Colorado Supreme Court Lessens Restrictions for MMJ on Probation

The Colorado Supreme Court has overruled a district court decision that upheld a county court ruling requiring a doctor’s testimony for medical marijuana patients who want to use their medication while on probation. The Colorado Supreme Court decision, handed down on Monday, November 18, weakens the restrictions and burdens of proof that Colorado judges can place on medical marijuana patients.

In their decision, the justices said that unless a probationer’s medical marijuana use conflicts with the specified goals of sentencing, cannabis use should be allowed.

“The relevant exception here applies if the sentencing court finds, based on material evidence, that prohibiting this defendant’s otherwise-authorized medical marijuana use is necessary and appropriate to promote statutory sentencing goals. Because the county court made no such findings here, we disapprove of the district court’s judgment affirming the county court’s decision,” the decision reads.

A Colorado law passed in 2015 was supposed to allow probationers to use medical marijuana unless convicted of a crime involving medical marijuana, or cannabis use undermines the goals of a person’s sentencing, but a 2016 DUI case in El Paso County led to the push for clarification, after El Paso County Court Judge Karla Hansen demanded that a medical marijuana patient provide live testimony from her doctor about her need for the medication.

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Alysha Walton, the patient charged with the DUI, could only provide her state-approved medical marijuana card and a signed letter from her recommending doctor. Hansen ultimately denied Walton’s request to continue using medical marijuana, explaining that her requirement was universal for all medical marijuana patients on probation. A district court upheld Hansen’s decision on appeal, but Walton and her attorneys continued to argue that Hansen’s policy conflicted with the state constitution, and argued her case before the Colorado Supreme Court in October.

Walton’s need for medical marijuana and the authenticity of her doctor’s recommendation were never questioned by the county court judge, according to the decision, meaning that any further probing of “the legitimacy of Walton’s authorization was misplaced.” The justices also criticized Hansen’s blanket policy that didn’t consider the context of individual cases.

“First, the authenticity of Walton’s medical marijuana card was not at issue in this case — no one argued that Walton had not lawfully obtained her card or that she lacked state-sanctioned authority to use medical marijuana. Thus, the district court’s focus on the county court’s desire to further probe the legitimacy of Walton’s authorization was misplaced,” the decision reads. “Second, the county court’s blanket policy contradicts the plain language of the probation conditions statute, which requires the court to base any decision to prohibit medical marijuana use on the particular defendant’s circumstances, after considering the material evidence before it and the statutory sentencing goals.”

While the Colorado Supreme Court noted that its decision will not affect Walton — her sentence and probation were completed well over a year ago — it creates a precedent that other medical marijuana patients will welcome.


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Colorado Pot Industry Bans Additive Linked to Vaping Illness

Colorado has banned the state’s marijuana industry from adding vitamin E acetate, the chemical additive linked to vaping illnesses by federal health officials, to products meant for inhalation.

On November 8, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a potential culprit behind the recent vaping illnesses: vitamin E acetate. However, Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division had already prohibited the additive as an ingredient days earlier, and also banned two more ingredients with connections to short- and long-term health issues. In addition to vitamin E acetate, polyethylene glycol (PEG) and medium chain triglycerides (MCT oil) are now ruled out for marijuana products meant for inhalation.

The new MED rules, announced November 5, take effect on January 1, 2020, but have been proposed and discussed at rulemaking meetings over the fall.

Over the past several months, more than 2,000 people nationwide have have been hospitalized and at least 39 have died because of lung illnesses connected to vaporizer products. At least one of those deaths and a handful of hospital visits have happened in Colorado. Both marijuana and nicotine products have been linked to cases in this state; no specific vaping product has been named in connection with the Colorado death.

The vast majority of users who became sick from marijuana vaping products were using black-market cartridges with traces of harmful pesticides and additives, though at least one death was reportedly connected to a legal product purchased from a dispensary in Oregon.

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A chemical additive originally used in lotions and skin creams, vitamin E acetate has been found in black-market vaping cartridges, where it’s been used to prevent viscosity. Although it was suggested as playing a role in the illnesses early on, the CDC was careful not to officially link the chemical to the illnesses. That changed on November 8, when CDC Deputy Director Anne Schucha called vitamin E “one very strong culprit of concern” after samples taken from 29 patients in ten states showed “direct evidence of vitamin E acetate at the primary site of injury within the lungs.”

However, Schucha then added this in announcing the findings: “Identifying a collection of information that points to vitamin E acetate as a concern for lung pathology doesn’t mean that there are not other components causing lung harm.” 


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Why Colorado Tokers Love Papaya Cake

No disrespect to strains from previous decades, but there’s no comparison between the potency of early chronic and today’s sugar-dipped space nuggets. I’m not saying that’s always a good thing — nowadays strains can be too strong for a simple afternoon toke — but we’d be fools not to recognize the evolution of cannabis. That’s like saying LeBron James wouldn’t dominate the NBA in the ’90s. Save those stale takes for the Moose Lodge.

During our recent conversation with hash-maker extraordinaire Kennn Wall, he talked about the need for stronger, sturdier strains for worthwhile cannabis extraction. According to Wall, only 5 to 10 percent of strains on the market today have the quality and quantity of trichomes to make those stiff, terpy rosins and live concentrates that connoisseurs love. Some of his favorite strains that do? Papaya cuts, specifically from Oni Seed Co. So what did I buy during my next trip to the dispensary? Papaya Cake, a mix of Papaya and Wedding Cake, bred from Oni Seeds.

This frosty nighttime strain is about as intimidating as flower can get, quickly cloaking storage jars with layers of resin and blasting your hair back with a stanky gust of weed, fruit and sourdough every time you dare unscrew the top and open one. My first meeting with Papaya Cake eventually led to a messy, unsuccessful attempt at making a pineapple upside-down cake to satisfy my munchies — probably because my nose and tastebuds felt like I’d just broken up and smoked a tropical dessert. However, its bite wasn’t too bad, allowing me to stay high and happy all day without becoming a stoned puddle of giggles.

