The early days of the cannabis industry are far behind us, and that means more brands are entering the field. As the competition heats up, cannabis is coming into its own as a powerful industry. But, as with any powerful industry, intellectual property (IP) is a concern.
IP is essential to keeping a business safe from competitors, particularly if the business has formulated a popular edible recipe or a new cannabis strain. The problem is, cannabis is a consumable product. Don’t consumers have a right to know what’s going into their bodies? How do we draw the line between IP and the public’s right to know?
Maine is experiencing its own hostile battle over cannabis IP and transparency. Maine legislators want to pass a law, called LD 2091, that would exempt cannabis trade secrets from Maine public records. Specifically, LD 2091 would exempt security procedures, operations, and all other trade secrets from public records.
It’s worth noting that LD 2091 would also call for:
Licenses for labs to gather cannabis samples.
Hiding plants from public view at indoor grow facilities.
Designating alcohol extraction as a dangerous process.
Maine legislators and cannabis businesses claim LD 2091 would protect cannabis companies from the competition. They argue it’s essential to guard product details as well as prevent security breaches. Although LD 2091 doesn’t exempt financial information, some cannabis companies are asking lawmakers to exempt financial data from the public record, too.
Consumers, on the other hand, say LD 2091 goes against Maine’s promise for a transparent cannabis industry. There are also legitimate health concerns with cannabis products, which means LD 2091 may harm consumers’ trust in the products they’ve been purchasing.
Maine isn’t the only state struggling. California, Pennsylvania, and many other states are grappling in a tug of war between transparency and privacy.
More likely than not, Maine’s LD 2091 will have to find common ground. For example, the final bill may exempt companies’ security operations, but not the names of the business owners.
Even if Maine operators push LD 2091 through as-is, there’s still promise on the horizon for consumers. In December 2019, MJBizCon announced that an Organic certification is in the works for cannabis products. This official certification will take six months to roll out, but it could help bridge the gap between consumer needs and cannabis industry IP.
There’s no perfect solution to the problem, and each state will have to grapple with transparency concerns. Time will tell how this affects the cannabis industry as a whole across the US.
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