Colorado Marijuana Laws Set for Potential Overhaul

As the first state to approve the use of marijuana for recreational purposes just three years ago, Colorado already is facing proposals that make sweeping changes to the Colorado marijuana laws in how the cannabis industry is regulated.

A new proposal developed with input from the Marijuana Industry Group and the Colorado Cannabis Chamber of Commerce seeks a new regulatory agency for the cannabis industry, among other changes.

Colorado State Sen. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, is sponsoring a draft of the bill. He emphasized to the Durango Herald that the proposal is still very much in draft form.

“There is no bill; there is a draft,” he said. “It’s a work in progress, we don’t know what’s going to be in the bill at the end, that’s why we continue to work on it…we don’t know if there’s even going to be one.”

What the Colorado Marijuana Laws Proposal Seeks

Called “Concerning Marijuana,” the 50-page draft document, obtained by the Durango Herald, calls for big changes in how marijuana is regulated in Colorado.

Under the proposal, a five-member commission would be created to oversee rules and regulations regarding the cannabis industry. The commission would be created by the governor.

Right now, oversight is done by the Marijuana Enforcement Division within the state Department of Revenue, but the proposal would significantly reduce that department’s role. For example, the proposal would give the newly created commission the authority to create rules governing the marijuana industry without approval from the Department of Revenue and the ability to issue licenses to marijuana businesses.

The current Colorado governor, John Hickenlooper, said he’s not sure a governor-appointed commission is the way to go.

“We have up to this point operated largely in a transparent, collaborative role with the industry. … This particular omnibus really came out of nowhere and hasn’t gone through that process,” Hickenlooper told the Herald.

Chances Are Slim

The chances that the draft proposal actually becomes a bill are very low. Even those who have backed the proposal say it still needs to be further considered before decisions are made and there is movement forward.

One of the areas that will likely need compromise is the proposal’s approach to the use of pesticides in the growing of marijuana. For example, the proposal would allow farmers to remediate marijuana found to have been tainted by pesticides rather than destroy it. The proposal also would allow for the use of “a pesticide that is exempt from registration under federal law and is labeled for human consumption,” according to the Herald.

On the pesticide issue, Gov. Hickenlooper told the Herald, “Some of the ones they use, we can say with certainty, are dangerous. If I was counsel for the marijuana industry, I would argue, you don’t want to take any risk at all.”

While the draft may never become a bill, the issues involved show that even in places where marijuana is legal, there are details that will continue to be hammered out as states and the federal government decide how to best regulate the production and use of legal marijuana.