Denver Marijuana Management Symposium – Harmonizing Medical and Recreational Marijuana Programs

Denver Marijuana Management Symposium – Harmonizing Medical and Recreational Marijuana Programs


I think we still have some folks
trickling in but I want to thank you and welcome you again to the Denver
marijuana management symposium we’re thrilled to have you here today
my name is Joey Pena I am the cannabis process navigator for Denver’s
department of excise and licenses so in my role I identify ways that we can
strengthen our cities partnership with marijuana businesses and I developed
strategies to improve and help our marijuana business owners navigate the
city’s application and inspection processes III think I’m I’m really
fortunate to work with city leaders and and team members that really strive to
do good value-adding work every day and I’m thrilled today to have our panelists
here to talk about how we can align and create harmony between medical and adult
use marijuana programs through this conversation that we’re gonna have I
hope you leave with information or with strategies that really help you do that
kind of good value-adding work back home so with that said I am going to kick off
with our panelists I’m gonna have them do a brief introduction before we jump
into our dialogue so we’re gonna start with cat Packer all right
my name is Kent pack from the executive director and general manager of the
Department of cannabis regulation for the city of Los Angeles the city of Los
Angeles has a population about 4 million so population size is about the same
size of the state of Colorado and again our specific responsibility and
authority is to advise and administer the city’s cannabis programs hi good
afternoon my name is Sean Collins I’m the executive director of the
Massachusetts cannabis Control Commission in that role I report to five
commissioners that oversee an independent state agency so we don’t
report to any you know we don’t report to the governor or any other
constitutional officer we also oversee both the adult use in medical programs
adult use was the purpose of our creation originally
however the statute that ultimately passed requires to transfer previous
jurisdiction from the department Public Health over to the kittymuz Control
Commission so in that role I oversee both programs hi everybody my name is
Eric Gunderson I’m the director of Maine’s newest state agency office of
Marijuana Policy which was established in February this year by our new
administration the mills administration and it’s home to both of our programs
our adult use program are very soon to be adult use program and are our current
medical program which has been in operations for about 10 years
and much like Massachusetts it sounds the the impending adult use program was
really their driver for the agency’s creation and then kind of jumping into
the conversation about aligning the two programs at the very end of a
legislative rewrite of the Maine’s marijuana legalization Act they actually
had moved the medical program from the Department of Health and Human Services
over to the department that is now home to the office of Marijuana Policy to
start that harm is as a harmonization so I have a little bit of a different
perspective than Kath and Shawn as we’re about to implement and we’ve started
making plans and tinkering with harmonization and really start and
develop the long-term plan and these do have lived it and been through it but I
hope there’s some value in my perspective and what we got going on in
Maine yeah I think there’s a tremendous amount of value here and I thank you so
much for offering your time and your expertise today so I want to kick us off
and and question for Eric and Shawn so there’s statutory language that requires
your agencies to align your state’s medical and adult use marijuana programs
do you is that directive helpful and are there ways that you’d like that
statutory language to be more or less explicit I think another way to think
about that is is what kinds of challenges our advantage does that
statutory language introduce in aligning those programs so I haven’t talked about
this with Shawn but for me as a regulator of these two programs I love
it right any clear directive that I can get that comes from the legislature
that’s not being driven by my office the regulator of the two programs the better
right and there are a few few benefits in
there the work of coordinating these two programs is so important for a bunch of
different reasons and we’re gonna get into those reasons I’m sure in the next
hour but the fact that it’s so important to develop a good-faith partnership with
both programs in order to coordinate the two and make the changes needed that
it’s good to get some type of political coverage because whatever those changes
may be are more or less probably not going to be that popular and I would
dare say nine out of ten times when you go to harmonize the two programs and
align them changes are going to come on the medical side for a bunch of
different reasons so there’s also the fine line you have to walk there too
because you don’t want too much information and too much you know what
the legislature digging too deep and putting too much on you you definitely
want some flexibility there to write your own rules and regs to be able to
properly operate operationalize what they direct you to do but that’s just a
long way of saying that at least from Maine’s perspective the statutory
language that’s there now that directs us to harmonize the two has been helpful
and beneficial and will continue to be so and then also I’ll just add real
quickly if there’s people in the room right now that have a medical program
and see in an adult use program on the horizon a nice little piece that the
legislature put in our marijuana legalization Act was they created this
legislative Commission to really take a step back and take a look at the two
programs more from a 30,000 foot view almost like a third-party auditor as
you’re the regulator and you’re in it and living it every every day it’s nice
to have a fresh perspective so their main directive is get together annually
look at the two programs present recommendations to the legislature and
how to change the two programs to bring them more into a line which makes our
lives as regulators a little bit easier on their operational side and making
sure that our programs are functioning correctly and the one caveat there is I
probably wouldn’t feel that same way if I wasn’t actually on the Commission
because I don’t I don’t know the best way to say this but lawmakers have a
tendency to spiral out of control sometimes
so if you can kind of keep the conversation on this on the straight and
narrow and make sure that it’s heading down the track that you knew as a
regulator know is the right direction it needs to be going in I think that’s a
tool that that will be beneficial to not only Maine but hopefully for the other
states that are moving in that direction Shawn so I think a lot like Eric I do
agree there’s definitely value to having a legislative directive to merge the two
programs where I think mass was a little bit different was we as an agency as a
cannabis Control Commission we operate a lot like a start-up we were a brand-new
agency I was appointed in November of 2017 and if anyone has heard this speech
before for me I’m sorry but we didn’t have any desks there’s no phone number
there was we had nothing there was no infrastructure so we also at the time of
being a start-up for us would now statutorily tasked with a merger of an
acquisition of a program that had been in Massachusetts since 2012 and so
