New Governor, new cannabis laws: Colorado pot policies likely to change under Jared Polis
From consumption clubs, to cannabis delivery and microbusinesses
Colorado’s newly elected governor, Jared Polis was inaugurated earlier this week and just about everyone in the cannabis industry is looking hopefully forward.
Because, Polis is America’s first pot positive governor. He has long been a supporter of legal marijuana, describing himself as “the only candidate” who helped pass legalization, and under his leadership there are a number of policies that stand to change. From consumption clubs, to cannabis delivery, and “microbusinesses” — pot’s place in this state might soon be evolving.
So, with change on the horizon, let’s take a look at some of the foreseeable targets that Polis might take some shots at.
We’ll start with the big one: consumption spaces. Colorado’s marijuana laws specifically state that cannabis cannot be used “openly or publicly,” which has made it all but impossible to establish cannabis clubs or tasting rooms. This has been a point of contention since cannabis was recreationally legalized in 2014: there’s nowhere to use it!
Bill HB 1258 aimed to resolve this problem. Proposed in 2018, HB 1258 would have authorized medical and retail dispensaries to open “tasting rooms” that would allow customers to buy, eat and vape small quantities of marijuana products on site (as long they were not being smoked).
But Colorado’s previous governor, John Hickenlooper, shot that shit down. He said that such a bill would defy the law, since people would be consuming cannabis both openly and publicly.
Well, under Governor Polis, legislation like that would have likely passed. And, given the chance, Polis will probably move to legislate something similar that will legalize tasting rooms and perhaps even consumption clubs. Which would mean big changes for the culture of cannabis consumption throughout Colorado. Just imagine a world where people can lounge around a canna-club, smoking casually and meeting strangers, getting high and being social…
That dream may become a reality under Polis.
Cannabis for Autism
In 2017 the house tried to pass HB18-1263, which would have sanctioned autistic people to get medical marijuana cards, since the drug can be prescribed to children. That one didn’t sit well with Hickenlooper, either, and he vetoed the bill in June of 2018. His reason?
The ex-governor was worried that such a bill would encourage “more young people to look at this as an antidote for their problems.”
Right. God forbid our young people look at this medicine that can treat autism, epilepsy, anxiety, insomnia, and even cancer as some kind of “antidote.”
Polis will probably re-hash this bill, or one similar to it, in order to get autistic kids the medicine they need.
Looser limits on investment
Hickenlooper also vetoed a bill that would have allowed for publicly traded companies to own and invest in cannabis businesses. This would have loosened regulations surrounding out-of-state investments and would have made it much easier for smaller companies expand since cash can be tight in this business.
See, despite marijuana revenue and sales being on a steady rise, many dispensaries throughout Colorado are stretched financially thin. Why? Because of the legal limbo that cannabis is tied up in right now. Dispensaries cannot take federal tax deductions like any other normal business, and the competition is growing as more states (and even entire countries like Canada) move towards legalization.
These cannabis companies need investors, and looser regulations would make it possible for them to find some. It is expected that Polis will open up the cannabis market in Colorado for publicly traded companies to get their finances in the game.
That would be a huge leap forward for the cannabis industry and would likely add a lot of fuel to the marijuana fire spreading throughout the state.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could order up a bunch of bud like you’re ordering a pizza, and have it delivered straight to your door without ever leaving your couch?
Yeah, it might feed into that lazy stoner stereotype a little bit. But who cares? Cannabis delivery would be revolutionary and people would absolutely love it. Especially medical cannabis patients who are too sick to even get out of the house and go to a dispensary…
Fortunately, that pipe-dream, might not be as unrealistic as it sounds. House Bill 18-1092 would have established a “pilot program” for both recreational and medical cannabis delivery in cities that agreed to it. Sadly, Republicans killed the bill after it received criticism from police and law enforcement.
But this would be a thing to celebrate. Colorado already has legal liquor delivery, and legal prescription drug delivery… why not cannabis delivery?
That’s a question Governor Polis might soon decide to address.
Similar to micro-breweries, allowing for micro cannabis businesses would authorize small businesses to grow, process and sell their own cannabis, all on site (and if social consumption is allowed, customers could potentially use cannabis at these microbusinesses as well).
This is already an option for entrepreneurs in California, and hopefully it will soon be an option in Colorado as well. There is an insanely expensive barrier of entry to the cannabis market. Most of the successful businesses in the industry are larger entities that have the funds to break in and keep their heads above water. For small businesses and individuals, that’s not so easily accomplished.
“What we’ve unfortunately found out is that it’s the people with access to capital who are the people who are succeeding in our new legal regimen,” representative Jonathan Singer told the Denver Post in December. “Hopefully, this is an opportunity to ensure that the same people who were victimized in the drug war have the opportunity to participate in this market.”
These cannabis microbusinesses could operate on their own, or under the umbrella of a larger business. Either way they’d be really cool, and they’d expand opportunities for small businesses enormously.
Last year, the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies released a report that detailed a number of other suggested changes. In short, here are the highlights:
- Establish testing requirements for CBD products (similar to THC products)
- Unify rules regarding cultivation of both retail and medical cannabis
- Streamline rules regarding ownership and licensing
- Make it legal for dispensaries to sell hemp products for human consumption