Colorado Lawmakers Set Taxes And Rules For Marijuana Sales
Colorado is set to become the first U.S. state to regulate and tax sales of recreational marijuana, after lawmakers approved several bills that set business standards and rules. Legislators expect enforcement of the rules to be paid for by two taxes on marijuana — a 15 percent excise tax, and a 10 percent sales tax.
Other measures included in the package set limits on how much marijuana visitors to Colorado can buy (a quarter of an ounce), as well as a limit on how many cannabis plants a private citizen can grow (six).
Gov. John Hickenlooper has indicated he will sign the legislation, according to Colorado voters first approved the legalization of pot for recreational use by people over age 21 in a ballot initiative last November.
Voters adopted a similar measure in Washington state, where plans for regulation and taxation are still being formed.
"The first legal marijuana should be on sale in Washington in March 2014," reports the , "and Colorado will have its cannabis stores open as soon as Jan. 1."
Like all new Colorado taxes, voters must approve the new taxation system in a ballot initiative this autumn.
Other states are already taxing pot, but those levies cover medical marijuana. California reportedly raises more than $100 million a year on such sales.
The Colorado legislation adopted Wednesday also includes a requirement that "pot must be sold in child-resistant packages with labels that specify potency," . "Edible marijuana products will have serving-size limits."
Haggling Continues Over Marijuana Testing, Magazines
May 4, 2013 4:00 PM
DENVER (CBS4) – Time running is out for the new marijuana rules. Colorado senators scrambled Friday to advance a sweeping series of regulations and taxes on the newly legal drug.
The Senate Finance Committee approved two measures Friday to tax and regulate pot, but big questions remain before the annual session ends Wednesday.
Senators were haggling over pot testing standards and a proposal to ban the infusion of marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient, THC, into premade foods such as Twinkies and Pop Tarts.
As the marijuana measures advanced, Senate President John Morse told reporters he’s still thinking about pushing a brand-new ballot measure to ask voters whether marijuana legalization should be repealed without accompanying taxes. He told Coloradans to stay tuned.
Consider the simple cookie. It can be made with marijuana, but there’s a limit to how much is too much. And when it comes to minors, another state lawmaker has a new idea for the marketing of marijuana minors might see.
“We’ve seen increases to the emergency room in the last year or so on edibles from children,” said Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver. “We want to make sure that we’re protecting them.”
Pabon has been helping to making marijuana laws for months. Placing a limit of 10 milligrams per serving of THC in something edible has not been controversial and comes with some teeth. Some businesses could be shut down if they sell a cookie that is overloaded with too much THC
“That could be a possible enforcement mechanism, there could be license suspension,” Pabon said.
What is controversial is a late legislative idea requiring the removal of marijuana magazines from store shelves and selling them only from behind the counter, such as pornography.
“The idea is that we need to keep marijuana out of the hands of children; that we don’t want to encourage the use, we want to discourage the use by children,” said Rep. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs.
Gardner is well aware limitations on the placement of a marijuana magazine might violate free speech. But he argues since government can control cigarette sales to minors, why not do the same with marijuana?
“Let me emphasize these publications are not banned, they’re not prohibited, they’re marketing is being controlled,” Gardner said.
Washington, Colorado Allow Recreational Use of Marijuana
Washington will allow those at least 21 years old to buy as much as one ounce (28 grams) of marijuana from a licensed retailer. Colorado’s measure allows possession of an ounce, and permits growing as many as six plants in private, secure areas. Oregon voters rejected a similar measure.
“The voters have spoken and we have to respect their will,” Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper said in a statement. “This will be a complicated process, but we intend to follow through. That said, federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug so don’t break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly.”
Support for marijuana’s recreational use built on measures that allow it for medical purposes in one-third of U.S. states. Previous attempts to legalize pot through ballot measures failed in California, Alaska, Oregon, Colorado and Nevada since 1972, according to the Denver-based National Conference of State Legislatures.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Colorado said federal law was not affected by the vote.
“The Department of Justice’s enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act remains unchanged,” said Jeff Dorschner in a statement. “We are reviewing the ballot initiative and have no additional comment at this time.”
Washington, Colorado and Oregon were among six states with marijuana on their ballots. In Massachusetts, residents approved a measure to allow medical use, while Arkansas voters rejected such a proposal. Medical-marijuana use is already permitted in 17 states and the District of Columbia. In Montana, a proposal to restrict the use of medical marijuana was leading, 57 percent to 43 percent, with 65 percent of ballots counted, the Associated Press said.
“It’s very monumental,” said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, a Washington-based group that advocates legalization. “No state has ever done this. Technically, marijuana isn’t even legal in Amsterdam.”
