Like alcohol, adult-use cannabis is legalized for those 21 and older in Colorado.
But a pair of state lawmakers introduced legislation last month that they said was grounded in the state’s Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) not doing enough to ensure cannabis isn’t sold to underage consumers.
In 2021, MED officials conducted 80 underage compliance checks in the state. At the same time, the state’s Liquor Enforcement Division conducted 2,400 underage compliance checks, CBS Denver reported.
In an effort to increase MED’s annual underage compliance checks, state Sens. Chris Hansen, D-Denver, and Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, authored legislation that would have required MED officials to conduct at least two compliance checks a year at each “medical and retail marijuana center.”
As of April 1, there are 414 medical cannabis and 655 “retail” cannabis dispensaries in Colorado, according to MED licensing data. Multiply those numbers by two, and MED would have been responsible for roughly 2,140 compliance checks a year under the legislation—more in line with the Liquor Enforcement Division.
However, the bill was postponed indefinitely on March 30 in a 6-1 vote by the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services.
“It wasn’t a bill that was anti-industry,” Hansen told CBS Denver. “It wasn’t a bill that was trying to come after any particular group. It was just saying to the Department of Revenue, which runs Marijuana Enforcement Division, ‘please do your job.’”
While Liquor Enforcement Division officials conducted 30 times more underage compliance checks than MED in 2021, they did so with half as many full-time employees, the news outlet reported.
In addition, the 80 MED compliance checks in 2021 was down 86.8% from the 604 underage checks the department conducted in 2019.
Before the bill was killed in committee, MED requested $1 million to comply with the possible passage of the legislation, Priola told CBS Denver.
“It seemed duplicitous in itself that you’re saying you’re already doing this, but if it does happen to pass into law, we need over $1 million to do what we’re already doing,” he said.
Hansen and Priola are now asking for an audit of MED, which the legislative audit committee would need to approve, CBS Denver reported.