Changes, they are a comin’ (to the Colorado weed industry in 2020)

by Amanda Push

Not everything in 2020 is a dumpster fire that refuses to be snuffed out. There are some pretty positive weed-related headlines coming down the pipe this year for stoners, marijuana industry workers, hemp farmers, and those looking forward to more justice and equity in the business.

Hopefully, these changes made halfway through 2020 are a signal that the rest of the year won’t be a total disaster like the first half. Many of these new laws are long overdue and can be owed to the Black Lives Matter Movement and to cannabis’s entrance into the mainstream.

Let’s dig into this new legislation and what it means for Colorado.

Social equityWith the massive Black Lives Matter movement happening this year, there’s been a lot of conversations around equity and what that looks like for our country. The marijuana industry, in particular, faces massive disparities in who profits from the legalization of weed (typically white folks) compared to BIPOC who have historically faced much higher levels of discrimination when it comes to marijuana possession and usage. Enter House Bill 1424. This piece of legislation, introduced by Representative James Coleman, outlines applicant guidelines for Colorado’s marijuana business accelerator licenses and social equity programs regarding the cannabis industry that will be created down the road.

Marijuana pardonsUnless you were a white politician using it as an election platform or financially benefiting from the incarceration of human beings, we can all agree that the War on Drugs was incredibly harmful to this country. Continuing to punish people for drug crimes in Colorado, particularly incidents that involved marijuana, doesn’t make sense. What does make sense is passing this amendment to House Bill 1424. This piece of legislation gives Governor Jared Polis the ability to grant pardons to those who were criminally charged with possession of two ounces of marijuana or less before it was legalized in 2012. However, to get their records cleared, people will have to individually reach out to the court system.

Access to banksThe lack of access marijuana companies have had to financial entities has proved a big challenge to the industry. The criminalization of marijuana on a federal level has made it difficult for cannabis companies to get approved for loans by financial institutions. Representative Matt Gray and Hugh McKean introduced House Bill 1217 to help change that. This bill (which was signed into law and takes effect in September) will offer more leniency for banks and credit unions when loaning money to marijuana businesses.

Non-resident workersColorado lawmakers modernized out-of-date legislation this year with House Bill 1080. When marijuana was first legalized in 2012, state law required that in order to get a Marijuana Enforcement Division license, individuals had to be Colorado residents. This law, also introduced by Gray, will allow cannabis employees living outside the state to apply for a badge to work in Colorado.

The feds and the hempAfter hemp was federally legalized two years ago, Colorado passed Senate Bill 197 to align state law regarding hemp with federal legislation. States are able to submit their legal and regulatory framework to the USDA. Colorado lawmakers offered up their proposed management plan for approval. The plan includes adjustments to the federal regulations including less rigid testing for THC and less involvement from the DEA.

Amanda Push

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