By Patricia Rosi
Coming off the Memorial Day weekend, I thought I would start on a humorous note by sharing our most recent challenge: Convincing local authorities that installing a closed loop, supercritical CO2 extraction system is not akin to opening a nuclear waste facility.
We are at the end of a months-long process of expanding our production facility, and like any such project, there have been minor challenges along the way. But with a smart, flexible team and the support of local and state officials, we managed to resolve all of them on time and on budget – except one.
- Double the size of our production site? No problem.
- Install a supercritical CO2 extraction unit? Done.
- ISO-8 certification? Piece of cake.
- Getting the final permit approval from the city? Insert the sound of screeching brakes here.
The reason? A safe storage plan for the one (1) gallon of acetone we will keep on site. You read that right; not 100 gallons, but ONE gallon — less than a busy nail salon runs through in a morning.
Just a simple question, or so we thought
It started as a fairly simple classification question, sent via email, borne out of our desire to achieve full regulatory compliance and transparency. Two months later, we were knee-deep in plans, chemical compound formularies, diagrams of molecular atomic structures, schematics, vents, air exchangers, even explosion-proof refrigeration and outlets.
My team and I found ourselves trapped in a permitting vortex.
We answered question after question, debunked assumption after assumption. Days dragged into weeks, and weeks crept into months. Summits were convened.
The city sent the code enforcer, the fire chief, the fire prevention specialist, the electrical inspector. We sent the general contractor, the contractor’s architect, the fire code safety specialist, the clean room expert, the production director, and the Ph.D in analytical chemistry.
And after each of these respective leaders talked to our people and then their people, we finally emerged from the permitting vortex we unwittingly stepped into. After three months, I’m pleased to report we secured our seal of approval.
Just how did this all happen?
We came out the other side older but wiser, our regulators hopefully better educated about the emphasis that responsible cannabusiness place on safety.
As with so many of the challenges facing our industry, the root cause of this particular delay was two-fold:
- First, a general lack of understanding about our industry on the part of those tasked with regulating us.
- And second, an automatic worst-case-scenario approach on the part of those regulators, simply because we “touch the plant.”
Don’t get me wrong; one of the most rewarding parts of our work is watching and helping this industry mature into a robust, regulated, taxpaying business just like anyone else. In other words, the ongoing normalization of the Cannabis Industry.
Understandably, city authorities want to do the right (and safe) thing. So do we, as do most others in our industry. But in this case, fear and lack of understanding delayed a multi-million dollar build-out process by three months over a one-gallon container of a common and perfectly legal substance.
Fortunately, we had the resources to successfully survive the vortex. But not every start-up would. In this way, burdensome regulations form a barrier to smaller businesses seeking to expand their professional operations.
We look forward to a day when all of our companies are regulated sensibly, but not so restrictively that businesses, and communities, lose jobs, time, and revenue.