As this legislative session draws to a close at the end of May 3, laws regulating Colorado's marijuana industry have been extended another nine years...while also getting a facelift from Colorado legislators.
Many of the state's medical and recreational marijuana rules and regulations were scheduled to sunset this year, and two lengthy bills were introduced this session to ensure that oversight of the industry continued. With some tweaking, they successfully passed through the Colorado General Assembly earlier this week, continuing our skunky rebellion against the federal government until 2028. Although neither measure received much attention outside of the pot community, both will have lasting impacts on the industry and consumers.
For starters, the medical and retail codes have now been merged — but don't worry, medical marijuana patients: Your sales tax rate will remain at 2.9 percent, rather than the 15 percent recreational users pay. The merger is designed to ease industry operation and oversight, which could ultimately reduce the price everyone pays at the dispensary, according to marijuana lobbyist Shawn Coleman.
"When it's easier to operate, then you start to see that reflected as a customer," he says. "Easier rules usually mean cheaper prices."
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The bills came loaded with suggested changes to current rules: product testing for marijuana and hemp-derived CBD products, as well as changes in industry background checks, MMJ card applications and patient possession. And those were just the beginning: As the measures went through the legislature, they attracted amendments that could add new forms of business licenses to the pot industry, loosen recycling restrictions and allow employers to provide sales incentives to workers, a previously banned practice in the pot industry.
"People would be shocked at what is not allowed in this industry. The reality is that we're in a state with 3 percent unemployment rate, and that doesn't discriminate," Coleman says. "This is just the way the process works. It's not the industry or legislators trying to pull a fast one on anybody. These things just take a while."
The sunset on medical marijuana rules opened up opportunities for patients, expanding the scope of medical professionals who can recommend medical marijuana from only certified physicians to any advanced medical practitioner, such as a dentist or nurse. Short-term MMJ cards were also added to the bill, raising the possibility of adding acute and indefinite conditions to the state's list of qualifying medical marijuana conditions.
The bills now await the governor's signature. And then the real work begins, as the Department of Public Health and Environment, the Marijuana Enforcement Division and other agencies hold rule-making sessions to figure out the introduction and enforcement of all the details.