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Cannabis Regulators Association Created To Develop Regulatory Cannabis Policies

Posted: January 14, 2021 in Blog

In November, 2020 a nonpartisan group of cannabis regulators at the state and territorial level from 19 states formed the Cannabis Regulators Association (CANNRA). The purpose of this organization is to provide a forum so that cannabis regulators across the country can interact with elected officials, policymakers, cannabis researchers, and industry investors. The goal is to provide unbiased information and recommendations for the implementation of cannabis policies in the interest of public health and safety and to establish regulations for the cannabis industry. In this article I will explain how and why the organization was formed, list its member states which have increased to 24 and its executive officers, discuss membership qualifications and provide the special committee policies that the members will be working to shape.

The Impetus Behind The Formation of CANNRA

For decades, cannabis regulators across the country have been left to their own devices to figure out how to share with one another the following:

  • Expertise
  • Experiences with regulations
  • Ability to assist lawmakers considering or actively involved in the cannabis legalization process direction in crafting policies and regulatory best practices 

In the past, cannabis regulators from established markets and programs interacted with those in state and local jurisdictions who were considering moving forward with legalization. However, there has never been a clearinghouse of information provided by one organization prior to the establishment of CANNRA. Their goal is to help shareholders find unbiased data and applications based on evidence in order to enact sound and safe regulatory policies. 

What is CANNRA?

The organization was formed in order to share institutional knowledge* and regulatory best practices that safeguard public health and safety by helping federal, state and local authorities who have already approved or are considering moving forward with cannabis legislation.

*Institutional knowledge encompasses experiences, processes, data, expertise, values and information.

The focus of CANNRA is to enable the sharing of information by subject matter experts to safely regulate the policies for industrial hemp, medical cannabis and recreational cannabis. This involves interactions between CANNRA and public health officials, policymakers, research organizations, legal authorities, advocacy groups and cannabis industry participants.

The intended outcome is the creation of a standardization of policies among all the authorities across the country which have chosen to regulate and legalize cannabis. CANNRA will strive to make sure that federal officials benefit from the vast experiences and expertise of state officials so that any changes in federal law will be adequately reflected in the needs and the priorities set forth by the states.

It is NOT an advocacy group nor does the organization take a stand either in favor of or against the legalization of cannabis.

It is important to understand that due to federal cannabis prohibition that each township in each state has been left to design its own policies around cannabis legalization. The result is that those jurisdictions where cannabis has been legal for several years have a lot of experience to share. On the other hand, those regions new to cannabis legalization may be able to offer new innovations in moving forward with best practices.

In October, 2019 New York Governor Andrew Cuomo hosted a meeting with the governors of New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut to set regional goals of regulatory best practices for the cannabis industry. This appears to have led to the appointment of Norman Birenbaum, New York’s Director of Cannabis Programs, as the first president of CANNRA. 

CANNRA Founding Member States

Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah and Washington.

By the end of 2020, an additional 5 states had joined the organization, bringing the total to 24. They include Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia and Montana. Currently, membership is only available for  regulators at the state and territorial level and for representatives from pertinent government offices. In the near future, membership will also be offered to county and municipal cannabis regulators. Participants in the cannabis industry and advocacy organizations have not been invited to join CANNRA.

CANNRA Membership Benefits

Members will receive access to the following:

  1. The national registry of member regulators
  2. Resources for cannabis policy development and staff training
  3. Participation in developing model standards and cannabis regulatory best practices
  4. Attendance at exclusive “Regulator Roundtable” conferences and programs
  5. Legislative analyses
  6. Policy tracking data
  7. Bulletins on current issues
  8. Events in the cannabis industry surrounding regulatory development

Here is a link to the additional benefits that come with membership.

Special Committees

CANNRA members have determined the organization’s regulatory priorities of which each has a corresponding special committee. Each committee will compile data, meet with shareholders and shape policy development in its area of expertise, assisted by subject matter experts.

List of Special Committees

  • Public Heath and Safety Monitoring and Surveillance
  • Public Education, Awareness and Youth Prevention
  • Social and Economic Equity
  • Medical Use and Clinical Research
  • Analytical Testing and Product Safety
  • Packaging, Labeling, Advertising and Marketing
  • Licensing, Inspections, Compliance and Enforcement
  • Banking, Finance and Insurance
  • Federal Policy and Engagement
  • Municipal and County Regulation and Coordination
  • Interstate Coordination
  • Market Structure and Taxation
  • Energy and Environmental Policy
  • Impaired Driving and Workplace Safety
  • Cannabinoid Hemp

CANNA Executive Officers

  • President: Norman Birenbaum, New York Director of Cannabis Programs
  • First VP: Rick Garza, Director of Washington State Liquor & Cannabis Board
  • Second VP: Jim Burack, Director of Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division
  • Third VP: Andrew Brisbo, Executive Director of Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency
  • Secretary-Treasurer: Tyler Klimas, Executive Director of Nevada’s Cannabis Compliance Board

Sources:, Association of Cannabis Regulators Formed to Develop

Regulators Best Practices, Michael McQueeny, Nov. 26, 2020, State Regulators Start “Cannabis Regulators Association” Melissa Schiller, Nov. 13, 2020, Press Release: Cannabis Regulators Association Adds Five State Members and Announces Regulatory Priorities, Dec. 29, 2020

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