When Colorado voters passed Amendment 64, legalizing the personal possession, use and home growing of marijuana, the state faced the challenge of developing the rules and regulations so the amendment can be implemented.
The first step to deal with challenges came when Gov. John Hickenlooper created the 24-member Amendment 64 Task Force on Dec. 10 because, while voters legalized marijuana in Colorado, all aspects remain illegal under federal law.
“The task force met for the first time Dec. 17 and since then, we have set up five working groups, each tasked with investigation of a specific area dealing with implementation of Amendment 64,” said state Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver, who is a task force member. “All the meetings of the task force and the working groups are posted on the state Department of Revenue's website. All those meetings are open to the public and there is a public comment period at every meeting.”
Pabon said working groups tackle one of five major subject areas: local authority and control; consumer safety and social issues; regulatory framework; criminal law issues and tax; and funding and civil law issues.
“One or two task force members heads each of the working groups,” the state representative said. “Then, each working group calls on experts in the specific fields to help us develop our recommendations because we want to get it right, because this will be a basis for the framework for the future of these issues.”
Pabon is a member of the regulatory framework working group. He said the committee is like the hub of a wheel with the other working groups as the spokes, since the recommendations will be the basis of determining what is legal and what isn't.
“This has been a fascinating challenge,” he said. “Our first challenge was to educate ourselves so we can understand the nuances of a new industry. There is very little precedent to draw on but we did look at the regulations dealing with liquor, gambling and medical marijuana. These regulations have been tested by time and they became sort of a template as we looked at what worked and what didn't to help us as we sought to create rules for issues that didn't exist prior to the November election.”
The Regulatory Framework Working Group meets almost weekly, and Pabon said it is usually standing room only at every meeting.
“I expected there to be two groups on opposite sides of the issue, but it was refreshing to see there is a lot of common ground,” he said. “The common ground provides a good starting point as we work to develop our recommendations.”
The task force also faced the challenge of being required to develop the recommendations and present them to the state Legislature not later than Feb. 28.
The Legislature then must take action and pass the rules and regulations that are required to be in place not later than July 1 so all the aspects of Amendment 64 can be implemented in January 2014.