Colorado's 2020 legislative session is under way, and several pieces of marijuana legislation are in the works.
No one expects this year's session to be as cannabis-sexy as it was in 2019, when the General Assembly approved new laws authorizing marijuana delivery, social consumption businesses and a massive update to industry rules and regulations, such as allowing publicly traded ownership of marijuana companies. That doesn't mean this year will be a total snoozefest, however.
While we're still waiting for hyped proposals that would address diversity in pot-industry ownership and statewide expungement of former pot crimes that are now legal, state lawmakers have already introduced bills that would protect employees from being fired for using marijuana during off-hours, reduce felonies for criminal marijuana possession, and more.
Here's a breakdown of the five marijuana bills introduced so far (the summaries come from the text of the bills themselves), as well as their status. No measures addressing hemp have yet been introduced, but we'll update this list as the session continues.
HB 1080: Remove Residency Requirement for Marijuana License
Prime sponsors: Representative Matt Gray (D-District 33), Representative Kevin Van Winkle (R-District 43), Senator Julie Gonzalez (D-District 34), Senator Vicki Marble (R-District 23)
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Summary: Under current law, all managers and employees of a medical marijuana business or a retail marijuana business with day-to-day operational control must be Colorado residents when they apply for licensure. The bill repeals this residency requirement.
Status: Hearing with House Business Affairs & Labor Committee February 4
HB 1089: Employee Protection Lawful Off-Duty Activities
Prime sponsors: Representative Jovan Melton (D-District 41)
Summary: The bill prohibits an employer from terminating an employee for the employee's lawful off-duty activities that are lawful under state law even if those activities are not lawful under federal law.
Status: Hearing with House Business Affairs & Labor Committee February 5
HB 1150: Repeal House Bill 19-1263 Penalties for Drug Possession
Prime sponsors: Representative Hugh McKean (R-District 51)
Summary: House Bill 19-1263, enacted in 2019, made changes relating to the offense level for possession of certain controlled substances and sentencing therefore and enacted the community substance use and mental health services grant program.
The bill repeals provisions enacted by House Bill 19-1263, and reinstates provisions repealed by that act. The bill makes possession of 4 grams or less of a controlled substance listed in schedule I or II a level 4 drug felony, possession of more than 12 ounces of marijuana or more than 3 ounces of marijuana concentrate a level 4 drug felony, and possession of 3 ounces or less of marijuana concentrate, a level 1 drug misdemeanor.
The bill clarifies that a person may be arrested for the petty offense of possession of not more than 2 ounces of marijuana and that a person may not be sentenced to confinement in jail for a first offense of abusing toxic vapors.
The bill prohibits a court from suspending a sentence to complete useful public service pursuant to the "Uniform Controlled Substances Act of 2013" (act) and requires a court to sentence a person to complete useful public service if the person receives diversion or a deferred sentence. Any person convicted of a drug offense must submit to the fingerprinting and photographing requirements of the act.
The bill clarifies that persons convicted of level 1 or 2 drug misdemeanors related to unlawful use of a controlled substance, possession of marijuana or marijuana concentrate, unlawful use or possession of certain synthetic controlled substances, or abusing toxic vapors are subject to the same sentencing scheme as a person convicted of other level 1 or 2 drug misdemeanors.
The bill repeals the community substance use and mental health services grant program established in the department of local affairs.
Status: Will be heard by House Judiciary Committee; date yet to be announced.
SB 016: Notify If School Employee Gives Drugs to Students
Prime sponsors: Senator Bob Rankin (R-District 8)
Summary: Under existing law, a school district, charter school, or board of cooperative services notifies parents of students enrolled in a school if an employee working in the school or who had contact with students is charged with certain felony offenses relating to violence, drugs, or unlawful sexual behavior.
The bill adds the following offenses to the parent notification requirements:
- Any violation that involves the sale, dispensing, distribution, or transfer to a student of certain controlled substances, marijuana, or marijuana concentrates; and
- Unlawfully providing any alcohol beverage to a student or contributing to the delinquency of a minor relating to providing any alcohol beverage to a student.
Status: Hearing with Senate Judiciary Committee February 12.
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SB 097: Unemployment Insurance Marijuana-licensed Business
Prime sponsors: Senator Chris Holbert (R-District 30), Representative Kevin Van Winkle (R-District 43)
Summary: Current law states that a common paymaster is not a single employing unit for purposes of considering the services performed by another employing unit subject to a single or common payroll. The bill creates an exception for an employee leasing company or other employing entity that is owned by one or more persons who have a medical or retail marijuana license and who own at least 50% of an entity that shares the employee leasing company's services. The employee leasing company or other employing entity is not considered a common paymaster for the purposes of the "Colorado Employment Security Act."
Status: Will be heard by Senate Business, Labor & Technology Committee; date yet to be announced.