U.S. Markets open in 4 hrs 33 mins

Recreational pot regulation work begins in Colo.

Kristen Wyatt, Associated Press

GOLDEN, Colo. (AP) -- Recreational marijuana may be legal in Colorado, but regulation of the drug is just beginning.

Colorado began crafting pot regulations Monday, when a 24-member task force appointed by Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper started work. The first order of business was the toughest — figuring out how to regulate a drug that's never been regulated before and is still illegal under federal law.

"We've got a lot of work in front of us," said Jack Finlaw, a lawyer to the governor and a co-chairman of the marijuana task force. The group includes doctors, lawyers, drug addiction specialists, state lawmakers and marijuana users and growers.

The job is daunting. With no federal guidance, Colorado and Washington state, which also legalized pot this month, must go it alone regulating the drug. The states are writing their own rules for making sure the drug is produced safely, kept away from children and taxed for the first time. The states are trying to keep consumers safe, but not make regulation of the drug so involved that pot smokers and sellers stay in the black market.

Another problem for the task force will be overcoming many members' opposition to legalizing the drug.

"We won't be engaging in debate on the merits of this amendment. We just need to move forward," said Barbara Brohl, executive director of Colorado's Revenue Department, which currently regulates alcohol and medical marijuana sales.

The task force decided to break into five smaller groups to examine how to begin regulating pot. The group spent two hours just rattling off questions to answer about regulating pot.

For example, should marijuana that is smoked be treated like marijuana that is eaten? Should recreational pot play a role in child custody cases? Should state regulators control how marijuana is advertised? Is there a way to legally limit the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, THC?

Task force members have five more meetings before suggesting recommendations to the governor. Lawmakers will ultimately have to sign off on marijuana regulations adopted by the Revenue Department.

The Department of Revenue must adopt the regulations by July, with sales possible by year's end. The task force will examine the need for "stopgap regulations" until commercial sales begin. At the moment, marijuana is legal but there's no legal way to acquire it without a doctor's recommendation.


Find Kristen Wyatt at https://www.twitter.com/APkristenwyatt