Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Gazette Premium Content Clock ticking on Colorado marijuana regulation measures

By Megan Schrader Published: May 2, 2013

Time is getting tight for marijuana bills that outline the details of growing, selling, buying and using pot in Colorado.

The least controversial of three marijuana bills made it through a committee Thursday, but two others were stalled for the day and a fourth - reviving a bill killed earlier this session - was reintroduced back at the starting line.

Voters in November approved Amendment 64, legalizing the possession, sale and growth of marijuana for recreational use by adults. But the amendment left it up to lawmakers to regulate and tax the industry, which will begin retail sales in 2014.

Lawmakers must be finished with their work before midnight Wednesday.

That leaves a short timeline for two of the bills, so short that Sen. Randy Baumgardner, R-Cowdrey, speculated there will be late Friday night committee meetings or a Saturday session.

'It fell apart, ' Baumgardner said of House Bill 1317, which is by design a collection of the most difficult-to-pass pot regulations. 'We're kind of getting the wheels back on the car. '

And if HB1317 is a jalopy, then a proposed legal limit for driving under the influence of pot could land it in the junkyard.

In the past three years, House Republican Leader Mark Waller, of Colorado Springs, has tried four times to set a legal limit for how much THC (delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol), marijuana's active ingredient, can be in a person's blood stream before they're legally considered to be driving under the influence of drugs.

This year his marijuana and driving bill passed the House with bipartisan support, 57-6, only to be killed in a Senate committee.

It was revived, however, as an amendment to HB1317 which could be a deal breaker for the bill in the Senate.

Co-sponsor of the bill, Sen. Cheri Jahn, D-Wheat Ridge, said she will do everything in her power to get the driving high amendment stripped from the measure.

Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper specifically mentioned the driving high bill as an important safeguard in his State of the State Address. Republican Attorney General John Suthers testified Thursday that law enforcement across the state uniformly supports and needs the regulation.

As a safeguard against the driving high provision being stripped from HB1317, a new bill was introduced and passed out of committee Thursday. It is exactly the same as the one killed in the Senate earlier.

'I said 'Why are you jeopardizing 1317?', so they dropped another bill, ' Jahn said.

Those opposed to the driving high bill say blood tests for marijuana infringe on constitutional rights, and contend there is not enough scientific evidence that a person is impaired when they are at or above the proposed legal limit for THC.

HB1317 faces other challenges.

Owners of existing medical marijuana stores balked at a proposal that grow operations could be separate from retail stores - something that is not permitted under medical marijuana business permits.

After a late-night meeting of the minds, the bill was amended to give existing businesses a 10-month head-start before licenses are given to new companies, including those that only grow pot.

Another HB1317 amendment that's drawing fire would require marijuana magazines be treated like pornography in stores and placed behind the counter.

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Contact Megan Schrader

719-286-0644

Twitter: @CapitolSchrader

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