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Papaya Cake’s popularity is still rising, but we’ve spotted it around town at Emerald Fields, Everbloom, the Joint by Cannabis, Leiffa, the Lodge, Mile High Dispensary, Peak, Silver Stem Fine Cannabis and Simply Pure.

Looks: Slim and triangular buds, twisted calyxes, heavy trichome coverage and a relatively open bud structure make Papaya Cake’s buds look like a beat-up pine tree after a blizzard. The strain’s leaves and calyxes can take on violet spots, made even more striking against the resin glands and orange pistils.

Smell: Ever been to a grocery store that has a bakery right next to the produce section? Think of standing in the middle of the two with OG Kush in your pocket, and, boom: Papaya Cake. The sweet, menthol and doughy qualities of Wedding Cake and Papaya’s ripe, tropical notes meld seamlessly, giving the new strain an equally modern aroma.

Flavor: Don’t expect that tropical bakery flavor to cross over in full, but Papaya Cake still tastes like you’re taking a deep breath inside a Caribbean bakery with a skunk infestation. Strong tropical flavors, mild cakey notes of sweet mint and a piney aftertaste make this heavy-hitter hard to put down.

Effects: Although Papaya Cake has a reputation for knocking users out, my experiences with the strain were much more focused and euphoric, and the comedown was far from debilitating. That’s not to say the high wasn’t strong: One bowl of Papaya Cake lasted a couple of hours, obliterating any anxiety and even helping relieve some mild joint pain. Toke slowly with this one, and your day won’t stall after a session.

Home grower’s take: “This is probably worth trying out, but you’ll start in the dark unless you know someone who’s tried [it]. Oni hasn’t put out that much information on what to expect with Papaya Cake, and their seeds are always expensive. But I’d be surprised if the plants yielded a lot or got much taller than forty inches. You don’t grow some of these Papaya cuts for yield; you grow them for top flavor, looks and one hell of a rosin yield if you want to go that solvent-less route. This is for the experienced grower.”

Is there a strain you’d like to see profiled? Email marijuana@westword.com.


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Suds ’n’ Buds: Lagunitas Brings Hoppy Cannabis Drinks to Colorado

If the White Claw memes and CBD sections at liquor stores haven’t tipped you off, let us be the ones to tell you that the beer business is struggling. Non-alcoholic drinks and less caloric options have made the once-thriving craft-beer industry look for new ways to satisfy your thirst.

Lagunitas Brewing Company, already known for its love for cannabis, took a natural route toward the pot-infused side of things. The brewery’s Hi-Fi Hops drink, a hoppy seltzer infused with CBD, THC or both, hit Colorado dispensaries this fall, giving users a terpene-filled splash of cannabinoids. To learn more about how the drink is made and the loving history that Lagunitas has with the plant, we chatted with Hi-Fi head brewer Jeremy Marshall.

Westword: Do you come from a background of brewing beer? How does one end up making this beverage?

Jeremy Marshall: I’m a brewer by trade. I’ve worked in all functions and operations at the brewery, from cellar work to filtration to brewing, so I know beer. Since the dawn of time, there’ve been sodas or drinks that aren’t beer but still have hops in them. They’re typically made by the Germans.

So we noticed how terrible most non-alcoholic beers are, and we wanted something that was NA but still tasted like beer. We landed on this idea of a hoppy refresher, which is basically what would happen if you left the grain out of brewing beer and kept all of the other steps, especially the hopping. It’s got yeast and hops in it, and some beer PH to bring the water’s PH level down.

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We were hanging out with the people at CannaCraft in California, drinking some of those, and someone asked why we didn’t just infuse those drinks [with cannabis]. It was a few of us just chillin’ at the time, and that idea went on to become Hi-Fi.

How does the brewing process work?

It’s like making beer, but skipping the malt. Malt is what gives you ferment-able sugars, like booze. Malt is also what gives you calories, gluten and mouthfeel. When you think of beer as liquid bread, it’s the malt that makes that comment ring true. But when you take the malt out, it makes the drink sort of a hop tonic or hoppy water. We didn’t invent this category — Germans have been doing it for a while — but we’d seen a few come out to the market, and we wanted to make one with our hops and our ways, with that big punch of myrcene that hops can give.

We didn’t want any bitterness, because there’s no malt in it. Brewers typically add hops to provide bitterness that counteracts the malt. In this case, since there’s no malt, we did all dry-hopping instead of kettle-hopping, so you get the flavor without the bitterness you’d get from kettle-hopping.

Since terpenes are also in cannabis, could you brew or dry-hop beer with cannabis?

Absolutely. However, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau needs a much-needed update in its hemp policy. It basically says we can only use seeds and stems in brewing, and those don’t have any terpenes. I see no reason why brewers can’t use hemp, because it only has 0.3 percent THC, and it won’t put any THC in the beer. I’d like to do that, but I can’t legally.

Alcohol and cannabis share a lot of similarities: they’ve both been subject to prohibition, and people could get them during Prohibition with a prescription. Hops and cannabis are almost the same plant, and some people think they were the same plant around 27 million years ago. When you look at their genetic records, you could trace the markers to the point where hops diverged to chase water and cannabis stayed to grow in dry climates.

Have you or any of your brewer friends tried making cannabis beers at home?

Oh, yeah. There are loads of tales from growers in the Emerald Triangle, in the ’80s and ’90s, brewing some stuff in Humboldt [County, California]. There’s a story about a brewer out there who got fired for taking a bunch of nugs and soaking them in a keg of beer.

If you can brew it with hemp and don’t have THC, it could be done at breweries. I don’t see a future where the government allows mixing alcohol and THC together. But if you just want to capture that bouquet of terpenes and the smell, maybe we can get a policy change to allow brewers to brew beer with hemp. I’ve been working on that concept. [The New Belgium Hemperor is brewed with hemp seeds.]

Most brewing companies that have gotten into THC and even CBD-infused drinks haven’t used their own names. Why do you think Lagunitas does?

Well, we wanted people to know where it came from! Some of the guys who are spinning off to make CBD drinks are technically breaking the law, because the FDA has said they’re not legal, so that could be why they’re using different names.

I think the tie-in here is the hops. Most of those drinks you’re talking about don’t have hops in them, but this does, because we want it to be like a beer.

