On June 24, Colorado Governor Jared Polis, D, signed HB 1317 into law. The bill, establishing new limitations for medical cannabis, had a broad bipartisan support network. It passed unanimously in the Senate and only received 65 opposing votes in the House on it’s way to the governor’s desk. On July 1, Colorado medical cannabis patient Benjamin Wann filed a lawsuit against HB 1317, saying that it could put medical cannabis access in jeopardy for several patients, including himself. Benjamin Wann suffers from severe epilepsy and is able to function daily thanks to his medical cannabis prescription.
Under this new limitations bill, medical cannabis patients have set limits on how much concentrated medical cannabis they can purchase per day. The state also has access to a patient’s purchase history and can track it to ensure that the new limitations will continue to be enforced. In addition to limitations and tracking purchases, any products labeled as dabs or shatter can only be packaged in single doses. Finally, patients between 18 and 20 will need signatures from two doctors before they can receive approval for a state medical cannabis card.
In Colorado, both medical and recreational cannabis are legal. Medical cannabis passed in 2000 with recreational cannabis following over a decade later in 2012. HB 1317 aims to curb illegal teen use of high THC products as well as adult overconsumption.
Benjamin Wann and his family say HB 1317 violates medical cannabis patients’ protections under the Colorado constitution. Plus, they argue the General Assembly is making changes similar to a constitutional amendment. Any constitutional amendment needs a voter majority to become law.
“This potentially means the federal government can file a subpoena and go after Ben’s data and know exactly how much marijuana Ben has purchased,” said Brad Wann, Benjamin’s father.
This isn’t the first time the Wann family has fought for medical cannabis patients’ rights. In 2019, the family sued the Douglas County School District for prohibiting cannabis storage and administration on school grounds. Not only did they win the lawsuit, the family also pushed for SB 56. Governor Polis signed SB 56 into law this legislative session along with HB 1317.
Under SB 56, school districts are required to allow primary caregivers to give cannabis medicines on school grounds. SB 56 also requires the development of policies for storage and administration. That way, patients like Benjamin, who depend on medically-necessary cannabis, know they have access to their medicine when they need it, including at school.
Under the current laws in Colorado, physicians can’t prescribe medical cannabis. They can only recommend a patient take a certain amount during the day and how frequently. Once a patient receives a recommendation, they can take this and file for a medical cannabis card through the state. However, under HB 1317, physicians must follow further requirements to recommend medical cannabis. Recommendations must include potency maximums and daily limitations if the medication is higher than what’s allowed under state law.
The lawsuit argues these new provisions make the “certifications” almost like a prescription. Because cannabis is a Schedule I drug, the law could cause Colorado doctors to stop recommending medical cannabis for fear of losing their Drug Enforcement Administration licenses, which physicians need to prescribe controlled drugs. This is leading to concern over more and more physicians potentially pulling their recommendations.
While the state constitution provides certain protections for medical cannabis patients, every right has limits, according to Sam Kamin. He is a law professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law who teaches cannabis and criminal law. “No constitutional right is absolute. There are always restrictions. It doesn’t remove 99 percent of access, but it could make access harder for some people… It’s up to the court to determine whether that’s too much of a restriction to survive.”
As more information becomes available, we will update you with the latest.
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