Yesterday Thursday, October 17th, 2019, Governor Cuomo along with governors from several Northeastern states, including New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Massachusetts met with health and legislative officials to co-host a regional cannabis regulation and vaping summit.
Following the Summit, the Governors reached a set of core principles on issues related to market regulation and empowerment; public health; public safety and enforcement; and vaping best practices.
"This issue is complicated, controversial and consequential. It is probably one of the most challenging I've had to address in New York, and it's a challenge for all the states," Governor Cuomo said. "The goal of this summit is to collaborate with one another, share resources and think collectively as we all try to figure this out. The federal government is supposed to get involved in issues that go beyond one state's borders, but that is not happening on any issue facing the country. The states are on our own, so we are working together to find regionally coordinated solutions to protect the public health."
Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont said, "Whether it comes to the emerging public health issues surrounding vaping and e-cigarettes, or the use of marijuana, permitting the illegal market to run unregulated, which is what is currently happening, is neither safe nor is it in the best interests of all our residents. Cooperating as a coalition of states on these issues is the best path forward—as we not only share borders, but we share economic interests, public health priorities, and a joint understanding that the more states that work together on these kinds of issues, the better the policy results will be for our residents. On these issues and more, when states work together collaboratively, carefully and thoughtfully we can create better policies.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said, "In New Jersey, we are committed to conquering the public health challenge of vaping and advancing marijuana legislation. These actions will be strengthened and magnified when we know there is a similar strategic approach in New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and other states. Our impact is much greater when we break out of our own silos as individual states and collaborate on the tough issues plaguing our region and nation. Together, we can ensure that these challenges are met with thoughtful, comprehensive action for those who live and work in our region."
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf said, "It's imperative that we focus on bringing the conversation about cannabis into the open and making sure there is proper regulation. When we establish a marketplace for cannabis, social justice and empowerment initiatives must be considered. The discussion today with my fellow governors resulted in meaningful agreements and can open the door for passage of sensible reforms."
Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo said, "In the absence of federal leadership, Governors are coming together and taking a regional approach to vaping and cannabis regulations. The principles we've agreed to today will allow us to better coordinate our efforts as we address some of the most challenging issues facing our states. Through this partnership, we will work together to protect families from the dangers posed by the illicit cannabis market and vaping."
MARKET REGULATION AND EMPOWERMENT
Financial institutions are faced with the risk of federal enforcement if they provide financial services to state-licensed medical marijuana businesses because of the Federal Controlled Substance Act. So long as it remains difficult to open and maintain bank accounts, the state-legal marijuana industry will largely rely on cash to conduct business and operate, which results in public safety issues and creates unique burdens for legal marijuana businesses.
All states have agreed to a series of principles to setting a cannabis tax structure, as well as best practices to ensure that disproportionally impacted communities from the war on drugs have access to the new industry. The states will use the following guidelines:
- Identifying best practices with regard to the basis for taxation, implementation stages and dynamic market-based controls for cannabis production and cultivation;
- Supporting the market architecture of cannabis regulation, including a keen awareness of the need to ensure a fair and competitive market, deploying strategies such as a limitation on the number of licenses or licenses types, to protect against manipulation of markets;
- Encouraging in conjunction with their legislature a stable regional market by identifying and implementing a similar overall effective tax rate for cannabis products;
- Incorporating tax mechanisms, such as weight based, potency based, and/or mg/thc based, to ensure price stability for licensees and that the price of cannabis does not fall to a point that increases access and use beyond current usage rates;
- Implementing social equity initiatives to ensure industry access to those who have been disproportionately impacted by the prohibition of cannabis;
- Prioritizing small and diverse businesses' participation in the cannabis industry;
- Implementing meaningful social justice reform with regard to cannabis policy, including expediting expungements or pardons, waiving fees associated with expungements or pardons and securing legislation to support these reforms;
- Supporting and advocating for the passage of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which would provide clarity and remove disincentives for existing financial institutions to service cannabis-related businesses;
- Supporting research focusing on immediate solutions that will improve the ability of the state to manage cannabis-related cash payments, as well as long-term solutions that allow the industry to thrive; and
- Providing positive guidance to their state chartered financial institutions with respect to cannabis-related banking services. Such guidance may make reference to education, promotion, data sharing, legislation and advocacy with federal and state regulators
The potency of cannabis products is up from below 10% THC to greater than 20% THC. Decreasing production costs and innovative techniques may lead to lower prices for high-potency products, and novel and under-studied product forms, such as injections or dabs, may reach the market unless states properly regulate them. There is also a potential for bundling THC products with nicotine and alcohol, which may require even more scrutiny.
