Cannabis Regulations With CANNRA

Tyler Podcast Episode 52, Transcript

Our Tyler Technologies podcast explores a wide range of complex, timely, and important issues facing communities and the public sector. Expect approachable tech talk mixed with insights from subject matter experts and a bit of fun. Host and Content Marketing Director Jeff Harrell – and other guest hosts – highlights the people, places, and technology making a difference. Give us listen today and subscribe.

Episode Summary

Back on episode 40 of the Tyler Tech podcast, Alex Valvassori, the general manager for cannabis licensing at Tyler Technologies hosted an episode looking into how Missouri handled medical marijuana licensing. Alex is back today to speak with Andrew Brisbo and Gillian Schauer of the Cannabis Regulators Association (or CANNRA) about the quickly-rising and important topic of cannabis regulation. Andrew was appointed by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer to lead Michigan’s Cannabis Regulatory Agency (CRA) in April 2019. The CRA oversees the medical and adult-use marijuana industries, regulates hemp-derived products, and runs the state’s medical marijuana registry card program. Andrew is also active in the Cannabis Regulators Association (CANNRA), a national organization of more than 40 U.S. state and territorial regulatory agencies that provides policy makers and regulatory agencies with the resources to make informed decisions when considering how to approach the legalization and regulation of cannabis. Gillian Schauer is the executive director of CANNRA; Dr. Schauer has worked in public health and drug policy for nearly two decades and has a decade of experience working with federal and state agencies on cannabis policy, data monitoring, and research translation. In this episode, you'll learn why CANNRA was formed, what work they do, and why it is important as the need for cannabis regulation rises.


Gillian Schauer: So I think we've been able to tackle what's coming up in states and in some ways together, stay ahead of where states would be otherwise, because if it's happening in one state, it's likely to happen in the other states very soon.

Jeff Harrell: From Tyler Technologies, it's the Tyler Tech podcast, where we talk about issues facing communities today and highlight the people, places, and technology, making a difference. My name is Jeff Harrell. I'm the director of content marketing here at Tyler. And I'm so glad that you joined me. Well back on episode 40 of this podcast, Alex Valvassori, who is our general manager for cannabis licensing here at Tyler Tech, he hosted an episode looking into how Missouri handled medical marijuana licensing. Well, Alex is back today to speak with Andrew Brisbo and Gillian Schauer. They are of the cannabis regulators association or CANNRA. And they're going to be talking about the quickly rising and important topic of cannabis regulation. A little bit about our guests. Andrew was appointed by Michigan governor, Gretchen Whitmer to lead Michigan's cannabis regulatory agency, or the CRA, back in April of 2019. CRA oversees the medical and adult use marijuana industries, regulates hemp driven products and runs the state's medical marijuana registry card program.

Jeff Harrell: And Andrew is the current president of CANNRA. Gillian Schauer is the executive director of CANNRA. And Dr Schauer has worked in public health and drug policy for nearly two decades and has a decade of experience working with federal and state agencies on cannabis policy, data monitoring and research translation. Dr. Schauer is also an affiliate research scientist. She has more than 70 peer reviewed research publications on cannabis, tobacco, and other substances. She has a Ph.D. in behavioral science from Emory University, a masters in public health from the University of Washington and a bachelor of science from Northwestern University. You've got some heavy hitters on this episode. You're going to learn a lot about cannabis regulations. Here is Alex's conversation with Andrew and Gillian.

Alex Valvassori: Hi everyone. I'm Alex Valvassori general manager for cannabis licensing at Tyler technologies. I am thrilled to be joined here today with Andrew Brisbo and Gillian shower from CANNRA. Andrew, Jillian, thanks for being here today.

Gillian Schauer: Thanks for having us.

Andrew Brisbo: My pleasure.

Alex Valvassori: So Andrew, why don't we start with you? You've been in the cannabis industry for some time now, leading Michigan's cannabis program. Would love to hear how you found yourself in that role and how that role has evolved over the course of the last several years.

Andrew Brisbo: Well, I would say much like the businesses I go visit, I love to go out and visit entrepreneurs in this space. I visited 20 this year, 60 across the state of Michigan, and I love hearing their stories of how they get in. And mine is much the same. It's a happy accident. I was a guy in a place doing regulatory work for the state of Michigan when all of a sudden, cannabis legalization or commercialization on the medical side gained steam and we had a year to implement it. So they needed someone who understood process and policy who could get it up and running quickly. And no one else was raising their hand or clamoring to be there. So I said, okay, I'll do it. I'll help. I'll get this up and running and just sort of fell in love with the policy space and haven't left.

Andrew Brisbo: It's rare being someone that's been in government since 2004, that you get to do something new and interesting. Normally, you're rehashing issues from two administrations ago and recycling the same work over and over again. And everything is new and interesting in this space and created a team of innovative thinkers who want to redevelop how government works and how we work with industry and other stakeholders in order to ensure consumer protection of business growth in our state. And I think that's really helped shape our perspective and turn Michigan into what I believe is one of the leading cannabis regulatory programs in the country and a model for other states as to how to do things the best way possible and how it's evolved. I would say, if you ask me tomorrow, I can explain to you how it's evolved since today.

Andrew Brisbo: t's always moving and shifting. It's such a dynamic space to be in, both from policy and procedure and business. And a lot of what we've done is engage with stakeholders from the beginning to understand various perspectives, whether they're an operator in the space who wants to start a business, or we're talking to someone who looks at it from a public health and safety approach and trying to integrate all of those perspectives into how we develop our policy in the state. The main shift as many states have seen across the country and we'll continue to see is we started with commercial medical program, and then we had to integrate adult use into that and figure how to layer that on top. And then we are sort of riding this wave now of this inevitable shift into devotion of resources and business growth into that adult use space. And then what that means for legacy patients and medical access in the state. So it's really caused us to continuously focus on different key elements as the policy has evolved in this space.

Alex Valvassori: Andrew, it sounds like you've been a busy guy these last couple years, and it sounds like there's a lot of fun ahead. I'd love to know how you came to find CANNRA. I know some of the history, but for our listeners that aren't familiar with CANNRA. Maybe if you could give us kind of the brief history of how the organization came about and then how you ended up plugging in with that organization.

Andrew Brisbo: Well, I would say we didn't find CANNRA, CANNRA found us and I pathway to get toward it was new in this space. Who did you have to rely on to ask questions about how to do this? No one in Michigan had ever done this before and everyone I knew was in Michigan. So I started reaching out to other states and making connections. And I talked to Jim Burak from Colorado, and I talked to Steve Marks from Oregon and Rick Garza from Washington and said, "Hey, you've been here, you've done this. What did you find that worked? What didn't work? What do all these new words in my legislation mean to you? And how was your program evolved? What should I expect? What new issues are you facing today that I'm going to have to deal with on top of implementation?" And so CANNRA was very organically formed based on those conversations, being a resource to each other.

Andrew Brisbo: And if nothing else, commiserating about all the headaches we were dealing with, that no one else would ever understand, unless you went back to the twenties and thirties and unraveling alcohol prohibition, right? So we were staring down a new policy pathway that no one else had been through before. And we realized that by standing up an organization and having some structure around it, we could continue to be that resource for other states that were inevitably coming along the same pathway, because we all see the same issues at implementation, but states that are coming along face everything we've faced along that timeline, but also all the new burgeoning issues that we are facing today. And they need us to help guide them in terms of how they can get to the right place subject to their state's approach to legalization. And it's also helped to position us to be that same kind of resource to the federal government and federal regulatory agencies as they look at the evolving federal policy landscape.

Alex Valvassori: Got it. Okay. So it sounds like very quickly, you guys had a lot of extra work on your hands, collaborating among one another, at a time when you were also all responsible for continuing to run your day to day program. So enter Gillian, right? I would imagine there was a huge need to professionalize the organization to bring some structure to the work that you guys were doing. So, Gillian, I would love to hear how you became a part of the CANNRA team and what that history looked like.

Gillian Schauer: So I have a PhD in behavioral science and public health and a master in public health. And I had been working in tobacco control policy for about a decade and was on a doctoral fellowship with CDC when my home state of Washington voted to legalize adult cannabis use. And I got some permission from my director of my office at CDC to sort of explore what that looks like in a state and what some of the data needs might be. And the public health and prevention needs might be. And I took all of one meeting in Washington and one in Colorado, and went back to CDC and said, "This is a really big, complicated issue with a lot of potential for federal engagement and need." And I got some permission to start convening state health officials.

