- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 9, 2016

A marijuana potency measure in Colorado that would prohibit legal pot shops from selling certain strains of weed was withdrawn Friday over what its proponents called a “wall of money” courtesy of the cannabis industry.

The measure, Initiative 139, would have limited the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, contained in products sold by Colorado’s several hundred legal marijuana retailers, preventing customers from purchasing anything containing more than 16 percent of the plant’s high-inducing ingredient.

Citing a well-funded opposition campaign, backers Friday said they’d abandon efforts to put the initiative on the November ballot.

“We simply couldn’t go toe-to-toe with the marijuana moguls who committed tens of millions to defeat our common-sense controls on the sale of recreational marijuana,” initiative supporter Ali Pruitt of the Healthy Colorado Coalition said in a statement. “The marijuana industry built a wall of money between us and the November ballot that we simply couldn’t break through.”

“The Marijuana Moguls put a pile of campaign cash on the table and won. Our kids, and our communities are in crisis, for now,” added Ron Castagno, a former Jefferson County high school principal and supporter of the abandoned initiative.

The Colorado Health Research Council (CHRC), a pro-marijuana group that opposed the measure, claimed the amendment “would have devastating unintended consequences to the citizens and economy of Colorado” if passed, including instantly making illegal the vast majority of products sold within the state.

Within days of forming last month, the CHRC raised more than $300,000 to fund their opposition efforts, The Denver Post’s Cannabist reported.

Another group, the Cannabis Business Alliance, said approval “would have crippled Colorado’s fledging Cannabis industry and pushed supply to the black market causing a loss in jobs and tax revenue.”

“Bearing in mind roughly 80 percent of the state’s lawfully retailed cannabis products would be deemed illegal, Initiative 139 would have forced most cannabis companies to shut down overnight,” the group told Denver Westwood this weekend.

Colorado’s first-in-the-country legal marijuana industry generated nearly $1 billion in 2015, two market research groups concluded previously. As of June 1, the state has approved retail licenses for 435 dispensaries. 

In addition to setting limits on product potency, the initiative would have mandated child-resistant packaging for pot products and warning labels, as well as impose new rules on how edibles are packaged for customers.

Its supporters had proposed mandatory labels warning of health risks include “permanent loss of brain abilities” and “birth defects and reduced brain development.” The CHRC countered, citing “a lack of scientific evidence that cannabis products containing more than 16 percent THC are harmful for the brain and body.”

“It’s going to put fake science or unscientific claims into Colorado state laws,” insisted Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project. “These claims are utterly undocumented and fraught with errors,” he told Westwood.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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