Colorado has just become the first state in the country where small amounts of recreational pot can be legally sold in specially designated stores.
In November of 2012, Colorado voters approved Amendment 64, which makes it legal for its residents over 21 years of age to buy small amounts of marijuana for recreational use. This is different from the already-established legal pot in Colorado and other states like California, where people with a doctor’s prescription can legally purchase and possess medical marijuana. Some can even grow their own – in small amounts.
In other parts of the world, marijuana isn’t such a big deal. For example, the Netherlands has long had an informal decriminalization policy, and Amsterdam is known for its “coffee shops,” where patrons can buy marijuana products. Uruguay has also approved state-sanctioned marijuana sales – similar to those in Colorado, which are not yet up and running.
How is Colorado Different?
Colorado is thought to be the first jurisdiction in the world where marijuana is openly sold in specialty pot shops and tracked by the government from seed to store.
Washington State has already passed something similar to that of Colorado; however, officials say they won’t be ready to open stores until later this year. Other states considering relaxing their marijuana laws are California, Arizona, and Oregon.
If you are a resident of Colorado, you can buy up to an ounce of marijuana at a time. Those living out-of-state can buy up to a quarter ounce. There’s no restriction from shopping from store to store but, under state law, only possession of 1 ounce at a time is permitted. It’s unclear how this will be regulated.
In Colorado, the new law states that possession of more than 1 ounce but less than 8 ounces of marijuana is a misdemeanor that carries fines up to $5,000 as well as up to 18 months in jail. Having more than 8 ounces is felony possession and that carries as much as $100,000 in fines and up to three years in prison.
- Smoking inside a public building is a violation of the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act
- Prohibition of marijuana clubs or salons (think cigar bars) also as specified by the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act
- Smoking in public outdoor spaces, such as parks, national parks, ski resorts, and forests, is also off-limits.
- Smoking at a private residence is allowed, but for renters it’s the landlord’s discretion
- Driving while impaired is prohibited
- Transporting marijuana over state lines by car or plane is prohibited
Federal law still considers marijuana illegal, which typically trumps state law. However, the Justice Department has issued a memo in August saying that federal authorities should not pursue prosecution for recreational pot in both Colorado and Washington.
Retail Marijuana and the Economy
Retail pot comes with quite a hefty state tax of 25% in addition to the usual sales tax which is 2.9%. Some estimate that retail pot sales will generate $67 million a year, $27.5 million of which is designated for schools, officials said.
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