Gillian Schauer: So in early 2014, I had my first meeting of state health officials from a handful of mostly west coast states in Colorado to talk about lessons learned, to talk about data needs, data collection, especially in the early days in Washington and Colorado was at the forefront, trying to figure out what information we needed to be gathering and how we needed to organize it, to understand implications of policy and to make better policy.

Gillian Schauer: And over time, as I was convening state health officials, we started to have more regulators integrate into those conversations and then EVALI happened and the regulators had started their own convenings. But I think when EVALI happened, the vaping lung injury outbreak of 2019, there was really this need for regulators to work closely with other state agencies, especially the public health agency. So at that point, I started to do much more work with regulators, and I think a small group of regulators had started to outline what has become CANNRA and tapped me to start getting more and more involved initially through work I was doing with states and then as a consultant to the early genesis of CANNRA. And then as it formalized, I was able to be brought on board. So it's been a circuitous path, but I think is a really important organization to be able to share lessons learned and help bring folks that are working on cannabis regulation together to think about what is and what should be, and to share data and learnings.

Alex Valvassori: Yeah. Thanks Gillian. And so I'm curious then, given some of the work you've done in the past, especially in the federal space, where do you see the biggest gaps in knowledge? I would imagine that very often, people who have worked around controlled substances have a lot of assumptions about what should work for cannabis. And I realize those assumptions probably aren't always the best. So how have you worked with those individuals and where do you see opportunities for further education with those communities?

Gillian Schauer: Yeah, I mean, separating out the federal state, I think the schedule one designation of cannabis has been really difficult for all entities. It's prohibited federal agencies from getting involved with states in the ways they normally would. And it's required that states create all these many federal systems in their state. Every state has effectively created a mini FDA for looking at food products, a mini EPA for looking at pesticides, all these mini federal agencies for functions that our federal agencies normally would be stepping into do, but can't. So I think that's been a challenge and I think that's made it even more important that states are working together and learning from each other because these are functions that states have not necessarily had to create and go through before. So figuring out what's worked in states and what hasn't and how to work around some of the absence of federal engagement has been really important.

Alex Valvassori: I think that brings up the topic of hemp, right? Knowing that the feds have some oversight over hemp today. Andrew, I know your team recently assumed responsibility for regulating hemp in the state of Michigan. So I'd be curious to know, is CANNRA also working on hemp related issues and are hemp regulators a part of the organization?

Gillian Schauer: Andrew, can I jump in to give an overview of the organization? Okay. CANNRA now has 43 state and territorial members and people... States can join can as an agency directly. So the regulatory agency for cannabis in the state can join, or they can join at a statewide level. And we've had half of our members join at a statewide level, which means that any agency in the state or territory that's working on any aspect of cannabis policy can integrate into our committees, our discussions, our infrastructure. And as part of that, we do have a number of departments of agriculture that have integrated into CANNRA because their state is a statewide member or in some cases, because they saw that we had a very active cannabinoid hemp special committee that was focused on not really the farming aspects of hemp, but hemp as a product and how that interfaces with cannabis as a product.

Gillian Schauer: And so that's one of our most active committees. We've been convening on hemp and Delta-8 and novel cannabinoids for a good couple years now predating the formal establishment of CANNRA. And I think we have a lot of important parties at the table as we see the nexus of hemp and cannabis getting closer together. And I think Andrew's a model state for that, where they used to be separate regulators. And now they're the same. And so having those discussions has been really, I think, informative to that merger. So Andrew, I'll turn it to you to chime in.

Andrew Brisbo: And I think you're the way you framed it is absolutely correct, Gillian, that hemp and marijuana haven't gone farther apart under that broader cannabis umbrella. They've really gotten closer together and more intertwined. When that concept of novel cannabinoids really entered the lexicon through proliferation of Delta-8 across the country, we really saw an uptick in participation with departments of agriculture who were working under that framework that the federal government laid out and really did not give firm direction or oversight or regulatory control to states of everything that happened post the agricultural phase or the growing of hemp. And then it was just a free for all. And we started to see the impacts of state marijuana markets and started to see the need to integrate some of that programmatic oversight. So that's what we've done in Michigan, not looking at the agricultural aspects as Jillian said, but really looking at what's being produced?

