Marijuana tourism regulations up for discussion in Colorado legislative committee

DENVER - A legislative panel tasked with regulating marijuana in Colorado will be discussing the topic of marijuana tourism Friday.

The constitutional amendment approved by voters last year allows marijuana use by adults over 21. It doesn't specify whether only Colorado residents can use the drug, prompting speculation about marijuana tourism.

A Colorado task force made up of law enforcement, government officials and marijuana advocates recommended that the state legislature not step in. The task force said out-of-state visitors should be able to buy marijuana as long as they don't take it home. However, many state lawmakers are appalled at the idea of pot tourism.

The task force's regulatory framework working group made the recommendation in February based on two primary reasons.

The first came from the text of the voter-approved amendment itself, which refers to eligible consumers as those over the age of 21 who can present a "government-issued" form of identification. It does not include any explicit reference to residency.

The second line of reasoning in the task force's recommendation suggested that a residency requirement would create black market for recreational marijuana.

"It is clear that under current state law that out-of-state residents may possess less than an ounce of marijuana without penalty. Forbidding those from out-of-state from purchasing the marijuana that they may lawfully possess in Colorado would thus encourage straw purchases and unauthorized resale to out-of-state residents," the task force wrote.

The written recommendation said the chief concern on the other side of the debate was that recreation sales to out-of-state residents could attract greater federal scrutiny and "the displeasure of our neighboring states."

In light of those concerns, the task force suggested providing reminders at the time of purchase that out-of-state consumers cannot carry their marijuana across state lines, posting signs at airports and near borders with the same information and coordinating with neighboring states. They also wrote about discussing a restriction on marijuana retail licenses for stores located near the state’s borders.

The task force also considered the relatively low price of marijuana in Colorado as a possible incentive for drug traffickers to visit several future recreational marijuana stores to gather the drug for illegal export to other states. They suggested possibly limiting the amount of pot that could be sold to out-of-state residents to discourage that kind of behavior.

"If a limit of, for example, an 1/8 of an ounce was placed on sales to non-Coloradans the same trafficker would have to visit more than 100 stores to compile a pound of marijuana. A 1/8 ounce of marijuana can produce between 5 and 10 'joints.' This dramatically shifts the incentive away from visiting Colorado to purchase marijuana and attempt to profit by selling in another state," the task force wrote.

The legislative panel tasked with enacting the recommendations is an ad-hoc committee of lawmakers from both chambers, it'll be known as a "Joint Committee" -- no pun intended.

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View the full text of the Amendment 64 Task Force recommendations here: http://tinyurl.com/cqfvrae

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