Pot’s legal conflicts need joint solution

Some people have yet to embrace the concept of medical marijuana, and then along comes the era of the legal use of marijuana just for fun. But we are reminded that they are in the minority, at least among people who vote.

Amendment 64, the initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol, was passed in last year’s election and the state hopes to have specific regulations in place by October.

There are similarities: Booze and pot get you high, and they can damage your health. To each one’s own device, eh?

But the state must come up with a plan to make this work.

Nobody knows if the feds are going to ignore or throw a monkey wrench into the state’s plan. But Gov. John Hickenlooper said the people have spoken, so the state is moving on it.

Several municipalities in the region already have enacted moratoriums on accepting, processing and approving of recreational-marijuana businesses while a state-appointed task force is working on just how this is going to play out. The town of Superior went a step further, passing a permanent ban on them.

The state’s task force, co-chaired by Jack Finlaw, Hickenlooper’s chief legal counsel, and Barbara Brohl, executive director of the Colorado Department of Revenue, is supposed to create a regulatory structure that will promote the health and safety of the people of Colorado.

The amendment legalizes recreational use of marijuana for those who are 21 and older, and taxes and regulates the sale of recreational marijuana as well as its production and distribution.

But here’s the kicker: It will generate tax revenue. Each year, the first $40 million in revenue raised by the excise tax will be credited to a state fund used for constructing public schools.

Schools and parents should in turn be teaching kids they are only roasting their lungs if they keep inhaling, just as alcohol can do irreparable damage to a liver. Both can make you drive like a loon.

Possession and use of marijuana remains a crime under federal law. People who use marijuana for recreational purposes will still be subject to criminal prosecution under federal law.

Because federal law generally pre-empts state law, Colorado’s Department of Revenue is consulting and working with the U.S. Department of Justice to understand the federal government’s approach in light of conflicts between state and federal laws.

Under Amendment 64, you can cultivate up to six marijuana plants, three of which are flowering and three of which are vegetating. You can keep all of the marijuana harvested from these plants, so long as the harvested marijuana is stored on the same premises where the marijuana plants were grown.

You can possess an ounce of marijuana as well as marijuana accessories. People will be able to transfer up to an ounce of marijuana to another person over age 21 if no money passes hands. However, public consumption of marijuana, as well as driving under the influence of marijuana, will remain a crime in Colorado.

Still sounds like a big headache for law enforcement.

The state needs to get the details right, to avoid lawsuits and create efficient ways of regulating and policing this newly expanded pot industry.

Legalize it, regulate it, get over it. But teach your children well. Nothing good comes from excess, whether it is booze or pot.

Doug Storum can be reached at 303-630-1959 or dstorum@bcbr.com.


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