Medical marijuana: What the new laws could mean for you

Colorado rolled into the history books last week as the first place to codify a statewide marijuana distribution system, thanks to the passage of House Bill 1284 and Senate Bill 109. Both laws will take Colorado's convoluted and confusing medical marijuana industry and... make it convoluted and confusing in a new way.

To figure out what it means, Brian Vicente of Sensible Colorado will be holding a series of free patient trainings along the Front Range over the next week. Meanwhile, Rob Corry will be hosting a $175 business compliance seminar tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. at Holiday Inn Denver, 4849 Bannock Street.

Looking for the CliffsNotes version? We chatted with Sensible Colorado's Brian Vicente to get his take on the new laws:


  • SB109 cracks down on medical-marijuana doctor-patient relationships. That means patients will only be able to see doctors who have unrestricted state licenses, offer follow-up care and meet other criteria yet to be defined by the state health department.
  • Patients won't be able to see doctors who receive payments from medical marijuana businesses -- but does that mean dispensaries can no longer have doctors on-site? Vicente isn't sure, since the new law only forbids diagnosing patients at such businesses, while he says most medical-marijuana doctors are just recommending marijuana based on previous diagnoses.
  • HB 1284 says caregivers can care for a maximum of five patients, so patients currently seeing a caregiver who's helping seven, ten or more patients may have to find a new caregiver or designate a dispensary as their caregiver next year.
  • Will patients be able to freely shop at marijuana businesses that aren't their designated caregivers? Vicente says that's a gray area yet to be defined.
  • Big changes are in store for dispensaries, says Vicente, not the least of which is the fact they'll henceforth be known as "centers."
  • A one-year moratorium on new operations will begin in July, by which point all existing businesses have to be in compliance with local laws and zoning codes.
  • By August, all centers will have to pay a nonrefundable state application fee -- an amount yet to be determined, but which Vicente figures will be about $5,000.
  • By September, all businesses will have to submit proof to the state that they're producing at least 70 percent of their medicine in-house. In Vicente's view, that's analogous to requiring Whole Foods to figure out how to grow 70 percent of its vegetables in four months.
Marijuana growers
  • In Vicente's view, marijuana growers selling pot to dispensaries are the big losers in the deal. Since under the new rules only centers, caregivers or patients are allowed to grow medicine, he says, growers are going to have to be bought out by a dispensary by July, apply to open a dispensary of their own in by then... or just shut down.
Marijuana product manufacturers
  • On the other hand, Vicente says those who make marijuana edibles and other products are the big winners. While they previously operated in a gray area, they will be allowed to sell their products to as many centers as they want -- and can use marijuana gleaned from up to five different marijuana operations to make products.
  • Why the big break for marijuana product manufacturers? Maybe State Senator Chris Romer, the architect behind the new rules, has a thing for pot brownies.

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Joel Warner is a former staff writer for Westword and International Business Times. He's also written for WIRED, Men's Journal, Men's Health, Bloomberg Businessweek, Popular Science, Slate, Grantland and many other publications. He's co-author of the 2014 book The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny, published by Simon & Schuster.
Contact: Joel Warner