And the brewery has never really shied away from its love for cannabis, has it?

Nope. Remember, we’re the only brewery that’s been raided and shut down for weed consumption. Undercover Investigation Shutdown Ale comes out every spring [to commemorate that]. I was there in 2005 when we got raided, and there were these commando guys in all-black with machine guns. And ultimately, they found one joint.

They thought Lagunitas wasn’t even a legitimate brewery. They thought we were a front for selling weed, so they were trying to send in agents to make purchases from people working on the bottom, guys making $ 12 an hour. What was funny is that when the agents tried making purchases, no one would sell them anything; they’d just break off a piece of a nug and give it to them for free.

They couldn’t arrest them for trafficking, because they just gave it to the agents. They also tried to get us busted for allowing underage drinkers, and we didn’t. They thought we were some elaborate operation, and at the end of the day, they charged us with a disorderly house, which is used for brothels and places like that. The other charge was moral turpitude, which is some Bible term. They’re really old, arcane laws.

Funny how you ended up here, then.

With time, it appears, we were on the right side of history after 2005. Our founder, Tony Magee, said, “Do the crime, do the time, and get the bragging rights.”


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Colorado, Get Ready For More Consolidated Cannabis

Brian Garret almost tripped as he approached his favorite dispensary, Sticky Buds, on September 3 — and it wasn’t because of Denver’s lousy sidewalks. Garret’s pot shop of choice on Colfax Avenue had a banner hanging out front, announcing new ownership.

“I called the other location [on South Broadway], and they said Solace Meds took over that one, too,” he said at the time. “Everything inside was pretty much the same, but things will probably change with time.”

Garret, who just wanted to get home for an after-work dab on a hot summer day, probably didn’t realize how metaphorical his statement was. Natural market evolution and new state laws allowing out-of-state investors, publicly held companies and more large venture funds to own pot companies have set up Colorado’s cannabis field for some big changes late this year.

Proponents of the legislation leading to the new laws said that as more states legalize recreational pot, Colorado had to change its rules so it could offer similar investment opportunities. Smaller business owners were split on the measure. While some mom-and-pops had been waiting for the day when they could sell their brands and business licenses to deep pockets, others viewed the move as a step toward corporate cannabis and consolidation.

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As publicly traded companies wait for the new laws to take hold November 1, privately held companies are already on the move. Solace Meds finished the Sticky Buds purchase in September. Over the past few years, two of the state’s largest dispensary chains, LivWell and the Green Solution, have each taken over a handful of independent dispensaries throughout Colorado. Lova, a new, privately held cannabis brand, has purchased five metro-area dispensaries this year: both MMJ America dispensaries in Denver (but not the Boulder location), Groundswell Cannabis Boutique, Northern Lights Cannabis Co.’s store in Edgewater and Boulder’s Trill Alternatives.

But those deals could seem like a trickle compared to the flood of acquisitions that will start in November, when the new investment regulations take hold. One company alone, Medicine Man Technologies, has announced enough deals to get the entire state high.

Over the past ten months, the Denver-based public cannabis company has agreed to purchase more than thirty dispensaries throughout Colorado. Recently reported deals, none of which can officially take place until November, include agreements to buy all three metro-area Colorado Harvest Company dispensaries, five Starbuds locations statewide and mountain dispensary chain Roots RX’s six dispensaries. Medicine Man Technologies also has plans in place to buy over ten more stores through the acquisition of southern Colorado chains Mesa Organics and Strawberry Fields, as well as Medicine Man, a metro-area chain of dispensaries co-owned by Medicine Man Technologies CEO Andy Williams. So far, the company hasn’t announced whether the acquired stores will transition into the Medicine Man brand, though the Starbuds change seems likely, as Starbuds still has several stores not included in the purchase as of yet.

Medicine Man Technologies has also announced deals to acquire Colorado cannabis extractors Dabble Extracts and Purplebee’s Extracts, as well as cultivation Los Sueños Farms, one of the largest outdoor cannabis-growing operations in the country. Other purchase agreements include research and medical marijuana firm MedPharm Holdings and Colombian medical marijuana licensee Green Equity. To top it off, the company also agreed to buy Medically Correct, the parent company of Incredibles Edibles, Incredibles Extracts and several other infused-product companies created by founder Bob Eschino.

The deals are enough to make your eyes scroll like a cartoon slot machine. Come November 1, all of those brands will be owned by one company — though it’s important to note that the majority of their founders and CEOs plan to stay on with Medicine Man Technologies.

Despite the company’s publicly ravenous appetite, other instrumental players in Colorado’s cannabis space have remained largely quiet. In September, Jeff Mascio, CEO of the Joint dispensary’s parent company, Cannabis One, said that his company had quite a few deals slated, but he couldn’t talk about them yet.

“Anything announced now can’t officially take place until the rule changes,” he noted, “but those who are taking the risk of being early will probably be rewarded.”

Medicine Man Technologies is certainly willing to take the risk. After all, since Governor Jared Polis has already signed the legislation into law, it’s unlikely that anything will prevent the rules from taking effect on November 1. And since company officials helped write the language for House Bill 1090, the legislation allowing looser regulations over cannabis company ownership, they definitely know how to walk the tightrope.

According to the company’s public declarations, most of the businesses are being acquired in exchange for Medicine Man Technologies stock. Bigger players are likely to enter the field soon, as seen by the action in Canada’s legal pot trade or the hemp industry, both of which have looser investment regulations.

And they’ll be moving quickly, since lucrative opportunities are somewhat limited in certain parts of the state. Easily Colorado’s largest cannabis market, Denver isn’t currently permitting new dispensary licenses, while Colorado Springs, the second-largest city in the state, doesn’t allow recreational sales. With few attractive locations available for those who want to start from scratch in an urban area, purchasing an existing dispensary license is one of the only ways to gain a footing in the country’s most evolved pot marketplace. For those already in the market, it’s a way to maintain your competitive advantage.

Brace yourselves: The mergers and acquisitions are just beginning.