there’s a Legacy Program there with so the opportunity presented to us is we
can make some changes at the same time I don’t know how to do it any better and I
think that’s the challenge I just because I can’t answer the question of
what I would do differently doesn’t mean you’re doing it the right way either so
the opportunity was to really bring the two programs together but the challenge
was it didn’t leave us a lot of flexibility to make any wholesale
changes so I described our transfer of the medical program as a lift and shift
me we could make changes around the edges but I also didn’t have a chance to
really talk to the staff that also transferred over there’s about 22 people
that didn’t work for me that now do and I we transmitted on
Christmas Eve so kudos to those guys for showing up to work on Christmas Eve and
having a new boss and there’s really awkwardness to that around the personnel
and the people element of it but we also inherited a program that we don’t it
didn’t have our fingerprints on it just yet and we’re in the middle now of
trying to make those incremental changes another key distinction between our two
programs is our medical program is vertically integrated that’s a challenge
as far as the marketplace where our adult use program is more of a supply
chain and so again we’re trying to fit those two things together and that’s
where I think additional harmonization is still required but just having that
directive and also there’s obvious operational and administrative
efficiencies around we’re regulating a plant and at once you pop seeds or or
or have clones or anything like that it’s it’s a plant it’s destination is
not or its fate is not yet determined so having two regulatory schemes oversee
that same exact plant would be incredibly awkward and I think that’s
where the value of that directive is good but it didn’t give us a large
opportunity to make any sort of policy choices with that independence and I
think that’s the important part of our statute is the commissioners that I work
for are totally independent and we don’t roll up the rest of state government and
I think that was a challenge that we’re still kind of sifting through now but
what I would do it again in a heartbeat I have a follow-up question on that
before you Shawn so so you you suddenly have a team of about 22 people sure that
that you have to they are now gonna report to you how how do you get them on
board how do you get them ready to do that work where do you start what’s
where’s that where’s the first place that you start I think so I’m gonna
choose my words carefully I I don’t know what I don’t know and I think that was
the important part of just sitting down with the staff in that program and
saying what if you could start from scratch what would you do differently if
you were the boss for the day what would you do I think starting with that level
of I think respect of I don’t oversee this program I don’t know why you made
the choices you previously made help me and also that allows I think that gets
folks to have a stake ultimately and in the way things turn out it gives them a
stake in in their job and their role in saying this my opinion matters here so
those 22 people on Christmas Eve got to have a meeting with me and tell me
everything I got such a download at that point of these operators this is how how
we choose to do things this is how we conduct our inspections of facilities
this is how we process our patient registrations all those things were
tidbits that I didn’t have any luxury of knowing prior and so I admitted that I
think that that first step of just saying look I don’t know what I don’t
know so please help just helped us I didn’t break down those kind of Boston
ploy barriers but also let them know that I was invested in what they were
doing previously and didn’t have a different angle or approach that would
undermine all the work that they put in to build I think by all accounts a
pretty successful program so they have a they have a real stay current into
hoping kind of the vision and the values going forward for sure excellent I’m
gonna jump around a little bit here cat and and Eric I’m going to come back to
you on a question but cat the so the Los Angeles Department of cannabis
regulation in our conversations before our panel today you mentioned that that
you’ve spent 2018 in the better part of 2019 working to transition existing
medical marijuana operators to the state’s new legal adult use market why
has that been a challenge and and what should other state and city agencies
know about the process yeah I think one of the realities is that the city of Los
Angeles just wasn’t prepared for legalization and you know proposition 64
happened in in 2016 and it just seemed as though the city of Los Angeles wasn’t
quite aware of the goldmine that it was sitting on and I did not inherit a
program stepped into this role in August of 2017 before the regulations had even
been passed so I didn’t quite know what I was signing myself up for but the
reality is is that part of the the true difficulty that we had in transitioning
was that there was no Department of cannabis regulation when the department
was first created we were allocated five physicians I was appointed and it took
me about six or seven months to get four additional staff members and the city of
Los Angeles did not pass its cannabis ordinances until the third week of
December and 2017 and oh by the way adult youth sales were gonna start on
January 1st and so I had a team of about four people that were supposed to be
responsible for four million people and transitioning operators who had never
been regulated before in this industry had relatively good reason to be
concerned about what some of those next steps were and we were just in a very
very tough position at the start of 2018 because again the state of California
was gonna start adult youth sales in January first we were still in the
process of building a website overnight and you know trying to make sure that we
had computers and phones and just very basic infrastructure in place and
nevertheless my team who is amazing and has grown over time was able to begin to
accept applications on January 3rd and oh by the way on January 4th former
attorney general attorney general Jeff Sessions rescinded the cold memo and so
you could imagine that early 2018 was just not a very fun time for me
personally but once we started to just put basic infrastructure in place the
reality is is that we had to authorize medical operators and operations for the
first time the city of Los Angeles had expressly prohibited all medical
operators but gave them what they were calling limited immunity from
prosecution and this concept of limited immunity was really premise Tehran this
concern of federal prosecution and we don’t want to be formally authorizing
businesses to engage in illegal activity so we’re not gonna give them
authorization we’re just gonna give them limited immunity but the state of
California on January 1st didn’t allow for operators to have limited immunity
to be authorized it required them to have formal authorization from the local
jurisdiction and so there I had to have a press conference with about 20
different media outlets on January 1st and I had to announce to the city that
the city of Los Angeles would not be participating in adult youth sales on on
January 1 and it took us several months before we were able to kind of wholesale
get some of these businesses operational and then the sky didn’t fall but the
reality is is that we just did not have the infrastructure in place to
