This past November, California passed Proposition 64, making it legal for adults 21 and older to use, possess and buy cannabis – while also creating a regulated and taxed system for retail sales of the plant. Luckily for California (as well as other states that have legalized), Colorado has been more than willing to share their experience with those creating these regulations, citing what has worked for them so far and what has not.
In a legislative meeting in Sacramento, California this week, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper addressed California lawmakers directly to give them some advice when it comes to creating the regulations for their newfound legal cannabis industry. The main points that Hickenlooper suggested they put more effort into included home growing restrictions, labeling on edibles, and how to handle drivers who may be under the influence of marijuana.
“We made an awful lot of mistakes as we were trying to wrestle with some of these issues,” Hickenlooper told the California legislators.
When it comes to home growing, Colorado has recently had to make changes to their medical marijuana laws, which allowed patients to grow up to 99 plants. However, California’s Prop 64 limited plants to six per person (and some local governments have enacted laws restricting it to 12 plants per household). They say that allowing medical marijuana patients to grow so much and not putting a restriction on plants per household has contributed to a “grey market” where cannabis may be grown legally but is being contributed to illegal sales.
Another major issue Colorado lawmakers have had to deal with is the edibles industry. Cannabis infused edibles often came with no indication of how much a “serving” was, were sometimes shaped like popular children’s candies and were hard to distinguish from any other food once removed from the packaging. Last year, the state amended the laws to ban certain shapes, and created better labeling requirements that come with suggested servings and how potent the product is, and they also now require each individual food item be marked (the actual food, not the packaging) with the letters ‘THC!’ in a diamond.
“The United States now has almost two-thirds of the country — I think it’s 64 percent of the people in America — lives in a state that has either legalized medical or recreational marijuana,” he said. “… I think it’s going to be one of the great social experiments of the first half of the 21st century. And the more we work together, the more we can help each other, the better the outcome will be for our citizens.”
The other issue Hickenlooper suggested they pay close attention to was people being high while driving, and how to determine a “legal limit” in a similar fashion to how alcohol intoxication is measured. Colorado law says anyone with 5 nanograms of THC or more in their blood are considered too high to drive, and even though Hickenlooper says there has been testing done to support this law, the courts are throwing out marijuana related DUIs left and right because of science proving that this method of determining marijuana intoxication is seriously flawed. Until there is a real way to determine how much – or even if – someone is too impaired to drive, this is going to be a tricky subject for every state with legal cannabis.
While not all of the information was entirely helpful, the majority of it was meant to guide California as they start creating laws and regulations that will govern the cannabis industry. The state only has until January 2018 to get things in order and have the industry up and running – so when officials from states with the experience that Colorado has want to offer advice, it’s probably welcomed and appreciated.