The governor of Colorado signed an executive order that ensures individuals with prior cannabis-related convictions will no longer be denied a professional license on that basis. This order has effect whether the conviction took place in Colorado or another state.
The text of the order – Executive Order 34: Protecting Colorado’s Workforce and Expanding Licensing Opportunities) – states that “[No] one who lawfully consumes, possesses, cultivates or processes marijuana pursuant to Colorado law should be subject to professional sanctions or denied a professional license in Colorado. This includes individuals who consume, possess, cultivate or process marijuana in another state in a manner that would be legal in Colorado.”
A low-level cannabis possession conviction in a prohibition state would not, therefore, prevent an individual from obtaining a professional license in for example, education or legal services.
The order, signed by Gov. Jared Polis (D), instructs Colorado’s Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) and the Department of Revenue (DOR) to “promulgate and issue rules as necessary to ensure that no person shall be subject to disciplinary action against a professional license or disqualified from professional licensure for any civil or criminal judgment, discipline or other sanction threatened or imposed under the laws of another state regarding consumption, possession, cultivation or processing of marijuana so long as the actions are lawful and consistent with professional conduct and standards of care within the state of Colorado.”
DORA is responsible for regulating professional licensing across more than 50 sectors comprising more than 1 million Colorado residents.
The other aspect of the order prevents Colorado state agencies from providing “information or data, or expend time, money, facilities, property, equipment, personnel or other resources to assist or further any investigation or proceeding initiated in or by another state that seeks to impose sanctions upon a person’s professional license for the lawful consumption, possession, cultivation or processing of marijuana in Colorado.”
Polis said the purpose of the order is to ensure that qualified individuals are not deterred from seeking work in Colorado due to a past marijuana conviction. He argues this is necessary to combat the state’s workforce shortage.
“Employers are having difficulty recruiting and retaining qualified employees, many of whom need professional licenses,” Polis said. “The exclusion of people from the workforce because of marijuana-related activities that are lawful in Colorado, but illegal in other states, hinders our economy and our state.”
Colorado was one of the first states in the US to legalize adult-use marijuana, and it has raked in more than $2 billion in tax revenues since the legal cannabis market launched.
Nonetheless, Polis has consistently sought to overhaul Colorado’s marijuana laws to promote further criminal justice reform and increase consumer safety.