Marijuana businesses threaten to leave Colorado after governor’s vetoes

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Marijuana industry and patient advocates joined state legislators at a news conference Thursday to condemn Gov. John Hickenlooper for vetoing three marijuana-related bills in the past week in a state that saw $1.5 billion in medical and retail marijuana sales in 2017, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue.

Bruce Nassau, board chairman of the Marijuana Industry Group, said the veto of House Bill 1011 is especially troubling for the industry.

“I have spoken with, I would say, three or four different organizations, a couple of whom have indicated a consideration to leave the state because of the now lack of availability of public capital,” Nassau said.

If passed, HB 1011 would have allowed for publicly traded entities to hold a marijuana license. It also would have created other measures that would allow for increased capital infusions into the industry.

“It’s what’s needed, not just in cannabis, but in any growing business and here we’ve been cut off,” Nassau said.

Andy Williams, chief executive of Denver-based grower and dispensary Medicine Man, said Hickenlooper’s veto of that bill in particular troubled him.

“The jobs and revenue would have been a tremendous boost to our economy,” Williams said in a statement. “As it is now, Gov. Hickenlooper has opened the door to other states to take that lead from us​. I will most assuredly be looking to move my headquarters to a state that welcomes our industry.”

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Colorado Leads, a cannabis business alliance of more than 50 Colorado companies, also denounced the veto.

“The Governor’s disappointing veto not only jeopardizes tens of thousands of jobs but also shows a true lack of respect for the professionals that worked tirelessly during his term to build the safest and most respected cannabis industry in the country,” Chuck SmithColorado Leads Board President and CEO of Dixie Brands, Inc., said in a statement.

Colorado was recently ranked the best state in the country to start a marijuana business.

Hickenlooper said he was concerned the bill would run foul of state and federal regulations.

“While we wish to encourage business opportunity, we must approach capital expansion in the market in a way that is consistent with our federal oversight, and not degrade the robust regulatory system that Colorado worked so hard to establish,” Hickenlooper wrote in the veto letter.

Marijuana industry leaders also denounced Hickenlooper’s decision to veto House Bill 1258, which would have legalized public cannabis tasting rooms.

“Since Day 1, John Hickenlooper, who made a small fortune selling alcohol in social venues, has treated adult cannabis consumers like second-class citizens,” Mason Tvert, a partner at cannabis consulting firm VS Strategies and co-director of the 2012 Amendment 64 campaign to legalize adult-use marijuana, said.

Hickenlooper wrote in his veto letter that the bill was incompatible with Amendment 64.

“Amendment 64 is clear: marijuana consumption may not be conducted ‘openly’ or ‘publicly’ on ‘in a manner that endangers others.’ We find that HB 18-1258 directly conflicts with this constitutional requirement,” Hickenlooper wrote.

Hickenlooper also vetoed House Bill 1263, which would have allowed the use of medical marijuana to treat autism spectrum disorders in children.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Polis is the only candidate for government that has responded to the vetoes.

“I hope to see these thoughtful, bipartisan bills to help Coloradans with autism and grow our economy reintroduced in the next legislative session,” Polis said in a news release. “If they are, and if I’m governor when that happens, I will gladly sign them into law.”

By: Monica Vendituoli, Biz Journals

 

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