Weekly Wrapup: Colorado, Washington Entering Critical Phase of Marijuana Regulatory Process

By Chris Walsh

The clock is ticking in Colorado and Washington.

The first two states to legalize marijuana for adult use are up against tight deadlines to debate, develop and finalize rules covering the cannabis industry – a Herculean task fraught with potential pitfalls and complications.

Both states are now entering a critical phase of the process, one that involves building a consensus about major regulatory issues – such as tax rates on cannabis sales and whether visitors should be able to buy marijuana – as well as the more minute details, such as what information product labels should contain.

Colorado is off to a good start. As we reported last week, a task force set up to propose initial regulations wrapped up its work on time and is set to release its final report within the next few days. Recommendations include everything from prohibiting cannabis use at bars, clubs and restaurants to requiring a comprehensive tracking system for marijuana throughout the production and sales process.

State officials will take the suggestions into consideration as they craft a bill with formal proposals. The debate among lawmakers could be more contentious than the one among members of the task force, as state officials will ultimately be held responsible for the consequences of these decisions. Colorado has a deadline of Oct. 1 to begin accepting and processing applications, so the tough work begins now.

Washington has made solid progress as well, holding public forums around the state to solicit public feedback and working to develop proposed regulations on marijuana producers and retail stores. But it experienced a slight hiccup last week, missing its initial deadline for selecting consultants to help with the regulatory process and conduct market research. State officials told MMJ Business Daily that the process is taking longer than expected because of a huge number of bids (roughly 100) but that they hope to announce their decisions this week or next.

The next major deadline is mid-April, when the state plans to release its initial proposal for rules on the cultivation side of the industry.

We’ll see how well each state does in sticking to their deadlines over the course of the year (both plan to have retail operations up and running by late this year or early 2014). Many states have struggled with the rulemaking process for medical marijuana, and recreational cannabis is a whole different beast.

Then again, officials in Colorado and Washington appear dedicated to moving forward with the process as quickly as possible – even if they disagree with legalization in general – and that kind of tone from the top could help keep the states on track.

Of course, if the federal government attempts to block the laws, these deadlines may be moot anyway.

Other top stories in MMJ Business Daily last week:

Medical Marijuana Advances in 2 States, Snubbed Out in Another

San Diego Could Become Hot MMJ Business Market – Again