The approval of recreational pot goes a step beyond its acceptance in medical use. California was the first state to permit medical-marijuana when voters approved it in 1996. Federal prosecutors cracked down on the medical-marijuana industry in California last year, threatening landlords with jail if they didn’t evict the shops.
“Regardless of state laws to the contrary, there is no such thing as ‘medical’ marijuana under federal law,” according to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder released a letter a month before California voters considered a ballot measure to legalize recreational use of marijuana in 2010, saying the Justice Department would “vigorously” enforce federal law. The initiative failed.
A Justice Department spokesman, Dean Boyd, declined to comment yesterday when reached by telephone.
In Washington state, decriminalization and new rules on driving under the influence take effect Dec. 6. The state liquor control board must adopt rules by Dec. 1, 2013 for licensing producers, processors and retailers.
The Washington measure may generate as much as $1.9 billion in revenue over five fiscal years, according to the state’s Office of Financial Management.
No, Mitt Romney will not legalize pot
Romney also was hazy about the future of Colorado’s medical marijuana industry, which reaps more than $5 million a year in state sales taxes, saying his administration would enforce federal drug laws, that prohibit marijuana for any use.
“I oppose marijuana being used for recreational purposes and I believe the federal law should prohibit the recreational use of marijuana,” he said.
But whatever his reason was for singling out “recreational” use in that interview, Romney’s position on pot hasn’t changed.
“Governor Romney has a long record of opposing the use of marijuana for any reason,” a campaign spokesperson said. “He opposes legalizing drugs, including marijuana for medicinal purposes. He will fully enforce the nation’s drug laws, and he will oppose any attempts at legalization.”
In a May interview with a Colorado news station, Romney criticized a similar question. “We’ve got enormous issues we face, but you want to talk about medical marijuana,” he said. But he went on to say that he opposed legalization.
Colorado Marijuana Legalization Proponents Lose Battle Over Deleted Text In State Voter Guide Book
The Huffington Post
On Wednesday, a Denver District Court judge dismissed the lawsuit filed by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol to reinsert key supportive arguments for Colorado's marijuana legalization ballot measure Amendment 64 in the state's voter guide. The Colorado Legislative Council had deleted the text in a hearing last week.
Judge Robert Hyatt dismissed the case because of a jurisdictional issue, not because of the merits of the campaign's case against the Colorado Legislative Council. But, either way, the "Arguments For" marijuana legalization will not appear in the state voter guide, known as the "blue book."
The campaign says that the "Arguments For" Amendment 64 section of of the blue book is now just 208 words following the deletion, whereas the "Arguments Against" section is approximately 366 words -- meaning "Against" has nearly 75 percent more words than the "For" section. "The blue book is supposed to be fair and balanced, and it's safe to say this is quite lopsided and, thus, unfair," the campaign said in a statement.
"This was not a loss for our campaign; this was a loss for the people of Colorado, who will not receive the fair and impartial election information promised to them by our state constitution," Mason Tvert, co-director of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol said in a statement. "No objective person would look at a 366- to 208 word-count disparity and consider it to be 'fair and impartial.'"
"This is just the latest example of government officials skewing information about marijuana and deceiving the public in order to maintain the wasteful policy of marijuana prohibition." Tvert said. "It started with Richard Nixon throwing out the Shafer Commission report, which declared marijuana relatively harmless, and launching the war on marijuana. And now it continues with the Colorado Legislative Council improperly deleting key information from a state voter guide."
Public dismay with the Legislative Council's actions has resulted in more than 4,000 new supporters joining the Yes on 64 campaign's email list in the past 24 hours, the campaign said in a press release about the dismissal of the court case.
To which Tvert added: "We are comforted by the fact that such egregious deception of the pubic will provide further momentum for our campaign. The public doesn't like being deceived and many voters may end up voting for Amendment 64 as a protest vote against a dishonest government."
In an op-ed, The Denver Post agreed with the Amendment 64 proponents, saying that the legislative committee "erred" in their blue book edits. Via The Denver Post:
There's no question that several of the most common arguments made on behalf of it have been edited from the blue book that goes to voters.Worse, the legislative committee that took out the language did so more or less by accident. At least six of its members didn't realize what was happening and later voted unsuccessfully to restore the language.
The blue book was scheduled to go to print Monday, but after a hearing Monday afternoon in Denver District Court, an attorney representing the state agreed to postpone the printing until after a Wednesday afternoon hearing could take place allowing both the Colorado Legislative Council and the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol to debate the language in the ballot book.
State law requires the blue book to include major arguments in suport of each state issue that will appear on the ballot, however the campaign says that the legislative committee unfairly deleted three of the proponents' key arguments in support of the initiative:
- Marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol.
- The consequences of a marijuana offense are too severe.