Andrew Brisbo: And what is it being produced for? And if we have human consumable cannabis products, whether they're intoxicating or not, whether they're intended for medicinal or recreational use, that there are some key components that regulatory systems should have oversight of. And I think we're going to see more and more of those state programs starting to integrate that, or at least higher level of coordination between those bodies that previously oversaw what we legally call marijuana and those that were over hemp. And I think that's been a focus of our discussion points with federal regulatory agencies and federal policy makers is how intertwined these are becoming as much as some would like to keep them separate and distinct. It's almost impossible because it's all cannabis and it all ties together at some point.

Alex Valvassori: So Andrew, how are you and your team preparing for what will certainly be the next novel cannabinoid, right? We've seen Delta eight come and go, Delta-10, right? We see on the shelves all over the country today. I'm sure there are others that are creeping into stores throughout the country. What does that framework and structure look like? How does your team identify a new constituent out there and find a way to manage that within the structures that you guys have in place today?

Andrew Brisbo: I would say to this point, like everyone else, we've been reactive. We have our hands full with the market as it exists now in trying to stay on top of it, trying to ensure that illicit markets don't overrun state regulated markets, that those who are in this space, as we see fluctuations in the dynamics of the market, we don't want people starting to do illegal things and how we can promote and sustain business in the state, in the regulated space. And looking at issues of social equity and women in minority own businesses and diversity, all the while, we see these advances in innovation, if I'll say it that way, in the science within the industry that supports new streams of economic development. So I don't know if we're going to stay ahead of it.

Andrew Brisbo: Government is often reactive to what happens in markets, unfortunately. We tried to be as proactive as we could be with redefining fundamentally in the state of Michigan, what is hemp and what is marijuana? What is that cut line between the two and what are we evaluating? I'm pretty sure most every other state at the time of Delta-8, we had the same definition as the federal government had. It was just that 0.3% on a dry weight basis. That's a very antiquated definition with roots in sort of a lack of scientific perspective in the first place. But that was really focused on a plant that's growing in a field. Not in everything that could be done, synthetically, bio-synthetically, or even through more organic processes of extracting cannabinoids from the plant and with new cannabinoids being discovered all the time. But our definitions were really focused on those isomers of THC.

Andrew Brisbo: So Delta-7 through 10 that we knew were in the market and including those in how we measured what THC is to determine what is hemp and what is marijuana, and also gave the agency the authority and our administrative rules, our regulations to set a cap on THC for consumer products as well, because that 0.3% does not work for a consumer good. You can have tremendously more THC than we would ever allow in a commercially available adult use marijuana product, if you just go by that 0.3% per volume basis.

Andrew Brisbo: But immediately, I was checking these sites for these Delta-8 businesses that were shipping into Michigan to see when we passed the law, did they add Michigan to our list of states we didn't shift to? And they did. And then some were immediately shifting to hexahydrocannabinol, right? They're already ahead of us because our definition was based on tetrahydrocannabinols and their isomers. So we still didn't quite capture it. So I think we're going to be playing some catch up and thinking proactively, not just about plants, but about consumer products and what it is that we're regulating fundamentally and what the consumer protection issues are that are in play, regardless of whether they're intoxicating and how they're developed, really takes a more holistic approach and to sit down and really completely rethink how we regulate cannabis.

Alex Valvassori: Very interesting, Andrew, and for our listeners who aren't working in cannabis day to day, I think it's quickly become apparent how nuanced and complex this market is, especially in an environment where all of this is new. Every day, every week, there is a new topic. So Gillian, especially in an environment with CANNRA, where we have all of these topics and also so many different agencies involved, right? I think you mentioned traditional cannabis control teams and departments, but also departments of revenue, departments of health, departments of agriculture. How on earth do you steer the organization in a way so that you guys are tackling the issues that are most important? Because I would imagine for some of your members, the most important issues are very different from one another.

