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Regulating Legal Pot: 10 New Rules Under Consideration

The Exchange

Last week, the Colorado General Assembly began the arduous task of crafting a regulatory framework for the state’s new “adult use,” aka recreational, marijuana industry, which was approved by voters last November. A task force was convened to offer suggestions (and it did, 165 pages (PDF) worth of them), a special committee was created to review those suggestions and the legislature is expected to vote on the full package later this year.

Get ready, government wonks, this is how the sausage is made.

For the rest of us, however, it is a chance to see an industry take shape. So what types of regulations is the state considering? What might the country’s first truly legal cannabis industry actually look like? Here are a few of the proposals that are being discussed.

Potency labeling: Like the alcohol-by-volume information now found on the side of every alcoholic beverage container sold in the United States, cannabis products may soon carry THC by weight or total THC per dose labeling.

Vending machines: While we’re still a long way from being able to buy marijuana products out of automated vending machines, the state has agreed to at least consider the option, provided that “security measures are in place to verify the age and the residency of the consumer.” Translation: No, these machines won’t be appearing at gas stations or convenience stores anytime soon.

Taxes: The elephant in the room: Excise taxes of up to 15 percent and a special sales tax of up to 25 percent on cannabis purchases will likely go to Colorado voters this fall.

Disposal rules: Dumpster diving for discarded marijuana? It’s a possibility. So the state is considering laws that would dictate where and how businesses and private citizens can discard their stems, seeds, wrappers and other THC-rich trash.

State-owned stores? Should adult-use cannabis only be sold through state-owned and operated stores? The task force said “no,” deciding that such a requirement would violate the spirit of Colorado’s marijuana legalization amendment. The state is expected to agree, regulating this as a private commercial activity only.

Local licensing: Several Colorado counties and towns have already banned adult-use marijuana facilities from their jurisdictions, and the legislature is expected to leave that option open to localities that don’t want the industry to move into their neighborhoods.

Out-of-state buyers? Yes. Out-of-state owners? No. Marijuana “tourism” by non-Colorado residents should be welcomed, according to the task force, as long as buyers are over 21 and have a valid state-issued ID. That said, out-of-state buyers might be limited in how much they can purchase, to discourage folks from stocking up in bulk. And, as is the case now, owners and employees of cannabis businesses will likely need to meet state residency requirements.

Childproof packaging: Like prescription drugs, the state may mandate childproof packaging for marijuana purchases, though the particulars of what this packaging might look like and when it will be required have yet to be decided.

Product purity: The task force spelled out a number of recommendations for what can/cannot be included as marijuana additives, specifically prohibiting the addition of nicotine, toxic substances and any types of marijuana and alcohol combinations.

Impaired driving: Although the “how” side of this is still being worked out, expect some form of restriction on driving while high.

What do you think? What other regulations, if any, does this new industry need?