What Happens If Colorado Legalizes Marijuana?

Sep 20, 2012

If Amend­ment 64 passes, it will become almost imme­di­ately legal under Col­orado law for adults to pos­sess, grow, con­sume and give away up to an ounce of mar­i­juana. It may take more than a year, how­ever, before adults can pur­chase mar­i­juana legally in a store. A poll released in early Sep­tem­ber by Pub­lic Pol­icy Polling shows the amend­ment con­tin­ues to lead, cur­rently by a 47–38 mar­gin, with 15 per­cent still unde­cided. Pas­sage could enable the state to increase tax rev­enues by $50 mil­lion a year or more while also poten­tially reduc­ing law enforce­ment costs. If the mea­sure passes, the parts of the amend­ment related to indi­vid­ual behav­ior go into effect as soon as the gov­er­nor signs a procla­ma­tion cer­ti­fy­ing the results of the elec­tion, which he is required to do within 30 days. Sec­tions related to the com­mer­cial cul­ti­va­tion and sale of mar­i­juana would take effect incre­men­tally but mar­i­juana would be avail­able for sale legally no sooner than late 2013 or early 2014. Even if the state moves for­ward with imple­men­ta­tion in a timely fash­ion, it is anyone’s guess what the fed­eral response–if any–will be. The feds could do noth­ing, could move to block imple­men­ta­tion, or could wait until legal busi­nesses are set up and then move to shut them down, pos­si­bly arrest­ing own­ers and employ­ees in the process. The amend­ment requires the Col­orado Depart­ment of Rev­enue to adopt reg­u­la­tions gov­ern­ing the licens­ing of com­mer­cial busi­nesses by no later than July 1, 2013. Accord­ing to the amend­ment these reg­u­la­tions can­not pro­hibit mar­i­juana busi­nesses or make their oper­a­tion “unrea­son­ably imprac­ti­cal.” Attor­ney Brian Vicente, co-director of the pro-64 cam­paign, says that the amend­ment was writ­ten in such a way that the leg­is­la­ture can choose to address the issue, thus pro­vid­ing guid­ance to the DOR, or can do noth­ing and leave the craft­ing of reg­u­la­tions entirely to DOR staff. “We left it open so that the leg­is­la­ture can be as active as it wants to be or it can leave the mat­ter entirely to DOR,” Vicente told the Col­orado Inde­pen­dent. DOR must begin pro­cess­ing busi­ness appli­ca­tions by Oct. 1, 2013. If the DOR fails to meet the dead­line, prospec­tive busi­ness own­ers can apply for local busi­ness licenses, thus bypass­ing the state. Local gov­ern­ments must estab­lish their own reg­u­la­tions, also by Oct. 1, 2013. Local gov­ern­ments may also ban mar­i­juana busi­nesses, but need a vote of the peo­ple to do so. Even if a city or county bans mar­i­juana busi­nesses, res­i­dents of the area would still be allowed to grow, pos­sess, con­sume and give away small amounts of mar­i­juana. While the amend­ment legal­izes pri­vate use of mar­i­juana, pub­lic use would remain ille­gal. Patrons at a ball game, for instance, would not be able to go to the smok­ing area and light a joint. Peo­ple would not be allowed to sit on a park bench and light up a mar­i­juana pipe. Peo­ple grow­ing their own could have up to six plants, with no more than three being mature at any given time. Plants would have to be grown in secured areas that are not vis­i­ble to the pub­lic. Even if it exceeds the legal one ounce, grow­ers would be allowed to pos­sess their entire har­vest. Employ­ers would not have to accom­mo­date peo­ple who wish to smoke at work and would still be allowed to test for mar­i­juana use and to fire peo­ple who test pos­i­tive. Dri­ving under the influ­ence of mar­i­juana would remain ille­gal and it would remain ille­gal to sell or give mar­i­juana to any­one under 21 years old. Vicente explains that “employ­ers will still have the absolute abil­ity to retain any poli­cies they have about mar­i­juana use. Once it is legal, it is our hope that they will embrace com­mon sense rules regard­ing the legal use of a legal prod­uct on people’s own time.” Eco­nomic Impact The Blue Book, pro­duced by the Col­orado Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil, esti­mates the fis­cal impact that could be expected if the amend­ment passes. The book says that sales taxes and licens­ing fees would be expected to be between $5 mil­lion and $22 mil­lion per year and that the cost to the state would be $1.3 mil­lion in the first year and around $700,000 a year after that. The book makes no esti­mates of local rev­enues or costs. The amend­ment, though, also requires the leg­is­la­ture to enact an excise tax of up to 15 per­cent through 2017 and at any rate agreed to by the leg­is­la­ture after 2017. This tax would be col­lected on sales from grow­ers to retail­ers and mar­i­juana prod­uct man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pa­nies. The Blue Book makes no esti­mate of how much such a tax could gen­er­ate. The tax would have to be set by the leg­is­la­ture and then voted on by res­i­dents of Col­orado. “It is our strong belief that the leg­is­la­ture will pass such a tax as soon as they can,” Vicente said. He and the cam­paign esti­mate that the rev­enue from such a tax could be as much as $24 mil­lion to $73 mil­lion a year. The amend­ment stip­u­lates that the first $40 mil­lion a year gen­er­ated by the tax will go to a state fund for the con­struc­tion of pub­lic schools. Laura Chapin, spokesper­son for the anti-64 cam­paign, said she doubts the state would ever see any­where near the amount of money talked about by pro­po­nents. “How do you tax an indus­try that can­not use bank accounts?,” she asked, point­ing out that fed­eral law pro­hibits banks from accept­ing deposits of money earned by sell­ing a sub­stance that will remain ille­gal under fed­eral law. Vicente, though, says some med­ical mar­i­juana busi­nesses in the state actu­ally do have bank accounts. He notes that there has been lots of press about banks not doing busi­ness with mar­i­juana dis­pen­saries, but said numer­ous banks and dis­pen­saries are “qui­etly doing busi­ness together.” Aaron Smith, exec­u­tive direc­tor of the National Cannabis Indus­try Asso­ci­a­tion, said Chapin’s argu­ment is “absurd.” “Many mar­i­juana busi­nesses do have bank accounts, but I guar­an­tee you that even those that don’t, pay their taxes,” he said. “That is sim­ply an absurd state­ment. They didn’t do their home­work,” Smith said. A study released in August by the Col­orado Cen­ter on Law and Pol­icy esti­mates that local gov­ern­ments would gen­er­ate a com­bined $14 mil­lion a year in the begin­ning. That study also esti­mates sav­ings in law enforce­ment of $12 mil­lion a year imme­di­ately, increas­ing to $40 mil­lion a year in later years. While it doesn’t relate directly to Amend­ment 64, the National Cannabis Indus­try Asso­ci­a­tion released a study on Sept. 13 that shows tax rev­enue in Col­orado as a result of med­ical mar­i­juana likely exceeded $10 mil­lion in 2011. The study, which looked at only ten Col­orado cities, shows that med­ical mar­i­juana busi­nesses in the cities stud­ied, gen­er­ated $5.1 mil­lion in local tax rev­enues and nearly $4.5 mil­lion in state tax rev­enues. Busi­ness license fees bring in mil­lions more, the study says. In Den­ver alone, rev­enue from such fees exceeded $6 mil­lion in 2011 alone, accord­ing to the study. Source: Huff­in­g­ton Post (NY) Author: Scot Kers­gaard, The Col­orado Inde­pen­dent Pub­lished: Sep­tem­ber 20, 2012 Copy­right: 2012 Huff​in​g​ton​Post​.com, LLC Con­tact: scoop@​huffingtonpost.​com Web­site: http://​www​.huff​in​g​ton​post​.com/

 What Happens If Colorado Legalizes Marijuana?

Here is the orig­i­nal post:
What Hap­pens If Col­orado Legal­izes Marijuana?

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