MJ Biz reports
It was down to the wire for some Massachusetts marijuana companies to meet a Jan. 1 deadline to train managers and employees under a new compliance and safety program that is the first of its kind in the nation.
The state’s Responsible Vendor Training Program is designed to support licensee compliance and enhance the safety of customers and employees.
Most cannabis businesses report they see the program as an investment in employees that also allows them to avoid large noncompliance fines.
However, required training on some topics might not pertain to all employees’ job duties, and some Massachusetts marijuana businesses point to the fact that people are being trained on state-mandated topics that don’t necessarily apply to their current job duties.
“We trained over 1,000 people between Oct. 16 and Dec. 30,” McNamara said. “We had three trainers on the ground, including me, leading classes all across Massachusetts, including Nantucket. We had an additional three trainers leading live webinar classes.”Marijuana training solutions provider Cannabis Trainers added three classes on Dec. 30 to ensure its clients met the deadline, said Maureen McNamara, founder of the Denver-based company.
What’s covered in the training?
In October, the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) gave four companies, including Cannabis Trainers, the greenlight to begin training. The selected companies offer interactive programs, either live or online, that provide instruction on:
- Operating in accordance with state laws, regulations and local rules.
- Seed-to-sale tracking compliance.
- Preventing diversion and sales to minors.
- The effects of cannabis on the human body.
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MA’s Cannabis Industry Compliance Training
As a state with both legal medical and recreational marijuana, Massachusetts is leading the way with new compliance practices.
On July 17, 2019 (and effective that day), the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission announced it would require all professionals in roles that directly handle or sell marijuana to complete the “Responsible Vendor” training.
More regulations impacting home delivery and places of consumption will be filed in Massachusetts in the fall of 2019, making it important for those in the cannabis industry to keep up with training trends and requirements.
Before looking more closely at Massachusetts’s “Responsible Vendor” training program requirement, let’s review the legal policies regarding medical and recreational marijuana that make this newly mandated training so important.
Massachusetts Medical & Recreational Marijuana Policy
Medical cannabis was legalized in 2012, and Massachusetts implemented clear policies on the list of qualifying conditions, establishing and demonstrating a bona fide relationship with a physician, the thorough assessment process and registration with Massachusetts’ Medical Use of Marijuana Program.
Patients can transport as much as their physician prescribes for a 60-day period; the maximum amount is ten (10) ounces, although physicians can recommend a higher amount depending on a patient’s needs.
If obtaining cannabis products from a dispensary creates hardship in terms of transportation, cost, or other obstacles, a physician can justify a higher prescription of cannabis for the 60-day period. Patients and caregivers can grow up to six (6) plants.
Recreational cannabis was legalized in 2016 for adults over the age of 21. An adult can possess one ounce and up to five (5) grams can be cannabis concentrate. At home, you can have ten (10) ounces and any cannabis produced by plants on your property. Adults can grow up to six (6) plants, but only three (3) can be flowering at once.
The recreational market went into effect on November 20, 2018, and the state is experiencing increased growth of recreational dispensaries. So, the need for “Responsible Vendor” training is growing and will help professionals in the cannabis industry to prepare employees for serving the public in these establishments.
Responsible Vendor Training Requirements
Many states are in the early stages of implementing “Responsible Vendor” training, whereas some states have implemented sophisticated training policies and systems in place such as Alaska’s Marijuana Handler Permit Training.
Several research studies of responsible vendor training programs point to the effectiveness of this training and it indicated employees found the training user-friendly and satisfying.
As the industry seeks more formalization and customization of training materials, such programs help professionalize the cannabis industry workforce as well as create new jobs for those who want to work on the compliance side of the cannabis industry.
Business owners feel their employees are more knowledgeable and better equipped to serve customers. Massachusetts is one of the first states to mandate a “Responsible Vendor” training for all employees in roles that involve “touching the plant.”
The Cannabis Control Commission, Massachusetts’ cannabis regulatory agency, will oversee this mandate and ensure companies are complying with this requirement. Cannabis industry workers must take this minimum two (2) hour “Responsible Vendor” training program and pass the certification exam with a score of 70% or higher.
Marijuana establishment staff will be required to complete at least two (2) hours of cannabis “Responsible Vendor” training as part of the State of Massachusetts’ annual, eight (8) hour general training minimum required of agents who are registered to operate in the adult-use industry.
All owners, managers, and employees that are involved in the handling and sale of marijuana will be required to attend training through a certified provider within 90 days of hire. The certification is good for one (1) year, and after this point, employees must recertify annually.
Workers in ancillary cannabis businesses can opt to take the training, although it is not required for those not directly handling or selling marijuana. You can click through to read more specific details about the requirements of the MA’s Cannabis Control Commission’s 935 CMR 500.105(2)(b) Responsible Vendor Program.
This compliance training can be offered online or live, and it covers from seed to sale tracking compliance, preventing sales of cannabis products to minors, knowledge of state laws and local rules, and a general understanding of the effects of cannabis on wellness and the human body.
To meet industry needs created by this new compliance policy, Massachusetts cannabis businesses will be hiring trainers to deliver Responsible Vendor Training. These Responsible Vendor trainers may not be affiliated with applicants or licensees as well so there is a legal requirement for there to be a distinction between them