The final meeting of the Amendment 64 Task Force began with a warning from co-chair Jack Finlaw: "I'll be happy to be out of here by six." And as the hours dragged on, it appeared he would get his wish -- right down to the minute.
The task force used all of its allotted four hours plus one in a meeting that ran the gamut from complicated, contentious tax code recommendations to the relatively straightforward recommendation to add marijuana smoke to the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act.
The afternoon contained few surprises, as nearly every recommendation proposed by the various working groups passed either unanimously or with an easy majority. Only two recommendations failed to pass. The possession recommendation from the criminal law-law enforcement working group, which would have limited personal-use marijuana to "sixteen ounces of a usable form of dried, cured marijuana," failed to garner a majority vote for passage to the General Assembly, eliciting sounds of relief from the forty-odd audience members. Christian Sederberg, the representative from the Amendment 64 campaign, was particularly vociferous in arguing against a recommendation, saying the state would be "asking" for a lawsuit.
Early in the meeting, Governor John Hickenlooper addressed the task force. He thanked the group for its work but he cautioned that the social implications of Amendment 64 could lead to an increase in homeless youth. "I'm not saying the sky is falling and we're going to have thousands of homeless teenagers we didn't have before, but we will have more," he said.
Audience member Chris May, of Denver, refuted that statement. "I'd say that, in reality, this has got the potential to decrease the broken homes due to a decrease in the number or parents being incarcerated for nonviolent marijuana offenses in particular," he said.
The task force spent the majority of the session engaged in robust debate over taxing recommendations. David Blake, the deputy attorney general and co-chair of the tax/funding and civil law working group, ran through a number of different tax structure proposals, imploring the task force to give them the appropriate attention.
"We're starting an industry that's never been done before," he said. "The tax is darn near the top priority."
The task force endorsed the idea of the general assembly considering a sales tax, as well as the idea of a 25 percent tax at the point of sale -- a special tax -- and a 15 percent excise tax at the wholesale level. The different taxing mechanisms appeared to be the most difficult to work through, as some questioned the reasoning behind drawing up a tax structure that would require a new vote by the people under the Taxpayer Bill of Rights in Colorado. Blake also proposed that the taxed percentages be set as high as possible in the beginning to ensure funds reached the $40 million benchmark set by Amendment 64. Once funding goals are reached, the tax percentages could be lowered, he said.
The practice of "gifting" marijuana away in exchange for donations, services, stickers, etc. -- as recently reported in this space -- was deemed to be illegal in any form. As long as remuneration takes place -- any kind of monetary transaction -- it is considered illegal. The task force also recommended that the sale of recreational marijuana to nonresidents be legal -- a potential boon for towns around Colorado, such as Nederland, that are attempting to move forward with the implementation of Amendment 64.
The task force's list of recommendations will be sent to the general assembly in the next few weeks, Finlaw said.
"We've already started work on the report," he added, noting that it should be ready "early in the week of March 11."
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Here's a document featuring the A64 task force working group's draft recommendations. As we noted, the overwhelming majority of them were approved yesterday.
More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana: Nederland's efforts to regulate pot before state don't get far."