- Law enforcement resources would be better spent on more serious crimes.
The campaign says that the modification was "improper" because it wasn't brought about by a "true" two-thirds majority vote -- a so-called supermajority -- which is required to make modifications.
Proponents of Amendment 64 also said that the modification was made in confusion and that the lawmakers did not intend to delete the lines. The campaign summarized the events in a statement:
Sen. Mark Scheffel made a motion to amend the first of three paragraphs in the "Arguments For" section of the blue book, and it was approved unanimously by the Council. A short time later, members realized the motion had deleted the last three sentences of the five-sentence paragraph, whereas they thought it would only remove a few words from the first two sentences. To rectify the mistake, Rep. Mark Ferrandino made a motion to reinsert the three sentences, and it was seconded by Rep. Lois Court. The Council voted 8-5 in support of the motion, but it failed because it did not receive the two-thirds vote required to modify the draft. As a result, the key arguments in support of Amendment 64 were deleted without true two-thirds support.
"I don't think he was trying to cause confusion," Rep. Mark Ferrandino (D-Denver) said to The Denver Post. "But it did cause confusion."
Colorado vote on marijuana could impact Obama-Romney race
Classic fox....what about Paul? -UA
Whether to legalize marijuana will be on the Colorado ballot in November. President Barack Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney have identical stances on pot legalization -- they oppose it. And neither is comfortable talking about it.
Yet Obama and Romney find themselves unwittingly ensnared in the legalization debate -- and both may want to take it more seriously if their race in Colorado is close.
With Colorado politically divided and home to a huge number of independent voters, Obama and Romney are devoting money and manpower to winning its nine electoral votes.
The November ballot question asking Coloradans to legalize marijuana cuts two ways for Obama. It could draw younger voters to the polls, boosting the president and down-ticket Democrats. It also highlights the Obama administration's conflicting signals on states that buck the federal marijuana ban.
Legalization activists are a small but passionate group, and there are signs that some who turned out in large numbers here to campaign for Obama in 2008 have soured on the president, in no small part because of dismal employment prospects for younger workers.
Obama ran into Colorado's roiling pot controversy in April, when he spoke at the University of Colorado in Boulder. He received thunderous cheers when he walked on stage, but when he started with an innocuous thanks to the university chancellor, many students booed. That's because a week before, the chancellor had shut down a large pro-marijuana protest on campus.
On a late-night television interview with Jimmy Fallon that aired the same night, Obama laughed off a question about marijuana legalization. "We're not going to be legalizing weed -- or what -- anytime soon," the president said.
Obama has conceded he used marijuana and cocaine while he was college-age and called their use "bad decisions." An Obama biography to be published this month from David Maraniss of The Washington Post says Obama used pot in high school too, smoking with basketball buddies in a group that called themselves the "Choom Gang."
Romney has never smoked pot or used illegal drugs, a campaign spokeswoman said, and he has called marijuana a "gateway drug." He recently stumbled into the marijuana debate when he visited an oil rig in northeast Colorado and was visibly taken aback when a Denver TV reporter asked him about marijuana.
"Aren't there issues of significance that you'd like to talk about?" Romney replied, his smile not hiding his annoyance.
Activists say the candidates are wrong to overlook the possible importance of marijuana on Colorado ballots.
"The cannabis supporters that I run into throughout the state are very active, they're enthused, they want to see change and they're willing to make it happen. And if I were the president, I'd really want that enthusiasm," said Boulder lawyer Lenny Frieling, chairman of the Colorado chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
Frieling is a Democrat who supports Obama and donated to his campaign in 2008. But this time, Frieling says, he's sending his money to local candidates in Colorado and elsewhere who are firmly in the pro-legalization camp. He says he'll still vote for Obama -- but he's not giving him more money.
"Obama is just troubling, his switching positions," Frieling said.
That was a reference to a 2009 letter from Obama's attorney general stating that federal law enforcement would generally ignore marijuana users who comply with state pot laws. Yet, in 2012 alone, federal authorities have shut down more than 40 Colorado marijuana dispensaries, even though the dispensaries were complying with state and local law.
Another activist who organizes campaigns on local marijuana ballot questions in Colorado, James McVaney of Larkspur, says he and like-minded young activists support Obama but are less willing to volunteer for his campaign this year, focusing their energies on the marijuana initiative instead.
"I'm for legalization over Obama," McVaney said.
Colorado's past suggests that in extremely close contests, Democrats could benefit when pot is on the ballot.
In 2006, voters overwhelmingly rejected pot legalization. But in the same election, Democrat Bill Ritter was elected after eight years of Republican rule in the governor's office, and a couple of narrow victories for Democrats to the state Legislature coincided with areas where pot activists registered dozens of young voters.
