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When Colorado voters passed Amendment 64 in November 2012, they didn't just enshrine cannabis legalization in the state constitution — they also directed that the plant should be taxed and regulated “in a manner similar to alcohol.”

The state made good on the taxation element, collecting nearly $1 billion in cannabis taxes, licenses and fees since adult-use sales launched in January 2014. But regulating marijuana like alcohol? Not so much.

Rather, former Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, under whose administration Amendment 64 passed and the existing regulatory regime was implemented, and legislators approached cannabis legalization as “a great experiment” in which caution was valued above the will of the voters.

In a span of two days in June 2018, the governor vetoed three bipartisan cannabis bills: one adding autism to the list of medical marijuana-eligible conditions, one permitting dispensary “tasting rooms,” and another allowing out-of-state investment in the state's cannabis companies.

However, following a Democratic sweep in the November 2018 election, a new class is running Colorado, led by Gov. Jared Polis, a former House representative who in 2017 co-founded the bipartisan Congressional Cannabis Caucus and who campaigned for governor on a pro-cannabis platform. When the state's 72nd General Assembly adjourned its legislative session on May 3, 2019, it sent Polis five cannabis bills, three of which move the state towards truly regulating marijuana like alcohol.

Here are the bills that will shape Colorado's cannabis industry and medical marijuana access for years to come.

  • HB19-1230 Marijuana Hospitality Establishments

What it does: Requires the state to create a business licensing system for social consumption at “marijuana hospitality establishments,” including dispensary tasting rooms similar to those already allowed at the state's breweries. It also allows cannabis clubs, hotels, yoga studios, and music venues to create designated consumption zones, while officially permitting marijuana bus tours, an industry that has thrived in the past five years despite legal uncertainties.

When: Licenses can be issued beginning Jan. 1, 2020.

Status: Awaiting the governor's signature.

What it does: Allows licensed businesses to deliver medical marijuana — and eventually adult-use cannabis — to private residences.

When: Medical cannabis deliveries would begin Jan. 2, 2020; adult-use deliveries would launch Jan. 2, 2021. Only existing marijuana license holders will be eligible for delivery permits in the first year of the program, with third-party delivery companies allowed to obtain licenses beginning Jan. 2, 2021.

Status: Awaiting the governor's signature.

  • HB19-1090 Publicly Licensed Marijuana Companies

What it does: Repeals a legislative provision prohibiting publicly traded corporations from holding a Colorado marijuana license. Publicly traded companies and private equity firms will for the first time be able to invest in Colorado marijuana businesses.

When: As soon as it becomes law.

Status: Awaiting the governor's signature.

  • HB19-1028 Medical Marijuana Condition–Autism

What it does: Adds autism spectrum disorders to the list of conditions eligible for medical marijuana. The bill also encourages the state board of health to prioritize awarding marijuana study grants to research examining the efficacy and safety of medical marijuana for pediatric conditions such as autism.

Status: Signed into law on April 2, 2019.

  • SB19-013 Medical Marijuana Condition–Opiates

What it does: Adds any condition for which a physician could prescribe an opioid to the list of eligible medical conditions that authorize a person to use medical marijuana.

When: As soon as it becomes law.

Status: Awaiting the governor's signature.



Feature Image: Photo courtesy of Get Budding on Unsplash

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