This month, Cannabiz Media launched the Cannabiz Media Database and the Marijuana Licensing Reference Guide: 2017 Edition. Throughout the development of the database and the research and writing of the reference guide, we discovered that it is extremely difficult to get reliable information about marijuana licensing in most states. We also learned that states waste a lot of time and valuable resources responding to Freedom of Information Act Requests.
To that end, we developed a set of best practices for state disclosure of marijuana license information that will make it easier on state resources by allowing people to self-service this information. These best practices are divided into three facets: format, content, and frequency.
A few standards to make licensing information available have emerged across states that have legalized medical and/or recreational marijuana, including web pages, spreadsheets, PDF documents, and directories.
Some large states, such as Colorado and Washington, provide the information in a spreadsheet and/or PDF format. This fulfills the goal of getting it into the public domain and is an easy way to point requestors to the information they seek. Colorado, due to some prodding by the Denver Post, now allows information seekers to search by individual and license to gather detailed information on a license.
Small states with few licenses opt for putting the information on a web page. This is easy in states like Delaware, Minnesota, New York, and Florida where the number of issued licenses is fewer than 10.
Cannabiz Media has also found vast disclosure disparities. Some states provide information that includes the whole value chain while others publish on what seems to be a need-to-know basis. Following are some specific examples of these disparities:
- Many states provide license number, business name, DBA, address, phone number, web address, and email address. New Jersey even provides a key contact name.
- Colorado now provides some “people” information, but this information is available in a form that only allows for one license look-up at a time.
- Some states don’t share information about the addresses of growing facilities. For example, New York shares information on the dispensing location but not the manufacturing location (though a county is provided).
- A few states try to provide websites. However, this is usually limited to dispensaries, so patients can find them.
- Connecticut allows people to download a roster of medical marijuana licenses via Iron Mountain’s elicense system. Illinois also uses elicense but does not provide the ability to download.
- Alaska shares a great deal of information, including the birth date on the license application. It’s important to note that this is not a best practice.
- Washington provides a lot of post-license information, including inspections, fines, and revenue.
There is also great disparity in the amount of information made available related to marijuana license applications. For example, Maryland, Hawaii, and Alaska share information about applicants while many other states share information on final application scoring, and some states share the actual applications that were submitted.
Washington has probably gone the furthest in disclosing information on marijuana licenses as well as inspections, revenues, and fines. States like Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, and New York have also made the full text of applications available. This provides the utmost in transparency, but it puts a burden on state staff to redact information from potentially large documents.
Most large states seem to have settled on monthly dissemination of marijuana license information. However, some states—like Massachusetts, Illinois, and Nevada—update their application information as changes happen.
Given that states will likely grant larger numbers of licenses in the future, it makes sense to make marijuana license information available so people can self-serve the information. Ultimately, the state staff will alleviate the time-consuming and costly burden created by the growing number of requests they receive for this information each month.
Cannabiz Media’s short- and long-term recommendations for best practices are:
- Short Term: Put the information in spreadsheets and PDF documents, like Colorado and Washington have done, and issue it monthly.
- Long Term: Follow the lead of Connecticut, Illinois, and Colorado, and allow users to filter on the following data fields: license type, license status, and city.
We believe that these two steps will significantly reduce the burden on state staffs to provide marijuana license information in a timely manner and greatly improve the ability of individuals to access marijuana license information when they need it.
Do you have any additional recommendations for state disclosure of marijuana license information? What information do you want to access easily? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
For a detailed, state-by-state analysis of U.S. marijuana licensing, including market structure and state requirements, get your copy of the Marijuana Licensing Reference Guide: 2017 Edition. You can also subscribe to the Cannabiz Media Database for ongoing access to the most comprehensive and current marijuana license information available, and be sure to subscribe to news alerts so you don’t miss any news and updates about marijuana licensing.
Ed Keating is a co-founder of Cannabiz Media and oversees our data research and government relations efforts. He has spent his whole career working with and advising information companies in the compliance space. Ed has overseen complex multijurisdictional product lines in the securities, corporate, UCC, safety, environmental and human resource markets and focuses on workflow products. Ed has spent the last twenty five years in the information industry. During that time he has worked for both startup and established information companies where he has led marketing, product management and sales organizations. These companies include Wolters Kluwer/Commerce Clearing House, CT Corporation, EDGAR Online and Business & Legal Reports. At Cannabiz Media Ed enjoys the challenge of working with regulators across the country as he and his team gather corporate, financial, and license information to track the people, products and businesses in the cannabis economy. Ed graduated from Hamilton College and received his MBA from the Kellogg School at Northwestern University. He has been active with the Software & Information Industry Association for his whole career and managed the Content Division for six years. He’s was recently a Trustee at the Country School in Madison CT and a Little League Coach for seven years.