Marijuana concentrates and edibles bills now law -- but what the hell will they actually do?

Yesterday, Governor John Hickenlooper signed a baker's dozen worth of bills on various topics. But arguably the two most high-profile measures had to do with marijuana: legislation to establish a one-ounce-of-cannabis equivalent for concentrates and a proposal to make marijuana edibles more identifiable.

A prominent marijuana advocate praises these measures as examples of responsible legislation even though it's quite unclear at this point what the new laws will actually do.

In late April, our William Breathes broke down HB 14-1361, the marijuana concentrates bill; we've included a copy below. Its summary notes that "the bill directs the department of revenue (department) to promulgate rules establishing the equivalent of one ounce of retail marijuana flower in various retail marijuana products. The bill authorizes the department to contract for a scientific study of the equivalency of marijuana flower in marijuana products." But there's no telling what that means in practical terms, as Breathes outlines in the following excerpt:

The legislation is vague on the specifics of determining just how much hash is in an ounce of herb -- which depends on how strong the ounce of herb is to begin with. Would they base it on a 30 percent THC OG phono or a low-THC batch of something like Blueberry? And even then, it's unclear whether legislators want producers to measure total THC in an ounce or simply estimate how much hash can be produced from an ounce. All of this would widely impact the amount of concentrates that are legally approved for sale.

Say, for the sake of discussion, that the DOR determines that there are five grams of pure THC in an ounce of herb. That could mean in-state residents 21 and up would be able to purchase about six grams' worth of 90 percent THC hash oil. Since out-of-state residents are currently limited to purchasing a quarter-ounce of cannabis, they'd hypothetically only be able to buy one to two grams at any one time.

But if the lab the state chooses bases its findings on how much hash can be produced from an ounce of herb, the amounts could be much lower. We've spoken with several hash makers who tell us that a 15 percent average return from bud to concentrates is reasonable for BHO extraction -- which means they get about four grams of hash for every one ounce of herb. Icewater can be even lower -- only 8 to 10 percent resulting in top-grade smokable hash and the rest suitable mostly for cooking.

If anything, the effect of HB 14-1366 is even more difficult to gauge. Continue for more about the two new marijuana laws, including copies of both documents. As Cannabis Business Alliance executive director Meg Collins told us earlier this week, officials have been inspired to tackle edibles-related issues by a pair of major incidents: the death of Levy Thamba, who jumped from a hotel balcony after eating a marijuana edible, and the murder of Kristine Kirk at the hands of her husband, Richard Kirk, after he had allegedly consumed pot candy and pain killers.

In addition, legislators continue to be worried about people in general, and children in particular, accidentally consuming an edible without realizing that it's infused with activated THC. Such concerns motivated House Bill 14-1366, which calls for "edibles to be shaped, stamped or colored in some way that would make them easily identifiable as marijuana products," Collins told Westword.

But instead of simply mandating changes in the manufacturing process, the measure calls for the creation of a working group to study the issue. Members will start the conversations as of August 1 and are required to provide a report to the legislature by February 2015, with regulation set to follow in January 2016.

The CBA opposed the bill, which is also shared below, because "the MED [Marijuana Enforcement Division] already has authority to do exactly what the legislation called for," Collins said. "And we also felt that it might not be practicable and might limit creativity. But we ended up being successful in getting the legislature to give us more time to consider things through working groups and studies.

"That's one thing that's been great about the state," Collins continued. "They recognize this is a new industry, and while everybody did their darnedest dealing with the Amendment 64 task force and subsequent working groups to think through all the angles, there are some things that may come up that you never think of. But the state has been good about not overreacting and trying to put emergency rules out without talking to the industry. They've been good about reaching out."

This last point is also stressed by attorney Christian Sederberg of Vicente Sederberg, a law firm whose other principal, Brian Vicente, co-wrote Amendment 64, the measure that allowed adults 21 and over to use and possess small amounts of marijuana for recreational purposes. In a release, he points out that Vicente Sederberg "provided input during the legislative process" on the bills and praises Hickenlooper for inking them.

"As the trailblazing state for this new industry, Colorado has a special responsibility to constantly improve its laws and regulations," Sederberg writes. "These laws are in that spirit. More importantly, they are the result of a cooperative effort between industry representatives, lawmakers, and other stakeholders. That is the kind of approach we need. We are grateful to the legislature for facilitating the process and for passing these sensible bills."

Presumably, the consultation of industry representatives, among others, will continue for both of these bills, since neither of them sketch out precisely what they'll wind up doing. Read them below.

House Bill 14-1361

House Bill 14-1366

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

More from our Marijuana archive circa May 19: "Marijuana edibles: Should retailers be required to package individual serving sizes?"

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