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Colorado state house mulls multiple cannabis-related proposals

Posted on March 20th, 2018 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , , , , , , , .

ColoradoSeveral bills now pending before the Colorado state house will further shape what the legal cannabis economy will look like in the Centennial State—for better or for worse. While some of these measures would mean a freer atmosphere both for "recreational" and medicinal users, others may portend greater big-money control of the fast-growing industry.

Activists and industry advocates alike in Colorado are closely watching a slew of measures now before the state's General Assembly concerning several aspects of the state's new cannabis economy and the unfolding norms for use of the herb, which has been officially legal there since 2012.

Some of the bills are being greeted with widespread support. Even the Denver Post editorialized in favor a measure to allow cannabis "tasting rooms" at retail outlets. House Bill 18-1258 would open up the existing law's restrictions on public use, and potentially pave the way for Amsterdam-style coffee shops or smoking lounges in Colorado. 

The Southern Colorado Cannabis Council (SoCoCC), which has been closely following the legislation, is neutral on HB 18-1258. The organization's executive director Jason Warf told Cannabis Now that it is instead supporting Senate Bill 18-211, which he believes addresses the issue in a fairer way. Whereas HB 18-1258 only allows existing outlets licensed by the state Marijuana Enforcement Division to apply for permission to operate a "tasting room," SB 18-211 "creates a license anyone can apply for," Warf says. "Existing clubs were eager to come to the table and pay licensing fees and come under regulation. We want a responsible, regulated industry."

Warf says he also wants legislation that will make sure the little guy is protected. While about 30% of the retail cannabis outlets in Colorado are "conglomerates or chain stores," Warf says "the majority of our industry is mom-and-pop, and the truth is there are still some financial restraints on most of them."

The SoCoCC is expressing concerns about House Bill 18-1011, which would allow out-of-state companies and individual investors to have ownership interest in state-licensed cannabis businesses. As Inlander notes, the bill would drop current law's prohibition on publicly traded owners for Colorado canna-businesses, and lift a 15-person cap on out-of-state ownership.

Also meeting with controversy is HB 18-1187, concerning pharmaceutical products containing the non-psychoactive cannabidiol (CBD). It states that if the federal Food & Drug Administration "approves a prescription medicine that contains cannabidiol, thereafter, prescribing, dispensing, transporting, possessing, and using that prescription drug is legal in Colorado." This is clearly a reference to Epidiolex, a CBD-based pharmaceutical that producers expect to win FDA approval this year, as In-Pharma website notes.

The SoCoCC met with lawmakers and pharmaceutical industry lobbyists to work out protections in the bill for local CBD producers. Warf says his organization is walking the fine line of supporting those changes to the legislation while remaining neutral on the bill itself. On March 21, the revised bill was passed unanimously by House Public Healthcare and Human Services committee.

The Colorado Hemp Industries Association COHIA says it opposed the initial draft of the bill but is now supporting it, with caveats. A COHIA statement says the organization "is working to include language that guarantees protection for hemp based cbd companies operating lawfully in the state of Colorado. As the hemp industry continues to mature across the country, we will have to work with pharma companies seeking market space. Rather than make arguments against these bills, it is in the best interest of the hemp industry and our COHIA members to steer proper legislation and regulation with constructive dialogue."

At issue here appears to be the role of Epidolex producer GW Pharmaceuticals, a UK-based multinational with globe-spanning ambitions. GW's industrial-scale operations in Britain are cultivating prodigious quantities of cannabis for production of its pharmaceuticals. There are evidently concerns that if the medical cannabis industry comes to be dominated by such giants, there could be little room for smaller producers in places like Colorado—part of the more generalized fear that legalization could lead to "corporate cannabis" or "Big Bud."

The COHIA statement says: "As part of our dedication to protecting our hemp industry, to being transparent to our members and in conjunction with the Hoban Law Group and the Hemp Policy round table." The Denver-based Hoban Law Group is a leader in the legal end of the cannabis industry both in Colorado and across North America. It was founded by Robert Hoban, an early pioneer in the push for Colorado legalization.

SoCoCC's position is somewhat more critical. Says Warf: "We as an organization have some trepadation about GW coming in. But they are coming. The best we can hope for is strong protections for our current industry as GW comes into Colorado." One of SoCoCC's members is CW Hemp, which makes CBD products. Warf points to CW Hemp as a local business with concerns about HB 18-1187.

"We sat down with GW lobbyists to work out these provisions," Warf says. "Now the law makes clear that they're only going to offer their products through pharmacies. That's a limited makret focusing on Medicare and Medicaid, while locally produced CBD already has a widespread custumer base."

Warf adds: "The positive side to this is it's a sign of nomralization of cannabis."

And in another sure sign of fast-eroding stigma, HB 18-1286 would allow school nurses to legally administer non-smokable cannabis preparations to students on school property, Denver's Fox 31 reports. Under current law, only primary caregivers cann administer cannabis-derived medicines in the state's schools. SoCoCC is of course supporting that one.

Meanwhile, COHIA is opposing the more openly restrictive Senate Bill 18-029—being dubbed the "Marijuana Tracking Bill." COHIA writes: "This bill unfairly groups hemp in with marijuana. It will force rural farmers to purchase an unproven tracking technology in order for law enforcement to track and trace hemp and hemp products as though they are illicit drugs." 
  

Cross-post to Cannabis Now


Photo by GreenwichMeanTime   

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