By Gary Paulin, Lightning Labels
Now you see it. Now you don’t. What’s in compliance today may run afoul tomorrow. And federal government wishes and whims continue to cast a pall over state operations.
In this topsy-turvy environment, cannabis purveyors need to be able to pivot on a dime. Everything from labeling requirements to product track-and-trace regulations can change quickly.
Recent events in Utah illustrate topsy-turvy in action. First, the electorate approved medical marijuana on the ballot last fall. Then, the state legislature stepped in and passed a bill that overhauls the provisions in an effort to tighten up controls. On Valentine’s Day, Fox 31 in Salt Lake City reported that all of Utah’s major health care organizations will show some love, allowing physicians to recommend medical cannabis. This report follows an announcement of another bill being introduced that would tweak the provisions of the just-passed law.
Still with me? OK, there’s more. In late February, Utah’s Daily Herald reported, “The Utah County Planning Commission decided Tuesday to delay a potential recommendation to amend land use ordinances to allow for cannabis production… The delay came at the request of Robert Moore, deputy county attorney, who asked for a decision to be delayed by three months in order to see if additional legislation on medical marijuana comes before the state this legislative session and to give time for the Utah Supreme Court to review a case questioning if the Utah Medical Cannabis Act passed in a special legislative session in 2018 or if the voter-approved Proposition 2 should be current law.”
The same day, Fox 31 reported, “An attorney representing a pair of groups suing the state over the new medical cannabis law is warning cities and counties that Utah is essentially creating a state-run drug cartel.”
Takeaways for cannabis purveyors in other ‘newbie’ states
Obviously, Utah has a lot of sorting out to do before anything gets solidified. However, this roller-coaster sequence of events can serve to educate (and warn) purveyors in other states where cannabis has been legalized to get and stay on top of all the latest twists and turns. Failure to do so can easily catch someone in a compliance shortfall that can threaten or even close down their business.
- Get the right people in the right spots on the bus. Big-picture thinkers and cannabis companies go hand-in-hand. While innovative, expansive thinking can be critical to a successful company launch, detail-oriented thinkers are essential to oversee and develop effective policies and follow-through in every major department—including administration, operations, legal, accounting and marketing/branding. In a complex, rapidly-changing industry such as cannabis, being nitpicky is a major asset.
- Find resources providing up-to-date compliance and regulation information. One helpful resource is a report entitled, “Cannabis Packaging and Labeling Regulatory Recommendations for States and Nations,” developed by the Council on Responsible Cannabis Regulation and the National Cannabis Industry Association. There also are organizations specializing in compliance and regulation information for municipalities and states. No matter what resources are accessed, it’s always a good idea to confirm information by directly checking applicable municipal and state information centers. This is especially important given the dynamic changes occurring in the cannabis industry.
- Designate go-to trusted advisors inside/outside the company to handle various challenges rapidly. At the outset, draw up a list of advisors who can provide expert advice on-the-spot when needed. In some cases, these may be the same people listed in #1 above. In other cases, more specialized resources may be required. For example, you may hire a cannabis-savvy lawyer to develop/oversee your business structure, partnership agreements and the like. Another legal eagle may be brought in to deal with such real estate-related issues as the buying/leasing of property and buildings. Yet another attorney might be on call when compliance or regulation questions arise.
- Build in agility. Cover all the bases, but keep them fluid. For example, in the branding world, development of labels and packaging is a cornerstone priority that should be addressed in a thoughtful and in-depth way. But, then what happens if a state regulation altering label disclosures or packaging comes down with a short compliance lead time? You’ve got to be ready to hit the ground running both to comply and make your continued branding efforts all they can be.
Gary Paulin is Director of Sales and Client Services for Lightning Labels, a Denver-based label printer that has been offering state-of-the-art affordable, full-color custom labels and custom stickers of all shapes and sizes to cannabis purveyors for more than a decade. They offer many options for materials and laminates and special effects to achieve digital short-run requirements (50 minimum) on up to 15 million labels, plus Lightning fast delivery. For more information and to place orders online, visit LightningLabels.com. For the latest in packaging news and labeling promotional offers, find Lightning Labels on, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter (@LightningLabels), Pinterest, Google+ and LinkedIn.