The National Association of Cannabis Businesses (NACB) is urging the governors of seven Northeastern and seven Midwestern states to adopt a regional cannabis legalization strategy as states reopen following the COVID-19 pandemic in a move that Mark Gorman, the association’s executive vice president and COO, says will provide states with a new source of revenue as they face budget deficits in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.
“Their budgets are going to be really stressed, jobs are going to be hard to come by and this is an industry … that can be an economic engine to bring some vitality back to the economy,” Gorman told Cannabis Business Times and Cannabis Dispensary.
NACB, an organization that creates national standards for the cannabis industry, sent letters to the governors of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Massachusetts in the Northeast, as well as to the governors of Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Kentucky in the Midwest, highlighting the benefits that a coordinated regional approach to adult-use legalization could create for industry stakeholders, such as the adoption of standards regarding quality controlled manufacturing, as well as responsible advertising and marketing programs.
“The organization started out a few years ago with a great idea, which is to create responsibility standards for the cannabis industry,” Gorman said.
To date, the NACB has adopted national standards for packaging and labeling, advertising, lab testing, security, infused products production and storage, and hemp in an effort to help create transparent industry regulations.
“For cannabis, it’s the Wild West out there in terms of advertising and marketing, and it’s probably not something the industry is going to be able to get away with, the more it becomes legalized,” Gorman said. “One of the things that NACB is trying to do is create a responsibility standard for the industry that will actually help to move legalization further ahead.”
A regional approach to adult-use legalization, he added, would allow both cannabis businesses and consumers to more easily grasp the industry’s regulations in the absence of federal regulation, as well as prepare the industry for federal legalization.
“That’s going to kick off a whole new ballgame—it’s going to be like interstate commerce,” Gorman said. “[This] way, you’ll already have a consistent set of rules, at least more consistent than you would otherwise have.”
While NACB is currently drafting its specific recommendations for a regional legalization strategy, Gorman said consistent tax policies and rules governing the sale of cannabis would be a good place to start.
“Having some unity there … is helpful for the consumers and it’s going to be helpful for the businesses, too,” he said. “There is a lot of money to be made in state excise taxes and sales taxes from legalization, and a lot of jobs to be created. I think it’s a benefit to the state if they’re not competing with each other on legal policies, retail sales policies and distribution policies.”
Even social equity policies could be considered at the regional level, Gorman added, to help states advance that aspect of their adult-use cannabis programs.
“These aren’t big, aggressive, new ideas—we’re just trying to get sensible rules to allow people to continue to make a living,” he said. “I think it’s time somebody in this industry tries to bring some unity to the task of writing rules and regulations to govern this industry."