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Marijuana Regulators And Stakeholders Hold Closed-Door Conference To Discuss Future Of Reform And Industry Challenges

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Marijuana government regulators, trade associations and businesses are meeting for a two-day conference beginning on Monday to help chart a path forward as the state-by-state legalization movement continues to grow amid relative federal stagnation. The cannabis stakeholders will strategize about a wide range of policy considerations ranging from promoting equity in the industry to interstate commerce to creating rules around emerging cannabinoids.

Details of the closed-to-press gathering, organized by the non-partisan Cannabis Regulators Association (CANNRA), were shared exclusively with Marijuana Moment ahead of the event.

“We felt like this was an opportunity for us to more formally introduce ourselves to stakeholders and formalize some of those relationships and hear a wide range of perspectives in person, to be able to hear different views,” CANNRA Executive Director Gillian Schauer told Marijuana Moment in a phone interview.

There will be about a dozen panels, each of which are designed to inform the people in charge of regulating a medley of state and local cannabis programs as the policy landscape continues to expand and evolve.

For example, there will be a panel moderated by a representative of the Michigan Cannabis Regulation Agency (MCRA) that broadly examines the “state and federal roles in a future national marketplace.” Panelists will include members of the U.S. Cannabis Council (USCC), Coalition for Cannabis Policy, Education, and Regulation (CPEAR), Council for Federal Cannabis Regulation (CFCR) and National Cannabis Roundtable (NCR).

Andrew Brisbo, president of CANNRA and the top Michigan cannabis regulator, told Marijuana Moment that he’s “very interested to hear about the perspectives of organizations that are evaluating the various proposals on federal policy reform,” especially given the direct impact those proposals will have on state regulatory operations.

Schauer echoed that point and added that the organization has a vested interest in “protecting consumer safety, on promoting equity and on creating predictability for for operators in the marketplace and licensees.”

“I think the topics that we’re going to be discussing will do a lot to give us more insight there,” she said.

Interstate commerce will be among those topics, with a panel moderated by an official from the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission that will involve discussions with groups like the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and the U.S. Hemp Roundtable.

The Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission will host another panel dealing with tax policy and the illicit market. RAND’s Drug Policy Research Center and Whitney Economics will participate in that conversation.

A key point of interest for regulators and stakeholders alike in emerging cannabis markets is social and economic equity—and specifically, how to achieve equity through policymaking that recognizes the disproportionate harms that minority communities have historically suffered under criminalization.

To that end, there’s a two-tier panel scheduled for Monday afternoon titled “Social and Economic Equity & Social Justice: Challenges, Opportunities, and a Reality Check.”

The first panel will be run by a representative of California’s Department of Cannabis Control (DCC), with other participants including members of the Minority Cannabis Business Association, NCIA, USCC, CPEAR and Supernova Women.

“This is another topic that we’ve had so many conversations about at CANNRA,” Schauer said. “I think every state regulator would probably tell you that there’s still a lot of opportunity for them to do better in this space. And that’s one of the reasons why there continues to be so much interest from state regulators and trying to figure out, how are we doing and what can we do better?”

“The challenge that regulators sometimes have is, this isn’t as easy as waving a magic wand and doing what’s right,” she said. “In most cases, policy, to change, has to go through legislatures and has to go through a whole process. And we all know that that doesn’t happen fast enough.”

“I think the reality check is going to be important and talking about what’s truly feasible, and what the low-hanging fruit is in the space will be of great interest to our members to try to continue to do better in the space because there’s such opportunity and such a need to do better and prioritize this,” she added.

The second panel for the equity component will involve the Last Prisoner Project and Code for America, both of which have independently worked to promote equity in the industry and hold states accountable for achieving the criminal justice reform goals of legalization through expungements, for example.

