Colorado lawmakers authorised a number of main modifications to marijuana legal guidelines in 2021
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Almost a decade after voters approved recreational cannabis legalization in 2012, lawmakers are still tinkering with Colorado’s marijuana laws.
Ten bills directly addressing the state’s marijuana and hemp laws and regulations were tabled and eight of them were passed during this year’s legislature. While some involved tricky technical details, 2021 saw big changes in Colorado’s medical marijuana program, ownership restrictions, and industry rules.
The most notable marijuana measure, House Bill 1317, has received the most attention from both sides of the legalization debate. Urged by parents concerned about the effects of extracted THC on children, the bill would tighten rules on medical marijuana and mandate research into the psychological effects of high-THC marijuana products. However, medical marijuana advocates fear patient access will decline due to the new rules and have called for a veto on Governor Jared Polis, who has not yet announced his stance.
HB 1317 wasn’t the only notable measure approved by lawmakers that year. Other bills that have now been signed have doubled the state’s limit on the possession of recreational herbs, and young medical marijuana patients in school should have easier access to their daily medicines. Outdoor marijuana growers will also work according to new guidelines.
Here is a summary of the main action:
Medical marijuana restrictions
Although the title of HB 1317 is “Regulating Marijuana Concentrate,” the law’s greatest impact could be on the state’s medical marijuana registry. The action requires several additional levels of protocol for medical marijuana patients and their physicians, including a required THC dosage level and recommended consumption method, and a psychological history review of a patient before making a recommendation. There will also be a nationwide tracking system for patient purchases limited to 2 ounces of bud or 8 grams of concentrate. The previous daily limit of 40 grams for concentrated feed still applies to home-bound and rural patients, and those with a proper medical certificate are allowed to exceed the limit values.
New patients between the ages of eighteen and twenty – a factor that contributes to youth consumption in the eyes of the bill’s sponsors – would add additional barriers to getting a medical marijuana card, as well as a 2-gram limit on buying concentrates per day to have. Doctors recommending medical marijuana would be restricted within their respective scope, which, according to opponents of the law, could also limit access for patients.
Mental health studies
Another big chunk of HB 1317 requires research into the effects of THC on mental health. Under the proposal, $ 3 million would go to the Colorado School of Public Health for an education campaign about the use and extraction of THC by adolescents. An additional $ 1 million would be allocated annually through fiscal 2023- ’24 for a CSPH review of existing research and further studies on the effects of marijuana on mental health.
In another $ 1.7 million project, coroners would report the results of THC toxicology screenings of suicide, overdose, and accidental death for people under the age of 26 to the Colorado Violent Death Reporting System annually.
The language in the title of HB 1317 regarding the packaging is light but still impactful compared to the parts of the bill on mental health research and medical marijuana. Under the passed law, all marijuana concentrate products, both medical and recreational, would be subject to the new packaging or labeling regulations created by the state marijuana enforcement department in 2023. New labeling requirements or photo instructions on the packaging have been introduced as possible alternatives.Other printed warnings about highly potent THC products are also likely.
Extracted marijuana products were scrutinized in 2021.
Cannabis growing updates
Another marijuana bill that was introduced late in the legislature, House Bill 1301, introduced a handful of changes to outdoor growing for both marijuana and hemp growers. Part of the proposal would allow outdoor cannabis growers to set up a contingency plan to prevent crop loss in extreme weather conditions, with the new practices being created and enforced by the MED.
The bill to create working groups to reduce cross-pollination between marijuana and hemp plants has been more controversial among cannabis farmers. Although marijuana and hemp are regulated and grown differently, when grown outdoors they can pollinate each other miles apart. Cannabis grown for its THC and CBD content is feminized and seedless, but industrial hemp grown for fiber contains seeds and pollen. This can pollinate seedless cannabis plants, including hemp, causing crop losses for some farmers. However, a large fraction of hemp farmers oppose registration of farm locations before obtaining a license to grow hemp, citing preferential treatment and unnecessary barriers in favor of the marijuana industry.
Polis has not yet signed the law but is expected.
Double the ownership limit
House Bill 1090, signed by Polis in May, doubles Colorado’s recreational marijuana possession restriction from 1 to 2 ounces. In addition to increasing the current limit, the new law qualifies record-wiping convictions for up to 2 ounces of cannabis possession and overturns previous Class 3 marijuana growing convictions and charges of growing more than twelve plants but less than. on 25. (However, growing more than twelve plants would be illegal for anyone without a medical marijuana card and an expanded number of plants.)
Former offenders would have to go to the courts themselves and the approval of prosecutors, a common condition in the destruction of files for other crimes, would not be required. The new limit on marijuana possession would not affect Colorado’s 1 ounce daily purchase limit at the pharmacy in its current form, as it would require a regulatory change by the MED.
A 2020 bill gives Colorado governors the power to pardon previous convictions for up to 2 ounces of marijuana. Polis granted over 2,700 pardons, but only for one-ounce convictions, last year, citing Colorado’s adult property restrictions at the time. Since HB 1090 passed, Polis has announced that it will also pardon 2-ounce convictions.
Medical marijuana in schools for child patients
The multi-year Senate Bill 56, signed by Polis in May, allows school staff to administer medical marijuana to children. That has technically been legal since 2019, but school districts could still decide to ban the drugs if they choose to; Under that provision, the vast majority of school districts either banned a ban or chose not to tackle the law, forcing a child’s caregivers – usually the patient’s parents – to come to school every time a student needed medical marijuana medication. The new law requires school authorities to implement policies that allow the storage, possession and management of medical marijuana by school staff and “protects those who do so from retaliation,” it says.
New Fund for Social Justice
Senate Bill 111, passed at the beginning of the session and signed by Polis in March, was largely negotiated between lawmakers and the governor’s office at a meeting of the legislative budget committee prior to the convening of the Colorado General Assembly. The bill creates a new cannabis advancement program overseen by the state’s Department for Economic Development and International Trade, available with $ 4 million in loans, grants, and technical assistance to marijuana business applicants who sign up for a program qualify for social justice.
The program is designed to help communities affected by the war on drugs and is available to business owners who can provide any of the following evidence: They or their families have been negatively affected by the war on drugs; they earn less than 50 percent of the state medians income, or they come from a municipality that has been designated by OEDIT as an economically weak zone.
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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 like the Arizona Republic, Inman, and Fox Sports. He is currently the cannabis editor for westword.com.