Changes to Colorado's cannabis industry are on the horizon. The Marijuana Enforcement Division has been holding meetings for industry stakeholders and government officials in order to iron out the details of recently passed laws and new regulations, and the public is encouraged to attend those meetings and provide input.
In the first day of an ongoing series of working-group meetings, cannabis lawyers and business owners, doctors, parents and government officials discussed how to implement HB 1034, HB 1261, SB 187 and SB 192, all of which were passed this last legislative session and signed into law by Governor John Hickenlooper. As the agency that oversees the pot industry, the MED is looking at a range of ways to enforce these new laws, and there's no shortage of them.
Although the meetings will continue through the end of the month, big changes for the industry have already been discussed. Here are five issues that came up at the most recent meeting:
Rule r231 was added as an amendment to SB 187 partly because of the nation's growing proclivity for legalizing cannabis. The new rule puts a program in place for dispensaries hiring and training employees who have been transferred from out-of-state branches. It may also loosen restrictions on employee badge designations in hopes of streamlining training and reducing required supervision. Currently, only employees with a key badge (owners, managers, supervisors) can be in a licensed marijuana business by themselves or without supervision. Support employees (most budtenders, cultivators and day-to-day staff) can't be alone in the business without supervision, and the definition of supervision can change from locality to locality.
In some counties and municipalities, supervision can mean a camera watching employees, while other towns, such as Boulder, take the meaning more literally and require in-person supervision. This hampers some businesses from operating efficiently, says Dan Anglin, a member of the working group and owner of AmeriCanna. In Boulder, his businesses can't open or close unless an employee with a key badge is present, he says, so he hopes that the final draft of the rule will relax some of those industry-badge restrictions. And Anglin is likely to get his wish, as most of the committee (and, more important, Department of Revenue officials) side with his sentiment.
As more counties and municipalities allow medical marijuana businesses within their borders, the state has been dealing with with a growing number of requests to move locations. Since licensing rules and pot business regulations vary widely from town to town, however, moving just a few miles in one direction could be nearly impossible for some medical dispensaries and cultivations. Rule m206 of HB 1034 would require that a business trying to move to a different town simply pay a change-of-location application fee instead of paying all renewal application fees at once, which it currently must do. The new rule would also align local location-transfer policies with the state's, in hopes of shortening the application process.
One rule change that will directly affect consumers is rule r1507 of SB 192, which deals with retail marijuana testing and failed test results. The new law aims to set up a program for microbial testing of retail marijuana products, but it also leaves the option open for decontamination and extraction into solvent-based concentrates. Under the new rule, products that fail contaminate testing may be decontaminated or extracted into concentrates — which can eliminate certain contaminates in flower and trim — and then retested again. If the decontaminated flower or concentrates don't pass two separate sample tests, all of the product must be destroyed.
However, the new law doesn't allow for the retesting of medical products, just those on the retail side, and industry members believe the policies may hamper future technologies that can decontaminate cannabis products using ozone technology and other methods used in the spice and fruit industries. These issues will be readdressed during future catch-all meetings.
This new rule impacts business owners more than it does consumers, though there could be a slight reflection in the cost you pay at the cash register and the freshness of your medical flower. Rule m601 of HB 1034 allows holders of medical-infused product (MIP) licenses to sell wholesale products to other MIP manufacturers and medical dispensaries, and also allows medical MIPs to sell flower previously bought from a different wholesale grower – essentially re-gifting wholesale marijuana. The rule will also ban medical MIPs with cultivation licenses from selling any flower or trim that they grow to other licensed businesses or consumers.
The packaging and labeling working group was created to come up with concepts for cannabis packaging and labeling standards that work with HB 1261, which called the issue "a matter of statewide concern." The group has been in contact with Oregon and Washington to create a standard that works with other state-regulated cannabis industries, aiming for more essential information while keeping the materials used for labeling to a minimum.
Cannabis business owners and advocates want only essential information on labeling in multi-layered packages, saying the current rules already require too much ink and paper. Comparing a hash-oil container, which typically comes in a jar placed inside a small box or bottle, to a Russian nesting doll, cannabis attorney Jordan Wellington argues that the entire label could be cut into layers like the packaging, with critical health and safety warnings on the primary packaging and nutrient information on the outer layers.
Child psychiatrist Dr. Charlie Lippolis believes that all cannabis product packaging should be held to the same standard as over-the-counter drugs such as Tylenol. As Lippolis points out, the same product information and warnings found on the box are also on the Tylenol bottle; she thinks cannabis manufacturers have a responsibility to do the same. Adding to the debate is the definition of critical labeling information, which varies from stakeholder to stakeholder. The Colorado Department of Revenue has been consistent in its goal to have packaging as consistent with U.S. Food and Drug Administration standards as possible, but labeling issues like edible digestion time and THC potency aren't shared by the FDA.
Much of the packaging and labeling discussion will be revisited during catch-all sessions later this month.
In the meantime, there will be another round of meetings on Thursday, September 14, and Friday, September 15, to discuss state licenses for clinical marijuana research. The meetings will be held in the Colorado Gaming Commission conference room at 17301 West Colfax Avenue in Golden.
Any unresolved issues from the legislation-implementation meetings will be brought up during two separate catch-all sessions on Tuesday, September 19, and Friday, September 22, at the same location. The final day for public and written comment consideration is Monday, October 16, during the final rule hearing.