transition those operators those operators probably were only required to
do two things for the last ten years pay their taxes
and then some owners were required to do background checks that was the form of
the city of Los Angeles regulating cannabis prior to the establishment of
the department we are now a department of twenty six we have a total of 37
positions allocated it has taken a very long time for us to get to this point
but I think the the reality is is that if I had an opportunity to do it again
and I don’t think that this option would have been politically viable would have
been to say we need to suspend all activity for four to six months and and
maybe even longer just so we had an opportunity to get our get our
operations together most people design the process and then begin
implementation we had to begin implementation and then design the
process so I’m interested on that to know are there ways aside from having
phones and computers are there ways you could have been that the city could have
been better prepared or that they could have started implementing that
infrastructure that would have made that a less painful process or maybe an
easier process to transition through yeah I mean and I try to be as
completely transparent with folks because it doesn’t make sense for me to
give folks these sterilized answers but the reality is is that no one in the
city of Los Angeles wanted to touch cannabis and that’s part of the reason
why a Department of cannabis regulation was created there was real real concern
about federal enforcement I wasn’t so concerned and signed up but but the
reality is is that it would have been helpful to be have to have been loaned
staff to have for someone to say you from building and safety you from the
police department you from the fire department policy folks borrowed from
some council offices you were going to be assigned to the Department of
cannabis regulation you all are going to be tasked with getting this off the
ground instead a new agency was created and we had to start from zero yeah please do cuz that makes a great
point as far as the obviously the political risk of suspending operations
is it that’s a you’ve got to overcome that
that political calculation but to our point as far as having resources and
having having an existing staff when the ballot question was pending in
Massachusetts in our adult use law really stems from a ballot question
there were not a lot of folks that thought it was going to pass and there
are a lot of folks that were actively campaigning to hope to move the ballot
question so that it would not pass it so as a result formally kind of it seemed
like state government was saying it’s not gonna happen we’ll make sure it
doesn’t happen and so there weren’t a lot of people and myself included I
really got it marked on this journey myself by being in a position within the
agency so originally the ballot question would have put it within the state
treasurer’s office and I worked there at a time and I said we at least have to be
prepared in the event that it does pass because the burden falls to us in our
agency and our bureaucracy and so I pulled in our HR department I pulled in
our legal department or IT department and I said we’ve at least got a plan and
so because I was the one I guess willing to Google marijuana at work I’m in the
position I’m at now but it’s also because in in that process of trying to
learn as much as I could I came to the folks in Denver I came I met with
actually in the folks in your office and you could not have been more generous
with your time because I think a lot of a lot of bureaucracy was after living
through it in that iteration that kind of cannabis or adult use 1.0 we’re more
than happy to share those kind of lived experiences but that infrastructure did
not exist in Massachusetts but we also in our statute had incredibly tight
timeframes I was appointed in November of 2017 our regulations had to be
promulgated by March of 2018 which meant that I had to have a draft available for
the public by December of 2017 that’s a huge task and I didn’t have a General
Counsel I didn’t have IT so in the cat’s point what do you spend your time doing
do you spend your time hiring the staff that you need be spending time doing the
work that needs to get done you can’t do both I think that that that calculus was
not something a lot of folks considered so if you have not embarked on this
journey yet give that some thought as far as your timelines and also Kath made
a point earlier in our earlier presentation around being honest with
timeframes so I think was in the context of social
equity by saying we can’t realistically get to this for let’s say a calendar
year that’s a really hard discussion to have with people have been waiting for
generations for this to be legalized and it actually re legalized but being
honest with people I think is the way to get credibility especially when it comes
to a new burgeoning industry so sorry to jump in no no no that’s it’s extremely
helpful Eric I mean I’m gonna come back on so in our conversations you know
leading up to to the panel today you told me that harmonizing medical and
adult use programs is more efficient from an Operations perspective so tell
me more about how state and local agencies can be more efficient by
aligning their programs and share examples if you will yeah no and I can
more from my perspective at the office of Marijuana Policy I mean a lot of
states have set up their regulatory structures differently I know a lot of
states have shared maybe the burden across different state agencies multiple
state agencies but in Maine for whatever reason they decided to basically
centralize everything into the office of Marijuana Policy we’re in charge of
licensing compliance enforcement policy development and legal our data our
communications of our stakeholder engagement is all centralized within my
office so it’s so important because you want to have a successful program for
the ministration you work for in the state that you live in to have effective
and efficient operations to make sure that both programs are running smoothly
and are heading down the track the way you want them to head so with that it’s
so important to have harmonization between the two programs because we’re
starting to see we’re currently heading in that direction but right now there’s
a huge void and where Maine is so just a little bit of history the medical
program has been in an operation in Maine for about a decade now and over
those ten years very little oversights very little resources people didn’t pay
much attention to it and it just kind of became its own thing people like to call
it the wild wild west I mean I don’t really care for that term but that’s
essentially what was and now in 2016 the voters may come
along say hey adult use we want that and that’s a much more structured tax and
regulate industry I mean it’s all in water I mean when you’re trying to run
both programs under one umbrella Department or state agency one licensing
division for both programs one compliance division for both programs it
becomes very difficult so some basic examples of stuff that we’re putting
into our long term plan on how to bring them more in line with each other just
from an operational standpoint our medical program operates off a plant
count and our adult use operates off a canopy some basic beginner level stuff
the process for background checks you know when you’re going through the
licensing process there’s completely different on the medical registrant
comes directly to my office pays us we have to go to SBI the State Bureau of
