Colorado Cannabis Policy Update

When it comes to cannabis business and policy, the state of Colorado sits under a metaphorical microscope.

Nearly two years have passed since the first legal flowers were sold in the state, rightly drawing interest from states like California who are looking to write policies of their own. What kinds of issues remain post-legalization? From experiments in limited social use measures to allow consumption in Denver bars and restaurants, to the various ways in which the medical and recreational cannabis businesses are regulated differently, there is much for cannabis industry professionals to explore and learn from.

Some recent proposals are garnering attention in Colorado right now that deserve a mention:

A new proposed policy by the Colorado Medical Board would require cannabis-recommending doctors to suggest the possibility of serious side effects, including death, to medical patients before prescribing medical cannabis. Though the recreational market is strong in Colorado, there are still around 106,000 medical card holders who would be affected by this policy when it comes time to renew their doctors’ recommendations.

Among other concerning parts of the proposal, this policy could hypothetically harm the medical cannabis industry. It’s likely that, indirectly, this is being proposed for tax reasons. In Colorado, recreational cannabis retail sales are taxed, while dispensary sales are not. By making recommendations harder to obtain, pushing patients out of the medical cannabis system and into the recreational market, the state would eventually increase its intake of tax revenues. However, there’s also the chance that those who declined to renew their recommendations would simply go back to the black market or become home growers, again bypassing the taxed market.

Brett Roper, Director of Licensing Services at Medicine Man Technologies in Denver, has a more optimistic outlook and says that this change is just a sign of the times.

“Disclaimers seem to have become a regular part of our everyday lives…from cigarette and drug packaging; to car reminders to wear seat belts warning of dismemberment, death and other maladies; to warnings on most everything we purchase,” commented Roper. “I strongly suspect that the medical patient prescriptive process will not be significantly impacted by further disclaimers, which we as a society have become somewhat immune to, and do not expect this to dampen our business outlook or client decision making process.”

Retaining a solid medical cannabis program in Colorado is important for underrepresented groups like the chronically ill, the poor, and the elderly. Should new disclaimer policies do their job in scaring off potential patients and those in need of renewal, the medical cannabis sector will likely fade away. Even if they’re not creeped out by the potential side effects, these individuals may not be able to afford an in-depth exam or pass scrutiny under the proposed strict policies, and will head to the recreational market.

Proposition BB, to be posted on the November ballot, will let voters decide whether excess tax revenue from cannabis should be returned to taxpayers or spent by the state on things like education and law enforcement.

In 2014, tax revenues from cannabis so far exceeded the cap set by the state regulations, that every citizen of Colorado is set to receive his or her share of $58 million in tax refund. While that’s absolutely amazing, the state could benefit from the extra cash as well, and if the populace is ready to continue prioritizing educational gains in the state, the voters may choose to waive their refund for the greater good. If the measure fails, the difference will be made up by lowering the cannabis sales tax.

What does a Denver insider think about the Proposition?

“As Brett Roper, taxpayer: I would certainly like to see the excess collections be allocated for the public good, in particular schools and law enforcement. However, in all fairness, it would also seem logical that those paying the excess taxes be the beneficiary of any such refund process. So just call me conflicted.”

Seems that Colorado voters have a tough decision on their hands.

Covering relevant policy news is important to us, and we can’t be everywhere at once. To refer any news or local policy concerns to our editorial team for consideration, please contact us and we’ll do our best to respond.

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