DENVER – Colorado lawmakers have headed into a new phase of marijuana policy in the state, focusing on some of the unintended results of legalization.
With initial rule-making largely behind them, the Legislature now has time to focus on issues that few expected when voters first legalized marijuana in 2012.
Pesticides top the list, with lawmakers and consumers raising concerns about poisons ending up in products.
Also on the list for the Legislature this year is an effort to allow marijuana distribution at special events, such as Cannabis Cup, an annual marijuana competition that has in recent years added Colorado to its list of stops.
Lawmakers will also attempt to expand cannabis testing facilities and collect data related to marijuana public safety issues. Another measure would allow out-of-state ownership in marijuana businesses. Current law allows only Colorado residents to apply for a marijuana business license.
But it is the pesticide subject that seems to be raising the most worry. The issue became a public concern in March 2015 after more than 100,000 plants were quarantined by the city of Denver because of pesticide concerns. Since then, the issue has proliferated.
“Amendment 64 came in kind of brand new in the state, out of the shoot,” said Rep. Ed Vigil, D-Fort Garland, who is sponsoring a bill this session that would require the state to enact rules to identify pesticides that can be used in the cultivation of marijuana.
“Everybody was trying to figure out what’s the best thing to regulate it, and to make sure it was safe, and I think it’s just growing pains,” Vigil continued.
Another piece of legislation would create a state program to help consumers easily identify marijuana that has been grown and processed without pesticides. The program would license third parties to certify pesticide-free pot. Product labels would include a pesticide-free notification.
The proposal is not all that different than a federal program that allows for “organic” labeling. But because marijuana is illegal federally, cannabis products can’t include an “organic” label. So, lawmakers are working to create a Colorado-specific notification.
Beyond pesticides, distribution remains an issue.
Rep. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, pointed out that Cannabis Cup in Denver last year was unable to allow vendors to distribute free samples. The state Marijuana Enforcement Division issued a notice stating that marijuana could not be distributed until final sale. Sales outside of licensed dispensaries remains illegal.
MED’s direction even went as far as to encourage distributors to locate exhibit tables away from areas of the competition that were designated for marijuana consumption.
The announcement was a “bummer,” to say the least. In previous years, the draw of Cannabis Cup has been its free samples. Marijuana enthusiasts would wait in sometimes excruciatingly long lines just to receive a handful of samples.
Moreno’s legislation would allow marijuana stores to apply for a special event permit to distribute cannabis, either through donations or sales. Local governments would still be allowed to deny the application. The license would apply only to events that are for those 21 years of age or older and have security measures.
“The time is right to continue to advance public safety on this issue,” Moreno said. “Right now, it’s happening and we have no control over it. Through this special event permit process we’ll actually be able to place conditions and to actually control the situation to some degree.”