Marijuana repeal possibility looms in Colorado

DENVER — Recreational marijuana in Colorado appeared to be in serious trouble Monday night, when a bipartisan group of state senators advanced a plan to open the door to the possible repeal of its legalization.

The late-night repeal effort came on the final possible day for the legislation to get a vote by the full Senate. Lawmakers conclude work for the year on Wednesday.

If approved, the measure would ask voters this fall whether retail pot sales should be repealed without an accompanying vote to tax pot above 30 percent.

Sponsors of the repeal measure scrambled to steer the measure through its first committee, while trying to calm fears that they were seeking to undo voters’ decision last year to flout federal drug law and allow adults over 21 to possess small amounts of pot.

“There’s no repeal here,” insisted Senate Republican Leader Bill Cadman. “There are no shenanigans.”

But the last-minute maneuver infuriated marijuana legalization supporters, some of who ran up several flights of stairs to testify against the measure when they got word it would be heard.

“You’re subverting the will of the voters,” argued Joe Megysy, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, a major backer of last year’s pot measure.

A parents’ group that has pushed for legalization repeal made it to the hearing, too, and applauded the last-minute bill. They said voters didn’t understand last year that their pot vote didn’t automatically trigger tax implementation.

“We were promised revenues for our state and our schools,” Diane Carlson argued.

The repeal effort had enough Senate co-sponsors to suggest it would meet the two-thirds threshold needed to clear the Senate. It prospects were murkier in the House.

The repeal possibility came after the Senate gave initial approval to a marijuana blood-limit standard that senators have rejected several times before, including twice this year.

Marijuana uncertainty reigned as the Legislature entered its final hours. Separate regulation rules and tax rates awaited Senate votes Monday evening.

The Senate planned to consider a regulatory bill setting labeling requirements and advertising limits on retail pot. That bill included a first-in-the-nation attempt to treat marijuana magazines like pornography, forcing them behind the counter in stores that allow shoppers under 21. That provision, a last-minute amendment in the House, had High Times magazine contemplating a lawsuit if the requirement becomes law.

Another marijuana regulation bill that passed the House on Monday sets an open-container equivalent for marijuana and requires marijuana to face the same indoor air quality restrictions as tobacco. The House gave the bill final approval 62-3. It now awaits Hickenlooper’s signature.

Taxing the newly legal drug was another question to be worked out. Senators were mulling a pot tax rate greater than 25 percent, a 15 percent excise tax for school construction and a special 10 percent cannabis sales tax. Those would be in addition to local and statewide sales taxes. The 25 percent tax rate has already cleared the House and was headed to the Senate floor Monday afternoon in largely the same form.

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Kristen Wyatt can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/APkristenwyatt .

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