Colorado's New, Improved MMJ Rules Start in November

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The rules for Colorado's expansive new medical marijuana laws have been approved by the state Board of Health, and will become official in six weeks.

Mandated by a set of bills passed by the Colorado Legislature during the 2019 session, the rules received some minor technical tweaks during their implementation period over the summer, and were officially approved by the Board of Health on September 18. They will go into effect November 14, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

The new rules include allowing doctors, dentists (and some nurses) and certain medical professionals with prescribing power and a "valid license to practice within his or her scope of practice" to recommend medical marijuana. Two more laws will also give doctors the right to recommend medical marijuana for autism spectrum disorder, as well as any condition that qualifies for opioid medications. The new medical marijuana cards for opioid-related conditions would be valid for up to sixty days instead of the standard one year that patients with other conditions currently see.

During July's rulemaking hearings about the new qualifying conditions, some boardmembers wanted to lower the maximum opioid medical marijuana card duration to thirty days instead of sixty, but the Board of Health ultimately stayed with a maximum sixty days "to ensure the Department can continue to process applications in a timely manner," according to rulemaking documents.

Cannabis Clinicians Colorado director Martha Montemayor testified at the July hearing, sharing her concerns about patients who live in communities that only allow recreational dispensaries, which have ten times the sales-tax rate (or more) of medical stores. Although she's still working to help those patients with additional legislation in 2020, Montemayor believes that 2019 laid the groundwork for more progressive proposals next year.

"One of my goals for the next legislative session is to improve patient access to medical marijuana by giving medical patients the right to shop at any dispensary — med or rec — without the burden of taxes and at medical carrying limits," she explains. "This would really help patients in far-flung, rec-only areas like Parachute and Gunnison. Our patients in those towns have to shop rec and pay the 'sin tax' on legitimate medical use, because there are no medical dispensaries within an hour's drive. A right to shop would solve a lot of access problems."

Montemayor believes that recent legislation melding together the state's medical and recreational regulations could make her goals attainable next year. "The new rules go a long way toward setting a framework to make this happen," she says. "All in all, we're doing better, and Colorado continues to set the standards for responsible and profitable cannabis regulation."

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