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Cannabis was a hot topic in the Colorado legislature at that session, and House Law 1317 – which would make the state’s MMJ program more restrictive, including further regulating marijuana concentrates – went to the Senate on 27th.
The bill tabled by House Speaker Alec Garnett is a revised version of the leaked draft by MP Yadira Caraveo earlier this year that originally limited products to 15 percent THC. HB 1317 has also been changed since its inception, but some legislators remain concerned about its content.
“I think this bill is well meant to protect our children; it’s just not quite there yet. Several speakers yesterday indicated that little was done on the public safety rules surrounding marijuana, ”said Representative Kevin Van Winkle during the third reading of the bill; he later voted no.
MP Leslie Herod supported the bill but added that fear-based rhetoric about bans was ineffective and regressive. “We have been reminded for the past few months how important the weight of our rhetoric is,” she said. “The war on drugs was rooted in politics and fear. It is disheartening to hear the echo of that politics in this room.” She strongly suggested that any policy emerging from legislation should not be armed “in a criminal way”.
The bill proposes additional regulations based on reviews of medical marijuana uses, including prescriptions for MMJ, a tracking system for patient purchases, and new labeling for concentrates.
“If we regulate a company more, spend more money and possibly throw more people in jail after we’ve done all of this, it seems like we’re going down that road again,” argued MP Shane Sandridge before voting no. “I hope that when this comes back from the Senate, this is something substantial that really deals with the issue at hand – because it needs to be addressed, and I think our constituents need and deserve real progress in this situation.”
Some lawmakers feel that the bill is not tough enough. MP Richard Holthorf – a hemp farmer – spoke about his time in Afghanistan and how drugs had ruined that country. “It burns our society like a caustic acid,” he warned. “I’m going to vote yes to this bill today, but this caustic acid will still burn our society and our country.”
The proposal also calls for research into highly potent marijuana and teenagers. Evidence supports the need for these studies, said John Stack, whose son committed suicide in 2019 after heavy marijuana use; he expressed concern about the 270 medical marijuana cards issued to those under the age of 18 and an additional 3,900 to those aged 18 to 20. “There’s nothing about criminalization,” he added. This is about a study. It’s about looking at the evidence we already have to fill the gaps in our knowledge, to get to a point where we can understand how high potency THC affects the developing brains of Colorado’s youth. “
“I do not support any further criminalization of marijuana,” concluded Garnett before putting the bill to a vote. “This is the next step in protecting our children and eliminating the gray market that has spread to high school campuses.”
HB 1317 was passed by the House of Representatives with 56 to 8 votes; it went to the Senate Finance Committee on late May 28 (you can hear this session here). The Senate funds will be negotiated on June 1st.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include the Senate Finance and Budget Committee hearings.
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Hilal is an alumni of the Metropolitan State University of Denver with a degree in political science. She has written for Denver Life Magazine and 303 Magazine and is currently the cannabis intern for Westword.