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Legalize it? Regulate it!

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We are entering a new era of innovation, disruption and change. The very “norms” of how we live, travel and use energy are changing. Some of these changes are technologically-driven; e.g. ride- and home-sharing platforms such as Uber and Airbnb, or solar panels and their next generation, solar roofs. And some are cultural shifts—ten years ago we were telling kids not to talk to strangers online or get into unknown cars. Today, we casually hop into the car of a stranger we are connected to through an app and trust they will take us to our desired destination.

Emerging responses

While the sharing economy provides convenience and progress for many, it can also be quite challenging for government agencies to navigate. Across the country, the fight to determine how or if these changes will take permanent hold in our society continues to be waged. In fact, governments swing wildly on the spectrum—some are choosing to not engage on these emerging issues, others are eagerly embracing them, and a few are enthusiastically banning them. Perhaps most interesting in this evolution today, a fourth group is emerging in parallel, namely those government agencies that are forging a middle ground with balanced and reasonable regulation.

Hot issues

When asked about top 2017 regulatory challenges in a recent survey, state and local government officials perhaps unsurprisingly named the sharing economy first. However, as a majority of citizens today support decriminalization if not legalization of cannabis, according to a national poll, cannabis regulation came in a close second. And indeed, 2016 was a watershed year in the voting booth—of the nine states where the issue was on the ballot, all but one flipped on recreational and medical cannabis*.

“Cannabis tech”

In and around the production, distribution and sale of cannabis, a whole a new market for technology has emerged. Citizens, entrepreneurs and established businesses are looking to take advantage of modern platforms, systems and processes to navigate the necessary red tape, as easily as possible. They’ll want to apply and pay online, they’ll want a streamlined and transparent permitting process, and they’ll want opportunities for accessible and open public comment. All eyes will be on regulators as they navigate these uncharted waters. Choosing proven, secure information management systems designed specifically for these new civic and business processes, therefore, will be vital to success.

Denver, CO review

At Accela, we have been empowering agencies to be successful in regulating and managing cannabis for years. The City and County of Denver, for instance, an early adopter of our cannabis licensing solution, wanted to address the exponential increase in cannabis applications and public record requests after legalizing recreational use in 2012. By streamlining cross-agency data sharing and moving all 100 different record types to a single database, Denver lowered the application processing time from weeks to days, an estimated savings of $3.5M over five years. The State of Colorado, on the other hand, saw sales of $1.3B and raised almost $130M in tax revenue.

Next stop: CA

In addition to Denver, we’re proud that the State of California, which legalized recreational cannabis use this past November, has now chosen Accela to manage their cannabis licensing. As the largest state in the country by population, economy and budget, the Golden State is often seen as a tipping point for policy across states, and we look forward to partnering with them to address the challenges of regulating a new industry with the best in modern technology.


*Please note that Accela does not take a stance on whether cannabis should or shouldn’t be legalized—these questions, like all policy, are best left to the people and their governments to answer. However we support smart regulation as a way to best protect communities.

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Max Schnoedl serves as Accela's Chief Operating Officer, overseeing Product, Sales, Delivery, Marketing and Accela's General Managers. Prior to his current role, Max served as Accela's Chief Financial Officer and led the company's executive committee, focusing on strategic growth priorities. Previously, Max served as Executive Vice President of Corporate Development, raising $200+M capital and leading the acquisitions of numerous civic tech companies.


Before joining Accela, Max served as Vice President at Deutsche Bank San Francisco and helped software companies accelerate growth. Previously, Max worked with Deutsche Bank in New York and Frankfurt as Vice President in Group Strategy, and in Regional Management in Moscow, Russia. Max started his career in government, as a cabinet member of Austria’s Federal Minister of Science.


Max holds a Ph.D. from the University of Vienna, Austria, and an M.B.A. from Harvard University. He also serves on the Board of BRZ GmbH, a leading European e-government provider with €250+m in revenue.

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Guest Sunday, 19 February 2017