Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill on Thursday that tightens limits on cannabis concentrates and puts restrictions on medical marijuana patients and their physicians. The measure, House Bill 1317 (HB21-1317), also funds research into the effect that high-potency marijuana products can have on developing minds.
Democratic Rep. Yadira Caraveo, a pediatrician and sponsor of the legislation, said that the main objective of the bill is to keep cannabis concentrates away from young people so that they cannot “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.”
Under the legislation, the daily limit on the amount of marijuana concentrates that can be purchased will be reduced from 40 grams per person per day to eight grams. The cannabis concentrate limit for medical marijuana patients ages 18 to 20 will be two grams. The bill will also update the state’s seed-to-sale tracking system to monitor cannabis concentrate purchases by medical marijuana patients’ identification numbers in real time, rather than at the end of the day.
House Speaker Alec Garnett, who introduced the bill, said that the change to the tracking system will prevent buyers from purchasing their daily limit multiple times in a single day. According to data from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment, cannabis extract use by teens doubled from 2015 to 2019. Garnett said that 18-year-old medical marijuana patients purchasing more than the daily limit is the primary way that high-potency cannabis products end up in the possession of young people.
“This bill will close that loophole,” Garnett said. “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 new limits on cannabis concentrate purchases were supported by groups representing parents, healthcare professionals, and those opposed to robust cannabis legalization efforts, who argued that highly potent marijuana products may have a negative effect on developing brains. To further investigate the issue, House Bill 1317 also provides $1 million dollar annually through the 2023 fiscal year so that the Colorado School of Public Health can review the research and further study the mental health effects of marijuana. The agency will also receive another $3 million for an educational campaign on THC extracts and youth use.
“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,” Garnett said at a ceremony for the bill’s signing. “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.”
Colorado Medical Marijuana Community Opposed Measure
House Bill 1317 also subjects physicians who write medical marijuana recommendations to new regulations including a requirement that doctors provide a THC dosage amount and medical and mental health reviews of patients. More than 100 medical marijuana doctors sent a letter to Polis asking the Democratic governor to veto the legislation. Cannabis Clinicians Colorado director Martha Montemayor says the law “will effectively kill medical marijuana in Colorado.”
“We were not given a seat at the table. It requires continued cannabis education only for cannabis doctors, and not traditional doctors who know nothing about it,” she said. “It also requires the doctor to review records from previous doctors, which effectively strips the cannabis doctors of their diagnosing privileges.”
“It doubles the cost for all patients by forcing a second diagnosis,” Montemayor added. “Traditionally, cannabis has been a poor person’s medicine, because they don’t have health insurance.”
Polis signed House Bill 1317 on Thursday after the legislation was passed by state lawmakers earlier this month. Most of the bill’s restrictions go into effect immediately.
A.J. Herrington is a San Diego-based freelance writer covering cannabis news, business, and culture.