Marijuana Bills Before Colorado Lawmakers: Smaller Plant Counts, More Hemp Rights

Governor John Hickenlooper talks Colorado marijuana law.
Governor John Hickenlooper talks Colorado marijuana law.
U.S. Department of Agriculture
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As more states around the country hop aboard the legal-marijuana train, Colorado's lawmakers continue to gather steam. Since it became the first state to legalize recreational cannabis in 2012 — with the first legal sales on January 1, 2014 — Colorado is now fine-tuning its systems, taking on residential plant counts (the House just placed a proposed limit of sixteen), marijuana delivery services, hemp water rights and more in 2017's legislative season. And the people are paying attention: Currently the most accessed bill on the Colorado Legislature website is about marijuana.

Here are seventeen bills that, if passed (and a few already have been), could impact the legal (and illegal) marijuana and hemp industries in Colorado.

: Prevent Marijuana Diversion to Illegal Market
Sponsors: Representative KC Becker (D-District 13), Representative Cole Wist (R-District 37), Senator Rhonda Fields (D-District 29), Senator Bob Gardner (R-District 12)
Status: Under consideration in Senate, passed House 3/13/17
Summary: The bill places a cap on the number of plants that can be possessed or grown on a residential property at twelve plants in the aggregate, with six or fewer being mature. A medical marijuana patient or primary caregiver who cultivates more than twelve plants must cultivate the plants in compliance with applicable city, county, or city and county law. The bill requires a patient or primary caregiver cultivating medical marijuana to comply with all local laws, regulations and zoning requirements.

Also know as the "plant count bill," this bill has the support of Governor John Hickenlooper. Colorado law currently allows each medical marijuana patient with extended plant counts to grow up to 99 marijuana plants on residential property.

SB17-017: Allow Medical Marijuana Use for Stress Disorders
Sponsors: Senator Irene Aguilar (D-District 32), Representative Jonathan Singer (D-District 11)
Status: Under consideration by House, passed the Senate
Summary: The bill creates a statutory right to use medical marijuana for a patient with acute stress disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder. The bill creates the same rights, limitations and criminal defenses and exceptions as the constitutional right to use medical marijuana.

HB17-1221: Grey and Black Market Marijuana Enforcement Efforts
Sponsors: Representative Yeulin Willett (R-District 54), Senator Irene Aguilar (D-District 32), Representative Dan Pabon (D-District 4)
Status: Under consideration
Summary: The bill creates the grey- and black-market marijuana-enforcement grant program in the division of local government in the Department of Local Affairs. The grant program would award grants to local governments to reimburse the local governments, in part or in full, for training, education, law enforcement and prosecution costs associated with gray and black marijuana markets; a rural local government with limited law enforcement resources has priority in receiving grants. The General Assembly may appropriate money from the marijuana tax cash fund or the proposition AA refund account to the division for the grant program. The division shall adopt policies and procedures for the administration of the grant program, including rules related to the application process and the grant award criteria. The division shall include information regarding the effectiveness of the grant program in its SMART presentation beginning in November 2019.

SB17-184: Private Marijuana Clubs Open and Public Use
Sponsors: Senator Bob Gardner (R-District 12), Representative Dan Pabon (D-District 4)
Status: Under consideration
Summary: The bill authorizes the operation of a marijuana membership club only if the local jurisdiction has authorized clubs. A club must meet the following qualifications:

  • All members and employees of the club must be 21 years of age or older
  • The club's employees must be Colorado residents
  • The club cannot sell or serve alcohol
  • The club cannot be a retail food establishment
  • A club owner shall not sell marijuana on the premises
  • A club owner shall not permit the sale or exchange of marijuana for remuneration on the premises

SB17-187: Residency Exemption Marijuana Education-Based Occupational License
Sponsors: Representative Joann Ginal (D-District 52), Senator Larry Crowder (R-District 35)
Status: Under consideration
Summary: Under current law, when an employee or manager of a retail business applies for an occupational license, the person must be a Colorado resident on the date of his or her application. The bill gives the state licensing authority the ability to create an exemption to the residency requirement for a person applying for an occupational license for participation in a marijuana-based workforce development or education program if the person files an affirmation that he or she is participating in a program that requires access to licensed premises.