Gillian Schauer: Yeah, I think that's definitely a challenge, but we're lucky to have a very active board that's comprised of regulators in a number of states and we have a voting member sort of structure where we meet monthly with voting members who are the primary regulators typically, in all of our member states. And we have a lot of discussions about the hot topics that they're seeing and addressing. And we've set up a committee structure that really covers the A to Z of cannabis. I think we may even have too many committees. We've got 13 or 14 different special committees spanning everything from traffic safety and impaired driving to lab testing to public health and data to licensing, social and economic equity. I mean, if you can think of it as a policy issue, we probably have a committee for it. And those committees have been staffed by people that are doing this work in the states.

Gillian Schauer: And so I think they really are in tune with what the issues are that are coming up for states. We also have a very active base camp site where states can chat in any time with questions or issues. And I think that's a way to keep in touch with what's coming up. So, we recently had some convening around approvals by the FBI for background checks. Another example where, this is a schedule one product and federal agencies are engaged at different levels. And states were struggling to get approvals for federal background checks on statutes that they had in their states. And that hot topic fit into our licensing committee. And we addressed it as part of that committee. So I think we've been able to tackle what's coming up in states and in some ways together, stay ahead of where states would be otherwise, because if it's happening in one state, it's likely to happen in the other states very soon.

Gillian Schauer: And that's what we've seen with these novel cannabinoids too. HHC and THCO acetate came on the market in a couple states first who immediately alerted other members about it. And we've been able to track, I think, a lot of the novel cannabinoids well in that way. Now we're still missing safety data. Another example where federal agencies would be very helpful. And in normal circumstances, FDA may putting out safety profiles on these molecules to help states make decisions about consumer safety and protecting consumer safety. And we don't have that. So it creates a challenge in making policy in this dynamic fast paced realm when you're missing some of the big resources that would normally be helping states and it's left to states to do on their own.

Alex Valvassori: So let's talk more about that. Of course, technology can play a really critical role in supporting a number of the issues you've highlighted. Of course, here at Tyler Technologies, we do a tremendous amount of work in the licensing realm. Of course, seed to sale has become critically important, data aggregation, limb systems. For the labs, right? There's all these different technologies at play. So I guess I'd be curious to know from you, Andrew, what what's working well today and where do you see opportunity as you guys look to leverage all of the technologies that are out there to provide for the best and most safe cannabis markets?

Andrew Brisbo: I think this concept of seed to sale tracking, which is a fairly unique approach, at least in my experience, short of some previous experience in pharmacy realm to having access to information on a consolidated platform. I think that provides a lot of opportunity that to this point has not been fully appreciated by states. And hasn't fed into any sort of nationalized system, obviously, with everything being state by state. So, speaking from a Michigan perspective, we've gathered all of this information and spent a lot of time, frankly, trying to get everyone in industry to enter the right data the right way into this system. Because if you get bad data, then it's of no use. And so we've been utilizing it for the purposes of tracking production and we get some good statistics out of it, but it provides a great opportunity to analyze how this state by state experiment is going, where there are similarities, where there are differences.

Andrew Brisbo: And so it's forced us to gather all of this information, I think could be tremendously useful if we ever get a chance to poke our heads out over the water and catch our breath to really look back at what's happened and use that information to inform policy making decisions. But so it's very challenging when you feel like you're swimming against the current, while someone's hitting you with a fire hose at the same time to really take the time to do that. But that access to technology and something that's been in place consistently across states provides a great opportunity to look at that information in a retrospective fashion and determine how best to make decisions going forward.

Gillian Schauer: And I think we're seeing some trends in data as well. We're seeing increasing discussion among states about open data, making data more available, acknowledging that staff at state regulatory agencies may not have capacity to look at all the aspects of data. And if there's some data that you can make open and available for public access, you can have researchers that can utilize that and help answer some of the questions that regulators have.

Gillian Schauer: I also think we're seeing an increase in states that are looking to have data dashboards that are really triangulating and aggregating data sources. There's so many different sources of data from industry sources to regulatory sources, to public health and prevention sources and social sources. And if you're able to look at all of those, I think you have a much broader picture, but that's a challenge in those types of dashboards and developing those can be very costly and not all state regulatory agencies have capacity to fund something like that. But I think those that have entered into that space have really seen a benefit in terms of their work and informing their policy and compliance and work with licensees and understanding of their markets.

