Gov. Vetoes Tasting Rooms; Schools Can Now Administer Medical Marijuana

<p>(Hart Van Denburg/CPR News)</p>
<p><span style="color: rgb(64, 69, 64);">Gov. John </span>Hickenlooper in his<span style="color: rgb(64, 69, 64);"> </span><span style="color: rgb(64, 69, 64);">office</span><span style="color: rgb(64, 69, 64);"> on Monday, Nov. 27. 2017.</span></p>
Photo: Gov. John Hickenlooper in his office Nov. 27. 2017
Gov. John Hickenlooper in his office on Monday, Nov. 27. 2017.

School nurses will be able to administer medical marijuana to students, under a bill signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper on Monday. But cannabis tasting rooms won't be opening in Colorado anytime soon after the governor vetoed a measure that would have allowed such businesses.

Students seeking access to medical marijuana will have to have an official red card from the state. Parents will supply the doses to school nurses.

In a signing statement with HB 18-1286, Hickenlooper said he was convinced of the bill's importance after hearing from parents of children who rely on marijuana, and appreciates that the policy is voluntary -- school personnel are not required to administer marijuana if they object.

The question of tasting rooms, HB 18-1258, was another matter altogether for the governor.

Under that bill, existing marijuana sellers would have been able to open spaces for limited consumption, such as vaping and single use edibles. There would have been separate entrances and exits from the store, and consumers would have received information on safe consumption.

In a letter accompanying the veto, Hickenlooper said he was concerned about impaired driving, citing informal surveys with drivers who said they didn’t view marijuana consumption as particularly dangerous.

He also cited the potential health risks of vaping in confined spaces. Hickenlooper acknowledged that vaping was different than smoking, but he said there was compelling research that vaping also carried second hand inhalation risks. The American Lung Association opposed the bill.

“Since Colorado approved Amendment 64 in 2012, this administration implemented a robust regulatory system to carry out the intent of this voter-initiated measure,” Hickenlooper said in the veto letter. “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 was also concerned about the way that this could “normalize” marijuana use.

“We may agree with the proponents’ goals to protect the public and children; however, we strongly disagree that this bill is the correct path to achieve those goals,” wrote Hickenlooper.

Proponents say that cannabis use is happening on the streets and sidewalks of cities across the state, and they viewed this bill as a conservative way forward. To secure the governor’s signature, they said they made concessions in the bill at the request of his office.

“Hickenlooper has repeatedly called for stringent cannabis regulations," said Peter Marcus, a spokesperson for Terrapin Care Station who had worked on the bill. "But when told by state and local cannabis regulators that a consumption model could be helpful, Hickenlooper rejected their insights."