Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia currently have passed laws broadly legalizing marijuana in some form. Of which, the District of Columbia and ten states -- Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington -- have adopted the most comprehensive laws legalizing marijuana for recreational use. Most recently, Michigan voters approved a ballot measure permitting adults age 21 and over to purchase and possess recreational-use marijuana. Vermont became the first state earlier this year to legalize marijuana for recreational use through the legislative process, rather than via a ballot measure. Vermont's law allows for adults age 21 and over to grow and possess small amounts of cannabis. However, it does not permit the sale of non-medical cannabis. Some other state laws similarly decriminalized marijuana but did not initially legalize retail sales. Most other states allow for limited use of medical marijuana under certain circumstances. Some medical marijuana laws are broader than others, with types of medical conditions that will enable treatment varying from state to state. Louisiana, West Virginia and a few other states allow only for cannabis-infused products, such as oils or pills. Other states have passed narrow laws allowing residents to possess cannabis just if they suffer from select medical illnesses.
The long and short of it --- each state has a different approach to govern marijuana use. Confusion, chaos and over burdening regulations has made the marijuana industry unreliable, difficult to operate in, and ripe for every conceivable crime known to man. Meanwhile, the black market likes the “cover” and ripping billions of of dollars in illegal gains.
How to change the equation.
A standard of regulations for all states to follow and enforced by an Oversight Commission is needed: 1. Relieves regulatory authorities of the need to devise new, detailed, or complex requirements relating to materials, processes, design considerations and criteria, technical procedures, test methods, etc. 2.Permits detailed technical specifications to be embodied into the text of regulation by merely referencing a standard or the relevant parts of a standard. 3. Simplifies and accelerates legislative work and lowers cost to the government in developing and enforcing regulations. 4. Reduces the number of pages of rules and makes them more manageable. 5. Promotes uniformity of technical requirements – as standards provide the basis for certification, technical specifications can be equitably applied. 6. Improves responsiveness of regulators to public concerns. 7. Encourages participation in the development of standards. 8. Avoids duplication of efforts and optimizes the use of scarce standards resources by taking into consideration the results of international standardization work. 9. Facilitates elimination of barriers to trade by referring to recognized national standards which have been harmonized internationally. 10. Improves public acceptance of regulations when there is an endorsement of existing voluntary standards.
A case in point for the Oversight Commission is Alaska: Gov. Mike Dunleavy aims to repeal the state’s Marijuana Control Board, raising alarm bells among cannabis industry officials and investors who fear the move would put licensing and enforcement decisions in the hands of one person and limit the industry’s input into rulemaking. Dunleavy’s plan was outlined in a letter to commerce department employees by commissioner Julie Anderson and a memo from Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office director Erika McConnell.
The documents say Dunleavy, a Republican, wants to repeal the Marijuana Control Board and the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board and transfer authority and responsibilities of each to the commerce department commissioner. A Dunleavy spokesman said further details would be released when legislation addressing the boards is introduced. But Dunleavy is looking at ways to find efficiencies in government. The proposal is one way the governor is trying to cut the state’s budget to close a $1.6 billion deficit, the Anchorage Daily News reported. The plan would reduce the Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office’s budget by $48,700.
Mark Springer, chair of the Marijuana Control Board, said he is concerned about the openness and level of public involvement in the regulatory process if rules governing the industry are drafted administratively instead of by a board. Springer also noted the 2014 voter-approved initiative legalizing adult-use marijuana referenced establishment of a Marijuana Control Board.
Cary Carrigan, executive director of the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association, expressed his concern as well. “The Dunleavy administration is trying to destroy the marijuana industry in Alaska,” he said. “ … I’m concerned about them pooling everything together because I’m afraid the people with the expertise necessary won’t be able to focus on the areas we need that investigation.”
Dunleavy’s latest move comes on the heels of his appointment of anti-marijuana activist Vivian Stiver to the board. Stiver’sappointment is subject to legislative confirmation.
Meanwhile, McConnell wrote in her memo that the state Department of Public Safety had terminated her office’s access to databases for crime reporting and information needed for enforcement officers to conduct thorough investigations. McConnell also noted this has hampered investigators in their enforcement duties and compromised safety because investigators are unable to identify individuals flagged as a risk to officer safety. The safety department has expressed concern the FBI will strip the state’s access to its databases if marijuana regulators use them because cannabis is illegal under federal law, she said. But McConnell also noted the department has not asked the FBI if there is a problem and pointed out that, during a 2017 audit, the federal law enforcement agency did not flag any issues with marijuana regulators accessing criminal justice information.
The safety department has agreed to provide the requested information for specific investigations, but McConnell wrote that arrangement is “unworkable.”
Bottom line: All states should act in concert to work as one to ensure the cannabis industry is a reliable citizen operating by rules and regulations with a common standard for the safety and welfare of the community. The result would be a tax paying business citizen - called the cannabis industry.