Pot dispensary rules up for vote in Colo. Senate

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Backers of regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries are trying to fend off last-minute changes they say could unravel the proposal.

The state Senate was debating the legislation Wednesday and was expected to take an initial vote later in the day.

The bill, already passed the House, would allow local voters or governments to ban dispensaries. It also requires that dispensaries grow 70 percent of the marijuana they sell, a provision aimed at keeping tabs on the drug.

Some senators want to remove those parts and to allow cities and counties to set hours for dispensaries.

Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, warned lawmakers against going down the “hippy dippy path,” which he said would lead to ultimate defeat of the regulation bill.

Cities and counties as well as many dispensaries have been pushing for lawmakers to pass the regulations, which will require that store owners be licensed by both the state and local governments. Local governments are trying to get a handle on the estimated 1,100 dispensaries that have opened in the state, many in the last year.

Dispensary owners, meanwhile, are willing to put up with criminal background checks and audits to give them protection against possible federal drug raids. Some, though, are worried about having to pay thousands of dollars in fees while regulators finalize the details of rules that could end up putting them out of business.

Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, said allowing cities to ban dispensaries violates the constitutional amendment voters passed a decade ago allowing medical marijuana. She said that would open the door to a total ban across the state.

“If all did what one did, there is no more Amendment 20,” she said.

Gov. Bill Ritter has said he won’t sign regulations that don’t allow for local bans and don’t require dispensaries to grow most of their marijuana.

Police, prosecutors and state Attorney General John Suthers have been urging lawmakers not to regulate dispensaries because they say that will legitimize an industry they don’t believe was allowed under Amendment 20.

-Associated Press