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- Pot bills plentiful on Capitol docket.
Colorado's 71st General Assembly is underway, with issues like transportation, affordable housing and, of course, wrangling a balanced budget looming large. But another specter — that of new leadership in D.C. — also haunts the state Capitol, particularly when it comes to our pioneering pot policy.
Amid the nervous wait to see how the Department of Justice under Jeff Sessions (should he become attorney general) will deal with the conflict between state and federal drug laws, Colorado legislators are staying the course. Nine marijuana-related bills — some that we've seen before and others that we haven't — have dropped since opening day. Here are the big ones, so far:
• Senate Bill 051, sponsored by Denver Democrats Rep. Dan Pabon and Sen. Irene Aguilar, would make it illegal for anyone not licensed to sell marijuana to advertise its sale. It's aimed at the rampant phenomenon of sketchy online salesmanship, sometimes promoting interstate commerce, which violates federal law. This bill, should it become law, would make it easier for Colorado law enforcement to go after people who purport to do something illegal, rather than wait for them to actually do it. (Primary caregivers who advertise only their capacity as such would be exempt.)
• Senate Bill 017, or "Allow Medical Marijuana Use for Stress Disorders," would add acute stress disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the list of conditions that qualify a patient for a red card. In the nearly 20 years Amendment 20 has been on the books, no new conditions have been added to the state's list, despite many petitions to the board of health. Veterans, in particular, have led recent efforts — legislative, administrative and judicial — to add PTSD as a qualifying condition. The bill is being carried by Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, and Sen. Aguilar.
• Senate Bill 063, which aims to create a license for marijuana consumption clubs, will also be familiar to those who keep an eye on this developing area of policy. But this year brings a different political landscape: Denver passed its own social-use measure, Colorado Springs has banned clubs, and those with dreams that Colorado might actually regulate marijuana like alcohol are more jaded than ever. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Vicki Marble, R-Fort Collins and Rep. Jovan Melton, D-Aurora, contains an opt-out provision, letting cities disallow licensed marijuana clubs in their jurisdictions — meaning it won't necessarily change the situation in the Springs.
We'll be following all these bills and more to come. In the meantime, if any are important to you, call your legislators about it. You can also show up at hearings to testify or otherwise weigh in with your presence. Look up a bill of interest at leg.colorado.gov to check when it'll be heard in committee.
See you in court
As reported in CannaBiz on Dec. 21, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) issued notice of a final rule last month that shook the cannabidiol (CBD) industry. The administrative action creates a new code number for "marihuana extract," defined as "an extract containing one or more cannabinoids that has been derived from any plant of the genus Cannabis, other than the separated resin (whether crude or purified) obtained from the plant."
The DEA stated that the move was a better way to track international imports and exports, as well as production quotas for tightly regulated usage in scientific research. The separate drug code would bring domestic drug control more in-line with global treaties. Those involved in the commerce of so-called "marihuana extracts" were dismayed, given that interstate sale of CBD products has long been considered legal. With the DEA now insisting these derivatives of the cannabis plant have always been scheduled under the Controlled Substances Act, it's time for some clarification.
That's what the Hoban Law Group, a leading cannabis and hemp firm in Denver, seeks. On Jan. 13, the day the rule was scheduled to go into effect, Hoban attorneys filed a petition in San Francisco's U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on behalf of the Hemp Industries Association, RMH Holdings LLC (which sources products from industrial hemp cultivated pursuant to the 2014 Farm Bill) and Centuria Natural Foods Inc. (which imports stalks and fibers of the cannabis plant).
The petition makes these points: First, the final rule lumps together all cannabinoid-containing substances, despite THC being the only one that's explicitly scheduled; second, that the DEA has already acknowledged CBD, CBG and other cannabinoids don't have psychoactive properties; and third, that the rule is effectively a scheduling action, meaning the DEA overstepped its authority into territory rightfully relegated to Congress.
The rule won't be implemented until this issue is resolved.