Earlier this month, lawmakers in the Colorado House approved a bill that would limit the amount of hash and other cannabis concentrates that retail marijuana stores can sell to both in-state and out-of-state customers.
State representative Jonathan Singer sponsored the legislation -- partially in response to the March death of a Wyoming college student that was questionably linked to marijuana consumption. But Singer says the measure has another goal: to prevent marijuana products leaving the state by making them harder to buy in large quantities.
House Bill 1361 would charge the Department of Revenue with establishing "the equivalent" of an ounce of marijuana in hash and other concentrates, then limit the sales of such items in recreational cannabis stores to that amount. The bill would also affect the sale of edibles.
But 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.
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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.
Possession of up to an ounce of concentrates would remain perfectly legal under the current wording of the bill --though once limits are established in one area of the law, it doesn't seem like too much of a jump to limit possession of concentrates to less than an ounce. However, Brian Vicente, spokesman for the Amendment 64 campaign, says the proposal will not send the state down the slippery slope towards limiting the potency of cannabis itself or requiring the purchases to correspond to a certain predetermined amount of THC.
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"Nothing in this proposed bill will change the protections for adults 21 and over possessing an ounce or less of concentrates," Vicente wrote in an e-mail last week. "The bill simply directs the Marijuana Enforcement Division to provide regulatory guidance to businesses on how to comply with existing law. This is simply about creating a regulatory structure that recognizes the realities of being the first marijuana state, and mimics the restrictions on purchasing retail marijuana amounts if you do not have an in-state ID. As for the slippery slope, the legislature cannot criminalize possession of less than one ounce of marijuana concentrate because Amendment 64 protects the right of an individual to possess up to one ounce of marijuana, which explicitly includes concentrates."
HB 1361, which would allocate $100,000 toward funding an analytical study determining the one-ounce equivalency, was approved by the full House and sent to the Senate Health and Human Services committee on April 21. According to the Associated Press, the bill is up for a hearing Thursday, though the state legislative site doesn't have it listed as of this morning.
The legislature is also moving forward with a separate bill that would limit the potency of edibles, though no recommendations have been made yet. A task force was scheduled to meet at 1 p.m. today at Children's Hospital in Aurora.
More from our Marijuana archive: "Colorado Symphony Orchestra: Don't bring pot to our Red Rocks pot show" and "Drug-endangered child bills fail."