Within the past few weeks, unified cannabis legalization across the northeastern states of the U.S. took a step closer to reality when the governors and top legislators from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island came together at the Regional Cannabis Regulation and Vaping Summit on October 17th.
Organized by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, the goal of the summit was to explore creating uniform standards to guide the five states’ cannabis legalization and commercialization efforts going forward.
The summit ended with all five governors agreeing to a set of core principles to roll out adult-use cannabis across the states. The principles cover:
- Market Regulation and Empowerment: Including tax structures, social justice, social equity, banking, licensing, and more
- Public Health: Including product potency, testing, contamination, advertising, sales, education, and more.
- Public Safety and Enforcement: Including traffic safety, law enforcement measures, training, information sharing, and more.
- Vaping: Including safety standards, enforcement and investigative actions, advertising, and more.
If the states move forward with a Northeast cannabis legalization bloc, they could successfully navigate many of the challenges that fragmented state-to-state laws are already causing in the region and in numerous other parts of the country.
Consider this – it’s very easy for a large number of people in smaller northeastern states to cross borders and buy cannabis, particularly by going into Massachusetts where recreational cannabis is legal. Surrounding states in the northeast region are motivated to create uniform rules in order to keep more of the sales, tax revenue, and economic development within their borders.
The question is whether or not they’ll be able to agree to a single set of laws when they have competing interests and priorities. The desire is there, but will it come to fruition in a way that everyone will be on board with?
Only time will tell, but we do know that northeast cannabis legalization could have very positive effects to the marketing mix for businesses and consumers in participating states. Let’s take a closer look.
Uniform rules across New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Rhode Island could bring a better selection of products to consumers as well as safer products. When all cultivators, processors, manufacturers, retailers, and testing labs have to play by the same rules, the hope is they’ll focus on developing the best products without worrying about losing sales to competitors across the border who may be subject to looser regulations.
Furthermore, imagine that edibles are legal in Pennsylvania but not in New Jersey. It’s highly likely that consumers from New Jersey will travel to Pennsylvania to purchase edibles and bring them back into New Jersey illegally. That doesn’t happen when the same types of products are offered in all participating states.
When products are legal across the Northeast, they’re more accessible to everyone in the region, and when the distribution rules are the same in each state and for each cannabis business, consumers benefit from access and an open market.
In addition, if all participating states ensure that social equity programs and small and diverse business participation initiatives are enacted, there will be less of a chance for monopolies or oligopolies to develop. As a result, consumers should have wider access to cannabis retailers and products.
Ideally, medical marijuana rules would be uniform across states as well, which would allow true reciprocity and optimize accessibility for patients across the Northeast.
The core principles agreed to at the October 17th summit include guidelines related to tax structures, banking, production, and cultivation. If implemented effectively, these guidelines could streamline business operations across the cannabis supply chain. Ultimately, businesses will save money, and those savings should trickle down to consumers in the form of lower prices.
Price could also have a positive effect in reducing illegal cannabis sales. In the best case scenario, lower prices for legal cannabis products would motivate consumers to make purchases through legal channels rather than the black market.
The October summit guidelines also include restrictions related to advertising, packaging, and branding that would put all cannabis businesses on a level playing field when it comes to promotion.
For example, the core principles prohibit advertising, products, and packaging that target youth. In addition, uniform guidelines related to warning labels and icons, standardized dosing and serving sizes, maximum possession amounts, and THC limits mean businesses would face the same conditions when promoting their products.
Key Takeaways about Northeast Cannabis Legalization
Of course, none of these benefits are guaranteed to come to fruition even if the core principles developed at the October summit lead to Northeast cannabis legalization.
However, if the Northeast cannabis legalization bloc dissolves, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo expects that legalization will see a domino effect in the region. Once one of these states legalizes adult-use cannabis, the others will be very likely to follow. Whether they do it together or not remains to be seen.
One thing is certain, Cannabiz Media will be tracking all of the cannabis licenses in the Northeast and across the U.S. and international markets in the Cannabiz Media License Database. Follow the link to schedule a free demo of the Cannabiz Media License Database and learn what it can do for you and your business.
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.