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Colorado General Assembly Legislative Session 2021

Marijuana and Hemp Bills

There were ten bills introduced this Colorado legislative session regarding marijuana and eight of them passed.  The big changes were related to medical marijuana, possession limits and industry regulations.  Here are some of the house and senate bills that had a significant impact on Colorado’s marijuana industry.

Probably the most notable was House Bill 1317 which related to the extracted THC’s effects on children.  It was signed into law on June 24, 2021 by Colorado Governor Jared Polis.  The bill stiffens medical marijuana rules and require more research into the medical health effects of high-THC products.  The bill calls for additional requirements for medical marijuana patients and their physicians.  Physicians would be required to prescribe a THC dosage amount and consumption method, as well as reviewing the patient’s mental health history before an opinion is made.  Also required would be a statewide tracking system for medical patient purchases which will be limited to 2 ounces of flower or 8 grams of concentrate unless the patient is eighteen to twenty years old then the limit is 2 grams.   The previous daily limit for concentrate was 40 grams and that will still stand for homebound and rural patients.  Patients with proper doctor approval would be allowed to exceed the limits.

The bill requires medical marijuana stores to immediately record transactions in the seed-to-sale inventory tracking system which will include the ability to monitor the amount of medical marijuana a patient has purchased that day in real time and identify any discrepancies with daily authorized quantity limits and THC potency authorizations by searching a patient registration number.  The system will respond with an error message if a patient’s quantity or THC potency authorization has been exceeded.

New patients between the ages of eighteen and twenty will face stricter guidelines in obtaining their medical marijuana card.  Those doctors recommending medical marijuana are limited to their specialty and focus of practice.  Two physicians from different medical practices must diagnose the patient as having a debilitating or disabling medical condition after an in-person consultation.  If one of the recommending physicians is not the patient’s primary care physician, the recommending physician will review the records of the diagnosing physician acting within the physician’s scope of practice.  The requirement of two physicians from separate medical practices does not apply if the patient is homebound or if the patient had a medical marijuana registration card before the age of eighteen.  One of the physicians must explain the possible risks and benefits of the medical use of marijuana to the patient. One physician must provide the patient with the written documentation specifying that the patient has been diagnosed with a debilitating or disabling medical condition and the physician has concluded that the patient might benefit from the medical use of marijuana.  The patient is required to attend follow-up appointments every 6 months after the initial visit with one of the physicians.

The bill prohibits a physician for charging an additional fee for recommending an extended plant count or making a recommendation related to an exception to a medical marijuana requirement. The bill directs the department to annually report on the number of physicians who made medical marijuana recommendations in the past year, how many recommendations each physician made, and the number of homebound patients ages 18 to 20 years old in the registry.

The includes studies on THC and its impact on mental health.  $3 million under the proposal will be directed to the Colorado School of Public Health (CSPH) for an educational campaign about youth use and extracted THC.   An additional $1 million would be set aside annually through fiscal year 2023-’24 for a CSPH review of existing research and further study of the mental health effects of marijuana.  $1.7 million will also be directed to a project requiring coroners to annually report the results of THC toxicology screens in non-natural deaths for people under the age of 26 to the Colorado Violent Death Reporting System. The department then will produce an annual report of the data beginning January 2, 2022, and annually each year thereafter.

The bill also prohibits medical marijuana advertising that is specifically directed to those ages eighteen to twenty and requires medical and retail marijuana concentrate advertising to include a warning regarding the risks of medical marijuana concentrate overconsumption.

Also, under House Bill 1317 all marijuana concentrates products fall under new packaging or labeling rules created by the state Marijuana Enforcement Division in 2023.  Beginning January 1, 2023, medical marijuana concentrate, and retail marijuana concentrate to be sold in a package containing one gram separated into no less than ten equal portioned amounts. The bill limits the amount of retail marijuana concentrate that a patient can purchase in one day to 8 grams

House Bill 1301 was signed by Governor Polis on June23, 2021 and introduced changes to outdoor growing for both marijuana and hemp famers.  Part of the bill allows for outdoor cannabis growers to create a contingency plan to prevent crop loss during extreme weather conditions, with the new practices created and enforced by the Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED).  Although marijuana and hemp are regulated and grown differently, they can sometimes cross-pollinate even miles away from each other when grown outdoors.  Cannabis grown for THC and CBD content is seedless, but industrial hemp grown for fiber carries seeds and pollen.  This can pollinate seedless cannabis plants leading to crop loss for some farmers.  Most hemp farmers oppose registering their farm locations before receiving a license to grow hemp.  Bill language creating working groups to reduce cross-pollination between marijuana and hemp plants is more controversial.

The bill requires the state licensing authority to convene a working group on or before November 1, 2021, to examine existing rules and tax laws that apply to the wholesale marijuana cultivation market.  The group will explore options how the existing rules and laws could be amended to better position Colorado businesses to be competitive if marijuana is legalized federally.  On or before June 1, 2022, the working group is required to submit a report of its findings and recommendations to the executive director and the general assembly.

Starting January 1, 2022 medical and recreational marijuana cultivation and retail marijuana cultivation facility licensees with outdoor cultivation facilities may file a contingency plan for its outdoor cultivation operation on how they will respond when there is an adverse weather event. It the contingency plan is approved; the cultivation facility may follow the plan if there was an adverse weather event.

House Bill 1090, was signed by Governor Polis in May, increased the recreational possession limit from 1 to 2 ounces. In addition, the new law qualifies convictions for up to 2 ounces of marijuana possession for record-clearing and wipes out former Class 3 marijuana cultivation felony convictions, as well as charges for growing more than twelve plants but fewer than 25.  It will still be illegal for anyone growing more than twelve plants without a medical marijuana card and extended plant count authorization.

The daily purchasing limit at Colorado dispensaries will remain at 1 ounce.  The change to 2 ounces would require formal change by the MED. In 2020 Governor Polis granted 2,700 pardons for past convictions of 1-ounce possession.  Since HB1090 was passed, governor Polis is expected to pardon 2-ounce convictions this year.

Senate Bill 56 was signed by Governor Polis in May which allows school personnel to administer medical marijuana to child patients.  The new law now “requires” school boards to implement policies allowing for the storage, possession, and administration of medical marijuana by school personnel.  In the past many school boards decided to ban the medication or not address the law at all.   Now students can receive medical marijuana from school medical personnel.  In the past a parent would be required to come to the school each time the student needed the medication.

Senate Bill 111 was passed early in the session and signed by Polis in March, it was negotiated between lawmakers and the Governor’s Office in a legislative budget committee meeting before the Colorado General Assembly convened.  The bill creates a new Cannabis Advancement Program overseen by the state Office of Economic Development and International Trade, with $4 million in loans, grants, and technical assistance to be available for marijuana business applicants qualifying for a social equity program. Intended to aid communities impacted by the War on Drugs, the program will be available to business owners that can prove one of the following: They or their families were negatively impacted by the War on Drugs, they earn less than 50 percent of the state median income, or they come from a community designated as a low-economic opportunity zone by OEDIT.

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