Pubdate: Mon, 09 Feb 2015
Source: Denver Post (CO)
Copyright: 2015 The Denver Post Corp
Author: Joey Bunch


Marijuana Industry Sees Less Legislative Regulation in This Year's Session

The strides in regulating Colorado's burgeoning marijuana industry 
look more like baby steps through the first quarter of the legislative session.

In 2014, legislators took up 31 bills that dealt directly with 
marijuana. Last year's session produced a law that authorized a 
banking services cooperative for pot businesses that big banks won't 
serve, and another that created sweeping changes on howpotent edible 
pot products can be and how they are labeled. moves this session.

Legislators and lobbyists who most often deal with marijuana issues 
say regulation has hit a plateau that requires more time and data to 
see which are the real problems and which are conjecture.

"I don't know if there are any really big bills coming," said Michael 
Elliott, executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group, an 
influential lobbying arm for many of the state's pot businesses. "I 
think we're down to the nuanced stuff."

The most watched bill so far appears to be the reauthorization of 
Colorado's medical marijuana rules, which have a sunset provision 
that would cause them to expire in July.

While it's unlikely the rules would go away, legislators could use 
the opportunity to make other changes.

Lawmakers have voiced concerns in hearings that some people are 
getting medical marijuana licenses to avoid taxes that apply to 
recreational pot, but no one has yet unveiled a remedy for tax evaders.

Another bill would toughen registration requirements on marijuana 
caregivers - those who grow pot for patients. Supporters say the 
legislation would help law enforcement more easily spot those who 
might be growing for the black market using the camouflage of caring 
for patients.

Jeanne Pratt, a medical marijuana activist from Lakewood, has been 
attending legislative hearings on pot for six years and said this 
session, so far, seemed to be the "most boring."

"They've picked all the low-hanging fruit the past two years, and now 
they're trying to figure out what to meddle in next," she said.

Jonathan Singer, D- Longmont, who has been the Democratic point man 
on pot, said the slowdown represented a more thoughtful approach.

Singer sponsored legislation last year that resulted in the 
restrictions on edibles-cookies, candies and other products that 
could have been mistaken for the sober version - that took effect Feb. 1.

Singer and pot lobbyists were concerned last week about a bill Sen. 
Owen Hill, R- Colorado Springs, has introduced to move authority over 
labeling from the Department of Revenue to the legislature.

Pros and cons

Opponents say it would nullify the rules that were passed last year, 
since they are overseen by the Department of Revenue, and would make 
managing the future labeling issues cumbersome because they could be 
shaped only during the busy four months of the legislative session.

Hill called that "hyperbole and an inappropriate reading of the bill."

He said the Department of Revenue faces a Jan. 1 deadline for new 
rules and that moving rule-making back to the legislature buys more time.

A Republican bill to warn women that using pot while pregnant could 
endanger their babies was scrapped during a House committee this 
week, when it was evident it didn't have the votes to pass as it was 
written. Democrats vowed to work with the bill's sponsor, Rep. Jack 
Tate, R-Centennial, to make it more specific.

"It was really opening the door to relitigate even things like 
abortion," said Singer, who opposed it. "Well, it had the word fetus in there."

Rep. Tim Dore of Elizabeth, viewed as pot's hawk for the Republicans, 
said marijuana isn't a true partisan issue, and lobbyists say there 
are nearly as many Democrats who take a stern view as those who are 
more liberal, while there are libertarian leaning Republicans who see 
it as a free market issue.

Dore saw his bill to create a grant program with 30 percent of the 
pot revenue to help 46 rural counties killed in committee.

Representatives of larger, urban counties wanted their districts to 
get a cut of the grant money, too, while state agencies testified 
that losing 30 percent off the top would cripple current and future 
statewide programs.

"We've been given the task as a legislative body to address this," 
Dore said of pot's impacts. "How we address it? That takes a healthy debate."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom