With a few signatures Wednesday, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis dramatically expanded his state’s already historic cannabis laws, and fulfilled some of his campaign pledges to enhance the state’s significant cannabis industry.
The new laws will bolster Colorado's booming $1.6 billion cannabis industry.
Speaking during a ceremony at the state capitol in Denver, Polis noted that Colorado cannot “rest on our laurels as one of the first states to legalize marijuana.” He then signed into law a series of bills that he said would ensure “that Colorado can maintain its leadership position in job creation in the cannabis industry.”
Since adult-use sales began in early 2014, cannabis has become a significant economic engine in Colorado. Leafly’s most recent Cannabis Jobs Count found that legalization currently supports 44,081 jobs in the Centennial State. Colorado sold $1.63 billion in cannabis products in 2018.
Three of the new laws stand out as newsworthy and ground-breaking.
‘Marijuana Hospitality’ Spaces
One of the new laws authorizes marijuana hospitality establishments, which are defined as places where “marijuana may be consumed on site and retail marijuana hospitality and sales establishments in which retail marijuana, retail marijuana concentrate, and retail marijuana products may be sold and consumed on site in the establishment’s hospitality space.”
It also creates an exception to the Colorado Clean Air Act in such hospitality spaces, and requires the state’s licensing authority to come up with the rules for governing the new hospitality licenses and spaces.
A similar “cannabis tasting room” bill was vetoed in 2018 by Colorado’s previous governor, John Hickenlooper, who said he was concerned the measure would create more impaired drivers on the state’s roads.
The new law is expected to end the ‘where-to-smoke” dilemma that cannabis enthusiasts in Colorado—especially tourists—have faced for the past five years, ever since recreational consumption was legalized in 2014. “Up until this bill,” said Polis, “there’s been no way to have safe public consumption (of cannabis).”
Regulated Delivery Legal in 2020
Another measure creates permits for cannabis delivery. It also allows licensed medical and retail marijuana centers and transporters to deliver products to customers within the state. A $1 surcharge will be tacked on to each delivery. That money goes to the municipality where the cannabis center or store is located. In unincorporated areas, the $1 charge will go to “local law enforcement costs related to marijuana enforcement.”
Deliveries will be limited to one per day, to private residences only, and are not allowed on college campuses.
Don’t expect to call in your order today, though. The state will be phasing in the delivery option over the next two years. Medical cannabis delivery licenses won’t be available until Jan. 2, 2020, and adult-use delivery licenses won’t be issued until early 2021.
Publicly Licensed Marijuana Companies
This measure, also vetoed last year by then-Gov. Hickenlooper, repeals earlier financial restrictions and allows publicly-traded corporations to invest in the state’s cannabis industry and/or hold a cannabis license in Colorado.
At least one major Colorado cannabis business endorsed the change.
“This is a defining moment for Colorado’s cannabis industry and a tremendous boost to Colorado’s economy,” Chuck Smith, CEO of Dixie Brands, a maker of cannabis-infused products, said in a press statement.
“By permitting access to capital through private and public investments with appropriate guardrails, this bill ensures that Colorado businesses keep their headquarters in the state, remain competitive, invest in research and development and other innovation and continue to contribute significant tax dollars to the state.”
Polis also signed into law measures that extend some of state’s recreational and medical cannabis programs and regulations until 2028, as well as creating a cannabis research institute at Colorado State University-Pueblo.
Lounges Need Local Approval
These measures became law with Polis’s signature, but not all of them take effect immediately.
Regarding hospitality spaces, voters in Colorado’s cities and/or counties have to first approve these new cannabis businesses before they can be licensed.
State regulators can’t start issuing hospitality licenses to cannabis retailers or other businesses until 2020. But cannabis lobbyist Cindy Sovine told Denver’s Westword magazine that local governments looking to bring in social consumption businesses ahead of 2020 can vote on the issue as soon as they please.