Last week, Colorado lawmakers passed the first bills in history that will serve to establish a regulatory framework for a legal marijuana market for adults 21 and older in the state.
House Bill 1317, which proposes the regulatory framework for legal marijuana, and House Bill 1318, which proposes the tax rates which will fund the regulatory framework for legal marijuana sales and will ultimately need Colorado voter approval, passed the state Senate and House last Wednesday.
Mason Tvert, co-director of the Yes on 64 campaign which backed Amendment 64 in the state and communications director for Marijuana Policy Project, dropped by HuffPost Live to discuss the details of the groundbreaking pot bills. The bills "really entailed all the regulatory aspects of these new laws -- this would be things ranging from licensing processes, labeling requirements, things involving advertising, all sorts of elements of a regulated market that we might see with any other product," Tvert said.
The bills now await Gov. John Hickenlooper's signature and appear poised to become law. Hickenlooper, who was a vocal opponent of Amendment 64 before it passed in November, has come out in support of the proposed marijuana taxes.
"I'll certainly promote the marijuana question," Hickenlooper said to The Denver Post. "We need to make sure we have the resources to have a good regulatory framework to manage this."
Colorado's Taxpayers' Bill of Rights still requires that Coloradans vote on any tax increases so they will be asked to weigh in on the proposed 15 percent excise tax and 10 percent sales tax on this November's ballot. The Associated Press's Kristen Wyatt reported that some state lawmakers, fear that voters will reject one or both of the tax proposals leaving the state stuck with the tab for enforcing pot sales but without the budget to pay for it.
"There's a 15 percent proposed excise tax on non-medical marijuana wholesale sales, so that would be between a cultivation facility and say a retail store," Tvert described on HuffPost Live. "And then there is also a proposed 10 percent special sales tax, which would be in addition to the standard sales tax. The purpose of that is really to insure that we're covering the costs of enforcing the regulations in the system which is really critical to insure that this works."
Although Coloradans are known to reject increased taxes when it comes to even popular state services -- take K-12 education improvement, for example -- when it comes to legal marijuana, state voters appear to be ready to buck that trend.
According to a recent survey from Public Policy Polling, 77 percent of Colorado voters support the 15 percent excise tax -- which Amendment 64 calls for and which is earmarked for public school construction -- as well as an additional 10 percent sales tax to cover the cost of regulating recreational marijuana sales. Only 18 percent of those surveyed were opposed to increased taxes on legal pot sales. The survey of 900 registered Colorado voters was conducted by Public Policy Polling from April 15-16.
In a statement, Amendment 64 backers said that state officials have told them that the cost to the state to enforce recreational marijuana regulations would not be greater than $30 million and said that the proposed 25 percent in taxes would still likely yield more than $60 million.
Under HB-1317, marijuana shops would be required to be licensed by the state and owned by Colorado residents and when the regulatory law goes into effect, for the first nine months only current medical-marijuana dispensaries will be able to apply for the recreational pot license. According to The Denver Post, the first recreational marijuana stores to open would only be able to sell the marijuana that they have grown themselves, but come October 2014, that restriction would be lifted so stand-alone growers and retailers could open up for business.
HB-1317 also bans cities from opening pot shops and bans marijuana collectives that could skirt the new marijuana regulatory laws by growing and providing pot to members tax-free and below cost.
The bill also requires stores to treat marijuana magazines like pornography by placing them behind the counter.
Colorado voters passed Amendment 64 last November making the limited sale, possession and growing of marijuana for recreational purposes legal for adults 21 and over. A64 states that adults can possess up to an ounce of pot, can grow as many as six marijuana plants at home (with only three flowering at any given time), but that home-grown marijuana can only be for personal use and cannot be sold, however, adults can gift one another up to an ounce of pot.