Marijuana Bills for 2015: Info About Patients With Severe Pain and More

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Coloradans voted to legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana in November 2012, and the first recreational pot shops opened on January 1, 2014 -- but state lawmakers are still keeping themselves busy with pot-related legislation.

Below is a roundup of the (current) ganja-related bills at the current General Assembly:

See also: Marijuana Doubles Crash Risks and Other Pot-Is-Awful Findings in Health Department Report

HB 15-1007, introduced by Representative Jonathan Singer (D-Longmont), would make it clear that local municipalities can put an excise tax on wholesale recreational cannabis. The tax would have to go to voters first, which is probably already required under TABOR -- but Singer has submitted the bill just in case it isn't. Currently, the state levies a 10 percent excise tax on wholesale pot. As dictated by Amendment 64, that money goes to school-construction funds. Singer's bill does not specify where local pot excise-tax money would be spent.

HB 15-1036, introduced by Representative Jack Tate (R-Centennial), would have required medical marijuana dispensaries to post a visible warning about "the dangers to fetuses caused by smoking or ingesting marijuana" while pregnant. It would also have made it illegal for anyone working in a dispensary to recommend medical marijuana to a pregnant woman. Taken literally, this would have meant that if a budtender thought a customer was pregnant, he couldn't talk to the patient about strains that could help her condition, because doctors are the only people who can actually write a pot recommendation in the state. But the bill was killed in committee on February 3.

HB 15-1111, introduced by Representative Beth McCann (D-Denver), primarily deals with how the state handles infant mortality; most of it doesn't concern cannabis. However, it would require that medical marijuana records be made available to the Colorado maternal-mortality review committee, which would also be created by the bill. Currently, medical marijuana records can be accessed only by law enforcement officials needing to verify the status of a patient who has presented them with a medical pot card.

SB 15-014, introduced by Senator Irene Aguilar (D-Denver), would require medical marijuana-recommending doctors to provide more information on patients suffering from severe pain. (About 90 percent of all patients on the registry are on it for severe pain.) The bill would also require primary caregivers to register with the state; it would prevent them from serving more than five patients. The bill would allow the Marijuana Enforcement Division to share information with the Department of Public Health and Environment, as well, in order to prevent patients from signing up with both a caregiver and a medical marijuana center. The bill's real goal seems clear: to get patients off the medical cannabis registry and over to the tax-money-generating recreational cannabis side. As such, it's certain to face some pushback from the caregiver community.

HB 15-1090, introduced by Representative Tim Dore (R-Elizabeth), claims that law enforcement agencies around the state have had to increase their enforcement of marijuana; the bill would set up a fund to help cover these costs -- even in cities and counties that have banned retail cannabis sales -- with 30 percent of the state's marijuana tax cash fund. The bill would earmark some of the funds for "youth marijuana education and prevention campaigns," as well as increase funding for child services, since Dore says that marijuana has put added strains on that funding. But that's not all: The bill would also allow funding streams for the impact that legal pot has had on "other services provided by a county, as deemed necessary and relevant by the county."

SB 15-040, introduced by Senator Mary Hodge (D-Adams County), clarifies that counties can enact a sales tax on recreational marijuana sales -- pending voter approval -- on top of any city and state sales taxes. The intent here is clear, too: The state is looking for more ways to get money out of pot.

SB 15-065, introduced by Senator Vicki Marble (R-Broomfield), would extend a ban on ATM withdrawals of public benefits at places like casinos, liquor stores and strip clubs to marijuana establishments. Expect the bill to sail through without much objection; it already has multiple co-sponsors in both the Senate and the House.

SB 15-100, introduced by Senator Pat Steadman (D-Denver), would extend the State Board of Health's Medical Marijuana Scientific Advisory Council, which is now doling out money for research proposals on medical cannabis -- including studies on the efficacy of medical cannabis on post-traumatic stress disorder. Last year, some took issue with the state's creation of the program, because the funding came from excess medical marijuana registry fees that activists argued should go back to patients.

SB 15-115, introduced by Senator Owen Hill (R-Colorado Springs), would extend the current medical marijuana program to 2019. As now written, the laws governing medical marijuana expire in July. While letting them lapse wouldn't mean the end of medical marijuana, it would undo all of the rules and regulations that dispensaries now have to follow in order to be considered state-legal.

SB 15-136, Introduced by Senator Owen Hill, would set marijuana labeling requirements in state statute. From the bill's introduction: "Currently the department of revenue (department) is authorized to adopt rules concerning the labeling of retail marijuana and retail marijuana products (retail marijuana). The bill repeals this authority and establishes in statute information that is required to be on labels of packages of retail marijuana. One of the required items on a label is a quick response code or web site address that allows a consumer of retail marijuana access to additional specified information not contained on the label." The bill would also require the state health department to create a pot information website.

SB 15-167, was introduced by Senator Steadman. The bill would extend the marijuana tax cash fund set up by the state legislature last year and would allow the legislature to suspend a rule prohibiting the appropriation of marijuana tax funds to programs during the current fiscal year. The bill also allows the state to keep $6.4 million in excess funds collected in the last year by revising the predicted amounts promised to both the MED and the marijuana cash fund for the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

Changes to the bills that get through the process are guaranteed -- and, most likely, a few more will be introduced throughout the legislative session. In addition, there are several budget bills containing line items about marijuana tax revenue allocation not covered above. Be informed: keep up with all pending legislation at Leg.state.co.us, and keep reading Westword.com for our continuing pot coverage.

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