identity get everything processed on the adult use side there’s a whole different
process to have it done and then Shantz talks a lot about vertical integration
so we allow it it’s a little bit different on the adult use side you can
be vertically integrated essentially as long as you hold those different
licensing types you need to hold a cultivation license a manufacturing
license in a retail license now on the medical side if I’m a registered
caregiver which we have 2,500 of you can be vertically integrated but as long as
you’re registered caregivers you have all those authorities they’re allowed to
do all that stuff which presents a number of challenges from an operational
standpoint the licensing process and compliance being one those tough
conversations that you have to have with your bosses about what’s actually
happening what little information that you have collecting data to make
informed decisions within that program tough conversations with municipalities
about not be able to give them straight answers about exactly what’s happening
within their municipality under the purview of your program so there’s a lot
of different a lot of different things that we have in our long-term plan to
help bring them together to make sure that both programs are successful the
administration is successful and the impact of both programs is minimal on
the state and that’s not to say that we didn’t do some good things when the
legislate finished revising the legalization Act
they did make some changes to the medical program they now need to be on
the same track and trace that the adult use program it is they now need a local
authorization in order to open up a medical storefront which wasn’t there
before but I will say a piece of advice as you’re starting to go down this road
would be to start early so when I showed up in February 4th of this year it was
basically me sitting alone in a room and when Shaun says he inherited 22 people
that makes me jealous I inherited four people to office staff and two field
investigators for 2,500 caregivers and a dispensary so think about that for a
little bit but I would say start early so in every single conversation that I
had early on whether it be with municipalities with within different
state agencies with the staff that I inherited I started a list of things
that made sense in order to get the two programs to where they needed to be and
luckily a few months down I hired a director of policy and I said here’s my
list handed it off to her and she’s done a great job with it but it’s a thing in
my office when we come across and we say add to the list add it to the list add
it to the list and it’s developed into a fairly significant list and we’re making
plans to to execute that plan so there’s some great stuff so far that I’m hearing
around just in each of your answers I think around stakeholder engagement and
so I wanted this question is for Shaun but everyone feel free to jump in here
what stakeholders should be involved in these conversations about harmonizing
medical and adult use marijuana programs and I’d like you to think about whether
there’s a particular stakeholder that you wish that you would have engaged
sooner I think the list would be smaller if the question was what stakeholders
shouldn’t you engage I mean I think at this point I can’t think of anyone that
we wouldn’t want to talk to wouldn’t be curious about what we’re doing and it
really runs the game and I think first off in the context of a medical program
patients first and foremost providers clinicians first and foremost we in
Massachusetts authorize Doc’s physicians certified nurse practitioners and
physician assistants to all certify patience for the program that I think in
the context of medical program is that’s your kind of that’s your constituency in
a way it obviously your licensees as well but we’re in Massachusetts a pretty
strong local control jurisdiction as well and so getting local governments
mayor City Council’s building departments Police Department’s fire
departments you name it I’m also I’m more than happy to drag in any state
agency that I possibly can because there’s an expertise there so as I
mentioned earlier we we transfer jurisdiction for the medical program
from our Department of Public Health but we’re talking about a clinical setting
we’re talking about patient access who better to have at the table though the
new Department of Public Health we also talked with our attorney general’s
office our department of agricultural resources around pesticide use and they
one of the first time I came back from Denver to one of my first meetings out
here and I said pesticides is now in my mind I met with our department of
agricultural resources and they said well first and foremost let me start by
saying we have exclusive jurisdiction over pesticides I said great I’m done
it’s your problem it’s on their list now not mine but those are constituencies
that I think we can’t take for granted because those our folks are gonna commit
at the eleventh hour with questions and say well why didn’t you consider this
and so one of the things that I think our legislature did it was smart it’s
it’s a I have the privilege of chairing this group it’s a 25-person cannabis
advisory board it’s a bit unwieldy in its size of course it’s also got 15
appointments five each from the governor the Attorney General and the treasurer
plus some ex officio members that include the Mass Municipal Association
so that coalition of cities and towns the Commissioner of the Department of
Revenue the Commissioner of Public Health the Commissioner of the
Department of Agricultural Resources representatives of the master Chiefs of
Police Association someone from the State Police so it is a kind of an
alphabet soup of constituencies but it’s a public body so we meet in public and
again I get the privilege of chairing it but someone mentioned earlier one of the
panels about having folks together in a room and across the table from each
other to raise counterpoints there was Andrew Perez brother mentioned it where
the the Chiefs of Police around the issues like delivery and social
consumption are going to have their concerns but folks that that from the
industry they’re looking for these new license types having them at
same table and forcing them to have a conversation and giving them that
literally the table to do it at I think it’s a really valuable move and also
requiring to be done in public means one they’re gonna behave hopefully but also
that now the public has access this information to and allows that us as
somewhat regulators and policymakers I think to make more informed incomplete
decisions but also forces them to be at that table and if they don’t show up
that’s their prerogative but we gave them the table to do that so I think the
stakeholder piece is something you can’t discount and drag as many people as you
can to the table and have those conversations and also just be prepared
for not everybody is going to be at the same kind of policy acumen as some of us
that are kind of living this stuff day in and day out they’re gonna ask
questions I think are just gonna force us to think a bit a bit more broadly
about some of the issues we have to confront but stakeholder engagement is
is one of the key takeaways I got from our the states that came before us okay
can I ask you just from from the perspective of being in a jurisdiction
in a large city how how did you participate or how did you engage with
the state through your state through stakeholder engagement is there any one
that you wished that the state would have talked to sooner or is there any
