Colorado: Legislature Gives Final Approval To Rules For Legal Marijuana
By Steve Elliott
History was made on Wednesday as the Colorado Legislature gave final approval to a bill asking voters to tax recreational marijuana, moving the Mile High State closer to becoming the first in the the U.S. to pass laws regulating legal cannabis.
The Colorado Senate on Wednesday morning approved the tax measure and another bill spelling out rules for marijuana stores and sent both the the House, reports John Ingold at The Denver Post. The House then quickly passed House Bill 1318, the bill on cannabis taxes, and sent it to Governor John Hickenlooper's desk.
House members will now take up the second measure, covering rules for the pot stores.
The Senate's Wednesday morning marijuana votes came with little discussion. Only Mark Scheffel (R-Parker) stood to speak about the bills on Wednesday, in contrast with Tuesday's lengthy debates on both bills.
Sen. Scheffel said he has reservations about allowing more open and legal access to marijuana (apparently disregarding the fact that the voters of the state obviously have no such reservations). Scheffel claimed he worried about the impact of marijuana legalization "on the kids," but decided to support the tax bill anyway.
"This is a true game-changer for our state," Scheffel said. "And so I think it is important that we do our best do implement the right regulatory environment and fund it."
HB 1318 imposes a 15 percent excise tax and a 10 percent sales tax on recreational marijuana sales. Voters would have to approve the taxes this November before they can take effect. The money would be used for school construction and for regulating the marijuana stores.
Many of the rules for those stores are detailed in HB 1317, the second bill approved on Wednesday by the Senate. Under that bill, cannabis outlets would need to be licensed by the state and owned by residents of Colorado.
Only current medical marijuana dispensary owners will be able to apply to run recreational pot shops for the first nine months. The first recreational marijuana stores will be required to grow what they sell, but wholesale growers and stand-alone retailers will be allowed starting in October 2014.
After both bills cleared the Senate on Wednesday, Senate President John Morse (D-Colorado Springs) asked lawmakers to applaud the work of staff members who worked long hours as the bills were repeatedly and extensively amended (HB 1317 alone saw 132 proposed amendments).
"I think we really owe a huge thank you," Morse said.