FOCUS named Best Compliance Consultant

FOCUS named Best Compliance Consultant


As the organization that pioneered the concept of quality standards in legal cannabis, winning Greenway Magazine’s 2024 Readers’ Choice Award for Best Consultant: Compliance came as a delightful surprise to all of us at Foundation of Cannabis Unified Standards (FOCUS). In an industry where regulatory adherence is paramount quality is frequently overlooked, which makes winning a compliance award extra special for a company like FOCUS that is dedicated to quality.

FOCUS founder Lezli Engelking’s unique journey into the cannabis space began as the executive director for a chain of vertically integrated medical cannabis licenses in Arizona. This hands-on experience working with state legal frameworks became the catalyst for FOCUS as Lezli realized that cannabis regulations didn’t truly protect the people making or consuming these products, nor did they provide guidance to help businesses become successful. Driven by a desire to bring about meaningful change in the industry and protect patients, consumers, and operators, Lezli launched FOCUS in 2014 as a 501c3 nonprofit cannabis health and safety organization with the vision of building a safe, legal, and sustainable global cannabis industry.

Over the past decade, FOCUS has worked tirelessly to educate on the importance of prioritizing quality over compliance due to the significant gaps in state level cannabis policies. It has been a difficult message to convey in a new industry that is severely burdened by onerous and conflicting regulations. Most cannabis companies prioritize compliance with their state rules and regulations and overlook the equally critical aspect of maintaining quality. It is a backwards mindset…businesses become successful when customers are happy and spreading the word. I’ve yet to hear of a customer making decisions about where to shop or what to buy based on a company’s compliance rates. Even insurers in the cannabis space have begun to recognize that compliance with state regulations is simply not enough to truly reduce risk or keep a company in business.

Prioritizing quality is no longer just a theoretical concept. Given the state of most cannabis businesses today, prioritizing quality has become a practical necessity. Quality management practices are the backbone of a healthy business in all professional industries. Prioritizing quality ensures that meeting regulatory requirements becomes a seamless part of the overall quality assurance process. Cannabis businesses who embrace the quality approach don’t just achieve compliance, but they also reap the many benefits of enhanced product quality, customer trust, and operational efficiency, leading to reduced overall costs and long-term business success.

One of the key advantages of a quality-minded strategy is the inherent consideration for patient and consumer satisfaction. While compliance-focused consulting helps companies meet regulatory requirements, it falls short in addressing the customers’ needs, a key reason why building brand loyalty has been such a challenge in the cannabis industry. A quality-driven approach places the customer at the center, resulting in operating procedures, services, and the highest-quality products that not only comply with regulations, but also delight consumers.

Missouri cannabis licensees were not overjoyed when DCR made it mandatory to implement a quality management system. Despite the initial reaction, many licensees have embraced this new challenge and are quickly seeing the benefits of implementing a robust quality management system, validating the importance of prioritizing quality over compliance in cannabis. FOCUS is honored to play a small role in this transition. It has been an absolute pleasure to work with so many dedicated companies who truly care about the quality and safety of their products, as well as their employees. It is refreshing to see a market full of people committed to working together to overcome challenges and build a better future for everyone. The whole team at FOCUS is honored by this award and looks forward to continuing to work with Missouri licensees to build real protections for health and safety into their business, while continuously finding new ways to delight their customers.