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Originally published Friday, April 26, 2013 at 8:40 AM

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Marijuana repeal considered in Colorado

Marijuana legalization could be going back to the ballot in Colorado.

Associated Press

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Between this and their gun control vote, I'm guessing some of these characters will be... MORE

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DENVER —

Marijuana legalization could be going back to the ballot in Colorado.

State lawmakers are mulling a bill to tax the newly legal drug more than 30 percent. Some lawmakers want to add a caveat to the tax proposal - that recreational pot won't be legal anymore unless voters approve the taxes this fall.

A draft bill floating around the Capitol late this week opens the door to repeal. It would revise the ballot question on pot taxes to add that recreational pot in the state constitution should be repealed if voters don't approve 15 percent excise taxes on retail pot and a new 15 percent marijuana sales tax. Those would be in addition to regular state and local sales taxes.

"The whole purpose of it was to raise money for education and so forth, so if there's no money, we shouldn't have marijuana," said Sen. Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa.

The possibility of marijuana repeal had pot legalization backers furious. Many of them stayed at the Capitol until almost midnight Thursday scrambling to gauge the likelihood that recreational pot could go back to voters.

"We are surprised that legislators are even taking this proposal seriously," said a statement released early Friday by Mason Tvert, one of the architects of Colorado's legalization campaign last year.

The measure, a constitutional amendment, passed 55 percent to 45 percent. The measure directed lawmakers to come back to the ballot with a tax proposal, with much of the money going to school construction. But because of Colorado's Byzantine tax laws, the recreational pot taxes can't be levied until voters again sign off on them.

The repeal effort wouldn't apply to medical marijuana, which Colorado voters approved in 2000.

Lawmakers from both parties have expressed worry this year that Colorado won't be able to afford to give recreational pot the kind of intense oversight and regulation many expect. From labeling and potency standards to making sure pot taxes are collected, the regulatory scheme under consideration in Colorado wouldn't be cheap.

Even backers of the 30 percent taxes aren't sure what they would raise.

"We have to hope and expect for the best but prepare for the worst," said Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, selling the tax proposal to a House committee Thursday.

The state House was planning a debate Friday on the tax ballot question. The repeal provision, if it appears, would come later, likely when the pot tax shifts to the Senate.

Some lawmakers said Friday they doubt lawmakers would send pot legalization back to voters this year.

"That's almost like saying to voters, `Vote for this, or else,'" said Sen. Cheri Jahn, D-Wheat Ridge. "I don't think you threaten voters like that. When over 55 percent of the people vote for something, I think we have to respect that."

Marijuana repeal debate could dominate the Legislature's closing days. The path to repeal would be uncertain, but some lawmakers say it's only fair to ask again if voters are willing to legalize pot and risk federal intervention in exchange for a tax windfall projected to exceed $100 million a year.

"I think that's why the people supported it," Crowder said.

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Kristen Wyatt can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/APkristenwyatt

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