Marijuana Bills Before Colorado Lawmakers: Smaller Plant Counts, More Hemp Rights

Governor John Hickenlooper talks Colorado marijuana law.
Governor John Hickenlooper talks Colorado marijuana law. U.S. Department of Agriculture
As more states around the country hop aboard the legal-marijuana train, Colorado's lawmakers continue to gather steam. Since it became the first state to legalize recreational cannabis in 2012 — with the first legal sales on January 1, 2014 — Colorado is now fine-tuning its systems, taking on residential plant counts (the House just placed a proposed limit of sixteen), marijuana delivery services, hemp water rights and more in 2017's legislative season. And the people are paying attention: Currently the most accessed bill on the Colorado Legislature website is about marijuana.

Here are seventeen bills that, if passed (and a few already have been), could impact the legal (and illegal) marijuana and hemp industries in Colorado.

: Prevent Marijuana Diversion to Illegal Market
Sponsors: Representative KC Becker (D-District 13), Representative Cole Wist (R-District 37), Senator Rhonda Fields (D-District 29), Senator Bob Gardner (R-District 12)
Status: Under consideration in Senate, passed House 3/13/17
Summary: The bill places a cap on the number of plants that can be possessed or grown on a residential property at twelve plants in the aggregate, with six or fewer being mature. A medical marijuana patient or primary caregiver who cultivates more than twelve plants must cultivate the plants in compliance with applicable city, county, or city and county law. The bill requires a patient or primary caregiver cultivating medical marijuana to comply with all local laws, regulations and zoning requirements.

Also know as the "plant count bill," this bill has the support of Governor John Hickenlooper. Colorado law currently allows each medical marijuana patient with extended plant counts to grow up to 99 marijuana plants on residential property.

SB17-017: Allow Medical Marijuana Use for Stress Disorders
Sponsors: Senator Irene Aguilar (D-District 32), Representative Jonathan Singer (D-District 11)
Status: Under consideration by House, passed the Senate
Summary: The bill creates a statutory right to use medical marijuana for a patient with acute stress disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder. The bill creates the same rights, limitations and criminal defenses and exceptions as the constitutional right to use medical marijuana.

HB17-1221: Grey and Black Market Marijuana Enforcement Efforts
Sponsors: Representative Yeulin Willett (R-District 54), Senator Irene Aguilar (D-District 32), Representative Dan Pabon (D-District 4)
Status: Under consideration
Summary: The bill creates the grey- and black-market marijuana-enforcement grant program in the division of local government in the Department of Local Affairs. The grant program would award grants to local governments to reimburse the local governments, in part or in full, for training, education, law enforcement and prosecution costs associated with gray and black marijuana markets; a rural local government with limited law enforcement resources has priority in receiving grants. The General Assembly may appropriate money from the marijuana tax cash fund or the proposition AA refund account to the division for the grant program. The division shall adopt policies and procedures for the administration of the grant program, including rules related to the application process and the grant award criteria. The division shall include information regarding the effectiveness of the grant program in its SMART presentation beginning in November 2019.

SB17-184: Private Marijuana Clubs Open and Public Use
Sponsors: Senator Bob Gardner (R-District 12), Representative Dan Pabon (D-District 4)
Status: Under consideration
Summary: The bill authorizes the operation of a marijuana membership club only if the local jurisdiction has authorized clubs. A club must meet the following qualifications:
  • All members and employees of the club must be 21 years of age or older
  • The club's employees must be Colorado residents
  • The club cannot sell or serve alcohol
  • The club cannot be a retail food establishment
  • A club owner shall not sell marijuana on the premises
  • A club owner shall not permit the sale or exchange of marijuana for remuneration on the premises
SB17-187: Residency Exemption Marijuana Education-Based Occupational License
Sponsors: Representative Joann Ginal (D-District 52), Senator Larry Crowder (R-District 35)
Status: Under consideration
Summary: Under current law, when an employee or manager of a retail business applies for an occupational license, the person must be a Colorado resident on the date of his or her application. The bill gives the state licensing authority the ability to create an exemption to the residency requirement for a person applying for an occupational license for participation in a marijuana-based workforce development or education program if the person files an affirmation that he or she is participating in a program that requires access to licensed premises.

SB17-192: Marijuana Business Efficiency Measures (marijuana delivery and product transfers)
Sponsors: Senator Tim Neville (R-District 16), Representative Jonathan Singer (D-District 11), Representative Jovan Melton (D-District 41)
Status: Under consideration, introduced 2/24/17
Summary: The bill allows a medical marijuana center and a retail marijuana store to apply for an endorsement that allows the center or store to deliver marijuana. The centers and stores with the delivery endorsement may use an employee or contract with a medical or retail marijuana transporter to make the deliveries. The endorsements for medical marijuana begin January 2, 2018, and the endorsements for retail marijuana begin January 2, 2019.

The bill allows the state licensing authority to authorize single-instance transfers of retail marijuana or retail marijuana products from a retail marijuana licensee to a medical marijuana licensee based on a business need due to a change in local, state, or federal law enforcement policy. If granted, the transfer must be completed within sixth months of the date the transfer was approved.

SB17-178: Marijuana Use as a Condition of Bond
Sponsors: Senator Vickie Marble (R-District 23 ), Representative Jovan Melton (D-District 41)
Status: Under consideration.
Summary: The bill prohibits a court from imposing as a bond condition a ban on marijuana use if the person possesses a valid medical marijuana registry identification card.

SB17-015: Unlawful Marijuana Advertising
Sponsors: Senator Irene Aguilar (D-District 32), Representative Dan Pabon (D-District 4)
Status: Passed
Summary: The bill makes it a level 2 drug misdemeanor for a person not licensed to sell medical or retail marijuana to advertise for the sale of marijuana or marijuana concentrate. Primary caregivers, medical marijuana-infused product manufacturers, retail marijuana product manufacturers and retail marijuana testing facilities are excluded from this crime.

HB17-1034: Medical Marijuana License Issues
Sponsors: Representative Dan Pabon (D-District 4), Senator Randy Baumgardner (R-District 8)
Summary: The retail marijuana code requires a license for retail marijuana business operators. The bill creates a corresponding medical marijuana business operator license. Under current law, a medical marijuana licensee may move his or her location within the city or county where the business is licensed upon approval of the local and state licensing authority. Under the retail marijuana code, a licensee can move his or her business anywhere in Colorado upon approval of the state and local jurisdiction. The bill would allow a medical marijuana licensee to move his or her business anywhere in Colorado upon approval of the state and local jurisdiction to conform with the retail marijuana code.

The bill also allows medical marijuana-infused product manufacturers to sell or buy medical marijuana from another medical marijuana-infused product manufacturer.

Keep reading for more bills.

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Thomas Mitchell has written about all things cannabis for Westword since 2014, covering sports, real estate and general news along the way for publications such as the Arizona Republic, Inman and Fox Sports. He's currently the cannabis editor for
Contact: Thomas Mitchell