Washington and other states may see marijuana legalization on ballots this fall, but no other state considered a presidential battleground is likely to.
Company wants to take its edible marijuana national
The Denver-based firm specializes in the production and distribution of food, beverages and other products infused with the active ingredient of marijuana.
Led by its flagship line of THC-laced sparkling beverages, items also include chocolate truffles, crispy rice treats, fruit lozenges, capsules and droplets. The company's target market is registered medical-marijuana patients who prefer, for health or social reasons, to ingest their drug without smoking.
"If I needed to medicate, I would never consider lighting up in front of my 11-year-old daughter," said Dixie owner and managing director Tripp Keber. "A 70-year-old grandmother with glaucoma (might) never consider smoking but will put a couple of drops of elixir in her soup."
THC-infused edible products now constitute about 38 percent of total sales at dispensaries in Colorado, compared with 12 percent two years ago, according to estimates from Keber that are based on conversations with retailers.
Dixie sells products to 450 of Colorado's 593 medical-marijuana dispensaries.
Colorado law allows local manufacturers to distribute THC-infused items only within the state. But Dixie, already among the largest of Colorado's infused-product
makers, is staking out a share of the national medical-marijuana market through a licensing deal that will enable its branded products to be made and sold in other states.Publicly traded Medical Marijuana Inc. last month paid $1.45 million to acquire Dixie's intellectual property, formulas and recipes. The two companies have created a third, Red Dice Holdings, to license and market Dixie's brand and products in other states.
The firm expects to be selling in Arizona, California and Washington, D.C., before the end of the year.
Consulting firm See Change Strategy LLC said in a recent report that national medical-marijuana sales of $1.7 billion in 2011 could grow to $8.9 billion in five years. California and Colorado account for 92 percent of the current market. California leads the nation, with sales of $1.3 billion, according to the report.
Analysts say delivery of medical marijuana through edible and drinkable products is likely to increase in coming years, in part from a growing number of older patients who never have smoked marijuana recreationally.
"For a patient coming in who has never used marijuana before, they might be very open to that kind of (edible) delivery mechanism," said Robert Frichtel, managing partner of Medical Marijuana Business Exchange, a Teller County-based consulting firm. "There are a significant portion of people using marijuana for medical reasons where it's not desirable for them to smoke it."
Dixie employs 22 workers, where it makes edible products from THC kept in a secured vault.
The privately owned firm does not disclose financial information, but Keber said sales have increased 22 percent year-to-date in 2012 compared with last year.
Keber's business background includes a stint as chief operating officer of Bella Terra Realty Holdings, a firm that operates high-end recreational-vehicle parks.
In 2009 he made a loan to Dixie's original operators. A year later, he took control of the business and sought to expand its reach.
Dispensary owner Max Cohen said most of his customers buy smokable marijuana, but the edible segment is growing.
"The majority of our patients still prefer the (marijuana) flowers to smoke," said Cohen, owner of The Clinic, which operates six dispensaries in metro Denver. "But there are some people who don't like to smoke, and it's easier for them to consume edibles."
Colorado House Passes Bill on Marijuana DUIs
The bill setting a blood standard for THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, will be debated later in the day in the Senate, where a Republican senator who changed her vote to support the measure earlier this year was absent. A vote was likely Wednesday.
The missing vote could mean another defeat for the proposal to make Colorado the third state with a blood-level limit for marijuana, much as the nation has a blood-alcohol limit of .08.
Seventeen states have some sort of blood limit for drugged driving convictions, including drugs other than marijuana.
The proposal before Colorado lawmakers would limit THC to 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood. Driving under the influence of marijuana is already illegal, but convictions rely on officer observation as well as a blood test.
Colorado's so-called "D-U-High" bill would make it simpler to convict drivers with a blood THC level at 5 nanograms or higher.
"Quite frankly, we are at a doped driving epidemic," said the bill's sponsor, Sen. Steve King, R-Mesa County. He has argued that the proliferation of medical marijuana has led to a dangerous increase in drugged driving.
Marijuana activists are fighting the proposal because they say blood THC tests are an unfair gauge of impairment. Because the body processes marijuana differently than alcohol, they say, a clear blood limit could endanger marijuana patients who aren't impaired.
Marijuana activists also argue that marijuana-related convictions are up in Colorado because more police officers are trained to look for stoned drivers, not because there's an epidemic.
Colorado lawmakers have considered marijuana DUI bills before but failed to agree.
A similar bill failed last year by a single vote in the Senate, and another version died last week when the regular session concluded.
Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper added drugged driving to a list of measures he asked lawmakers to consider in the special legislative session expected to end Wednesday.
Voters in Washington state will consider a 5 nanogram THC driving limit this fall on a ballot measure about marijuana legalization.