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Why Colorado Tokers Love Cheesy Rider

I once received an email from a woman who claimed to have worked at a cheese shop across from Cheesman Park in the ’70s where employees allegedly sold weed under the counter. I couldn’t find much to confirm that story, though I did find that a place called The Big Cheese won a Best of Denver award for Best Cheese Shop in 1984, the first year Westword produced that edition — and maybe that bonus helped sway the judges.

Sad to say, the Big Cheese isn’t around anymore, but when I came across a strain by the name of Cheesy Rider at a dispensary in Cap Hill, it seemed like a fitting time to honor a cool place that might or might not have existed. An old head in the bud room told me that Cheesy Rider was actually a motorcycle-riding rodent mascot for Cheetos before Chester Cheetah took over, so the toking connection was too strong to pass up.

A cross between Biker Kush and a variety of U.K. Cheese cuts depending on the breeder, Cheesy Rider is infamous for having a wide stank radius. The potent hybrid is full of jacked-up whiffs of fruity, funky cheese, as those U.K. Cheese qualities are enhanced by Biker Kush’s fruity, earthy lineage of OG Kush, Blackberry and San Fernando Valley OG. Cheesy Rider’s smell, like a delicious wheel of Gouda, gets more pungent and refined with age, so enjoy it in the grow and cure those nugs as long as you can: It’ll only taste better.

Not only is Cheesy Rider’s sweet, creamy funk flavor-made for a picnic, but the high is, too. Each session with the strain provided an upbeat high without blurred concentration, amplifying daytime activities without draining energy. But each session also gave me a serious bout of the munchies, which can kill concentration on its own.

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We’ve spotted Cheesy Rider at Euflora, Green Dragon, Magnolia Road Cannabis Co., Nature’s Herbs and Wellness, and Verde Natural. My favorite versions have come from Nature’s Herbs and Wellness and Verde Natural; both smelled like plates of old cheese and strawberries, and helped me forget my woes after a couple of rough Sundays.

Looks: Like a rocket or stalagmite, Cheesy Rider has tall, pointed plants with long nugs. The hybrid strain leans indica in the grow, hitting medium height and producing dense calyxes. Those buds generally have a glow.

Smell: It’s cheesy, all right, but part of that aromatic explosion comes from Cheesy Rider’s Kush background, which adds to the smell’s horsepower. The combination starts out funky, sweet and cheesy, almost like some aged cheese and berries, followed by spicy, chalky smells of wet dirt and vanilla.

Flavor: Cheesy Rider’s earthy, spicy Kush aspects take the lead here, with those sweet and cheesy notes filling in the back and sides of your tongue. The taste is just as complex as the smell, but slightly less enjoyable when the cheese and fruit flavors don’t stand out.

Effects: Although the strain’s potency could floor a novice toker, Cheesy Rider’s high makes me curious, creative and talkative. Focus isn’t shot, and the euphoria and energy remains steady throughout the high.

Home grower’s take: “It smells so delicious and funky, but it’s really a collision of Skunk and OG genetics when you look into their backgrounds. Those fruity, cheesy hits are signs of evolving along the way. I had a friend spend good money on Cheesy Rider seeds, and let’s just say he was taken for a spin. Took damn near three months to flower, and his neighbors called him out about the smell coming from his house as the buds dried. I think it’s better set for people with room and experience, because it takes time and topping, and you want it nice and ripe.”

Is there a strain you’d like to see profiled? Email marijuana@westword.com.


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Why Colorado Tokers Love Gushers

If there’s anything I miss about school, it’s bartering at the lunch table. Nothing was more satisfying than trading a limp PB&J and apple slices for a Lunchable and Hot Cheetos. (I hear prison offers a similar rush, but I don’t miss haggling that bad.) Rich, spoiled kids flaunting their junk food were always an easy target, as their friends selling Herbalife products have subsequently found out.

Although candy was still a rarity at school even for the rich and spoiled, other sweets weren’t. Twinkies, Fruit by the Foot and Squeezits were all hot commodities, but one dyed, sugary treat outranked them all: Gushers. The immense amount of corn syrup and colored goop was an instant draw for kids. So naturally, some of those same qualities are an instant draw for stoners.

A cross of Triangle Kush and a Gelato phenotype by the Bay Area’s Cookie Fam Genetics (the breeder that made Girl Scout Cookies so popular), the Gushers cannabis strain has a deep background that includes a Cookies lineage and old, mysterious Kush genetics from Florida. We’re all familiar with the staunch stone and sweet flavor of Cookies strains, but not nearly as many of us are acquainted with Kush strains out of Florida, such as Bubba and Triangle Kush — much less know their history. And like anything out of that state, things get weird quickly when you play with either of them.

If you like keeping your hands in the Cookies jar at dispensaries, this Gelato offspring lines up with that flavor profile, with fruity, sugary aspects that hang around before they’re washed out by an earthy blast of classic Kush. While the strain isn’t quite fruity enough on the tongue for a name deserving of Gushers, I get trying to stay on brand when breeding with Gelato or other Cookies offspring.

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Gushers aren’t exclusive to the rich and spoiled table in the school cafeteria, either. Ajoya, Doc’s Apothecary, Drift, Euflora, Rocky Road, Silver Stem Fine Cannabis, Redeye Releaf, RiverRock, Solace Meds, the Stone and Xclusive Cannabis all carry some form of the strain, and wholesale extractors and growers are sending it elsewhere around Colorado, too.

Looks: If it weren’t for the intense dark-green and purple colors, Gushers buds would look like pine cones, with dense oval and teardrop structures. But the strain’s purple tendencies, rusty pistils and heavy trichome coverage are too vibrant.

Smell: Somewhat of a collision between new and old scents of the cannabis world, with the initial sugary, candy-like aromas and creamy overtones followed by notes of wet soil, spicy herbs and cinnamon. The vanilla qualities of Kush strains and the creaminess of Cookies didn’t bridge that gap, as I’d hoped, but smelling a jar is still complex and enjoyable.

Flavor: It really depends on the cut, with some more sweet and creamy, and others more dank, earthy and spicy. I prefer something in between, like sweet grape and berry flavors followed by spicy vanilla and dirty pine.

Effects: Not quite a one-hit knockout, but euphoric and sedating nonetheless. The quick bliss of Gushers would make me ignore a house fire, relaxing me from my neck to my ankles. But that bliss soon turns into pure sloth and gluttony, so consider yourself warned. Medical patients have used the strain to treat pain, sleeping and eating disorders, headaches and stress, among other ailments.

Home grower’s take: “Have some friends in Sacramento who like this one a lot. Don’t know how he was able to get ahold of it, because I haven’t found seeds anywhere. Sometimes an employee in the grow can sneak out a cut of the plant and turn it into something. Sometimes it’s just all bullshit. The stuff I’ve had at the store and what my buddy grows [both] get potent and thick, though. Good to look at.”

Is there a strain you’d like to see profiled? Email marijuana@westword.com.


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CDC: Youth Pot Use Dropped in States After Legalization, Including Colorado

According to a recently published study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, youth marijuana use decreased in the nation’s first three states to legalize recreational pot.

The CDC study, released October 4, reports that marijuana use among children in sixth to tenth grade residing in King County, Washington — the state’s most populated county and home to the Seattle metro area — actually dropped from 2012 to 2016. Further, the CDC study reported that youth marijuana use in Colorado and Oregon followed the same trend. All three states legalized recreational marijuana sales by 2015.

Two possible reasons cited by the CDC for the decline or absence of youth marijuana use were the possibility of the plant losing its novelty appeal, as well as the reduction of the illicit market in states with regulated sales.

However, it’s important to note that the study’s authors say that legalization’s effects “might be delayed,” and that the time frame of the study didn’t occur during “the more recent surge in e-cigarette use by youth and the use of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) within electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) devices.”

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Dr. Ashley Brooks-Russell serves as project director for the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, a bi-annual study from the state Department of Public Health and Environment that monitors youth drug use. According to Brooks-Russell, there isn’t a clear explanation as to why Colorado hasn’t seen a rise in youth marijuana use since retail pot was legalized. However, she does believe that more protective parenting with regard to marijuana and drug use has increased.

“We’re in an age of protective parenting, where adolescence is being extended into adulthood,” she says. “It’s being protected longer, and parents are learning to become more aware of their kids’ activities.”

The CDPHE has been trying to push Colorado parents toward a more engaging role in their kids’ social lives and potential peer pressures, according to CDPHE marijuana communications specialist Tara Dunn, who says kids who feel like they can talk to their parents or another trusted adult about substance use are less likely to use marijuana.

“Parents play an important role in preventing youth marijuana use,” she says. “Educating kids about marijuana early and keeping that conversation going is really important.”

And that conversation doesn’t really end as kids grow up. Kids are always changing interests and friend groups, Dunn adds, so it’s important for parents to be aware of social and stress factors in their kids’ lives, and continue maintaining an engaged role.

Brooks-Russell also advocates for “parental monitoring,” and says parents should always work to improve communication with their kids. Setting clear family expectations and knowing a child’s friend circle helps parents stay aware of what environment their kids are in outside of the house, she says.

“Parents need to have a conversation and make it clear what their expectations are,” she says. “It’s important to help their kids avoid situations that might cause drug use, such as not knowing who their kids hang out with or leaving their kids home alone.”

According to a 2018 survey from Healthy Kids Colorado, kids who know their parents disapprove of underage marijuana use are 72 percent less likely to start using, while kids who have other trusted adults they can talk to about their problems are 30 percent less likely to try marijuana. School performance can also be a factor in youth marijuana use, according to to the survey, as 28 percent of students who receive affirmation for their work are less likely to use marijuana.

“Kids who don’t feel connected or feel good in school may affiliate with other teens who use drugs,” Brooks-Russell explains. “And drug use is affiliated with poor school performance.”

For parents who may not be sure about how to talk to their kids about marijuana, Colorado has several statewide campaigns that teach both parents and kids about the effects of marijuana use. The CDPHE currently funds five community organizations that serve eleven counties to teach adults about youth marijuana use, while websites such as responsibilitygrowshere.com can be online sources for parents to learn more about youth marijuana use.

“Educating yourself is important,” Dunn says. “It helps you, and also helps your kids in the long run.”


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Stricter Rules Loom Over THC Vape Products in Colorado

The recent outbreak of lung illnesses connected to THC vaporization products is pushing the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division to implement new regulations that could include the prohibition of certain vaping additives in the regulated marketplace.

New rules banning the production and sale of cannabis vape products containing polyethylene glycol (PEG), vitamin E acetate and medium chain triglycerides (MCT oil) were proposed by the MED on October 7, according to the agency, with the proposed rules up for public discussion on Tuesday, October 15.

The proposed regulations also include additional labeling requirements for concentrates or products intended to be inhaled through a vaporizer or metered dose inhaler, according to MED rule-making documents, mandating that vaping additives be listed on the label, which would also be required to include the statement “Not approved by the FDA.”

Although most members of the pot industry expect the ban to be approved, MED spokesperson Shannon Gray notes, “These are proposed rules, which are not in effect until adopted and signed by the State Licensing Authority.”

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After weeks of reports of lung illnesses suffered by consumers of nicotine and THC oil vaping products, public health officials face more pressure to react — but a definitive cause of the problems hasn’t been identified. On Friday, October 11, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Deputy Director Anne Schuchat announced that 1,299 cases across the country, 26 of them ending in death, have been linked to vaping since the outbreak began, but health officials continue to look for exactly which chemicals or devices are leading to the health issues.

Most of the deaths and hospital visits are linked to THC vaping products obtained on the black market, made with the additives in the MED’s crosshairs as well as toxic pesticides and other harmful chemicals. As of October 2, nine reported hospitalizations in Colorado have been linked to vaping, with some patients reporting THC use and others citing nicotine. While the vast majority of hospitalizations for THC products have been linked to black-market cartridges with traces of harmful pesticides and additives, at least one death was reportedly connected to a legal product purchased from a dispensary in Oregon.

The chemicals banned by the MED haven’t been explicitly fingered as the culprits, but some cannabis business owners and health officials aren’t waiting until they are. In late September, Medicine Man dispensaries announced that its stores would no longer sell pre-filled vape cartridges containing vitamin E or PEG. The dispensary chain’s parent company, Medicine Man Technologies, was a leading force pushing the MED’s proposed ban.

“That’s just a start. It’s a good start, but they should also ban propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin,” says MMT chemistry director Dr. Tyrell Towle. “They’re not necessary to be used with cannabis for vaporization. You can create products for vaporization that don’t have these additives.”

According to Towle, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s cannabis science and policy work group — which comprises public health officials and industry stakeholders — had been trying to define potentially dangerous vaping additives and ingredients over a year ago, but “it wasn’t as pressing at the time, and there was a lot of pushback from industry members who still used some of those ingredients,” he notes.

“We can always bring them back if we can get the research funding and do eventually find out these are safe, although I doubt they are,” Towle adds.

The proposed vaping restrictions are part of a much larger set of new regulations that have been part of MED rulemaking throughout the summer and fall, including requirements for social consumption business licenses and dispensary delivery services. 


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Colorado Marijuana Sales Continued Hot Streak in August

Colorado marijuana sales continued their hot streak in August, according to the state Department of Revenue, reaching the highest monthly total ever.

Medical and recreational dispensaries accounted for over $ 173.2 million in sales in August, DOR data shows. That number is easily the highest for monthly sales since recreational pot stores opened in January 2014, passing July 2019’s previous high mark (approximately $ 166.3 million) by about 4 percent. This is the third straight month that dispensary sales have broken Colorado’s monthly record.

Recreational sales on their own also set another record, hitting nearly $ 141.87 million in August. Medical sales, while still hovering in the $ 30 million range, saw a slight bump, increasing just under $ 1 million from the previous month to hit $ 31.3 million.

August is one of three months in 2019 to have five Fridays and five Saturdays on the calendar, and weekends are extremely important to dispensary sales, according to marijuana-industry sales trackers. With cooler weather and fewer weekend days in September, don’t be surprised if the next monthly sales figure drops.

Through the first eight months of 2019, Colorado has already seen over $ 1.15 billion in dispensary sales, and it’s on a clear path to breaking last year’s overall sales of $ 1.55 billion.

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Colorado Marijuana Sales Continued Hot Streak in August (2)EXPAND

Colorado Department of Revenue


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Why Colorado Tokers Love Chem De La Chem

Once you reach a certain level of regular cannabis consumption, your tolerance doesn’t always allow your body to react to strains as sensitively as less frequent users might. So a hit of Super Lemon Haze won’t make my mind race like it once did, nor does a small bowl of Banana Kush knock me out with the same efficiency. I can still experience the intended effects from particular strains, though I usually have to consume more.

But any little bite of Chemdog will shoot up my spine and zap my brain no matter how big my tolerance and ego get. Whatever it is about Chemdog and the family of chemical-smelling, brain-dicking strains that it has produced over the years, my mind sure can’t handle them.

Such an unproductive bliss isn’t as welcome as it once was now that I have more big-boy responsibilities, but it’s certainly fun for a night or a solo Saturday morning full of cartoons. So when I came across Chem De La Chem, I prepared myself for a session with the head of the class — the Chem of the crop, if you will — and the strain’s forest-inspired funk, gasoline influence and halfwit high didn’t disappoint. Sessions with Chem De La Chem consistently produced a short-lived energy with a long-lasting euphoria, leaving me incapable of giving a shit about answering emails and texts or taking the trash to the curb. Such a vacation from life can be detrimental if taken all the time, but every once in a while, it enables helpful self-help retreats at home over the weekend.

Chem De La Chem hasn’t risen to the top of Denver’s pot hierarchy yet, but a lineage of Chemdog, a northeastern classic, and I-95, a strain named after the East Coast’s main interstate highway, points to roots at the far end of the country. We’ve seen the strain around town at the Giving Tree of Denver, Good Chemistry, Kind Love, Lightshade and Seed & Smith, with wholesale flower further distributed by Willie’s Reserve, and concentrate made by Green Dot Labs. My favorites so far have come from Kind Love and Green Dot, both of which might as well have had gas fumes rising from their bottles.

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Looks: Chem De La Chem typically grows chunky, oblong-shaped buds made up of spiky, dense calyxes. Those buds range from bright green to wintergreen, with above-average trichome coverage.

Smell: Like twisting a lime over an old carpet in a forest cabin and shoving your nose in it. Chem De La Chem is a great balance of Chemdog and OG qualities, with dank, earthy whiffs of sandalwood and pine leaves layered with funky, sour notes of rubber and gas.

Flavor: Expect a more piney, floral taste than the traditional gasoline flavor of Chemdog, but the classic chemical taste undoubtedly makes an appearance. Those earthy, fuel-like flavors are covered in subtle, spicy notes of wood.

Effects: The powerful, disorienting head high also leaks into the body, calming anxious limbs and, in my case, relaxing the stomach to the point of insatiability. I don’t recommend any important social interactions or complex chores after a session, but Chem De La Chem is a prime candidate for anyone seeking relaxation or stress relief.

Home grower’s take: “That Triangle Kush influence in I-95 is likely behind that musty OG scent, but Chem De La Chem smells like straight fuel in the grow. Took about eight or nine weeks to cut down once it started blooming, I think, but I did have to grow this one from seed. Not sure if it’s available in clones out there, but it’s worth a try if you find it. Those Chem-y flavors and the happy head high are worth the time; I don’t care what the yield is.”

Is there a strain you’d like to see profiled? Email marijuana@westword.com.


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Why Colorado Tokers Love Tang Tang

“Tang” is one of the more difficult flavor concepts for me to grasp. Is it sweet? Savory? Sour? A mix of all three? Calling something “tangy” at a family dinner table will often lead to an argument from someone who thinks tangy and tart are the same thing, thanks to powdered-drink-pushing chimpanzees. In actuality, tang is supposed be slightly sour while adding another fresh or zesty characteristic, as with plain yogurt, sourdough bread or certain tomato sauces.

Tangy cannabis strains are even harder to pinpoint, because the trait doesn’t really exist in most outside of Cannalope Haze and some peach- and apricot-leaning strains. Sour flavors in pot usually come from terpenes found in citrus fruits, which are clearly more sour than tangy — but when matched with light pine, herbal or floral notes, the tang is there.

