The Colorado cannabis industry compliance regulatory landscape has changed dramatically over the last decade here in Colorado. Long gone are the backpack days, when anyone with a closet and a green thumb could cash in on the fledgling market.

Pre cannabis industry compliance

Retail cannabis sales for recreational use threw a whole new set of rules and regulations into the mix. For anyone who has worked in the industry and tried to maintain within marijuana grow compliance, it sometimes feels like the rules are written arbitrarily by people who have never worked in cannabis cultivation. Running a profitable grow and maintaining compliance along the way in an ever-shifting legal landscape is as challenging as it sounds.

Once upon a time, talented home growers could walk into a dispensary with absolute fire, and flip it on the spot for upwards of $4500 per pound. There were no safety checks, tests for pesticides, microbes or anything else for that matter. They were the days aptly labeled the wild west era of the Colorado cannabis industry. Those pre cannabis industry compliance days didn’t last long, and it was a miracle they happened at all.  New states hopping on the legalization bandwagon have bypassed that phase entirely and seemingly learned from Colorado’s mistakes.

The evolution of cannabis industry compliance

By late 2010, Colorado mandated that medical dispensaries grow at least 70 percent of the cannabis they sell. This forced dispensaries to hire growers of their own. Along with that came a slew of new cannabis grow rules, regulations and the modern era of compliance was born. Nowadays, every last detail of a grower’s day is mapped out. Each plant is tagged, numbered and monitored by the state. Every bag of waste is counted, weighed and the contents are shredded beyond recognition before disposal. Every step of the way, the eye of the Marijuana Enforcement Division documents everything.

There are a few cannabis industry compliance areas which all operations struggle with, and it isn’t really their fault. The vast amount of regulation hoisted upon this burgeoning industry is a lot, even for seasoned professionals to swallow. The biggest shortcomings of dispensaries are in the areas of physical inspection, security, licensing,  inventory and financial issues. Physical inspections are akin to the health inspector looking for cat fur at the neighborhood Chinese restaurant. Anyone who has worked in a service industry knows that inspectors always find something.

Security & inventory compliance

Security is a bane of every cannabis business owner. Adhering to the Marijuana Enforcement Division’s strict security regulations, which include specific numbers of cameras per facility in very specific locations, is no easy feat. Security compliance mostly revolves around documentation of who went where and when, and keeping logs on specific security activities.

When it comes to inventory, the Marijuana Enforcement Division has done everything they can to eliminate the possibility of a black market forming right out the back door of legal grow operations. Inventory compliance is one of the biggest concerns for dispensary and grow owners. Compliance errors involving innocent mistakes, such as placing a recreational plant in a medical room could result in an entire crop being destroyed. The government wants to know where all of the weed is all of the time, and has implemented a system to achieve just that.

Pesticide compliance

Lately, the trends in grow compliance have mostly fallen to the regulation of pesticides. Understanding pesticides is a complex topic, so to make it easy, the state issued a list of approved organic products. Here we are years after the list was finalized, yet business who are established and should know better, are continually getting busted using banned pesticides. This example alone shows the need for increased regulation and the need for every grower and dispensary owner to want to remain in compliance. The last thing we want is to fall victim to is a company that wants to take shortcuts with our health.

For more information on compliance within the Colorado cannabis industry, make sure to listen to The Real Dirt with Chip Baker episode featuring Matt Bickel of Bickel Consulting.

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