Marijuana: Department of Revenue releases final recreational pot rules

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The Colorado Department of Revenue has released its set of rules for the soon-to-be recreational marijuana industry. And there are a lot of them. The document is 144 pages long; see it below.

Much of the language in the doc is taken from existing medical marijuana rules in Colorado (which also got an update this week) including when and how cannabis can be sold and who can own and operate marijuana dispensaries.

A department press release maintains that "these rules are designed not to make the operation of Retail Marijuana Establishments unreasonably impracticable, but also promote public safety and ensure compliance with constitutional and statutory guidelines."

Starting October 1, the DOR will accept applications for recreational marijuana stores. If all goes as planned, those shops could open their doors as early as January 1, 2014. Medical marijuana facilities switching over to recreational sales will pay a $500 application fee, plus anywhere from $2,750 to $14,000 for an annual license.

Among the more controversial moves are rules that prevent stores from advertising in newspapers or the radio where more than 30 percent of the audience is reasonably expected to be under the age of 21. Stores must also grow their own cannabis until October of 2014, when separate cultivation facilities will be allowed.

In addition, the rules call for a system to track marijuana from the time it is grown until the point of sale (but not record to whom it is sold) -- much like the system required by the rules written for medical marijuana in 2010.

That system never materialized, despite the state having spent six-figure sums to create a "seed-to-sale" way to track plants and inventory. Details of the project's failure made their way into a previous state auditor's report, which lambasted the DOR for its mishandling of the medical marijuana industry.

To Jessica LeRoux of Twirling Hippy Confections, the Marijuana Inventory Tracking system (MITs) now being proposed is a slap in the face to the hundreds of medical businesses that want to transfer into recreational sales. Why? Because such operations have already bought into a failed medical marijuana tracking system through their licensing and application fees over the past few years.

Continue for more about the final recreational marijuana rules from the Colorado Department of Revenue, including the complete document. Worse, she says, the few checks and balances regarding inventory that the state's Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division had in place for the MMJ industry weren't enforced. As a result, she believes honest business owners shelled out thousands and followed the rules while dishonest business owners knowingly skirted the system. Even in a best-case scenario. LeRoux argues, the system isn't going to prevent herb from illegally being diverted.

"A computer system doesn't prevent anything illegal from happening," she said. "tI can be used to find evidence of it, but it won't stop it."

LeRoux points out that although businesses will be allowed to apply for recreational licenses in about three weeks, they still don't even know exactly what they are being asked to pay for, or how much it will cost.

"As a business owner who has spent nearly $30,000 on compliance and licensing, it would be nice to know that the next system would work," LeRoux adds. "If I'm doubling down again and paying for another system, it would be nice to know that it would trigger an enforcement officer to get up from behind his expensive desk and get in his expensive SUV and actually enforce the laws."

As of now, the proposed system doesn't have a price tag. So LeRoux is calling on other businesses looking to convert from medical to recreational sales to join her in demanding that the cost for the MITs be capped at a reasonable rate, and that the system have more checks and balances in place. Otherwise, she says, the state is headed for yet another failed audit.

Read the entire 144-page set of rules below.

Colorado Recreational Marijuana Rules

More from our Marijuana archive: "Does Obama administration's pot policy apply to hemp, too?" and "Anti-pot-tax rally attracts big crowd for free joints."

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