Tang Tang (also known as Tropical Tang and just Tang) takes sweet, dank and savory notes of skunk and ripe peaches and pits them against a zesty, citrus-laden sourness, like a bottle of homemade barbecue sauce. The strain’s rare flavor and even rarer rush of energy have given Tang Tang somewhat of a cult following, with a high known for daytime euphoria and focused productivity. But to gain a cult following, there needs to be factor of under-estimation or low distribution. In my opinion, Tang Tang has to fight both.

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A phenotype of Blue Sonja, Tang Tang has deep roots that stretch back to Blueberry and Grapefruit strains, and even further back to Afghani and Thai landraces. The strain’s genetics are reportedly around 90 percent sativa, and the high is perfect for the outdoor or active user — but Tang Tang’s yield is mediocre, and it takes several weeks longer than most strains to fully bloom. Those qualities are so ugly to commercial growers that two of Tang Tang’s children, Mob Boss and Pootie Tang, eclipsed it in popularity in Colorado years ago. However, you can still find Tang Tang around town intermittently.

Looks: Tang Tang is labeled a 90 percent sativa, and its buds fit that mold, with slender, open calyxes that look like a bunch of skunky, delicious blobs. That daytime reputation is made stronger by the strain’s bright-green color.

Smell: Tang Tang’s sweet smell of apricots, citrus and pine needles is rounded out with a heavy skunk aroma, giving it that “tangy” smell, like a salad with over-ripened fruit and heavy dressing.

Flavor: This is where you learn how rare Tang Tang’s flavor profile really is, as those tart, refreshing flavors stay wound tight instead of separating into layers, as happens with most citrus-heavy strains.

Effects: Treat Tang Tang like coffee that makes you hungry instead of wanting to poop: A little is extremely blissful and productive, but too much is disorienting, and your wit drains by the second. I use it for stress, slight anxiety, neck pain and a touchy stomach.

Home grower’s take: “She’s a pretty good strain for fall or winter if you’re growing indoors, because I remember my Tropical Tang doing very well despite about 5 degrees of temperature fluctuation at night or in the morning. That will usually fuck with a strain, but she kept pushing. Those last two or three weeks seemed like they took forever, though. It’s like the buds got to 90 percent complete within six weeks, then took another three or four to finish that last 10 percent. For an average yield, that’s a lot of time.”

Commercial grower’s take: “You might not see Tang around stores as much as you once did, but you’ll definitely see traces of it. Mob Boss has been a huge strain in Denver for a couple years now, and that’s a Tang hybrid. So is Ultra Sonja and Pootie Tang, I believe. They’re all just more friendly for profitability, and the high is similar.”

Is there a strain you’d like to see profiled? Email marijuana@westword.com.


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Why Colorado Tokers Love Mendo Breath

Everybody has their own tells when they’re high. For most people, it’s the red eyes, giggles or slow reaction time, but my giveaway has always been weed breath. Brushing teeth, drinking soda, chewing gum — none of them work as fast as they should, and that’s tripped me up plenty of times during conversations and other face-to-face encounters.

So a strain like Mendo Breath, known for heavy relaxation and cottonmouth, wasn’t going to put me in any sticky situation that I don’t already routinely find myself in. In fact, trial runs with Mendo Breath’s daughters, Cactus Breath and Garlic Breath, made me exhale no more fire than usual, so I felt more than ready to take on the parent.

Mendo Breath is a child of OGKushBreath and Mendo Purps, an older hybrid with Trainwreck and White Widow genetics. The potent nighttime strain has a similar lineage to that of Girl Scout Cookies, with a sweet Durban Poison influence in its background. Unlike Cookies strains, however, Mendo Breath is quite zesty, with a layer of citrus, and leaves no question about what time of day it should be consumed. Some cuts of Mendo Breath carry hints of vanilla, chocolate or caramel — making the Cookies comparisons more sensible — but I usually pick up stronger suggestions of orange, citrus zest and wet pine needles. The flavor is fresh and enjoyable, and sure to out me the next time I try to sneak in a toke before sleeping over at my girlfriend’s.

Mendo Breath is still gaining strength in Colorado dispensaries as it makes its way east from California. We’ve spotted it at Ajoya, A Cut Above, Bonfire Cannabis and Kind Love, but we hear it’s likely sold elsewhere in concentrate form, too.

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Looks: Typically cone- and football-shaped, Mendo Breath’s nugs tend to lean on the slender side but can have dense calyxes that carry more weight than advertised. The strain’s lime-green color, brightened by a broad coat of trichomes, contrasts beautifully against violet spots and occasional apricot pistils.

Smell: Mendo Breath’s sweet, zesty notes give off a sugar-and-cinnamon vibe, with strong hints of citrus and a skunky, herbal back end. The spicy, sugary aroma can smell like a wet, dank tub of French vanilla ice cream before the floral, herbal notes take over.

Flavor: Those skunky, floral characteristics combine for an earthy, skunky OG flavor that drowns out most of the sweetness that your nose picks up, though some citrus and vanilla notes will stick to the sides of your tongue if you look for them.

Effects: Strains affect everyone differently, but Mendo Breath’s calming properties are felt almost across the board. Initial euphoria is quickly kicked to the curb by munchies, yawns and an insatiable need to stretch on the couch in front of the TV. The potent high has been used to treat eating and sleeping disorders, pain, headaches and stress, among other ailments.

Home grower’s take: “Popped this from a seed bag when I was testing out GMO, Tropsanto and some other chemical-y, spicy strains. Pretty easy in the grow: didn’t stretch a ton, responded well to topping, and I don’t remember any mold issues. The yield was just okay, though. Would do it again for the rosin and short flowering time either way, because it had a good, stiff high.”

Commercial grower’s take: “Not the largest yield compared to strains with similar genetics or flavors, but Mendo Breath has been spreading east from California for a couple years, and it’s a mother strain to a few popular strains out there right now, like Garlic Breath and Hammerhead. The amount of trichomes it produces, and the way those trichomes are shaped, makes for some healthy extraction, though, so it could be why you see a lot of Mendo Breath hash out there.”

