19 State Cannabis Regulators Unite to Share Policy Info

By Willis Jacobson
Nov 13, 2020

Cannabis regulators from 19 states united this week to launch a first-of-its-kind consortium that will work to “facilitate communication and information sharing” among jurisdictions that have legalized marijuana and those that may consider it.

The formation of the Cannabis Regulators Association (CANNRA) was announced by the group Thursday. The nonpartisan organization makes clear that it is not an advocacy group and has no formal position on cannabis legalization. Its focus, according to the group, is to assist federal, state, and local jurisdictions by providing officials with unbiased information to help them make informed decisions on whether and/or how to establish or expand regulated cannabis markets.

Norman Birenbaum, director of the New York state MED program, will serve as CANNRA’s inaugural president.

“The association will strive to create and promote harmony and standardization across jurisdictions which choose to legalize and regulate cannabis,” Birenbaum said in a statement released by CANNRA. “[It] 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.”

CANNRA’s formation was celebrated by many throughout the industry, and comes at a time when public support for legal, regulated cannabis commerce appears to be at an all-time high.

Voters in five states approved legalization ballot measures on Election Day, and a recent Gallup poll found that 68% of American adults support legalization. Additionally, members of Congress are calling on colleagues to support the MORE Act, a legalization bill scheduled for a vote next month in the U.S. House of Representatives.

CANNRA, anticipating that more states and/or the federal government will soon legalize, is looking to serve as a resource as the industry grows. State regulators have typically relied on the experiences of other states when establishing their own markets, but there had never before been a central organization to facilitate those discussions and provide objective data to policymakers.

CANNRA said it will work with research organizations, public health officials, lawmakers, advocacy groups and cannabis industry operators to gain data.

Industry advocate Adam Spiker, a senior partner at Spiker Rendon Consulting, a government affairs consulting firm, said a group like CANNRA could be vital if and when cannabis is legalized federally.

“We’re going to need inter-operability between the states when the federal shackles get lifted, so I think it’s smart,” he said.

The states already involved with CANNRA are Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah and Washington.

California, home to the country’s largest regulated cannabis market, is notably not involved. The California Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) didn’t immediately respond to a message Friday seeking comment. [Update: A BCC spokesman said Monday the organization was reviewing the option to join but had not yet made a determination.]

CANNRA said in its announcement that regulators from additional states, including those at the county and municipal levels, are expected to join soon.

CANNRA membership will be open only to regulators and their representatives, not to industry operators or advocates. Members, according to the organization, will be able to access a national registry of fellow members, as well as resources for policy development and staff training.

“Members will also be eligible to attend exclusive ‘Regulator Roundtable’ conferences and programs, and receive legislative analyses, policy tracking data, and bulletins on current issues and events in the cannabis industry and regulatory arena,” CANNRA announced.

Representatives from many of the founding states released their own statements or social media posts celebrating the new organization.

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

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