All eyes are on Colorado this year as it is the first state in the country to legalize recreational marijuana and the first location in the world to regulate weed from growth to sales.
In November 2012, 55 percent of Colorado citizens voted in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana, and on January 1, 2014, pot retail outlets opened their doors to thousands of Colorado natives and state visitors who lined up to be among the first to legally buy marijuana.
Other states are sure to follow. Washington also voted in favor of legalized recreational weed in 2012, but will wait to open retail stores until later this year.
Although it is now legal, regulatory marijuana laws do exist.
Those interested in buying marijuana must be at least 21 years old and may only purchase up to an ounce if they are from in state and a quarter ounce if they hail from out of state. Growing marijuana at home is legal as well, allowing no more than 6 plants per household that must be in a secure and locked area.
No public smoking is allowed due to Colorado’s Clean Indoor Air Act which prohibits smoking indoors, even in dispensaries, and will keep marijuana use out of public areas. Recreational marijuana use is legal only on private property with the permission of the property’s owner.
Similar to alcohol laws, driving under the influence of marijuana is illegal when more than 5 nanograms of THC, the drug’s active component, are present in the blood. THC levels are shown to wear off after three hours after use, but the effects of marijuana vary individually and should be used with caution, especially when both alcohol and marijuana are involved, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and CNN.
Underage marijuana use and possession is illegal in Denver and is punishable with fines and other consequences, but not jail time.
On a federal level, marijuana remains illegal, but instead of challenging Colorado state law, federal officials will, “focus on serious trafficking and keeping the drug away from children,” CNN said.
Why Legalize Marijuana
Recreational marijuana use will bring in millions of dollars in tax revenue to states that legalize retail pot, the New York Times said.
Retail marijuana in Colorado will have the usual state sales tax of 2.9% plus a 25-percent state tax, making it one of the most highly taxed consumer products in the state, resulting in an additional $67 million a year with $27.5 million of that amount designated to the construction of schools, CNN said.
This will be new revenue for Colorado. Medical marijuana has been around as early as Nov. 2000 when Amendment 20 effectively legalized limited amounts of medical marijuana for patients and primary caregivers, but medical marijuana patients are not charged with extra taxes.
Although both retail and medicinal marijuana establishments are legal in Colorado, the two entities remain separate with different laws and regulations. For example, a personal license and physician recommendation are required for medical marijuana patients.
The state Marijuana Enforcement Division mailed out 136 recreational marijuana licenses in December to shops in Denver, and at least 37 of those were able to get past the lengthy legal process to open on Jan. 1, according to the Denver Post and the Gazette.
Most locations were sold out within the first several hours of opening, and despite initial concern, the Denver Post reported police and government officials said crowds were very calm and unproblematic.
Jan. 1 was an exciting day for many. Iraq war veteran Sean Azzariti had campaigned for marijuana legalization and was the first to legally buy recreational pot.
Michael Eymer is benefiting from “cannabis capitalism” with his pot tours that take paying customers to dispensaries, shops and restaurants around Colorado for the full recreational weed experience, CBS said.
Other Colorado communities, however, are not as thrilled.
The cities of Colorado Springs and Greeley are exercising their power to prohibit marijuana commerce, and have chosen not to welcome retail weed to their communities.