Is there a strain you’d like to see profiled? Email marijuana@westword.com.


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Colorado Weed Prices Keep Fluctuating in 2019

After over a year of free-falling, marijuana prices are on the rise in Colorado, according to the state Department of Revenue. But several marijuana producers say those prices could be even higher than the state estimates.

According to the latest DOR estimates, wholesale marijuana flower is currently about $ 1,000 per pound, increasing by 17.5 percent from July to September, with trim, flower and whole plant matter allocated for extraction all rising in cost, as well. However, wholesale marijuana growers and dispensary general managers are telling us that wholesale flower prices are actually closer or above $ 1,300, and have been steadily rising all year.

According to the state’s estimates, prices are still getting much higher. In October 2018, a pound of flower was less than $ 760, past DOR figures show, or 24 percent lower than it is now. These rising wholesale prices have led to customers paying more for flower and concentrate at dispensaries, so don’t be surprised if those $ 15 eighths are now $ 20.

Why the increased costs? Industry sources we’ve talked to point to a number of reasons, including rising microbial issues in commercial grows, major suppliers limiting output, and new regulations that have changed how dispensaries stock their shelves — all of which, if true, could lead to supply shortages.

There have been reported supply shortages across the state. Dispensary general managers have been calling wholesale producers around the clock, worried their dispensary’s internal cultivations won’t supply enough to meet demand. 

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Seasons can also impact marijuana supply fluctuation. Although largely grown indoors, commercial pot is still a seasonal commodity, as a large chunk of flower and plant material designated for extraction come from outdoor growing operations. Because outdoor harvests only happen once a year, the supply traditionally dries up toward the end of summer and is replenished in October and November.

“You could get a pound for about $ 700 eight months ago,” one dispensary manager says. “I suspect that prices will drop greatly once the outdoor harvest starts coming in around October.”

If prices are still high around Christmas, this might be more than a phase.


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Colorado Reviews New Social Equity Marijuana Business Licenses

New marijuana business licenses reserved for low-income demographics are set to launch in Colorado in 2020, but questions remain about who should receive these licenses and how they should be regulated.

Created by Senate Bill 224, a 2019 law that overhauls the state’s medical and recreational marijuana regulations, the new licenses are intended to add more diversity to Colorado’s cannabis space while providing opportunity to entrepreneurs who don’t have traditional training or funding outlets. Also known as micro licenses, the new permits would require the new businesses to use the facilities of established pot companies as they research and create their own cannabis products.

Colorado cannabis regulators and industry members began addressing the upcoming accelerator licenses during a state Marijuana Enforcement Division stakeholder meeting Friday, September 13. But instead of the usual roundtable discussion, the group of cannabis organization leaders, business owners and regulators broke into working groups to discuss issues such as how long the agreements should last between the accelerator and endorsing businesses, how the state could incentivize potential endorsers, and what criteria should qualify the new licensees.

“People from around the world look to us as an example on how to do things right,” MED director Jim Burack said during the meeting. “What exactly is this relationship between endorser and accelerator? How do we ensure this business relationship is mutually beneficial?”

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Per the new law, applicants would have to be from or living in low-income areas (identified by the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade) for at least five of the past ten years, but could operate outside of the community once the license is issued. The licenses would allow for cultivation, extraction and infused-product manufacturing opportunities, but not dispensary operations.

The new licenses are intended to help spur minority participation in the industry, but skin color or gender won’t necessarily define who receives a license, insists Shawn Coleman, a cannabis lobbyist who helped write the language creating the new licenses. Victims of the War on Drugs will, however, receive serious consideration.

“If you’re white and you grew up in a trailer and your dad went to jail for ten years for selling meth, I can see why you’d think you’d be fit for this,” he said. “This isn’t exclusive to any certain group.”

MED deputy director Dominique Mendiola leads one of four discussion groups during a stakeholder meeting September 13.

MED deputy director Dominique Mendiola leads one of four discussion groups during a stakeholder meeting September 13.

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Deciding who qualifies for an accelerator permit is just one of many questions the MED has to figure out before 2020. The relationship between the new licensee and endorsing business — which includes privacy and liability agreements, potential equity shares and royalties, equipment use and more — is still up in the air.

Connor Lux, founder of cannabis event and co-working space Cultivated Synergy, said collaboration during the early years of legal cannabis led to stolen ideas, techniques and technology in an industry in which securing copyrights or patents is difficult. “Sharing [intellectual property] caused huge issues for some people right off the bat, from them not protecting their IP,” he explained.

It’s not just the micro-licensee who’d be at risk, according to several cannabis business owners who are considering becoming hosts to new potrenepeurs. “Let’s say there’s mold or yeast left over [in shared equipment] that affects an accelerator’s product. How do we handle that?” asked Allison Robinette, an assistant state attorney general who specializes in Colorado revenue and utilities.

Kayvan Khalatbari, a boardmember of the Minority Cannabis Business Association and co-founder of cannabis consulting firm Denver Relief, suggested that shared facilities adopt similar rules to commissary kitchens, where multiple food producers use the same facility at different times.

The new law already requires MED approval of any new micro licenses, but Khalatbari suggested the MED monitor the micro license relationships.

“If I’m an endorsement holder, I don’t want to get sued because someone used my equipment incorrectly…. Someone should be available to manage these relationships,” he said, adding that Colorado’s seed-to-sale tracking technology mandated by the MED would help show missteps.

Perhaps the most important challenge to the new license’s success rate is getting established cannabis companies to participate. Suggestions to entice them included reducing licensing fees, launching certain excise-tax credits and giving priority designation for licensing transfers and updates. However, the larger potential endorsers who are already set financially would likely want the accolades the most, according to Andrew Livingston, director of economics and research for cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg.

“For some of the bigger businesses, [decreased] license fees won’t be as big of an impact,” he said, explaining that some sort of good-actor seal of approval could help participants further connect with their communities as well as their chances of earning licenses in other states with legal pot industries.

The final rulemaking hearings will take place through September 20. According to the bill’s drafters and several stakeholders at the meeting, further legislation to update the license program and address the finer details is likely.


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