The Key to Compliance for Illinois Craft Cultivation & Infuser Licensing
Instead of treating compliance as an afterthought or a thorn in the side of your business plan, get to know it as your ally and constant companion early on in your journey. Compliance is the foundation that helps support everything else. At its worst, it levels the playing field and ensures a fair game while keeping the fans and players safe. At its best, it pushes you and your team to create the absolute best cannabis product.
A fascinating time capsule of drug laws in Illinois from 1818 to 1975 demonstrates a contrast that reveals how comprehensive today’s marijuana laws are. Now that we’ve reached the holy grail of adult-use, we must remain good stewards. By adhering to the industry’s laws and regulations, we can be trusted to help write its future.
On February 14, 2020, Illinois will begin accepting applications for 40 licenses each for craft grow and infuser licensing. Specialized grows and consumables come with some of their very own regulations.
Learn some examples of these regulations, how to maintain impeccable compliance, and tips for building a team based on an absolute dedication to quality.
Compliance Rule #1
The first rule of compliance for craft grow and infuser licensing is that everyone needs to know the rules. Farming compliance out to a qualified professional or keeping the secrets of compliance locked away in one operations manager’s head is not enough.
If a challenge pops up regarding anything from security to chain of custody, transportation, or environmental compliance, you need everyone on your team to be fully versed in the rules and regulations affecting your business.
You have a fiduciary responsibility to know the laws. Discard the adage that it’s easier to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission. Instead, realize that “Ignorance of the law is no excuse in any country. If it were, the laws would lose their effect, because it can always be pretended” – so sayeth the great Thomas Jefferson.
It’s one thing to pore over all 522 pages of the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act & Notice of Emergency Rules and another to understand and apply the rules.
Is someone on your team qualified to learn the regs, stay abreast of inevitable changes, and train your employees? If not, it may pay to hire a consultant to provide periodic training.
If you’re looking for a primer on Illinois compliance and regulatory requirements, watch Higher Yields Cannabis Consulting’s Illinois Cannabis Licensing Webinar. Then sign up for a Q&A session with the experts.
Craft Grow & Infuser Licensing + Supply & Demand
A sticky example of a regulation for craft grow and infuser licensing is the current prohibition for extracting. The Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act states that “At no time shall an infuser organization or an infuser agent perform the extraction of cannabis concentrate from cannabis flower.”
It further states that “The Department of Agriculture shall perform an assessment of whether infusers have access to an adequate supply of reasonably affordable raw materials that shall start no sooner than January 1, 2023, and shall conclude no later than April 1, 2023.” Additionally, based on its findings, the Department of Agriculture may consider issuing processor licenses to extract.
In other words, regulatory agencies will be keeping close tabs on both supply and demand – and they’ll be watching to see if businesses in the industry attempt to sway those levers one way or another.
It’s typically positive to have stock flying off the shelf. However, product shortages that result in collusion to increase inventories may result in hefty fines of up to $20,000. Regulators have begun investigating whether stores were sourcing more than 40% of their product from a single grower, which is illegal. This also could rob medical consumers of needed supply.
While cultivating relationships and strategic partnerships in the cannabis industry is important, compliance and regulations will weigh heavily on how those relationships are used to leverage business.
Make New Friends
When it comes to regulations, there are always questions. Some rules may seem “gray,” open-ended, or convoluted. Others may appear to create unintended consequences that you weren’t prepared for.
Is it hard to maintain 100% compliance? Yes. Impossible? No.
One major benefit to your business will be to get to know the officials in your city or municipality. Introduce yourself to the city manager and his or her staff.
Chat up the folks at the department of revenue and the permitting and zoning departments – even the police department. Invite the fire inspector to your facility. Make certain you know what their requirements are.
Anytime you find yourself approaching a legal or regulatory gray area, take a step back and phone a friend.
Not only will doing so keep you abreast of compliance and regulatory changes but also you’ll indicate to lawmakers and enforcers that you are running your business in full transparency and with the best intentions.
Show your willingness to be educated and you’ll earn the respect of your community. Besides, most people enjoy demonstrating their professional knowledge.
Few Things Done Fast Are Done Well
Make sure your compliance plan (yes, your business needs a written plan) is fully baked. This is not a slap-dash proposition. This is a plan to stay in business and dodge the potential slings and arrows of fines and contentious litigation – while avoiding the horror of even a temporary shutdown.
If you put half as much enthusiasm into your plan as the product you want to produce, you should be in good shape. Think of compliance as a natural extension of your integrity and passion for creating the highest quality, purest possible product.
When you and your entire team commit to excellence, integrity, and quality, you’ll all start to see compliance and regulations as a natural expansion of those intrinsic values. At the same time, knowing that all the red tape is taken care of frees you up to be the entrepreneur you’re meant to be.
A Look Backward & Forward
Did you know that the Illinois Pharmacy Act of 1881 prohibited the sale of “substances such as laudanum, morphine, oil of bitter almonds, and opium” to anyone under the age of fifteen? Or that Congress passed the federal Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 only after all fifty states and territories had banned cannabis? Illinois’s ban took effect in 1931.
Despite a rocky road with drugs now used to help people suffering from physical pain and medical conditions, Illinois is coming around to the use of one of the healthiest options: marijuana.
The state finally legalized medical marijuana in 2013 following decades of heroic advocacy. Then, adult-use went live on New Year’s Day 2020, creating extra cause for celebration.
Its dense population and popular embrace of cannabis are likely to put Illinois at the forefront of the industry in the decade to come. We want you and your business to be at the forefront of this pivotal movement.
We’re available to help pioneers in the Land of Lincoln forge a new trail. Reach out to the experts at Higher Yields Cannabis Consulting for a consultation. And be sure to check out the Illinois Cannabis Licensing Webinar and participate in a Q&A session to get all your questions answered.