The Denver City Council will vote in April on whether the state's largest city will opt out of licensing recreational marijuana sales — a move that could dramatically affect legalization efforts in Colorado. City leaders are wrestling with how to implement Amendment 64, which legalized recreational use and possession, cultivation and distribution of limited quantities of marijuana.
Marijuana may be coming out of the black market in Colorado and Washington state, but the drug, at least for now, will retain a decidedly underground feel: Users may not know what's in it. Less than a year away from allowing pot sales, regulators are grappling with how to ensure that the nation's first legal marijuana industry will grow weed that delivers only the effects that pot smokers want.
Members of a task force proposing regulations for recreational marijuana in Colorado approved recommendations that would allow for marijuana tourism but block out-of-state pot shop owners. The Amendment 64 Implementation Task Force voted to allow people from outside of Colorado to shop in forthcoming retail marijuana stores, though the amount they could purchase at any one store would be limited. (See also: Pot tourism in Colo.? Marijuana regulators OK idea)
Colorado's Amendment 64 Implementation Task Force is wading through the weeds of marijuana legalization, creating regulations to take pot from the shadows out into the open. In the wake of the decision by voters in Colorado last November to legalize recreational marijuana for adults, the question of how to integrate legal pot into the practical bureaucratic realities has fallen on two dozen Coloradans. By the end of the month, the Task Force must submit a report to the Colorado Legislature that lays out its suggestions for how the state should regulate legal marijuana.
The cannabis industry is an easy target for legislatures to saddle with heavy taxes. In Washington State for instance, there is a 25% tax at three different stages of cannabis production: from the grower to the processor, from the processor to the retailer, and the retailer to the customer. These taxes are in addition to any other state or local sales taxes that might apply. Oregon Representative Earl Blumenauer, for instance, has introduced marijuana reform legislation that would enact a 50% excise tax on production.
Rules for Colorado's recreational-marijuana industry have begun to take shape after a marathon meeting of the Amendment 64 Implementation Task Force, which recommended marijuana purchasing caps. Adults over 21 in Colorado are allowed up to an ounce of weed, but the task force recommended that a single transaction at a pot shop be capped at a lower amount. Regulators did not agree what the smaller cap should be, punting that decision to the state Legislature, which will decide on Colorado's marijuana rules. (See also: Colorado task force says marijuana should be in child-proof packages)
The Amendment 64 Implementation Task Force regulators are working out the details of exactly how to tax legalized marijuana, so the benefits are shared statewide in the form of increased revenue. The task force meets Thursday to draft final recommendations based on the voter-approved marijuana legalization question that asked for excise taxes up to 15 percent to fund school construction. Besides schools, the taxes must fund marijuana safety enforcement and drug education measures. (See also: Tax, legal issues on tap at last Colorado marijuana task force meeting)
What Colorado will look like with legal marijuana became significantly clearer when the state task force proposing rules for that new world finished its work. Under proposals endorsed by the Amendment 64 Implementation Task Force, recreational marijuana in Colorado would be heavily taxed. It would be grown only indoors. It would not be allowed to be smoked at bars, restaurants or even social clubs.