January 15

Marijuana debates continue – even where it’s legal

Activists want looser restrictions, medical users say the prices are too steep, and applications from growers and retailers far exceed the limits.

By Kristen Wyatt
The Associated Press

DENVER – Recreational marijuana may be legal in Colorado and Washington, but debates over the drug are far from over. Here’s a look at debates emerging in the states where the drug is already legal without a doctor’s recommendation:

click image to enlarge

Employees help customers at the crowded sales counter at the Medicine Man marijuana retail store in Denver this month. A group of marijuana activists want another pot vote in Colorado, to loosen restrictions on who can have it.

The Associated Press

MORE WEED FOR MORE PEOPLE

A group of marijuana activists want another pot vote in Colorado – to loosen restrictions on who can have it. A proposed ballot measure cleared for ballots Wednesday would effectively discard Colorado’s 1-ounce possession limit and 21-and-over restriction. A similar pot possession measure has been proposed before in Colorado, and failed to get enough signatures to make ballots. There’s little reason to expect more success for the 2014 version of the legalize-for-all proposal.

SICK PEOPLE FEAR PRICEY POT

Another group of pot activists – longtime users with medical permission to use the drug – are also unhappy. A patient-advocacy group has written to lawmakers requesting the creation of a “Cannabis Patient Fund” to provide subsidies for some 120,000 Coloradans on a list of approved medical pot users. The group is alarmed over escalating pot prices, which aren’t regulated by the state and have more than doubled in retail shops since Jan. 1, when recreational sales began. So far, the group hasn’t found any lawmakers willing to sponsor its idea.

WASHINGTON HAS THEM PILED UP

Washington has a curious problem as it prepares for retail pot sales: too many growers and shops. According to figures released this week, more than 2,800 applications have been submitted to produce pot. That’s a problem because officials are, at least initially, capping total production at 2 million square feet, or about 46 acres. They’re seeing too many would-be retailers, too. In Seattle, where the state has allotted 21 pot shops, there have been 417 retail license applications. In Spokane, which will have eight marijuana stores, there have been 96 applications. But officials already have started disqualifying hundreds of applicants that don’t meet requirements.

PACKAGING PROBLEMS

Colorado’s pot regulators have been widely praised for trouble-free openings when recreational pot sales opened this month. But the openings haven’t been without problems. Last week, they sent pot shops a warning about marijuana packaging. The shops were allowed to transfer raw pot from their medical inventory to their recreational inventory, but they needed new packaging and labeling. Some shops continue selling pot in old packaging, instead of using the stricter packaging requirement passed for recreational sales. There was no immediate word on licenses being revoked.

NO FOOD STAMPS FOR POT

Internet rumors of people using food stamps to buy edible pot appear to be urban legends. Colorado Republicans want to make sure they stay that way. A bill proposed last week by several Republicans would add marijuana dispensaries to liquor stores, gun shops and casinos as places where recipients of public assistance payments and food stamps can’t use their electronic benefits cards to access cash.

CLOSING A LOOPHOLE

Colorado lawmakers are also taking another look at the state’s 5,000 marijuana caregivers, a loosely regulated group whose members are each allowed to grow pot on behalf of five people on the state medical pot registry. Colorado’s chief medical officer and the head of the agency that regulates marijuana persuaded a panel Tuesday to tighten caregiver restrictions so that fewer get exemptions to grow for large numbers of people, which they say is a way to avoid hefty taxes and avoid strict oversight required of commercial growers.

 

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