11 Rules for Legal Pot in Colorado


Jacob Sullum

Earlier this morning I noted the final meeting of the Amendment 64 Implementation Task Force, which is advising the Colorado General Assembly about how to regulate the production and distribution of marijuana for recreational use. Here are some of the most significant recommendations approved this week and last:

1. Require both state and local approval for marijuana stores.

2. For the first year, retail licenses should be limited to current operators of medical marijuana centers (MMCs).

3. Pot stores should be required to grow at least 70 percent of what they sell to consumers and sell no more than 30 percent of what they grow to other stores or producers of cannabis-infused products. This is the current rule for MMCs, many of which fought to keep it. It would expire after three years, at which point the legislature could choose a more flexible approach that neither requires nor bans vertical integration.

4. Advertising should be restricted, which depending on the details could invite challenges under the Colorado constitution's free speech clause (but not under the First Amendment, since marijuana is still prohibited by federal law).

5. THC content should not be restricted, but it should be listed on packages.

6. The legislature should consider requiring "child-proof" packaging for marijuana products, which would increase retail prices.

7. Visitors as well as residents of Colorado should be allowed to buy marijuana, as long as they are 21 or older.

8. The amount of marijuana a consumer may buy in a single purchase should be capped at a level below the one-ounce limit that Amendment 64 puts on possession, perhaps an eighth of an ounce, for both visitors and residents.

9. Marijuana should be taxed heavily, with a 15 percent excise tax imposed at the wholesale level and a special sales tax, perhaps as high as 25 percent, imposed at the retail level, in addition to existing state and local sales taxes (which total 8 percent in Denver, for example). Depending on how high the rates are and how they interact with markups, this triple whammy could push retail prices close to the black-market level, which would undermine the central aim of Amendment 64 to create a legal market in which marijuana is treated like alcohol.

10. The legislature should amend the state ban on smoking in bars and restaurants so that it covers recreational marijuana.

11. Home cultivation, which is permitted by Amendment 64, should be kept indoors.

These proposals are mostly bad news for consumers, although the recommendations against THC limits and residence-based restrictions on purchases are welcome. The former would be arbitrary and unworkable, while the latter would be unenforceable and inconsistent with the language of Amendment 64.

Update: According to University of Denver law professor Sam Kamin, a member of the task force, part of the motivation for proposing a special sales tax was the difficulty of assessing and collecting an excise tax when the same entity is both wholesaler and retailer, as required by the 70/30 rule. He says some members of the task force repeatedly warned that setting taxes too high would push consumers back into the black market.

Kamin says there was a consensus that Amendment 64, which lets people transfer up to an ounce of marijuana "without remuneration," does not allow them to give away marijuana while soliciting "donations," but that position was not part of a formal recommendation. He says the task force also did not make a recommendation about on-site consumption, except for saying that pot smoking in businesses should be banned under the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act. That would leave open the possibility of allowing people to use vaporizers or eat marijuana edibles in a café-like environment, either at marijuana retailers or in bars and restaurants where people could bring their own pot.

Another unresolved (and related) question: What does it mean to consume marijuana "openly and publicly," which remains illegal under Amendment 64? If you smoke pot on your front porch, is that "openly and publicly"? What about the back yard? Since consumption is prohibited only when it is open and public, it should be possible to smoke pot on public property (a park, say) as long as you are discreet. Conversely, consuming marijuana while sitting on a restaurant's patio arguably would not be public (since it's on private property) but would be open. Kamin says this issue was so contentious that the task force did not take a position in it.

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  1. Must be a really big soda

    must be a really big mexican coke.

    1. wrong thread dammit

      1. That 1/8 oz is a really big doobie?

  2. Amendment 64 should have been more specific.

  3. Marijuana should be taxed heavily

    So, Democrats are involved in these deliberations?

    Require that home cultivation, which is permitted by Amendment 64, be kept indoors


    They are a long way from getting this right. Is WA going to do better than this?

