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Marijuana bill slowly taking shape

By Joe Hanel Herald staff writer

DENVER – Work is proceeding slowly to write a law to regulate marijuana after Colorado voters legalized it last November.

Gov. John Hickenlooper’s task force spent three months drafting 58 recommendations for how the state should regulate pot now that it’s legal.

A committee of 10 legislators is going through the list point-by-point, deciding what to put into a bill that the Legislature must pass before early May.

Committee chairman Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver, isn’t taking votes on individual recommendations until members agree unanimously.

The panel met all Friday afternoon but did not take votes. It has scheduled early-morning meetings this week to crunch through the recommendations and introduce a bill.

Pressure is building to get it in front of the Legislature.

“We support – as quickly as possible – legislation being introduced that encompasses all of the task force’s recommendations,” said Kevin Bommer, a lobbyist for the Colorado Municipal League who served on the governor’s task force.

Pro- and anti-marijuana activists are lobbying legislators to reject some of the task force’s recommendations.

Henny Lasley of Smart Colorado, which opposes marijuana legalization, brought in dozens of packages of cookies to illustrate her concerns with marijuana edibles falling into the hands of children.

She wants stronger regulation of edible marijuana, beyond the task force’s strict requirements for packaging and labelling.

“I don’t know about your kids, but mine never read the package,” Lasley said.

On the other side, several people in the marijuana industry argued against the task force’s first recommendation, that marijuana businesses be “vertically integrated,” with the same owners growing, processing and selling their own pot.

Jessica La-Rue said that vertical integration is protectionism for the owners of big growing operations based in Denver warehouses.

“The fact is, the best growers have always lived in rural, remote towns,” LaRue said. “Please protect rural access to stay in this business without being under the thumb of Denver growers.”

Legislators also will have to decide what tax rate to ask voters to approve on sales of recreational pot, who can get licenses to grow, sell and transport marijuana, and whether out-of-state residents can buy or sell marijuana, among many other issues.

jhanel@durangoherald.com

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