The New Year will Bring Harsher Cannabis Rules to Colorado

When the calendar flips to 2022 in a little more than a month, patients in Colorado will face more stringent rules for acquiring medical cannabis.

In an announcement spanning nearly 500 pages that was handed down last Tuesday, the state’s Department of Revenue outlined new rules and restrictions that came after “several months of deliberation over how to execute a new state law meant largely to limit young people’s access to and abuse of high-potency THC products,” according to the Denver Post.

The newspaper reported that Mark Ferrandino, executive director of the state’s Department of Revenue and a former speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives, had “final say” on the new rules, but that he “received heavy input from state marijuana enforcement officials and a task force that included parents, health professionals and marijuana industry representatives.” The task force was the byproduct of legislation passed and signed into law earlier this year.

So, what are some of these changes for Colorado’s medical marijuana law? 

Perhaps the most notable deals with the amount patients can purchase. Under the new rules, the state “will limit the daily purchase to two ounces of flower and eight grams of concentrate such as wax and shatter for medical marijuana patients,” per the Denver Post, with the limit dropping to two grams per day for patients aged 18-20. 

There are, however, exceptions, though they apply “only to a patient whose doctor affirms in writing that the patient has a physical or geographic hardship that should allow them to exceed the daily purchase limits, and that the patient has designated a store as the primary place they get their medicine,” according to the newspaper.

Colorado Rules Have Been a Long Time Coming

The new rules also require dispensaries to provide an educational pamphlet to customers buying concentrates, while prohibiting the retailers from marketing to would-be customers younger than 21.

Colorado lawmakers took the first steps toward imposing limits on cannabis concentrates in June, when they passed a bill that was then signed into law by Democratic Governor Jared Polis.

The legislation, which created the task force that helped formally produce the new rules announced last week, was pushed by Democrats in the state House of Representatives. 

One of the bill’s sponsors, Democratic state House Representative Yadira Caraveo, who is also a pediatrician, said that the measure is designed to ensure that young people do not “get their hands on an incredible amount of products and very concentrated products that they can then give or sell to people their age or younger who don’t yet have access to legal market because they’re not 21.”

Another supporter of the bill, House Speaker Alec Garnett, pointed to a loophole in the state’s tracking system through which people, namely young people, were exceeding their daily limits.

“This bill will close that loophole,” Garnett said at a signing ceremony for the bill. “This bill will make sure that we aren’t creating a gray market on our high school campuses and that our high school kids, their developing brains aren’t flooded with the most high-potency products when they don’t need them.

“The reality is that it’s too easy for Colorado’s youth to access high-potency marijuana when they shouldn’t be able to, and we don’t have the full picture of how these products impact the developing brain,” he continued. “This law will help educate consumers about high-potency cannabis, and it will advance critical research that will give us a better understanding of how high-potency products impact developing brains.”

Not everyone is on board with the changes, however. NORML objected to “several explicit provisions included in House Bill 1317,” saying that the bill “places additional and unreasonable hurdles for those patients ages 18 to 20 who are now eligible to receive medical cannabis authorizations.”

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Alabama Announces Medical Cannabis Licenses Won’t Be Available Until 2022

Regulators in Alabama said last week that medical marijuana likely will not be available for purchase in the state prior to 2023.

The Associated Press reported that the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission “has plenty to do before people can apply for medical cannabis licenses, so it won’t push for a date that might allow sales next year.” 

The news comes after the regulatory panel had previously said that the start date for sales may be accelerated.

But according to Rex Vaughn, the vice chairman of the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission, the panel has a full plate. He told the Montgomery Advertiser newspaper that “the group needed to address other duties, including rulemaking and physician training,” while also expressing “concerns that further legislative action—required to move the dates—could expose the medical cannabis law to attempts to weaken it.”

“At this point in time, we decided not to ask the Legislature to go back into digging up a legislative bill and opening it back up,” Vaughn said, as quoted by the Montgomery Advertiser. “We could lose what we’ve got.”

Lawmakers in Alabama passed a bill in May that legalized medical cannabis in the state for patients suffering from more than a dozen different qualifying conditions, including cancer, chronic pain, depression, sickle-cell anemia, terminal illnesses and HIV/AIDS.

The legislation was signed into law by Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, a Republican, about a week later.

“This is certainly a sensitive and emotional issue and something that is continually being studied,” Ivey said in a statement following the bill signing. “On the state level, we have had a study group that has looked closely at this issue, and I am interested in the potential good medical cannabis can have for those with chronic illnesses or what it can do to improve the quality of life of those in their final days.”

Getting the bill over the finish line was a multi-year effort for medical cannabis boosters in Alabama. Two years ago, lawmakers there failed to pass legislation that would have legalized the treatment. Instead, the legislature appointed a commission to research the policy via a series of public meetings.

At the end of 2019, the Alabama Medical Cannabis Study Commission voted to recommend that lawmakers pursue legislation permitting the treatment. 

The bill never got off the ground last year, but lawmakers got the job this spring. Now, it is down to regulators to put the new law into practice.

The Montgomery Advertiser noted last week that supporters “of the bill had hoped to see medical marijuana available by the fall of 2022,” but because the law only allowed “the commission to accept applications for licenses to grow or distribute medical marijuana on September 1, 2022,” it is “unlikely that any cannabis could be grown, processed and ready for transport before 2023.”

“If you start looking at the timelines for what it’s going to take to get rules and regulations approved, and the growth cycle and the 60 days that people have to get in business after they get the license, it starts adding up,” John McMillian, the executive director of the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission, said last week, as quoted by the Montgomery Advertiser.

Once physicians are clear to start prescribing, cannabis “would be available as tablets, capsules, gummies, lozenges, topical oils, suppositories, patches and in nebulizers or oil to be vaporized. The law forbids smoking or vaping medical cannabis, or baking it into food,” the Associated Press reported.

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