Hickenlooper Throws Cannabis Advocates for a Loop

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DENVER–In what turned out to be a big week for cannabis, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper (D-CO) drew the criticism of medical marijuana and cannabis industry advocates last week by vetoing three legislative bills that would have increased access to cannabis for patients and created greater freedoms for cannabis industry businesses.

Last Monday, Hickenlooper vetoed House Bill 18-1258, which would have allowed cannabis “tasting rooms” at Colorado dispensaries. The same day, Hickenlooper signed House Bill 18-1236, which allows school personnel to “administer medical marijuana in non-smokable form to students who qualify for medical marijuana use.”

The Colorado governor on Tuesday vetoed House Bill 18-1263; if it had passed, the legislation would have added autism to the list of conditions that would be eligible for medical cannabis oil treatment.

“While we are very sympathetic with families advocating medical marijuana (MMJ) as a safer and more effective treatment for their children, we cannot ignore such overwhelming concerns from the medical community,” Hickenlooper said in the veto letter.

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“In vetoing this bill, we do so on sole concern that medical efficacy on MMJ to treat ASD has yet to be fully studied by medical professionals and scientific experts entrusted to this role at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE),” he said further.

On the same day, Hickenlooper also vetoed House Bill 18-1011, which would have repealed restrictions on cannabis businesses including background checks on cannabis industry investors, limits on the number of out-of-state owners for Colorado cannabis businesses, and would end prohibition on publicly-traded entities holding a state cannabis license.

“The marijuana industry is organically expanding. While we wish to encourage business opportunity, we must approach capital expansion in the market in a way that is consistent with our federal oversight, and not degrade the robust regulatory system that Colorado worked so hard to establish,” he said in the veto letter.

Pro-cannabis speaker and author Todd Mitchem penned an op-ed for Westword and said he and other industry advocates think Hickenlooper is purposely trying to limit cannabis industry growth in the first state to go legal, and wrote, “…Cannabis companies are getting concerned, and so should consumers. This final veto will cause the illegal markets to soar while prices rise across the state.”

“Diversion of overproduced cannabis will start to leave the state in record volume. And in the end, there will be one person to blame,” Mitchem continued. “The veto of HB 1011 could single-handedly destroy the entire industry, because they can no longer afford a 100 percent tax burden from the feds. Without access to increased capital, the entire Colorado marijuana model—including 40,000-plus jobs, tax revenue, tourism, ancillary jobs in the space (construction, real estate, designers, marketing pros and on and on), which are another estimated 30,000 jobs—could all be lost.”

“This is a governor who since day one has treated cannabis consumers like second class citizens,” cannabis advocate Mason Tvert told local FOXNews KDVR, at a protest against the legislative actions held by medical cannabis and cannabis industry advocates on Thursday, in Denver, on the steps of the state capitol.

The Colorado governor on Friday did sign a letter of support for the STATES Act, a Senate bill introduced last week by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Cory Gardner (D-CO). The bipartisan bill, if passed, would establish and recognize states’ regulation of cannabis industry businesses, as well as amend the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to decriminalize cannabis.

“The federal government needs to provide states adequate space to self govern,” Hickenlooper wrote. “The issue can no longer be avoided. Ultimately, collaboration with the states will prove critical as the federal government begins to engage on cannabis issues.”

Hickenlooper’s actions come as U.S. President Donald Trump last week, speaking from the G7 Summit held in Charlevoix, Canada, said he would support the legislation in the STATES Act.

“I support Sen. Gardner,” Trump told reporters in response to a question about the bill. “I know exactly what he’s doing. We’re looking at it. But I probably will end up supporting that, yes.”

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