muddied waters and deliver much-needed standardization in this industry and help create an industry-wide compliance baseline. We champion mentoring with passion and find that it is extremely effective as compliance consultants.
WB: What are your six and twelve-month goals? What do you want to achieve in the cannabis business?
Kelsey Hanley: My six-month goal would be to learn effective coaching methods. I was a competitive D1 track athlete during my four years of undergraduate studies and was surrounded by amazing and supportive coaches. My coaches supported individual athletes differently to achieve the same collective goal—performing our best to beat the competition.
My 12-month goal is to apply various coaching methods and techniques to the individual needs of my clients, athletes, friends, and family. Not everyone responds to the same approach, so I want to be more flexible with supporting others where and when I can.
I ultimately want to help cannabis businesses be their best with regard to regulatory compliance. By guiding companies along the journey of compliance, I’m not only supporting their business but also their customer base with safe products. It makes me happy to know my client’s employees have a safe workplace and that their cannabis products are safe to consume.
WB: Do you cook? Who taught you? Favorite meal of your childhood? Prepared by whom? When you travel for work, what do you like to eat?
Kelsey Hanley: I learned to cook from my mom. Although she was raised as a meat-and-potato Midwest gal, she sure knows how to cook and add flavor to any meal. My favorite childhood meal was (and still is!) Mom’s signature crawfish étouffée. When traveling, I typically ask the locals where their “go-to” eatery is.
WB: What is your passion?
Kelsey Hanley: I have had a passion for plants since my childhood. I distinctly remember my mom displaying a handful of tiny strawberries she grew from the garden—being accustomed to larger strawberries from the grocery store, I was surprised. Although small, those little red strawberries were mighty in flavor they packed a punch. All the hard work planting the strawberries and waiting a year paid off tremendously.
There is something so vital about getting your hands covered in soil, tending to plants, and working to help them succeed and benefit the environment around them. Fast-forward to now, our house is filled with houseplants and a hydroponic set-up with greens and herbs. My outdoor garden game is a struggle. Living at 10,000-foot elevations has its challenges with outdoor gardening, but I’m learning with each growing season.
Feature Photo Credit Bridget Dorr
Warren Bobrow has been a dishwasher, the owner of the first company to make fresh pasta in South Carolina , a television engineer and he even worked at Danceteria in NYC, then a trained chef which led to a twenty year career in private banking. A cannabis, wine and travel aficionado, Warren is a former rum judge and craft spirits national brand ambassador. He works full time in the cannabis business as an alchemist/journalist. Cocktailwhisperer.com Drinkklaus.com Instagram: warrenbobrow http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warren_Bobrow