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Changes to the Colorado Cannabis Law: What to Expect with Four New Bills

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State legislators put a huge focus on cannabis in this legislative session, passing four important bills that would change the landscape of the industry in Colorado. New laws range from minor stylistic changes to Colorado’s marijuana law and legal amendments to allow more flexibility for growers, to wide-ranging changes in the regulation of concentrates.

In mid-November, the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) released its program. After months of rule-making efforts that included significant public input from stakeholders across the industry, these approved rules are set to go into effect on January 1, 2022.

Below we discuss the most important changes in each bill:

HB21-1178 – Correcting errors in the Colorado Marijuana Code:

This bill corrects quotes in the marijuana symbol and updates grammar, wording, and terminology all the time. Specifically, the bill replaces citations in Colorado’s marijuana law from broad federal laws to more specific citations in United States law; updated terminology used to describe the various marijuana products, industry players, and processes; Update contact information for subpoena requests, appeal agency decisions, and other executive functions. It was signed into law on May 10, 2021.

HB21-1216 – The ability of marijuana licensors to change the label:

This law allows medical marijuana to be redesigned for entertainment and vice versa. It was signed by Governor Polis on June 23, 2021. With the goal of providing more flexibility to growers and manufacturers, this act allows for the redesign of the cannabis flower and focus when the transceiver facilities have at least one identical beneficial owner. Re-engineered hemp products must also pass all required tests.

Historically, under Colorado’s strict seed tracking system for sale, regulated cannabis products were classified as medicinal or recreational, and the products maintained these designations throughout their life cycle. This bill aims to improve MED’s ability to enforce regulations given the different requirements companies are subject to depending on the type of cannabis label they typically produce.

Under this law, once a cannabis product has been moved to another facility and redesigned for either medical or recreational purposes, it may not be moved back to its original facility. The re-designed product may not be returned to its original rating. Additionally, redesigns must be updated in the seed-for-sale tracking system at a medical or recreational marijuana facility to ensure that appropriate records are maintained regarding product re-design.

Finally, the bill specifies that transfers and changes in designation do not qualify for the right to selective marijuana tax refunds under the reclassification.

HB21-1301 – Measures for outdoor hemp cultivation:

HB21-1301 is another new bill aimed at providing greater flexibility and protection for the state’s growing cannabis industry. It was signed into law on the same day as the reallocation bill.

In the wake of climate change and the increased frequency of unforeseen weather events, this act creates a framework for cannabis growers to develop contingency plans to combat the effects of adverse weather events. The bill broadly defines adverse weather events as adverse weather that includes drought, freezing, hail, excessive moisture, winds, or other adverse natural events such as wildfires, floods or earthquakes. Effective January 1, 2022, licensees of farming facilities with offshore farming facilities may begin submitting these contingency plans to the state licensing authority for approval. Contingency plans must specify the type of adverse weather event to which the plan applies. Once approved, growers may use the contingency plan provided should such an adverse weather event occur.

The bill also authorizes MED to study ways to reduce cross-pollination of outdoor marijuana plants, participate in setting rules on procedures for implementing contingency plans, and issue conditional employee license identification cards subject to background checks and initial investigations.

Another important feature of this law is the language that guides the formation of a working group to examine current tax laws and rules applicable to the state’s wholesale cannabis market. The intent of this ruling is to understand the state’s market and to position an existing business as competitively as possible in the event of federal cannabis legalization, which would certainly entail additional cannabis taxes.

Finally, the bill allocates funds from the Industrial Cannabis Registration Program Cash Fund and the Marijuana Cash Fund to various departments to enforce and purchase legal services.

HB21-1317 – Regulating Marijuana Concentrate:

Perhaps the largest and most controversial of the past legislative session HB21-1317 was signed into law by Governor Polis on June 24, 2021, and contains a number of significant changes in the regulation of marijuana concentrates. Largely seen as a legislative compromise in the face of pressure to enact cannabis potency limits, this law directs the Colorado School of Public Health (“CSPH”) to conduct a systematic review of the potential health effects of high-potency cannabis and THC concentrates. A variety of new rules regarding advertising and sales and daily medical and retail sales limits.

There are a number of provisions specifically related to the contested effects on physical and mental health of high-potency cannabis products containing THC: The bill creates a Scientific Review Board tasked with reviewing recommendations made by CSPH and directs CSPH to produce an educational program for the public. The public on the effects of cannabis focuses on brain development. Also, with regard to education, the bill requires that medical and recreational cannabis retail stores provide customers with a tangible educational resource established by the state’s licensing authority on concentrates when such sales are made.

The educational resource includes health disclosures and suggestions for concentrate consumption (including suggested serving size). Current law requires a physician to perform a complete medical evaluation of a patient before recommending medical marijuana; The bill now requires that a patient’s mental health and mental health history also be evaluated prior to such recommendations. The bill sets out a number of restrictions on medical marijuana prescriptions for individuals between the ages of 18 and 20 who have what the law refers to as a debilitating or disabling medical condition.

There are also several notable changes regarding cannabis advertising, inventory tracking, and quantity limits. Invoice requires all facilities to immediately record each sale in the seed-to-sale inventory tracking system upon completion of patient sales. This provision is intended to allow facilities to identify inconsistencies with TOD amounts and THC strength licenses. Additionally, the law limits the amount of concentration and retail medical marijuana to 8 grams unless some exceptions apply to medical marijuana patients only. Finally, the bill would ban cannabis advertisements specifically directed at individuals between the ages of 18 and 20 and require that all focus-specific advertisements contain a notice of the potential risks of excessive consumption.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the topic. It is recommended to take the advice of specialists in such circumstances.

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