Colorado Governor Indicators Legislation Introducing New Restrictions on Medical Marijuana
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Governor Jared Polis has signed far-reaching bill restricting Colorado’s medical marijuana program and funding studies to study the effects of marijuana on mental health.
House Bill 1317 has created controversy since its inception, but that hasn’t stopped the move from moving quickly through the Colorado legislature with little resistance from lawmakers. The proposal tabled by House Speaker Alec Garnett has been billed as an attempt to curb the consumption of extracted marijuana products by adolescents, but medical marijuana advocates believe the new restrictions are creating unnecessary barriers for patients and doctors.
Under the new law, medical marijuana doctors are subject to requirements that include providing a dose of THC and adding medical and mental health reports to patients. The bill also limits the purchase of medical marijuana concentrates, and all MMJ transactions will be entered into a new government tracking system.
Although opponents of the draft law had urged Polis to veto the law, the governor refused to exercise any tact at a press conference two weeks ago. But Polis, flanked by the main sponsors of HB 1317 at the governor’s residence, put ink on the law by noon on June 24th.
“The reality is that it is too easy for Colorado’s youth to access highly potent marijuana when they shouldn’t, and we don’t have a complete picture of how these products affect the developing brain,” Garnett said at the Bill “This bill will help educate consumers about high potency cannabis and it will advance critical research that will give us a better understanding of how high potency products affect brain development.”
The daily sales limits for medical marijuana concentrate are now reduced from 40 grams to 8, while new medical patients between the ages of 18 and 20 require additional medical approval before receiving a marijuana referral; the same age group also has a daily concentrate purchase limit of 2 grams instead of 8 grams.
The Colorado School of Public Health will receive $ 3 million in government funding to launch an awareness campaign about adolescent use and THC abstraction, with an additional $ 1 million annually through fiscal 2023- ’24 Will be available to fund a CSPH review of existing research and further studies on the effects of marijuana on mental health. In another $ 1.7 million project, coroners will now report the results of THC toxicology screenings for suicide, overdose, and accidental death in people under the age of 26 to the Colorado Violent Death Reporting System annually.
And starting in 2023, all marijuana concentrate products, both medical and recreational, will fall under new packaging or labeling rules created by the state’s Marijuana Enforcement Division.
Tighter guard rails on access to medical marijuana and concentrated THC products have been pushed by lobbies representing parents, health organizations and anti-legalization groups, who fear that the increasing effectiveness of legal marijuana products poses a threat to the developing brains of young people . Colorado health experts declared a state of emergency for the mental health of young people in May, citing marijuana use as one of several factors. Data from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment shows that teenage use of extracted marijuana products more than doubled from 2015 to 2019, but this survey did not ask students if the products they were using were original obtained from a medical marijuana patient.
“We are proud to have played a role from conception to adoption and are pleased to have it legally signed today,” said Kevin Sabet, president of anti-marijuana legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, in a statement. “Today’s result would not have been possible without the hard work of many groups, all united under the banner of fighting the cannabis industry’s relentless pursuit of profit at all costs. But that’s not over yet is just the beginning of what can be done to put health and safety above the interests of the for-profit marijuana industry. “
The recreational marijuana industry has remained largely neutral or silent on the bill, while the medical marijuana community has voiced the loudest opposition. Over 100 medical marijuana doctors sent Polis a letter asking him to veto the law, according to Cannabis Clinicians Colorado director Martha Montemayor, who says the law “will effectively kill medical marijuana in Colorado” .
Montemayor leads a network of medical marijuana health workers and patients through educational meetings and doctor-patient connections. She believes doctors who need to include dosage and consumption rules in a medical marijuana referral lead to a prescription, and doctors with prescribing skills need to register with the Drug Enforcement Administration, which does not allow prescribing Schedule I drugs .
Even without potential interference from the DEA, she fears that doctors and medical marijuana patients will still be phased out.
“We didn’t get a seat at the table. It requires continuous cannabis training only for cannabis doctors and not traditional doctors who don’t know anything about it,” says Montemayor. “It also requires the doctor to review previous doctors’ records, which effectively deprives cannabis doctors of their diagnostic privileges.”
The need for additional visits to the doctor is also a social justice issue, as one additional visit to the doctor can be unsustainable for some of their clients.
“It doubles the cost for all patients by forcing a second diagnosis. Traditionally, cannabis was medicine for poor people because they didn’t have health insurance,” she says.
Most of the new restrictions will take effect immediately, according to the language of HB 1317.
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Thomas Mitchell has been a cannabis-related writer for Westword since 2014, covering sports, real estate, and general news for publications such as the Arizona Republic, Inman, and Fox Sports. He is currently the cannabis editor for westword.com.