State of the Leaf: Colorado Bans Co-ops, May Shelter Cannabis From Feds

Published on April 12, 2017 · Last updated July 28, 2020
I-70 winds around the famous ski village of Vail, Colorado. The village was established and built as the base village to Vail Ski Resort, with which it was originally conceived and is the third largest ski mountain in North America. Vail attracts wealthy visitors, many of whom, who build and purchase vacation homes and condominiums near the ski slopes. Light trails appear as cars move across I-70 during the long exposure. Taken in Vail, Colorado at sunset in early October.

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Given the state’s early embrace of legalization, it makes sense that Colorado would eventually export its industry know-how to the rest of the nation. By offering financing and “mini-MBA” mentoring to cannabis startups, a Boulder firm called Canopy advertises the chance for ganjapreneurs learn from Colorado’s triumphs and miscues.

Meanwhile, a bill to prohibit cannabis co-ops in the state is on Gov. John Hickenlooper’s desk, awaiting his likely signature. This sucks. Co-ops are designed so small-scale cannabis growers can share operating costs for things like utilities and fertilizer. Regulators, however, worry co-ops make it too easy to divert legally grown cannabis to illegal or out-of-state markets.

Colorado’s Republican-controlled House also passed a bill to allow cannabis growers and retailers to reclassify adult-use products as medical marijuana in the event of a federal crackdown. The bill is seen as the boldest bid yet by a legal-cannabis state to avoid federal intervention. It now heads to the Democrat-led House.


US Reps. Darren Soto (D-FL) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL) have introduced a congressional bill, House Resolution 2020, which would reschedule cannabis under the federal Controlled Substances Act, moving the plant from Schedule I to Schedule III.

While Soto and Gaetz occupy opposite wings of the political spectrum, they share one telling trait: youth. Gaetz is 34 and Soto just turned 40, suggesting the shift toward reform is more generational than political.

Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers in Tallahassee are “bungling” the state’s medical cannabis program, critics say. Newspaper editorial boards have decried the Legislature’s inability to enact the will of 71% of Florida voters who legalized medical cannabis last November.

How bad is it?

“It’s been a train wreck so far,” writes the Miami News Times.


The pro-legalization advocacy group Coalition for a Safer Illinios organization made its debut amid a flurry of editorial board praise for legalization.

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The new coalition brings together clergy, unions, civil rights organizations, and law enforcement in support of cannabis legalization bills sponsored by state Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) and Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago).

According to the Marijuana Policy Project, both the Senate bill, SB 316, and House bill, HB 2353, will get their first hearing in Chicago next week.


Lawmakers advanced a pair of bills to legalize cannabidiol (CBD) oil as a medicine of last resort for individuals with seizure disorders.

The Senate advanced its bill on a 35–13, while the House vote was unanimous in support of the reform. But don’t let the blowout score fool you; the bill is narrow, covering only patients with intractable seizure disorders.

“I don’t like it and I think it’s a mess,” state Sen. Karen Tallian (D-Portage) said during the Senate debate, adding, “I am going to vote yes anyway because it’s the only mess around.”

Polls suggest 3 in 4 Hoosiers support medical marijuana legalization.

If the bill succeeds, all but two US states will have legalized some form of medical cannabis.

“Only Idaho and Kansas will lack either a CBD- or a medical cannabis law,” MPP’s Maggie Ellinger-Locke told Leafly, “but these [Indiana] bills are incredibly limited. And it will be interesting to see how they are reconciled in conference committee.”


Selling cannabis remains a crime in Maine despite a successful legalization referendum last November. But as Maine regulators work to get the state’s adult cannabis program up and running, a legal and economic gray area is emerging. Gifting cannabis is permitted in the state, creating a kind of commercial loophole that incentivizes entrepreneurs to creatively push the current legal boundaries to meet demand.


As the clock wound down on this year’s legislative session, Maryland lawmakers failed to add additional grow licenses to the state’s medical cannabis program.

“The House had sought to increase the licenses by five, to boost minority-owned businesses after a disparity study,” the Associated Press reported. “The Senate had pushed for seven more licenses, to help settle lawsuits filed by two companies that were bumped out of the top 15 chosen by a state commission to be finalists.”

Members of the Black Legislative Caucus of Maryland are calling for a special session after the bill, designed to create diversity ownership in the state’s developing medical marijuana industry, failed to pass in the session’s closing minutes.

