Key Colorado House panel advances bill that would spur marijuana capital investment

A key Colorado House panel on Monday unanimously advanced a bill that would open up the state’s $1.5 billion-a-year recreational and medical marijuana industry to new sources of public and private capital.

The House Finance Committee sent the measure to the House Appropriations Committee.

“The lack of investment opportunity is the single-biggest burden we have,” Shannon Fender, director of public affairs of Native Roots, one of Colorado’s largest marijuana operators, said at the committee’s public hearing.

Current law prohibits publicly traded companies from holding a Colorado marijuana license and limits out-of-state owners to 15 people.

The bill would enable regulated publicly held companies and private investment firms to participate fully in Colorado’s market, yet be subject to strict disclosure and reporting requirements.

A number of industry officials spoke in support of the bill, saying greater investment flexibility is critical to attracting the capital necessary for growth and keeping Colorado’s cannabis industry competitive in terms of product development, employee benefits and more.

Lawmakers passed a similar bill last year, but then-Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, vetoed it.

New Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat who has portrayed himself as a champion of marijuana issues, has indicated he likes the new measure, according to Democratic Rep. Matt Gray, one of the bill’s co-sponsors.

Some lawmakers expressed concerns about the ability of state regulators to issue rules in time to meet the tight Nov. 1 implementation date.

Committee members adopted an amendment to the bill that would seek to address social equity issues in Colorado’s cannabis industry, including increasing opportunities for minority- and women-owned businesses.

Jeff Smith can be reached at [email protected]

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