Lawmakers in Colorado are considering a pending bill in efforts to protect its budding marijuana industry from talks of a federal suppression of recreational cannabis. The legislation will allow for growers and sellers of marijuana to change their classification from recreational to medical.
The bill, now waiting for the Colorado Legislature to decide on, will be the first time that one of the few marijuana recreational states takes actions to protect its business from federal interference. If passed, the 500 licensed to cultivate cannabis in the state, will be given the go ahead to change from recreational growers into the title of purveyors of medical marijuana.
Colorado Bill Stands up for Cannabis and Job Rights
Hence, this unique action is being taken to guard the state against any possible interference by the government’s aim to pass a federal law banning recreational cannabis. The proposed new Colorado bill states, if there is a change in the implementation of policy by any local, state or federal law impedes on a recreational business’ rights, then that enterprise will have the immediate ability to change their classification to medical.
The goal the state bill, before any federal administration restrictions, is not to completely protect recreational cannabis, but to protect the investments made by growers. The state aims to guard against confiscation of inventory from marijuana producers by federal powers. Sen. Tim Neville, the Republican from Denver who sponsored the bill, detailed: “If there is a change in federal law, then I think all of our businesses want to stay in business somehow. They’ve made major investments.”
As of June 2016, authorities have tallied approximately 827,000 marijuana plants being grown for retail in Colorado. Half of these crops are slated for recreational cannabis. To protect investments by growers, the bill will allow marijuana businesses to translate their crops to a medical classification to sell it, as stated by Neville.
Additionally, the Colorado bill aims to protect thousands of those employed by the marijuana enterprise. A total of 25,000 people are employed directly by the state, specifically for its cannabis industry. The Marijuana Policy Group, an economic consulting firm, conducted a study that found, in 2015 alone, 18,000 of those jobs were created.
Colorado Faces Losing Tax Revenue as Result of New Bill
Neville’s proposed bill has already obtained a win of 4-1 in Colorado’s Republican Senate. On the other hand, there is still questions as to if the entire Senate and the Democratic House in the state will pass the legislation. Cynics are questioning if the bill will help, citing that it could do more harm to the state by costing it tax revenue.
With the proposed bill aiming to protect marijuana ahead of any embargoes by Donald Trump’s administration, officials are concerned about tax revenue ramifications. Determinations were made noting that reclassifying marijuana could cost Colorado $100 million yearly in lost tax revenue. This would be a result of the state taxing recreational cannabis at a higher rate of 17.9 percent versus the 2.9 percent rate it taxes on medical marijuana.
Colorado’s Neville and others are willing to jettison tax dollars in exchange for upholding the beliefs of states’ having the right to enact laws of their own, in regards to the recreational use of cannabis.
Colorado Takes Lead on Protecting States’ Recreational Marijuana Laws
As Colorado proposes a bill, other states that now allow recreational pot are proposing their own actions to protect cannabis laws. Several state congressional members are contemplating avenues to block any intrusion by federal authorities.
Cannabis classification could be changed by Congress to allow medical use. Congressional members also have the option of using the federal budget to prevent a marijuana embargo.
If Colorado’s bill becomes law, it would be the first state to enact protection for producers from a federal drug crackdown, as specified by marijuana analysts. California, and other states, are contemplating their own legislation to protect their marijuana industries. Specifically, they are seeking legal avenues, which would prevent any law enforcement agencies from accommodating federal officials who seek to investigate legal marijuana businesses.
Following Colorado; Alaska, Washington, and Oregon, have pending bills that will protect any personal information given by marijuana consumers. Precisely, laws will disallow businesses to retain a record of any personal data collected from customers.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer cautioned in February 2017: “[Medical marijuana is] very different than recreational use, which is something the Department of Justice will be further looking into.” Certainly, the Colorado bill, as well as the other states seeking to act, aims to protect their cannabis laws before any government restrictions could be put in place. Trump’s administration has been threatening to wage a war on the blossoming pot industry in states that have made recreational use permissible.
By Carol Ruth Weber
Edited by Jeanette Smith
Associated Press: Colorado weighs strategy for guarding against pot crackdown
Tech Times: Colorado Solons: Reclassify Marijuana Before Trump Pot Embargo
The Christian Science Monitor: Why is Colorado risking hundreds of millions to protect its marijuana industry?
Featured and Top Image by Jennifer Martin Courtesy of Wikimedia – Creative Commons License