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How Colorado Could Protect its Cannabis Industry

2 minute Read

It’s unclear whether the federal government will crack down on the cannabis industry as they’ve indicated they would, but green states are beginning to take precaution. By introducing new legislation that flouts federal efforts to target marijuana, states like California and Colorado are making a statement to the Trump administration that weed is too big to shut down.

That said, if anti-weed Attorney General Jeff Sessions does try to go after marijuana, it’s likely the adult use, or recreational, cannabis industry will be first to come under fire. In response, Colorado has a plan to protect its adult use cannabis producers.

A new bill pending the Colorado state legislature would allow adult use cannabis cultivators and dispensaries to reclassify their products as medical marijuana. On account of a “business need due to change in local, state or federal law or enforcement policy,” the state’s 500 adult use growers could instantly switch their designation and protect themselves, in case the feds begin raiding businesses and seizing their weed.

“If there is a change in federal law, then I think all of our businesses want to stay in business somehow. They’ve made major investments,” said the bill’s Republican sponsor Senator Tim Neville. “{They} need to be able to convert that product into the medical side so they can sell it.”

The new bill, however, could also cost the state more than $100 million annually: Colorado’s medical marijuana is taxed at 17.9 percent, as compared to the 2.9 percent tax on adult use weed. “It’s a big deal for our taxation system because this money has been coming in and has been set aside for this, that, and the other,” said Democratic Senator Lois Court, who opposes the bill. Colorado funnels $40 million of its adult use weed tax revenue toward schools, in addition to training police to better identify marijuana DUIs, educating the public about teen marijuana use, and conducting medical studies to evaluate marijuana for PTSD and other ailments.

Other states like California and Oregon are also aiming to implement statutory protections against a federal crackdown. A bill pending the California legislature would bar state agencies from cooperating with the feds in weed busts, while an Oregon measure would conceal the identities of cannabis buyers by disallowing dispensaries from keeping internal databases with customers’ personal information.

Cannabis industry players, such as Serge Chistov, an early investor and financial advisor to Colorado adult use growery Honest Marijuana, may appreciate the local government’s goals to protect their interests against federal interference. “We’re very very grateful to the government and for the legislative process,” Chistov tells Jane Street. “However I do not believe that the federal government will show us any muscle or start enforcing anything of that matter, simply because the genie is out of the lamp.”

As a business owner, Chistov says he would do anything to protect his company’s investment strategy and the overall cannabis movement. However, while he supports the state’s attempt to safeguard the industry, he also recognizes the bill could temporarily hinder business. “If adults need to apply for medical cards, it would slow it down,” he says. The bill may also call into question the distinction between medical and adult use cannabis. A true demarcation between the two helps elevate the medical status of the plant, which already has a strong recreational reputation.

How Colorado Could Protect its Cannabis Industry