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State representative Yadira Caraveo rocked Colorado’s cannabis industry earlier this month with her early proposal for a bill to restrict marijuana potency. During a town hall meeting on Feb. 8, she shared some of her concerns about the commercial pot and discussed the likelihood that she would actually enact laws suggesting limits on THC levels in pot products.
Westword recently received draft Caraveo bill banning commercial marijuana products in Colorado that test over 15 percent THC. The proposal also called for a number of restrictions on the state’s medical marijuana program, including a requirement that medical marijuana patients should only purchase a predetermined dosage and allocation of certain products set by a doctor, similar to a prescription of a drug.
The measure hadn’t officially been introduced into Colorado law – legislators are expected to meet on February 16, 2021 – but the draft was quickly heated by representatives of the marijuana industry and MMJ patient activists. And while Caraveo’s appearance at City Hall – part of an hour-long session with Kyle Mullica and Senator Leroy Garcia – focused primarily on Colorado health care and the response to COVID-19, she ended up addressing the problem of her potency suggestion.
Caraveo, a pediatrician, said the bill is “in its infancy” and that she will meet with marijuana industry stakeholders to discuss proposed potency limits before the measure is introduced. Any bill aims to prevent marijuana use by teenagers, she added, especially the number of children who consume concentrated marijuana products. And while she said the draft would likely change before it got to her housemates, Caraveo reiterated her belief that a potency cap is necessary to protect children in Colorado.
“In many cases, they get their hands on products that they shouldn’t,” she said. “I’m not talking about flowers or food. I’m talking about products like polka dots and wax, which are often made with butane or other carcinogens that are very, very concentrated.”
According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, teenage marijuana use has remained unchanged since recreational pharmacies opened in 2014, but teenage use of highly potent marijuana products increased significantly from 2017 to 2019, and has more than doubled since 2015.
Caraveo said she “agreed” with legalization and didn’t believe marijuana should be criminalized, but then aimed to make marijuana products more effective. Their numbers were somewhat different, however; Caraveo claimed THC levels in marijuana buds were about 5 percent when Colorado legalized marijuana and is now testing “over 50 to 60 percent”. While the potency of marijuana has risen sharply over the past few decades, Legal Pot tested well over 20 percent THC in 2012 when voters in Colorado approved recreational activities legal, and the strains with the highest tests don’t top 40 percent today.
Although Caraveo’s earlier draft included a potency cap for medical marijuana products and called for a ban on the sale of medical marijuana suppositories, flavored vaporizer products, inhalers and other products, she now said the measure “will not affect these people’s access” . and children in particular need medical marijuana products. “
Marijuana industry officials have steadfastly protested the bill and the prospect of a potency cap. They are expected to meet with Caraveo this week to discuss the matter. Truman Bradley, executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group, who says this is the first time Caraveo’s office has reached the industry, refers to the move as a “Trojan horse” aimed at bringing down commercial marijuana. Bradley said at least half of Colorado’s marijuana industry would close below a restrictive potency limit.
“Potency caps have been the drug of choice for bans since cannabis became legal for adults. I’m not surprised that this happens. It’s one thing for criminals to say it, but it’s another thing for a lawmaker to talk about . ” he says.
Bradley and his colleagues in the industry argue that a potency cap would revive black market marijuana sales, as Caraveo’s draft also proposed banning marijuana concentrates made using butane or solvent-based extract methods. “This is rolling out a red carpet for the illegal market and nobody wants to see it. Is it all gone? No, but it’s a lot better than it was ten years ago,” warns Bradley of a possible surge in illegal home marijuana extraction, which can lead to explosions in residential areas.
Governor Jared Polis did not comment on Caraveo’s proposal, but he backed commercial marijuana as a US Congressman and now governor, and his administration is said to be dissatisfied with Caraveo’s bill.
Bradley said industry officials are talking to at least one Colorado lawmaker about a countermeasures bill to fund studies into the effects of heavy marijuana use. They would likely be based on recommendations from a 2020 CDPHE report on monitoring health concerns related to marijuana use.
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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.