All states have agreed to a series of principles regarding product safety and testing; best practices for safety and contamination; and availability and advertising of products, focused on restricting access to and advertising aimed at youth users and vulnerable populations. The states will use the following guidelines:
- Enacting restrictions for cannabis and vaping product forms, packing, advertising and characteristics that target minors;
- Prohibiting advertising that promotes overconsumption and targets youth, restrict advertising to audiences that are likely majority over 21
- Ban advertising and products that appeal to youth, including flavors and product packaging
- Restricting sale of products to adults 21 and over and imposing strict penalties on licensees that sell to youth
- Creating programming and conducting robust public health education campaigns targeting youth
- Enacting requirements that all cannabis products must be contained in child-resistant packaging;
- Regulating cannabis products and enacting restrictions in a manner that safeguards public health, limits over consumption and discourages the spread of cannabis use disorder;
- Collecting and sharing data on cannabis use to better understand the public health outcomes associated with legalizing adult use;
- Enacting restrictions to discourage over consumption and accidental overdose, such as limiting the amount of cannabis that can be legally possessed, requiring standardized dosages and serving sizes in products and limiting the overall THC content of products;
- Creating youth prevention and public education campaigns to inform youth and the general public about the health and safety consequences of cannabis use;
- Developing warning labels and icons that accurately inform consumers about the dangers of cannabis use; and
- Limiting flavors for inhalable products to the taste of tobacco or cannabis or a taste derived from compounds derived directly and solely from the cannabis or hemp plant.
PUBLIC SAFETY AND ENFORCEMENT
In regulating and enforcing an effective cannabis program, law enforcement will encounter many challenges, includingensuring highway safety, improving field test options, targeting the illicit market and workplace drug testing. Currently, there are reliable field tests and generally acceptable evidentiary standards for alcohol impairment, but similar technologies aren't available for marijuana. Drug Recognition Experts, or DREs, are currently the best tools for determining marijuana impairment. However, there are many challenges and constraints associated with DREs. While other methods to determine marijuana impairment, such as lab tests of blood, do exist, there is generally no accepted standard to demonstrate marijuana impairment.
All states have agreed to a series of principles regarding traffic safety and law enforcement measures. The states will use the following guidelines:
- Uniform treatment of DRE evidence;
- Uniform standard for blood or saliva tests, both for lab tests and for roadside tests when available;
- Efforts surrounding DRE training;
- Methods for sharing information on suspected "bad actors" in legal market; and
- Law enforcement strategies for illicit market.
E-cigarette use among young people is staggeringly high. In 2018, 1.5 million more students used e-cigarettes than in 2017, and high school electronic cigarette use in 2018 was 78% higher than it was in 2017. E-cigarette manufacturers shamefully target young people with a growing range of non-tobacco or menthol flavors. Some of the over 15,000 flavors available include fruit, dessert or candy flavors.
All states have agreed to a set of principles to regulate the vaping industry as a method of administration of nicotine and CBD and implementing best practice solutions regarding how to investigate and enforce against illicit THC Vape Pens and regulate filler oils and carrier fluids. The states will use the following guidelines:
- Banning or regulating the sale of flavored vape products to reduce the product's attractiveness to youth;
- Implementing vape product safety standards for nicotine, CBD and other cannabinoids, and other vaping products including diluents, excipients, cutting agents, and other additives;
- Regulating temperature control, including the heating mechanisms of vaporizers;
- Ensuring all vaping cartridges are properly marked or labeled to inform the user of the manufacturer;
- Increasing enforcement actions for unauthorized sales to individuals under 21 years of age; and
- Restricting advertisements to ensure products are not targeted to minors.