Year in Review: 5 regulatory licensing themes in 2022
Year in Review
Every day of the year, Ascend Magazine tracks new and ongoing news, issues, and events in regulatory licensing and digital government. We went through all the stories in 2022 to bring you the five biggest themes we saw throughout the year.

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As subscribers to our weekly recap of the biggest headlines in regulation will know, 2022 saw no shortage of news around regulatory licensing and digital government. But what were some of the biggest recurring themes of the year? To answer that question, we combed through hundreds of news stories about regulatory issues from the U.S., Canada, and around the world. Here, we bring you the five biggest themes in regulation and licensing from 2022.

Legalization of recreational cannabis continues across U.S., while some states pause licensing to address market issues 

With roughly two-thirds of Americans now in support of legalizing recreational marijuana, legalization of adult-use cannabis continued at the state level throughout the U.S. in 2022. Rhode Island became the 19th state to end cannabis prohibition in May when Gov. Dan McKee signed the Rhode Island Cannabis Act into law, and residents in Maryland and Missouri voted in favor of legalizing adult-use cannabis during the November midterm elections.

However, voters in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Arkansas rejected similar ballot measures and despite strong support for marijuana legalization among Delaware residents, the latest legalization attempts in the state failed when Gov. John Carney vetoed a bill to allow possession and sharing of cannabis for adults 21 and over in May.  

Elsewhere, some states with mature cannabis markets introduced moratoriums on licensing this year as they address various issues within the industry. Earlier this year, Oregon issued a two-year moratorium on applications for producer, processor, wholesaler, and retailer licenses submitted after Jan. 1, 2022 to help cultivators struggling financially due to overproduction and depressed prices. And Oklahoma – which has a booming medical marijuana market and may legalize recreational cannabis in 2023 – enacted a nearly two-year moratorium on new medical marijuana grower, processing, and dispensary licenses in August to allow the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA) to work through a licensing backlog and raise business compliance levels with state regulations.  

Health care labor shortages continue across Canada and the U.S., spurring innovative licensing changes 

COVID-19 gradually receded from most people’s everyday lives in 2022, but its impacts continue to be felt in our health care systems, which are bracing for another busy winter as respiratory illnesses surge. Staff shortages in health care – particularly doctors and nurses, but also lab workers, paramedics, and others – have persisted throughout the U.S. and Canada this year, threatening access to care for patients and causing the intermittent closure of dozens of emergency departments across Canada.  

Staff shortages were called the top patient safety concern in the U.S., but the situation has become a full-blown crisis in Canada, where millions of Canadians are currently without a family doctor and stories of patients waiting hours or traveling hundreds of kilometers away from home to receive medical treatment have become too common. 

To help bolster their health care workforces, several provincial governments have been working with regulatory authorities to streamline their licensing processes to help international professionals or those wishing to practice in other provinces get to work faster. Ontario is moving forward with a proposal from the College of Nurses of Ontario that will expedite licensing for internationally educated nurses by allowing them to be temporarily registered while they go through the full registration process, which could potentially help 5,970 active international applicants currently living in the province.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, the provincial government is working collaboratively with the College of Physicians and Surgeons to reduce red tape and long wait times in the licensing processes for doctors from other provinces as well as some other countries with similar standards of care, such as the U.S. Although the new rules won’t apply to internationally trained physicians who don’t meet Canadian standards, the province is also trying to make it easier for those doctors to obtain the training required for licensing. In addition to these changes, the government announced it will cover the licensing fees of Ukrainian doctors wishing to practice in the province and provide them with additional support throughout the licensing process.  

License portability efforts continue throughout the U.S. as more states join interstate compacts, pursue universal licensing 

As labor shortages plagued various sectors – beyond health care – during the pandemic, states sought to find ways they could streamline licensing to attract skilled workers to their states, and this trend continued throughout 2022. Interstate compacts have continued to expand as one way to provide enhanced mobility and flexibility for professionals.

In August, Delaware became the 17th state to enter the Interstate Counseling Compact when Gov. Carney signed SB 257 into law. Other states that joined the compact this year include North Carolina, New Hampshire, Ohio, Colorado, Louisiana, Tennessee, Nebraska, Kentucky, Florida, Maine, West Virginia, Mississippi, and Alabama. In a move forward for license mobility in Connecticut, the state adopted the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact (IMLC) as well as the Psychology Interjurisdictional Compact (PSYPACT) in October. Other states that enacted PSYPACT legislation in 2022 were Idaho, Indiana, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Washington, Indiana, and Wisconsin.  

