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Are We There Yet? Maine’s Long, 3-year Adult Use Journey Almost Over

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.

Patricia Rosi

Patricia Rosi

Patricia Rosi is CEO of Wellness Connection, Maine’s leading cannabis operator that’s now a model for patient-centric care on the East Coast and beyond. With 80 employees and over $15M in revenue, the Wellness Connection includes four Maine state-licensed dispensaries with state-of-the art cultivation, processing and manufacturing facilities.

Rosi is a cannabis industry trailblazer. Since 2011, she has successfully navigated the challenges of this new industry, collaborating with Maine state officials to create a solid and sustainable policy framework, developing strong business partnerships and expanding all lines of business. She’s now a sought-after advisor to early stage cannabis enterprises across the US, providing insight on best management, production and R&D practices as well as emerging retail and consumer trends.

Rosi has been honored nationally as a pioneer and progressive in the cannabis industry. She’s on the list of the Glass Ceiling Wreckers: 2019 Power Women of Cannabis by Cannabis Business Executive (CBE). This is the third year Rosi has been honored by CBE: She was named the 2017 CBE Most Important Woman in Cannabis and ranked #3 of the CBE 50 Most Important Women in the Cannabis Industry. Also, Rosi has been honored as one of Maine’s top five female CEOs by MaineBiz.

On the national scene, she is an active member of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) Marketing and Advertising Committee as well as the American Trade Association for Cannabis and Hemp (ATACH). Rosi continues to support policy work in Maine as the state navigates new recreational cannabis laws. She works with the Association of Maine Cannabis Operators (MEACO), Maine Professionals for Regulating Marijuana (MPRM) and Retail Association of Maine.

Rosi champions corporate social responsibility, creating a wellness culture that benefits not only her employees but their communities and patients in need. In 2016, Rosi launched a program dedicated to providing free cannabinoid therapies to patients in hospice care. The Wellness Connection team gives back each year via preferred rates for qualified patients and donates dozens of paid volunteer hours for community non-profits.

Rosi is also a passionate and result-oriented executive with vast global experience in the areas of business management, team-building, marketing, communications and branding. As a citizen of both the US and France, she has decades of experience as a creative leader at both Saatchi & Saatchi and Omnicom. And she built a small, local creative agency into an experiential marketing leader with national clients that included Verizon, Kraft and Procter & Gamble.

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