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Colorado lawmakers continue to regulate legal marijuana



Bills go here to become law or die. - ARINA P HABICH /SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Arina P Habich /Shutterstock
  • Bills go here to become law or die.

During the 2017 legislative session, lawmakers accomplished some objectives and punted on others (see Between the Lines, and "New laws to impact schools," for more on that).

Those bills included some that regulate marijuana. (Oh, you didn't think it was just legal, did you?) Here's what's up with new laws that all you responsible tokers ought to be aware of.

As of press time, Gov. John Hickenlooper has signed five marijuana-related bills into law, including some you may have read about in this column before.

Senate Bill 015, "Concerning the unlawful advertising of marijuana," makes it a misdemeanor for anyone without a license to advertise the sale of marijuana. Caregivers, infused-product manufacturers and testing facilities are excluded, but next time you see that dumbass Facebook friend of yours trying to sell bud to strangers online, know that yes, he's breaking the law.

House Bill 1203 resolves a question that Adams and Pueblo counties, in particular, have been waiting on — namely, whether they have the authority to levy a special sales tax on retail marijuana with voter approval. Ambiguity in legislators' drafting of Amendment 64's tax provision threw those counties' tax collections into question, so legislators finally took it upon themselves to clarify their intent. Now, they've specified that counties can impose such a tax. But, if city voters within the county pass their own, then the municipal special sales tax replaces the county's tax within city limits.

Lawmakers also responded to complaints that parolees with med cards can't medicate while out on bond by passing Senate Bill 178, which prohibits courts from making marijuana abstinence a condition of bond for registered patients.

A similar number of bills passed both chambers of the General Assembly, but hadn't been signed yet by Hickenlooper as of the Independent's press time. Notable in that category is Senate Bill 017 — a hard-won victory in the years-long effort to give trauma survivors access to medical marijuana. The bill makes stress disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a qualifying condition for medical marijuana. For more on all that, see Indy cover story "Aim to Heal" from April 20, 2016.

Also passed is House Bill 1295, which will repeal the office of marijuana coordination. The General Assembly created that office under the governor in 2014 as a bridge between the executive branch and marijuana legalization. Now, both branches agree the office is no longer needed, so kiss goodbye the epic job title that was the "marijuana czar."

Two bills dealing with the persistence of the black market and so-called gray market in Colorado also passed this session. They include House Bill 1220, which creates criminal penalties for growing more than 16 plants in a residence unless the jurisdiction expressly permits it. Patients and caregivers with extended plant counts are not exempted. The passage of this bill is likely to both clarify and complicate the evolving body of home-grow laws, since law enforcement's been asking for more capability in this realm but patients are ready to sue for the right to grow their own medicine.

House Bill 1221 is arguably another blow to marijuana users. It specifies Coloradans' constitutional protections do not include the right to assist other adults through co-op-grown marijuana. HB1221 also creates a program to reimburse law enforcement agencies that are dealing with black- and gray-market activity. Rural agencies have priority in getting those grants. Lawmakers are serious about not exceeding plant limits, you guys.

And lastly, as always, some measures failed.

House Bill 1333 would've let people convicted of marijuana crimes prior to legalization petition for their records to be sealed if the same activities would now be considered legal. That one, which has long been a goal for legalization activists, was killed by the House Judiciary Committee, with Rep. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, siding with the motion to "postpone indefinitely."

Also dead are a bill that would have created a license for marijuana consumption clubs and one that would've defined "open and public" use. The latter is something the Legislature has continually passed over since Amendment 64 first created the conundrum of where, exactly, it's legal to consume cannabis. The bill to address that, Senate Bill 184, would have defined "open and public" to mean "a place to which the public or a substantial number of the public has access, including, but not limited to, streets and highways, transportation facilities, places of amusement, parks, playgrounds and the common areas of buildings and other facilities." It bounced around until dying on the very last day of the session.

Sine die, as they say.

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