Business

State Senate Rejects Attempt to Tighten Marijuana Industry Supervision

Senate Bill 149 would've created new reporting requirements for such marijuana business violations as sales to underage minors, contaminated product recalls and black market activity.
Senate Bill 149 would've created new reporting requirements for such marijuana business violations as sales to underage minors, contaminated product recalls and black market activity. Jacqueline Collins
A Colorado Senate committee has rejected a bill that would have increased supervision of commercial marijuana businesses.

Senate Bill 149 would have created new reporting requirements for such marijuana business violations as sales to underage minors, contaminated product recalls and black market activity; it also called for increased dispensary inspections by the state Marijuana Enforcement Division.

Proponents of the bill had presented it as a path toward better protection of Colorado children while aligning state policies more closely with alcohol and tobacco enforcement, but marijuana industry stakeholders labeled it as an attempt to push for more restrictions on the business.

Colorado marijuana dispensaries passed underage sales checks at a 95 percent rate in 2021, according to the MED, slightly down from 97 percent in 2020 and 2019. The MED conducted 604 underage compliance checks at dispensaries in 2019, according to department data, but that number dropped to 118 in 2020 and 80 in 2021.

In discussions with lawmakers, the MED cited "COVID-related impacts" as the reason for the drop in underage sales checks and said it would increase inspections going forward. But state senators Kevin Priola and Chris Hansen wanted to ensure that more would be done. Their bill, also sponsored by state representatives Judy Amabile and Mile Lynch, would have required every operating dispensary in the state to undergo two surprise compliance checks per year, and also called for the MED to create a new database and new annual report detailing more information on marijuana business violators. The MED would've been subject to a state audit as well.

The measure was voted down 6-1 at its first hearing, on March 30, by the Senate Health & Human Services Committee.

Although several committee members were concerned with the drop-off in compliance checks, MED representatives assured lawmakers that the department intends to increase inspection numbers back to 2019's level. That was enough for the committee, although a handful of members said they would continue monitoring the data, and didn't shut out the idea of a similar bill appearing next year if the MED doesn't follow through.
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Thomas Mitchell has written about all things cannabis for Westword since 2014, covering sports, real estate and general news along the way for publications such as the Arizona Republic, Inman and Fox Sports. He's currently the cannabis editor for westword.com.
Contact: Thomas Mitchell