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Colorado Lawmakers Approve First-In-The-Nation Regulations Governing Retail Marijuana Production And Sales

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 9, 2013

    Colorado lawmakers made history Wednesday by approving first-in-the nation regulations governing the retail production and sale of cannabis to those age 21 and older.

    The Huffington Post has the story here:

    On the final day of the legislative session, Colorado lawmakers finally passed two historic bills to implement recreational marijuana legalization in the state — making Colorado the first state in the U.S. to take such steps toward the legal sale, regulation and tax of marijuana for recreational use.

    House Bill 1317, which proposes the regulatory framework for legal marijuana, passed the Senate on a 29-6 vote and passed the House on a 37-28 vote, on Wednesday.

    House Bill 1318, which proposes the tax rates which will fund the regulatory framework for legal marijuana sales and will ultimately need Colorado voter approval, passed the Senate 25-10 and passed the House 37-28, Wednesday.

    Both the regulatory framework bill and the tax bill head to Gov. John Hickenlooper’s desk and appear poised to become law.

    The two measures do not impact the state’s existing medical marijuana laws, nor do they interfere with existing legal protections legalizing the personal possession (up to one ounce) and cultivation (up to six plants) for non-commercial purposes.

    Further details about the newly approved regulatory bills is available here.

    Lawmakers’ proposed tax scheme on the commercial production and retail sale of cannabis must be approved by a majority of state voters before being implemented. Proposed taxes do not apply to those engaged in the personal cultivation or not-for-profit transfers of cannabis.

    Lawmakers’ proposals come six months after 55 percent of state voters approved Amendment 64, which legalizes the adults possession and cultivation of limited quantities of marijuana, and tasked the state with establishing regulations for the retail production and sale of cannabis to the public.

    46 Responses to “Colorado Lawmakers Approve First-In-The-Nation Regulations Governing Retail Marijuana Production And Sales”

    1. Gene says:

      But is it true you can still lose your job if its in your system. That’s something that needs to change.

      [Paul Armentano responds: This issue is being litigated.]

    2. Evening Bud says:

      Hooray! The ball is rolling. I know there are some here who will criticize this; and I’m not thrilled with the relatively high taxes. But we have to take this first step. We have to get this procedure moving. We can try to lower the taxes later. In any event, paying a high tax is definitely better than getting busted. So, Hooray, Colorado! I hope to visit that great state in the not-too-distant future and enjoy a freedom the rest of us can only hope for.

      Come on, Washington State, it’s your turn now.

    3. Don Berry says:

      I’m beginning to consider moving to Colorado so that I can enjoy actual freedom in the years left to me.

    4. Galileo Galilei says:

      I like the bit about the majority of voters approving the tax scheme before it’s implemented.

    5. Michael Miller says:

      So you can still lose your job eh? That’s ridiculous and needs to be changed. That is completely nonsensical.

    6. Ron says:

      Keep the taxes reasonable or there will still remain a reason for the underground market.

      Keep it simple and reasonable makes it much for convenient to follow the law drawing a better separation between cannabis and the rest of the illegal market. This will improve the public perception more than anything else. Way to go Colorado. I hope Florida is paying attention.

    7. Danielle says:

      I wish it were legal in Illinois, too. :/ I don’t want to go to jail, and it’s not like I can move.

    8. InnocentToker says:

      I will gladly (not happily) pay taxes on legal cannabis to prevent being a statistic in the legal system. I hear people continue the tripe about black market sales skyrocketing to avoid the taxes but I say baloney. There may be a bit of that tomfoolery but most consumers want to be legal and avoid the back alleys and dealers. The mere fact that I may be able to walk out of a commercial establishment with cannabis and no handcuffs trivializes the tax issue.

    9. Ned says:

      Hmm…what about rules on production only for wholesale? Policy specifically focused on ensuring that the legal market does not continue to create black market incentives, ie, moderate taxation, large scale production provisions that can lower per gram production costs that smaller black marketeers can’t beat.

      Focus on meaningful functional rules that establish normalized legality, not political feel good rules that will cause problems.

