Regulating Recreational Cannabis: Can California Learn from Colorado?

The California Senate Committee on Governance and Finance is reaching out to Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper for insight on how to regulate the marijuana industry.

by Maggie Cabrey, Techwire / February 21, 2017

As one of the first states in the U.S. to legalize recreational use of marijuana, Colorado is considered by many to be a public-sector pioneer in governing the cannabis market. Now looking to make some similar moves, the state of California is reaching out to Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to share challenges and best practices his state experienced while learning how to manage the industry.

Hickenlooper spoke at the California Senate Committee on Governance and Finance on cannabis tax collection held Tuesday. At the meeting, Hickenlooper highlighted two main points for helping implement requirements set forth in the California Marijuana Legalization Initiative, Proposition 64.

First, he explained there must be a sense of urgency communicated regarding meeting implementation deadlines, not only to stakeholders and the public, but also to government staff. He also explained the importance (and extreme difficulties) of breaking down silos between agencies and departments involved, and making sure all participate in the implementation process.

While Hickenlooper seemed confident that California would be able to catch up technologically for both tax and track-and-trace systems, he didn’t ignore the immense of amount of work that’s ahead.

Remaining transparent is a necessity, particularly when it comes to getting businesses up to speed on tax collection, according to Hickenlooper. He recommended giving regular updates via state websites about what’s happening and next steps in a language that is consumable by the public.

“It is amazing how quickly the industry will alert everybody that needs to be alerted,” Hickenlooper said. “It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my public work, but it’s also one of the things I’m most proud of.”

Under Prop. 64, which will take effect Jan. 1, 2018, the California Department of Food and Agriculture is required to deploy a track-and-trace system for recreational use that will utilize unique identifiers for cannabis products and provide interoperability between different parties within the distribution chain.

The Colorado Department of Revenue’s Marijuana Enforcement Division uses a similar system to this, referred to as METRC, which was designed by software development group Franwell. Hickenlooper said he predicts we’ll see the market for cannabis regulation systems begin to grow and become more technologically advanced, especially with California in the game now.

This article was originally published on Techwire.