Amendment 64 task force meets to outline plan for recreational marijuana sales in Colorado

No consensus on licensing business model

DENVER - Attempts to formulate a regulatory framework for recreational marijuana are proving to be more difficult than expected.

Gov. John Hickenlooper's task force on Amendment 64 failed to reach consensus on a regulatory business model during its meeting Tuesday.

One proposal would have allowed for vertical integration, where each owner would be licensed to grow, process, distribute and sell marijuana.

A second proposal would have allowed for open integration, where different owners would be licensed to specialize in different parts of the operation.

A third option was a hybrid of the two.

All options included strict inventory control, surveillance requirements and “seed-to-sale” tracking.

Without consensus, it goes back to a committee or working group to hammer out differences.

“We knew there was going to be a battle about the business model,” said Michael Elliott, executive director of the Medical Marijuana Industry Group. “We’re a laboratory of democracy.  We can create our own laws and see how they work.”

University of Denver Law Professor Sam Kamin told task force members that despite Colorado voter’s approval of medical and recreational marijuana, the controlled substance is still illegal under federal law.

“All the dispensaries are operating basically as a result of prosecutorial grace,” Kamin said.

Task Force Co-Chair Jack Finlaw told 7NEWS that the group is focused on adopting recommendations that put Colorado in the best possible light vis-à-vis the federal government.

“I think our goal is to have a very robust regulatory scheme that makes sure that the marijuana that we grow and sell here stays in Colorado,” Finlaw said. “That we protect our kids from marijuana and that we have the resources to enforce the law.”

Finlaw said he believes that the federal government hasn’t cracked down on Colorado because the state implemented a framework to strictly regulate medical marijuana.

"It’s a tricky legal issue," Finlaw added. "I think all of those things will be steps that will allow the federal government to see that we're minding our business well. We're taking care and making sure that Coloradans and our neighbors are safe and protected."

The task force also voted to recommend that employers be allowed to keep existing work rules related to a drug free workplace.

The task force also voted to recommend that lawmakers consider alternatives to assist the efforts of marijuana business owners to access the banking system.

Finlaw, who is also the governor's chief of staff, says he has visited several marijuana growing operations and dispensaries in Colorado. He describes the people who run them as serious, careful and conscientious.

"It reminded me of visiting wineries in Napa or distilleries in Scotland. It's the same kind of spirit that these entrepreneurs have," Finlaw said.

The Amendment 64 Task Force will forward its recommendation to the General Assembly, which will be tasked with creating a law, or series of laws, to regulate recreational marijuana.

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