Cannabiz Media has been tracking marijuana and hemp licenses for five years. When we first launched our database to the public in 2016, there were a number of states that provided varying amounts of information related to cannabis licenses. Washington was and remains the leader in dissemination of license information as they provide more detail than any other jurisdiction.
As we move into 2019, Cannabiz Media now covers a combined 82 jurisdictions for cannabis and hemp in the US and Canada, and in many cases, we track several regulators in each state.
The heavily regulated cannabis industry, for the most part, has made a great deal of license information available so , stakeholders can be sure , they are being treated fairly. However, the jurisdictions outlined below have been less than forthcoming in making information available.
According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, you cannot find the location of any cannabis establishment unless you have a medical marijuana card:
Unless you are a registered qualifying patient who is not authorized to cultivate marijuana plants for medical use, the Department cannot provide you with a list of dispensaries. The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, A.R.S. § 36-2810 (A.), states that information received and records kept by the Department for the purposes of administering the Act, including “the physical addresses of nonprofit medical marijuana dispensaries”, are confidential. However, A.R.S. § 36-2804.04(C) requires the Department to provide a list of registered dispensaries to a qualifying patient who is not authorized to cultivate marijuana plants when issuing the qualifying patient’s registry identification card.
This is probably the most extreme example of keeping information from the public. Finding licensed cultivators or manufacturers in Arizona is even harder than finding dispensaries.
As reported in the Nevada Independent, the Nevada Department of Taxation is asking marijuana companies to voluntarily let the state reveal whether they were granted a conditional license to open one or more dispensaries and how their application ranked rather than just making the information public.
The move comes after the department received criticism for the secretive nature of the marijuana licensing process. At least one company whose applications were rejected has sued the state, questioning how some applicants received licenses when they scored much lower than the company in a previous application period.
Taxation officials have so far declined to release other information about the winning applicants, citing a marijuana regulation that states “the Department will and any designee of the Department shall maintain the confidentiality of and shall not disclose the name or any other identifying information of any person who facilitates or delivers services pursuant to this chapter.”
But the department released a list of scores for applications they received in each jurisdiction — with the applicant names redacted — and spokeswoman Stephanie Klapstein said the department will reveal the names when and if the applicant returns the consent form.
Critics have dismissed the confidentiality as unnecessary, saying it’s a misinterpretation of a regulation that was intended to protect medical marijuana patients.
While Nevada asked the license winners for their permission to share information, Pennsylvania went even further by allowing the applicants to self-redact their own filings!
As reported in Pennlive, The department initially allowed grower / processor and dispensary applicants to self-redact what they considered proprietary information on a copy of the application they submitted to the department. In addition, the department made some of its own redactions. The process, however, resulted in little consistency from one applicant to the next.
For some applicants, the public could not tell who will run the operations or who’s funding each operation. In at least one case, the applicant redacted the name of the company itself.
Missouri officials said recently that more than $3 million in medical marijuana license fees have been paid since the state began accepting pre-filed applications a month ago. They proudly tout that 418 “pre-filed application forms” have been sent in, accompanied by a total of $3,020,000 in fees.
The totals include:
- 226 forms for dispensary facilities;
- 128 forms for cultivation facilities; and
- 64 forms for infused-product manufacturing facilities
The state has repeatedly declined to make that information public even after receiving Freedom of Information Act requests. In their request denial to the News-Leader, the DHSS spokeswoman explained the decision by saying that the department will “continue to stand behind our interpretation of the Article XVI Section 1.3(5) of the Missouri Constitution.” That section of Amendment 2 requires DHSS to “maintain the confidentiality of reports or other information obtained from an applicant or licensee.”
Backers of Amendment 2 have said that provision of the legal text is not meant to shield the identities of business-related medical marijuana license applicants from public disclosure. Like Nevada, the regulator has chosen a very specific view of a regulation to favor applicants.
Finally, Colorado initially made information available to the Denver Post and then wanted tens of thousands of dollars to release the same information a year later. The Post criticized the regulator for treating the cannabis industry so differently because details on other sate licensed industries and occupations is available.
At that point, the state had been making information available about the businesses themselves but not the people who owned them. They also stopped making available information on state disciplinary actions against a marijuana business
The Denver Post did eventually prevail and the regulator created a system for the public to research this material online – one license at a time.
Tracking Cannabis Licenses
Not all states are difficult to deal with. Some put a lot of time and energy into making information available to help stakeholders know who is part of the industry. Examples of strong states include Alaska, Massachusetts and California.
Cannabiz Media is now tracking over 40,000 licenses across those 82 jurisdictions in the Cannabiz Media License Database, and you’ll be able to continue to rely on us to sort through these regulatory nightmares to bring comprehensive, timely and accurate license information to your marketing and sales efforts.
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.