At the end of 2020, the new national organization Cannabis Regulators Association (CANNRA) was founded. Although not much has been published about the organization’s work or endeavors since its official inception, its inception marks an important step in unifying cannabis regulations and guidelines at the national level by bringing participating legalized states (medical, recreational, or both) into a formal Group organized. The organization will examine approaches to common problems in regulating legalized systems between states and provide various resources to states in adopting regulatory systems. With the recent announcement of a Senate proposal to legalize cannabis at the national level, attention to CANRA is becoming increasingly important.
What is CANRA?
CANNRA is a formal association of regulators from 19 legalized states across the country including Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island and Utah. These are all states that have legalized cannabis in some way. The organization’s goal is to “create and promote harmony and standardization between jurisdictions that legalize and regulate cannabis” and to ensure that “federal officials benefit from the extensive regulatory and enforcement experience of states across the country to ensure change”. to respond appropriately to the needs and priorities of states under federal law. “
Can members of the cannabis industry participate and join this organization?
No, CANRA membership is currently only open to regulatory authorities and not to industry participants or advocates. However, if such associations in other regulated industries (like NABCA, for alcohol regulators) are a sign of this, CANNRA will likely open membership and / or sponsorship opportunities to non-regulators at some point as well, offering unique opportunities for insights into regulators’ developments, trends and Issues across the country.
What advantages does CANRA bring to the industry?
While cannabis companies cannot join CANRA, the existence of the organization is a huge step forward for the cannabis industry as a whole. Because cannabis is and was illegal at the federal level, every state that legalized cannabis (and developed regulations) has done so in very different ways. Getting regulators from different states to talk to each other, share best practices, and work on formulating more uniform requirements will make it easier for cannabis companies to open up in other states, with fewer barriers and more consistent compliance requirements at one state-level.
CANRA has the potential to facilitate future changes to federal law as well and has already taken steps to enter the discussions by providing comments on pending federal law. Legalized states (particularly Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska, which first introduced legal systems years ago) have spent years developing and refining regulatory processes that are good for both the cannabis industry and the public health and safety roles of state regulators function. The collective knowledge and experience of the cannabis constitutional states could in many ways aid federal regulatory development and help avoid massive disruption and confusion for industry participants.
Of course, the laws remain very different in each state and legalizing cannabis at the federal level is still an open question. It is important to consult your legal counsel if you are considering opening cannabis operations in other legalized states to ensure that you are complying with individual state requirements and not conflicting with federal restrictions.