As the Colorado Legislature adjourns for the 2018 session, marijuana consumers saw more wins than losses.
Perhaps the biggest win for consumers was House Bill 1258, a first-in-the-nation cannabis public consumption measure that would allow for marijuana tasting rooms. The bill is a compromise following four years of conversations. The legislature passed the bill with diverse bipartisan support. The legislation has been sent to Gov. John Hickenlooper, whose own Marijuana Enforcement Division called the bill an “incremental approach.”
Under the measure, dispensaries would be allowed to sell limited amounts of cannabis for the purposes of tasting. Consumers would be limited to vaporization of flower, as smoking is prohibited. Single-serving edibles and concentrates that can be vaporized also would be included. The compromise includes provisions to allow local governments to regulate “bring your own” cannabis clubs, although a separate bill to license them failed in the legislature again this year.
House Bill 1258 is total local control, which means cities and towns would have to opt in to allow for tasting rooms. Proponents also plan on using tasting rooms to educate consumers on product and consumption safety, including on cannabis and driving. The goal of the legislation is to begin to take consumption off of streets and out of parks, while providing regulatory oversight to ensure safe and responsible access.
This is one of the last pieces of regulation needed following passage of Amendment 64 in 2012, as highlighted by the Denver Post.
Other Wins for Marijuana Consumers
These bills would have used taxpayer dollars to fund the research and development for a single company to create a marijuana tracking technology. Consumers opposed the bill because they don’t want cannabis sprayed with an unknown chemical agent. Others raised concerns over using government to benefit potential investments in a private company.
House Bill 1286 — Passed
The bill would allow a school nurse to give medical marijuana to a student with a medical marijuana registry card while at school. The bill increases access for students struggling with conditions that have proven to be treated with medical marijuana. As more and more evidence is presented on the benefits of medical marijuana, especially for children with certain conditions that cause seizures, lawmakers felt they should not limit access at school.
House Bill 1263 — Passed
After being amended, the legislation would add autism to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. The bill initially included acute pain, but that was removed. This is a patient-focused bill, providing additional access for critical conditions that can be treated with marijuana.
Senate Bill 187 — Became law
This simple bill creates the process to allow marijuana businesses to recycle fibrous waste to produce industrial fiber products. Currently, waste from marijuana cultivation is being tossed. The bill allows for this waste to turn into useful everyday products.
House Bill 1381 — Passed
This bill addresses the outdated vertical integration system, in which marijuana businesses are still required on the medical side to grow 70 percent of its own product. As the industry has evolved, there has become less of a need to limit the wholesale market and to segregate medical and retail inventories. The bill would begin to phase the industry away from these older supply chain restrictions.
House Bill 1259 — Became law
A simple bill that allows marijuana businesses to provide limited samples to managers for quality control and product development purposes.
House Bill 1011 — Passed
The bill would expand the number of out-of-state investments in the marijuana industry in Colorado. As the industry grows, access to capital is becoming more important. With the industry providing a $2.4 billion economic impact in Colorado, the need for industry growth is important for the state as a whole. Additionally, an amendment by Sen. Angela Williams, D-Denver, establishes the legislative intent to address the barriers to entry for traditionally disenfranchised communities, including minorities, lower income entrepreneurs and women. This would allow for the industry to continue to provide a positive economic impact on the state.
Losses for Marijuana Consumers
Senate Bill 261 — Lost
This was not just a loss for the medical marijuana industry, but for patients who would have significantly benefited from allowing doctors to write a medical-marijuana recommendation for any condition “for which a physician could prescribe an opiate for pain.” Studies are revealing that marijuana can serve as an alternative to opioids. With the nation’s opioid epidemic on the rise, lawmakers failed in taking a significant step towards addressing the crisis. If marijuana can help even in the slightest to control opioid abuse, then elected officials should increase access to those who are struggling. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis has expressed support for medical marijuana as an opioid alternative, so expect to see the patient community bring this bill again next year.
House Bill 1092 — Lost
The bill would have created a pilot program to allow for marijuana delivery. Proponents argued that it was a matter of patient and consumer convenience. The program would have been equipped with significant guardrails, including using a third-party delivery service secured through an app. Lawmakers, however, felt it was too premature. Discussions are taking place to renew conversations next year.
Senate Bill 211 — Lost
This bill would have legalized marijuana consumption clubs, where people would have been allowed to bring their own product and consume at a public establishment. The legislature did not have the appetite to take this step. Instead, lawmakers backed cannabis tasting rooms, where dispensaries would be allowed to sell limited amounts of marijuana for the purposes of tasting the product.