Expect These Marijuana Bills in the 2019 Legislative Session

Legal cannabis may be in store for some changes after the Colorado General Assembly convenes January 4.
Jacqueline Collins
Legal cannabis may be in store for some changes after the Colorado General Assembly convenes January 4.
It's back-to-school day for the Colorado General Assembly: This morning, January 4, state senators and representatives will gather for the start of the 2019 session. They have their lunches packed up, boots tied tight. Let's hope they don't get in a fight...

Nearly 800 bills were introduced last year at the state legislature, with twenty cannabis-related measures ultimately receiving legislative approval. Governor John Hickenlooper vetoed three of those bills, but his two terms are up, and the incoming governor, Jared Polis, has expressed support for expanding the state's cannabis programs. Advocates of the plant have never been more confident in Colorado.

The state's medical and retail marijuana codes will also sunset in September, tasking the legislature with evaluating Colorado's pot laws and regulations and leaving even more room for dozens of expected cannabis-related bills at the Capitol this year. Here are five hot issues we expect to be addressed there in 2019.

New Qualifying Medical Marijuana Conditions
Hickenlooper vetoed a bill that would have added autism spectrum disorder to the state's list of qualified medical marijuana conditions. The bill faced little objection in the legislature, passing its final Senate and House readings 32-3 and 53-11, respectively, but Hickenlooper argued for more scientific evidence of cannabis's efficacy in treating autism. Polis, on the campaign trail at the time, quickly vowed to sign a similar bill if presented to him as governor.

Lawmakers and cannabis advocates may also try to add acute pain and conditions treated by opioids to the state's MMJ list in a separate bill, but this effort won't be as easy. State Representative Edie Hooton originally introduced a bill last year that would have put acute pain on the list of conditions okayed for MMJ, with autism added after Hooton spoke with families of autistic children. The autism effort was later broken off into a separate bill and moved swiftly through the legislature, but the acute-pain measure died in committee. Advocates are determined to bring it back.

Cannabis Hospitality
Social cannabis consumption still hasn't been regulated at a state level, despite recreational pot sales being legal for over five years now. Industry representatives and business owners think 2019 could be the year. Another Hickenlooper veto killed a bill that would've allowed dispensaries to apply for tasting-room permits, but he may have left the door open for an even more expansive measure.

A group of industry lobbyists, tourism companies, lounge owners and dispensary representatives, bullish on their incoming governor, recently announced plans to submit a cannabis hospitality bill to lawmakers in 2019. The bill would create two new business licenses that allow social pot use in a manner similar to the use of alcohol, with hotels, music venues, dispensaries and dozens of other businesses potentially able to apply for private consumption areas.