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A new bill proposed by Alec Garnett, Colorado’s House spokesman, calls for more packaging restrictions on commercial marijuana concentrate and stricter rules for medical marijuana patients and doctors, including a required THC dosage level and a tracking system for patient purchases.
After months of negotiations to limit the potency of legal marijuana products, lawmakers and a powerful part of the cannabis industry reached a draft compromise late last week. And while this proposal does not include a potency limit, it does include new guard rails, studies, and follow-up provisions designed to reduce marijuana use and the distraction of teens to the black market.
House Bill 1317, officially introduced on May 14, would require a further psychological history review of a medical marijuana patient before making a recommendation, and that recommendation would have to include documented levels of THC potency, dosage form, daily authorized amount, and consumption instructions for patients.
Medical marijuana sales would be monitored under a new government tracking system, with medicinal concentrate purchases limited to 8 grams per day unless the patient was between 18 and 20 years old, in which case the limit would be 2 Grams per day; Home-bound patients and those with proper medical certification could buy more than those limits. The current limit in the state for purchasing medicinal concentrate is 40 grams of concentrate.
Garnett’s proposal includes a provision requiring all THC concentrates to be packaged in servings of ten per gram by early 2023, similar to what is currently being regulated for edibles.
The wording of the bill would also require the Colorado School of Public Health to conduct a systematic review of scientific research “relating to the physical and mental health effects of high potency THC marijuana and concentrates”; these findings would be used to launch a public awareness campaign. The measure would also require coroners to 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 compromise has strong support among Democrats, who have been discussing forms of stricter marijuana regulation with industry stakeholders and potency-limiting advocates for over a year. After a draft by MP Yadira Caraveo, a Democrat and a medical doctor, proposed a THC limit for concentrate products, the resulting setback in Colorado’s multi-billion dollar cannabis industry has postponed the potency limit conversation, according to a joint statement by the Marijuana Industry Group Colorado Leads, two of the state’s largest marijuana trading organizations, both of which support Garnett’s efforts.
“We have been sitting at the table for months to work out a balanced policy and we appreciate that the conversation has shifted to an evidence-based approach to cannabis regulation,” the statement said. “The cannabis industry has always supported youth prevention efforts and strict regulations keeping marijuana away from teenagers. So we’re supporting an even more robust tracking system that limits the amount of medicinal marijuana concentrate that 18-20 year olds can use.” and other regulations that make it difficult for teenagers to obtain marijuana illegally. “
According to CDPHE, marijuana use rates in Colorado have remained unchanged since legalization, but use of highly potent marijuana products among teenagers increased significantly from 2017 to 2019, and has more than doubled since 2015.
House spokesman Alec Garnett is a strong supporter of the measure.
Wikipedia Commons / Jeffrey Beall
While recreational sales in the state are restricted to people age 21 and older, Colorado people between the ages of 18 and 20 can apply for a medical marijuana card. Recalling data from the state medical marijuana registry showing there are about 4,000 patients in this age group and about 150 patients ages 11-17, groups of concerned parents and health care professionals said they were concerned that Patients under the age of 21 could sell medical marijuana to children who are at higher risk for the psychological effects of THC. Two of the main groups that pushed the potency legislation, Smart Colorado and Blue Rising PAC, now officially support Garnett’s bill.
However, the draft compromise has met with resistance.
According to Jason Warf, director of the Southern Colorado Cannabis Council, the vast majority of medical marijuana companies would suffer and patient access would be severely restricted – especially in Colorado Springs, where recreational sales are not allowed. Warf says he and many of his colleagues didn’t see the HB 1317 language until it was leaked the day before the law was passed, even though MIG and Colorado Leads had “months of” discussions with Garnett.
“We all met with the spokesman and representative Caraveo, and for months there has not been a word that something like this would be introduced. In fact, we were told the opposite and that something would come in the next session. ”Warf explained. “I’d say the vast majority of Colorado Springs companies oppose it, and that’s the state’s second largest market.”
Throwed acknowledges that some purchasing rules could be tightened in the state’s current medical marijuana system, but adds that the proposed new rules for doctors and dosages address the intent of Amendment 20, the 2000 constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana. Use, contradict state.
According to Black Brown and Red Badged, a coalition of Black and Brown marijuana business owners, their members support some of the proposed medical regulations but are also concerned that they have been banned from talking about HB 1317 and believe the measure is racist is impact. Executive Director Hashim Coats says his group is concerned that the THC data collection used after non-natural deaths could be used against the black community in Colorado.
“The current bill has serious implications for racial prejudice and racial blind spots, especially in areas dealing with data collection and research,” he says. “We support some important provisions of this bill, [but] We are unfortunately still incredibly concerned about the racial deafness and exclusion of black voices from the discussion that any legislation of this kind should include, and that the bill has not yet struck the right balance at this point. “
The cost of splitting marijuana concentrates into ten servings would be prohibitive for the majority of BBRB members, Coats adds, and could further consolidate the market.
“While this may be an affordable cost to large marijuana chains, it will certainly put our members out of business,” he explains. “Plus, it won’t do anything to keep marijuana concentrates out of the reach of children, the problem we thought we would address and a problem we are committed to.”
It leaves less than a month of the 2021 legislature, but HB 1317 is moving fast. The first hearing of the bill will take place on Tuesday, May 18, before the House Public Health and Conduct Committee.
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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.