The Minnesota Office of Medical Cannabis will moderate another panel on Monday titled “Preventing Youth Access, Promoting Consumer Safety, & Protecting Public Health in State Markets,” with representatives of groups like Responsibility.org, Truth Initiative, National Safety Council, Public Health Institute and the Association of Food and Drug Officials participating.

On day two of the conference—which is being attended by members of certain cannabis coalitions and industry associations who were specifically invited by CANNRA after consultation with a seven-member board—there will be another panel of growing interest for the industry. It will tackle the “regulatory, health and market implications” of novel, hemp-derived cannabinoids like delta-8 THC.

“I think it’ll be very interesting,” Schauer said, though she stressed the importance of keeping the conversations “high enough level that it doesn’t get so scientific that we lose people” because “one of the challenges with talking about hemp-derived products is you quickly can feel like you’re not following if you’re not a chemist, and that’s not going to serve the attendees or our regulators.”

Questions that will be raised in that panel will be about “what are the considerations and challenges in drawing a line and figuring out what [cannabinoids are] impairing and what’s not, and figuring out what the end-use of a product might be.” Participants will discuss “what happens with the federal landscape” as these derivatives emerge on the market, and how that might affect legislation like future large-scale agriculture bills?

“I think we could see this topic bleeding into some other panels as well,” Brisbo said, “because it is driving conversation around broader topics about the evolution of the industry and how challenging it is to keep up with innovation and ensure that the approach that is taken both federally and in states recognizes those market evolutions.”

Other panels scheduled for Tuesday will address topics such as regulatory standardization, seed-to-sale tracking systems, the role of technology in licensing and registration systems and B2B and B2C cannabis commerce. Marijuana regulators from Colorado, Nevada and Massachusetts will be moderating panels on those subjects, and participants will include major associations and companies like the National Conference on Weights and Measure, Weedmaps, Leafly and Leaflink.

Finally, the concluding panel is called “A Regulator’s Perspective–State regulatory alignment, differences, and challenges.” CANNRA will moderate the conversation with representatives from cannabis regulatory agencies from Washington State, Hawaii, Florida, Michigan and Connecticut.

For those interested in monitoring cannabis policy, it may well come as a disappointment that an event featuring high-level discussions between state marijuana officials and representatives from many of the companies they are charged with regulating is not open to the public or media. And the fact that CPEAR, which receives funding from alcohol and tobacco interests, is participating in at least two panels may draw extra criticism from activists who feel skeptical about the organization’s involvement in informing regulatory policy.

Asked about the decision to make the conference a closed-door affair, Schauer said that, “because we are an organization of government officials, there are some parameters around who we invited.”

“We did not invite any direct licensees,” she said. “There may be some in the room representing trade associations or coalitions that they’re with—and that was a decision to try to have balance and not show favoritism to one type of licensee or one state, but to try to engage as many of the trade associations and coalitions as we could to gain that perspective.”

“We hope this event will become an annual event,” Schauer continued. “And we would certainly look to expand who is under that umbrella [of attendees] based on how things go at this meeting.”

“We’re a small but mighty organization—and I’m really proud of what we’ve done in our first year and a half,” she said.

CANNRA, which represents 40 U.S. states and territories in the cannabis regulatory space, also recently sent a letter to Congress explaining what the current lack of access to banking services for the marijuana industry means—not just for the businesses and the programs they oversee, but for the regulators navigating this federal-state conflict themselves.

Read the full agenda for this week’s CANNRA conference below: 

Monday, June 6th

8-8:30 AM: Registration and Continental Breakfast

8:30-9:00 AM: Welcome and Opening Remarks
Gillian Schauer, PhD, Executive Director, Cannabis Regulators Association
Andrew Brisbo, President, Cannabis Regulators Association
Executive Director, Michigan Cannabis Regulatory Agency

9:00-9:45 AM: An Overview of Federal Initiatives, Priorities, and Needs
Session Moderator:
Nicole Elliott, Executive Director, California Department of Cannabis Control
Panelists:
Susan Weiss, PhD, Director of Extramural Research, NIDA
Brooke Hoots, PhD, Lead, Cannabis Strategy Unit, CDC
Elisabeth Kann, Assistant Administrator External Affairs and Chief of Staff,
Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau

