Colorado changed history on January 1st as it saw an end to prohibition, which has lasted more than 70 years, by becoming the first state to regulate marijuana recreationally. Colorado and Washington-state voters passed amendments in the November 2012 election to allow the use and sale of marijuana for recreational purposes.
After a year of planning regulations for the sale of marijuana, Colorado’s first pot shops, dispensaries, opened on January 1st. Washington is still working on its regulations to begin the sale of recreational marijuana and expects their shops to open later in 2014.
Colorado and Washington are not new to the marijuana industry. Both states have passed laws that allow the use and sale of medicinal marijuana, along with 20 other states and the District of Columbia.
People that hope to open a recreational dispensary in Colorado have to undergo an application and inspection process by the state and local governments in order to become licensed to sell. According to CNN, roughly 30 recreational dispensaries have opened since January 1st, with 18 of those located in Denver.
However, not all of the local communities in Colorado are selling recreationally. The second largest city in Colorado, Colorado Springs, has already banned the sale of recreational marijuana while still allowing medical dispensaries in the city.
Marijuana regulations in Colorado are similar to that of alcohol regulations, with the exception of the amount of tax on marijuana. Recreational marijuana will have an excise tax of 15 percent to fund school construction and a 10 percent sales tax to fund marijuana-related law enforcement, totaling to a 25 percent tax. This makes marijuana one of the most heavily taxed consumer products in America.
Colorado expects to receive $67 million annually in revenue, with $27.5 million of that going towards school construction.
Adults 21 and over are allowed to purchase recreational marijuana. Colorado residents can buy up to an ounce of marijuana while non-residents can buy a quarter ounce. Smoking marijuana in public is illegal and must be done on private property. People are also allowed to grow up to six plants in a secure, enclosed area. However, selling personally grown marijuana remains illegal.
In a Gallop poll conducted in October of 2013, Americans showed favor for legalizing marijuana for the first time ever. While 58% of Americans believe it should be legalized, marijuana is still a Schedule I drug and considered illegal by the federal government. While the DEA has taken many measures in the past to raid and seize medical marijuana dispensaries, it seems to be taking a less restrictive role towards recreational marijuana.
President Obama shared his thoughts on the growing support for legalizing marijuana this month in the New Yorker Magazine. Obama states, “As been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life. I don’t think it’s more dangerous than alcohol.”
Obama also stated, “It’s important for it [marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington] to go forward because it’s important for society not to have a situation in which a large portion of people have at one time or another broke the law and only a select few get punished.”
A non-profit marijuana advocacy group NORML claims that marijuana is the third most popular recreational drug in America, with alcohol and tobacco as the leaders.
– Jordyn Gunn, Online Editor