What one governor taketh away, another governor gives.
On Wednesday, Gov. Jared Polis signed six pro-marijuana bills into law, including one that will allow out-of-state visitors and others to safely consume cannabis in regulated hospitality facilities. Polis on Wednesday signed two bills into law that had been vetoed last year by then-Gov. John Hickenlooper.
Under House Bill 1230, marijuana hospitality facilities can be set up to allow consumption of marijuana products. According to a statement from backers, “existing dispensaries could apply for a limited consumption license, while entrepreneurs who have found entrance to the cannabis industry difficult will have a new chance to seize opportunities in establishing their own separate establishments. This will create new workforce development and local community impact opportunities.”
The signing on Wednesday featured the largest audience for a bill signing so far this year, Polis said.
Those establishments legalized under House Bill 1230 can open for business on Jan. 1, 2020, and will be licensed by the state’s marijuana enforcement division within the Department of Revenue as well as under the authority granted by local governments.
People complain about the smell of marijuana in parks and neighborhoods, Polis said. “This will allow for safe public consumption” and great business opportunities.
“We have to treat medical marijuana and recreational marijuana like the drug it is, not the drug people fear,” added Democratic Rep. Jonathan Singer of Longmont, a sponsor of the 2018 bill. “This gives them a responsible place to go” with trained staff who can explain potencies and the products, added Rep. Jovan Melton of Aurora. “We say, ‘come to Colorado, visit our dispensaries and purchase, but don’t smoke it and don’t take it with you.’ That doesn’t make sense.”
Hickenlooper vetoed the 2018 version of the bill. At the time, he said the measure conflicted with terms of the voter-approved constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana in Colorado; that amendment said pot could not be used "openly" or "publicly."
The former governor said the 2018 measure could lead to more impaired driving, and that even vaping in a confined space could pose health risks to others.
The second measure Polis signed will allow for regulated delivery of marijuana, primarily to medical marijuana patients. Sponsors of House Bill 1234 pointed out Wednesday that marijuana delivery already takes place but it’s part of the black market. Many marijuana patients can’t leave home to pick up their products, Polis said, and regulated delivery will give them access to medical marijuana for pain instead of using opioids, a bill he signed last week.
Singer said people can already buy marijuana online and those who deliver it don’t care if it’s being sold to kids. This provides a safe and normalized regulatory structure for delivery, added Democratic Sen. Julie Gonzales of Denver. “This is a bill of compassion” for medical marijuana patients, said Polis.
Polis also signed into law House Bill 1090, which will allow capital investment in publicly licensed marijuana companies. Sponsored by Gonzales and Republican Sen. Owen Hill of Colorado Springs, the bill also takes aim at black market investment, according to co-sponsor Democratic Rep. Matt Gray of Broomfield. The black market for marijuana can get investment capital from organized crime, for example, he said.
Under House Bill 1090, a publicly-traded corporation can invest in a marijuana business or become a marijuana business. The measure also changes statutory definitions around ownership and investment for medical and retail marijuana.
Polis called House Bill 1090 “transformational.” Until now, it’s been challenging for companies in the cannabis industry to raise capital in public or private markets, Polis explained. That means growth is slowed, employees aren’t paid as well and companies can’t expand as fast. “If we want Colorado, rather than Canada, to have the good jobs of the future in the cannabis industry, it’s critical that we make our state hospitable for raising capital, public and private, for cannabis companies.”
This law will treat cannabis like any other business, added Republican Rep. Kevin Van Winkle of Highlands Ranch, who co-sponsored the measure.
This was also a measure that Hickenlooper vetoed in 2018, citing legal uncertainty in allowing out-of-state investment given that marjuana remains illegal under federal law.