Colorado marijuana regulation bill sails through the legislature

More than seven years after recreational marijuana shops opened in Colorado, the state legislature is sending a unified message of concern about what high-potency products might do to young people.

Lawmakers gave final approval Tuesday to HB21-1317, the most sweeping regulatory bill for the cannabis industry since legalization. It faced almost no resistance in either chamber, passing 56-8 in the House and 35-0 in the Senate.

The bill moves now to Gov. Jared Polis, a longtime advocate for legalized marijuana and an ally of the industry. His office has not responded to The Denver Post’s request for comment as to whether he will sign the bill into law.

This bill would direct the Colorado School of Public Health to analyze existing research “related to the physical and mental health effects of high-potency THC marijuana and concentrates” — and its results could inform future policy decisions at the Capitol.

Dispensaries that sell medical or recreational marijuana will have to package products with explicit guidance for consumers on serving size, and also restrict daily purchase limits for concentrates like wax and shatter to 8 grams per person — a fifth of the current limit. The bill would require a real-time database to enforce longstanding state laws on daily purchase limits, which to this point have not been enforced so people can dispensary hop and exceed their limits.

There are also several new rules designed to ensure medical marijuana patients have a more substantial relationship with doctors, so that it is not as easy for people ages 18-20 to obtain cards.

While the bill enjoyed broad bipartisan support, it was not clear even just weeks ago that it would debut at all.

Its emergence is in part due to the activism of parents and some medical professionals. One of those parents, Dawn Reinfeld of Boulder, said the legislature’s overwhelming approval “validates what we have seen all along from physicians, educators and our communities.”

“It’s long past time for our regulations to catch up to these high-potency products,” added Reinfeld, who directs an advocacy group called Blue Rising Together that advocated for this bill.

Lawmakers who opposed the bill worried about data privacy related to sales tracking, restricted access for medical marijuana patients and the potential path toward prohibitionist policies in the future.

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