Marijuana was on the minds of Joint Budget Committee members Thursday as Gov. John Hickenlooper presented a budget proposal he said funded a "bare-bones" regulatory system for legalized recreational pot sales "that would not have made anybody proud."
Fortunately, he said, voters approved Proposition AA Tuesday, which allows the state to implement a 15 percent excise tax and a 10 percent sales tax on recreational marijuana.
It's expected to generate $67 million a year, according to state estimates, but no one really knows what the pot market will do in Colorado.
"What we're going to see is a regulatory environment that is going to have the resources to have every bit as much accountability and enforcement as we see in alcohol," Hickenlooper said. "That's what most voters in Colorado wanted to see."
Rep. Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen, asked how the state will respond to scathing audits of how the medical marijuana industry has been regulated.
"We will be able to track, using technology, every single plant from seed to harvest," he said. "Those are capabilities we've never come anywhere close to being able to do. We were basically underfunded and trying to do a hodgepodge of good ideas without the resources."
The plan for that funding will be coming soon as an amendment to the budget proposal.
Gerou asked if it will include a budget for research into the health impacts of marijuana - particularly detrimental impacts to children.
Hickenlooper said there will be funding from the new taxes set aside for that research and a public education campaign.
But Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, wanted to make it clear that money generated from medical marijuana sales won't be used for that purpose.
"Those funds are protected by the state constitution, and dedicated by Amendment 20, to further the medical marijuana program," Steadman said.
He said the state should invest in research to see how marijuana can help families like those moving to Colorado to treat their children's seizures with a non-intoxicating strain of medical marijuana.
"There's a real paucity of that research out there," Steadman said. "Somebody needs to step up and start shedding some light into these neglected corners of medical marijuana research."
The Gazette has been following a number of families who have moved to Colorado Springs seeking medical marijuana for their children who suffer from seizures. The parents say the liquid produced from marijuana plants has noticeably improved their children's conditions in just a few weeks. Yet little to no medical research has been done to support or counter their claims.
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