Now Law: Efforts to Combat ‘Gray Market’ Marijuana

(June 8) – Gov. John Hickenlooper this afternoon signed two bipartisan bills led by Majority Leader KC Becker and Rep. Dan Pabon to keep legal marijuana from being diverted into the gray and black markets, and to give law enforcement needed resources to combat criminal efforts in Colorado.

The sponsors introduced the bills believing that current state law could potentially jeopardize Colorado’s billion dollar marijuana industry by creating too many opportunities for diversion to the black and gray markets. Over several months, the bill sponsors and other legislators worked with patient and caregiver communities and law enforcement to reach a good compromise to protect the industry from abuse.

“Colorado is a leader in responsibly fostering recreational and medicinal marijuana. This includes creating a regulatory framework for effective enforcement to keep marijuana out of the hands of would-be law breakers. This legislation is the next evolution in that process,” said Majority Leader KC Becker, D-Boulder, who sponsored HB17-1220 with Assistant Minority Leader Cole Wist, R-Centennial.  “Improper home grows create public safety and public health issues for homes and neighborhoods. This law respects the rights of Coloradans who legally grow and use marijuana as medicine, while keeping criminals from taking advantage of our laws and putting our billion dollar industry at risk.”

Current Colorado law allows each individual to grow a far greater number of plants than any other state with legal marijuana—up to 99 marijuana plants on residential property for medical use. To fix the issue, HB17-1220 limits home-grown marijuana to 12 plants or 24 if the individual registers with the Colorado Department Public Health and Environment. The bill preserves local control by allowing local governments to override the 12 plant count limit. The bill passed the House and Senate unanimously.

The goal of the legislation is to protect public health and safety by making diversions to the black market less likely and keeping criminal elements out of residential neighborhoods. The bill prevents criminals from targeting residential homes for large scale grows, which in turn they could use to dump significant amounts of unregulated marijuana into the market —by claiming it’s for medical or recreational use. Once that marijuana hits the market, it could be sold out of state or on the black market. The bill also protects the integrity of residential neighborhoods by preventing un-regulated commercial conversions of homes for large scale plant cultivation.

The second bill signed, HB17-1221, was sponsored by Reps. Dan Pabon, D-Denver, and Yeulin Willett, R-Grand Junction, and creates a grant program to help law enforcement crack down on diversions of marijuana into the black market.

“This gives local law enforcement the tools and resources they need to show the feds we are doing just fine regulating marijuana here in Colorado,” said Rep. Pabon. “We’ve created a strong regulatory framework that serves as a model for other states, and the new laws signed here today keep us in the forefront.”

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