9:45-10:45 AM: Federal cannabis policy: Coalition views on state and federal roles in a future national marketplace
Session Moderator:
Andrew Brisbo, Executive Director, Michigan Cannabis Regulatory Agency
Panelists:
Sarah Chase, Executive Director, Council for Federal Cannabis Regulation
Andrew Freedman, Executive Director, Coalition for Cannabis Policy, Education, and Regulation
Saphira Galoob, Executive Director, National Cannabis Roundtable
Steven Hawkins, President and CEO, U.S. Cannabis Council

10:45-11:00 AM: Mid-morning break

11:00-12:00 PM: Interstate Commerce: Impacts on markets, licensing, and consumer safety
Session Moderator:
William Tilburg, Executive Director, Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission
Panelists:
Michael Cooper, Co-Chair, Policy Committee, National Cannabis Industry Association
Andrew Kline, Senior Counsel, Perkins Coie
Pete Meachum, President, U.S. Hemp Roundtable
Adam Orens, Managing Director, MPG
Steph Sherer, Founder and President, Americans for Safe Access

12:00-12:45 PM: Tax, price, and illicit market: Lessons learned and future directions
Session Moderator:
Steve Marks, Executive Director, Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission
Panelists:
Karen Gardner, Chief Marketing Officer, SICPA North America
Beau Kilmer, PhD, Drug Policy Research Center, RAND
Beau Whitney, Founder and Chief Economist, Whitney Economics

12:45-1:30 PM: Lunch and Networking Break

1:30-3:00 PM: Social and Economic Equity & Social Justice: Challenges, Opportunities, and a Reality Check.
Session Moderator:
Eugene Hillsman, PhD, Deputy Director, Equity & Inclusion, California Dept. of Cannabis Control
* 1:30-2:30 – Achieving Social and Economic Equity in the Industry: Where are we now and where do we
need to be?
Panelists:
Tahir Johnson, Director, Social Equity & Inclusion, U.S. Cannabis Council
Khurshid Khoja, Chair Emeritus, National Cannabis Industry Association
Amber Littlejohn, Executive Director, Minority Cannabis Business Association
Shanita Penny, Senior Advisor, Coalition for Cannabis Policy, Education, and Regulation
Amber Senter, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Supernova Women
* 2:30-3:00 – Social Justice: Following through on legalization’s promise
Panelists:
David Crawford, Senior Program Manager, Code for America
Steve DeAngelo, Founder, Last Prisoner Project

3:00-3:15 PM: Afternoon break

3:15-4:15 PM: Preventing Youth Access, Promoting Consumer Safety, & Protecting Public Health in State Markets
Session Moderator:
Chris Tholkes, Director, Minnesota Office of Medical Cannabis
Panelists:
Darrin Grondel, EdD, Vice President of Traffic Safety & Government Relations, Responsibility.org
Steven Mandernach, Executive Director, Association of Food and Drug Officials
Katie Mueller, Senior Program Manager, National Safety Council
Barbara Schillo, PhD, Senior Vice President, Truth Initiative
Lynn Silver, MD, Senior Advisor, Public Health Institute

4:15-5:00 PM: How Data and Technology can help future policy making: Public Health, Regulatory, and Industry Data Sources
Session Moderator:
Erik Gundersen, Executive Director, Maine Office of Cannabis Policy
Panelists:
Adam Crabtree, Founder and CEO, NCS Analytics
Julia Dilley, PhD, Co-Chair, Cannabis Subcommittee, Council of State and Territorial
Epidemiologists; Epidemiologist, Multnomah County Health Department
Michael Sofis, PhD, Director of Research, Cannabis Public Policy Consulting
Elle Wadsworth, PhD, Fellow, University of Waterloo
5PM – Adjourn, Dinner on your own