one that in your processes you wish that you would have engaged I think that over
time our engagement or other folks engagement has increased the reality is
is that we all had our responsibilities and mandates on or before January 1st
and as it was mentioned previously we’re juggling these responsibilities and
trying to figure out if we’re designing for doing the work if we’re taking time
to communicate and engage and what I can say is that I think Laurie Ajax did an
excellent job at one creating the infrastructure and space for us to have
open dialogue with the state but there are hundreds of cities and counties in
California I think that us being the largest city in the state of California
allowed me to have direct access and if I needed to call her I could and and of
course that that helps with the was going on but I think that the the
reality is is that you want to try and engage folks as early as possible but
there needs to be and maybe some folks processes are different but most of the
time people are trying to engage to get to a particular result and people who
are engaged in this process need to need to know who are the result makers and
the reality is is that by and large it’s not the Department of cannabis
regulation in the city of Los Angeles that is the result maker it is it has
been our City Council that has been leading policy development and so while
I encourage and continue to receive feedback directly from stakeholders part
of what I spent again they would become because we didn’t have the public
information director I was serving as the public information director for the
city or for the department was really trying to engage directly with
stakeholders and letting them know who the decision-makers were in the process
so that every single time there was an issue people weren’t immediately running
and screaming at me but but they had an understanding of you know folks are
upset about budget as relates to the social equity program these are your
members of the Budget and Finance Committee if folks are concerned about
policy being made this is the rules and government committee and I think that
just allowing folks to know who’s who who is it that’s making those decisions
was advantageous for us early on just trying to direct those folks to folks
who could actually actually actualize whatever result they were seeking I’m
curious I’m curious hat so I think the how is really interesting to me so you
mentioned that that Laurie did a really great job of engaging what did that look
like I know that in in Pennsylvania the state government has done listening
tours as they’re looking at adult use they’ve done I think what is fairly an
extensive listening tour where they’ve stopped in communities and had public
forums so that people could talk to them what did it look like in California with
Laurie and then when you’re also directing folks on who
to talk to at the local level how do you do that in a way that that doesn’t seem
like you’re deflecting questions but that you’re that you’re trying to have a
more productive dialogue yeah and I think that the reality is is that we’re
the Department of cannabis regulation and if it’s a cannabis related issue
it’s gonna get brought to our desk we get questions about enforcement all the
time we have no specific enforcement authority against unlicensed facilities
we get health related questions all the time we are not public health
professionals at the Department of cannabis regulation so part of it is one
us identifying who is a part of that conversation and and being able to
connect folks directly the State of California’s the state level engagement
has involved a number of different components the state of California has a
cannabis Advisory Committee and so they meet regularly and travel around the
state to tackle they have different committees and to address different
issues and then also the state of California in 2018 went through three
separate emergency rulemaking processes and so every couple of months the entire
infrastructure that we were working on shifted and changed but there was a lot
of public comment and engagement with those particular rulemaking processes
and just recently you know part of what I was able to do with systems actually
was able to send staff to Sacramento to essentially walk around BCC’s office and
look at all their checklists look at all their desk manuals understand how they
run their operations essentially have points of contacts and liaisons in every
single office in the state because if there’s annum and again where the city
of Los Angeles oh I expect this type of service but the reality is that there’s
an issue that’s going to impact the Los Angeles market
you better believe it’s going to impact the California market that’s that’s how
big we are in this space and so if there’s an emergency that’s on my desk
it’s in Laurie’s best interest to know about it immediately because then the
governor is going to be asking about Joey and I yeah going
oh no because I don’t have much to add what Kat and Sean said but it is an
experience that I went through in Maine that I think would bring value to this
conversation so I agree involve as many stakeholders as you can early on one of
the challenges that we ran into which was actually surprising to me was the
internal stakeholders our different state agencies and that might be
specific to Maine in kind of our history but it might not be so a lot of the the
staff of the state agencies lived through the prior administration where
for more or less you weren’t allowed to talk speak breed anything marijuana so
when my office was created and like Shawn we were under a tight timeline we
needed to get our regs to the legislature before we lay down home we
need to involve as many people and as many internal stakeholders as possible
Department agriculture of Public Safety Health and Human Services all the same
ones so when I would email to try to set up meetings to get them involved in the
process I wasn’t getting a lot of responses in the very first response I
got back was am I allowed to meet with you about this and I was shocked I
couldn’t believe it so we obviously made accommodations to have our boss the
governor kind of send out a message saying hey we’re here we’re doing this
let’s do this smart yes meet with office Marijuana Policy so in case anybody runs
into that issue it’s good to have a little bit of support and directive from
above you wherever that is and I certainly appreciate the this talking
about engaging our internal stakeholders that’s critically important to the
success of these programs external stakeholders as well specifically I
think marijuana businesses we were chatting just out in the foyer about I
was in Michigan on Election Day 2018 when they approved when voters approved
adult use marijuana and throughout the day I was visiting with some medical
caregivers and it was split about 50/50 of folks who sold and we’re actively
using marijuana and we’re not in support of adult use marijuana those internal
state are those external signals marijuana businesses specifically I
think they’re an important component of this
this kind of engagement so I’d love to know from the three of you how through
either formal workgroups informal roundtable discussions calls for written
comments what were your most effective tools for soliciting industry feedback
and making sure that you were hearing those marijuana businesses Eric what’s
well if you don’t mind no not at all and this might actually the second part
of my answer might get into a question that’s coming coming but the first thing
