Among the roughly 500 bills Gov. Jared Polis signed into law in 2021, 14 go into effect on New Years Day.
They concern a wide range of people and topics, from marijuana purchasing to driving rights for the poor to legal recourse for victims of child sex abuse.
Here’s a look at some of the most impactful new Colorado laws as of Jan. 1, 2022:
Driver’s license suspensions
In July, Colorado became the 16th state to ban driver’s license suspensions for people who have outstanding court debt. The law, HB21-1314, is in part a result of Denver Post reporting and it means that tens of thousands of Coloradans can win back their driving privileges. These are people whose driving rights were taken away not for dangerous traffic offenses, but because they owed a court money for something unrelated to driving.
Not being able to drive means limitations on how to legally get to work or perform other essential functions, which for years has left people with suspended licenses with a difficult choice: confine your social, familial and employment prospects by never driving a vehicle, or break the law and drive anyway, risking further punishment. Colorado State Patrol was among those pushing for the new law, arguing that so many people choose the latter option that it fills the state roadways with uninsured, unauthorized motorists.
HB21-1317 represented Colorado’s most significant regulatory overhaul in the cannabis space since legalization nearly a decade ago.
As of Jan. 1, the state will limit daily purchases to two ounces of flower and eight grams of concentrate such as wax and shatter for medical marijuana patients. The concentrate limit goes down to two grams per day for medical patients between the ages of 18 and 20. The previous daily concentrate purchase limit for medical patients was 40 grams.
The law was heavily workshopped throughout the past session, but in the end it was supported by almost the entire legislature. The bill resulted largely from advocacy by parents who claimed their children had suffered — profoundly, in some cases — from abuse of high-potency concentrated marijuana products that are gaining in popularity. The changes brought by this law primarily affect medical marijuana patients.
Exceptions to the new limits apply only to a patient whose doctor affirms in writing that the patient has a physical or geographic hardship that should allow them to exceed the daily purchase limits, and that the patient has designated a store as the primary place they get their medicine.
Dispensaries must also now provide an educational resource in the form of an 8-inch by 11-inch paper pamphlet to customers at the point of sale of a concentrate. This pamphlet must include a black dot, smaller than a fingernail, displaying the state’s recommended serving size for concentrates. It will also feature advice on how to safely consume and a list of negative conditions the state declares can result from the use of marijuana concentrate
Child sex abuse
People who were sexually abused in Colorado when they were children can, as of Jan. 1, sue the institutions that hid the abuse or did nothing to stop it. That’s the result of SB21-88, which applies to people, not just those living in the state, who were abused within government entities, schools and private institutions. The law caps how much victims can get from the lawsuit at $1 million from private entities and $387,000 from governmental entities.
SB21-73 is a companion law also going into effect in the new year that removes the statute of limitations for child sex abuse lawsuits, but it does not apply retroactively. Previously, survivors had only six years after they turned 18 to sue their abusers.
At the time of the bill signing for SB21-88, sponsor and state Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, a Commerce City Democrat and abuse survivor, said: “Obviously you can really not ever put closure on sexual abuse that happened to you as a child — I think that that stays with you. However, if we can give them their day in court, their time to build some type of resolution, I think we’ll be doing something really important for the survivor community.”
Solitary confinement in jails
HB21-1211 is meant to cut down on so-called “restrictive housing” in jails. That’s another term for solitary confinement, which Colorado’s former Department of Corrections chief — among many other critics — said amounts to torture. The bulk of this bill goes into effect July 1, 2022, but a key provision concerning data collection starts Jan. 1.
Every county jail will have to keep and maintain a record of every instance in which someone was placed into solitary confinement. The record must include demographic data, including race and gender, plus an accounting of the inmate’s health conditions, length of stay in solitary confinement and reason for having been placed there.
Then, in July, it will become illegal for any county jail with a capacity of at least 400 beds to place someone in solitary confinement against their will, if they have any of a list of existing physical or mental health conditions. That will limit the number of people placed in solitary confinement in Colorado jails, but the law is nothing close to the outright ban many reform-minded advocates seek.
Subscribers’ bill of rights
Let’s say you’ve just subscribed to an online service — a paid dating app or Hulu, say — for a free trial or for a cheap limited-time deal. You forget about the auto-renewal provision of whatever subscription you’ve just agreed to, and you’re alarmed to find you’re paying $10 or $20 a month for something you never meant to commit to in that way.
Colorado lawmakers created a new law they hope will make it easier for people to avoid that scenario.
Under HB21-1239, online and in-person paid dating services would be required to provide a three-day cancelation window for members. Services with automatic-renewal contracts would have to tell you before a renewal or price increase takes effect.
This law also aims to protect people who don’t actively desire to cancel services they don’t need or can’t afford, but who may have no idea they’re still being charged. Affected service providers can’t require payment for more than two years, which means if you forget about that charge for a Netflix subscription you don’t use, at least you’ll only pay for it for a limited amount of time — assuming the new law works as intended.
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