It’s official. Coloradoans will be voting this November on Amendment 64, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol act. This landmark legislation raises many issues which will be widely debated in upcoming months as Colorado considers becoming the first state in the nation – and the first geographic area in the world – to make the possession, use, and regulated production and distribution of marijuana legal for adults 21 and older.
How will this Constitutional amendment affect current medical marijuana users, medical marijuana businesses, and the lawyers that advise them? Here are some quick bullet points which provide an overview of Amendment 64 and explore its relationship to Colorado’s existing medical marijuana laws.
Amendment 64 DOES:
• Create legal marijuana retail stores that can sell to all adults 21 and older.
• License retail stores, cultivation facilities, product manufacturing facilities, and testing facilities for an adult market. It is important to note that no marijuana retail businesses licenses are required to be issued until 2014. This will allow plenty of time to "take the temperature" of the state and federal government before anyone applies for these new licenses.
• Direct the Department of Revenue to regulate a system of cultivation, production (including infused products), and distribution.
• Provide current Medical Marijuana Business Owners - should they choose to apply for the new licenses - with explicit preference in the licensing process including annual fees capped at $500.
• Allow local municipalities to ban or restrict these new business licenses, but bans can only go in front of voters in even-year general elections.
• Require the general assembly to enact an excise tax of up to 15 percent on the wholesale sale of non-medical marijuana applied at the point of transfer from a cultivation facility to a retail store or product manufacturer.
Amendment 64 DOES NOT:
• Change existing medical marijuana laws for patients, caregivers, or medical marijuana businesses.
• Subject medical marijuana sales to the excise tax discussed above.
• Create or in any way affect laws pertaining to driving under the influence of marijuana.
In summary, all medical marijuana laws - both statutory and Constitutional - will remain 100% intact when Amendment 64 passes. Of course, the initiative does not change federal law which has categorized marijuana - whether for medical use or not - as firmly illegal for decades. Given this federal stance, combined with the fact that the federal government has allowed several hundred medical marijuana stores to thrive in Colorado, it is difficult to say how the federal government may react to Amendment 64’s passage. Regardless, marijuana advocates have included a generous timeline in Amendment 64 - no marijuana retail business licenses are required to be issued until 2014 - which leaves ample time to "take the temperature" of the state and federal governments before anyone applies for these new licenses.
To read the full initiative, visit:
Fertile Ground is a monthly column highlighting the hottest state and national issues surrounding marijuana reform. This column is brought to you by Brian Vicente, the Executive Director of the advocacy group Sensible Colorado, and a partner at Vicente Sederberg LLC, a full service medical marijuana law firm.