    1. I would imagine in this case that Republicans involved would be just as much in favor of heavy taxes.

      1. Most Repubs would be more in favor of jail time than taxes.

        1. Probably. But as that is not an option that is on the table right now…

          1. Don’t bet on it, the emperor has not spoken yet.

  4. In other words, they’re doing everything they can to ensure that the black market stays intact.

    1. Sounds like it. Being overly greedy apparently makes you retarded. Government is proof enough of this concept.

    2. I think that a black market will likely remain, but it will be a very different black market. Probably mostly people growing at home and selling it without the proper licenses. And producers and retailers who would have to compete with the black market would have incentives to keep prices below the black market, which is pretty easy if the taxes are a percentage of the price. The black market premium is pretty high, I would think.

      Why not be more optimistic? You don’t win anything for being right in your gloomy predictions, you know.

      1. I calls em like I sees em. You don’t win anything for being overly optimistic either.

        1. Well, what reason has the government given us to be optimistic as of late?

  5. Take away a regulation and add 10 more. Think of all the money saved here.

  6. This is what happens when you let in too many fucking Californians.

    1. Is there a way to ban Commiefornians? I mean, politicians have banned pretty much everything else, somewhere.

  7. WRT point 4, How is the fact that marijuana is still prohibited by federal law negates the first admendemnt?

    I would love to see the ruling on that. You can’t have it but you can advertise it.

    1. That was the ruling in the Puerto Rico casino advertising case, where the casinos were allowed by the commonwealth to be advertised in the states but not locally. The Sup. Ct. said that since the activity itself could be prohibited, so could advertising it.

  8. Depending on how high the rates are and how they interact with markups, this triple whammy could push retail prices close to the black-market level

    Should have known they’d find some way to fuck it up.

    1. Not to beat on the same subject again, but the indoor growing is just as bad.

      What does it take to grow pot indoors? Light. What does it take to power lights? Electricity. What does it take to generate electricity? Power plants powered by fossil fuels, that’s what! Why do these people hate the planet?

  9. Whatever happens in the retail market, allowing people to grow their own at home is a huge thing and will change a lot, even if it is taxed to the extent that it is close to the black market price. Just being able to go to a store and buy rather than having some sketchy dealer is huge. CA medical MJ is no cheaper than the black market, and loads of people choose it for the convenience and consistent quality.

    1. Except your electric bill is going to suck if you use high output bulbs to grow it. Using fluorescents will work of course, but it would take a long time to grow a few straggly plants.

      1. My electric bill may suck, but my pot bill will go way down.

        1. Just hope that the feds don’t show up at your door because you have an unusually high electric bill and purchased high output lights, which are of course, only useful for growing one thing. Also, DEA agents can’t tell tomato plants from pot, so even if you were growing tomatoes, it wouldn’t matter.

          Just have a good escape plan for your dog before you fire up those lights.

      2. Need to look into this… A locked greenhouse in the backyard is “indoors” is it not?

        1. Better have a lawyer read the ordinance for you, before you make that interpretation.

          1. Indeed.

            1. I mean unless it specifically states greenhouses, I wouldn’t trust them.

      3. Colorado doesn’t have the best climate for outdoor plants anyhow. Dunno. Even with all the goofiness in these proposed rules I’m going to have to call this a big improvement over the status quo…

        1. I had that discussion here a while back with some folks. I started with the argument that most of the country is unsuitable for growing weed to maturity outdoors. Apparently, Indica is more cold hardy(or it matures at higher light hours, or something, than Sativa) so apparently it can be successfully grown in more northern climes now because of all the hybridization.

          1. You would be right for the most part. Cannabis needs a long time in the sun. In colorado you would likely need supplemental lighting once winter starts to roll around.

  10. If the price and difficulty of obtaining the legal pot becomes the same as the black market, people are just going to buy once in a while from the legal dispensaries to get a current label/pill bottle/etc and then keep their dealer purchased weed in it. I knew taxes would kill this thing.

    1. It wouldn’t if they could be reasonable, but of course, they can’t.

  11. Why not exempt from the wholesale tax product which is produced by the retailer? It simplifies record-keeping & enforcement and satisfies the intention of the 70% rule of favoring grower-retailers over middlemen. And then you can get rid of the 70% rule.

    Am I a great policy wonk or what?

