The success of legalization initiatives in Colorado and Washington has sparked a new conversation in a nation that is one of the world's top marijuana growers: Should Mexico, which has suffered mightily in its war against the deadly drug cartels, follow the Western states' lead? Mexico's new president, Enrique Peña Nieto,opposes legalization, but he also told CNN that the news from Washington and Colorado "could bring us to rethinking the strategy."
Vigorous regulation of a thriving medical-marijuana industry in Colorado offers the best glimpse of what is coming to Washington when it launches its voter-approved social-use market. With continuous surveillance, bar-coded plants and strict financial background checks, Colorado's rules allowed capitalism to be unleased, creating an instant $200 million industry. With retail prices — averagingabout $7.50 a gram — among the cheapest in the country.
The cry of "states' rights" is not often associated with progressive causes, but with the "war on drugs" comprehensively declared a $1tn failure by the Global Commission on Drug Policy, the call has reason and justice on its side. Will the feds carry their fight against the voices expressing popular will from California to Colorado, Washington State and beyond? Or will the White House temper its approach with respect for local democracy?
Hawaii could join Colorado and Washington as states that have legalized the use of marijuana by adults, under a measure introduced by state House Speaker Joe Souki. House Bill 150, known as the Personal Use of Marijuana Act, would allow adults 21 years of age and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and to cultivate a limited number of marijuana plants in a secure and locked location. It also would allow for licensed and regulated marijuana retail stores, as well as licensed facilities to cultivate, manufacture and test marijuana. (Related story: Hawaii residents support legalizing marijuana, survey finds)
While it seems unlikely that the federal government will make much of an effort to arrest pot users in Colorado or Washington—Obama has said he has “bigger fish to fry”— the tension between federal and state laws on marijuana remains. Just last week, an appeals court rejected a suit that sought to lower the classification of medical marijuana under federal drug laws. Justice Louis Brandeis once said that the states should function as “laboratories,” testing new ideas for possible adoption by the whole nation.
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.
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.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder declined to reveal the Obama administration’s long-awaited policy on legal recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington at a Senate committee hearing. Holder said he’d had “good conversations” with elected leaders in those states, including Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson. “We expect our ability to announce a policy relatively soon,” Holder said. (See also: Four months after marijuana legalization vote, feds remain mum)
A Seattle city official has poured cold water on Co enhagen's idea of importing cannabis from the US. One of the elements of the city's proposal to legalise cannabis on a three-year trial basis is to explore the possibility of importing cannabis from the US states of Washington and Colorado. A spokeswoman for Seattle's city attorney Pete Holmes said that Washington state law would prohibit exporting cannabis.
A citizens' group opposed to a large-scale recreational marijuana industry in Colorado has hired two powerhouse lobbyists in preparation for the state legislature's coming pot fight. Smart Colorado formed as a nonprofit group within the last weeks, group leader Doug Robinson said. They have hired former congressional candidate Mike Feeley and longtime Capitol lobbyist Sandra Hagen Solin to represent it as legislators write the laws for the forthcoming recreational marijuana industry.
An ad-hoc committee of 10 House and Senate members started work reviewing 165 pages of recommended regulations from a task force that worked for more than three months to suggest rules for the newly legal drug. The suggested rules cover the entire product cycle of pot—from how marijuana should be grown and labeled to how to tax the drug and spend the proceeds. The 10 lawmakers on the House-Senate pot committee will ultimately suggest a bill for the full Legislature.
Colorado lawmakers yanked and tugged at the threads of the state's proposals for regulating recreational marijuana, as one legislator hinted to his colleagues that pulling too hard could unravel the whole thing. At its second meeting, the legislature's joint marijuana committee returned again to the question of how to structure the marijuana stores that Colorado voters authorized in November.
Colorado's under-construction plan for regulating recreational marijuana nearly came unglued when lawmakers questioned whether the agency that would enforce the rules is up to the task. The plan called for the state's Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division — which regulates medical-marijuana businesses — to transition to the Marijuana Enforcement Division and be in charge of all pot enterprises in the state. But a scathing audit cast doubt on the division's fitness for handling the massive job.
Tens of thousands of people will attend Saturday's "4/20" rally in Denver, creating perhaps the largest collectively produced cloud of marijuana smoke ever at 4:20 p.m. But Lopez doesn't view this year's event as a celebration of Amendment 64, the pro-pot measure that voters passed in November. Instead, it is as much a protest against the measure. "It is still only a legislative act to create an economy and not to end a war that has destroyed thousands of lives." The people behind Amendment 64, likewise, are holding the rally at arm's length.
Lawmakers introduced a long-awaited bill of proposed regulations for recreational marijuana, moving Colorado one step closer to a legal pot marketplace. The 57-page bill — House Bill 1317 — contains most of the ideas endorsed by a special legislative committee for how recreational marijuana businesses should operate and be structured. A second bill, House Bill 1318, lays out a proposed tax structure for marijuana that voters would be asked to approve.