Tuesday, June 7th

8-8:30 AM: Registration and Continental Breakfast

8:30-8:45 AM: Welcome, Brief Day 1 recap, Day 2 preview

8:45-10:00 AM: Hemp: Emergence and Proliferation of Novel Cannabinoids – regulatory, health, and market implications
Session Moderator:
Gillian Schauer, PhD, Executive Director, Cannabis Regulators Association
Panelists:
Michael Bronstein, Co-Founder and President, American Trade Association for Cannabis & Hemp
Kay Doyle, Director, U.S. Public Policy & Public Affairs, Jazz Pharmaceuticals
Daniel Fabricant, PhD, President and CEO, Natural Products Association
Andrew Goff, Cannabis Law Deskbook Author, Attorney General Alliance;
Deputy Attorney General, State of Hawaii
Doris Hamilton, Lead, State Hemp Regulators group; Hemp Program Manager, Kentucky
Department of Agriculture
Jonathan Miller, General Counsel, U.S. Hemp Roundtable

10:00-10:15 AM: Mid-morning break

10:15-11:15 AM: Standards in Cannabis Regulation: Updates on efforts to establish common standards, challenges to the work, and ways state and federal officials can help
Session Moderator:
Dominique Mendiola, Senior Director, Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division
Panelists:
Scott Coates, Senior Director, AOAC Research Institute
Matthew D. Curran, PhD, Board of Directors, National Conference on Weights and Measures
Nandu Sarma, RPh, PhD, Director, Dietary Supplements and Herbal Medicines, US Pharmacopeia
David Vaillencourt, Vice-Chair, ASTM D37 Committee

11:15-12:00 PM: Regulatory Service Providers: Seed to sale and track and trace systems – Lessons learned and pathways forward
Session Moderator:
Tyler Klimas, Executive Director, Nevada Cannabis Compliance Board
Panelists:
Moe Afaneh, PharmD, Chief Operating Officer, BioTrack, Forian
Lewis Koski, PhD, Chief Strategy Officer, METRC
Ray Thompson, President and Chief Operating Officer, Akerna

12:00-12:45 PM: Lunch and Networking

12:45-1:15 PM: Regulatory Service Providers: Technology Advances in Licensing and Registration systems
Session Moderator:
Tyler Klimas, Executive Director, Nevada Cannabis Compliance Board
Panelists:
John Barnes, Vice President, Government Relations, Veritec
Bonnie Campo, Vice President of Alliances, Thentia Cloud
Alex Valvassori, General Manager, Tyler Technologies

1:15-2:15 PM: National B2B and B2C Cannabis Commerce: From Data to Delivery
Session Moderator:
Shawn Collins, Executive Director, Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission
Panelists:
Michael Block, Director of Public Policy, Leaflink
Kimberly Boler, General Counsel, Leafly
Bridget Hennessey, Vice President, Public Affairs, Weedmaps
Katie Neer, General Counsel, Lantern
Erica Woods, Director, Government Relations and Regulatory Affairs, Dutchie

2:15-3:15 PM: A Regulator’s Perspective – State regulatory alignment, differences, and challenges
Session Moderator:
Gillian Schauer, PhD, Executive Director, Cannabis Regulators Association
Panelists:
Andrew Brisbo, Executive Director, Michigan Cannabis Regulatory Agency
Chris Ferguson, Director, Florida Office of Medical Marijuana Use
Rick Garza, Executive Director, Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board
Lila McKinley, Supervising Staff Attorney, Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection
Michele Nakata, Chief, Hawaii Office of Medical Cannabis Control and Regulation

3:15-3:30 PM: Meeting wrap up, next steps, and adjourn
Andrew Brisbo, President, Cannabis Regulators Association
Executive Director, Michigan Cannabis Regulatory Agency
Gillian Schauer, PhD, Executive Director, Cannabis Regulators Association

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Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

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