when we were developing our rules and regs for both programs and how we’re
gonna move forward as a state of all the states go through some type of
administrative process with their rulemaking and reg development where
they need to go out to public comment so what we did to involve and get as much
feedback as possible from the industry because a lot of times what they have to
say makes a lot of sense we did multiple we pushed our developing rules out in a
public forum and we asked for their feedback and we did in a completely
transparent transparent way so just for an example when we were going through
our adult use rules and regs before we got into the actual map of process we
published them we asked for their feedback and after we had finished
compiling at it we put it all back online for everybody to see basically
who submitted this comment what organization they’re with what their
comment is what specific section of the rules and regs they’re addressing in our
decisions that we landed on whether we were going to accept it we’re going to
cept it in part or if we were gonna deny it and if we denied it a reason why and
that was actually a little bit easier because nine out of ten times it was
basically statutory changes needed but I can’t even explain to you the feedback
we got on that process everybody was just floored with the fact that we took
that extra step to get their feedback and then we would put the revised draft
out and I would have people calling me or calling the office so surprised that
I can’t believe we submitted six comments and you accept to do of them
that’s incredible it would blew their mind but it made sense from our
perspective and their perspective so when people say listen to the external
stakeholders and not just listen but listen and be sincere when you listen
that that one and I’m actually forgetting the
second one so I’ll pass it on and jump back in and it just a follow-up question
for you and cat I think see you mentioned a State Commission cat you
mentioned also like a cannabis Advisory Committee in the in the state is
industry how his industry reflected in either the commission or the committee
are they or is that made up of kind of policy makers just curious for the both
of you we have a state cannabis Advisory Committee and there it does have
industry representatives public health professionals law enforcement etc we
have a cannabis Regulation Commission that happened on the local level and
there aren’t any industry specific representatives on that Commission and
that Commission has a dual responsibility they can make
recommendations to the City Council in the mayor on Candace related issues and
they also participate in the actual licensing process specifically for
retail facilities I do think that the Commission has been at least in my
opinion a more effective vehicle for local community members to share
information I think that the challenge again though is that the reality is that
there are specific decision-makers and so even if people go and share that
information with the Commission the limitations of the Commission is that
the Commission can just share that information with the decision maker and
from experience I’ve seen policy be able to change much more quickly when
stakeholders are engaging directly with the decision makers so in the the
state’s cannabis device report that I chair
there are industry representatives included within it that’s obviously a
value-add and the discussion purpose is but I think one of the things that we
struggle with is is trying to put the industry in a box as well what who is
the industry and I think that’s one of the challenges especially as we had an
existing medical program that were largely they were vertically integrated
large operators and so when they come in representing to be the industry we’ve
got to sift through some of those comments as well so when they’re saying
you know you’re you should have access to capital of at least a million dollars
well okay what’s the rationale behind that is that way we can freeze out the
marketplace that’s not really a good public policy
objective and we have pretty strict social equity goals in our statutes so
one of the things of not just taking someone’s word for it but also making
yourself available to cats point is well into Eric’s as far as just being
available to figure out let the industry come to you but they won’t come to you
unless you’re available to them so before we even embarked on a regular
regulatory drafting process after I was first appointed as the executive
director we went on this statewide the commissioners one of the statewide tour
to just listen and it was that that kind of a availability to say what do you
want to see in regulations and we heard a lot we want small farmers to have
access to this marketplace our regulations now allow for a craft
cooperative of up to five cooperative members important in this context to
keep in mind this is Massachusetts we have pretty harsh winters and pretty
late Springs but still it’s a theme that is now embedded within our regulations
make room for small operators we have a micro business license that authorizes
up to 5,000 square feet of canopy plus the equivalent of 2,000 pounds of
production those are things that a direct result of that listening exercise
barriers to entry we have incredibly low fees to just apply to us and incredibly
low license fees to get a license as compared to our previously or
pre-existing medical marketplace so the listening piece for us I think the
difficulty is who actually is the industry how how they represent
themselves to you to make sure that you’re able to kind of everyone’s gonna
have an ankle I think that’s that’s a guarantee but what are they trying to
tell you and being able to decipher sometimes and make sure that you can say
okay there’s something behind this request that we just need to scrutinize
a bit and to be clear I think they’ve also been an incredible partner because
everyone wants to see this industry succeed because it in the day the a
burgeoning new industry does represent the opportunity for generational wealth
that’s why the social equity component is really important but it’s also a new
industry that I think has job effects academic development effects for the
Commonwealth too so I think our difficulties really just trying to
harness and enter it and decipher some of those questions and Erica so kind of
a follow up to some of this is you had mentioned earlier that medical marijuana
programs generally and in some cases they’re they’re more loosely regulated
and so tell me a little bit more about the challenges of getting medical
marijuana operators to come into compliance when an adult use program is
introduced how can other cities and states navigate those challenges yeah
and that was most certainly the case when I took over the program I think the
number one challenge well listen when you go through this process I think the
best approach is to be upfront and honest with them changes are coming
don’t sugarcoat it let them know but again speaking to what we’ve been
speaking about this whole time make yourself available to them and work with
them during this transition but I think the main challenge which I’m sure is not
specific to Maine is the medical program that some of the actors within that
program are suspicious almost to like a conspiracy theory level where they think
this new office of marijuana policy that a state of Maine is coming after them
and coming after their plan which is most certainly not the case
so I luckily I thought of this early on if you bring it down to a human level
