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Recreational marijuana task force finishes recommendations to governor

By Scott Harrison
Published On: Mar 11 2013 10:55:36 AM CDT
Updated On: Mar 01 2013 02:14:26 AM CST

Members provide suggestions on regulating recreational marijuana in Colorado.

DENVER -

A variety of recommendations on regulating recreational marijuana in Colorado came on Thursday evening, the scheduled deadline for a 24-member task force appointed by Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Working late into the evening, task force members ended two months of discussions.  Their recommendations are as follows:

*Enact two taxes -- a 15 percent excise tax paid by shops where the drug is sold, and an unspecified sales tax on customers.  The taxes would require voter approval.

*Restrict access to the drug by minors.

*Provide law enforcement officers with new training to catch impaired drivers.

*Update the state's Clean Air Act to include the effect of marijuana smoke.

*Make off-the-job marijuana use by employees a fire-able offense for employers.

*Allow the drug to be sold to out-of-state visitors.

*Limit marijuana advertising.

*Require the drug to have child-proof packaging.

*Emphasize that it's illegal for marijuana to be given away in exchange for a donation.

*Make marijuana part of bar and restaurant smoking bans, possibly making so-called "cannabis clubs" or "smoking clubs" illegal.

*Prohibit growing marijuana outdoors.

*Require marijuana shops to have state and local approval.

*Create a regulatory system similar to that in medical marijuana dispensaries that follows recreational marijuana from seed to sale.

*Require that marijuana products have potency labeling.

Still unresolved is when, how and where recreational marijuana users can legally purchase the drug -- whether a new distribution system or existing medical marijuana dispensaries would be used -- although the recommendations seem to indicate the start of a new system.

Furthermore, uncertainty remains about whether the federal government might crack down on recreational or medical marijuana.  The drug remains illegal at the federal level.  Hickenlooper says he expects to hear soon from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on the matter.

Hickenlooper created the task force last December, shortly after voters passed Amendment 64 legalizing recreational marijuana.  Members began meeting in January, and have considered how the drug should be sold, taxed and otherwise regulated.

Ali Hillery, owner of Rocky Mountain Miracles, a medical marijuana dispensary in Colorado Springs, said she wants to sell recreational marijuana regardless of whether she does it as part of her dispensary or in a separate shop.

"I think it would help more people," she said.  "Many people are afraid to come get the medical marijuana cards.  I'm hoping that Colorado can pave the way for the rest of the states."
  
State Senate President John Morse, a Democrat, recently discussed what he expects to happen next after the governor received the task force recommendations.

"The (House) Speaker and I have talked about the possibility of trying to put together a joint committee, to then take (the) recommendations and try to craft that into a bill, because that's going to be step one from the legislative process, and then we'll see how that bill winds its way through the Legislature," said Morse.

Morse said he'd like such a committee to include the four lawmakers who served on the task force.

"Let's make full use of (them) that have spent hours dealing with these issues," he said.
   
Taxes from the sale of recreational marijuana could pay for school construction, safety enforcement and drug education.   

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