This is the third and final issue of a three-part blog series reflecting on the findings from recent regulatory cannabis program audits (respectfully anonymized in our discussion below) to infer their long-term management and scalability needs. Previous posts, on Digitalization and Security and Enabling Civic Partnership are available now.
As a new and controversial regulatory program, many Councils, Boards and Legislatures have had one specific mandate for their Cannabis programs: that regulation be responsive and adaptive. As the industry, public consumption, and local, state and national policies evolve, regulatory programs’ purposes and priorities often need to be revisited. This requires information on program performance, industry needs, and public impact. Here, seven years in, the feedback is showing that this level of actionable retrospection is still lacking. Nearly every audit, analysis and report mention poor or little ability to make evidence-based decisions about program performance and needs.
“The Program is supposed to identify challenges and make necessary adjustments to the requirements and process. However, since staff does not have the data or tools to compile valid and complete information on licensing and enforcement trends, the program can’t produce valid reports on program performance.”
Moving data from paper to the cloud and fusing siloed data streams and functions, as described in our previous posts, supports efficient collaboration and reduces duplicated efforts. But even more importantly, robust, reportable and digitized data management helps you tell your story to external stakeholders and drives future program direction. The following data insight needs were commonly reported:
- Management – This includes information such as inspector workload or application processing time, average days to obtain a permit or license, or processing time for new permits. This data is needed to identify challenges with current requirements and processes which can be fed back to a Council, Board or Legislature in order to make necessary adjustments or respond to public or media requests.
- Compliance – Having information such as number of complaints and substantiated complaints, complaints per district or permit type, and timeline of investigations would allow agencies to target precious enforcement resources more efficiently, and thus deliver improved public health and safety outcomes.
- Inspections – One agency noted in a report that they would like to send decoys into stores to catch businesses that sell to minors, but they didn’t know how many people they would need, as no one had analyzed current inspector responsibilities, inspection times and workloads. Another got dinged for lacking a level of data detailing the types of ‘compliance checks’ that had been conducted in previous months (e.g. on-site inspections or observations of the business’ perimeter). Robust inspection data can ensure that the right facilities receive the right types and number of inspections.
- Financial management – Many cannabis programs start with the expectation that licensing and other fees would be adjusted over time as the program and industry settles down. Several, though, have since struggled to make such adjustments, citing an inability to analyze their data effectively to guide decisions. “Without defined program activities and accurate information about workload, management must rely on anecdotal information and can’t assess budget requirements or identify appropriate licensing fees,” stated one report.
Cannabis is still so new and controversial that these tough questions are being asked more often and expectations are higher than other programs. With an advanced data management system, you have a new level of clarity and transparency over what activities happen at your agency. This benefit is magnified the more data and departments are added to it.
Will Cannabis Regulatory Needs Drive Widespread Civic Transformation?
By now you may have picked up on a particular tenor of our posts in this series – that of how the right changes, from moving from paper to the cloud or bringing multiple departments into one database, can generate multiple co-benefits.
Perhaps most importantly, state and local governments can leverage these benefits – from improved security practices and systems, enhanced and actionable feedback, workflow optimization and cross-departmental collaboration – to drive similar change and modernization in other programs. With visionary leadership and the right system, the challenges that regulators incur while launching and growing cannabis programs can actually be a boon, the impetus needed to drive widespread and systemic Civic Transformation for the 21st century.
This vision is what drives us here at Accela. Accela Cannabis Regulation and our market-leading platform of Civic Solutions empowers state and local governments to build collaborative, efficient and nimble civic entities. We aim to eliminate the public announcements of agencies that are struggling to serve their citizens and businesses. We call this fresh approach the Accela-led Cannabis Regulation End-to-End Ecosystem. Modern, scalable Cloud applications, mobile apps, data analytics and task management tools bring departments and private systems together to work more effectively.
Many leaders in cannabis regulation, such as the City and County of Denver, Colorado, and Culver City, California already trust Accela to effectively regulate these businesses and protect their communities.