Navigating Marijuana Business Violations: Handle With Care

As marijuana enforcement officers are getting more comfortable with their roles, they are stepping up their efforts of ensuring that marijuana businesses are in full compliance with all applicable rules. What this means for your business is that the odds just keep going up that you will likely get called out for a compliance violation. We have written previously (here and here) about what marijuana businesses should do to avoid compliance citations, but this post is on what marijuana businesses should do after receiving such a citation.Marijuana Citation

Let’s start with what not to do, which list includes the following:

  • Do not argue with the enforcement officer issuing the citation. This is virtually guaranteed not to help you and it could very well end up hurting you.
  • Do not call anyone from the state to try to explain why you violated anything or to try to explain how you were not in violation. Again, this can only hurt you.
  • Do not ignore the citation. There are important time-intensive deadlines and policies and procedures that are enclosed with the notice of violation and failing to follow them will only compound your problem.
The best way to defend against a compliance citation is to gather up all relevant and exculpatory evidence and present that truthfully and calmly and persuasively at your settlement conference or hearing. In most situations this will mean that you should work with your attorney on the following:
  1. Establishing your record of compliance with the rules overall. If you can show that you have done your best to try to comply and that the citation against you was for something out of the ordinary, you will likely do better with the state.
  2. Provide an audit trail demonstrating that you have a strong working knowledge of the rules and that you care about compliance. Typically this will include safety inspections, compliance check-ins, and workplace policies focused on compliance. A good audit trail can also often be used as a mitigation factor to reduce your penalties.
  3. If you received a written warning before you received the formal notice of violation, you are going to want to show the efforts you made to try to cure the problem for which you received the warning.
  4. Provide evidence of the efforts you undertook to comply with the rule for which you were cited.
  5. Research and then make any good legal arguments about how the rule you allegedly violated should be interpreted according to the specific agency’s rule-making history and day-to-day business.
No matter how insignificant you consider your violation, you should do whatever you can to try to get the violation thrown out or the penalties reduced. Any citation that sticks will be a mark against you and enough of those marks can lead to your license being suspended or revoked.
Bottom Line: Do what you can every day to prevent compliance citations and, if you get one, do what you can to get it dismissed or its severity reduced as soon as possible.