NCIA Releases Whitepaper Providing Guidance On Federal Cannabis Regulation

NCIA Releases Whitepaper Providing Guidance On Federal Cannabis Regulation

The National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) published a whitepaper on October 1, urging Congress to deschedule cannabis and oversee it with current regulatory infrastructure. The NCIA whitepaper provides guidance to the federal government on how to regulate cannabis at the federal level, discussing in-depth processes such as removing outdated regulation, establishing new rules, and breaks the delivery methods down into segments.

“The paper highlights the need to have a clearly defined regulatory approach and structure prepared as the nation moves closer to making cannabis legal for adults, and identifies the existing agencies best suited to regulate the wide variety of cannabis products available in state-regulated legal cannabis markets,” read an NCIA press release related to the document.

Along with discussing the regulatory framework, the paper also includes a social equity component. Interestingly enough, the NCIA is based in Colorado, and the state recently passed Senate Bill 224, which would issue social equity cannabis business licenses. It appears the state is unified — at least legislatively — with keeping social equity as it relates to the cannabis industry a priority.

The current climate is unsustainable. On one hand, cannabis is by the feds an illegal narcotic. Meanwhile, 33 states have legalized cannabis, and the end result is major fixer-upper: a confusing marketplace with little consumer protection. The NCIA document breaks down the industry into areas that need the most work, specifically discussing removing the outdated regulatory structure and establishing a new regulatory framework.

The document outlines the belief that the proposed system would also maximize regulatory certainty, protecting orderly markets while recognizing that the established and untaxed black market is more apt to dissolve gradually over a period of time with the creation of a legal market wary of overregulation. This includes creating regulations to facilitate interstate cannabis commerce. The whitepaper recommends that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) are the agencies best suited to regulate cannabis, based on their extensive experience in creating safe and predictable markets for regulated consumer products.

The NCIA’s unique four-lane approach groups cannabis products into different regulatory lanes and each is subject to specific regulations, based on specific public policy issues addressed by each particular group. According to the NCIA, the four-lane structure allows for proper controls and retail restrictions on products with intoxicating effects, while allowing for greater accessibility by the consumer to non-intoxicating cannabinoid-containing products.

Lane #1: Pharmaceutical Drugs

This includes all products approved under the classification of pharmaceutical drugs by the FDA. These products would be regulated by the FDA and sales would follow the existing protocol of the pharmaceutical model — by prescription and over the counter.  

Lane #2: Ingested, Inhaled or Topically Applied THC Products

Products in this lane contain more than a minute amount of THC and include items not regulated through Lane #1. Products in this lane would be treated similar to alcohol, and most products currently sold through state recreational use or medical marijuana programs would be regulated in this lane.

Lane #3: Ingested and Inhaled Cannabinoid Products with Low/No THC

Products in this category would include minimal THC concentration cannabinoid products inhaled or consumed orally. These products would be regulated by the FDA in a manner similar to food and dietary supplements and have specific label requirements. Sales of these products would be allowed anywhere food or dietary supplements are currently available and would not require a special retail license.

Lane #4: Topically Applied Low-THC Products

This category of products would be regulated by the FDA and include topical cannabinoid products (lotions, creams, balms) with minimal THC concentrations. Sales of lane #4 products would be allowed where cosmetics are sold and without a special retail license.

“As a country, we are starting to move past whether we should end cannabis prohibition, and need to put serious consideration into how we do that and what a post-legalization world looks like in terms of federal regulatory policy,” says Aaron Smith, executive director at NCIA, in a press release. “The recommendations outlined in this report build on successful methodologies by assigning regulatory duties to existing agencies while avoiding restrictions that would not be appropriate for cannabis as well as some of the missteps that have occurred with other products. We look forward to working with Congress to overturn our outdated federal marijuana laws and begin implementing this structure to help ensure public safety and displace the illicit cannabis market.”

About Brian Ellis

With 6 years' experience in business journalism, Brian is the person we turn to for anything related to the business of cannabis. His news coverage spans topics including marijuana business and finance. Brian's work features on, and