Amid fears that the new administration may crack down on legal cannabis, the Colorado state legislature has introduced a bill that would protect the state’s marijuana industry. The bill would allow cultivators and retailers to instantly reclassify recreational marijuana as medical marijuana. Currently, the Department of Justice, (which is the federal entity with the authority to halt marijuana sales) is precluded from spending any federal dollars enforcing the Controlled Substances Act against state medical marijuana programs by the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment. While the amendment doesn’t alter federal law, it makes the law toothless by denying funds for enforcement. However, this amendment only protects medical marijuana programs and not recreational programs. The Colorado bill, currently in the state Senate, would allow operators to continue business without the threat of federal intervention by essentially destroying the recreational cannabis market.
While this plan would prevent a federal crackdown it is far from ideal. Colorado taxes medical marijuana at a rate of 2.9 percent, versus 17.9 percent for recreational marijuana. The proposed switch would cost the state about $100 million in revenue per year. Public schools would likely be the first group affected by the financial shortcoming.
The legislation is a cause for optimism. It means that state lawmakers are nervous about the mixed signals emanating from the administration and want to protect operators, as well as tax revenue.
Posted on 3/28/2017 at 2:00:00 PM