In addition to compacts, states have moved to recognize credentials obtained in other states through universal licensure legislation. At least four states had universal licensing on their legislative agendas in 2022. While efforts have stalled in Nebraska, the Louisiana Senate approved SB 483 in May, which requires certain licensing boards to recognize occupational licenses and work experience from other states. And just last week, the Ohio House approved its own universal licensing law (SB 131) that was crafted in consultation with the Buckeye Institute, which unanimously passed the Senate in June. In Michigan, universal licensure legislation (HB 6284 and HB 6285) was introduced in the summer and is under consideration by the House Regulatory Reform and Health Policy committees. 

Cryptocurrency sees extreme highs and lows while regulators apply new rules   

To say cryptocurrency made headlines in 2022 is a big understatement. Instead, it was a year of reckoning for digital currencies. Between the crashing of various stablecoins, the plunging value of Bitcoin and Ethereum, and the recent chaos around FTX and its founder, Sam Bankman-Fried, a former billionaire who was arrested on multiple fraud charges, it was a year of extreme volatility for crypto. New entrants flooded the field, and by mid-2022, over 9,000 types of active cryptocurrency could be found, with 70 players boasting a market capitalization of over $1 billion. But though the total value of all cryptocurrencies exceeded $2 trillion at the beginning of 2022, by year’s end, that value had sunk to nearly $8 billion.  

Despite erratic and volatile market performance, crypto was still a massive force in the world and financial regulators continued to grapple with how to manage this new and unruly regulatory frontier.  

In October, a Treasury Department-led federal panel responsible for monitoring financial system risks raised alarms over cryptocurrency markets in its first major report on digital currencies. Published after wild swings in price and serious losses in the cryptocurrency industry over the summer, officials hoped the report could serve as a guide for lawmakers and regulators as they develop a more comprehensive regulatory framework for crypto markets. In California, Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill that would have established new licensure standards for crypto companies and created new rules regulating stablecoins. Meanwhile, a bipartisan pair of senators seeking a clear federal regulatory structure for digital assets introduced comprehensive cryptocurrency legislation.  

Elsewhere, Australia made moves to start regulating cryptocurrency after it announced it was seeking feedback on a proposed new licensing program for crypto asset secondary service providers (CASSPrs), the government’s first set of proposed reforms after three large-scale reviews of Australia’s payment system framework in 2021. It calls for a new licensing regime for CASSPrs, more options to regulate the crypto industry, and an expansion of the obligations on CASSPrs. In Ontario, a Capital Markets Tribunal for the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) started doling out sanctions to cryptocurrency firms operating in the province that failed to meet registration requirements. Several penalties have been handed down to crypto firms found to be violating securities laws by using unregistered tools.  

Cybersecurity concerns continue to make daily headlines  

Cybersecurity issues continued to make daily headlines across the globe in 2022, and the cybercrime behind them is what billionaire businessman Warren Buffet has called mankind’s biggest problem. This year saw the average cost of a data breach in the U.S. rise to $9.44 million while the global average cost per data breach reached $4.35 million. All businesses with a digital presence in any sector were affected by cybercrime, and regulators – and the many organizations they interact with – were no different. 

The American Dental Association was the target of a ransomware attack in April, one that caused widespread disruption to various services and forced the organization to shut down portions of their network. After the attack, cybercriminals had begun leaking stolen data, including personal information on ADA members.  

Regulatory departments in Washington, Tennessee and New Mexico managed to restore service after they were hit by cyberattacks. Global Affairs Canada also suffered a cyberattack that might have been the work of Russia or Russian-backed hackers. 

The year also saw regulatory action surrounding cybercrime. A new bill presented by Canada’s federal government proposed costly penalties for businesses in the transportation, energy, finance, or telecommunications industries that fail to bolster cybersecurity against attacks. And in a bid to safeguard consumer interests and improve service standards, the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) began licensing cybersecurity service providers across the city-state.

Amidst all this, we provided guidance on preventive measures in cybersecurity, credential security, and frameworks for cybersecurity compliance here at Ascend Magazine.  

Stay informed.

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Ariel Visconti
Written byAriel Visconti
Ariel Visconti researches and writes on government and politics, regulation, occupational licensing, and emerging technologies.

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