U.S. hemp association restructures amid financial challenges

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The U.S. Hemp Industries Association (HIA) has simplified its membership structure and established a sponsorship program as it seeks to recover its footing after financial troubles that came to light earlier this year.

HIA said the new scheme is more affordable to members. Ranging from $25 for a “Supporter: Advocate” up to $5,000 for “Business Premier” members, the new structure features eight membership categories. The Association said it also hopes to raise income through new “Annual Fund” sponsorships. ($6,000-$7,000).

Restructuring

HIA, which is registered in California but maintains representation in Washington D.C., said it has cut monthly expenses by more than 70% from 2019 levels, renegotiated some contracts and reduced salaries in its efforts to bolster finances.

The national HIA in July voted to shutter its network of 13 state chapters after some complained they had not received funds owed them by the national headquarters, which admitted earlier this year it was on the brink of insolvency.

Under the restructuring, HIA is now a national organization recruiting all members directly. The Association has offered former state groups a temporary license agreement that will let them continue to use the HIA logo and intellectual property through the end of this year while they reconstitute themselves. The former New York and Pacific Northwest chapters have already signed that temporary agreement, while others are still reviewing the proposal with their boards, HIA said.

New groups organizing

HIA recorded 1,026 total members at the end of August, down from a previous high of about 1,600 members. Hemp leaders in Kentucky, which had one of the biggest HIA state chapters with 300+ members, have already decided to form a state hemp organization independent of the HIA. The board of the former Illinois HIA has established the Midwest Hemp Coalition and are offering discounted memberships to former Illinois state HIA chapter members. Others chapters, all of which are independent nonprofit organizations, are still exploring options after being cut loose from the national structure.

HIA said former state chapter leaders have been invited to join a new “HIA 2.0 Task Force” which is working on a new affiliate program for the association to connect with other hemp organizations.

Repayments promised

Jody McGinness, appointed HIA’s executive director in July, said money still owed to the former state chapters will be repaid.

“Despite some claims to the contrary, HIA has never intended to withhold dues payments to chapters,” McGinness told HempToday in an email. “All of the chapters have been provided with a schedule for repayment that would have all of the back dues returned to them over the next few months. We’re confident in our ability to do this, even with continued economic uncertainty.”

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