you can break that down it’s not gonna fix it overnight but you can start
breaking that down so I wouldn’t bring in twenty five hundred caregivers but
they would break out into factions and they would most certainly have
unofficial leaders and I would invite them into the office and talk to them a
human being the human being asking them about their business their families what
their goals and hopes are in my favorite line would be listen the governor could
have appointed a retired seventy year old de-age and to run this program they
did she didn’t she pointed me a policy guy who worked for the legislature for
eight years and before that was a comedian and bartender like I think
we’re all in a good spot you could trust me so it’s really building that building
that good faith partnership or attempting to humanize it because
honestly that was the number one challenge was just people so skeptical
what we were doing so we just try to do it as a transparent way as possible have
those conversations I’ve never turned down a meeting for anybody in the street
industry that’s trying to do it and trying to do it the right way
that brought its own challenges and some some
instances but again it goes back to just when you’re willing to make yourself
available when you do listen sincerely listed in them and so along
those lines as well I think we’ve talked about mitigating some of the the
disruptions to medical marijuana operators when you’re making that
transition over so I’m curious when you’re transitioning when you’re when
you’re going from and aligning a medical program with a recreational program how
can you mitigate disruptions I’ll throw that out for the panel Kath Sean it can
be difficult there there there are inherent this process is constantly
evolving and as the process evolves that evolution itself can cause disruption
there unfortunately there some of these huge
changes in our licensing and regulatory structures have been referred to in the
industry as extinction events and so for example January 1st was considered one
of the first extinction events just requiring a license in itself was going
to cause a lot of businesses to go out of business because they just overnight
weren’t going to be able to get that license another extinction what’s
referred to as an extinction event happened in July of 2018 when the state
of California phased in some of its heavier testing requirements many
businesses just weren’t able to overnight meet those testing
requirements because again the process is constantly changing I think that if
we could have had the foresight to know what some of those changes were even if
they were gonna happen gradually to let folks know all right from day one you
have six months to get this together you have 18 months to get this together
you’re gonna have 24 months to get this other piece together I think it would
have allowed businesses to be more strategic and nimble on how
they changed their their operations I think also the and just to kind of go
back to a previous point many California medical operators were not happy about
adult use legalization they sometimes were the most vocal critics of
legalization because they understood that or believed that this process was
was going to be detrimental to them and I think creating pathways or at least
communication tools specifically with folks that are trying to go through the
transition would have been helpful I think that locally are some of the
existing market that was able to transition was a little bit more calm
because they knew that the ordinance the local ordinance actually gave them
priority and the processing of their applications but there’s there were
specific specific language that allowed us to allow for medical operators to
transfer to transition so we didn’t say anybody who was engaging in medical
activity before can transition those people who may met a specific specific
requirement and in the local ordinance and of course there were there was
confusion or a lot of people you know felt as though they deserved to be able
to participate in the transition so I think it’s a and we’re still we’re still
going through that that transition in the city of Los Angeles but I think that
as much information again as you can provide as early as possible so that
people can just make I mean people are making are taking risks and so we just
want to allow people to at least make more calculated risks so one of the
concerns we had is on disruption to patients as well when the the program
transfer happened because these were folks that were they had access to
medicine they were the the system functioned in a way that they they come
they came to rely upon and so the apprehension of
the anxiety was really around okay there’s a new agency that’s in charge
now that means things were going to change right and so we we kept this
property publicly as a lift and shift we’re just it’s kind of you know if you
like your dispenser you can keep your dispensary but the the rationale from
our standpoint was when we introduce adult use sales how do we also minimize
disruption knowing that our earliest operators on the adult use side would be
existing now co-located medical and adult use facilities so we actually
embedded within regulation and then also adopted some kind of guidance and
additional policies within regulation we require that anyone that’s going to be
co-located reserve 35% of their inventory for patients and if you had
sales data that dated back at least six months it wasn’t just thirty five
percent of your overall inventory it was thirty five percent of your product
variety as well so if a patient came to rely upon a certain strain or a certain
product let it be whacked shatter or vape cartridges that that had to be
available for them so there was hopefully that was an idea or an
objective around your product will still be available when I signed up commenced
operations notice for facility to open up I requires three days notice to the
public the rationale behind that is if patients are need medicine get there
within those three days to avoid the lines in the other disruption that may
occur as far as access to the to the facility we also require separate lines
where medical patients need to be prioritized within a facility or medical
patients can choose to use the adult you salon you to service them there as well
mostly to avoid that if patients want to be afraid or nervous about a potential
stigma for being a patient they have access to the entire facility but you
also need to expedite and prioritize them we also require based on that
stigma as well that facilities retail facilities that may also be co-located
dispensaries have a private patient consultation area again to avoid if
they’re in line and they’re their old high school teacher or something is
there that knowing that the stigma still exists and we want to make sure that
folks if they want to have the means or a way to avoid it delivery is also
available in Massachusetts as it pertains to medical as well so again
trying to make sure that there’s at least as least disruption as possible an
anecdote that I think is really is still telling for me is when we took the
program we didn’t reassure new patient cards
there’s more as you renew you’ll get a new patient card that has our contact
information in a patient called the office at one point after the transition
and said I’m terrified that you guys just sent me a new card can you please
get rid of your return address my landlord will kill me and probably evict
me if they see that it says cannabis Control Commission as the return address
formerly it was a department Public Health that’s a routine mail and that
