May 19, 2021 - Politics
Colorado aims to set stricter limits on cannabis concentrates, medical marijuana
Data: Colorado Department of Revenue, 2019. Chart: Michelle McGhee/Axios

Colorado leaders want to make it harder to get high-potency marijuana concentrates, but a new bill that advanced Tuesday stops short of imposing THC caps.

Why it matters: Backed by Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, the legislation represents a rare effort to crack down on the state's first-in-the nation marijuana industry.

What's happening: The legislation aims to make it harder for medical marijuana — which enjoys fewer regulations — to get passed to others by:

  • Requiring a doctor to take more steps to authorize a medical marijuana card, particularly for those aged 18-20.
  • Creating a medical marijuana purchase tracking system to prevent looping, in which patients can visit multiple stores to exceed the per-purchase cap.
  • Limiting most single-day purchases to 8 grams, instead of the current 40 grams.

Other elements of the legislation require the state to conduct a public information campaign about high-potency THC; provide $3 million for scientific research; and set rules for new individual packaging.

What they're saying: A Medical Center of Aurora psychiatrist called cannabis use and addiction an "emerging epidemic ... that threatens to swallow the lives of a whole generation of Coloradans."

  • Weiser, a Democrat, called teenage use of high-THC products "a critical public health challenge."

Get smart: Concentrates — such as vape cartridges, wax, dab and shatter — represent about one-third of the state's marijuana market.

  • The average potency of concentrates is 69%, compared to 18% for a pre-rolled joint.
  • Since adult-use legalization in 2014, concentrate sales increased eightfold, faster than any other type of product.
  • A 2019 survey of Colorado high school students found 10% dabbed at least once in the last 30 days, compared to 7% in 2017.

Between the lines: The legislation is actually a political win for the cannabis industry because the sponsors did not include potency caps as initially planned, and top advocates are supportive of the intent.

  • Still, the industry wants to see the language about the research change because they say it would likely produce a predetermined negative outcome.
  • The Marijuana Industry Group also opposes the lower limits on medical marijuana purchases.
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