The Challenges of Setting Up the Nation's First Legal Marijuana Market

COLORADO: Lawmakers in Denver, Colorado, are finding that setting up the nation’s first legal marijuana market is not so simple.

Amendment 64, which backers said would regulate marijuana sales like alcohol, granted cities and towns the authority to set their own rules, even allowing them to opt out of having pot shops. Now, Denver City Council members are walking a fine line between protecting the interests of legitimate marijuana merchants and looking out for neighborhoods which don’t want to be overrun by drugs.

“There is a profound potential for a complete change of Denver’s image,” said Councilman Charlie Brown, who chairs the council committee that is tasked with coming up with rules and regulations.

On Monday, the Amendment 64 committee meets for three hours, making decisions about 39 rules and regulations for the new industry, ranging from zoning buffers to hours to fees.Later in the day, the full council takes up a discussion about whether to put a proposed 5 percent sales tax on pot sales on the November ballot.

On Friday, Auditor Dennis Gallagher sent a letter to council members, saying the 5 percent tax is a tipping point that will compel “no” votes.

He supports a 3.5 percent sales tax and fears if the sales tax doesn’t pass, people will choose to grow their marijuana at home, creating back-alley deals, overloading electrical systems and shooting down local tax revenue potential.

“We have control over commercial ventures,” Gallagher said. “We have almost no control or oversight of the home grower.”

The final council vote on the marijuana tax question will be Aug. 26 after a public hearing.

Read full article @ Morning Journal