Evolving Standards – Keeping tabs, importance of staying up-to-date

Updated: Jul 27, 2018

With Change as a Standard, It Is Critical that Cannabis Producers Stay Up to Date

As of this writing, medical marijuana is legal in 30 states, recreational use in 21 states plus Washington DC, and another 15 states are expected to legalize some use by 2020. Only 5% of Americans are against the legalization of medical marijuana.

But don’t cite those statistics a month from now. State legalization and Americans’ opinions change nearly as often as the dates on the calendar. And both of these result in continual change in the standards and regulations of this ever-evolving industry – with additional variation depending on whether one is talking recreational or medical and whether it is to be smoked, vaporized, encapsulated, edible, lotion, etc.

A good example of this are the laws of Michigan. In 2008, the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act was passed, but it did not clarify who could sell, grow or transport product. So while medical dispensaries began to open, some were closed down just as quickly because the law did not specifically allow for them. This put the industry in quite a conundrum as no one was really sure what was legal and what wasn’t. As a result, the state enacted the Medical Marijuana Facilities Licensing Act. It became effective in 2016 but facility applications only became available in December 2017 – keeping the industry in flux for another year. As the November 2018 election looms, the state’s marijuana industry awaits potential further change, as the ballot includes the Michigan Marijuana Legalization Initiative. If passed, it would legalize the recreational use and possession of marijuana for adults (21 and older) and enact a tax on marijuana sales.

As long as cannabis regulation remains under the auspices of the states and legalization is rolled out state by state by state, there is likely to continue to be variation and even flux within a state. In fact, it’s only wise for state regulators to keep an eye on other state actions and pick up best practices as applicable.

And as long as the American people have any say, cannabis legislation is likely to remain a state issue. While the majority of those survey favor national legalization, an article from The Motley Fool notes that 70% of Americans support state regulation over federal. They prefer that states be allowed to legalize or not and have the ability to regulate their industry without federal intervention. Only 23% favored federal legislation. That said, the article also notes that 93% of respondents support the idea of adults being allowed to use medically prescribed marijuana.

So what does all this mean to the cannabis industry? It means that it is essential that producers keep a sharp eye on your state regulations, know what is being discussed on the federal level, and update your practices and policies as often as needed to stay in compliance with all applicable regulations. It also is advisable for edibles producers to not only know and comply with all food regulations of your state, but also to understand and incorporate federal food laws. This will ensure you are prepared if your state implements those – or if or when cannabis-infused edibles become federally legal, at which time your food production would automatically become subject to all applicable federal regulations.

Ever since 1996 when California became the first state to legalize the medical use of cannabis, there has been an evolution of decriminalization, and medical and recreational legalization across the U.S. – making change is an inevitable standard of this industry.