Cannabis legislation is an ever-changing field. There are more than 50 individual state and territory laws, each with their own bills, statutes, and regulations. Then there are the federal laws; the complexity can sometimes be overwhelming. In Colorado, we are lucky to have a forward thinking community of local and state politicians interested in furthering the education, advancement, and healthy proliferation of cannabis throughout Colorado. But how is the rest of the country faring?
While cannabis has gained massive popularity over the years, there are several roadblocks to acceptance and legalization from a national standpoint. Classified as a schedule-1 drug, which also include powerful opiates and hallucinogens, cannabis will face a long battle in order to get rid of the negative stigma placed upon it through decades of federal legislation.
One of the biggest movements in favor of cannabis nationwide has been the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act. If you are unfamiliar, the SAFE Banking Act seeks to grant access to federal financial institutions for cannabis companies and cannabis related services. Under current laws, while states may permit cannabis businesses to run and operate within their state lines, federally, these cannabis companies are still unable to access basic financial services available to other small businesses.
The SAFE Banking Act has been passed a total of 6 times already in the House of Representatives, however has yet to find success in the Senate. With each passing review in the House, the case for Senate passage grows stronger, and recent surveys have indicated that the likelihood of Congress finally passing the SAFE Banking Act may be as high as 70% in the upcoming November elections.
Across the nation, there are only 11 remaining states who do not offer cannabis either recreationally or medically, a far cry from just 10 years ago when Colorado was considered a trailblazer. How much longer before these remaining states join the rest and cannabis is legalized in all 50 states as well as Washington DC? And how long can the federal government afford to ignore cannabis legislation and the rapidly growing medical, social, and economic benefits many states have opted in for?
As Coloradans, we are quite lucky to be so forward thinking when it comes to cannabis. With recreational cannabis available since 2014, Colorado has become a bastion for cannabis consumers, both in real life and in pop culture. Governor Jared Polis has continued pushing forward since his election in 2018, with recent bills including social equity for minorities in cannabis, cannabis delivery, and retroactive pardons for small cannabis misdemeanors among his most significant proposals and wins.
More recently, several house bills have gone into effect starting in January of this year. These include several changes to state laws for Coloradans. Firstly, Senate Bill 56 aims to further research the efficacy of cannabis use for school age children as well as increase access for those children who may need cannabis products for medical reasons. This bill allows public schools to create policies in order for officials to possess, administer, and store cannabis on school grounds. This bill also prevents prosecution for medical staff who may administer cannabis to students.
House Bill 1317 restricts the amount of cannabis concentrates that can be purchased at one time, both recreationally and medically. It also further funds the research that cannabis, and specifically high dose cannabis (ie. concentrates) has on the mental development of children, teenagers, and young adults.
Finally, House Bill 1301 details plans for medical and recreational cannabis cultivation in the event of federal legalization. This includes guidelines for growing practices, facilities, requirements, regulations, and contingency plans. This bill will ensure that Colorado stays abreast of the possibility of federal legalization and puts Colorado in a good position to be ready for any new cannabis legislation that may be passed in order to maximize the economic benefits and minimize the time needed to implement these practices.
As with any emerging industry, cannabis will find itself in the middle of conflicting legislation both within Colorado and on the federal level. Recent legal changes should give Coloradans ease of mind that the state is fully committed to devoting resources in order to further this indispensable part of life in Colorado. With an established foundation of laws and regulations, the biggest hurdles for Colorado lie on the federal scale, namely the SAFE Banking Act and the impending (we hope!) federal legalization of cannabis.