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Published on Friday, January 16, 2015

Marijuana already big in the first week of session

Just five days into the 105 day session, marijuana has been front and center in discussions. There are already a number of marijuana related bills introduced, and many more to come. The issues surrounding marijuana include realigning and regulating medical marijuana, tax revenue distributions, and public safety issues, such as driving with open containers of marijuana and vacating marijuana related criminal convictions. AWC’s focus this session is on addressing the alignment of the medical marijuana market and sharing recreational excise tax revenue with cities.

Cities were pleased to see that the Governor included marijuana excise tax revenue sharing in his budget proposal released in December, and we are working with several legislators on additional proposals for revenue sharing. One proposal has already been introduced, HB 1165, and others are anticipated next week.

SB 5052, sponsored by Sen. Ann Rivers (R-Vancouver), addresses medical marijuana and will be heard on Thursday, January 22, at 10 am in the Senate Health Care Committee. The bill, dubbed the Cannabis Patient Protection Act, makes some significant steps in reconciling the medical and recreational markets by requiring medical retailers to be licensed by the Liquor Control Board and establishing a patient authorization database. AWC supports this legislation; however, we anticipate that it will continue to undergo numerous revisions as it works its way through the legislative process.

Two other marijuana proposals were heard by legislative committees this week. SB 5002, also sponsored by Sen. Rivers, would clarify that it is a traffic infraction to consume marijuana while driving or to have an open container in the passenger area of the vehicle. HB 1041 would allow for the vacation of certain misdemeanor marijuana convictions.

In an effort to address some of the questions about city impacts from marijuana legalization, AWC commissioned a study with BERK Consulting. BERK’s study included interviews with 10 cities across the state and looking at data from Colorado to determine how legalization is likely to impact cities and what data best measures community impacts. The complete report is available here.