Cannabis in America
A Breakdown of Colorado’s New Marijuana Laws
During the 2012 elections, Colorado voters voted to legalize recreational marijuana, with about 54 percent of Colorado residents voting yes. As of yesterday, recreational marijuana became retailed at twenty-four stores around the state, though most of the locations were in Denver.
Despite awful weather in Colorado, shoppers waited in long lines to purchase the first legal pot in the United States. Yesterday was nicknamed “Green Wednesday” because of its popularity.
Understanding the new marijuana laws in Colorado are relatively easy if you compare them to alcohol laws. When they were written by the Colorado legislature, they loosely based the new marijuana laws off of already existing alcohol regulation laws. The reasoning for this is that legalization advocates have argued that marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol, so it makes sense to provide similar laws for the two. For example:
- You must be 21 or older to purchase marijuana.
- It is illegal to distribute marijuana to anyone who is under the age of 21.
- It is illegal to drive while under the influence of marijuana.
- It is not limited to residents, but visitors to Colorado may partake as well.
- There are limits to where smoking can take place. Marijuana cannot be consumed openly and publicly. Although this is stricter than open container laws, it is the same idea.
There are of course, other sections that differ from already in place alcohol laws:
- There’s a limit on how much you can buy. Residents can purchase up to an ounce; out of state visitors can purchase one quarter of an ounce.
- As of right now, Marijuana can only be bought with cash, although that may change as the market evolves.
- Marijuana cannot be brought across state lines.
There are other interesting rules that are specific to the sale of marijuana. A system called the Marijuana Inventory Tracking System (MITS) will log sales, and stores are required to keep it updated on sales. Any marijuana sold must be put in a child resistant package. Retailers cannot advertise in an outlet where 30% or more of viewers may be under 21. These are just a sampling of the safeguards that Colorado has put in place.
After the first day, it seems like the sales are going well. In fact, demand threatens to outpace supply. There are some complaints, of course. One of the concerns about selling recreational marijuana is that it would price medical marijuana license holders out of the market, but Colorado is making sure that won’t be the case. Medical marijuana will be sold more cheaply than its recreational counterpart.
There’s also a concern that demand will outpace supply–leading to inflated prices. There was no implementation of any sort of statewide pricing structure or rules, so stores can essentially charge what they wish. By the end of the day yesterday, one store sold 1/8th of an ounce of pot for $70. There’s also the state and local taxes to think about–they total about 25% of the cost.
Many onlookers have harkened this as an interesting experiment that will have some hand in dictating what marijuana legalization may look like in the rest of the United States. Colorado’s market is the first of its kind. It even differs from the Netherlands in that there’s no unregulated production.
Washington state also legalized marijuana during the 2012 elections, although they probably will not begin legal retailing until this summer. Colorado’s successes and failures may help Washington, and potentially other states, set up their market.
Anneliese Mahoney (@AMahoney8672) is Lead Editor at Law Street and a Connecticut transplant to Washington D.C. She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from the George Washington University, and a passion for law, politics, and social issues. Contact Anneliese at amahoney@LawStreetMedia.com.
Featured image courtesy of [PabloEvans via Flickr]