Andrew Brisbo: An interesting aspect of that, having worked in licensing and regulation for almost 20 years now, the level of interest of the public and the media and the industry in the data that we have access to is almost overwhelming. And so to Gillian's point about having open access information, it also saves us time if we don't have to go compile it, based on open records requests and no one ever cared how many licenses I was issuing to cosmetologists and accountants, but everybody wants to know all the time, how many licenses I'm issuing to cannabis businesses and collaborating and trying to figure out what all of that means is potentially very impactful to decision making.

Alex Valvassori: Interesting. So, one other hot topic that we hear a lot about is social equity, and it seems that when it comes to so many other hot topics in the industry, there seems to be a convergence where there seems to be some semblance of best practice. And many agencies are finding similar ways to tackle challenging issues. Social equity is one where I continue to see so many new approaches to tackling this issue. And so I'd be very curious to know kind of what the pulse is like among CANNRA members, as they talk about social equity. It's such an important topic. And I'd love to know if you guys have suggestions for best practices that have come out of some of those discussions.

Gillian Schauer: Yeah, I think in terms of CANNRA, we would like to have social equity be part of everything we do. We have a special committee on social and economic equity, but it really should be part of every committee discussion we have, whether it's a licensing and compliance committee or a data monitoring committee, we need to have it be part of all of our work. Our social and economic equity committee has had a lot of rich discussions trying to get at what best practices would be. And I don't know that anybody would say we've arrived at best practices. I think we have promising practices. And I think increasingly, CANNRA members understand that social equity is really three things. It's equity in the marketplace, which is an entire different discussion. It's equity in terms of expungements and those should be automatic. Those should be funded.

If it's happening in one state, it's likely to happen in the other states very soon.

Gillian Schauer

Executive Eirector of CANNRA

Gillian Schauer: That's something that increasingly, I think there's an understanding that needs to be a budgetary discussion, as well as a policy discussion, when states have a policy change and then it's community reinvestment and almost a reparations with the communities that have been disproportionately harmed by the war on drugs. And so we discuss all three of those, of course, as regulators of cannabis, our members are very interested in equity in the industry and how to create that. And that's where I think we may have some promising practices, but not best practices yet. And Andrew is in one of the states, that's been at the forefront of trying to figure out how you get this right, and how you actually create equity, do your policy solutions lead to the end goal, which is a more equitable marketplace.

Andrew Brisbo: And to that end, Gillian, even being at the forefront, it was not included in any way in commercialization, in Michigan, on the medical side, in the beginning. And we had adult use legalization come two years later, and it included this concept of equity in one line with no direction and no funding associated with it. And then we're focused on sort of trying to unravel 90 years of prohibition and disproportionate impacts on communities of color, specifically without any money, without any direction. And with the two year head start for a medical market that also included as sort of a political give in order to ensure there was an opposition to our ballot initiative, a two year period in which those licensed on the more restricted medical side had access to licenses on the adult use side. So it was really a four year head start for those businesses.

Andrew Brisbo: And then we are constantly being held accountable for leveling this playing field that was already on level, and then got tilted immediately in the wrong direction for a period of time. And so some of what we can share, even as we try to do our best to level this playing field, one of the most valuable insights we can share with newer states coming on is make sure you're considering this in every aspect of programming from the beginning. Whether it's included in your statute or not, it's going to be a critical component. It's going to be something that people are going to ask about. I spoke with a state that was beginning to have discussions about a small medical program.

Andrew Brisbo: And they said, "What would you be thinking about if you were me?" And I would say, "I'd be thinking about adult use legalization and how social equity plays into that. Start thinking about it now, because it's inevitable. It's what's coming. If the conversations are happening, these would be the conversations right on their heels. And if you aren't thinking about it in the beginning, you'll be dealing with it and trying to make up ground that you may be accountable for not having thought of, even though how could anyone have foreseen exactly where those conversations were going to lead?"

Andrew Brisbo: And then as Gillian said, it's what we've really come to, I think, as an organization and states speaking about social equity is thinking beyond licensing. That's what was in the initial conversations is how do you give licenses to people from the communities most impacted and realizing that's a piece of it, although that can be one of the most challenging pieces, but really think about these other potentially more impactful arenas, like community reinvestment, like expungement processing and making that as easy as possible as a way to really start to undo as much as you can, some of the harms of the war on drugs.

