For years, Colorado has earned a reputation for being progressive about cannabis. The two states in America that people associate most with access to legal weed have always been California and Colorado. And Colorado has definitely enjoyed a significant uptick in cannabis tourism.
Everything from 420 tours to party bus excursions (pot crawls at multiple smoke-friendly destinations). In 2020, the revenues from cannabis tourism alone accounted for almost 7% of earnings for the state of Colorado.
So, when you think about cannabis legal reform, Colorado might be the last state you would expect to move in that direction. But some have reported that what is in the works right now will be the largest reform and amendment to marijuana laws ever for any legalized state.
We took an investigative look into what was causing such a radical shift among Colorado lawmakers. And what the legal reform will mean to adult-use consumers and Colorado medical cardholders. Residents of Colorado may not like the new legislative amendments.
The Denver Post reported that until 2014, raw cannabis flower was the most popular product sold in dispensaries. Only 11% of sales were high-potency concentrates for dabbing or vaping. But five years later, in 2019, concentrate sales accounted for almost 34% of all cannabis sales. Whole flower accounted for less than 50% of sales.
Leading the charge against what some people have called a ‘soft prohibition’ is Representative Yadira Caraveo. She is a Democratic House Representative and a pediatrician. And she has sounded an alarm bell against concentrates. Specifically, the health impact of high-potency concentrates used daily or several times per week.
Rep. Caraveo feels that adolescents may have too much access to concentrates at home. She cites an example of one teenage patient who developed ‘scromiting’ or uncontrollable vomiting after using highly concentrated cannabis daily for an extended period of time. The patient rapidly lost twenty-five (25) lbs and had to abstain from using cannabis.
Arguably, a sixteen-year-old girl shouldn’t have been using cannabis at all. Adult-use or recreational dispensaries can only sell to adults twenty-one (21) years of age or older. The slang term for the condition is ‘scromiting,’ from the symptom of violent vomiting commonly accompanied by screaming and the possibility of psychosis.
It is as unpleasant as it sounds. And the condition can become life-threatening. There is only one cure; cessation of cannabis and THC intake. Which you can imagine is a very tough sell to people who use cannabis daily.
A reaction to startling new trends in public health, led by physicians with concerns about minors, concentrates, and more, Colorado wants to change its current weed laws. Not just a little bit; by a lot. For both recreational users and patients with Colorado medical cards.
HB 1317 would take effect January 1, 2022. These new legal amendments would change access to cannabis in Colorado by:
· Requiring physicians to create a formal treatment plan for patients in the medical marijuana program. This means outlining dosing regimens or essentially prescribing cannabis for daily and monthly use. This is a big deal to physicians because it would violate federal laws.
· Physicians would have to conduct a mental health history and check on the patient. This means potentially refusing patients for medical cannabis if they have been diagnosed with PTSD, psychosis or psychotic break, treatment-resistant depression (with suicidal ideation), and more.
· Patients who are 18-20 years getting a Colorado medical card recommendation would need the consent of two physicians from two entirely different medical practices. This would require an in-person office visit with each physician.
· A cap on the amount of medical marijuana concentrates that a patient can purchase daily. It would be lowered to 8 grams for adults and only 2 grams for 18-20-year-old residents with a Colorado medical card.
The law would also make concentrates labeled with warnings and packaged in single-dose sizes. And a new tracking system in Colorado to prevent patients from purchasing over the limit at multiple dispensaries.
The fallout from the amendments in HB 1317 could significantly impact access to medical cannabis for patients in Colorado. A patient filed a lawsuit with epilepsy named Benjamin Wann. He is 19 years old, and the cap on quantity and potential potency of concentrates may impact his ability to treat debilitating symptoms of epilepsy.
Cannabis advocates fear the new legislation would deter physicians from referring patients and create problems for patients with debilitating health conditions. The direct violation of federal law (prescribing a Schedule 1 drug) would be enough to deter many practitioners. And close medical card referral practices, increasing waiting times for patient health evaluations.
NORML supported the legal action of the 19-year-old plaintiff Benjamin Wann providing testimony that supported the negative impact that HB 1317 could have. The testimony also reminded Colorado lawmakers that there was a 54% approval in 2000 to institute medical cannabis in the state. And that any changes should be made by a constitutional amendment (vote) rather than a legislative amendment passed by the House, Senate and signed by Gov. Jared Polis.
If put to a vote, chances are the residents of Colorado would refuse to impose the restrictions proposed in HB 1317. And since a constitutional amendment and vote enacted the laws, the legal position on the matter is solid. That might result in a postponement of HB 1317 from being implemented until it can be placed on a state ballot.
The battle is on.
Featured Image: Deposit Photos | Canva