    10. bummer oklahoma says:

      im glad i moved to Colorado, for the first time in near 50 years ill not be a felon in the making!

    11. Mark Innes says:

      Congrats Colorado you have accepted the inevitable and brought it to legitimate commerce crippling the profit taking and untaxed benefits of the black markets. Continue to show the nation how big govenment is not for the people, by the people and stealing from americans without due process.

    12. Miles says:

      I’ve read that if you are found to have 5ng and are pulled over while driving you are subject to a DUI charge. My question to anyone out there is, is there any way for an individual to know if they are over this limit? I’m pretty sure I’ve driven, safely, many times while being over this limit. I’ve never had an accident and believe this limit is arbitrary. Still, how could one possible know if they are in violation of the law? When it comes to drinking, it is relatively clear that consuming a specific quantity relative to your bodyweight will yield a particular result. I think this difference is part of the problem with our legislators reluctance to want to tackle this thorny issue.

      Personally, and I’m sure a lot of you would agree, I think if someone is driving unsafe for any reason, they should be penalized relative to how bad their driving is, and their ability to pass some kind of standard sobriety test.

      I’m approximately 99.99% sure that I could consume a gram of marijuana and still be a better driver than at least 95% of the out on the roads. My confidence stems from a near perfect driving record as I approach 40 years worth of cannabis use!

      [Paul Armentano responds: To clarify, Colorado lawmakers at the last minute enacted House Bill 1325, to impose a legal presumption of cannabis-induced impairment. Lawmakers had already struck down this language twice this year before agreeing to enact HB 1325 on the second-to-last day of the 2013 legislative session. House Bill 1325 states that in instances where THC is identified in a driver’s blood in quantities of 5ng/ml or higher, “such fact gives rise to permissible inference that the defendant was under the influence. Unlike previous versions of this proposal, the measure does not set a per se standard, which means that a defendant is permitted to present evidence at trial rebutting the inference that they were impaired by marijuana.

      NORML believes that it is inadvisable to infer behavior impairment on blood/cannabinoid levels alone — a position we outline in the following papers:

      Cannabis and psychomotor performance: A rational review of the evidence and implications for public policy

      Imposing Per Se Limits For Cannabis: Practical Limitations and Concerns

      Cannabis and Driving: A Scientific and Rational Review

      Such caution is also expressed by the US National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration:

      “It is difficult to establish a relationship between a person's THC blood or plasma concentration and performance impairing effects. ... It is inadvisable to try and predict effects based on blood THC concentrations alone.”

      My question to anyone out there is, is there any way for an individual to know if they are over this limit?

      THC levels spike in blood immediately upon inhalation and then dissipate rapidly, typically falling below 5ng/ml within 1-4 hours. However, residual THC/blood levels have been documented in more habitual consumers for longer periods of time absent behavioral impairment.]

    13. Chels says:

      Do NOT let the regulation bills fool you. They also just passed the “stoned driving” law, and will now convict people with 5 nanograms or more of THC in their blood with a DUI. Don’t move here, you’ll just get DUIs all the time if you get pulled over. Police chiefs are extremely excited to start enforcing this law left and right, even for people who are stone sober–but regular marijuana smokers.

    14. Some guy says:

      It’ll never get lowered, see cigarette taxes, absolute best case a significant effort will be needed gathered to block a proposed raise that will come up two or three years, or sooner if the state needs money. 25% though is at least better then the absurd 50% that was thrown around and 25% is probably right at the mark where any higher would just drive alternative markets. Gotta love how they’re giving the existing players a temporary monopoly. All that said (and more) at least things are still moving along.

    15. Robert James says:

      I’m lived in Colorado for a number of years and I can’t wait to get back! Even for a visit it’s great the laws they are passing…all the effort.

    16. John V says:

      This is totally Great NEWS !! Now we just need to keep the momentum going and get it legal in all 50 states.

      Good Work to all the Politicians that voted YES to pass these bills. I and millions of others Thank You !

