A newly formed cannabis organization is pledging to provide a fresh avenue to promote industry standards in a way that it hopes will align advocates, stakeholders, regulators and government bodies behind reform.
The nonprofit S3 Collective is co-founded by David Vaillencourt, who’s served as vice chair of a cannabis-focused committee of the standards organization ASTM International. S3, accordingly, stands for Standards, Science and Safety.
While there’s no deficit of marijuana advocacy and trade groups working on reform issues, the mission behind S3 is to fill a “major gap” that still exists by collecting and disseminating the “objective, trusted data and solutions” that advocates can then “use to their advantage to help push a harmonized framework” and advance their own efforts, Vaillencourt told Marijuana Moment.
Having science-based, unified industry standards would also help align the marijuana market with the vast majority of other industries that operate under shared sets of principles, he said.
Case in point: advocates are working to bring on more state regulators to adopt a universal marijuana packaging symbol, spearheaded by Doctors for Drug Policy Reform (DDPR) and ASTM International, so that there’s consistency in marijuana product labeling across state markets, instead of the existing patchwork.
The symbol is a “perfect example of one basic standard that’s market relevant and allows consumers to know what’s in their products, and it allows industry to be standardized,” Vaillencourt said.
This kind of work builds on what he’s helped to achieve with ASTM, getting the National Conference on Weights and Measures (NCWM) to adopt national standards for cannabis packaging, labeling and storage that are being incorporated into a federal handbook.
Beyond helping to identify and establish those standards, S3 sees itself as uniquely positioned as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that does not lobby and can provide unbiased information to government entities that are dealing with reform issues like the ongoing administrative scheduling review into marijuana’s status under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has already carried out its own scientific assessment and advised the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to move cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III.
Once DEA makes its determination and opens the issue up to public comment, however, there’s expected to be a groundswell of input from a multitudes of sources. Advocacy and industry groups will no doubt contribute—but S3 says it plans to provide a much-needed scientific perspective, without having a direct financial incentive in the scheduling outcome.
With a team of scientists and technical experts based at universities and in private practice, the aim is to have S3 “contribute to creating a comprehensive scientific response [to DEA] that will support the findings of the FDA.”
Being able to “correct any misinformation” that comes out of the public comment period—for example, from prohibitionist groups that have already started pushing DEA to reject the HHS rescheduling recommendation—will “demonstrate why this is so critical,” Vaillencourt said.
Another aspect of the S3 Collective’s mission is to find mutual partners in the advocacy and trade spaces, including a number of major groups that have signed on to a new pledge letter which lays out shared ideological principles.
The signatories include American Trade Association for Cannabis and Hemp (ATACH), DDPR, NORML, National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), Coalition for Cannabis Policy, Education, and Regulation (CPEAR) and more.
“In the dynamic landscape of the cannabis industry, the undersigned associations collectively recognize the imperative need for a functional, safe, and reliable marketplace for cannabis and cannabinoid products,” the letter says. “This can only be realized through unity, collaboration, and a deep commitment to ethical, scientific, and sustainable principles.”
Vaillencourt said that the idea behind the letter is meant to show that while the groups “don’t have to agree” about every facet of cannabis reform, they’re “agreeing to have a conversation” about the broader stakes.
“Until you’re willing to have a conversation at the table, we can’t understand and work to align and harmonize together,” he said. “That’s critical. Philosophically, all of these entities agree on the principles. That means we actually have agreement and you start there.”
Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.
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