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Two weeks left to prepare for pot sales

8:49 PM, Dec 17, 2013   |    comments
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DENVER - On January 1, the world will be looking to Colorado as legal sales of recreational pot begin.

The first stores will open at 8:00 am that day.

The state and local governments are racing against the ticking clock to get ready in time, but there will be lingering issues next year.

As of Tuesday, state tax officials haven't finished all the rules for pot shops and growers to follow.

For tax purposes Colorado will distinguish between the flower, or bud of the plant (used for smoking) and the rest of the plant, called trim (used to make edible pot products.)

However, as of Tuesday the state hadn't published the average prices it will use, which means growers don't know how much tax they'll pay on each pound of pot.

"I expect it will be very soon, but I don't know exactly when it will be," said tax policy analysis director Phil Horwitz.

The marijuana industry is rushing to get ready as well.

"It is exciting and stressful," said Michael Elliott, whose industry group represents about 50 pot shops, none of which have licenses yet.

"About seven are really shooting for that January 1 date, and think that they can pull it off," said Elliott. "But they have an awful lot of hurdles to get through."

In Denver, for example, pot shops need a public hearing and multiple inspections to be licensed.

Those that are able to open on New Year's plan for huge crowds.

"I think we're going to see very secure businesses. They've got their own private security companies," said Elliott. "We might see a shortage and that might be the problem."

That aside, Elliott thinks the state is building a good system for the long-term success of the industry.

He doesn't say the same for the federal government.

"I mean we're talking taxes, and collecting taxes, and we're still having trouble getting a checking account," Elliott said.

Banks are regulated by federal law, and federal law treats the pot business as racketeering.

Most banks won't do business with pot shops until they hear otherwise.

State officials say it's not unheard of for pot companies to pay their taxes in cash.

"You're going to hear our voice raising louder and louder that this needs to be fixed now," Elliott said.

Pot companies worry that sitting on cash makes them a target for criminals.

One of many issues that will be unresolved as we enter 2014.

Most of Colorado's U.S. House members have signed onto a bill that would legalize banking for pot companies, but it has yet to gain traction beyond Colorado and Washington state, which also legalized pot.

(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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