How a New Colorado Marijuana Bill to Protect Cannabis From Feds

Laws at the Colorado State Capital

Colorado was the first state to implement a full-scale legal marijuana market and now a new marijuana bill in Colorado is looking to protect it.

It’s been almost five (5) years since the passage of amendment 64 and the state has seen more positives than negatives result from the shift in criminal priorities. Looking at the cannabis industry in Colorado from the perspective of tax revenues or job creation and it becomes immediately apparent the public has invested in having fun and doing it responsibly. Recreational sales did not begin until 2014 and, two years later, 2016 felt like the industry was becoming less likely to see federal intervention. That is… until the Trump Administration took the helm of the Oval Office.

Trump inconsistent messaging towards marijuana use stands in stark comparison to his selection for Attorney General. Jeff Sessions has long since been reprehensible in his messaging about marijuana, and with the weight of the Justice Department behind him, things could (though not likely) take a turn for the worst.

denver capitol, colorado marijuana bill

Anticipating such federal action or interference is difficult because the reality is — even 10 years down the line — the cannabis industry is expected to be valued at $50 billion by then. While, sure, that is a remarkable figure considering in 2016, the industry saw just over $7.1 billion in sales, $50 billion dollars doesn’t cover much in the scheme of total US output, valued at over $18 trillion annually. If the federal government worked on numbers alone, that’s a fleck of industry in an economic hurricane, but luckily our democracy gives us a voice and there is much more to account for.

Here is what the newest Colorado marijuana bill has to say about federal intervention on the will of voters: Nope.

House Bill 1331

The “Protect Colorado Constitutional Rights Act” expressly forbids any state agency or political subdivision therein (such as a city government within a state) to help, assist, or aid any federal agency or agency in another state in (a) arresting a person for committing an act which is protected by Colorado’s constitution or (b) violating a resident’s constitutional rights, as the constitutional amendment allowing marijuana use has not yet been found as unconstitutional in state or federal courts.

The bill passed the House on April 26th, 2017 and has since been referred to the Senate, where it has been placed on hold indefinitely. In effect, HB 1331 would tell state legal authorities to ignore federal & other state’s legal authorities should they come asking for help impinging on the legal rights of Colorado citizens.

Senate Bill 192

SB 192 is the dispensary license equivalent of musical chairs. If we’ve just been dancing to the voter-backed freedoms and the feds come and try and turn down the music, under the proposed marijuana bill, Colorado recreational-only dispensaries would be able to immediately perform a one-time license transfer to medical. And on the surface, why would you want to do such a thing?

It’s simple: the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment.

The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment prevents the Justice Department from allocating a single budgetary dollar to cracking down on medical marijuana in states where voters or their representatives have passed medical marijuana legislation. At the end of April 2017, the act was set to expire; however, the uncertainty about the shifting governmental direction ultimately did nothing to stop its renewal. With SB 192 aimed at shifting marijuana licensing structure to a place where businesses may be most easily protected from federal interference.

While these are surely not the last marijuana bills Colorado will see, it is good to know the state is protecting the rights of citizens and the interests of local business in the ever-changing cannabis landscape.