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Medical marijuana referrals may soon be more difficult to come by in Colorado.
After an eight-hour hearing at the State Capitol, the thirteen representatives of the House Public & Behavioral Health & Human Services Committee unanimously approved a bill that would introduce stricter rules for medical marijuana patients and doctors, as well as new packaging requirements for commercial marijuana concentrate, and proposed government-funded research on those psychological effects of potent marijuana products.
Ways to limit the potency of commercial marijuana emerged over Colorado’s pot industry during the 2021 legislature as lobbies representing parents, public educators and health care professionals pushed for further restrictions on concentrated THC products. The move went public on May 18, when more than 200 people signed up to discuss House Bill 1317.
Some parents talked about how their teenagers were slowly getting excited about various forms of marijuana concentrate, which is now anywhere from 50 percent to over 90 percent THC, while other parents whose children are medical marijuana patients, as well as adult patients, are products testified to what you need to make your life comfortable.
“We’re hearing more and more about the market shifting from traditional flowers to concentrates,” said House spokesman and bill sponsor Alec Garnett, adding that he was concerned about 18-year-old medical marijuana patients who haven’t Graduates are “using the loopholes in our system to redirect products into high school.”
Garnett and Democratic Representative Yadira Caraveo, a medical doctor, have emerged as the vocal advocates of limiting THC potency in marijuana products. The two were part of a House Democratic press conference shortly before the law was passed, which was attended by Attorney General Phil Weiser and several Republican lawmakers.
“It’s still a drug. Over the years that I’ve been a pediatrician in private practice, I’ve noticed that more and more young people are using these products,” Caraveo said at the press conference that the state should start treatment medical marijuana more than any other drug. “A draft proposal from Caraveo to regulate potency, which included a 15 percent THC limit for all infused marijuana products, surfaced in March but was never introduced.
While there is no scientific data on the subject, parents, addiction specialists, and public schools have suggested that an increase in teenagers affected by addiction and depression, and even attempting suicide, may be linked to marijuana concentrate that is available in pharmacies and sold in the state’s current medical marijuana system. Senator Kevin Priola, a sponsor of HB 1317, counts himself among those parents.
According to Priola, his son started using marijuana when he was fourteen and has struggled with addiction for nearly five years. After Priola tried locking up his keys and wallet to prevent his son from stealing them, he temporarily threw him out of the house to “protect our other children,” he said.
“He can’t stop. I offered him $ 1,000 a month to pass a drug test, compare, and invest on his behalf. He can’t stop, ”said Priola.
According to the Department of Public Health and the Environment, the rate of marijuana use in Colorado has remained unchanged since legalization, but the use of highly potent marijuana products among teenagers increased significantly from 2017 to 2019, and has more than doubled since 2015.
(The increased potency of today’s products has been one of the loudest arguments used by crackdown on commercial pots, and they have a point – more sophisticated forms like distillate and crystalline THC weren’t available in 2012 when the recreational pot was legalized – but theirs Repeated claims that marijuana was tested at 5 to 10 percent THC before legalization, and that products like wax, splinters, and bubble hash did not exist or were not widely available, are both false. Wax, splinters, and strong buds were widely used in medicinal products nine years ago Pharmacies available in Colorado.)
Garnett’s bill would add multiple layers of protocol for medical marijuana patients and their doctors, including a required THC dosage level and tracking system for patient purchases, as well as additional medical reviews during patient applications. Medical marijuana concentrate sales limits would also be lowered significantly, and new medical patients between the ages of eighteen and twenty – a contributing factor to youth consumption in the eyes of the bill’s sponsors – would face additional barriers to obtaining a medical marijuana card.
The bill also provides over $ 3.4 million in government funding for two areas of research, including a systematic impact review of highly potent marijuana products to be conducted by the Colorado School of Public Health public awareness campaign. In a separate data-driven project, coroners would have to report the results of THC toxicology studies on suicide, overdose and accidental deaths in people under the age of 26 to the Colorado Violent Death Reporting System annually.
With a powerful attorney in Garnett and strong support from both parties, many executives in the marijuana industry believe this move will be successful – though they expect changes to be made in the days ahead. Representatives from industry groups such as Colorado Leads and the Marijuana Industry Group gave input during the drafting of the proposal, and of the thirty plus lobby groups representing various marijuana companies and industry factions, only one is official against HB 1317. This lobbyist represents A. Wellness Center , a Colorado Springs pharmacy that only sells medical marijuana. (Westwords attempts to reach a wellness center were unsuccessful).
While Colorado Leads and the Marijuana Industry Group have stated that they support the intent of the law, they both want it to be amended to require that School of Public Health research also document the beneficial effects of medical marijuana and that one independent review of the results is carried out.
“We heard concerns that minors might receive marijuana products illegally and identified areas in the law where we could thoughtfully and collectively make policy improvements to further protect teenagers in Colorado,” said Chuck Smith, chairman of the board of directors of Colorado Leads , to the recommendation of his group.
According to Smith, Colorado Leads will support the move “if key adjustments are made in the final bill,” including changes to research language and a requirement that all THC concentrate must be individually packaged in ten-per-gram servings by early 2023.
According to the Colorado Cannabis Manufacturers Association, a marijuana extraction trade organization, current concentrate packaging regulations would increase production costs by 200 to 300 percent and likely “exceed the total annual sales of all of our production members.”
Marijuana extractors would also have a new daily limit on the sale of their products. Colorado’s current medical concentrate purchase limit is 40 grams of concentrate, but HB 1317 would cut that down to 8 grams per day unless the patient is between eighteen and twenty years old. In this case the limit would be 2 grams per day. Home-bound and rural patients or patients with proper medical certification may exceed the limit values.
Garnett said he was “perfectly fine” about making the rules for packaging concentrates more sustainable in the language of the bill, or adding those details to the rules of the Marijuana Enforcement Division, suggesting concentrates are in Serving sizes could be split without adding excessive amounts of new packaging.
Further changes are expected to be made at the next House Finance Committee hearing of HB 1317, Garnett said.
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Thomas Mitchell has been writing about everything cannabis-related for Westword since 2014, covering sports, real estate, and general news en route to publications like the Republic of Arizona, Inman, and Fox Sports. He is currently the cannabis editor for westword.com.