New Bill Calls for Tracking Agent to Be Applied to Marijuana, Hemp

New Bill Calls for Tracking Agent to Be Applied to Marijuana, HempEXPAND
Madeline St. Amour
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A bill introduced in the Colorado Senate would require that a tracking agent be applied to medical and recreational marijuana and industrial hemp plants — even though the technology hasn't been invented yet. SB 029 calls for "an agent that is applied to a marijuana plant, marijuana product, industrial hemp, or industrial hemp product and then scanned by a device," in an attempt to improve marijuana tracking and help law enforcement officials distinguish where marijuana products originated. But some activists and businesses think the proposal goes too far.

The bill, sponsored by state senators Leroy Garcia and Kent Lambert and state representatives Dan Pabon and Yeulin Willet, calls for the tracking agent to be "applied" to the plants — which could mean spraying, rubbing,  spreading and many other things — but notes that Colorado State University Pueblo must first develop the technology and tracking agent. Once the technology is developed, the state would find a sole vendor to sell the new tracking tech, with law enforcement agencies able to buy it thanks to a grant from marijuana tax revenue.

All of that has consumer advocates and dispensary owners freaking out, according to Cannabis Consumer Coalition executive director Larisa Bolivar, who says that very few, if any, of her members would consider smoking or consuming a marijuana product knowing that a chemical or biological agent had been applied. "What a great way to increase black-market sales, because I can tell you now that most cannabis consumers aren't going to like the thought of something being sprayed on their weed," she says. "This is going after individual rights, consumer rights and rights to even grow cannabis."

According to the bill, every licensed cannabis and hemp cultivation in Colorado would have to apply the agent to its plants, ensuring that all legal marijuana products are scannable by the yet-to-developed technology. This would help police officers determine if pot diverted out of state or resold illegally came from a non-licensed grow or a businesses operation, the bill suggests.

But Bolivar questions the enforcement argument, pointing out that adults in Colorado are allowed to have six to twelve plants in their own private grows, and are also allowed to give marijuana away to other adults.

Garcia, Lambert, Pabon and Willet did not respond to requests for comment. An aide for Garcia says he isn't ready to speak about the bill, explaining that there will be "a number of big amendments" to it and that he doesn't want "folks getting confused." Contacted for their responses, representatives of three dispensary chains called the bill everything from "fucking crazy" to "ludicrous." None of them expect the bill to pass in its current form, and all declined to comment publicly until the proposal takes a more concrete form.

Bolivar shows no such hesitation, however. She worries that the proposed bill could "protect" certain industry interests by squeezing out residential grows, medical marijuana caregivers and even at-home hemp growers, while also placating law enforcement.

"We already have a seed-to-sale tracking system. The black market is going away because of economics; we don't need law enforcement to chase that away," she says, pointing to dropping prices of wholesale pot since legalization. "We're trying to get rid of all the chemicals by flushing out [growing nutrients] for a week or two before harvesting to get rid of all the crap. Why add more?"

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