Colorado lawmakers tried to find the Goldilocks level for recreational marijuana taxes — an amount neither too high to discourage voters from approving it nor too low to pay the costs of pot legalization. At the end of the debate, the state House gave initial approval to a bill that proposes a 15 percent excise tax and an initial 10 percent special sales tax on recreational marijuana, over the objection of Republicans who said the tax rates are too much.
A set of laws to govern how recreational marijuana should be grown, sold and taxed was signed into law Tuesday in Colorado, where Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper called the measures the state's best attempt to navigate the uncharted territory of legalized recreational pot. The laws cover how the drug should be raised and packaged, with purchasing limits for out-of-state visitors and a new marijuana driving limit as an analogy to blood alcohol levels. (See also: Highlights of Colorado's new marijuana laws)
Nearly a year ago, Washington and Colorado legalized recreational marijuana sales. Now it’s time to regulate them. The two states have taken slightly different approaches. Washington’s are slightly more restrictive. There will be limits on the number of sellers’ licenses available there, keeping plants for personal use is not allowed and advertising is restricted to 1,600 square inches (about a meter squared). Colorado has already begun accepting licenses without a cap, cultivation for personal use is allowed and stores could open as soon as January.
As Colorado prepares for the opening of historic recreational marijuana stores, state officials are preparing for something equally as unique — a regulatory challenge of almost maddening complexity. Faced with these challenges, marijuana regulators in Colorado stop short of guaranteeing an airtight system. But Ron Kammerzell, the state Department of Revenue's deputy senior director of enforcement, is confident the department will be able to catch most fraud.
A measure to impose taxes on recreational marijuana passed making pot one of the most heavily taxed consumer products in Colorado. Proposition AA imposes a 15 percent excise tax on the wholesale price and an initial 10 percent sales tax on the retail price. The measure is expected to bring in $67 million a year. Of that, $27.5 million generated by the excise tax would go toward school construction, as specified in the constitutional amendment that legalized recreational marijuana use.
Federal marijuana prohibition in the United States started with a knock on a Denver man's apartment door. Seventy-six years ago, Samuel Caldwell became the first person arrested and prosecuted under a federal charge of selling marijuana, after drug enforcement agents busted him with 3 pounds of cannabis in his apartment. Three-quarters of a century and an estimated 26 million marijuana arrests after Caldwell's, legal marijuana sales were set to start at 8 a.m. in Colorado.
On January 1, 2014, Colorado becomes the first place anywhere in the world to allow legal marijuana sales to anybody over 21 for any purpose. You have questions about how it will work? Since the voter-approved Amendment 64 (ah, there it is) went into effect on Dec. 10, 2012, it has been legal for anyone 21 and over to use marijuana or possess up to an ounce of marijuana for any purpose. Here are 64 answers to commonly asked questions.
Frustrated by the cash-heavy aspect of its new marijuana industry, Colorado is trying a long-shot bid to create the world's first financial system devoted to the pot business. But Colorado's plan to move the weed industry away from dank-smelling cash to easily auditable banking accounts is a Hail Mary pass that won't work, industry and regulatory officials agree.
The black market for marijuana in Colorado isn't what it used to be. Nine or 10 years ago, the narrative of illicit cannabis in the state focused on illegally grown product filtering in from Mexico, California and elsewhere. Now it seems officials and experts are more concerned about Colorado-grown marijuana infiltrating other states, a trend that is seeing a significant upward trajectory. "In a lot of ways, our legal industry has become the black market for other states," said Tom Gorman, director of the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. (See also: A Year of Legal Pot)
A year of legalized recreational marijuana hasn't changed many Coloradans' minds on the groundbreaking shift — though more than one-third say the state's reputation has taken a hit, according to a SurveyUSA poll done for The Denver Post. More than 90 percent of the respondents who voted in the 2012 election on Amendment 64 — the measure allowing adults to legally possess up to an ounce of marijuana passed 54.8 percent to 45.1 percent — said they would vote the same way today.
