Colorado Marijuana Opponents Now Pushing to Limit Potency of Legal Products
Four years after recreational marijuana was legalized in Colorado, legalization opponents are pushing back with measures designed to limit the potency of legal marijuana products. A pending bill in the state House and a voter initiative seek to cap the THC content of recreational marijuana products at 15 and 16 percent, respectively.
The current average potency of Colorado cannabis flower products is 17 percent, while the average potency of marijuana extracts is 62.1 percent.
Proponents of the laws have been accused of attempting to financially damage Colorado’s nascent recreational marijuana industry. Many of these proponents admit to opposing marijuana use.
Recreational marijuana has become a major driver of Colorado’s tourism industry.
Playing up unproven health risks
The more severe of the measures is a proposed ballot initiative which was filed in late march with support from proponents including former Lakewood High School principal Ron Castagna, who has publicly spoken out against marijuana use. If the measure makes it onto the ballot and is adopted by voters, it would cap the THC content of any recreational marijuana product at 16 percent.
Furthermore, all cannabis products would have to be sold in resealable, opaque, child-resistant packaging. Edibles could only be sold in single-serving packages (the proposed initiative defines a serving of any marijuana product as containing 10 milligrams of THC).
The measure would also require all retail marijuana products to carry labels stating their THC content and warning consumers about purported “identified health risks” including “birth defects and reduced brain development,” “permanent loss of abilities,” “potential for long-term addiction,” risks to babies’ brain and behavioral development, anxiety, depression, temporary paranoia, mood swings, impaired thinking, impaired movement, etc.
It is unclear which, if any of these “identified risks” are based in reputable scientific research.
The proposed initiative must be approved in several hearings and would then require 98,492 signatures from registered voters just to make it onto the ballot. It must then win a majority of votes to become law.
The second and much more imminent effort is an amendment onto HB 1261, which reauthorizes rules governing the sale of marijuana until 2019. Because these rules are set to expire, there is great pressure on the House to pass the overall bill.
The amendment would ban the retail sale of marijuana products with THC levels higher than 15 percent. It would also require products with THC content higher than 10 percent to carry ridiculous labels reading, “Warning: The health impacts of marijuana with a THC potency of above 10 percent are unknown.”
Supporters say the bill represents a cautious position, given a scarcity of research into the effects of marijuana on adolescent brain development.
Proposals “unconstitutional,” poorly thought out
Opponents of the measures say that such restrictions could wreak havoc on many of the most popular forms of recreational cannabis in Colorado.
Industry compliance professional Mark Slaugh warned that a cap on THC levels would drive customers to illegal or questionable sources, undercutting the purpose of legalization. He called the THC limit “unconstitutional.”
“I don’t think a lot of thought was put into the proposals,” he said.
“[HB 1261] threatens to wipe out most infused product manufacturers, and its language is unclear as to what to do with edibles,” he said.
Josh Hindi, who runs Dabble Extracts — a medical marijuana concentrates company considering expansion into recreational sales — warned that such a low THC limit “would remove concentrates in total from any kind of retail operation.
“We would have to dilute our products to get them to 15 percent,” he said.
Under the proposed House bill, those who violated the 15 percent THC ban could face punishments ranging from license suspension all the way up to license revocation and a $100,000 fine.
Sources for this article include: