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Marijuana Regulators From 19 States Form Group To Coordinate Legalization Implementation

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Marijuana regulators from 19 states announced on Thursday that they have formed an independent organization aimed at coordinating efforts to implement cannabis policy changes.

The Cannabis Regulators Association (CANNRA) isn’t taking a position on legalization, but it said the group can help inform regulatory best practices, drawing from their collective experiences managing marijuana programs.

They note that as jurisdictions work to establish cannabis markets, one of the first steps is often to reach out to regulators in places where similar systems are already in effect. Until now, there hasn’t been an organization to formally facilitate those conversations.

“The Cannabis Regulators Association will provide a much needed forum for regulators to engage with each other to identify and develop best practices, create model policies that safeguard public health and safety, and promote regulatory certainty for industry participants,” Norman Birenbaum, CANNRA’s inaugural president, said in a press release.

It’s a timely announcement, as voters in five more states approved ballot measures to legalize marijuana for medical or recreational purposes on Election Day.

Again, CANNRA goes out of its way to emphasize that it is not advocating for or against cannabis reform. The association will simply provide “unbiased information to help make informed decisions when considering whether or how to legalize or expand regulated cannabis.”

Birenbaum, who currently serves as the director of cannabis programs for New York, said the group “will also work to ensure federal officials benefit from the vast experiences of states across the nation to ensure any changes to federal law adequately address states’ needs and priorities.”

As of now, CANNRA members include regulators from 19 states: Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah and Washington state. More are expected to join soon.

“CANNRA provides a forum for Colorado to continue to share our pioneering experience creating an effective and credible regulated framework and market for cannabis. Colorado also benefits from learning about the cannabis policy work in other states across the country,” Jim Burack, director of Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division and a founding member, said.

Erik Gundersen, director of Maine’s Office of Marijuana Policy, said the state “relied heavily on the expertise of the states that came before us” as it established a cannabis market, and now officials there “look forward to sharing our best practices, lessons learned, and high standards with other regulating jurisdictions.”

Beyond helping to facilitate conversations between regulators, CANNRA, which was formally incorporated in Oregon last month, will also give members access to resources for staff training and provide the opportunity to “participate in the development of model standards and best practices for cannabis regulation.”

Those model policies will touch on areas such as “packaging, labeling, advertising, testing, licensing, social equity, seed to sale tracking, inspections, enforcement, pesticide use, product approval, tax structures, tax collection, patient qualification and enrollment, product processing and manufacturing, industrial hemp and CBD products, banking [and] payment processing,” the association said.

Additionally, members can join “Regulator Roundtable” conferences and receive “legislative analyses, policy tracking data and bulletins on current issues and events in the cannabis industry and regulatory arena.”

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) said he is “proud to see” regulators in his state “taking the lead, collaborating with other states, and establishing Nevada as the Gold Standard in cannabis regulation.”

 

Birenbaum said that the intent in forming the new organization is to have it “serve as a resource for policy makers, elected officials, researchers, and other stakeholders to engage with regulators from across the country and receive unbiased information and recommendations regarding the impact and implementation of cannabis policies.”

Danielle Perry, Illinois’s cannabis regulation and oversight officer, said that “as we continue to prioritize equity in forming Illinois’ legal cannabis industry, we look forward to sharing our learnings and benefitting from the experience of other states in the months and years ahead.”

Reform advocates and industry stakeholders are expressly prohibited from joining the association.

The formation of CANNRA comes weeks after another coalition of marijuana regulators sent a letter to leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives, demanding that they prioritize a cannabis legalization bill that’s expected to get a floor vote next month.

Several of those regulators were from California, which does not currently have a membership presence in CANNRA.

Last year, the governors of Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania met to discuss how best to regionally coordinate the implementation cannabis legalization to promote public health and safety. The officials agreed to a set of principles for regulated marijuana markets.

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