Bill Allowing MMJ Over Opioids Shelved Until Marijuana Laws Revamped

Keep Westword Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.

Medical marijuana could still become a state-approved alternative to opioid prescriptions, but we'll have to wait a little longer to find out. A bill that would have approved MMJ for conditions for which opioids are currently prescribed has been shelved while the Colorado Legislature awaits a discussion of the upcoming sunset on medical and recreational marijuana laws.

Senate Bill 13 had already passed the Senate when it reached the House Health & Insurance Committee on March 7, and it looked like it was on track for another voting victory...until the bill's sponsors recommended postponing the measure. Lawmakers cited concerns that while MMJ cards are usually valid for one year regardless of the qualifying condition, the opioid replacement would have been indefinite.

Colorado's marijuana laws were created with an expiration date at the end of 2019 so that after five years of commercial sales, lawmakers could evaluate legalization's effects and rewrite any outdated or undesirable regulations. During this sunset review, legislators are expected to propose a number of changes that could impact social consumption and the separation of medical and retail regulations, among other things. House committee members thought it would also work better to change the duration of an MMJ card — a move that could affect more patients than just those prescribed opioids — during the sunset review than with a specific bill, like SB 13.

"We realized with the sunset bill [coming up], we were making things harder than this had to be," explains  Representative Kim Ransom.

State rep Edie Hooton, the other main sponsor of the bill, came armed with evidence and public testimony to support the effort anyway, handing out studies that showed decreasing opioid deaths in states with MMJ, as well as the lower rate of cannabis addiction compared to addictions to opioids. Over a dozen witnesses testified in favor of the bill, too, including representatives from the Drug Policy Alliance and Americans for Safe Access.

Not everyone was as supportive: The Colorado Society of Addiction Medicine opposed SB 13 because it was concerned about multi-substance drug abuse if a patient could be simultaneously prescribed opioids and MMJ for the same condition. However, MMJ patients and advocates at the hearing said that using both medications at smaller doses — whether as a treatment plan for their specific conditions or to ween themselves off opioids completely — was an important tool for patients, especially those suffering from chronic pain.

But many opioid patients are prescribed medication for acute pain, and that can be an indefinite condition. Since the minimum length of an MMJ card is currently one year in Colorado, Hooton and Ransom recommended postponing the bill until the sunset measure adds more flexibility to MMJ.

The sunset review is expected to come at some point in the summer, but no official date has yet been set.

Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.