Colorado Just Passed a Slew of Groundbreaking Drug Reform Laws


On Wednesday, Colorado became the first state to officially establish a framework for marijuana social consumption spaces.

In addition, the state legalized weed delivery services and permitted public investments into Colorado’s cannabis companies, which was previously banned. Gov. Polis also signed several pieces of legislation that reformed the state’s drug policies, including knocking down felony charges for possession of Schedule I/II substances to mere misdemeanors.

Let’s break down these revolutionary developments bill-by-bill.

Social Consumption Spaces

HB19-1230, the “Marijuana Hospitality Bill,” creates a licensing system for private venues to not only host social consumption events, but to sell weed at the venues/events, too. Because the Colorado Clean Air Act bans indoor smoking at most venues, social consumption lounges will likely stick to dabs, vaping, and edibles.

Although Colorado became the first state to launch legal recreational weed sales in 2014, places to consume cannabis in social settings were lacking. Amendment 64, the ballot initiative that legalized weed, didn’t specifically ban social consumption, but authorities interpreted the law to only protect marijuana sales and possession for “personal use.” In other words, adults could only blaze at home, and not in public settings like concerts, yoga studios, and the like.

In 2017, Denver passed I-300, which also created a social consumption licensing system, but only within the capital’s limits. Due to excessive regulations tacked onto I-300, only two venues in Denver hold a social consumption license. With the passage of HB19-1230, social consumption licensing is now statewide.

Earlier this month, Las Vegas approved of social consumption spaces. West Hollywood recently granted social consumption licenses, too.

Weed Delivery Services

H19-1234, a bill for “Regulated Marijuana Delivery,” set rules for cannabis delivery services. Medical marijuana dispensaries can begin deliveries on January 2, 2020. Recreational pot shops can start deliveries a year later, on January 2, 2021.

Cannabis Companies Can Go Public

HB19-1090 repealed a rule that banned publicly traded companies from holding state-issued marijuana licenses. In other words, Colorado’s pot companies couldn’t receive public investments like other businesses. After this week’s bill signings, that’s no longer the case.

This means every licensed cannabis company in Colorado can now list itself on public exchanges (if the company qualifies), for better or worse.

Any Medical Condition Treated with Opioids Is a Qualifying Condition

SB19-013 expanded Colorado’s list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. Any “disabling medical condition” that a doctor can prescribe opioids for automatically falls under a “qualifying condition,” which has some nifty legal repercussions.

Under Amendment 20, Colorado’s medical marijuana law, any adult diagnosed with a qualifying condition also has an affirmative defense in court if they’re busted for weed. In other words, someone doesn’t need a medical marijuana card to grow or possess medical cannabis; they only need to be diagnosed with a qualifying condition.

By including any medical condition that can be treated with opioids, doctors can now recommend weed for opioid addiction (which is typically treated, ironically enough, with the opioid methadone). Certain debilitating respiratory conditions, as well as some digestive tract disorders, not already on the list of qualifying conditions will now qualify, too.

Most Schedule I/II Possession Charges Knocked Down to Misdemeanors

Perhaps the most significant piece of legislation Gov. Polis signed this week is HB19-1263, the bill that “defelonizes” possession of controlled substances.

Prior to HB19-1263’s passage, possession of a Schedule I or II substance was a level 4 drug felony, which could spell prison time for convicts. After this week, possession of a Schedule I or II substance such as MDMA, cocaine, heroin, or psilocybin will only net a level 1 drug misdemeanor, which usually only results in court fines and/or community service.

Further, HB19-1263 reduced the penalties for possessing large quantities of marijuana and marijuana concentrates. Previously, possessing more than 12 ounces of weed or dabs was a level 4 drug felony (much like having a baggie of coke in your pocket). Now, sitting on a shit-ton of pot is just another level 1 misdemeanor, too.

A few drugs were exempted from the bill’s provisions, namely ketamine and GHB, as these drugs can be used to commit date rape.

Colorado was once ground-zero for weed legalization. Given the new bills signed into law, as well as Denver decriminalizing psilocybin mushrooms, the Centennial State is leading the charge against America’s War on Drugs altogether.

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