The final Cannabis Control Board meeting of 2023 started 20 minutes late and, right off the bat, there was discontent among the Board.
The Dec. 29 meeting kicked off with a “point of order,” during which Board member Jennifer Gilbert Jenkins, who noted that she was on vacation with her family, expressed confusion and frustration about why a last-minute meeting was scheduled on the last Friday of the year.
The agenda included only two items, neither of which, she noted, were time-sensitive. One resolution would allow two existing medical cannabis operators — Fiorello Pharmaceuticals, Inc and Citiva Medical, LLC — to expand to serve the adult use market. Another resolution would license additional testing labs. While this resolution ultimately passed, the expansion of the medical operators did not.
“We’re being asked to consider things that we could easily be considering in our January board meeting in two weeks. And there are emergency things that we could be talking about, like the push that people are asking us to consider: extending the grower showcase,” Gilbert Jenkins said, referring to a temporary program that provided a shot in the arm for cannabis growers while legal shops have been slow to open. The program ended on Dec. 31, but cultivators and lawmakers have pushed for an extension.
Gilbert Jenkins pushed about why, specifically, Board members were called for the meeting, which did not include public comment, and she asked for the rules around who decides when the Board should meet, and why.
“We can’t just be pushed from outside forces to say ‘you need to meet now because you have to do this for us.’ I’m sorry, I don’t work that way,” Gilbert Jenkins said.
Board Chair Tremaine Wright responded that there is a “lack of process” around meeting procedures.
“Currently, we’re being pulled in many different directions by many different interests and we need to be clear about how we operate and what we’re going to do and when we’re going to do it,” Wright said.
Adam Perry repeatedly interjected to try to steer the Board back to only addressing items on the agenda.
There was another point of discord when Gilbert Jenkins asked whether the medical operators on the agenda who were seeking adult use approval had answered Board members’ questions about whether they had any agreements in the works to buy cannabis from farmers.
Chris Alexander, executive director of the Office of Cannabis Management, said that any such agreements ahead of their approval to expand would be “illegal.”
“Transactions don’t begin overnight. They don’t begin after the fact,” Wright responded, pushing back. “We have a triggering event happening at this meeting and it is extremely commonplace.”
Alexander tried to jump in.
“The chair has not acknowledged you,” Wright said to Alexander. “Please refrain.”
Wright asked Alexander, again, for clarification, and referenced “assertions that were being made that this was somehow going to benefit people that are not actually part of this transaction or any transaction that we know of.”
“The question that we are really trying to get to is: has any of the information been disseminated?” she asked.
“Madam chair, it would be illegal for a Registered Organization that does not have the authority to purchase product from the adult use market to have created, prepared, and executed an agreement with the Conditional Cultivator,” Alexander responded.
“There is no transaction documents in anticipation, and that’s fine. If that is the answer, that is the answer. But that is the answer: that there’s nothing in place,” Wright said.
There was more pressing, from both Wright and Gilbert Jenkins, about what specifically prompted the emergency meeting, and why it couldn’t wait, while Alexander gave procedural answers.
Wright then asked specifically for the “actual point of contact” for Conditional Adult Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) licensees who are trying to get their stores open. CAURD licensees are “justice-involved,” and either have a cannabis conviction or a close family member with one. People have commented at multiple regulatory meetings that communication is severely lacking, and that many times, emails just go unanswered.
Alexander suggested that CAURD licensees are “currently in regular communication with the licensing team,” and gave the address email@example.com. Alexander gave a brief update, including 12 new licenses that regulators issued last week after inspections were completed. Regulators are also, he said, reviewing locations that have been secured to make sure that they meet the proximity rules.
Wright then gave an example and laid out that someone involved in an enforcement matter emailed her and said they had emailed and called “endlessly” but were getting nowhere.
“There is a consistent concern about how people contact us. So I’m asking you,” Wright said to Alexander.
“There’s not a single contact for enforcement matters,” Alexander responded, and he noted that if someone receives an enforcement notice on their door, that it includes an email and phone number for the appropriate administrative law judge.
Gilbert Jenkins again asked why the meeting was called with only the two agenda items.
“The optics of this, to me, are that we are going outside of our way to help a small group of people and not others. And that I find very problematic,” Gilbert Jenkins said.
The meeting wrapped with a brief report from Alexander, which included some data.
Regulators have received, for the adult use licensing window that just ended on December 18, just under 7,000 applications.
“We are just starting and there’s a lot of space left for more folks to come in and so we’re working to notify everybody of that opportunity,” Alexander said.