Marijuana bill being re-worked to address law enforcement concerns

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DENVER — Hours before lawmakers hear testimony on legislation to put a regulatory framework in place to manage the legalization of marijuana in Colorado, amendments are being drafted to satisfy the concerns of the two biggest law enforcement groups in the state, FOX31 Denver has confirmed.

The Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police and the County Sheriffs of Colorado were so upset over the initial draft of House Bill 1317 that the groups were threatening to write a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder asking him to intervene — the nuclear option.

The bill’s sponsor is hoping that a handful of amendments, set to be introduced when the bill is heard by the House State Affairs Committee early Wednesday morning, will mollify law enforcement’s concerns.

The original bill would have gotten rid of “vertical integration”, the model now in place for medical marijuana centers that allows retail operations to grow the marijuana they sell. The police chiefs and sheriffs believe that model is working and that deviating from it would give rise to a black market of unregistered growers.

At the police chiefs’ request, an amendment will be introduced to keep vertical integration in place for the first year at least.

Additionally, those people who are already in the queue from having applied to open a medical marijuana center in Colorado will get priority when applying for licenses to sell marijuana to the public.

Another amendment will ensure that investors from out of state cannot profit off of Colorado’s legalization of marijuana by forcing operators to disclose all investors and requiring the Dept. of Revenue to monitor that all of them have addresses within the state.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver, remains optimistic that the legislation will be approved in the final two weeks of the legislature and that the wrinkles in the original version — written under duress by two bill drafters after hundreds of hours of meetings and public hearings — can be ironed out.

“There’s no reason to blow up the process,” Pabon told FOX31 Denver Tuesday night. “Like with any bill, this is a fluid, constructive process.

“The people of Colorado have asked us to protect public safety, to keep marijuana out of our kids’ hands and to keep the cartels out of Colorado. We need a robust regulatory framework to do that and that’s what this bill aims to do.

“We’ve spent hundreds of hours meeting, thinking this through and this bill is the culmination of that public process.”

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