Transparency in the marijuana industry is essential for growth and to remove any stigmas associated with it. However, transparency is not the norm among Pennsylvania marijuana license applicants. Recently, Reading Eagle investigative journalist Nicole C. Brambila revealed just how much information the states marijuana license applicants are trying to keep private, and it’s likely to surprise you.
Brambila’s investigation revealed that there is really no rhyme or reason to what information businesses applying for marijuana licenses in the state are trying to keep private based on the varied redactions made in their license applications. Since the Pennsylvania Department of Health allowed applicants to submit two versions of each application (one without redactions for the evaluation committee and one with redactions of their choosing for the public), self-redacting was allowed to happen without limits. Some businesses took it to the extreme.
For example, some applicants redacted the business name, address, applicant signatures, distance from health care centers, and even the impact the business would have on the community – information that residents are likely to want to know. But the redactions often went to the extreme. Brambila reports several examples:
- Healing II LLC redacted nearly all 186 pages of its grower application.
- Mission Pennsylvania II LLC redacted its company name from its application.
- Franklin BioScience-Penn LLC, redacted more than 24 page numbers from its application for a dispensary license.
- SMPB Retail LLC redacted all 13 pages that explain how the business will impact the community where it will operate.
The Problem with a Lack of Transparency in the Marijuana Industry
When the marijuana industry operates without as much transparency as possible, an industry that already fights to gain legitimacy in the public eye must fight even harder. Naturally, people wonder what businesses are trying to hide when they fail to disclose information, particularly when that information doesn’t reveal any competitive secrets or other sensitive information. In other words, excessive self-redacting leads to suspicion and many questions.
Additionally, the lack of transparency in the marijuana industry can impede states’ marijuana programs. We’ve already seen this happen in Maryland where lawsuits related to licenses delayed the full launch of the state’s marijuana program. Now, Pennsylvanians are concerned that the self-redacting of marijuana license applications and the many questions the process has generated will lead to lawsuits which will delay the state’s program from launching.
Unfortunately, lawsuits seem inevitable. The Pennsylvania Department of Health claims that they’re not responsible for what applicants redact – only for the additional redactions that the agency added to applications. However, Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law might not agree. Some attorneys are already weighing in on the matter saying the redactions go beyond what the state’s Right-to-Know Law allows.
Cannabiz Media’s Ed Keating put together a list of best practices for state disclosure of marijuana license information. If all states agreed to disclose information following these best practices, the public would have the transparency it requires to help legitimize the industry, a number of barriers to growth would be eliminated, and many lawsuits that delay marijuana programs would be avoided.
How do you feel about the unlimited redacting of marijuana license applications? Leave a comment and share your thoughts about transparency in the marijuana industry, particularly related to business license applications.
Susan Gunelius, Lead Analyst for Cannabiz Media and author of Marijuana Licensing Reference Guide: 2017 Edition, is also President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company offering, copywriting, content marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, and strategic branding services. She spent the first half of her 25-year career directing marketing programs for AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more as well as small businesses around the world. Susan has written 11 marketing-related books, including the highly popular Content Marketing for Dummies, 30-Minute Social Media Marketing, Kick-ass Copywriting in 10 Easy Steps, The Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing, and she is a popular marketing and branding keynote speaker. She is also a Certified Career Coach and Founder and Editor in Chief of Women on Business, an award-winning blog for business women. Susan holds a B.S. in marketing and an M.B.A in management and strategy.