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Colorado legislature sets marijuana limits for motorists

A participant rolls a marijuana filled blunt at the 4/20 marijuana holiday in Civic Center Park in downtown Denver April 20, 2013. REUTERS/R
A participant rolls a marijuana filled blunt at the 4/20 marijuana holiday in Civic Center Park in downtown Denver April 20, 2013. REUTERS/R

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - Lawmakers took a key step toward implementing Colorado's recreational marijuana law on Tuesday when they set blood-level limits for driving, but a measure to tax retail pot was in limbo a day before the legislative session was set to end.

Along with Washington state, Colorado voters in November approved the use of small amounts of marijuana by adults. The Colorado vote directed state lawmakers to set up a regulatory framework for the sale and taxation of cannabis.

The driving-while-stoned bill sets a 5-nanogram-per-milliliter threshold for tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in marijuana. The proposal now heads to Governor John Hickenlooper, who has indicated his support for the measure.

"I think this is an important part" of regulating pot, Hickenlooper, a Democrat, told reporters on Monday.

Washington had the 5-nanogram limit set in its ballot language that voters approved in November.

Colorado legislature had failed in its previous attempts to impose a marijuana limit for driving under the state's medical pot law, which has been in effect since 2001.

Still pending in the legislature is a measure to tax recreational pot, which under the state constitution requires voter approval to implement. It is unclear what the ramifications would be for pot legalization if it fails.

The state Senate gave initial approval on Tuesday to impose a 15 percent excise tax and a 10 percent sales tax on retail pot sales. A final Senate vote is to be taken on Wednesday before it heads back to the House, where a final vote will need to be recorded before the session expires at midnight in order for it to move to the governor's office.

The state House of Representatives passed a bipartisan resolution asking for direction from the federal government, which considers marijuana an illegal narcotic, on how to proceed with regulating recreational pot.

"We need to know how the federal government is going to approach this issue," House Republican leader Mark Waller said in a statement.

"In less than a year, Coloradans will begin buying and selling marijuana, and we need to be sure we implement (the law) in a way that respects the will of voters and clarifies our understanding of both federal and state law."

(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Mohammad Zargham)

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