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Task force gives ‘pot tourism’ the green light in Colorado

Greg Campbell
Contributor

A special task force charged with recommending regulations for Colorado’s still-under-construction legal marijuana industry says lawmakers should allow out-of-state visitors to buy pot at future retail shops, but that they should also limit how much they can buy.

The recommendation opens the door to so-called “pot tourism” that could lure a steady stream of out-of-town pot smokers — and their money — to Colorado in the same way that wine lovers visit Napa Valley.

Amendment 64, which voters approved in November, doesn’t mention residency requirements for marijuana customers, only that they be 21 or older and present “government issued” identification.

“It is clear that under current state law, out-of-state residents may possess less than an ounce of marijuana without penalty,” the task force wrote. “Forbidding those from out-of-state from purchasing the marijuana that they may lawfully possess in Colorado would thus encourage straw purchases and unauthorized resale to out-of-state residents.”

Critics of the law — including Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and Gov. John Hickenlooper, who both opposed Amendment 64 — worry that Colorado’s reputation will suffer if it becomes the marijuana capital of the country.

They are also concerned that out-of-state drug dealers would spend their days stockpiling legal pot in Colorado to be smuggled out of state.

The purchase limitations recommended by the task force are an attempt to discourage a practice called “smurfing,” wherein customers visit several shops in a row buying the maximum amount of pot allowed at each. Limiting non-Coloradans to small amounts would at least make smurfing more time consuming.

Making it harder for out-of-towners to buy up large amounts of marijuana may also be an attempt to placate neighboring states, which are girding for an increase in pot-related crime as pot tourists try to get away with bringing a little Rocky Mountain High across Colorado’s borders.

Nebraska even floated the idea of sending Colorado the bill for prosecuting marijuana cases if the pot came from Colorado.

The task force also recommended that only Colorado residents who’ve lived in the state for at least two years be allowed to own a marijuana retail store.

The task force has until the end of the month to present its recommendations to the state legislature.

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