Commitment to safety key for continued support
By Vicki Christophersen
Last summer, a Quinnipiac University survey of registered voters in Ohio found that the majority would support an initiative to allow residents “to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use.” Yet, in November 2015, 64% of Ohio voters cast their ballots against a measure that would have created a legal cannabis marketplace. Pundits across the political spectrum have opined that it was a flawed regulatory system, because it would have created a monopoly to the detriment of consumer protection concerns.
But here are the facts. A supportive environment in the spring evolved into a “no” vote in the fall. Despite running a well-financed campaign, the legalization measure did not earn the support of any significant Ohio media outlets and was opposed by a broad spectrum of elected officials, major organizations and civic leaders. The message should be clear to our industry as we work in our own states and at the federal level: We cannot take public support or any success in the regulatory arena for granted. We must demonstrate in every interaction that we are committed to supporting a safe, well-regulated marketplace.
Whether it’s restrictive rules for investors, limits on researching new products or the ongoing public debate about marijuana in general, the industry must continue to partner with our communities by focusing on producing and selling quality-controlled products that are effective for patients and safe for consumers.
The public is continuously examining the benefits of a regulated marketplace for marijuana. And the debate is far from over.
Ohio’s setback, Oregon’s newly legal marketplace and the upcoming 2016 legalization measure in California are impacting local and national conversations about cannabis policy.
In Washington, we know the state’s leaders are watching competition from their Pacific Northwest neighbors, as well as the developments in California, to see how the industry behaves during this major public conversation.
From New York Times stories highlighting innovative new ways to market cannabis, to real-world concerns about consumer safety, the cannabis industry’s actions are under a microscope. For better or worse, the actions of a few can influence the business environment for many.
This type of scrutiny is not a bad thing — it’s an opportunity. As leaders in our communities, our interactions with elected leaders, consumers and our fellow business owners are opportunities to display our commitment to safety and regulations that protect these values in a legal cannabis marketplace. More than ever, this is a time to display our industry’s partnership with the public, rather than reinforcing stereotypes about marijuana sellers or antiquated impressions about marijuana users. In 2016, as professionals and community members, consider reaching out to business leaders in the cannabis industry to remind them how fragile our new marketplace really is. The path forward will be anything but a straight line. While we acknowledge that a majority of Americans continue to support marijuana legalization — an October 2015 Gallup Poll showed support at 58% — we also must keep a clear eye on real-world policy discussions that affect our industry but do not always take place in arenas with similar support. The evolution of the cannabis industry has begun, but the work is far from over.
Vicki Christophersen is the executive director of the Washington CannaBusiness Association.