Our View: Regulate pot shops like liquor stores

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At issue

Recreational marijuana rules

Our view

The state and city should regulate retail marijuana stores the same way they regulate liquor stores.

Steamboat Today editorial board — June to December 2013

  • Suzanne Schlicht, COO and publisher
  • Lisa Schlichtman, editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • David Baldinger Jr., community representative
  • Lisa Brown, community representative

Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

Colorado is the first state in the nation to adopt rules for recreational marijuana use. The 68 pages of suggested guidelines for governing the industry released in July became a 132-page document of final rules and regulations approved and introduced to the public by the Colorado Department of Revenue on Sept. 9.

Although the editorial board of the Steamboat Pilot & Today opposed the passage of Amendment 64 — which authorized the manufacture, sale and possession of marijuana to persons 21 and older in the state of Colorado — we heard the voters loud and clear.

Based on voter will and the ballot language, it’s clear to us that businesses that sell marijuana in Colorado should not be regulated any differently than liquor stores, and for the most part, the newly adopted marijuana regulations are similar to laws governing the sale of alcohol.

For example, people purchasing marijuana must show a photo ID to prove they are 21 or older. Other key regulations include inventory controls that account for and track the sale of marijuana from seed to retail sale and a rule that bans anyone who has been convicted of a drug-related felony from securing a license to own and operate a retail marijuana store. Internet sales of marijuana are prohibited as are free giveaways of marijuana products.

In general, the Colorado marijuana rules appear to be written clearly and concisely and seem to be enforceable, which is important for law enforcement and local authorities who will be tasked with regulating a new industry.

The final set of rules also includes 26 pages of requirements relating to packaging, labeling and advertising of marijuana products. Many of those guidelines are aimed at keeping recreational marijuana out of the hands of children and banning packaging or advertising that would appeal to those younger than the legal age of 21, including the use of cartoon characters. The rules also require that retail marijuana concentrates or products must be clearly marked as such, conspicuously labeled and be sold in sealed, child-resistant packaging that is affixed with five warning statements.

Standards pertaining to the advertising of recreational marijuana are modeled after voluntary standards adopted by the alcohol industry. Under the new rules, marijuana retailers can advertise as long as they have “reliable evidence” that no more than 30 percent of the publication’s readership is younger than 21. Buying out-of-state ads, promoting drug tourism and advertising on billboards is prohibited.

These regulations guiding the promotion of the marijuana industry, especially with regard to minors, are welcome and necessary, and we’re glad to see that the state specifically addressed these issues.

In mid-July, the Steamboat Springs City Council adopted its own set of rules governing the sale of recreational marijuana that limit where pot shops can be located within the city. In particular, pot shops will not be allowed in the downtown business district or at the base of Steamboat Ski Area. Council members did entertain the idea of allowing marijuana retailers to locate their businesses in commercial spaces visible from U.S. Highway 40 through a conditional-use process.

In this case, the City Council has enacted marijuana rules that are stricter than those that apply to liquor stores. In this regard, the City Council is regulating marijuana shops as though they are selling pharmaceuticals even though voters approved marijuana as a recreational drug like alcohol. We encourage the City Council to revisit their marijuana regulations at a future date and bring those rules more in line with those that govern the sale of alcohol.

And now that official industry rules have been adopted at the state and local levels, the only other issue remaining to be addressed is whether Colorado voters will approve marijuana excise and sales taxes in November to support oversight of the marijuana industry as well as school construction projects. But that is a subject for another editorial.

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