Congress Recreational Marijuana Use

A bud tender holds two marijuana buds on his fingers on the way to a customer at the Denver Kush Club in north Denver.

A panel tasked with studying treatment of those with mental health disorders in the criminal justice system is calling for a 10% cap on THC potency for medical cannabis and criticized the removal of a potency cap from a high-profile marijuana concentrates bill that cleared the General Assemblythis year.

The recommendation came as subcommittees of the Mental Health Disorders in the Criminal Justice System Task Force on Wednesday presented bill concepts to a legislative oversight committee. It was put forward by former Pueblo-based addiction psychiatrist Dr. Libby Stuyt, who said her "ulterior motive" for joining the task force was the raise the alarm on "really significant problems with high-potency THC marijuana."

Speaking on behalf of the Data and Information Sharing Subcommittee, Stuyt touted the provisions of House Bill 1317, the 2021 session’s landmark bill to study high-potency THC products while keeping them out of the hands of teenagers.

But she added the bill “totally missed the boat” in one area: a cap on THC.

An early draft of the bill from Rep. Yadira Caraveo, D-Thornton, obtained by Colorado Politics in February, included a cap, which was set at 15%. That provision was removed by the time the bill was introduced in May, much to Stuyt’s displeasure.

“I really encourage you to think about this need that got missed. We really do need a potency cap,” she said, hinting lawmakers caved to the marijuana industry’s effort to fight the cap “tooth and nail.”

Stuyt pointed to 2015’s House Bill 1267, which allows those on probation and parole to access medical marijuana, as “causing all kinds of problems” during her time as medical director for the Circle Program at the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo.

“The people (on probation or parole) that were using their medical marijuana card, they were really difficult to work with,” she added. “They would be coming in basically high at the time of admission and it took months for that to clear out of their system.”

Rather than repealing that bill, Stuyt said she would prefer to see an overall potency limit.

But that recommendation was met with skepticism.

Rep. Judy Amabile, D-Boulder, noted it would be hard to monitor for those on probation or parole.

“You wouldn't know if somebody took a 90% THC or a 5% THC when you do the testing ... they just have a positive test,” she said. “It seems to me like you would have to say people who are on probation or parole, just like they can't drink alcohol, they can't use cannabis. That seems to me that would be the only way to do it.”

Rep. Adrienne Benavidez, a Denver Democrat who chairs the oversight committee, also indicated Stuyt’s request for the cap to apply to all Colorado citizens with a medical marijuana card was likely too broad to fit within the committee’s purview, which is focused on the intersection of mental and behavioral health and the criminal justice system.

“I know the challenges if we bring a bill from this committee, what we're going to face with getting it just through the Legislative Council,” she said. That panel of legislative leaders from both parties and chambers is in part tasked with reviewing legislation crafted by interim committees to ensure it fits within the committee's charge.

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