In the uncertain legal climate around cannabis law, the state of Colorado is looking to protect its cannabis industry from legal intervention. The state senate recently passed a bill to allow cannabusinesses which work with recreational cannabis to reclassify as medical cannabis businesses should a federal crackdown occur.
There is no guarantee that a reclassification would be enough to protect growers from federal prosecutors if the government decides to enforce all federal laws on cannabis. There is no guarantee that a crackdown would focus exclusively on recreational cannabis either. Yet, it provides a much-needed legal safety net for growers and sends a clear signal about Colorado’s interest in protecting its industry.
The law states that cannabis growers may reclassify their product ‘based on a business need due to a change in local, state or federal law or enforcement policy.’ If cultivators decide to convert en-masse in the future, Colorado will be losing some money, because recreational cannabis is taxed more heavily than medical usage. Opponents of the bill warn that the state could lose more than $100 million each year if the new law is invoked.
The bill is expected to pass the House, and then go to Governor Hickenlooper for his signature. Should Attorney General Jeff Sessions keep the recommendations of the Cole Memo in place, the worries are likely to be unfounded, which is why the governors of the first four states to legalize recreational use, including Hickenlooper, have urged him to do so.
“Overhauling the Cole Memo is sure to produce unintended and harmful consequences,” they wrote. “Changes that hurt the regulated market would divert existing marijuana product into the black market and increase dangerous activity in both our states and neighboring states.”