The first annual FLDI Cannabis Conference was held in Washington D.C. on November 2nd. What made this cannabis conference unique for me was not the content or the speakers but the audience attending. I have been part of the cannabis industry for the past four years, from the start of recreational sales in Colorado in 2014, and I have attended many cannabis conferences. They are normally attended by science researchers and cannabis industry people.
However, the FDLI Cannabis Conference was attended by representatives of US federal agencies such as FDA, USDA, Department of Health and Human Services, NIDA, NIH, lobbying groups, think tanks, various large corporations both inside and outside (pharma and tobacco) of the current cannabis businesses and many attorneys. Unfortunately, there was very little industry representation.
The speakers and topics offered both scientific data from published studies and opinions of how the US federal government might regulate cannabis at some point in the future. There was a discussion of legalities currently in place and international treaties that prohibit the DEA from de-scheduling cannabis and hemp on a federal level. I think the industry would have benefited from participating in these discussions and providing their perspectives.
A very useful speaker was a researcher from University of Colorado who detailed the obstacles in her path to performing accredited, scientifically recognized research with cannabis when she only has one source of cannabis plant material, cannot use the university’s pharmacy department storage facilities or their brainpower and experience and cannot administer medication and must trust her subjects to report their use accurately. Study approval is by DEA and NIDA and often takes years to receive. It is commonly recognized that the US has fallen behind in the research and commercialization of cannabis. Israel is the global leader of cannabis research, while Canada leads in the commercialization of cannabis through federal legalization.
This is the only conference that I am aware of that has presented information about cannabis to federal agency representatives, which is a historic first. That said, the information was somewhat one-sided as it appeared those who currently own cannabis companies and work in the industry did not attend this conference. The FDLI Cannabis Conference is a wonderful opportunity to educate both the agencies that would regulate cannabis in addition to the industry on the regulatory issues and challenges. Only if the industry and regulators come together to discuss these very complex issues can progress be made. Perhaps we will see more industry participation next year.
There has been much discussion for the past year regarding the need for the US to find a federally legal way to ensure the safety of consumers and patients who use cannabis through some type of regulation while leaving the choice of participation to individual states. This past election saw the number of recreational states increase to 10 and medical states to 33. It appears that the time will be sooner rather than later, so hopefully, this conference is only the first which attempts to bring all of the parties together to engage in open dialogue to move these issues forward. As we move closer to federal GMP regulations, EAS Consulting Group will be ready to assist the cannabis industry with quality system implementation, laboratory operations, training, procedures and other compliance-related issues that they may face.