      John V.
      PA

    17. Spike says:

      Regarding drug tests, I would just demand that myself and everyone else receive a swab test to make sure we aren’t coming to work on ANYTHING. All urine and hair tests do is check and see if you’re doing anything at home. Somebody that uses meth everyday can take a urine test after not using it for a few days and pass it.

      So essentially, you could threaten to sue for unsafe working conditions due to hair/urine tests because they are not actually checking to see if people are coming to work all messed up.

      And that’s the bottom line…no arguments against that.

    18. dax says:

      its gonna take 5 to 10 years maybe longer for Company’s to stop drug testing for cannabis,remember most of the owners of these company’s are from the reefer madness days

    19. mark b. says:

      I am a second class CITIZEN! I can’t DRIVE! I can’t WORK! I can’t Own a GUN! But they trust you to pay taxes!! When will they take away my RIGHT to VOTE! End this madness sooner than later. Our Senators and Congress need to do the DAMN right thing!!!! We must revolt if they do not!

    20. evening bud makes no sesne says:

      To the above poster. What do you mean now you cannot get busted? I hope you do not smoke and drive because technically now they can arrest even more people at the wheel. Before it was easy to get off now the law states your fucked if driving high. Good luck all….

    21. Eric says:

      I will move here when I wouldn’t have to worry about losing my job.

    22. Miles says:

      @Don Berry – There are probably thousands of people across the un-free states that are looking for ways to move into the only 2 free (relatively) states in America!

      It is really sad, however, that there are still people living in WA and CO that continue to remain quite ignorant and predjudiced against cannabis consumer though…

    23. lockedoutoftheshed says:

      paul, what news on saliva testing is their as, we know the workplace must be able to test.i say saliva because it seemed to be of the best benefit to both consumers and employers. thank you for your time and your hard work…

      [Paul Armentano responds: Saliva testing has been historically plagues with a lack of sensitivity to THC, leading to false negative results. This lack of sensitivity and high cut-off thresholds has limited its mainstream use. Over the past year, I've heard presentations regarding greater THC sensitivity in oral fluid tests. If this is the case, they may ultimately become more widely utilized. They would arguably be an improvement over urinalysis, as the tests possess a much more narrow range of detection.]

    24. Ned says:

      The 5ng rule is exactly the kind of ignorant and fearful lawmaking that is going to make the transition from prohibition to legal normalization more difficult. There will be needless harmful prosecutions that will do great damage to unlucky individuals while protecting no one. Such fools! Do they believe that suddenly there will be “stoned” drivers where there were none before? If what this law is based on were scientific fact, we would already have seen an epidemic of harm caused by stoned drivers. Except we haven’t because it isn’t….

    25. Spike says:

      @lockedoutoftheshed

      That’s what I was saying earlier. Urine and hair tests do not test for workplace safety. So their claim to that is legally false, thus making every drug test any citizen has ever turned into their employer illegal, and certainly not an indicator of any workplace drug use, which is what these people claim to be concerned about.

    26. pat says:

      Im disabled with Lyme arthritis . Im moving to colo ,well the medical cannabis pharmacy’s sell to the public now that it is leagle OR are there venders for the public . its funny that the doctors will give me meds for whole body pain that they say are killing me but there agenst cannabis

    27. Jim says:

      Maybe I’m missing something, but why is everyone so upset about the stoned driving laws? The movement has been trying for years to convince people that marijuana should be treated logically. People probably shouldn’t get high and drive, just like they shouldn’t drink and drive or pop some Vicodin and drive. What exactly is upsetting you here? Again, I may well be missing the point but you should expect some rules of use here. You probably won’t be able to smoke in public either, and there will defiantly be something similar to open container laws.

    28. Evening Bud says:

      @eveningbud makes no sesne,

      Hey, don’t drive stoned. I’m guessing you wouldn’t advise anybody to drive drunk.

      BTW, I was talking about not getting busted scoring smokes, not talking about driving stoned–and I still say a 25% tax is better than getting busted scoring smokes.

    29. Seriously says:

      This type of argumentative fragmentation doesn’t move things forward, guys.

