DENVER (AP) — A set of laws to govern how recreational marijuana should be grown, sold and taxed was signed into law Tuesday in Colorado, where Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper called the laws the state’s best attempt to navigate the uncharted territory of legalized recreational pot.
The laws cover how the drug should be raised and packaged, with purchasing limits for out-of-state visitors and a new marijuana driving limit as an analogy to blood alcohol levels. Hickenlooper didn’t support marijuana legalization last year, but he praised the regulatory package as a good first crack at safely overseeing the drug.
“Recreational marijuana is really a completely new entity,” Hickenlooper said, calling the pot rules “commonsense” oversight, such as required potency labeling and a requirement that marijuana is to be sold in child-proof opaque packing with labels clearly stating the drug may not be safe.
Colorado voters approved recreational marijuana as a constitutional amendment last year. The state allows adults over 21 to possess up to an ounce of the drug. Adults can grow up to six plants, or buy pot in a retail store, which are slated to open in January.
The governor said Tuesday he believes the federal government will soon respond to the fact that Colorado and Washington state are in violation of federal drug law. But Hickenlooper didn’t have a specific idea when.
“We think that it will be relatively soon. We are optimistic that they are going to be a little more specific in their approach on this issue,” Hickenlooper said. Pressed for details, the governor jokingly referred to unrelated scandals surrounding the U.S. Department of Justice.
“They’ve been kind of busy,” Hickenlooper said.
Colorado’s new marijuana laws include buying limits for out-of-state visitors. Visitors over 21 would be limited to one-fourth of an ounce in a single retail transaction, though they could legally possess the full ounce.
The marijuana laws include a series of new taxes on the drug. If voters agree this fall, recreational pot would face a 15 percent excise tax, with the proceeds marked for school construction. There would also be a new recreational pot sales tax of 10 percent, in addition to regular statewide and local sales taxes. The special sales tax would be spent on marijuana regulation and new educational efforts to keep the drug away from children.
“Public safety and the safety of our children were at the forefront of our minds,” said Sen. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs and sponsor of some of the pot bills.
– By Kristen Wyatt, AP Writer
Specifics On The New Laws
Colorado’s governor signed six marijuana regulatory bills into law Tuesday while the state awaits a federal response to recreational pot legalization. The new laws seek to regulate the newly legal drug and keep it away from children, without being so strict that weed stays in the black market. Some highlights from Colorado’s new green laws:
— YOU CAN COME BUY IT, BUT YOU CAN’T TAKE IT HOME: Visitors to Colorado will have purchasing limits of a quarter-ounce of marijuana in a single transaction. The law doesn’t ban adults over 21 from possessing a full ounce, residents or not. But the purchasing limits were seen as an effort to reduce interstate trafficking and help persuade the federal government not to crack down on recreational sales.
— THE POT BUSINESS ISN’T OPEN FOR BUSINESS, YET: Colorado’s marijuana industry will for the first few months be limited to people already licensed to sell or produce medical marijuana. Even once the grandfathering period expires, licensees will need to be Colorado residents for two years, and investors will face residency requirements, too. The residency requirements were added to try to preventColorado from becoming a production ground for criminal drug cartels.
— THE CAMERAS BETTER BE ROLLING WHEN YOU GROW IT: Colorado tried and failed to establish constant video surveillance of medical marijuana, establishing a seed-to-sale tracking system to keep the industry honest. The vaunted system hasn’t worked out as expected because of a lack of money, but the agency that oversees pot says it has learned its lesson and will have the money to follow through with seed-to-sale tracking next year.
— NOT EVERY TOWN WILL SELL IT: Colorado’s marijuana framework gives local and county governments broad power to ban retail pot sales if they wish, though home growing will be allowed statewide. Legalization backers say the next Colorado political battle to watch will be which communities ban pot shops, prompting the possibility that marijuana sales will be largely concentrated in big cities that currently allow retail medical marijuana shops.
— MARIJUANA CLUBS AREN’T SAFE: Entrepreneurs in Colorado have been testing the new marijuana law in recent months by opening private clubs that allow communal pot smoking, but no sales, for a membership fee. The legislation tries to crack down on the spread of such cannabis clubs by stating that they’re not exempt from clean indoor air laws, unlike membership cigar clubs.
— KIDS GET NEW PROTECTIONS: Colorado’s new laws aim to prevent youth marijuana use as much as possible. The laws create a new crime of sharing marijuana with someone under 21, an analogy to current delinquency laws and alcohol. The laws also mandate child-proof packaging for marijuana sales, and bans types of marketing thought to appeal to kids, such as cartoon characters in advertisements and packaging. The new 10 percent marijuana sales tax would be used in part on educational campaigns telling people under 21 to avoid the drug.
— DON’T SMOKE AND DRIVE: After years of debate, Colorado now has as blood-level limit for marijuana and drivers. The law says that juries can presume drivers are too stoned to drive if their blood contains more than 5 nanograms per milliliter of THC, marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient. Washington state adopted the same driving standard on the ballot last year, but Colorado left the question to the state Legislature.
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