“Spark the Discussion” is a monthly Legal Connection column highlighting the hottest trends in the emerging field of medical marijuana law. This column is brought to you by Vicente Sederberg, LLC, a full-service, community-focused medical marijuana law firm.
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 (and discussed in this column) 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 are authorized to sell to adults 21 and older.
- License cultivation facilities, product manufacturing facilities, and testing facilities for this adult market with licenses expected to be issued in 2014.
- Direct the Colorado Department of Revenue to regulate the cultivation, production (including infused products), and distribution of marijuana.
- Allow local municipalities to ban or restrict these new business licenses at any time through a local governing body, but citizen-initiated 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 the cultivation facility to a retail store or product manufacturer, with the first $40 million of revenue raised annually directed to the Public School Capital Construction Assistance Fund.
- Allow for the cultivation, processing, and sale of industrial hemp.
Amendment 64 DOES NOT:
- Change existing medical marijuana laws for patients, caregivers, and medical marijuana businesses.
- Subject medical marijuana sales to the excise tax discussed above.
- Change existing laws regarding driving under the influence of marijuana, or the ability of employers to maintain their current employment policies.
In summary, all medical marijuana laws—both statutory and Constitutional—will remain 100% intact if 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 see: http://www.regulatemarijuana.org/about#Initiative