New cannabis laws and regulations are stacking up in Colorado, making it difficult for the industry to operate. While regulations are effective, many businesses are suffering.
In 2012, Colorado was the first state in America to allow adult use of cannabis consumption through Amendment 64. Since the Amendment was adopted, cannabis laws and regulations for adult use in Colorado have continually become more strict, almost aiming for a failure of the industry as a whole.
Cannabis laws change constantly, sometimes overnight, and some business owners cannot keep up. When adult use was enacted, dispensaries did not have the harsh regulations like they do today. In fact, there were minimal limitations on how much product you could purchase at once as a consumer, which type of pesticides you could use to cultivate, and who store owners could receive their supply from.
Not So Wild West
Since Amendment 64 passed with such a short timeframe to enact the encompassed cannabis laws, there weren’t many limitations set forth that hindered a successful business. If you are new to the cannabis industry, you may not be familiar with the “Wild West” days from 2012 that ultimately gave small business owners a large chance for success, setting forth their own unique standards.
Since the success of recreational legalization, the Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) has continually come up with harsh, almost unrealistic expectations for compliance within the industry. One of the regulations, enacted with HB 1284, is that business owners must track every plant in their possession from seed to sale, and report those numbers daily through a software system known as METRC. If businesses do not track every seed and sale through METRC and confirm each night before closing, they could risk having to shut down their entire business.
That said, many of the POS systems used in retail stores to track the cannabis sales have a track record for crashing, which does not allow for business owners and managers to be able to track the sales if they choose to allow them while their systems are down. This sets businesses up for failure either way – whether they choose to allow sales or halt sales until the system is restored, which can cause a huge monetary loss depending on the time of day.
Cannabis Laws Hurt Small Business
As for applying for or owning a cannabis business license, the process has become so extensive (and expensive) that most small business owners cannot afford to continue renewing their licenses and are forced to sell their stores or go out of business. Currently, licensing fees can run upwards of $15,000, depending on how many licenses are being applied for and in which city. This does not even include the price of rent, which can be quadruple the base price of rent in Denver, specifically to cannabis businesses. The rent increase includes cultivation facilities and infused product manufacturers (MIPS) as well.
Additionally, these locations now cannot be within 1,000 feet of a school, daycare facility or rehabilitation center, and in some cities, another cannabis business. To date, since these new cannabis laws have been enacted, there have been about 50 cannabis businesses that have received a letter from the MED to close their doors due to being too close to one of the “off limits” facilities. In addition to the strict location laws, the State of Colorado has more recently adopted very strict pesticide laws for cultivation centers.
When the State updates their regulations, it is uncertain whether or not they will alert the public, or give you any timeline as to when these new cannabis laws will be enforced. If the MED randomly audits your facility and detects any “off limits” pesticide particles in the air, even if they have been discarded due to new regulations, they will issue a violation, destroy every plant in the facility, and cause the business owner an exorbitant loss of product.
New Laws, New World
Most recently, Green Man Cannabis was forced to destroy every plant in their facility as the MED found “residual particles” of illegal pesticides in their air system – pesticides that were legal to use shortly before the incident had occurred. The rules enacted by the MED seem to be aimed at daunting the success of cannabis in Colorado – but as we remain compliant and law-abiding, their restrictions cannot stop the ongoing success of this industry.