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Colo. Sup. Ct. Loosens Restrictions on Lawyers Helping Pot Businesses

The Colorado Supreme Court issued a new rule for lawyers today. Lawyers will be allowed to represent marijuana businesses, so long as the lawyers don't help clients break state law. Via the Denver Post:

The new rule gives lawyers the go-ahead to work with marijuana businesses — even though those businesses are breaking federal law — so long as the lawyers don't help businesses also break state law.

The new rule is here. Some background on why it was needed is here. [More...]

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Colo. Earns $3.5 Million in Marijuana Taxes

The Colorado Department of Revenue released the January, 2014 sales tax figures for marijuana today.

The state took in $2.9 million in sales and excise taxes and another $600,000 in licensing fees, for a total of $3.5 million.

The state distributed $2.1 million of the sales tax to county and local governments. Denver received the lion's share. The actual numbers are here. [More...]

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Comcast First to Air Medical Marijuana Ad

Latest example of our rapidly changing times when it comes to marijuana: Comcast accepted and has begun airing an ad for medical marijuana. The ad is by MarijuanaDoctors and will be seen on a variety of channels between 10 pm and 5 am.

The commercial draws a parallel between a “shady” street dealer attempting to push “unsafe” sushi to unsuspecting buyers, and medical marijuana patients being forced to obtain their medication in a similar fashion. MarijuanaDoctors.com draws this parallel in an attempt to prove the severity of consulting physicians in order to obtain medical marijuana for terminal & debilitating medical conditions where the doctor may recommend that the benefits of medical marijuana outweigh the risks of in order to improve a patients overall health.

You can view the ad below: [More...]

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Colorado Marijuana Taxes Produce Windfall

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper released a proposal this week on how he intends to spend the taxes collected from marijuana sales.

Marijuana sales have greatly exceeded expectations. For the fiscal year beginning in July, marijuana sales are expected to reach $1 billion, with $600,000 coming from the sale of recreational pot.

In the proposal, Hickenlooper's budget office says it expects the recreational and medical marijuana industries will pump nearly $134 million in tax and fee revenue into state coffers in the fiscal year beginning in July. Extrapolating from those figures, the proposal estimates sales in all marijuana stores to approach $1 billion for that fiscal year. Recreational pot shop sales are estimated to account for more than $600 million of that — a more than 50 percent increase over a previous projection.

The first $40 million go to school construction, as required by law. Above that, But Hickenlooper's office expects to have "$28 million this fiscal year and $101 million next fiscal year left over to spend on other things."[More...]

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Feds Issue Banking Regs for Marijuana Businesses

FinCEN (the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network) and Department of Justice today issued new guidelines and a memo for banks doing business with marijuana businesses. The FINCEN press release is here.

The guidance provides that financial institutions can provide services to marijuana-related businesses in a manner consistent with their obligations to know their customers and to report possible criminal activity.

[More...]

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From Denver to Telluride, Colorado Makes History

Colorado made history yesterday, becoming the first government to allow marijuana to be purchased by adults for recreational use.

From Denver to Telluride, the lines were long. Here's a look at the day in photos.

The stores are projected to generate a lot of income, as well as jobs.

Colorado projects $578.1 million a year in combined wholesale and retail marijuana sales to yield $67 million in tax revenue, according to the Legislative Council of the Colorado General Assembly.

I'll be keeping track of emerging marijuana legal and policy issues, both federal and state, at a new blog on marijuana laws I launched yesterday. Take a look. (It also looks good on mobile devices.)

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Colorado Issues 136 Marijuana Business Licenses

Christmas comes early to Colorado....The Denver Post reports the state made history yesterday when it became the first state to issue businesses licenses to sell marijuana for recreational use. So far, 136 licenses were issued. The licensed stores can begin selling pot to adults on January 1.

In addition to the retail licenses, the Post reports Colorado issued licenses for "178 marijuana-cultivation facilities" and "31 marijuana-infused products makers."

Here's a map of the stores that received licenses. Here's an article about one Colorado pot bakery whose business is already booming.

Meanwhile, tickets for pot consumption are up sharply from 2012. The new laws do not allow people to smoke pot in public.

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Colorado Public Marijuana Giveaway Goes Smoothly

At downtown Denver's Civic Park yesterday, there were long lines for public marijuana giveaway. Police were on hand, but all went smoothly.

Shouting "Free the weed!" scores of marijuana lovers stood in line Monday for free joints offered by opponents of tax issues on the statewide and Denver ballots in November.

