(April 29) – The House approved two bills today to establish the framework for a robustly regulated retail marijuana industry.

HB13-1317, crafted by a bipartisan legislative select committtee and sponsored by Assistant Majority Leader Dan Pabon (D-Denver), was approved by a 35-29 vote. The bill establishes the regulatory structure for the retail marijuana industry mandated by the voters last year when they approved Amendment 64, which legalizes marijuana consumption for adults in Colorado.

HB13-1318, sponsored by Rep. Jonathan Singer (D-Longmont), was approved on a preliminary voice vote. The bill, as amended, asks the voters to fund the new regulatory structure without using general fund dollars, but by making marijuana consumers foot the bill through an excise tax of up to 15 percent and an extra sales tax of up to 10 percent on retail marijuana. As directed by Amendment 64, the proceeds will also be shared with the public school capital construction fund and local governments.

House Republicans, who earlier in the day voted for higher taxes on low-income working Coloradans, argued in favor of lower taxes for marijuana users, saying the proposed rates on retail pot were too high and would be rejected by the voters, forcing the legislature to raid the general fund to pay for marijuana enforcement.

Rep. Singer mentioned that casino gambling and tobacco products are taxed at 40 percent. “There are all sorts of other vices that we tax at this rate,” he told the House. “Colorado voters have time and again said on sin taxes, ‘Yeah, it’s OK.’”

“This fear-mongering has to stop,” Rep. Pabon told the chamber. “The people of Colorado asked us to do at least three things: protect the public safety, protect our children, and make sure we have a robust regulatory framework. And that’s what 1318 allows us to do. It allows us to have the funding so money doesn’t have to be taken from the general fund.”

“It doesn’t matter whether you supported Amendment 64 or not,” Rep. Pabon said. “We have to make sure our communities and our kids are safe. This is the right thing to do.”

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