DENVER - Colorado may consider allowing only state residents to use marijuana recreationally after voters approved a measure to legalize use of the drug for non-medical purposes.
A marijuana regulatory group appointed by Gov. John Hickenlooper started work Thursday penciling the nitty-gritty details of pot regulation. The group members won't make rules, but they'll recommend to the governor and the Legislature how Colorado should become the nation's first to regulate marijuana like alcohol.
One of the topics before one of the working groups is whether there should be some sort of a residency requirement for growing, selling or even using marijuana. Colorado currently has a two-year residency requirement for medical marijuana licenses, a constitutionally questionable requirement that's never been tested in court.
Residency requirements for recreational use are likely to be a divisive topic. Tourism is Colorado's No. 2 industry, but some don't want to see Colorado become a magnet for marijuana tourism. Others say out-of-state visitors shouldn't be subject to different rules from residents.
"I think that's going to be a big issue," predicted Bob Dill, a task force member and Denver attorney who specializes in regulation law.
Another state marijuana workgroup meeting in Denver Thursday raised controversial questions, too. A consumer safety group talked about plans to consider warning labels on pot and whether the state should try regulating pot's potency.
The regulatory workgroups didn't make any decisions on the questions. The task force has until the end of next month to make recommendations to Hickenlooper and the Legislature, which will make the final decisions.
The task force will also mull whether to allow on-site consumption, or shops that sell marijuana that customers can smoke there. A handful of so-called "marijuana clubs" have already popped up across Colorado, but so far, the law requires members to bring their own supply.
Colorado's on-site consumption regulations would determine whether Amsterdam-style marijuana cafes would be permitted, or whether local governments should decide as they do with where alcohol is sold and consumed.
Washington state also voted last year to allow pot, but Colorado's regulatory framework has a quick timeline. The constitutional amendment requires the state to adopt regulations for pot sales by the middle of this year.
The marijuana regulations could spark intense debate predicted Dr. Chris Urbina, Colorado's chief medical officer. He is leading the product safety group.
"That's part of our challenge here, that people have a lot of strong opinions around these issues," Urbina said Thursday.