Colo. lawmakers pass marijuana regulations
DENVER – Colorado lawmakers passed legislation to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries on Tuesday despite threats of a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality.
The House grudgingly agreed to accept changes made in the Senate and readopted the bill just a day before the end of the session, sending it to Gov. Bill Ritter.
It’s likely the bill will become law because it includes provisions Ritter requested, including the ability of cities and counties to ban dispensaries. Individual caregivers would still be able to provide marijuana to up to five people wherever there’s a ban.
Lawyers who have represented medical marijuana patients say they’re ready to sue the state if the bill becomes law partly because of that provision. They also object to excluding non-Colorado residents from opening dispensaries and dispensary application fees which they say are excessive.
Regulators expect only about half of the existing 1,100 dispensaries in the state to be able to continue operating under the rules. Smaller dispensary owners have complained that high application fees could drive them out of business.
Under the bill, dispensary owners would have to undergo criminal background checks, and the state revenue department would check that their funding has no criminal ties, similar to conditions in the gaming industry. Dispensaries would also have to grow 70 percent of their marijuana, a provision aimed at keeping tabs on where the drug is being sold.
The bill would also keep the location of marijuana grows secret. Attorney General John Suthers objected to that provision along with some news outlets. It would also bar dispensaries from being located within 1,000 feet of schools, colleges, a child care facility or a seminary.
Some members of the House wanted to try to negotiate those parts out of the bill before the end of the session on Wednesday. Rep. Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs, feared any last minute changes could unravel the proposed rules, negotiated with the help of dispensaries.
The revenue department says it will need 27 enforcement agents, auditors and administrators to enforce the regulations. Those positions would be paid for with $2 million in fees paid by dispensary owners, growers and makers of marijuana products.
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