Colorado lawmakers look to strengthen marijuana laws

Cashing in on pot industry

DENVER — In creating a set of laws for Colorado’s new recreational marijuana industry from scratch last year, it’s no surprise that lawmakers overlooked a few things.

On Thursday, lawmakers returned to marijuana policy and to legislation aimed at tightening state laws in a few places in order to ensure that legal pot is only available to and consumed by people over the age of 21.

House Bill 1122, being heard by the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, will allow marijuana shopkeepers to confiscate suspected fake IDs, just as liquor stores are allowed to do under the law.

“We want to make sure that marijuana sellers can also seize the fake ID, ask the person to stay where they are, call the police and let them know,” said Rep. Daniel Kagan, D-Denver, the bill’s sponsor.

Kagan’s bill will also address another gap in the law concerning the packaging of recreational marijuana, which currently states that all products be sold in opaque, child-proof packaging — with the exception of brownies and other edibles, the marijuana products most likely to be mistakenly consumed by young children.

If the bill passes, edibles will also have to be packaged in opaque plastic with some sort of child-proof seal.

“This is fixing one of the most obvious problems with the current state of the law,” said Mike Elliott with the Medical Marijuana Industry Group, who says the industry as a whole supports Kagan’s bill.

The Colorado Association of Police Chiefs also supports the bill, noting that at least 14 young children have shown up in emergency rooms since 2009 after mistakenly ingesting an edible marijuana product.

“The answer to that problem is parenting,” said Corry, a marijuana activist who’s less certain the proposal will have an impact on child safety. “My six-year-old can open a child-proof container. It’s not child-proof. It’s just more feel-good legislation; it’s not necessary.”

Kagan’s bill is also expected to be amended to include a clearer definition of what constitutes an enclosed growing area, given the lack of oversight of home grow operations.

“I am hearing reports almost daily about kids taking marijuana to school from their home grow stash,” said Sgt. Jim Gerhardt on behalf of the state’s police chiefs.

“And most of these schools don’t have the resources to deal with this.”