The legalization of adult-use cannabis has raised concerns about the potential impact that such a policy change may have. Under recent legislation, the MMCC was required to provide the Maryland legislature with recommendations on methods used in adult-use markets to reduce youth consumption and appeal to cannabis products. The MMCC’s recommendations reflect best practices from other states and the existing medical cannabis program. Below is an excerpt of the relevant recommendations provided by the MMCC to the Maryland legislature.
- Incorporate existing statutory and regulatory best practices from Maryland’s Medical Cannabis Program: Statutes and regulations governing Maryland’s successful medical cannabis market reflect many of the best practices used throughout the country in both medical and adult-use programs. These practices should be directly incorporated into the State’s laws, particularly in areas of advertising, packaging/labeling, and product restrictions. The best practices are under Health-General Article § 13-3312.1 for advertising and COMAR 10.62.24 and 10.62.37 for packaging/labeling and product restrictions.
- Current Medical Cannabis Advertising Controls: Advertising restrictions such as those used to govern the State’s medical cannabis program are crucial to reduce youth consumption and appeal. There is a well-established link between exposure to alcohol and tobacco marketing and increased use of those substances in youth. To prevent such increases, the State should adopt similar advertising restrictions such as those used with other age-restricted products such as alcohol and tobacco.
- Current Medical Cannabis Packaging and Labeling Regulations: The State requires plain packaging and label of medical cannabis products and prohibits youth-appealing products, shapes, designs and flavors. Multiple adult-use states follow the packaging limit of 10 mg THC per serving and 100 mg THC per package as established by Maryland medical cannabis regulations for edible products to restrict access to highly potent cannabis products. The State should continue the above-noted regulations for adult-use products and further limit the use of certain names or references to existing youth-appealing products.
- Current Medical Cannabis Point-of-Sale Controls: The State maintains certain point-of-sale controls with medical dispensaries, such as requiring caregivers and patients to display valid government-issued ID. This existing practice can be modified to instead limit entry to individuals who are 21 years old or older. Adult-use businesses should be restricted to selling cannabis and related supplies and products only with limited days and hours of sale. Conversely, only licensed cannabis dispensaries that are regulated by the State and follow existing best practices should be permitted to dispense cannabis.
- Modify and strengthen the State’s current medical cannabis statute to address youth access issues that are unique to an adult-use market: The legalization of adult-use cannabis presents an opportunity to strengthen statutes and regulations. Existing advertising restrictions, product packaging and labeling specifications should be amended or supplemented to address issues specific to adult use and restrict appeal and access to youth.
- Health-General Article §13-3313, which currently limits advertising for medical cannabis businesses, products, and services and, as such, prohibits advertising of recreational use or intoxicating effects of cannabis, should be amended to at least allow for advertisements that represent recreational use if adult-use cannabis is authorized in the State.
- Existing medical cannabis statute prohibits advertisements that target minors. The State should continue this prohibition in statute, adding other specific limitations in statute that would further reduce the appeal and advertising of cannabis to youth.
- The State should strengthen its existing cannabis packaging and labeling requirements. Specifically, the required health warnings under COMAR 10.62.24.01 should be:
- Prominently displayed directly on the packaging;
- Indelibly printed on or permanently affixed to the packaging; and
- Indelibly printed on or permanently affixed to the container that holds the medical cannabis product if the product has multi-layer packaging.
- A universal symbol should be adopted to indicate that the package contains cannabis, and a “Not Safe for Kids” icon, which could be approved and standardized by the regulatory agency.
- Product labeling should display all active ingredients, cannabinoid content, information on the processor and a delayed onset warning for certain products.
- Rather than using multiple and concurrent warnings, a rotating warning label should be used to increase the likelihood of consumer viewing/reading.
- Mandate that the State’s cannabis regulator adopt further regulations to reduce youth use of cannabis products:
- The State should consider the following best practices from states allowing adult-use cannabis: (i) imposing sanctions against a retailer’s license and levy fines against the retainer for violations; (ii) requiring responsible vendor training; (iii) requiring retailers to display age restriction signage in their establishments; and (iv) conducting “Sales to Minors” compliance checks.
- Regulations should limit the amount of cannabis or cannabis product a person is able to purchase in a single transaction. The “personal use amount” of cannabis should be used as a benchmark for the amount of cannabis any one individual is allowed to purchase.
- Direct the Public Health Advisory Council (“Advisory Council”) to study and consider certain other emerging regulatory trends to reduce cannabis use by minors: The Advisory Council should further research, study, and provide guidance on public health and cannabis. To address youth consumption, the Advisory Council should consider the following areas for future study: (i) implementation of THC limits on products other than edibles; (ii) establish an exercise tax or other tax-based disincentive for high-THC-products; (iii) require the use of ID scanners at the point-of-sale for all cannabis purchases; and (iv) restrict or limit billboard advertisements. Furthermore, the Advisory Council directs the uses of the Cannabis Public Health Fund, which derives revenue from a portion of revenues from adult-use cannabis. These funds can be used for substance use prevention and primary prevention efforts, including public education and youth prevention campaigns.
To access a copy of the MMCC’s full legislative report, visit the Maryland Legislative Library & Information Services website (https://mlsd.ent.sirsi.net). If you would like a call to discuss how these developments may affect you or your business, please contact Jonathan Wachs at 301-575-0302 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
As founder of the firm’s Cannabis Law group, Jon Wachs is a recognized resource on issues relating to the evolving relationship between cannabis law and intellectual property protection. He has worked with many operators in the cannabis industry to navigate the rules and processes relating to specific state medical cannabis programs. Mr. Wachs provided essential legal support to obtain required Maryland regulatory approval for the transfer of several licenses affected by a multi-billion dollar business combination. He also facilitated a series of business transactions involving the sale, purchase and combination of integrated cannabis cultivation, processing and dispensary businesses.
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