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Lawmakers: Time Running Out For Pot Regulation Decisions

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

DENVER (AP)- With time running out to regulate marijuana, Colorado senators scrambled Friday to advance a sweeping series of regulations and taxes on the newly legal drug.

All sides of the marijuana debate were braced for last-minute maneuvers. The Legislature has just a few days left before the annual session concludes. As the hour grew late Friday, big questions remained on how pot should be grown, packaged, labeled and sold.

Senators were haggling over pot testing standards, a blood limit for drivers and a proposal to ban the infusion of marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient, THC, into premade foods such as Twinkies and Pop-Tarts. Similar questions kept a Senate committee so tied up that they ran out of time before getting to the marijuana taxes.

And as pot regulations and taxes remained up in the air, 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he’s still thinking about pushing a brand-new ballot measure to ask voters whether marijuana legalization should be repealed without accompanying taxes.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.

“With six days to go, anything’s a possibility,” Morse said.

The pot uncertainty didn’t get cleared up in a Senate Finance committee hearing where lawmakers were poised to advance the regulation and tax bills. The regulation bill advanced on a 5-0 vote, but sponsors conceded that they have big questions to resolve before the measure heads to the full Senate.

Among the questions — a possible ban on selling foods and drinks that started as a widely recognized brand but have had marijuana infused into them. Lawmakers wanted to make sure pot retailers can’t squirt cannabis oils into premade foods.

“You can’t buy Oreos and spritz ‘em up with a little THC oil,” said Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs.

Lawmakers agreed to the idea but delayed a vote on the ban to await some legal advice on writing the limitation.

Two controversial matters remain in the Senate marijuana bill. One is a marijuana blood-level limit for drivers, an idea the Senate has rejected four times over the past three years but was amended onto the House regulation bill. A Senate fight seems certain over yet another attempt to add a legal standard for determining when someone is too high to be behind the wheel.

Another provision in the marijuana bill is a first-of-its-kind requirement that magazines about marijuana be treated like pornography and kept behind the counter. Senators left that portion in the bill, despite threats of lawsuits from publications such as High Times magazine.

Senators heard Friday from a mother who asked them to retain the unusual limitation.

Gina Carbone told a story of seeing her four sons encounter a pot magazine in a neighborhood gas station.

“They were huddled around it like it was a Playboy,” Carbone said.

On the other side, Denver freelance writer Rebecca Chavez told senators that the limitation was unfounded and would hurt publications.

“It’s not that we’re trying to push marijuana on young people,” Chavez said.

Senators sided with the mother and didn’t suggest taking the magazine portion out of the bill.

Further votes on the regulation bill and the tax scheme were anticipated late Friday. Senators were talking about a rare weekend session to get the job done.

By Kristen Wyatt, AP Writer (© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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