Colorado's Amendment 64 Implementation Task Force is wading through the weeds of marijuana legalization, creating regulations to take pot from the shadows out into the open. In the wake of the decision by voters in Colorado last November to legalize recreational marijuana for adults, the question of how to integrate legal pot into the practical bureaucratic realities has fallen on two dozen Coloradans. By the end of the month, the Task Force must submit a report to the Colorado Legislature that lays out its suggestions for how the state should regulate legal marijuana.
Only six months old, Colorado's recreational marijuana industry starts a transformation that could add hundreds of new pot businesses to the state and reconfigure the market's architecture. Previously, only owners of existing medical marijuana shops could apply to open recreational stores, and all businesses had to be generalists, growing the pot that they sold. Now, newcomers to the industry can apply for recreational marijuana business licenses. When these new businesses begin opening in October, all recreational marijuana companies will be allowed to specialize — for instance as stand-alone stores that don't grow their supply.
In Oregon - a state with one of the nation's highest rates of pot use and a reputation for pushing the boundaries on marijuana laws - organizers are looking at a bank account with just $1,800. Marijuana activists who have ploughed big bucks into campaigns in the other two states complain the Oregon measure is poorly written and doesn't poll well. It didn't qualify for the ballot until July, severely limiting the time available to sway voters. They also don't care for the man with a blemished record who's pushing Oregon's measure. More than $4 million has flowed to Washington and close to a million in Colorado.
In three states — Washington, Colorado, and Massachusetts — efforts to liberalize marijuana laws succeeded last night. In Washington and Colorado, the new laws enacted go even further than past efforts. In these two states, fully regulated recreational pot use has now been approved by voters. Maybe these victories shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, in 2011 Gallup found that a plurality of Americans support the legalization of marijuana, and in 2010 fully 70% of Americans supported using marijuana to alleviate pain and suffering. What does all this mean for the four-decade-old War on Drugs?
The 6 November votes in Colorado and Washington left a lot of marijuana users happy and a lot of police officers nervous. And they set the two states up for a confrontation with the federal government, as marijuana is still illegal under federal law. Marijuana is the most widely used illicit drug in the US. Legalisation advocates say the recent votes mark the beginning of the end of the drug's prohibition. "It's a tipping point for sure," says Sanho Tree, director of the drug policy project at the Institute for Policy Studies.
Most Americans want the federal government to stop enforcing anti-marijuana laws in Colorado and Washington state, according to a Gallup Poll. Sixty-four percent do not want the federal government to enforce its anti-marijuana laws in those states, compared to only 34 percent who do. Among those who believe marijuana use should be legal, a whopping 87 percent said the federal government should back off. But even among those who oppose marijuana legalization, 43 percent don’t want the federal government to get involved.
In an interview with ABC News President Barack Obama said federal authorities should not target recreational marijuana use in two Western states where it has been made legal given limited government resources and growing public acceptance of the controlled substance. "It does not make sense from a prioritization point of view for us to focus on recreational drug users in a state that has already said that under state law that's legal," he said.
President Obama says recreational users of marijuana in states that have legalized the substance should not be a "top priority" of federal law enforcement officials prosecuting the war on drugs. "We've got bigger fish to fry," Obama said of pot users in Colorado and Washington during an exclusive interview with ABC News' Barbara Walters. (See also: Parsing Obama's words on legalizing marijuana, by Ethan Nadelmann)
Hawaii could join Colorado and Washington as states that have legalized the use of marijuana by adults, under a measure introduced by state House Speaker Joe Souki. House Bill 150, known as the Personal Use of Marijuana Act, would allow adults 21 years of age and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and to cultivate a limited number of marijuana plants in a secure and locked location. It also would allow for licensed and regulated marijuana retail stores, as well as licensed facilities to cultivate, manufacture and test marijuana. (Related story: Hawaii residents support legalizing marijuana, survey finds)