Lawmakers, Advocates Seek to Curb Youth Access to High-Potency THC

New legislation would advance research, address diversion, and educate consumers

DENVER, CO – House and Senate sponsors of legislation to address youth access to high-potency cannabis products today joined Colorado parents, nurses, and students for a press conference ahead of the bill’s first legislative hearing. HB21-1317 is sponsored by Speaker Alec Garnett; Representatives Yadira Caraveo, a physician, and Tim Geitner; and Senators Chris Hansen, Paul Lundeen and Kevin Priola. 

“For many years, I have been concerned about the impact of high-potency cannabis on the developing brain,” said Speaker Alec Garnett, D-Denver. “This bill will help us get the answers, and it will crack down on the loopholes that allow for easy diversion of high-potency cannabis to black and grey market where our youth are getting their hands on products that are intended for adults. We’ve heard from Colorado parents about the terrifying reactions their children have experienced. Additionally, because of the absence of federal studies, Colorado has a tremendous opportunity to be at the forefront of the research into high-potency concentrates.”

“When I began seeing patients in clinic who were experiencing significant health issues after using high-potency products, I knew we had to take action,” said Rep. Yadira Caraveo, a pediatrician. “The absence of a robust federal research effort into the impact of high-potency THC on the developing brain means we still don’t have all the pieces. This bill will task the Colorado School of Public Health with reviewing research into high-potency products to identify gaps and future areas to study. The bill brings medical marjuiana recommendations for youth more in line with prescribing practices for pharmaceutical drugs to strengthen the doctor-patient relationship and ensure that only our youth who truly need high-potency THC can purchase it.”

“As a father of two middle school boys, I want to be able to watch them grow up without the fear of high concentrate products affecting their development,” said Senator Chris Hansen, D-Denver. “No one wants to see unintended negative consequences of high-potency THC concentrates, particularly when it comes to our teens and young adults. This bill is about implementing reasonable safety measures to preserve the health and development of our youth, while maintaining responsible, legal marijuana use and supporting world-class scientific research.”

“It is time for our statutes to reflect what we know about the possible impacts of high potency marijuana, particularly on our youth, and to study and unlock a better understanding of some of the health issues that still confound us,” said Senator Paul Lundeen, R-Monument. “I look forward to listening to and considering all stakeholder input as this bill moves forward.”

The bill would advance research into the impact of high potency marijuana on the developing brain, address diversion of cannabis concentrates purchased in the medical marijuana marketplace, and educate consumers about concentrates through safer packaging and public awareness campaigns. 

“This bill will make Colorado the first state to really dive in and research the impacts of high-potency marjiuana on the developing brain,” said Rep. Tim Geitner, R- Falcon. “What we’re seeing anecdotally is scary, and it shows how important it is for us to take action now to keep these products out of the hands of youth who shouldn’t have them. This bill will regulate medical cannabis to make it harder for Colorado teens to access high-potency marijiuana without impacting access for younger patients with medical needs.”

Advances Research: The bill funds and advances critical research into the impact of high-potency cannabis concentrate products on the developing brain. It requires the Colorado School of Public Health to conduct a systematic review of the current scientific research into the physical and mental health effects of high-potency THC marijuana and concentrates and identify gaps for further research. Under the bill, a new scientific review council of doctors and experts will review the report and make recommendations to the General Assembly on appropriate evidence-based regulatory changes and the funding of additional necessary evidence-based research. 

“High-potency THC products are more readily available to our youth than ever before,” said Senator Kevin Priola, R-Adams County. “As the marijuana industry continues to innovate and advance, we need to make sure we understand the effects of these high-potency concentrate products on our still-developing teens. By monitoring and tracking the health impacts of high-potency THC products, we can ensure that Colorado remains a national role model in responsible cannabis legalization and use.”

Addresses Diversion of High-Potency Products: The bill cracks down on “looping” and diversion by reducing the amount of medical concentrates someone can purchase in a day and requiring the Marijuana Enforcement Division’s seed-to-sale tracking database, METRC, to update at the point of sale, instead of at the end of each business day. 

  • Enhanced Doctor-Patient Relationship: The bill adjusts medical marijuana recommending practices by requiring doctors to specify a daily quantity authorization and to consider a patient’s mental health history when making a cannabis recommendation. For patients ages 18-20, the bill requires two physicians from different medical practices to diagnose the patient as having a debilitating or disabling medical condition after an in-person consultation, and the patient must attend a follow-up appointment every six months after the initial visit.  
  • Real-Time Medical Marijuana Purchase Reporting: Through a practice known as “looping,” consumers can purchase the daily limit at multiple dispensaries, circumventing the limits and increasing youth access to high-potency cannabis products. The bill would crack down on “looping” in the medical marketplace by requiring medical marijuana stores to immediately record transactions in the seed-to-sale inventory tracking system. This would allow the system to identify discrepancies with daily purchase limits, access and retrieve real-time sales data, and alert medical mariuana stores if a sale to a patient has exceeded their daily purchase limit for that business day. 
  • Reduced Daily Purchase Amounts: The bill would limit daily medical marijuana concentrate purchases to eight grams for patients 21 years and older and to two grams for patients between the age of 18 and 20. Patients who are homebound, for whom a physician has recommended a higher daily authorization, or for patients for whom going to a medical marijuana store on a daily basis presents significant physical or geographical hardship are exempt from these new limits. 
  • Consumer Education and Protection: The bill would better educate consumers about high-potency THC marijuana and concentrates by tasking the newly created Scientific Review Council with developing a public education campaign, requiring a pamphlet on the potential risks of overconsumption be included with every sale of concentrates, and by prohibiting advertisements targeted toward Colorado youth. The bill would require that each gram of non-liquid concentrates be separated into no less than ten equal-portioned amounts. 

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