Some things you should know about legal marijuana

weighing out marijuana on scale hbtv hemp beach tvWho will be able to buy it? Anyone who can prove they are 21 or older – and you don’t have to be a resident of Washington. So, expect pot tourists to be a part of the new scene. In Colorado: Anyone 21 and older. When will we be able to buy it? It’s not totally clear when you will be able to walk up to a store and buy pot, but the best guess is between March and May in 2014. The timeline is being driven by the fact that the state has until Dec. 1 to issue licenses for growing and it takes three months or so to grow and cure the buds.

And, the rules require all marijuana used in the legal system to have started from either seed or clone at a state licensed grow site. In Colorado: Colorado has the jump on us. Colorado’s Department of Revenue will start looking at retail license applications on Oct. 1 and expects to start approving them no sooner than 45 days. The big difference in timing is that Colorado allows product currently being sold in medical storefronts to be converted to recreational stores. So, recreational pot stores will have at least some product to sell as soon as they get licenses. Thus, sales are expected to begin there in January 2014.

Where will we be able to buy it? When retail stores open, those will be the only legal place (medical marijuana card holders will still have access to medical pot outlets). It’s unclear how many retail stores there will be. Here’s how the rules presently stand: “The number of retail locations will be determined using a formula that distributes the number of locations proportionate to the most populous cities within each county. Locations not assigned to a specific city will be at large. Once the number of locations per city and at- large have been identified, the specific locations will be selected by lottery in the event the number of applications exceeds the allotted amount for the cities and county.”

How late will stores be open? From the rules: “A marijuana retailer licensee may sell usable marijuana, marijuana-infused products, and marijuana paraphernalia between the hours of 8 a.m. and 12 a.m. (midnight)” What will I be able to buy? Buds or flowers from an incredibly wide range of “strains” of cannabis plants. In general, you’ll choose between products that are from “sativa” strains (generally more mentally active or prone to bring about feelings of euphoria, creativity and other mental states) and “indica” strains (generally more of a relaxing “body high” with a dampening of any motivation to get off the couch). When it comes to infused products, the sky appears to be the limit. You can put maryjane concentrates in anything: Honey sticks, gummy bears, chocolate everything, baked goods, pop, tea … In Colorado: Infused products can’t contain alcohol or nicotine. (No similar language so far in Washington rules)

What’s the deal with hash and other “concentrates”? Because I-502 only mentions “usable marijuana” and “infused products” the Liqour Control Board has decided that hash, hash oil and other concentrates cannot be sold at retail stores. However, here’s the rub on that: To qualify as “infused” a concentrate can contain just a bit of inert oil or orange juice to qualify for sale. How much has to go in before it is considered infused? The Board has not yet set minimum thresholds for what constitutes an “infused” product. In Colorado: Hash and other unadulterated concentrates will be for sale. In this photo taken April 4, 2013, Jim Andersen, left, displays butane hash oil.

How much will it cost? Officially, the Office of Financial Management places a price estimate of $12 per gram. Based on average retail mark-up practices, estimated producer price is $3 per gram and estimated processor price is $6 per gram. While this cost structure for the legal market isn’t set in stone, the going rate in the medical market tends to center on $10 a gram for the flower or buds, with some sales trending down toward $8 a gram and others upwards of $15 a gram. However, the medical marijuana market doesn’t, at this time, have the built in tax structure that the legal pot market will have. Washington’s rules put a 25 percent tax on each step of the process: So when a grower sells to a producer, the producer pays a 25 percent tax. When the producer sells to the retailer, the retailer pays 25 percent. And when you buy it, you’ll pay a 25 percent tax. Consequently, these taxes will likely push up the price of legal marijuana, but how much is an open question. Update: One caveat, pointed out by a reader, is that growers may also be producers and thus cut one level of the tax out.

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