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.
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.
Colorado lawmakers stood the state's current model for marijuana businesses on its head, endorsing a proposal that would allow recreational pot stores and commercial growers to operate independently. Currently, medical-marijuana businesses in Colorado are vertically integrated, meaning growers and sellers are part of the same company and the stores grow most of what they sell. But, at the final meeting of a legislative committee writing a bill for recreational marijuana rules, lawmakers backed a proposed model where growers and sellers would be separate. (See also: Denver Mayor Michael Hancock: Pot should be phased in; no pot clubs)
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.
State regulators charged with watching over Colorado's medical marijuana industry have fallen short on everything from tracking inventory and managing their budget to keeping potential bad actors out of the business, a state audit found. Often lauded as a national model, Colorado's so-called seed-to-sale system of regulating medical marijuana does not exist, auditors found.
The technology was supposed to efficiently track medical marijuana from seed to sale — the catch-phrase that came to define Colorado's efforts to regulate what had been an outlaw business. Field investigators could walk into any dispensary or grow operation and with a digital reader instantly collect data from tags attached to everything from newly potted plants to pot-infused lollipops in a regulatory system often held up as a national model and serving as the foundation for how the state will regulate recreational pot legalized by Amendment 64. (See also: Medical marijuana's unrealized regulatory goals)
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.
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.
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.
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.
The United States must not turn a blind eye to the recreational use of cannabis in states that liberalize drug laws, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) said, urging the country to live up to its treaty commitments. Raymond Yans, president of the INCB, said assurances from the U.S. government in December that growing, selling or possessing the drug remained illegal under federal law were "good, but insufficient".
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)
In the summer of 2010, after legislators passed a law legitimizing dispensaries, there were 1,117 medical-marijuana businesses in Colorado. By the end of that year, as a "green rush" of cannabis entrepreneurs reached its apex, the total ticked up to 1,131. Today, there are 675. In terms of sheer numbers, Colorado's medical-marijuana industry has shrunk by more than 40 percent.
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.
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)
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 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.
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.
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)