    1. Am I a great policy wonk or what?

      You’ll never make a good bureaucrat with that attitude. It’s not about making things simple and more affordable for the peasants, it’s about MOAR revenue.

  12. The Amendment 64 Task Force failed the People of Colorado and it defied the Constitution — mostly because Hack appointed so many prohibitionist swine to it. This was very clear at the final meeting, with the introduction and discussion of a slew of manufactured concerns and recommendations either contrary to Article XVIII, Section 16 or unrelated to its implementation emanating from the Criminal Law Issues Working Group. The Task Force completely evaded its primary responsibility: to advise the General Assembly on the changes to statute necessary to treat cannabis like alcohol — this would require drastic alterations in our law, since what we propose to license by January next is the subject of umpteen felony provisions in the C.R.S. now. With the passage of the Amendment, people who violate our laws against cannabis should face no more punishment than those who violate our laws restricting the manufacture, sales, and use of alcohol — the Task Force concluded without making any of these essential recommendations, and Coloradans face the same draconian penalties for cannabis offenses as before, despite the fact that the statutes imposing them are now unconstitutional. Advocates for our right to use cannabis allowed themselves and the process to be largely co-opted by the prohibitionists, and they threw over the task of advocating for dismantling our prohibitionist statutes in favor of their focus on economics; i.e. greed.

  13. The industry may have gotten the comeuppance its disregard for Prohibition’s victims deserves today; the multiple, exorbitant, and unjustifiable taxes the Task Force recommended are so excessive that they may prove prohibitive. I was unable to tolerate listening to too much of the deadly dull nonsense coming out of the prohibitionists on the Task Force, but I have monitored and participated in the proceedings nonetheless. The Task Force did not permit me to speak during public comment today, but I did manage to prevent the boobs from defining an enclosed space as having “5 sides” by shouting: “What about an hexagonal greenhouse? That would be illegal.” — we are truly dealing with a bunch of squares!

  14. The lesson to be learned from the conduct of the Task Force is that the prohibitionists are still fully in control of the reins of power in Colorado, and that they will continue to resist the will of the People of Colorado until they are deposed. The regulatory system to be promulgated by the GA and DOR may never even take shape, depending on what the Injustice Department says (Holder is recently quoted as saying that it will make a policy statement soon), and while it may be the first, and serve as a model for other states, it will be an absurdity, justified in part only if it manages to deliver cannabis to adults who wish to purchase it at a reasonable price.

  15. We must expel the fascists from the General Assembly — most of its membership — and overturn the prohibitionist statutes. The tenacity of the stonewalling on the criminal statutes means that it is incumbent on us all as citizens to find people accused of violating the cannabis statutes not guilty — juries can send a message to persecutors that they cannot ignore. The People of Colorado should eliminate the laws, institutions, and, if necessary, the persons that oppress them: jury nullification of unconscionable laws and the vindication of the parasites’ intended victims is one of the best ways to undermine Prohibition and the prohibitionists. We should also anticipate the need to amend the Constitution again soon, to end Prohibition by striking down or altering the statutes our supposed representatives refuse to; to that end, getting out the message that it has not ended, that cannabis is still illegal, and that our criminal injustice system continues to feed people who use cannabis into the corporate prison system is essential to further progress. The mutual congratulations of Task Force members to each other and the collaboration with the avowed enemies of reform on it did us no good. Would those who want to make money off cannabis please consider taking a much stronger stand for our rights and against the prohibitionists?

  16. I registered to this site just to leave an opinion on your article. I think they are on the right track with some of the listed points. But some not so much. I take issue with the THC content thing as well as allowing out of state people to buy at a retail level. I also think that a limited amount should be allowed to be grown outside so long as it isn’t in direct contact of the public. We should be able to use, free, ‘green’ energy to grow with! The sun. We hear this talk about being green, well here you go. I am an indoor grower and love growing indoors. But how green is it? my yearly co2 is over 2100lbs a year for my very small closet grow. Not sure what that means but it’s got something to do with being green, or lack of. Great write up! I am going to check out some of the referenced links. Thx! -Jay @SmileHighCity

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