DENVER (AP) - Marijuana legalization has prompted an enormous amount of debate in the four months since it was approved in Colorado, but only Friday did the drug get consideration from the people who will decide how it should be grown, sold and taxed.
Ad ad-hoc committee of 10 House and Senate members started work reviewing 165 pages of recommended regulations from a task force that worked for more than three months to suggest rules for the newly legal drug.
The suggested rules cover the entire product cycle of pot - from how marijuana should be grown and labeled to how to tax the drug and spend the proceeds. The 10 lawmakers on the House-Senate pot committee will ultimately suggest a bill for the full Legislature.
Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, and Colorado has not yet heard whether the federal government will sue to block the marijuana law. The voter-approved pot measure requires pot regulations by July, a deadline that has prompted Colorado to move ahead planning the drug's regulation.
No decisions were made Friday. Instead, the panel of six Democrats and four Republicans reviewed recommendations from the Amendment 64 Task Force, which consisted of pot advocates, law enforcement and government regulators.
"We're going to have a lot of discussion, a lot of debate of what should or shouldn't be included, said Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver and head of the marijuana committee.
Among the recommendations:
- The task force suggested Colorado not bother trying to ban non-residents from buying the drug. That would open to door for marijuana tourism, an idea that makes many lawmakers cringe. But the constitutional amendment approved by voters last year makes marijuana in small amounts legal for adults over 21, not just Coloradans. The task force suggested new signs at airports and on highways reminding visitors they break the law if they take pot across state lines.
- The task force recommended a 15 percent excise tax on marijuana, the maximum allowed under the amendment. The task force further suggested a new marijuana sales tax to be determined by lawmakers. Both taxes would need voter approval.
- The task force asked for state health or agriculture regulators to set standards for which pesticides, herbicides and fungicides would be permitted on marijuana. The task force also suggested potency testing and labels to show consumers the relative strength of the psychoactive ingredient in pot products.
- The task force said children need to be protected by requiring pot to be sold in child-proof containers. The task force also recommended advertising limits to curb youth exposure to marijuana messages.
Not all of this year's marijuana regulations will come from the House-Senate marijuana committee. The Legislature is already considering a blood-limit marijuana standard for drivers, an analogy to blood-alcohol limits. The Legislature has tried and failed three times to set driving limits for pot.