Editor’s Note: This blog was first published in The Accela Cannabis Regulation Newsletter, that seeks to inform regulators of the many industry and legislative changes across North America. Questions and notes may be directed to [email protected].
Legalization unfolds in many ways when states are first faced with this new market. Often, regulations change rapidly as the regulatory framework is planned and put into place.
As we’ve seen, there isn’t one solution that works for everyone. Cannabis regulation is consistently controversial across all levels of government and the lack of federal oversight seems to add to those complications. Uncertainty also remains as jurisdictions continue to be faced with the growing support from constituents regarding legalization and the ability to implement a regulatory framework that supports the competing demands of a new industry. National support for legalization grew to 66% as of October 2018 based on a Gallup survey.
At the federal level, we have a marijuana bill introduced in this legislative session. The new bill filed in the House as H.R. 420 is titled the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act. The bill would also transfer cannabis enforcement authority to a new Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Marijuana, Firearms and Explosives.
The bill also includes issuing permits for cultivating, packaging, selling and importing cannabis. It appears that the permits would last indefinitely until suspended or transferred. The bill also is clear that applicants would not be able to obtain a permit if it violated state law.
It’ll be interesting to see how this progresses through congress this legislative session and if it will even pass.
Federal Hemp Update
On December 20, 2018, the 2018 Farm Bill was signed into law. There are a few things that the Farm Bill addresses and the most important for Cannabis Regulators is the de-scheduling of hemp. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is in the process of issuing regulations and guidance to implement a program for commercial production of industrial hemp in the United States. The USDA is in the process of
collecting information that they’ll use to formulate the regulations. Regulations are planned to be issued in the Fall of 2019.
This will create some changes for states to look at and respond. Several states have already begun the process of updating current laws in response to the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill.
Some regulators have mentioned that hemp products are entering the licensed establishments as additional products. Once again, regulators are challenged with understanding these changes and how it will impact their jurisdiction’s regulatory framework.
States Looking at Legalization in 2019
Public support continues to grow for cannabis legalization across the United States. There are several states that are exploring full cannabis legalization in 2019. Those states include: Connecticut, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. In addition, there are others that may launch ballot initiatives in 2020 or could pass other types of cannabis-related legislation during the year. Initiatives being explored include decriminalization, medical and adult-use.
Accela Community Cannabis Regulation User Group
Each month on the second Thursday, there is an Accela Community Cannabis Regulation User Group meeting at 9 a.m. Pacific time. The intent of the meeting is to bring cannabis regulation experts together to share ideas, challenges, lessons learned, receive updates and network with each other. If you’d like to join the group, please email [email protected] for additional information.