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Colorado has been a cannabis reform trailblazer since 2012, when it and Washington became the first two states to legalize the possession and sale of recreational cannabis. But recent legislative decisions could significantly impact the sale of cannabis concentrates in Colorado and patient access to medical cannabis. 

From new laws on marijuana concentrates to how the state is trying to get ahead of the curve on federal legalization, here’s what’s new in cannabis in Colorado.

New rules for marijuana concentrates (HB21-1317)

As concentrates continue to soar in popularity and market share, it makes sense that House Bill 21-1317 has received much attention lately. 

Signed into law by Democratic Governor Jared Polis on June 2021, HB21-1317 adds new guidelines for cannabis concentrates and medical marijuana patients.

Under the new law, since January 1, 2022, medical and recreational cannabis dispensaries can no longer sell more than 8 grams of concentrate to adults over the age of 21 and no more than 2 grams to customers aged 18 to 20. 

Dispensaries also have to hand out a “tangible education resource” to all customers when they buy marijuana concentrates. The Marijuana Enforcement Division stated that the hand-out would include information on risks, side effects, precautions, and recommended serving sizes. The law also requires advertisers to include warnings about the health risks “of medical marijuana concentrate overconsumption."

But younger medical cannabis patients may feel the most significant impact now that the new regulations are in place.  

Medical marijuana patients aged 18 to 20 will now need to receive a diagnosis from two physicians at two different practices instead of just one under the previous guidelines. They will also need to attend follow-up appointments every six months after the first visit.

The law requires physicians to specify the maximum THC potency and the daily dose of the marijuana products they prescribe. They will also need to assess the patient’s mental health history, even if they have no pre-existing or underlying mental health issues. 

Under the new law, Colorado must fund a systematic review of the scientific research on the possible physical and mental health effects of high THC cannabis and cannabis concentrates. The review findings will then be used to form a public education campaign on “the effect of high potency THC marijuana on the developing brain and mental health.”

Marijuana legalization and patient rights advocates opposed the bill, including the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), which said it would place “overly burdensome requirements" on physicians who provide medical cannabis recommendations.

NORML also said that no other state medical program places such burdens on physicians.

Look away, look back - Your retail marijuana is now medical cannabis (HB 21-126)

The new law HB 21-126 has received less attention, but it could change things for the better for medical marijuana patients. Beginning in July 2022, the law will allow licensed Colorado marijuana growers to receive and change the designation of cannabis products from the retail to the medical market.

The sponsors of the bill have stated that it will provide greater flexibility to cannabis growers and allow the industry to better meet the needs of the medical market.

Interviewed by Colorado Politics, Nico Pento of the dispensary chain Terrapin Care Station said that “this bill will allow us the regulatory flexibility to adapt to consumer demand without having to stockpile a lot of inventory early on in the process.”

The article describes how cannabis must be designated for either the medical or recreational market very early on in the cultivation process, leading to shortages that can harm access for medical patients. This designation requirement is in place even though there is no difference between medical and recreational cannabis plants. 

Before you get any ideas, the law is a one-way street - it does not allow medical cannabis products to be restocked in the recreational market. 

How to cope with tornadoes and keep cannabis growers from fleeing - (HB21-1301)

At first glance, House Bill 21-1301 is a way of helping cannabis cultivators prevent cross-pollination and reduce crop loss caused by adverse weather conditions (like drought, freeze, or tornadoes).

Colorado cannabis industry watchers will probably pay more attention to section 4 of the bill. It calls for a working group to examine the wholesale marijuana cultivation market laws and how " existing rules and tax laws could be amended to better position businesses in the states to be competitive if marijuana is legalized under federal law.”

In other words, the state is looking for ways to adapt its cannabis taxes and regulations to make sure that growers aren't tempted to move out of state if and when cannabis is legalized on the federal level.

In October, Bia Campbell, an associate at VS Strategies, a branch of cannabis law firm and founding Rootwurks partner Vicente Sederberg, proposed that wholesale marijuana taxes could be replaced with higher sales tax.

“If we get rid of the wholesale excise taxes, and we move the revenue into the sales taxes, we're going to be solving a lot of the problems that other folks on this call have already brought up. And that would be a change the Colorado Legislature could make in 2023," Campbell stated. 

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Ben Hartman, Content Manager

Ben Hartman is a cannabis writing and marketing professional with over 15 years of experience in journalism and digital content creation. Ben was formerly the senior writer and research and analysis lead for The Cannigma.

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