‘Driving While Stoned’ proposal added to Amendment 64 marijuana bill

Posted on: 9:28 am, April 24, 2013, by , updated on: 10:43pm, April 24, 2013

DENVER — A proposal to set a marijuana bloodstream limit for drivers was added to legislation to create a regulatory framework for legal marijuana growing and retail sales during a hearing on the bill Wednesday.

The Driving While Stoned provision, which is the same as that proposed under a bill that passed the House but died Monday night in the Senate, was adopted by the House State Affairs Committee on a vote of 7-4.

Three Democrats and one Republican voted against the amendment, one of 22 being considered by the committee.

Rep. Dan Pabon was behind the effort to reintroduce the proposal establishing a limit for the amount of marijuana in a driver’s system.  Pabon said the amendment was drawn up after a Senate committee Monday night killed legislation that would have set a five nanogram presumptive limit for drivers.

“It’s an important matter of public safety,” Pabon told the House State Affairs Committee Wednesday morning at the outset of a hearing on House Bill 1317.

David Blake, the state’s deputy Attorney General, told lawmakers his office wouldn’t support the legislation without the DUID amendment; and Annmarie Jensen, the lobbyist for the law enforcement groups, said that many police chiefs and sheriffs want a stricter limit.

“We have a lot of cops who say that 2 nanos should be the standard,” she said.

Medical marijuana patient advocates and other industry representatives were outraged that the bill, just defeated 48 hours earlier in the Senate, was back — and being tied to such consequential legislation.

“Patients like me, we will continually maintain a blood level far above 5 nanograms and without any impairment,” said Teri Robnette, a medical marijuana patient and leader of a patients’ rights group.

“If you do pass this amendment, I say you must exempt medical marijuana patients.”

Pabon spent much of Tuesday drawing up amendments to satisfy the concerns of Colorado’s two largest law enforcement groups, who had problems with the original draft of the bill.

Unlike the initial draft version, the current bill will keep the current medical marijuana model, by which retailers grow at least 70 percent of the marijuana they sell, in place; and it also includes new provisions to prevent out-of-state investors and Colorado banks from subsidizing the nascent industry.

“The most important thing we have here is a seed-to-sale tracking mechanism,” Pabon told reporters after the hearing. “So as long as we know where the product starts on Day One and where it’s sold on the final day, then we can make sure this doesn’t go into the black market and create a criminal element to this enterprise and that’s the most important thing.”

After five hours of debate, the amended legislation cleared the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee on a 6-5 vote; Rep. Jovan Melton, D-Aurora, joined the panel’s four Republicans in voting no.

Lawmakers have two weeks until the end of the legislative session on May 8; three bills concerning the implementation of Amendment 64 must move through both legislative chambers by then or it’s possible they may have to return for a special session.

The marijuana legislation, drawn from months of hearings and input from stakeholders across the state, was only just introduced last Thursday.

Report: Marijuana taxation model won’t meet revenue goals

A new report issued Wednesday by the Colorado Futures Center projects that the taxes raised from the legalization or marijuana statewide will fall short of the goals outlined by Amendment 64 and may not even cover the cost of putting a new regulatory framework in place.

House Bill 1318, which will be heard Thursday, proposes an excise tax levy of 15 percent on the wholesale value of marijuana and a 15 percent sales tax on the retail sale of marijuana.

The study projects that that taxation model will bring an additional $130.5 million in state revenue in fiscal year 2013-14.

That total wont be enough to meet the goal outlined in the Amendment 64 ballot language of an additional $40 million for school construction.

Furthermore, the study concludes that the new revenues won’t be enough to cover the cost of implementing a new regulatory framework to oversee the legal growing and selling of marijuana, nor will it make much of a difference in helping the state address its structural budget gap.

Read the full report here.