may not have that stigma associated with it I totally took that for granted that
day we changed a return address to just beyond our physical address but that’s
the the point that was really interesting and again telling and kind
of weight on me as that stigma is still out there
and I mean any opportunity to get to kind of either at least accommodate it
or hopefully break it down that alone is I think avoiding that
disruption and I’m Eric I have a question for you around something very
similar to this I’m kind of I’m trying to get about three questions into the
next question because I have very selfishly taken all of your time and we
are coming close to the end of our time but happy hour is a great time for Q&A
as well so if we don’t get to that here it’s a nice time to have a beer with
someone and chat about what’s some of these things that we may not have
covered but I want to talk systems technology and and making data-driven
decisions so Eric challenges that you face in in identifying the appropriate
technology that allows for efficient operations and record-keeping let’s talk
about how how you’ve selected those systems or identified solutions that
you’re pretty confident are gonna work I don’t know if I’m the best panelist to
ask this question I mean if you’re talking about some of our IT projects so
when I came on again we were under a time crunch to ensure that we could roll
out our adult use industry this year I wasn’t left with a lot of options so we
actually inherited like a licensing system from our medical program luckily
it’s turned out to be a great system a great staff but we didn’t really have a
lot of options there we got really lucky too because like oh we can absolutely
service your adult youths industry and I said okay well here all our business
requirements and their jaws more or less drops but it’s been steady progress
and now it’s gonna actually work out really well so that just worked out
really nice and then the current one that we’re going through right now is
trying to find an IT solution a software solution for our compliance how we’re
gonna track our our compliance activities to ensure that we have high
compliance rates to ensure that we’re efficiently inspecting each program and
we’re currently in the middle of that I would imagine being a state agency we’re
gonna have to go through the RFP process but I think it’s so important to knowing
when you go in there it’s so important to ask the right questions and ensure
that you’re scoring and grading those RFPs appropriately and putting enough
weight behind the questions that are important so kind of in short and then
you actually talked about data based decision making so we haven’t gotten to
that point yet but we have a really cool project that we’re working on in May and
I think it might put us in the forefront as far as we’re starting the development
of a marijuana specific data warehouse we’re bringing in all kinds of data
points from different state agencies to better understand the health impact and
the safety impacts of these programs on our state whether just some basic
examples are some DUI specific marijuana from the Department of Public Safety how
many school expulsion –zz will happen in these two counties in this time frame
going across different state agencies bringing that in and it’s actually a
large project and very difficult because a lot of the times the questions that we
want answered the data doesn’t exists so now we have to develop a gap analysis to
figure out how to get that data but in the end the long term goal is to be able
to take all that data and overlay it with all the data from our track and
trace system and all the data from our licensing system so when we get asked
very complex questions or trying to figure out how to make our programs work
better and how to ensure the safety we’re able to overlay all that data and
have very informed data-driven decisions so that’s probably about a year or two
out but we’ve started that process and it’s it’s kind of nerdy and kind of cool
okay you mentioned as we were prepping for this you mentioned the importance of
data-driven policymaking can you share an example from California from Los
Angeles of good data-driven policy making as it
relates to harmonizing or aligning those those medical and adult use marijuana
programs so this is this is actually gonna relate to enforcement not
licensing and regulation the Department of cannabis regulation has been working
very very closely with the mayor’s office and their task force that has
this interagency approach to trying to deal with cannabis and one of the things
that I identified early on when I started with the city is that many city
agencies just systematically weren’t collaborating well together
there may be and part of it is that the city of Los Angeles is huge so for
example there are 21 different police divisions in the city of Los Angeles and
largely it’s up to the discretion of that particular captain at that Police
Division how they handle enforcement in their particular geographic area and the
challenge is that unlicensed cannabis activity is a issue citywide and there
really shouldn’t be too much discretion as to how it’s being tackled on one side
of the city versus another side of the city and so one of the things that we’re
working on right now is essentially building on a complaint portal that’s
also using a GIS system so that we can as we get complaints that come in
identify the locations that are associated with these complaints map out
these complaints where they exist in the city and then try and say all right we
actually see that there is a proliferation of illegal activity happen
happening in this particular Police Division now that we have this
Enforcement Task Force that’s together let’s figure out which tool which agency
is going to be most appropriate to deal with that particular location and let’s
say that we’re looking at a particular Police Division and there are ten
unlicensed operators and we’re able to in the complaint system code to say that
four of these unlicensed operators have been flagged as selling to minors two of
them are open late and other ones are doing
other things well we want to prioritize the folks that are selling to minors so
not only are we focused on this particular geographic area but we’re
prioritizing how we’re choosing the enforcement tool and the just even the
timing of that enforcement and so all of this is happening in real time we’re
trying to continue to collect information and to again use that data
to inform how we take enforcement actions because the reality is I almost
laugh at folks sometimes when they’re saying we have we have 30 illegal
facilities in our community and we’re trying to figure out how to deal with
them we could have upwards of 300 unlicensed facilities in the city and
the reality is is that we’re not going to be able to shut them all down
immediately so there has to be a prioritization we we have to be using
our resources wisely and trying to have the greatest impact possible and the
only way that we do that is with data excellent so we we are at time now it’s
for 44 and this is scheduled to wrap up at 4:45
so we are going to wrap this up but I just want to thank you all for for being
here today I want to thank you for sharing your knowledge with us I you
know as we kind of filter off the stage here feel free to come up I don’t know
if you’re free to answer a few questions I’m sure there will be questions but I
just I really thank you all for being here today and I thank you for being
here

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