"It is legal to hand out marijuana to people in Colorado and it is legal to do it without paying a penny in taxes!" shouted [attorney]Rob Corry, who helped organize the event at Denver's Civic Center.

The giveaway was organized to protest a measure on this year's ballot, Proposition AA, which sets sales and excise taxes on marijuana. I support the tax and urge Coloradans to vote for it. [More...]

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NFL Players and Marijuana

The NFL punishes players who use marijuana.

Marijuana Policy Project has purchased a billboard ad calling on the NFL to stop the punishments. The billboard is in front of Sports Authority Field at Mile High, where the Denver Broncos will host the first NFL regular season game of the year tomorrow.

The 48-foot-wide Broncos-themed billboard highlights the relative safety of marijuana compared to alcohol and urges the NFL to "stop driving players to drink" with harsh penalties for marijuana use, noting that, "A safer choice is now legal (here)."

There's also a Change.org petition you can sign here. Here's a photo of the actual billboard. The Marijuana Policy Project will hold a news conference Thursday at 10 a.m. MT in front of the billboard (1700 N. Federal Blvd., Denver)

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DOJ to Defer Challenge to New State Marijuana Laws

The Department of Justice has officially spoken about state marijuana laws. It has advised the Governors of Colorado and Washington that provided it enacts robust regulations that do not not interfere with 8 DOJ priorities, it will "defer its right to challenge their legalization laws at this time."

AG Eric Holder has issued a memorandum to federal prosecutors (available here) on the new policy and the 8 priorities in enforcing federal marijuana laws.

The key point: The major sea change is not with respect to possession for personal use, which the feds don't normally charge anyway, but in its willingness to allow some private production and distribution of marijuana. [More...]

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Leahy Schedules Hearing on Conflict in State and Federal Marijuana Laws

Sen. Patrick Leahy has scheduled a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on September 10th on the conflict between state and federal marijuana laws. Attorney General Eric Holder and Deputy Attorney General James Cole have been invited to testify.

“It is important, especially at a time of budget constraints, to determine whether it is the best use of federal resources to prosecute the personal or medicinal use of marijuana in states that have made such consumption legal,” Leahy said. “I believe that these state laws should be respected. At a minimum, there should be guidance about enforcement from the federal government.”

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Feds Raid Dispensaries in Washington State

The DEA raided several medical marijuana dispensaries in Washington State yesterday. One had only been open a month.

Casey Lee, an employee at the Bayside Collective, said DEA agents served him with a search warrant and seized about "11 or 12 plants Wednesday morning. They also took marijuana in jars that is set aside for patients. He said the seized marijuana totaled about a quarter pound. The DEA agents seized his and another employee's cell phone, Lee added.

Fellow Bayside Collective employee Addy Norton said she was "terrified" during the raid, and DEA agents pointed guns in her face as they entered the building.

[More...]

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Governor Signs Marijuana Bills into Law

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has signed the six bills regulating recreational marijuana passed by the legislature. They go into effect July 1.

The bills are House bills 1042, 1238, 1 317, 1318 and 1325, and Senate Bill 283. A short synopsis is here.

When asked about when a response on the new laws would come from the Feds, Hickenlooper says he thought it would be soon, but he really didn't know. Then he quipped, "They've been kind of busy." [More...]

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Colo. Makes History: Marijuana Bills Passed

Bump and Update: It's official. The House approved the Senate Amendments and Colorado is now the first state in the nation to pass laws regulating recreational use, sale, production and taxing of marijuana.

This appears to be the final version of House Bill 1317 setting out the regulations for retail outlets. Tourists will be able to buy 1/4 ounce at a time. You can find all the versions here. The bill will go to Governor Hickenlooper who is expected to sign it into law.

Details on the driving while stoned bill that passed yesterday here.

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Colo. Passes Drugged Driving Bill

On its 6th try, a bill to outlaw driving while stoned has passed the House and Senate in Colorado. The limit for marijuana: 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood.

But, the bill is the weakest version yet. Instead of 5 nanograms being per se against the law, or even a rebuttable presumption, it's now just a "permissible inference." Blood tests can be refused, although a refusal will result in revocation of driving privileges.

Governor John Hickenlooper is expected to sign the bill into law. The bill is H.R. 1325. Here is the text of the final version.

Two remaining bills are up for final passage tomorrow, the last day of the legislative session. HB 1317 will regulate retail sales of marijuana for recreational use. HB 1318 imposes taxes on marijuana.[More...]

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