Laura Harris directed the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division when all the state knew was the medical market. Now she's joining the Colorado Cannabis Chamber of Commerce (C4) to help businesses work with legislators and understand the laws put in place.
C4 is a nonprofit chamber of cannabis businesses that focuses on policies at the state and local levels of government. It works with companies to help understand cannabis policies and compliance, and provides a forum where industry leaders can meet and be exposed to the goods and services that others in the field are providing.
Harris says that judging from her experience leading the state's marijuana enforcement division, cannabis businesses have no problems with compliance — as long as the rules are understandable.
"This industry is faced with extreme rule-making, whether it's about testing, labeling or packaging," she says. "Public-safety concerns are concerns of the industry."
But good intentions are not enough; cannabis businesses must conform to new and sometimes extreme laws at a moment's notice. Last October the state changed the regulations with regard to edibles, enforcing new rules that required companies to have the THC icon on every individual piece instead of just the packaging.
Many companies jumped through hoops to create new molds for their candies and chocolates, and in some cases were forced to eliminate entire product lines.
Then in December, the DEA required CBD businesses to register with a new federal code, something the medical side of the industry didn't have to worry about before.
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More than most, Harris is uniquely qualified to help businesses cope with and understand changing regulations. She aided the Colorado government when it set up regulations for medical marijuana and ran the marijuana enforcement division until 2013, when the systems for recreational sales were being implemented.
"This is near to my heart because of that initial struggle in setting up the medical marijuana infrastructure," Harris says.
But Harris thinks C4 is about more than helping businesses understand the laws. In this industry in particular, she says, it's important for cannabis businesses to feel like they have a place to belong.
"I think they need somewhere to go to feel they are a legitimate business and enjoy the things other legitimate industries take for granted," she concludes.