Despite the missed deadline, Maryland is making progress on other fronts. Now four years after the law passed, Maryland patients and caregivers can finally register for medical marijuana ID cards.

“We have taken the next step in making Maryland’s long-awaited medical cannabis program a reality” Candace Junkin, longtime advocate from southern Maryland, told Leafly. “Dispensaries are expected to open this summer, so it’s important to get a doctor’s recommendation and register with the state now.”


In a thrilling result out of the nation’s heartland, Kansas City voters overwhelmingly chose to relax cannabis penalties in Missouri’s largest city. Small amounts of cannabis will now fetch a $25 fine. No jail time. Roughly 75% of voters chose reform, an absolute blowout.

NORML Executive Director Erik X. Altieri told Leafly that Tuesday’s astonishing win came “thanks to the efforts of concerned citizens actively engaging in the democratic process and pushing to change an unjust law.”

“Kansas City will no longer arrest otherwise law abiding citizens for the simple possession of marijuana,” he added, “and in the process the city will free up law enforcement resources to better focus on combatting violent crime.”


Clark County, where Las Vegas is located, is home to nearly 80% of Nevada’s 2.7 million residents. With the county now back on track to allow dispensaries to open by July 1, pretty soon you can add adult-use cannabis to your Las Vegas adventure—sort of. Smoking at casinos (or anywhere with gambling) will initially be prohibited.


Top Senate lawmakers in Vermont say passing a marijuana legalization bill is becoming exceedingly unlikely, the Associated Press reports. The Vermont House is still debating its version of a legalization bill, which would legalize personal cannabis use, possession, and cultivation. Just over three weeks remain in the legislative session, and Senate lawmakers expected the bill to get to them weeks ago.

Senate leaders also say the House bill would continue to allow for a black market, and they favor a law that would tax and regulate sales of the plant. A 2016 Senate measure that proposed a legal marijuana market died in the House last year.

Vermont’s constitution disallows referendums, thwarting another avenue to legalize marijuana as other states have done.


Virginia will soon begin studying the merits of cannabis decriminalization. Ten years ago, this would have been a big deal, especially down south. But in 2017, merely setting up a study feels a bit limp.

“One step at a time. We’ll chalk this one up for a win,” Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam tweeted after the news broke.

Maybe he’s right. A baby step forward is still progress. And this latest push in Richmond is a bipartisan one.

According to many on the front lines of reform efforts, the small step was essential for the process to advance.

“The Virginia State Crime Commission Decriminalization Study is an important procedural step in Virginia politics,” VA NORML’s Daniel Rouleau told Leafly.  “The study can be used to provide political cover for lawmakers unwilling to personally endorse marijuana reform, and provide pro-reform politicians the facts needed to persuade unconvinced colleagues of the need for decriminalization.

“Support for marijuana-related criminal justice reform is building in the General Assembly,” Rouleau continued, “but official findings from this study will likely push the legislature to adopt decriminalization. This policy change would not only help adult who personally use marijuana, but Virginia patients seeking effective medical marijuana treatments.”

West Virginia

A bill to legalize medical cannabis is sitting on Democratic Gov. Jim Justice’s desk, and he’s widely expected to sign it.

While the bill boasts a generous list of qualifying conditions, it does not include a home-grow provision. Nor are smokable flowers permitted. Likewise, West Virginia will have no reciprocal arrangement with other medical marijuana states.

International News


Legislation to legalize adult-use cannabis in Canada is set to land this week, giving shape to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s pledge to legalize the plant nationally. In an expedited schedule, Canada’s Liberal government has vowed to legalize cannabis “on or before July 1, 2018.”


Ireland wants to generate revenue without raising taxes, and some think legal cannabis could help. It’s promising news in a nation still clawing its way back from a devastating economic recession.

Some, of course are still resistant to change—including one especially outspoken politician, Kate O’Connell from the ruling Fine Gael party. O’Connell, a pharmacist by trade, calls efforts to reform Ireland’s marijuana laws a “madness … verging on the immoral.”


The South American country of Uruguay made news when it legalized cannabis in December 2013—the first country ever to fully legalize the plant. After a drawn-out regulatory process, sales are finally set to begin in July. But not for tourists. This program is for Uruguayan citizens only—for now, at least.

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Jay Lassiter
Jay Lassiter
Jay has been covering New Jersey politics since 2005, when he founded a political journalism site and became the first credentialed statehouse blogger in America. He currently reports on politics for Leafly and the New York Observer.
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