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Latest in marijuana debate: Cities can ban businesses

By: Associated Press
January 17, 2014 Updated: January 19, 2014 at 4:29 pm
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photo - FILE - In this Wednesday Jan. 1, 2014 file photo, customers stand in a line numbering several hundred people, shortly after the opening of 3D Cannabis Center, which opened as a legal recreational retail outlet in Denver on New Years Day. Colorado began retail marijuana sales on Jan. 1, a day some are calling "Green Wednesday." (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)
FILE - In this Wednesday Jan. 1, 2014 file photo, customers stand in a line numbering several hundred people, shortly after the opening of 3D Cannabis Center, which opened as a legal recreational retail outlet in Denver on New Years Day. Colorado began retail marijuana sales on Jan. 1, a day some are calling "Green Wednesday." (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File) 

Recreational marijuana is legal in Colorado and Washington, but debates over the drug are far from over. Here's an updated look at issues emerging in the states where the drug is already legal without a doctor's recommendation:

CITIES CAN BAN POT

The attorney general in Washington state says cities and counties can block licensed marijuana businesses from operating within their borders. Attorney General Bob Ferguson determined that the state's voter-approved measure legalizing recreational marijuana allows local governments to adopt rules that are more strict than those set out in the law — up to and including outright bans. In Colorado, the law expressly allows local governments to adopt bans. Large swaths of the state have opted out of the legal-pot regime, including Colorado Springs, the state's second-largest city.

RELIGIOUS GROUP WEIGHS IN: MEDICAL V. RECREATIONAL

The leader of Colorado-based Focus on the Family says while there are legitimate medical benefits to be derived from marijuana, using it for recreation goes too far. In a posting on the Internet, the president of the influential national religious organization compared recreational marijuana use with warnings in the Bible against getting drunk.

FOOD STAMPS FOR POT?

Internet rumors of people using food stamps to buy edible pot in Colorado appear to be urban legends. That's why a Colorado Senate committee this week rejected a bill to add marijuana dispensaries to liquor stores, gun shops and casinos as places where recipients of public assistance payments and food stamps can't use their electronic benefits cards to access cash. Lawmakers said there's no evidence of such fraud, and that ATMs are already hard to find in economically depressed neighborhoods.

MORE WEED FOR MORE PEOPLE

A group of marijuana activists want another pot vote in Colorado — to loosen restrictions on who can have it. A proposed ballot measure cleared for ballots Wednesday would effectively discard Colorado's 1-ounce possession limit and 21-and-over restriction. A similar pot possession measure has been proposed before in Colorado, and failed to get enough signatures to make ballots. There's little reason to expect more success for the 2014 version of the legalize-for-all proposal.

SICK PEOPLE FEAR PRICEY POT

Another group of pot activists — longtime users with medical permission to use the drug — are also unhappy. A patient-advocacy group has written to lawmakers requesting the creation of a "Cannabis Patient Fund" to provide subsidies for some 120,000 Coloradans on a list of approved medical pot users. The group is alarmed over escalating pot prices, which aren't regulated by the state and have more than doubled in retail shops since Jan. 1, when recreational sales began. So far, the group hasn't found any lawmakers willing to sponsor its idea.

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