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Gazette Premium Content Legislative committee to draft marijuana bills announced

MEGAN SCHRADER Updated: March 7, 2013 at 12:00 am

Implementation of a constitutional amendment legalizing recreational marijuana took a step forward Thursday as Democrats announced appointments to a new committee of lawmakers to draft bills.

But Republicans were quick to criticize the creation of a joint House and Senate committee as an unnecessary delay in the process of drafting legislation regulating marijuana.

Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver, who was appointed chairman of the committee, said it is the “most efficient, most transparent way to draft a bill that deals with the many, many facets of implementing Amendment 64.”

Pabon also served on a governor’s task force of 24 stakeholders created shortly after voters approved Amendment 64. The governor’s task force concluded its work on Feb. 28, making a number of recommendations for lawmakers on how to regulate the sale, possession and use of marijuana.

House Minority Leader Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs, said his caucus is frustrated by the process.

“I don’t think we needed two separate steps,” he said. “Either we didn’t need the governor’s task force or we don’t need the joint select committee. The governor’s task force didn’t do the work it set out to do and that work was to create a legislative agenda.”

The governor’s task force made more than 70 recommendations encompassing a number of issues such as public safety, health, out-of-state trafficking and the structure of the new industry for marijuana.

Gov. John Hickenlooper congratulated the team for its work, which is now being drafted into a large report to be given next week to the new legislative committee.

“I was a member of the task force; I spent hundreds of hours in meetings and this is a tough needle to thread,” Pabon said. But he said the final result is an impressive feat on an extremely tight deadline. Recommendations will be divided into categories based on the level of consensus among the task force members.

Pabon said the best way to wade through those is for a joint committee to create one large bill encompassing all the issues.

The committee will have 10 lawmakers - six Democrats and four Republicans.

Waller will get to make two appointments to the committee. Rep. Dan Nordberg, R-Colorado Springs, who was on the governor’s task force, will be one appointment, but Waller hasn’t decided on the second.

“If people are reluctant to serve, I don’t think it’s because they don’t want to touch the issue,” Waller said. “Everyone’s time is precious and valuable.”

He called the work thus far unnecessary and time consuming.

Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman also will make two appointments.

In addition to Pabon, Democrat leadership appointed Representatives Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont; Jenise May, D-Aurora; and Senators Cheri Jahn, D-Wheat Ridge; Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village; and Jessie Ulibarri, D-Commerce City.

Contact Megan Schrader: 719-286-0644 Twitter @CapitolSchrader

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