Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed legislation May 29, repealing the provision prohibiting publicly traded corporations from holding marijuana licenses. The bill Polis signed into law, House Bill 1090, passed the House by a vote of 54-11 and passed the Senate 27-7. The legislation also served to open the state’s industry to outside investors.
Some of Colorado’s largest cannabis companies lobbied legislators for support of the bill. One company, Beyond Broadway LLC, spent more than $20,000 on lobbyists in 2019 and another, Medicine Man, spent $18,000. On the flip side, several city governments, including Colorado Springs, paid lobbyists to monitor the bill’s progress without taking a position on the measure.
The change in the law is anticipated to pave the way for bringing new products to Colorado from companies that had, prior to the legislation, avoided doing business in the state. In Colorado, publicly traded cannabis companies were allowed to operate but were limited on their ability to hold state licenses, resulting in a confusing tangle of who-owns-what.
Some expect that the new law will accelerate the consolidation of independently owned cannabis stores as large national chains with deep pockets buy out the small retailers. For example, once the bill passed, Medicine Man Technologies, which is a publicly traded cannabis firm based in Denver, announced plans to purchase two other companies: MedPharm Holdings and Medicine Man Denver. “This is a monumental time for us, and we believe the growth potential is both substantial and compelling,” said Andy Williams, CEO of Medicine Man Technologies, in a press release.
Despite the rounds of applause from the cannabis-industry players, the bill had some detractors. Jeff Hunt, director of Centennial Institute, Colorado Christian University’s think tank, likened the scenario to Big Tobacco, predicting public health problems and addiction issues. All votes against the bill came from Republicans.