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Many of us still picture the business of marijuana getting done in dime bags. But cannabis is a $1.9 billion industry in Colorado—and the pot teens are illegally consuming today is way stronger than the schwag you once bought under the bleachers. This past legislative session, the Colorado General Assembly passed a number of cannabis-related measures. The most prominent, House Bill 1317, enacts stricter regulations on retail and medical marijuana concentrates, the high-THC products that research suggests could harm young people’s developing brains. With HB 1317 going into effect on January 1, we examine how the law changes buying, prescribing, and selling.
Following the Weed Limit
Previously, medical marijuana customers could purchase up to 40 grams of cannabis concentrates, which can contain more than 90 percent THC, a day. Starting this year, people older than 21 can acquire only eight grams of retail or medical product per business day. Those ages 18 to 20, who must have medical marijuana cards to legally buy cannabis, are restricted to two grams and will need two physicians from different practices—as opposed to the one required before 2022—to approve their medical cards.
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Take as Directed
For years, health care professionals have been noticing a correlation between high-THC cannabis and mental health issues such as depression, psychosis, and schizophrenia. HB 1317 requires doctors to perform a mental health screening along with a physical exam before certifying medical cannabis use for patients younger than 21. The new law also mandates that if doctors approve use, they must also provide a daily authorized quantity, a maximum recommended concentration level, instructions for use, and a recommended product.
Ending the Loop
Colorado was already restricting how much concentrate customers could buy in one day. In practice, though, dispensaries couldn’t prevent “looping”—when customers hit every store on the block, buying the maximum allowable amount of less-expensive medical marijuana at each stop and often selling it on the black market. Per HB 1317, dispensaries that sell medical cannabis must now use Metrc, a software system they were already required to have to track inventory, to find out if customers have purchased their daily limits.
Puff, Puff, Passed
Two more significant cannabis laws set to take effect this month.
Senate Bill 56
Although concentrates may be dangerous to young people’s mental health, the state Legislature also recognizes that there are school-age children who rely on that form of cannabis to treat a range of maladies, including seizures. The Colorado Department of Education has said that students can take nonsmokable forms of marijuana as medicine at school—as long as they come with a doctor’s note—but the specifics on what is and isn’t legally OK have been a bit hazy. SB 56 aims to bring clarity to the issue, requiring school boards to put policies in place that allow for storage, possession, and administration of medical cannabis by school employees. It even protects nurses and school staff who administer cannabis from being prosecuted or sued.
House Bill 1301
Colorado was among the first states to legalize pot, but if (when?) the U.S. government follows suit, the Centennial State will have to adjust its regulations to meet Uncle Sam’s framework. In anticipation of federal legalization, HB 1301 tasks the Marijuana Enforcement Division, the state’s licensing authority, with reviewing rules and tax laws to determine how the agency can help Colorado cannabis cultivators succeed should the country open up for interstate commerce.