This article was originally published in Evolved Magazine, which is a partnership between industry thought leaders and the official mouthpiece for the CTAA (Cannabis Trade Association Africa). Visit their website for expert opinion and educational articles about a Positive Cannabis Wellness Lifestyle.
“Regulators, mount up” is a quote from the movie Young Guns, and later used by Warren G in “Regulate”. These “regulators” were referring to themselves as people who protect property and who “fight corruption and injustice, regulating the rate of crime in a neighborhood.”
Let’s see how regulations can work for the Cannabis industry.
There are those who do not believe in regulation or do not believe that we should need to be regulated, or that we are capable of self-regulation. Many believe that regulations give the government an opportunity to be corrupt and create an unequal playing field with unfair rules.
While this may be true in some cases, I more want to look at the case for regulations when properly applied, and why they are important. Corruption is something that permeates all parts of our society and needs to be dealt with at a much higher level than I can get into here.
By its definition, regulations should be put in place to ensure quality control of a system, process, or product.
Black markets are generally unregulated and quality control is very hard to implement or test in the buying process, unless at a craft level where the grower/manufacturer takes every effort to produce to the highest quality they can. Often, in part due to the subterfuge needed to survive, shortcuts are taken while health and safety are not given the consideration they deserve.
Testing of products is difficult and expensive and ultimately it is the customer/consumer who takes the risk using these products. Recreationally we all choose to take risks sometimes, but when it comes to medicine or instances when innocent people can get hurt, regulations can be necessary to protect people.
If regulations are created properly, they should be used to ensure that the industry is sustainable and responsible, making sure that companies act ethically and look after their staff, the environment, and their customers, and hold a company liable when this is not the case.
Labeling regulations should ensure that what is in the product is on the label, and what is on the label is in the product, ensuring accountability from the manufacturer.
What we all hope and push for, is enabling regulations that meet their intended purpose of ensuring quality control without becoming over-regulated and throttling the industry from growing.
Unfortunately, this is a tendency in the Cannabis space, and cannabis products seem to need to meet much more stringent quality controls than most other consumer products which are not fair.
We can also see areas where over-regulation becomes a form of protectionism and is used to create barriers to entry, which is currently evident in our Medical Cannabis regulatory and license system.
I don’t believe we can expect to be unregulated but should push to be treated the same as other similar industries, especially when it comes to products destined for human consumption.
An important point is that regulations should be amendable and fluid, able to be adjusted relatively easily as needed when unintended consequences or new information is experienced.
Industry bodies will also be able to self-regulate their members better if there are clear regulations and standards. Companies and producers who do not comply with regulations should be afforded the opportunity and guidance to become compliant before any form of consequences is enforced.
Education and training must be a key part of a regulated industry to ensure that small businesses can get a foothold and opportunity to grow and contribute to this green economy.
As an industry, we should all contribute to comments around regulations to the industry, and get behind Fields of Green for All and their Manifesto which has researched and envisioned an industry that is regulated in a way that should create a thriving industry while behaving in an ethical and responsible way and creating products of high quality.
We should not fear regulation, but keep pushing for enabling, fair and science-backed regulations that will help us grow the industry we know can really bring about positive change in our country. They can help protect our businesses and customers from those with ill-intent and help ensure that our industry when finally given a fighting chance, will thrive.
Tony Budden, Hemporium.