      The “stoned driving” law sets a limit, which can be contested. That’s all. Prior to this, there was no established limit, and while there may be people that run into issues due to it being there, there are undoubtedly more people that have had problems without legalization.

      Sometimes you people seem like you want to cut your nose off to spite your face. Just take it easy if you have to go somewhere, and you’ll be fine.

    30. Anonymous says:

      The point is that good law isn’t stupid or unfair. The knowledge to create rules that will REASONABLY protect the safety of the public exists. What people need to realize is that THC and alcohol are completely different. Their effects are completely different. Lumping them together as if they’re similar will result in bad policy.

      Cannabis is for the most part far less impairing for most people than alcohol and that’s even more true for regular users. Zero tolerance or Per Se or extremely low thresholds are unreasonable, unscientific, and unnecessary. Creating bad law because of wider political considerations is more stupidity on top of decades of unjust stupidity.So no, I’m not just going to sit here and watch stupid law making happen quietly.

    31. lockedoutoftheshed says:

      spike…correct. problem with saliva is it is not accurate.that is the information i have. i have had conversations with my company on testing and, had saliva testing been at least as accurate as they say hair and piss is, they would have considered it.hair and piss do not show recent activity which, is what you are saying. now they have adopted the ‘employees must obey laws’ attitude which has been added to our employee handbook.but , at first it was a matter workplace safety… it has become ‘circular reasoning’ in my opinion.but, yes, it started out as workplace safety concerns and has evolved into ‘doing the right thing’
      it should be of NO concern to employers what we do after work..i dont give a damn who it is. as long as we are not under any influence while at the job.
      I have even heard that companies are offered tax breaks and other incentives to drug test because those effin pukes cant get the big buisness off their asses and that is because cannabis and hemp would hurt their profits….have a great day my friend! sorry i ran off with this but this shit gets me all fired up….get a couple hits for me will ya ?

    32. Spike says:

      @lockedoutoftheshed

      When your company tells you that we must follow laws, I urge you to look deep into your state or town laws for antiquated statutes, such as this one from my state:

      “Men who deflower virgins, regardless of age or marital status, may face up to five years in jail.”

      It is also legal to beat your wife on Sunday on the courthouse square with a stick no thicker than your thumb.

      So, just ask them: “If we must follow the laws, why aren’t we following these”

      And follow that up with: “I understand the need for conformity. Without a concise set of rules to follow we would probably all have to resort to common sense”.

      Just make them feel stupid.

      And IDK about saliva not being accurate. Lowe’s does saliva tests because they say its cheaper and more indicative of who is actually coming to work f’ed up.

      Also, IDK how follicle tests can be accurate to what a person is doing when they can go back up to 7 years.

      I truly think people are just zombies who don’t pay attention to anything and are just like “der der der, I have to follow the rules” but I don’t understand following the rules when they are harmful. To me that makes them legally null and void. This is a rhetorical question, you don’t have to answer this, but if your boss said you had to jump off of a bridge to keep your job, would you?

    33. terry says:

      Colorado rocks!!

      Pangeandotorg

    34. Dave Evans says:

      Actually Spike, the question is more like, “Would you mind occassionaly pushing someone off a bridge in order to keep your job?”

    35. gatero cortez says:

      im kinda mad that smoking outdoors is not allowed and thats there is a limit on he number of plants one can grow global warming can be solved by planting plants and if colorado allowed people to turn theirs houses on he inside and outside into cannabis jungles CO2 levels in the air would decrease and the houses/ gardens would look beautiful

    36. Frank P says:

      Yes there is a high tax, but hey guys/gals lets keep in mind that this high tax is going to go to schools and education and really anything that the tax money goes to will be better than our tax money going to police stations so that they can fight a war on marijuana.

      [Editor's note: To put a finer point on your very relevant one, generally speaking in the US, 40% of the cost of a can of beer is taxes...85% of the cost of a tobacco cigarette is taxes. Currently, in states like CO and WA the tax rates are hovering around 25% for cannabis products.

      No one likes taxes, but perspective is indeed helpful.]

