NEW YORK (MainStreet) — With Maine’s ballot referendum set to legalize pot and New York City dropping all small possession charges, the year 2015 is gearing up to be significant for marijuana entrepreneurs.
“You will see a progression from a limited system to more of a broader system of legalized marijuana among states,” said Adam Laufer, attorney and co-CEO of MJ Holdings. “I expect legalization will trickle into New Hampshire next year and that the entire Northeastern region will end up with legal marijuana.”
Recent hallmarks that 2015 will be a landmark year include the U.S. Department of Justice’s new position that Indian tribes may grow and sell marijuana on their reservations so long as they follow the 2014 federal guidelines detailed in the Cole Memo.
“It will be interesting to see whether it’s only in legal states or any state where there is sovereign land,” Laufer said.
The Indian reservation provision is the second issued this year.
“It indicates the federal government is using the justice department to help its political agenda to legalize marijuana without going through legislative channels,” said Laufer.
The Cannabis and Hemp Association (CHA) plans to reach out to 556 potential Native American tribes of which 326 are federally recognized by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
“I see a tremendous potential in creating a space for Native American sovereign states to develop marijuana national policies,” said Scott Giannotti, president of the CHA, a trade association headquartered in New York. “My goal is help the Native American nations establish regulations, retail marijuana dispensary management, cultivation, proprietary technologies and processing systems to assist the sovereign tribes in capitalizing on the medical marijuana industry.”
Next year could also establish uniformity with legal states forming a self regulatory organization much like the North American Association of Securities Administrators, which is a group of regulators that create uniformity among state rules governing security offerings.
“The new year will bring a supervisory organization formed among the states to further develop the legal marijuana industry,” said Laufer. “It won’t be a regulatory body, but it will be a group of states that contemplate rules that each will individually and independently enact.”
The laws established by such a governing body would be independent of federal laws.
“Colorado will take the lead on this because they have the most mature industry and market,” Laufer said. “We will see leadership creating regulatory protocols that other states will follow.”
Edible regulation is also expected to advance in coming months because it is the fastest growing segment of the marijuana industry.
“The difficulty is the legislators from individual states that are regulating based on state laws have a different perspective,” said Laufer. “As a result, you could see 24 different regulatory schemes that are all vastly different.”
So far, the guidance out of Colorado’s marijuana enforcement division is that edibles should have no more than 10 milligram of active ingredient of marijuana as composition in a food item.
“How to dose and package and label to make sure it doesn’t fall into hands of unwilling consumers is important and child proof packaging,” Laufer said. “You need uniformity but there is no federal law that requires states to do things a certain way.”
That’s until the federal government declassifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, which is also expected to unfold in 2015.
“There will be multiple state funded studies to demonstrate the efficacy of medicinal use,” said Laufer. These studies could help reclassify marijuana out of federal illegal status.
—Written for MainStreet by Juliette Fairley