Starting Wednesday, adults 21 and up will be able to legally (at least, at the state level) purchase cannabis legally in storefronts in Colorado.
We’ll stop and let that sink in for a second.
Okay, now that your mind has finished exploding we’ll get down to a few details.
Colorado voters approved Amendment 64 back in November of 2012, and it was signed into law in December of that year. Since then, adults 21 and up in Colorado could possess, use and even cultivate up to six plants in their homes and keep all that they harvest. But legalized cannabis sales through storefronts took a little bit more time to iron out.
Colorado lawmakers spent the better part of 2012 ironing out the details of the system, but were given timelines by the amendment itself, which mandated state-approved sales by January 1. There’s a lot, but the basics are that existing medical marijuana dispensaries wanting to transition over to the recreational industry were given first priority and a nine-month head start on new applicants. Every dispensary opening for recreational sales January 1 (and for the next nine months or so) will either be a dual-use medical/recreational shop or a completely converted former medical dispensary.
Those going dual-use were able to transfer 15 percent of their inventory over to recreational sales, including 15 percent of their garden. But technically, recreational stores aren’t allowed to start growing until January 1, so there could be a limited supply of ganja in some of these shops initially until their gardens catch back up.
Anyway, time flies when you’re arguing about the best way to implement the nation’s first regulated cannabis sales with the feds watching over your shoulders and here we are the last few days of December, days away from someone making the first sale ever.
The Marijuana Policy Project, which helped craft and support Amendment 64, is already touting that first sale in fact – Colorado Marine veteran and Amendment 64 supporter Sean Azzariti will get the honorary title bestowed upon him early News Years Day at a local dispensary. Azzariti has advocated for cannabis use for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, something he battled and continues to battle daily. He praised Amendment 64 as a means of offering legal access to veterans since the state refuses to allow PTSD as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana.
For those wanting to know the basics about legalized sales, we’ve put together a brief summary:
Adults 21 and up can now purchase up to an ounce of cannabis. Out-of-state residents will be limited to a quarter-ounce per-purchase. There is a centralized, state tracking system for the plants, buds, hash and edibles no central database keeps track of individual purchases. Possession is legal up to an ounce, so it’s up to the consumer to make sure they are following the laws. There have been close to 350 licenses for recreational pot granted to grows, edibles producers, hash makers, dispensaries and testing labs so far but only a handful of dispensaries will be open on January 1, with more coming online steadily over the next few months.
Taxes on the pot are going to be pretty steep. There’s a 15 percent excise tax on wholesales from grows to dispensaries as well as a 10 percent state sales tax. Add to that the local sales taxes and it could be jacking up the price of cannabis considerably. We have yet to see, as few dispensaries have announced their prices yet. Some have hinted that eighths of herb will sell in the $35-$50 range beforetaxes.
Cannabis is (and has been) decriminalized for adults 18 to 20 as long as it is two ounce or less, but minors caught with cannabis purchased from a dispensary could be facing some big trouble – as could the people or shop selling it to them.
Public consumption of pot remains illegal, the bill didn’t change that at all. A cannabis-centric, “private” New Years Day party billed as allowing people to light up at a Denver-area venue has already been shut down by a threatening letter from the city’s Excise and Licensing department. And in counties and cities across Colorado, public pot use tickets are up (maybe because the cops can’t write the more severe possession tickets anymore?)
But despite the law’s limitations and the need for more progress in Colorado and around the country, it is crazy to think Wednesday is actually going to happen when many though legalized cannabis sales wouldn’t ever be possible in this country in the first place.
Want more Colorado legal cannabis sales coverage? We’ll be bringing you stories here at Toke of the Town all week, but you can also head over to our sister blog at Westword.com for all of the local angle.