by Rick Thompson/December 21, 2020
“Legalization, either recreationally or for medical purposes, did not create the cannabis market; the cannabis market was already there and thriving. Were just trying to put some regulatory boundaries around that so we can ensure safe consumer access.” Director Andrew Brisbo of Michigan’s Marijuana Regulatory Agency described the challenge of regulating a state cannabis program on a recent episode of Four20Post with Mike Brennan and Rick Thompson.
Director Brisbo is not the only one helming a state-legal, federally illegal cannabis business program in America, and now, those people have an organization of peers to help each other along.
Michigan is one of the founding members of the Cannabis Regulators Association, or CANNRA. Its membership is composed of top officials at state-based cannabis programs from around the nation. At their inaugural meeting, Director Brisbo was elected to the position of third-vice president.
“CANNRA is really focused on best practices,” said the Director. Early on in this position he too had to seek the advice of other top regulators in states with more mature cannabis programs, like Colorado and Washington. “Having an established association allows us, as we see more and more states coming online… they need those resources. Because this is unlike anything else, and it’s brand new to everyone.”
The group intends to assist peers but to shape the way cannabis laws are reformed in the United States. “I’m really excited to be a part of an organization like CANNRA where we can have a positive influence on how this rolls out nationally,” Brisbo confirmed.
What about the national policy landscape? “There’s been a lot of ideas floated around as to how federal legalization, decriminalization, rescheduling, descheduling… we need to know what’s happening, and we need to have a seat at the table as regulators,” Brisbo insisted.
The Director indirectly expressed concern that federal policy change might bring consequences to states already operating successful cannabis programs in America. But it doesn’t have to be that way, he said. “We can help everyone understand what’s happened in states and how national policy can be supportive of the existing industry and not cause it to have to tear down just to build back up.”
He added: “Let’s not recreate new problems, let’s move ahead in a productive way and figure out how things are working in states and not upset the apple cart… There’s a lot more to come, the conversation is going to continue to advance.”
Let’s just say, the cannabis industry has been lucky to avoid any Imperial entanglements for years now. That time is coming to an end. “We’ve always known we’ve been on this sort of inevitable push toward a more federalized approach to cannabis,” the Director reminded the Four20Post audience.
Not just THC cannabis, either. Hemp is part of the discussion. “Under that umbrella of cannabis we also talk a lot about the intersections of hemp and marijuana as well, because we have one plant here that now is regulated two very different ways with a lot of different stakeholders at the table.”
Brisbo says he is “looking at sort of whole plant regulation and really thinking through cannabis as a whole, and not thinking through hemp vs. marijuana, particularly when we talk about safety standards. Whether it’s a CBD product or a THC product, we want consumers to have confidence that they know that someone is at the helm making sure that those products are as safe as possible.”
When asked about statements from CANNRA about standardizing regulations across states, and a potential watering-down of Michigan’s personal freedoms to be more equivalent to Ohio or Illinois, the Director replied, “We look mostly at the commercial processes. That’s what myself and my counterparts really regulate, we don’t regulate home use and possession. I think we’re really talking about standards for safety, for the most part.”
Later he added, “Michigan is kind of on the more liberal side of what’s allowed but there’s been no discussion about restricting that as part of CANNRA’s objectives.”
Jamie Cooper and Stevan Bratic joined the Four20Post broadcast on December 9. Watch the video of the Director’s exclusive interview at the link below: