Despite Arduous Goals, Relatively Smooth Sailing for Colorado Cannabis Task Force

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A task force set up to propose regulations on the adult use of marijuana in Colorado is set to release its final report next week, a major milestone that lays the initial groundwork for retail cannabis sales.

The group, to the surprise of some, hit its deadlines without any major obstacles and has kept the state on track to implement rules on the nascent industry later this year. Even more surprising: The process – while time-consuming, at times heated and certainly exhausting for those involved – went relatively smoothly considering the task at hand.

Rather than drive a wedge between stakeholders with different ideas on how the industry should develop, the task force meetings actually brought some members with conflicting views closer together.

“Basically we saw the opposite of what many expected to happen,” said Christian Sederberg, a Denver marijuana business attorney who sat on the task force. “Instead of positional arguing and the entrenching of ideas, people actually worked together. I came away with much stronger relationships with people who fundamentally disagree with my views on this. We were able to find common ground.”

Sederberg, for instance, found himself working side-by-side with locals involved in the campaign against Colorado’s recreational marijuana law (Amendment 64).

The 24-member group included MMJ lawyers, state lawmakers, industry professionals, law enforcement personnel, health officials and individuals representing marijuana consumers, communities, general employers and employees.

Of course, not everyone on the task force is pleased with everything the group settled on, and there were plenty of disagreements. Much work still needs to be done, and delays could materialize as lawmakers use the recommendations to craft regulations. Some of the proposals tied to taxes would also have to be put in front of voters in November. The controversy, therefore, is sure to increase going forward.

But the fact that the task force came up with more than a dozen recommendations on a very weighty topic in such a short time is an achievement in and of itself.

“The recommendations that were put forward ranged from those that were very simple and matters of necessity all the way up to the very controversial,” Sederberg said. “They all got discussed, voted on and pushed through. All in all the process worked very well. No one really got everything they wanted, and for the most part these recommendations are substantive, well thought-out and provided in a format they can use in the legislature.”

The task force met six times over an 80-day period, for four hours each session. Sederberg estimates he spent between 200-300 hours just on work related to the group.

While the report released next week will contain a detailed list of suggestions as well as the reasons behind them, here are some of the general recommendations it will make:

– Allow visitors and tourists – not just residents – to purchase cannabis at retail stores.

– Levy a 15% excise tax on wholesale marijuana transactions between retail shops and growers and an undetermined tax on marijuana sales to customers; require cannabis stores to pay state and local taxes.

– Prohibit outdoor growing.

– Require retail stores to grow at least 70% of the cannabis they sell, which is also the requirement for medical cannabis dispensaries.

– Set regulations on potency labels, packaging, purchasing limits and advertising.

– Ban cannabis use at bars, clubs and restaurants, and prohibit cannabis donations.

– Require cannabis businesses to track the entire production and sales process, from seed to sale.

– Allow employers to fire workers for using marijuana in their free time.