“Regulation” is often considered a four-letter word in business circles, but the truth of the matter is that for those of us in the marijuana industry regulation is exactly what we should be supporting. We shouldn’t be pining for a wide-open wild west where anyone can get away with anything they can imagine. We shouldn’t be afraid of codified rules. Statutes protect patients and customers, instill confidence in industry skeptics, and – paired with initiative and foresight – allow decisions to be made by those most qualified to make them. We in the industry must be at the forefront, because if we don’t allow our expertise to inform the law then politics inevitably will.
There are snake-oil salesmen in every lucrative marketplace, so it shouldn’t be surprising that the FDA recently issued warning letters to several makers of CBD oil, some of whose products did not even contain CBD. This type of authority to protect consumers is exactly what the industry needs, because we are still at a point where, in the public’s perception, every action reflects on every company. When products are not what they say they are, when strains are not of consistent strength, when people are taken advantage of by opportunists all cannabis businesses are affected.
When we establish ourselves as responsible, reliable, consistent operations, however, the opposite happens. People that once viewed marijuana as the arena of college students and slackers will consider participating; if not as future business partners then as future consumers. Fair, comprehensive rules mean that individual companies operating in the marijuana space are relieved of the burden of reshaping the plant’s image alone. It creates an institutional infrastructure that assures the public that we as an industry are looking out for their well-being.
The result of dragging our heels on oversight is a set of laws based on fear, prominence of old ideas, and ultimately over-regulation. In many of the states with the most recent medical marijuana laws the operating rules are incredibly strict, severely limiting not only who can have access to medicine (approved illness lists have been shrinking in each new state), how many businesses are allowed to operate (number of issued licenses at launch have been shrinking as well), and how patients can consume (several laws stipulate extract- or edible-only), but even how many individual strains are allowed to be grown.
Where marijuana is legal – both for medical and adult use – we must set examples for what a properly regulated industry looks like. We must establish high standards and work with lawmakers to create structures that will make sure every business that wants to work in this space meets those standards.
Colorado has been paving the way in this respect, and Salveo Capital’s senior industry expert Elan Nelson is an active participant in that state’s Marijuana Industry Group. She and MIG have worked to advance consumer safety and industry regulation, testifying on child-safe packaging and comprehensive tax rules among other things, and many states are looking to emulate Colorado’s policies from lab testing to doctor-patient prescription rules. If the rest of the industry shows same level of responsibility then we improve the situation for our customers, our patients, ourselves, and all future states whose legal markets are still finding their way.
We have the opportunity to let science and experience shape the regulatory structure of our industry. All we have to do is take the lead.