SB17-192: Marijuana Business Efficiency Measures (marijuana delivery and product transfers)
Sponsors: Senator Tim Neville (R-District 16), Representative Jonathan Singer (D-District 11), Representative Jovan Melton (D-District 41)
Status: Under consideration, introduced 2/24/17
Summary: The bill allows a medical marijuana center and a retail marijuana store to apply for an endorsement that allows the center or store to deliver marijuana. The centers and stores with the delivery endorsement may use an employee or contract with a medical or retail marijuana transporter to make the deliveries. The endorsements for medical marijuana begin January 2, 2018, and the endorsements for retail marijuana begin January 2, 2019.

The bill allows the state licensing authority to authorize single-instance transfers of retail marijuana or retail marijuana products from a retail marijuana licensee to a medical marijuana licensee based on a business need due to a change in local, state, or federal law enforcement policy. If granted, the transfer must be completed within sixth months of the date the transfer was approved.

SB17-178: Marijuana Use as a Condition of Bond
Sponsors: Senator Vickie Marble (R-District 23 ), Representative Jovan Melton (D-District 41)
Status: Under consideration.
Summary: The bill prohibits a court from imposing as a bond condition a ban on marijuana use if the person possesses a valid medical marijuana registry identification card.

SB17-015: Unlawful Marijuana Advertising
Sponsors: Senator Irene Aguilar (D-District 32), Representative Dan Pabon (D-District 4)
Status: Passed
Summary: The bill makes it a level 2 drug misdemeanor for a person not licensed to sell medical or retail marijuana to advertise for the sale of marijuana or marijuana concentrate. Primary caregivers, medical marijuana-infused product manufacturers, retail marijuana product manufacturers and retail marijuana testing facilities are excluded from this crime.

HB17-1034: Medical Marijuana License Issues
Sponsors: Representative Dan Pabon (D-District 4), Senator Randy Baumgardner (R-District 8)
Status: Passed
Summary: The retail marijuana code requires a license for retail marijuana business operators. The bill creates a corresponding medical marijuana business operator license. Under current law, a medical marijuana licensee may move his or her location within the city or county where the business is licensed upon approval of the local and state licensing authority. Under the retail marijuana code, a licensee can move his or her business anywhere in Colorado upon approval of the state and local jurisdiction. The bill would allow a medical marijuana licensee to move his or her business anywhere in Colorado upon approval of the state and local jurisdiction to conform with the retail marijuana code.

The bill also allows medical marijuana-infused product manufacturers to sell or buy medical marijuana from another medical marijuana-infused product manufacturer.

Keep reading for more bills.

Hemp could become an important cash crop in Colorado.
Hemp could become an important cash crop in Colorado.
Ben Droz

SB17-090: Measuring Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol in Industrial Hemp
Sponsors: Senator Randy Baumgardner (R-District 8), Representative Diane Mitsch Bush (D-District 26)
Status: Passed
Summary: The bill requires the commissioner of agriculture to determine the level of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol in industrial hemp by measuring the combined concentration of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol and its precursor, tetrahydrocannabinolic acid.

SB17-111: Medical Marijuana Inventory Shortfall Fixes
Sponsors: Senator Tim Neville (R-District 16), Representative Matt Gray (D-District 33), Dafna Michaelson Jenet (D-District 30)
Status: Under consideration.
Summary: The medical marijuana system is a vertically integrated regulatory scheme, meaning a medical marijuana center must grow the marijuana that it sells. There is one exception to the vertically integrated market: A medical marijuana center can sell to or buy from other medical marijuana licensees up to 30 percent of its inventory. The bill changes the 30 percent limit to 50 percent. The bill states that a medical marijuana center may transfer medical marijuana to another medical marijuana licensee if the licensees have a common owner, without the medical marijuana counting toward the 50 percent limit.

SB17-025: Marijuana Education Materials Resource Bank
Sponsors: Senator Randy Baumgardner (R-District 8), Senator Chris Holbert (R-District 30), Representative Jonathan Singer (D-District 11)
Status: Under consideration.
Summary: This bill will create and maintain a resource bank to be known as the "Jack Splitt Memorial Resource Bank" by July 1, 2017, for public schools to use without charge. It will consist of materials and curricula pertaining to marijuana use; and upon request of a public school, to provide technical assistance in designing age-appropriate curricula on marijuana use.

The bill authorizes the Department of Education to contract for the maintenance of the resource bank and the development of the curricula, and directs the department to solicit input from persons within and outside of the marijuana industry.

After the resource bank and curricula are available, school districts, charter schools and boards of cooperative services are encouraged to report to the department on the effectiveness of them and offer recommendations for changes. The bill authorizes resource bank expenses to be paid from the marijuana-tax cash fund.

