Changes are coming for Colorado cannabis

by DGO Web Administrator

Changes are coming for Colorado cannabis.

It’s been nearly 10 years since cannabis was legalized in Colorado, but the state laws regarding marijuana still change as often as the products on the dispensary shelves. In other words, someone is always trying to mess with them.

Some of those changes are admittedly good, like the legalization of cannabis delivery in Colorado. California has already proven that delivery can be done well — and can still follow the strict guidelines in place for the sale of cannabis — but Colorado, which has acted as the nation’s test pilot for all things weed, was slow to embrace the idea.

But, that’s finally changing. The very first cannabis delivery license was issued in July to a business in Denver (surprise, surprise), and it’s only a matter of time before more canna-preneurs hop on board that delivery train. With any luck, tasting rooms, or weed bars, or whatever you want to dub them, will follow suit.

Not all the changes that are happening in Colorado are good, though. Some of the new, proposed, and upcoming changes have chosen to take a different path on the dark side of the cannabis moon.

It can be tough to keep up with the constantly evolving cannabis laws in Colorado, which is why we have put together this quick explainer for all the changes that are coming your way this year. Here’s what you should know about the changes to cannabis laws — many of which emerged from House Bill 1317, introduced by House Speaker Alec Garnett as an attempt to curb the use of marijuana extracts by minors — in this state.

Tighter restrictions on the sale of medical marijuanaGovernor Jared Polis signed House Bill 1317 into law in late June, and with it came some serious limitations on the sale of medical marijuana.

There will now be a lower threshold for the daily medical marijuana concentrate sales limits. Prior to HB 1317, Colorado medical marijuana patients could buy up to 40 grams of concentrates per day. Post-HB 1317, that limit is now reduced to 8 grams for adults over the age of 21.

New medical patients between the ages of 18 and 20 will now face even further restrictions when it comes to marijuana concentrates.

This group will be required to go through additional doctor approval before receiving a marijuana recommendation, and the doctor will need to issue a required THC dosage amount and suggested consumption method as part of the recommendation. Physicians will also need to review a patient’s mental health history before a recommendation is made.

And, there’s more. This group will be limited to purchasing a maximum of 2 grams per day. The prior limit was 8 grams per day for this age group.

A new statewide tracking systemThink you can fool the system (and get around those new limitations) by shopping at multiple dispensaries? Not likely.

As part of HB 1317, the state of Colorado will now have a statewide tracking system for patient purchases, which are capped at 2 ounces of flower or 8 grams of concentrate. The good news is that the old daily limit for concentrate will still apply to homebound and rural patients. And, those who have a doctor certification allowing for larger purchases will be allowed to make them.

A higher legal possession limitInterestingly, the possession limit for recreational flower did not shrink. In fact, it grew. Polis signed House Bill 1090 in May, which doubles Colorado’s recreational marijuana possession limit from 1 ounce to 2 ounces.

So, while the purchase limits for medical cannabis shrunk, the possession limits for recreational patients grew. Go figure.

Record-clearing for certain cannabis convictionsThere will also be record-clearing opportunities for people with convictions for up to 2 ounces of pot possession on their records, and the requirement of approval by a local district attorney will no longer come into play.

Prior to the bill’s passage, Polis was able to grant pardons for certain cannabis-related convictions. Polis granted over 2,700 pardons in 2020, but those pardons were limited to 1-ounce convictions, which was the total amount allowed for recreational possession in Colorado at the time.

Now that HB 1317 has been signed into law, however, that will change. Polis has said he will pardon 2-ounce convictions now as well.

The same HB 1317 bill also allows the state to wipe out former Class 3 marijuana cultivation felony convictions and any charges for growing more than 12 plants but fewer than 25.

Note, though, that it’s still going to be illegal to grow more than 12 plants if you don’t have a medical marijuana card that allows for it.

Millions in funding for mental health studiesOne portion of HB 1317 called for research into THC’s impact on the mental health of youth. In particular, there are millions of dollars earmarked for said research.

As such, the Colorado School of Public Health will receive $3 million in state funds in order to create an educational campaign about youth use and extracted THC. CSPH will also receive another million per year through 2023-2024 to fund research and studies into the mental health effects of cannabis.

And, another $1.7 million will go to a project that screens for THC in victims of suicide, overdoes, or accidental death under the age of 26.

Changes to concentrate packagingHB 1317 also dictates that all marijuana concentrate products — recreational or medical — now fall under new packaging and labeling rules.

These new rules will be created by the state Marijuana Enforcement Division in 2023, and could include things like photo instruction on packaging or more printed warnings about high-potency THC products.

The legal administration of medical marijuana for patients by school personnelNot all of these changes are great, but one change that really matters is related to the administering of medical marijuana at schools.

Prior to Polis signing Senate Bill 56 into law — which happened back in May — schools were allowed to decide whether or not they wanted to administer medical marijuana to child patients. The administration of medical marijuana to child patients by school personnel has been legal since 2019, but school districts were allowed to ban the medication if they chose to.

As such, most districts either banned or chose to ignore the allowance of medical marijuana to be administered in schools. That forced parents or caregivers to go to the school to administer the medication when necessary.

Under this new law, however, school boards must implement policies that allow for the storage, possession, and administration of medical marijuana at schools, and school personnel must be allowed to administer it. It also protects anyone who administers this medication from retaliation.

That is a huge benefit for parents and for child patients, who were in a precarious position across most of the state when it came to the administration of medical marijuana in schools.

The creation and funding of a social equity fundPolis also signed Senate Bill 111 into law back in March, which will create a new Cannabis Advancement Program with $4 million in loans, grants and technical assistance to be available for marijuana business applicants qualifying for a social equity program.

This program will be overseen by the state Office of Economic Development and International Trade, and it’s intended to help aid communities impacted by the War on Drugs.

Business owners will be eligible for grant money if they can prove one of the following: They or their families were negatively impacted by the War on Drugs; they earn less than 50% of the state median income; or they come from a low-economic opportunity zone designated by OEDIT.

Angelica Leicht

Editor, DGO Mag

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