DENVER – Colorado lawmakers are taking another look at the state's medical marijuana market this week. That's because the state's medical marijuana regulations were passed in 2010 with a five-year sunset provision, so they expire this year if legislators don't renew them.
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Everything is on the table, and a Senate committee takes a first look at the rules Tuesday. Here are some things to know about what's at stake:
THE BIG FIGHT
It will be about caregivers. These are people designated by medical marijuana patients to grow their pot for them. Officials say caregivers need more oversight to make sure they're not growing more pot than authorized and have suggested that caregivers' plant production amounts to a gray market because that marijuana isn't taxed or regulated the way commercial marijuana is.
Lawmakers already have a bill focused just on caregivers. It would require them to register with the state, instead of the optional registration system in place now. Officials say the lack of a statewide registry makes it too hard for law enforcement to check a pot-grower's claims that they are producing marijuana for patients.
"We want to make there aren't any bad actors sending their marijuana out into the black market," said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont.
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The bill also requires the Colorado medical board to step up oversight of doctors who recommend pot for patients' severe pain — the most common condition authorized under the state's medical pot registry but one that critics complain is overused by unscrupulous physicians.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA WILL LOOK MORE LIKE RECREATIONAL POT
A state review of medical marijuana code suggested smoothing out small differences between the way medical and recreational pot are regulated. Many consumers don't realize the difference — and indeed many pot shops sell both. Regulators currently "must enforce two sets of standards on what amounts to a single industry," the review noted.
For example, commercial marijuana must be tested for potency, homogeneity and contaminants. For medical marijuana products, that testing is optional. Look for lawmakers to make testing mandatory for all marijuana products. They'll also probably ban producers from infusing "recognized brand-named products" with marijuana, such as cookies or candies. Right now the stipulation applies only to recreational pot.
SOME RULES GOING AWAY
Some medical marijuana regulations are outdated and should be eliminated, according to the review.
Lawmakers will probably cut regulations passed in 2010 that no longer make sense. Those regulations were passed before Colorado had a working "seed-to-sale" tracking system, where marijuana plants are individually coded and tracked electronically in the commercial market. That makes it easier to monitor and transfer inventory, and legislators want to incorporate the medical marijuana market into the "seed-to-sale" system.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT
After lawmakers review these updates, they'll propose a "sunset renewal" bill with changes. They'll likely suggest another sunset for 2019, meaning the Legislature will take another look at the regulations to keep up with the fast-changing industry.
Kristen Wyatt can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/APkristenwyatt