Colorado Considers End Run if Feds Crack Down on Recreational Marijuana

All marijuana legally for sale in Colorado will be deemed medical if the Trump Administration turns against recreational sales legal in eight states.
Colorado Considers End Run if Feds Crack Down on Recreational Marijuana
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The Trump Administration has said it will view medical marijuana leniently but is considered renewed federal enforcement to shut down recreational marijuana sales legal in eight states and the District of Columbia. Lawmakers in Colorado have proposed a simple solution.

Senate Bill 192 would allow Colorado recreational marijuana producers to reclassify as medical marijuana businesses if the Trump Administration decides to enforce federal law that still places marijuana on the list of illegal drugs.

“The bill allows the state licensing authority to authorize single-instance transfers of retail marijuana or retail marijuana products from a retail marijuana licensee to a medical marijuana licensee based on a business need due to a change in local, state, or federal law or enforcement policy,” according to a summation of the bill by the Colorado General Assembly.

The Associated Press called the bill “the boldest attempt yet by a U.S. marijuana state to avoid federal intervention in its weed market.”

Related: Can Marijuana Replace Lost Steel Jobs? Pennsylvania Town Has High Hopes.

Sacrificing millions.

Sen. Tim Neville, who represents a suburban area outside Denver, introduced the bill in the wake of repeated, if vague, threats from Trump Administration officials to crack down on the legal marijuana industry. In most cases, the comments seemed to have targeted recreational marijuana sales.

Recreational marijuana sales have been legalized in Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

The Colorado bill essentially offers some protection for recreational marijuana businesses in the Rocky Mountain State. Should federal authorities attempt to seize recreational cannabis product or stop production, switching to a medical marijuana license would prevent the businesses for being stuck with product they cannot sell.

It also would potentially cost the state hundreds of millions in tax revenue. Colorado places a 17.9 percent tax on recreational marijuana, far more than the 2.9 percent charged on medical marijuana. Tax money from marijuana funds schools, police training and public campaigns to educate people about marijuana use, among other areas.

Still, Neville told the Associated Press that the move would at least protect entrepreneurs in Colorado. “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," he said.

Related: 5 Routes the Cannabis Industry Could Take to Get Around Federal Banking Restrictions

A muddled picture.

It remains unclear what, if anything, the Trump Administration plans to do that could affect the legal marijuana industry. So far, the rhetoric has been high on cryptic warnings but low on actual policy specifics.

Trump spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters to expect “greater enforcement” of federal law in regard to marijuana, but has seemed to target recreational, rather than medical, marijuana.

However, in a speech this month in Virginia, new Attorney General Jeff Sessions again talked about his opposition to marijuana, this time including medical marijuana. He said the value of medical marijuana has been “hyped, maybe too much” and scoffed at the notion that marijuana could help with widespread opioid addiction by being used for pain management.

“How stupid is that? Give me a break,” Sessions said.

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