Illinois, NY Officials to cannabis industry: Work with us on new regulations

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Cannabis companies and their investors have a chance to help design the regulatory framework in their nascent industry if they’re willing to help government in that effort, policymakers from New York and Illinois said Tuesday.

Illinois State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, who was the chief sponsor of the measure that Illinois lawmakers passed this year legalizing adult, non-medical use of cannabis, and Axel Bernabe, an assistant counsel to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, urged players in the industry to continue to engage in the process as other states consider the industry’s future.

Speaking on a panel at the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference that was moderated by attorney Douglas Mains, Cassidy said she expected more pushback from the industry on the state’s stringent regulatory structure, but found that operators “like it — because it’s certainty.”

Participate In Process

As New York considers regulations for legalization there, officials have learned from other states to work with the industry, Bernabe said. It’s new, and regulators don’t know it as well as the companies do, he said. 

“What we learned from Colorado was [to use] that stakeholder involvement, bring people in from industry, consumer groups, patients,” Bernabe said, urging the industry to take advantage of that and participate in the process.

Vaping Crisis

Cassidy and Bernabe also said regulators are closely watching a separate but potentially related issue: the health crisis roiling the vaping industry.

The CDC has said more than 30 people have died and more than 1,000 have been sickened with lung problems related to vaping. Several states have reacted quickly, with some issuing complete bans on the product.

“The vaping crisis is the best argument for regulation,” said Cassidy, a Democrat who represents northside Chicago neighborhoods in the Illinois House.

Bernabe said problems with vaping are an issue the cannabis industry and those pursuing state legalization efforts need to consider as they move forward.

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