Are we there yet? It’s a refrain heard time and time again over the past three years as Maine has struggled to put in place adult-use cannabis regulations. Back in 2016, Maine voters narrowly approved the referendum legalizing cannabis beyond medicinal use. Since then, Mainers can possess, grow, transport and gift but not buy cannabis. Instant demand was created without a supply. Think about the frustration; it’s like gas being legal but there are no gas stations. So, for the last three years, we have been waiting for legislators and regulators to catch up, do their work and implement the will of Mainers.
Major regulatory changes by year’s end
Maine’s administration and newly minted Office of Marijuana Policy (OMP) have moved mountains to make the impossible happen, under the guidance of Governor Janet Mills, Maine’s first female governor. After 8 years of status-quo, all Maine cannabis operators will face a tsunami of regulations that will require operational changes.
The five major regulatory changes ahead:
1. State-mandated track-and-trace software (BioTrackTHC) (implementation kicked off on September 16)
2. Mandatory testing regulations (draft rules released for public comments), including laboratory certification (rules implemented)
3. Adult-use regulations and licensing finalized
4. Manufacturing regulations
5. Updated medicinal regulations
This implementation will be frustrating and confusing as precision and clarity are expected of regulators who might not anticipate the questions. That was demonstrated by the recent track-and-trace software information, which was reported in the Portland Press Herald’s article “Confusion reigns as Maine rolls out its marijuana tracking system.”
How to succeed in this brave new world
As CEO of the largest medical cannabis dispensary in the state, I’ve witnessed the ups and downs of the industry for many years and have collaborated with Maine state officials to create a solid and sustainable policy framework in this emerging industry. And the one thing I have learned is to not let change overwhelm you. Here are a few ways to stay on top of your game.
1. Be proactive and strategic – Putting your head in the sand is not the solution. Day-to-day can be overwhelming but planning ahead is key. Set aside time in your schedule to get in control of change and remember to take a step back from tasks to think strategically.
2. Be connected and informed – Most likely information will change by the minute: Keep a finger on the pulse of what is happening in real time. Regularly check the OMP page, attend industry mixers, and proactively reach out to your trusted industry partners for advice and updates.
3. Be fluid and integrated – No time for you to selectively plan, one channel at the time. Such a high velocity market will require you to develop simultaneous, integrated strategies for implementation.
4. Be open and honest – Do not underestimate the challenges that the new adult use regulations will cause. Your team, your vendors, your clients and patients may challenge who you are and how change will affect your leadership and the company overall. Be honest; sometimes the best answer is simply that you are working on a plan to get answers. Be inclusive as you develop this plan to ensure alignment and support.
5. Be true to who you are – In times of change, the ultimate compass to chart a path forward must be the mission and values you set forth for your company.