The election season is in full swing. Trump and Clinton are battling it out for the presidency, and each state is battling it out internally. While the federal elections aren’t cannabis-focused, there are an unprecedented number of states with cannabis on the ballot.
If you’re living in a state that could pass a new cannabis law, your next best move is getting informed. To help you out, DOPE spoke with Rachel K. Gillette, Esq.—a shareholder at Greenspoon Marder P.A.—who specializes in marijuana law.
We asked Gillette to talk to us about the current cannabis regulations in Colorado, and from there we devised five questions that every cannabis advocate should ask before they cast their vote this fall.
“Because it’s marijuana—illegal under federal law and scary to some people—there is a tendency to continuously write rules and laws that regulate cannabis access. We have to be careful that we don’t get to a point where it borders on ridiculous.” –Rachel K. Gillette, Esq.
1. What are my state’s cannabis regulations?
There is no template for cannabis regulation, so each state has been left to its own devices for deciding how cannabis should be handled. In Colorado that has meant, “Voluminous regulations that are in a constant state of flux,” Gillette shared. Before you make your vote, you need to understand how the regulations could affect the industry for better and for worse.
One of the worst things a state can do is pass regulations that are too strict. “There are some states that are doing it wrong,” Gillette explained. “Some states have regulated cannabis to the point of creating monopolies. In these cases, there is no free market, and that is problematic. Instead, there needs to be an even playing field for businesses and a clear set of directions in the law, so that everyone knows what the limits are.”
2. What will the regulations mean for businesses?
“As a business owner, it can be a challenge to follow regulations,” Gillette expressed. “In Colorado, businesses have to be aware of the Colorado Medical and Retail Codes and their associated regulations, as well as other regulations such as workplace safety, the Pesticide Applicators Act, worker protection standards and more. Obviously, it’s a daunting challenge to manage and run a cannabis business.”
A well-written cannabis law can either help the industry flourish, or help it crash and burn. Look at how the law will handle things such as packaging and labeling, taxes, location and inventory tracking. You don’t want to vote for a law that is too lax on businesses or one that stops the industry from thriving.
3. What will the regulations mean for consumers?
Consumers are the second half of the cannabis equation. There’s no use voting on a law that only opens up cannabis to the very few.
“Cannabis is one of the most heavily regulated industries,” Gillette described. “And because it’s marijuana—illegal under federal law and scary to some people—there is a tendency to continuously write rules and laws that regulate cannabis access. We have to be careful that we don’t get to a point where it borders on ridiculous.”
Check how the law will open cannabis to consumers. Who can use it and how? Will smoking be allowed? If you’re voting on a cannabis law because you want access for chronic pain, make sure your ballot includes chronic pain as a legitimate medical need.
4. Will federal decisions affect my state’s cannabis policies?
There’s no reason to think that the federal government will impact your state. That’s why it’s so important to ensure that the laws you vote on are what you want because no one is going to come around and make a change for you.
“I honestly believe that the federal government, when it comes to the legalization, taxation and regulation of marijuana, should allow the states to decide what is best for their state,” Gillette said. “Going beyond that, communities should be able to decide what is best for their community.”
5. What can I do to learn more?
To get informed about the cannabis ballot in your state, first, “Read and understand the rules,” and then, if necessary, “hire someone that you can go to in order to get a clearer understanding,” Gillette explained.
There are many nuisances in the law that can trip you up if you’re not aware they exist. This knowledge is particularly important if you’re hoping to start your own cannabis business. “You have to be willing and able to obtain professionals to help you make sure that you stay legal and compliant in the business,” Gillette concluded.
Now, get out there and get ready to cast your vote!
Rachel Gillette, Esq. is licensed to practice law in Colorado and Connecticut. Her specialties include marijuana/cannabis business licensing and regulatory compliance, business law and transactions, contract drafting and review, civil litigation, corporate formation and tax matters. She has vast experience in representing cannabis and hemp businesses, having represented state and locally licensed marijuana and hemp businesses in Colorado since 2010.