Colorado legislators announced legislation for regulating legal marijuana businesses Friday as ecstatic potheads flocked to Denver to light up in public Saturday in celebration of the first "4/20" since Coloradans voted to legalize the drug in November.
The proposed legislation would allow out-of-state residents to purchase one-fourth of an ounce of marijuana "during a single transaction." It also would allow existing medical marijuana businesses to apply for retail licenses on October 1, three months ahead of other would-be retailers.
In some ways the bill is more progressive than the 58-point document crafted by the Amendment 64 Implementation Task Force, which was appointed by Gov. John Hickenlooper to craft marijuana policy proposals after the landmark November legalization initiative passed with 55 percent support.
In addition to eliminating a proposed one-year monopoly in the retail market for existing medical marijuana providers, the bill also would allow retail shops to sell their home-grown product "or purchase it from a retail marijuana cultivation facility." The task force proposal said retailers should be required to grow 70 percent of what they sell, but the joint legislative committee drafting the legislation voted last week to scrap the idea.
The legislation retains a task force proposal that retail applicants must be Colorado residents for two years before submitting their application - which prevents a rapid influx of out-of-state entrepreneurs. Employees at retail shops would also have to be Colorado residents.
Medical marijuana businessmen seeking to reorient their shops to retail sales would pay a $500 application fee and new applicants would pay $5,000 after Jan. 1, 2014, the same date retailers can open.
A companion bill that deals with tax issues would set a 15 percent special sales tax on retail sales and a 15 percent excise tax on grower-to-seller deals, The Denver Post reports. The task force recommended a special sales tax rate of "no more than 25 [percent]."
The current Colorado legislative session ends May 8, The Post notes, meaning that the bills must be passed quickly.
Saturday's "4/20" celebrations in Denver are expected to be the biggest yet in the city - whose police were directed in 2008 to consider pot their lowest priority. The triumphant gathering is expected to draw tens of thousands of visitors and will feature concerts, agitating by activists, and a giant haze of smoke around 4:20 p.m.