Marijuana regulation bills introduced, will be heard next week

Marijuana allegedly growing outside 87-year-old Denver man's home. Aug. 3, 2012

Marijuana allegedly growing outside 87-year-old Denver man's home. Aug. 3, 2012

DENVER — Two bills concerning Colorado’s implementation of Amendment 64, which legalized marijuana statewide after being approved last November, were finally introduced in the statehouse and will get their initial hearings as early as Monday.

The main bill, which is 57 pages long, puts into statute most of the ideas and proposals that have come out of the special legislative marijuana committee and an initial state task force.

A second bill will formalize a tax structure that voters would need to approve.

With less than three weeks remaining in the session, lawmakers will be crunched trying to get both bills through both the House and Senate — through a total of six votes — before the session ends on May 8.

If they fail, lawmakers may be forced to return for a special session.

Perhaps the most controversial piece of the main bill, House Bill 1317, would transition the agency that currently oversees medical-marijuana dispensaries, the Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division, into the Marijuana Enforcement Division, overseeing all marijuana businesses.

While the joint committee on Amendment 64 was hashing out the legislation, Republicans objected to expanding the Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division after a state audit showed it to be incredibly dysfunctional and rife with overspending, including thousands of dollars on vehicles and fancy office chairs for employees.

Under the legislation, which is sponsored by Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver, marijuana growers and sellers could operate separately, which is the opposite of the current requirements for medical-marijuana dispensaries.

Other provisions state that: only Colorado residents could own or work in recreational marijuana shops; marijuana stores could only sell ΒΌ of an ounce of pot at a time to people from out-of-state; and that owners of medical-marijuana dispensaries would have a three-month window starting in October where only they would be allowed to apply for recreational pot shop licenses.

The companion bill, House Bill 1318, sponsored by Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, creates a 15 percent special sales tax on recreational marijuana and a 15 percent excise tax on pot transfers between growers and sellers. Voters would have to approve the tax in November.

H.B. 1317 is set to be heard by the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, while H.B. 1318 will be heard by the House Finance Committee; the hearings could be held on Monday but not hearings are on the official House calendar as yet.