HB17-1148: Registration of Industrial Hemp Cultivators
Sponsors: Representative Jeni Arndt (D-District 53), Senator John Cooke (R-District 13)
Status: Under consideration.
Summary: Current law requires persons who wish to cultivate industrial hemp to apply to the Colorado Department of Agriculture for a registration. The bill adds a requirement that applicants to cultivate industrial hemp for commercial purposes must provide the names of each officer, director, member, partner or owner of 10 percent or more in the entity applying for registration and any person managing or controlling the entity. Applicants for a registration may be denied registration for up to three years if any individual or entity listed in the application was previously subject to discipline, or the individual or entity was previously listed by an entity that was subject to discipline. When a registration is suspended, revoked or relinquished, a new application for registration may be denied for up to three years after the effective date of discipline.

: Exclude Marijuana From Farm Products Definition
Sponsors: Representative Joann Ginal (D-District 52), Senator Don Coram (R-District 6)
Status: Under consideration.
Summary: Under the Farm Products Act, the commissioner of agriculture or his or her designee licenses farm-product dealers, small-volume dealers and their agents. The bill excludes marijuana from the definition of "farm products" under the act.

SB17-117: Recognize Industrial Hemp Agricultural Product for Agricultural Water Right
Sponsors: Senator Don Coram (R-District 6), Representative Donald Valdez (D-District 62), Representative Marc Catlin (R-District 58)
Status: Introduced 1/27/17
Summary: In Colorado, water subject to a water right may be used for the purpose for which the water is decreed. The bill confirms that a person with an absolute or conditional water right decreed for agricultural use may use the water subject to the water right for the growth or cultivation of industrial hemp if the person is registered by the Colorado Department of Agriculture to grow industrial hemp for commercial or research and development purposes.

SB17-109: Industrial Hemp Animal Feed
Sponsors: Senator Kerry Donovan (D-District 5), Representative Jeni Arndt (D-District 53)
Status: Passed
Summary:  The bill creates a group under the commissioner of agriculture to study the feasibility of including hemp products in animal feed. The group includes a hemp producer, a hemp processor, a legal expert, a person from an institution of higher education who has studied hemp policy, a veterinarian, a livestock producer, and any other person the commissioner determines would facilitate understanding the legal, practical or business considerations. The group will make recommendations by December 31, 2017.

HB17-1203: Local Government Special Sales Tax on Retail Marijuana
Sponsors: Representative Steve Lebsock (D-District 34), Senator Larry Crowder (R-District 35), Senator Beth Martinez Humenik (R-District 24)
Status: Under consideration.
Summary: The Colorado Court of Appeals has held that current law does not authorize counties to levy and collect a sales tax on retail marijuana and retail marijuana products in addition to any sales tax imposed by the state and the standard sales tax imposed by the county. Current law is also silent regarding the authority of a statutory municipality to collect a special sales tax on retail marijuana and retail marijuana products. The bill authorizes counties and municipalities to levy, collect and enforce a special sales tax on retail marijuana and retail marijuana products; except that a county may levy, collect and enforce a special sales tax on retail marijuana and retail marijuana products only under the following circumstances:

  • The county levies, collects and enforces a special sales tax upon all sales of retail marijuana and retail marijuana products in the unincorporated areas of the county.
  • The county levies, collects and enforces a special sales tax upon all sales of retail marijuana and retail marijuana products in the municipalities within the county that do not levy a special sales tax on the sale of retail marijuana and retail marijuana products. The county special sales tax is authorized only until the municipality obtains voter approval for a special municipal tax on the sale of retail marijuana and retail marijuana products. After such time, any county special sales tax is invalid within the corporate boundaries of the municipality unless the county enters into an intergovernmental agreement with the municipality to allow the county to continue to levy, collect and enforce the county's special sales tax.
  • The governing body of any county and the governing body of any municipality within the boundaries of the county that levies a municipal special sales tax on the sale of retail marijuana and retail marijuana products enter into an intergovernmental agreement pertaining to the county's levy, collection and enforcement of a special sales tax upon all sales of all retail marijuana and retail marijuana products. The intergovernmental agreement may include a provision for the apportionment of a specified percentage of the gross retail marijuana special sales tax revenue collected by the county to the municipality.
  • The bill specifies that a county or a municipality may not levy a special sales tax under any circumstance until the proposed tax has been referred to and approved by the eligible electors of the county or municipality, as applicable. A county or municipality must refer the proposed tax to the eligible electors only on the date of the state general election, on the first Tuesday in November of an odd-numbered year, or, in the case of a municipality, on the date of a municipal biennial election.

Watch for updates as the legislature takes on these proposals; the session must end by May 10.

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