Gillian Schauer: And I think we have seen the first wave of states that legalized Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, we've seen a couple of those states really try to make inroads into creating more of an equitable arena in cannabis. And it's hard, right? When the horse already out of the barn, it's hard to get it back in and sort of re-envision things. But in my home state of Washington, for example, just this past year, the governor's budget had a hundred million dollars for community reinvestment and Washington was a state that out the gate really had no social equity framing, even the regulators would admit that. That was just not part of what they were focused on. They were focused on the coal memo and adhering to this federal state dynamic. But I think that shows that there is a possibility of improvement even in states that didn't have this at the outset.

Gillian Schauer: Of course, it's much easier to do in developing policies rather than to go back and redo. And I think we have a lot of stakeholders from organizations that are looking at the policy levers that could be utilized, using, for example, race based language to define what an equity applicant means. Having a waiver on having to have a physical location before you're granted a license. There are a number of things in the regulatory realm that I think can be done to try to create more equity. It's just getting the funding, the political capital, and actually putting it into motion.

Alex Valvassori: So Gillian, you've hit on a topic that is, I think, really interesting and extends kind of across the industry as a whole, right? And that is balancing policy making with regulating. And very often, folks like Andrew have their hands tied to a certain extent, right? Statutes are statutes. And while there is some opportunity to massage things through the rulemaking process, very often there isn't that gray area. So I'd be curious to know how CANNRA navigates that and how its members balances, not necessarily taking policy positions while also trying to have the best impact on the programs that they're running.

Gillian Schauer: Yeah. Thank you for saying that, Alex, I feel like I would like to be a broken record that, it's not as easy as a regulator saying this is the right policy to do in my state. I'm going to do it. There's a whole legislative process in some states, a lot was done in statute and everything has to go back through the legislature.

Gillian Schauer: And oftentimes, I see regulators who very much want to see policy change and there's just not the political will for it. So I think that is a challenge. CANNRA, we're a 501(c)(4), but we do not lobby. We don't have a lobbyist. In general, we have not focused on advocating for or against legislation. I think what we focused on is what can a regulator do to influence good policy at the legislative level? And how can testimony help allude to that? What data are needed, what experts are out there. And then once you have the policy, how can you implement it to the best of our ability to protect consumer safety, to promote equity to secure markets? I think those are things that we talk about across all aspects of cannabis regulation.

Alex Valvassori: So I want to end by asking you guys to take out your crystal balls here, and I'd love to get your take as to when we might see some traction at the federal level. Obviously, we hear a lot about safe banking. We hear about more, right? There's a million different things going on in Congress right now. I'm sure this is a question you guys get all the time. So if you had to throw a dart at the dart board here, when do you guys think we're really going to see some meaningful change at the federal level?

Andrew Brisbo: Well, that might depend on how you define meaningful. I would argue it's meaningful that there are several holistic reform bills that are introduced or being openly discussed. In that, that seems meaningful to me that individuals, elected representatives of Congress have focused on this issue, have been engaged and are willing to discuss them. I think that's progress. I wasn't sure I'd see in my lifetime to have it discussed in the light of day and to really start to hammer out some of the nuanced issues. I think it's probably more likely if we were to see anything pass, it'll be something along the lines of safe banking, some incremental reform. That's a little less, I wouldn't say controversial, but is less challenging in terms of all the various issues that need to be addressed all at once. And I think our focus as Gillian said is not to lobby necessarily for any particular approach, but to be a resource as federal regulators and federal policy makers consider how this country makes this inevitable shift from prohibition to legalization, right?

Andrew Brisbo: That's where we started. It's where we're going to end up. The question is how and when, that there is no other group of people that have had to take the reins and go from point A to point B, and we can share our perspectives in those state by state experiences on the micro level that can help inform that macro perspective, while also considering how federal policy reform will impact existing state markets. That in many cases we would say are flourishing, that are providing great economic developments and are making tremendous progress in some of those key principles, like social equity and diversity equity inclusion, and helping to aid state coppers with tax revenue as well, that no one wants to see interrupted and allowing those businesses to succeed.