    37. St. Nick and Dime says:

      Think of the thousands of good uses legalizing would do. What good uses does keeping it illegal do? Helping the beer industry stay afloat? Marijuana is safer for you than Centrum. Iron overdose. Safer than Aspirin and Coricidan. And certainly safer than alcohol and tobacco. God invented it. It was not for bad purposes. I wouldn’t mind paying high taxes; at least I’m paying same as everyone else and don’t need to be friends with dealer or look cool. There’ll always be a place to get it, too.

    38. Ned says:

      “40% of the cost of a can of beer is taxes…85% of the cost of a tobacco cigarette is taxes. Currently, in states like CO and WA the tax rates are hovering around 25% for cannabis products.”

      To the editor; please cite your sources for beer and tobacco taxes. Those figures seem way high to me. In my state of CA, the excise tax on beer $0.20 per gallon, that comes out to $0.02 per 12 oz bottle/can. The average for all 50 states is $0.19 per gallon. The highest is Alaska at $1.09 per gallon. The Federal rate is a calculation that depends on the annual production of the brewery but simply put very large producers pay $18 per barrel and smaller ones $7. Add in sales tax and you still get nowhere near 40% of the retail price. More like 10-20%.

      As far as tobacco the 85% figure is totally wrong. State tobacco taxes range from as low as $0.44 per pack to $4.35. Very great differences across the nation. The Federal is $1.01 per pack. Higher than alcohol relatively speaking but still not close to 85%. The producers, distributors and retailers all sharing 15% of the retail price? That’s ridiculous.

      The thing to remember is those products have been legal for a long time and the regulation of production and distribution is well established. The taxes have been fully factored in by the market. That is not the case with marijuana where it is a black market that is well established and a very nimble and adaptive black market it has been. To successfully transition to a government regulated market, and to be roughly in line with how other comparable products are taxed, the rates MUST be reasonable. Otherwise if the black market can easily undercut the legal one, it will continue. Greedy tax rates put in place by politicians ignorant of the realities, that are also onerous and exploitive are stupid. The deeply entrenched black market players across the country will happily supply their customers with untaxed product at lower than legal prices if the government is too greedy and stupid to do this right.

      There’s no good reason to tax THC at extremely high rates especially as compared to alcohol and tobacco. That such high rates are even being proposed is entirely a political consideration, certainly an informed, wisely thought out and workable long term one.

      For some reason, the profits of numerous legal trades, no matter how grossly greedy, (pharmaceuticals, for example and some alcohol, tobacco products) are considered legitimate. Congress even outlaws negotiating prices by the government for legal drugs, yet lawmakers consider marijuana profits as despicable and depraved, and think nothing of seeking truly indefensible tax rates for, I guess, that reason. It’s going to cause real problems in trying to transition to a legal regulated market.

      [Editor's note: The national average for the percentage of taxes paid for cigarettes is around 66%, with some states having low taxes (VA, NC, SC) and others with high taxes, up to 85% (NY, CT, MA).

      The Beer Institute report 45% tax beer nationwide.

      Some states tax hard liquor at low levels @ $1.50 gallon...some, like WA, tax it high @ $25 gallon...national avg is around $4.50 gallon.]

    39. Ned says:

      To the editor:

      The sources you cite prove my point. MOST Americans do not pay the tax rates for those products that you posted in that comment. You cited the very highest rates for tobacco as “generally speaking”. That is misleading. The National tax average for beer, averages the rates of the 50 states, not how many people live in those various states and thus how many American citizens actually pay the average of 45% or more.

      The sources are industry trade organizations who are attempting to persuade the reader that their industry is unfairly taxed. The particular way they’ve chosen to present the statistics works in their favor but could be attacked as a slanted presentation, because it is. Half of the States are below the averages cited and half above. What really matters is how that translates population wise. How many Americans live in the below average states vs how many above. I’m betting that most Americans live in below average states and pay rates below, even far below what you cite.

      However if you’ve cited them to say that high marijuana taxes are fair, reasonable or acceptable, which it seems you are doing in responding to Frank P.’s plea to accept onerous tax rates, then you’ve really succeeded in proving my point instead. Those industries are complaining bitterly about how they are taxed and I agree. I fail to see how that argues in favor of grossly high marijuana tax rates.

