Five New Laws Are Set To Majorly Impact Colorado's Pot Industry

By Paul Fuhr 09/15/17

Colorado's Marijuana Enforcement Division is rolling out new regulations which address contaminated pot, dispensary employees and packaging.

woman holding a marijuana joint

Big changes are coming to Colorado’s billion-dollar marijuana industry which has, in turn, created challenges for lawmakers and stakeholders.

According to Westword, four new laws were signed into effect earlier this year—nearly one-third of the number of marijuana-related bills put in front of the Colorado Legislature. Now, through a series of working sessions, everyone from physicians, parents and politicians are coming together to work out the details of how these new laws will be implemented and enforced. The meetings, coordinated by the state’s Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED), are intended to field questions and concerns about the laws, which cover everything from contaminated pot to how marijuana is labeled and packaged.

One of the main issues the MED discussed was employee training, which stems from an amendment to the state’s residency-based licensure (SB 187). The new rule establishes a program to hire and train dispensary employees from out-of-state branches. “It may also loosen restrictions on employee badge designations in hopes of streamlining training and reducing required supervision,” the Westword article said, noting that only management-level employees can be left alone in a licensed dispensary.

The MED discussed the complications of allowing budtenders, cultivators and other hourly staff to be in the dispensary by themselves. The MED also considered what the term “supervision” actually means, given that in some locations, it can actually just mean a closed-circuit camera. “This hampers some businesses from operating efficiently,” the story observed. “In Boulder, businesses can't open or close unless an employee with a key badge is present.”

While “contaminated" marijuana sounds like the plot of a TV thriller, it’s also a very real concern for the pot industry. One of the new rules wants to institute a program that will test retail marijuana for contaminants; a product that is tainted can be decontaminated and retested or repurposed into oils and extracts. Though if the marijuana fails the test twice, it must be destroyed. The new law doesn’t allow medical pot to be used for anything else, should it fail the test. Some believe this caveat may halt the creation of "future technologies" that may be able to successfully decontaminate the buds.

And while many people are concerned about what’s inside marijuana, just as many people are concerned about what’s on the outside. There’s an entire working group dedicated to packaging and labeling cannabis—one that hopes to develop a standard, much like the ones used in Oregon and Washington. Many believe there are too many materials used in labeling, so some people are arguing for less ink and paper in the packaging process.

“Comparing a hash-oil container, which typically comes in a jar placed inside a small box or bottle, to a Russian nesting doll,” a cannabis attorney said, claiming that “the entire label could be cut into layers like the packaging, with critical health and safety warnings on the primary packaging and nutrient information on the outer layers.”

A child psychiatrist involved with the MED sessions also argued that the product packaging needs to meet the same standards as over-the-counter drugs like Tylenol, wherein the same information and warnings are on both the box and the bottle. 

Other subjects tossed around in the MED sessions include rules around dispensary relocation and infused products. For the latter, Colorado has been dealing with a large number of requests to relocate marijuana businesses as more and more counties open their doors. Unfortunately, it’s more complicated than simply rubber-stamping a big “Approved” on the request.

“Since licensing rules and pot business regulations vary widely from town to town, however, moving just a few miles in one direction could be nearly impossible for some medical dispensaries and cultivations,” the article said.

Another complication the MED is working through surrounds medical-infused product (MIP) licenses. MIP manufacturers, under the new laws, will be banned from selling pot to other businesses and consumers.

No matter what decisions come out of the MED working sessions, though, it’s clear that marijuana—even legalized—will continue to spark controversy and debate. 

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Paul Fuhr lives in Columbus, Ohio with his family and two cats, Vesper and Dr. No. He's written for AfterParty MagazineThe Literary Review and The Live Oak Review, among others. He's also the host of "Drop the Needle," a podcast about music and addiction recovery. More at You can also find Paul on Linkedin and Twitter.