Andrew Brisbo: But how to predict that federal timeline, when you consider the myriad other issues, like did we predict COVID or a war in the Ukraine or the potential overturn of Roe V Wade and where that falls in the priorities with all of those shifting things? I think it makes it very hard to predict and the political atmosphere in this country right now probably doesn't make it any easier to draw a line in the sand and say, when things are going to happen, but we want to continue to be at the table having those discussions and to be a resource to those folks, making the decision as an unbiased group of people that has a very valuable perspective to share.

Gillian Schauer: Yeah, I would echo Andrew and just add, we have members that have been regulating cannabis for well more than a decade with medical programs and a lot of the questions that have come up in the discussion of federal legislation that we've seen are questions that our members have been thinking about and talking about for a long time. So we see a role for regulators to be at the table, not just in implementation, but in helping to form policy that's going to work for states, that reflects the learnings from states. And we'd like to be part of those discussions. I think states are also looking to federal policy to resolve some of these issues that are challenging in states, creating standards. We have a bit of a patchwork from state to state, and there's an opportunity to have thoughtful federal policy that will create some standards.

Gillian Schauer: And those are going to be essential things to have for something like interstate commerce to work out. But given the political landscape, if what we end up with is incremental change, I would say that's still going to be very valuable. I mean, let's take banking, for example. Many of our member states have had recent robberies, some of which have resulted in death. We still have some regulatory agencies that have had banking issues, even just depositing licensing fees from the industry. So I think there's been a misperception perhaps in some circles, that banking is an issue that really is just impacting licensees in the industry. And it's much broader than that, and it's become quite a public safety issue. So I think even if what we end up is incremental change with things like banking and maybe a research bill that would help us get better data to inform policy and would fund federal agencies to do more in funding research. I think those would be very beneficial to states and would only help to create better, more predictable policies from state to state.

Alex Valvassori: So as we look to the future of CANNRA then, obviously you guys are going to be very busy as we start to see some federal progress, but where do you hope to see the organization in say five years? And do you guys see yourself expanding to include nations like Canada, Uruguay, Australia, maybe Germany one day? And do you guys have a vision to have a global perspective as an organization?

Gillian Schauer: I'll jump in and say that we have worked very closely with our colleagues in Health Canada. They've been part of CANNRA discussions from the beginning while they're not an official member. And I think we'd be open to providing insight and collective learnings to any country that was interested. So the invitation is open for any country that's debating cannabis policy to reach out and hear from regulators. In terms of whether or not our structure opens to include that, I think that's a broader discussion. We have envisioned potentially including federal agencies, when and if cannabis legalization happens federally. We've also had discussions about down the road, including municipal regulators, regulators in tribal nations. I think there are a lot of possibilities, but this first year and a half has really been focused on shoring up our state and territorial membership. And we now have virtually every state with a regulatory program in place in our membership, and then figuring out how we can make CANNRA work for regulators and provide the resources that folks need to do their job better.

Andrew Brisbo: Yeah. I think Gillian hit and nail right on the head. We are focused on a regulator's perspective and there will certainly be opportunities for collaboration in whatever facet it makes the most sense with regulators at different levels, from different perspectives. And again, trying to figure out where things head is so challenging in this space. It's very hard to predict that, but we want to be open to building those relationships and shoring up our understanding of what's happening in the cannabis space. And I think particularly, as we see nationalization or international trade in this space, that will help inform our perspective as how to best grow the organization and what the best value is for our membership.

Alex Valvassori: Terrific. Well, I want to thank both of you guys for being on with us today, and I want to thank you guys for all the tremendous work that you're doing in the industry. I don't think folks who are on the outside truly understand the challenges and difficulties that come along with regulating an industry like this. So thank you for the work that you're doing and thank you for all of your time here today.

Gillian Schauer: Thanks so much, Alex.

Andrew Brisbo: Appreciate it, Alex. Thank you.

Jeff Harrell: Well, very interesting information. Thank you so much, Alex, for leading that discussion and for Andrew and Gillian, for your expertise around this very important and even becoming more important issue of cannabis regulation really appreciate that. Well, hope that you enjoyed this episode. We drop a brand new episode of the Tyler Tech podcast every other Monday. So please subscribe. We have lots of topics planned throughout the rest of this year and on into 2023. Always looking ahead, thanks so much for joining me again. My name is Jeff Harrell. I'm the director of content marketing here at Tyler Technologies. We'll talk to you soon.

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