DENVER – A faction of the marijuana industry has proposed legislation that would represent the most sweeping changes to marijuana law in Colorado since it was enacted just three years ago.
Crafted with input from the Marijuana Industry Group and the Colorado Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, the nearly 50-page proposal is considered by many observers to be a “wish list.”
It is titled “Concerning Marijuana,” allowing for broad changes.
Stakeholders say it is unlikely that the proposal would be introduced as it is drafted. But it offers a window into the direction certain marijuana groups would like to take the industry.
The proposal also exposes a rift within the industry. Several marijuana stakeholders oppose the proposal, showing that the industry is not monolithic.
The draft legislation – obtained by The Durango Herald – would create a five-member commission appointed by the governor to enact rules and regulations governing the industry. Marijuana rules and regulations are currently promulgated by the Marijuana Enforcement Division, within the Department of Revenue.
The commission would have exclusive authority to create marijuana rules without any approval from the Department of Revenue. It also would be allowed to issue licenses.
Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, said he has serious reservations with the proposal.
“We have up to this point operated largely in a transparent, collaborative role with the industry. ... This particular omnibus really came out of nowhere and hasn’t gone through that process,” Hickenlooper said.
“I’ve heard a couple people argue that we knew that this was going to happen. That the profits coming from the marijuana industry would sooner or later push certain members of the industry to put profits above the safety of the public, and I think that’s a dangerous place for the industry to be in.”
Sen. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, is sponsoring the draft bill. He said he expects it to change significantly.
“There is no bill; there is a draft,” Baumgardner said. “It’s a work in progress, we don’t know what’s going to be in the bill at the end, that’s why we continue to work on it. ... We don’t know if there’s even going to be one.”
The draft legislation would clarify how operators can use pesticides at a time when concerns have grown over pesticide use.
The proposal would allow operators to remediate marijuana or product found to have pesticides before destruction is required. It also would allow a pesticide that is exempt from registration under federal law and is labeled for human consumption.
But Hickenlooper has concerns with that as well, saying: “Some of the ones they use, we can say with certainty, are dangerous. If I was counsel for the marijuana industry, I would argue, you don’t want to take any risk at all.”
Also in the draft is a provision allowing marijuana special events. Marijuana stores would be allowed to sell marijuana and products at the events. Events would be limited to people 21 and older.
A separate bill this year to allow for marijuana events failed in the Legislature.
Another idea proposed in the draft would add post-traumatic stress disorder as a condition for medical marijuana.
The remainder of the omnibus would streamline tracking and reporting requirements and ease certain burdens placed on businesses, while also clarifying how local governments can tax cannabis sales.
“It would be the most sweeping (marijuana) legislation ever introduced in the Colorado House,” said Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver, who crafted many of the 2013 marijuana laws.
Pabon has concerns with the proposed legislation, especially considering there are less than two weeks left in the legislative session.
“Given the dramatic changes that the bill contemplates, it’s too much with not enough time to discuss and debate. ... It’s a bill of frustrations,” Pabon said.
The ideas proposed in the draft are not supported universally within the industry.
Christian Sederberg, a marijuana attorney who helped craft the state’s marijuana laws, said it is irresponsible for the two industry groups to propose sweeping changes at this time. He also criticized the groups for not including most of the industry.
“It seems so complicated and so sweeping in scope that a lack of including stakeholders and others who represent people in the marijuana industry gives me great concern,” Sederberg said.
Shawn Coleman, spokesman for Terrapin Care Station, which has several locations in the Denver area, said: “We are disappointed... The MED (Marijuana Enforcement Division) being tough on licensees, particularly in the area of pesticides, is important to the credibility of the industry.”
Several representatives of the Marijuana Industry Group declined to comment. Kara Miller, a lobbyist for the group, said only that a draft is not legislation.
Tyler Henson, president of the Colorado Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, explained that it is difficult to include all stakeholders in every discussion.
“You can’t involve every single niche person or group in everything,” Henson said. “Somebody is not going to get the memo.
“You can call it a Christmas tree bill, where you ask for whatever you want under the sun, and then go from there ...” Henson said. “People like to throw whatever they want that they think needs to be addressed and see if anything sticks.”