Monday September 23, 2019
By Paul Barach
Like so many edibles at the bottom of your stash box, some of Colorado’s more restrictive cannabis regulations are expiring this year, or “sunsetting” in the legal terminology. This sunsetting – along with some new cannabis bills passed by pro-pot governor Jared Polis – brings a raft of good news for cannabis consumers both medical and recreational, as well as new financial opportunities for marijuana entrepreneurs and employees. There’s a lot to cover, but we’ll start with the two that everyone’s been waiting for:
Social Cannabis Consumption
If you’ve been waiting for Amsterdam-style hash bars, they’re much closer to arriving with a stroke of Governor Polis’ pen on House Bill 1230. Social use permits can now be authorized for dispensaries, music venues, restaurants, and hotels that apply. Finally, you can light up where you’ve been wanting.
The consumption of alcohol and cannabis in the same place is still outlawed, meaning that restaurants and concert venues may have to make a hard choice on what they want to allow. Given the mark-ups on alcohol at most concert venues, allowing weed smoking may wind up being a low priority.
That’s right! Finally, the too-busy and proudly lazy can order cannabis the same way you order food, products, and booze: right to your door. While the approval of House Bill 1234 shouldn’t stop anyone from going into their favorite dispensary and speaking to the budtenders, this will open up an entirely new revenue stream for cannabis businesses and new jobs for bike messengers and car owners.
Medical cannabis deliveries will be up and running by 2020, while recreational pot deliveries will have to wait until 2021.
Governor Polis’ signature means great news for medical patients who may have difficulty leaving their homes to get the treatment that they need, and expands access to countless more adult-use consumers. However, while House Bills 1234 and 1230 bring Colorado up-to-speed with delivery and social use on a state level, each city and county has yet to issue individual approvals.
Medical Marijuana and Opioids
In good news for those suffering from an addiction to prescription opioids, Senate Bill 13 allows doctors to recommend their patients consume medical marijuana for pain treatment instead of prescription opioids. This is expected to help decrease the number of opioid prescriptions in the state. According to a previous study, states with easier access to cannabis saw a marked decrease in opioid abuse and overdoses. One can assume that patients who may be wary about cannabis could feel differently if recommended by a doctor.
Medical Marijuana Recommendations
Once only allowed by licensed physicians, another provision that will be sunsetting is the ban on other medical professionals recommending medical marijuana to patients. The new amendment will allow professionals with a "valid license to practice within his or her scope of practice" to recommend medical marijuana.
This would include advanced nurse practitioners, specialized doctors, and even dentists to recommend MMJ treatments to patients, as long as it falls within their specific scope of practice.
Medical Marijuana and Autism
House Bill 1028 adds autism to the state’s current list of medical marijuana conditions. This marks a huge step for autism treatment within the state, and is the result of the impassioned efforts and coordination of autism advocates. The understanding of medical cannabis is ever-evolving, and this addition is a big step in expanding the conversation to include areas of medicine not traditionally associated with cannabis in the past.
In good news for the state’s cannabis businesses, House Bill 1090 will open Colorado’s pot industry to out-of-state investment. Colorado businesses looking to expand their operations can now be infused with cash from publicly-held companies, venture capital funds, and other revenue sources.
Specifically, the bill repeals the previous regulations that capped the number of out-of-state owners at 15.
This had also blocked publicly traded companies and venture capital funds from being able to participate in the in-state market. Publicly traded companies are now able to hold a Colorado marijuana license. Also, the bill creates two new types of ownership licenses. One is for individuals who own a 10% or more stake in the business, the other for passive investors holding less than a 10% interest. While this might put pressure on smaller businesses looking to compete, it does prime Colorado’s larger cannabis businesses for aggressive growth once the plant is federally legal.
One of the negative charges against the pot industry is that it’s mostly for the white and wealthy. Minorities and other lower-income citizens faced the brunt of the legal system until pot was legalized, and have been mostly shut out of the industry now that it is. While this inequality is beginning to be addressed in places like Oakland, Colorado’s been lacking in this regard.
A new measure is attempting to change that by offering micro-business licenses to low-income entrepreneurs looking to break into the industry. Any Colorado resident who has lived in a low-income area for half a decade or more can apply to use the facilities of established pot companies for R&D of their own weed products. They would also own their product completely, without having to compensate or cut the larger business into their organization. This measure is still being hammered out, as the Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) is yet to issue specific regulations on the ruling, and some say micro-licenses will not go far enough to help balance inequality. However, there are lots of watchful eyes waiting to see how this plays out, and hopeful that it will have an impact.
As odd as it sounds, THC and CBD inhalers were deemed a “non-conforming product” by the MED in 2018. The MED’s rationale is that they were a cannabis product that could not be vaporized, smoked, or consumed orally. Thus, the companies making the inhalers were under far greater scrutiny and stricter regulations for both R&D as well as product testing. As they should have been, the new laws have been rewritten and now inhalers are under the same basic regulations as vaporizers.
Employee Sales Incentives
As many budtenders have grumbled over the years, they should be getting some type of sales-based incentive bonus or at least a percentage for the amount that they sell daily. It is not uncommon for a budtender to move thousands of dollars in product each day. Concentrate, edible, and other employees have felt that same. Previous laws prohibited compensation under the shaky rationale that it amounts to “drug peddling.” With the sunset of the old law, businesses can now offer their employees much-deserved bonuses without having to resort to the work-arounds used previously.
Will the regulations have a noticeable impact on Colorado’s cannabis market? What other measures would you like to see implemented? Let us know in the comments!