By Kristen Wyatt, published in Business Week
Marijuana shops in Colorado are closer to having the nation’s most detailed rules as a state regulation panel wrapped up work Monday on hundreds of pages of rules regulating how shops operate.
Video surveillance, labeling requirements and seed-to-sale tracking for medical marijuana highlight the rules planned for the estimated 800 pot shops that applied for state permits for commercial marijuana sales.
The rules also include the nation’s first guidelines for the safe production of marijuana, hashish and edible marijuana products. After public hearings in January, the rules could become law by March.
A marijuana working group in the Colorado Department of Revenue combed through some final sticking points between pot advocates and state regulators on Monday. One of the biggest areas of dissent continues to be the new rule that pot shops grow 70 percent of the marijuana they sell.
Marijuana industry advocates complain that the rule is impossible to enforce and could leave pot businesses with a red-tape nightmare.For example, marijuana dispensaries have a plant limit based on how many patients they serve, and if patients move away or pick another marijuana dispensary, a pot shop could be left with more plants in the ground than patients to account for them.
State regulators want to make the 70 percent rule an annual measure, giving pot shops some wiggle room in case of crop failure or a rush of new patients will not enough inventory to supply them all with house-grown pot. Still, marijuana workers complain the rule won’t work.
“This will raise the price of medicine, and make the black market more attractive,” said Norton Arbelaez, owner of River Rock Wellness in Denver and head of the Medical Marijuana Industry Group.
Another marijuana advocate, Denver lawyer Robert Corry, complained that the 70 percent was an arbitrary decision by state lawmakers and called it “unenforceable.”
“I think they just threw a dart at the board. It has no basis in reality,” Corry said of the grow-your-own requirement. “There’s no other industry on the face of the planet that has to deal with this.”
Matt Cook, senior director of the state’s medical-marijuana enforcement division, didn’t disagree. But he pointed out that the 70 percent rule is in law and can be changed only by the Legislature. He told the dispensary owners that changes are possible from state lawmakers, but some sort of self-grown requirement is likely.
“This is the direction they want to go,” he said.
Marketing to kids was another point of contention Monday. The group decided to strike proposed language banning marijuana shops from advertising to kids, though the requirement remains in law. One of the marijuana advocates in the group, Jessica LeRoux, pointed out that her infused-product company advertises with pink and leopard prints.
“I can’t be held accountable that my fashion sense runs similar to a 6-year-old’s,” LeRoux said to laughter from the group. Cook agreed the language should be removed.
“I just will not promulgate a rule I can’t enforce,” he said.
The marijuana working group also got a full look at the new safety and sanitation regulations. The new rules will likely include a ban on some pesticides, limits on others and some warnings that pregnant women shouldn’t ingest pot products made with some products.
The rules will also detail the nation’s first regulations for the safe production of hashish, including requirements that hash producers have exhaust hoods and other safety equipment and must use lab-quality metals and glass, not plastics that are commonly used but can impart dangerous chemicals into the hash.
The group debated whether to ban unsafe chemicals that can’t be tested, but regulators proposed going ahead and banning anything unsafe so that pot producers know what they shouldn’t be using and patients know what they’re smoking.
“I think patients have a right to know what they’re ingesting, period,” Cook said.