Colorado made history yesterday by becoming the first place in the world where marijuana is legal and regulated from the initial seed, to the final sale. This means that a commercial grower gets a radio frequency tag that stays with the plant from seedling through harvest to drying. Once packaged in 1-pound packages, the merchandise gets a new tag and the shop owner is required to weigh in the inventory daily and enter it into the Marijuana Inventory Tracking Solution system. In 2012, Colorado and Washington were the first two states in the U.S. to legalize the sale of recreational marijuana, but January 1, 2013 was the first time that about 30 retail outlets opened their doors to sell it, 18 of which are in the city of Denver.
Jubilant customers young and old, male and female, some who were consistent users and others who just wanted to make history, lined up for hours in the cold to be part of this historical event. Some said that they were looking forward to being able to finally legally enjoy, while others said that it helps their physical ailments and PTSD. Now, under the new state law, each city can choose to allow retail outlets within its limits, or not. Places like Colorado Springs and Greeley have already banned them.
So who can purchase the drug? The law is similar to that of alcohol purchases in that you must have ID and be at least 21 years old. Colorado residents can purchase up to an ounce and visitors from out-of-state can buy ¼ ounce. The drug is not allowed to be smoked anywhere that cigarette smoking is banned including public parks and ski resorts. Denver police officers will be out in force looking for this illegal activity and issuing citations. Users should know that it can only be used on private property and with the owner’s consent.
There is no official tracking system in place, so if you purchase marijuana you don’t need to worry that the government or your employer will be able to see your purchases. However, everyone buying product will be on videotaped security footage that shows the individual’s identity and records of their entrance and exit.
Taxes on the substance are fairly high with a 15% excise tax on the wholesale price and then another 10% sales tax on the retail price. However, many young families are happy that the state expects that about $30 million in taxes a year will go towards the public school system. The balance will go towards regulating the retail shops and industry.
While this groundbreaking event is exciting to many people who have joyously announced that “prohibition is over!” consumers should also be aware that it’s not all fun and games. You can be pulled over and cited for DWI if your blood analysis shows over 5 nanograms of THC, it’s illegal to have over an ounce in your possession, and if you are caught publicly smoking or selling marijuana. If you are caught with between 1 – 8 ounces, a Class 1 Misdemeanor, you can be sentenced to 6 – 18 months in jail and fines of $500 – $5,000. Anything more than 8 ounces is a Class 5 Felony which includes 1 – 3 years in prison and fines between $1,000 - $100,0000. Minors in possession of marijuana will be subject to the same penalties as if caught with alcohol and will have to attend court-ordered drug awareness programs.