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Marijuana tourism isn't main reason to let out-of-staters buy pot, says task force member

Earlier this week, we posted about an Amendment 64 task-force recommendation to allow marijuana tourism. But while Christian Sederberg, a task-force member with whom we spoke about what some see as a one-year licensing monopoly for current medical marijuana centers, concedes that the proposal would indeed allow out-of-staters to buy weed here, he thinks its potential to fight crime might be even more important.

"The recommendation that said adults 21 and over can shop at these stores regardless of if they have a Colorado drivers license was huge," says Sederberg, the Amendment 64 campaign's representative on the task force. "But the idea was not about pot tourism, as the media likes to call it. The idea was that restricting sales to people 21 and over with a Colorado drivers license would have created a new black market."

How so? Because licensed Coloradans would have an incentive "to sell to people who don't have a Colorado drivers license," Sederberg replies. "If there is a demand for marijuana and the people who created that demand are legally allowed to possess it, but they're not allowed to buy it, that void will be filled immediately by the black market unless they can purchase it in stores."

One potential drawback to this rule mentioned by opponents of the recommendation: People from beyond Colorado could conceivably go from store to store purchasing the maximum allowable amount -- an ounce -- and then head back to their home state with a considerable amount of a substance almost certainly illegal there. (The slang term for the practice is "smurfing.") But Sederberg sees a potential solution to that risk -- "limiting the amount that can be sold in any single transaction to someone with an out-of-state license."

His explanation requires a little math.

"If I'm from out of state and I can buy an ounce at a time, I can go to sixteen stores to get a pound," he says. "But if I'm limited to only buying an eighth at a time, I'd have to go to 128 stores to buy an ounce" -- the sort of effort that even the most dedicated person might see as more trouble than it's worth. And if the limit was placed at a quarter ounce for out-of-staters, they'd still have to stop by 64 stores to reach a pound.

Sederberg acknowledges that such limits "aren't the solution to people coming here for marijuana, buying it and taking it out of state" -- among the main concerns of pot-tourism opponents, many of them in law enforcement. "But it's certainly one good idea to help address that issue."

In the end, the task force signed off on allowing non-Coloradans to purchase marijuana, and that pleases Sederberg, who "made it clear that this was a very important issue for the campaign." And although "some people were not happy about it, because they thought it threw the doors open to pot tourism, it was absolutely the right thing to do."

More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana tourism recommended by task force -- but can rules prevent smurfing?"


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