Marijuana debate turns to regulators

DENVER - The marijuana regulation debate in Colorado continues Thursday with lawmakers asking who should regulate the newly legal drug.

A special House-Senate pot committee planned to grill officials with the Department of Revenue. That's the state agency that currently oversees medical marijuana. The department is slated to regulate recreational pot, too — but its marijuana regulation was called into serious question last week in a scathing state audit.

The Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division was described as a directionless agency that wasted money on cars and office furniture while running out of money to track marijuana as promised. Lawmakers want assurances that problems have been corrected and that the department is prepared to oversee a likely crush of marijuana businesses.

The special House-Senate pot committee are debating how state-sanctioned marijuana should be grown, taxed and sold. The panel will also debate ways to prevent negative consequences of marijuana legalization, including ways to keep the drug from children.

A constitutional amendment approved by voters last year allows adults over 21 to possess small amounts of marijuana. It also directs the state to authorize retail sales. Commercial sales to adults over 21 are set to begin in January.

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