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Colorado Governor Signs Changes To Sweeping Medical Marijuana Rules

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Colo. governor signs changes to sweeping pot rulesKRISTEN WYATT, Associated PressUpdated 06:44 p.m., Thursday, June 2, 2011

DENVER (AP) — Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed into law several changes to the nation's most exhaustive medical marijuana regulations Thursday, even as governors in other medical marijuana states steer clear because of questions about whether federal authorities will permit states to violate federal drug law.

Hickenlooper, a Democrat, signed the measure late in the afternoon without public notice or explanation. The new law extends by one year — until summer 2012 — a moratorium on new pot shops.

The law also loosens residency requirements for people working in dispensaries and sets up a new caregiver registry in which small home-growers who raise pot for up to five patients will have to tell the state where their plants are kept.

Colorado's new pot law was signed hours after U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder promised to clarify the Justice Department's position on state medical marijuana laws. Federal attorneys in Colorado and other marijuana states have warned state authorities that they're putting state employees at risk of federal drug prosecutions when they regulate marijuana, which is illegal under federal law.

Late last week, Arizona authorities sued the Justice Department seeking clarification on state marijuana laws. And in April, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire vetoed parts of a bill to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries after receiving the federal warning.

Hickenlooper has not reacted to the warning he received in April, and a spokesman for the governor had no immediate explanation for the reasons behind the bill signing. The law was included in a list of new laws sent without comment, and they were signed without public notification.

Hickenlooper also signed into law a bill setting labeling standards for edible cannabis products such as pot brownies. He also signed a ban on chemicals used to produce synthetic marijuana, often called Spice or K2.

A marijuana activist who favors legalization blasted Hickenlooper for signing the marijuana regulations Thursday. Robert Chase, founder of the Colorado Coalition of Caregivers & Patients, said state lawmakers and the governor are foolish to think they're allowed to regulate a federally banned substance.

"It has become clear in hindsight that the Obama administration has never OK'd states being in violation of federal controlled substance law," said Chase, who favors federal change in the classification of marijuana. "It's foolish to continue down this path. ... They're just exposing all of us to federal criminal liability."

The marijuana regulation bill also directs some $1 million in marijuana sales taxes to a drug and alcohol treatment program in Pueblo. The Circle Program at the Colorado Mental Health Institute was in danger of closure.

The marijuana regulations signed Thursday take effect in July.


Follow Kristen Wyatt at http://www.twitter.com/APkristenwyatt

___Michael Komorn18006563557

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