      Ask anyone in the alcohol business today if they believe their trade is impeccably regulated and taxed by their State. Almost none will emphatically say yes. Then consider the national picture, alcohol is regulated 50 different ways, ways mostly shaped by the most powerful special interest players, the middle tier of the 3 tiers, the distributors. The interests of consumers are barely considered and consumers are forced to deal with all kinds of arbitrary crap that States do to please distributors, the highest contributors to politicians.

      The fact that marijuana regulation is being created from scratch means that there is plenty to be learned from alcohol regulation and hopefully avoided if we’re going to regulate with consumer interests foremost rather than special ones. I suppose NORMAL may be willing to accept terrible, horrible, stupid regulation as long as it is legal, feeling that it is all that is politically possible. As long as the rules aren’t yet made, I’m going to fight for intelligent, functional, and fair ones that don’t repeat all the flaws we’re saddled with regarding the regulation by States of other similar products.

      [Editor's note: Again, no one likes or wants to pay taxes. This is a given. A non variable in the American political calculus. To not recognize that cannabis is going to be taxed at 'vice' levels on par, or well below, where other products some governments have deemed vice get taxed (such as gambling, alcohol, tobacco and so-called 'junk' food) is unrealistic.

      Ideally, and maybe eventually if logically arrived at, these kinds of 'vice' taxes would be calibrated to the degree of 'harm' they do to a person (and society's entire health care system), whereby cannabis should arguably be taxed at a fairly low rate because the amount of proven harm to users (and society) is almost non-measurable.

      At this nascent stage of cannabis legalization, reformers and currently illegal consumers don't yet have the political or legal leverage to argue for taxes lower than the above listed 'vices'. Consumers, cultivators and sellers all want low taxes, and, along with a genuinely free market re cannabis, will always naturally gird against higher taxes.

      This too is a given in American politics.]

    40. Rupert says:

      To all those saying that you shouldn’t be able to be fired for it, welcome to America. You can fire people for smoking cigarettes or doing anything unbecoming (but still legal) on your off hours. You can legally fire a woman for dressing too sexy or not sexy enough, depending on the job. In most states you don’t need to provide a reason at all in fact.

    41. steve72751 says:

      I am disabled and moving to Colorado in a month. Anyone know where rent is less? My SSI does not pay me very much. Thinking of Colorado Springs, maybe….

    42. Dave Evans says:

      Dear Editor, maybe I’m crazy but I do not mind paying taxes as long my money isn’t being spent on hurting people–especially our own people. I like having roads and schools :) Dipshits on power-trips? Not so much.

    43. roland says:

      I was wandering if anyone out there has the technology or knowledge to create a pot seed BB gun an create a video on U tube on how to do it or possibly manufacture one for sales,,. could some one create alternative rock lyrics to create a new generation of johnny pot seed saga wth unique cartoon videos wth the song an crafty versions of cd covers PEACE AN SOW THE SEEDS AMERICA

    44. chris says:

      is there going to be a component limit? i hear rumors of a certain percentage limit on THC/CBD all that stuff.

    45. ajo says:

      So the only way to enjoy cannabis is to get rid of a vehicle. Who wants to buy cannabis anyway? Grow your own is the only way to go. It sounds to me this is a limited cannabis deal to extract money and increase the police state. I would like to know if one can grow anywhere one may live, be it an apartment or lesser dwelling, due to low or fixed income. Growing numbers cannot afford house payments or high rents. I am a disabled vet, cannabis user for 43 years, with low income. Can I afford rent and living expenses somewhere in Colorado? Anybody have any idea?

    46. Anonymous says:

      Do you have to show proof of residency to make a purchase ?

      [Editor's note: Unlike medical cannabis laws, the adult use laws passed last year in both CO and WA don't require residency or registering (and paying extra fees) as a medical cannabis patient.

      Adults will be able to go into any retail establishment and make a purchase, just like they can now with alcohol and tobacco products.]

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