Four years into the legalization of recreational marijuana, the cannabis market appears to be thriving: Revenue is, despite the lingering problem of where to bank it, flowing, along with tax collections.
And while pot-friendly local jurisdictions like Pueblo County maintain a seemingly productive pace, when it comes to passing and implementing new regulations, state elected leaders are still hampered by bureaucracy as usual. Though not for lack of effort.
Should they survive procedural scrutiny, the cannabis-related bills tackled during the 2016 session of the Colorado Legislature are unlikely to stem from the primary concerns of Amendment 64. As usual, the session probably will be boring at times and contentious at others.
Here's a look at some of the bills we'll be keeping an eye on.
"Residential Real Estate Disclose Large Plant Grow"
Has your property ever housed a marijuana grow? House Bill 16-1108 would mandate the Colorado Real Estate Commission to disclose whether seven or more plants have been cultivated using any fertilizer or pesticide on residential properties. Sellers could be exempt from the disclosure if the property is certified safe by a state inspector. Republican Kathleen Conti of Littleton introduced this bill.
"Authorize Retail Marijuana Special Event Permit"
HB16-1092 would allow rec shops to host street festivals, pop-up shops or other special events. Stipulations: The event space cannot be accessed by anyone under the age of 21; adequate security must be provided; the event cannot be held in a jurisdiction where retail marijuana is banned; it cannot last for more than five days; and — the best part — "sandwiches or other food snacks must be available during all hours." Yes. Republican Vicki Marble, R-Fort Collins, Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, are sponsors.
"Pesticide-free Cannabis Certification Program"
As it stands, determining whether a product qualifies as "organic" is exclusively the domain of the federal government. But because marijuana is a Schedule I drug, and therefore federally illegal, no hemp or cannabis product can currently earn the coveted designation. HB16-1079 would direct Colorado's agriculture commissioner to draft rules for a program that informs consumers if a cannabis product has been cultivated and processed without the use of pesticides. The state Department of Agriculture would certify third-party groups to in turn certify cannabis facilities as pesticide-free. Democrats KC Becker of Boulder and Jonathan Singer of Longmont are the lawmakers who want to help green the green.
"Medical Marijuana Testing Facility Local Licensing"
During the 2015 session, state lawmakers created a medical marijuana testing-facility license. This session, they'll decide whether local licensing authorities may issue them. HB16-1064 was introduced by Republicans Ellen Roberts of Durango and J. Paul Brown of Ignacio.
"Repeal Bonding Requirement Marijuana Businesses"
HB16-1041 would nix the requirement that marijuana businesses post a bond to receive a license from the state. Why? Because, as the bill states, "bonds for medical marijuana businesses and retail marijuana establishments are simply unavailable in the current marketplace, perhaps due to the fact that marijuana is illegal pursuant to federal law." This piece of legislation comes courtesy of Democrat Steve Lebsock of Thornton and Republican Chris Holbert of Parker.
b>"Marijuana Grows Enclosed Space Requirements"
Those who grow recreational marijuana at home are currently obligated to keep it enclosed and locked to keep out the young 'uns. SB16-080 would expand those conditions to medical grows, too. Democrat Linda Newell of Littleton introduced this one.
"Immunity for Persons Involved in Overdose Events"
If you report a life-threatening drug or alcohol overdose, current state law in certain cases will protect you from criminal prosecution for drug-related offenses. SB16-042 would expand the existing statute to allow for multiple reporters of the same incident, and protect those reporters from arrest as well as prosecution. If there's a warrant out for the reporter's arrest — and it's not related to a felony — law enforcement would issue a summons rather than take him or her away in cuffs. All of the above would apply if you're underage, too. Democrats Dominick Moreno of Commerce City and Irene Aguilar of Denver get credit for this one.
"CDPS Data on Law Enforcement Marijuana Activities"
The Department of Public Safety is now required by law to collect and report data on law enforcement actions related to marijuana "activities." SB16-041 would let the agency off the hook for tracking enforcement costs and racial disparities. (Isn't that the important stuff?) This bill brought to you by Democrat Dan Pabon of Denver and Republican Randy Baumgardner of Hot Sulphur Springs.
"Marijuana Owner Changes"
As it is, marijuana is basically a local industry — businesses are owned and run by Coloradans. There are a few bigger chains, but for the most part, our bud comes from mom-and-pop shops. If this bill passes, that could change. Any U.S. citizen could own a marijuana business in Colorado, though publicly traded companies would be excluded. Democrat Dan Pabon of Denver and Republican Chris Holbert of Parker are sponsors.
"Rules for Allowed Marijuana Pesticides"
SB16-015 is a little trickier than it seems. The state Department of Agriculture maintains a list of pesticides banned for use on cannabis plants. This bill would have the agency instead maintain a list of pesticides that are permissible. But here's the thing: the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration — federal agencies — are responsible for testing and approving pesticides. And remember, marijuana is illegal in the eyes of the feds, so there are no pesticides approved for use on cannabis, only pesticides loosely labeled safe for use on unspecified food crops, homegrown herbs or bedding crops that growers can safely interpret as applying to cannabis. The Department of Agriculture may be comfortable saying what not to spray plants with, but what you can spray plants with — that's a riskier can of worms. Democrat Ed Vigil of Fort Garland and Republican Randy Baumgardner filed this bill worth watching.
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