“These two states are the only places on the face of the Earth that have actually put the imprimatur of the state on legalization of cannabis,” says Allen St. Pierre, the executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
Elsewhere, marijuana law is either decriminalized, ignored, or convoluted. But Washington and Colorado have now completely legalized the possession and use of marijuana for all adults and all purposes.
It should be noted, however, that the two states’ laws will contradict federal law, which still considers marijuana an illegal drug. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who opposed his state’s initiative, was quick to point this out after it passed.
“The voters have spoken and we have to respect their will. This will be a complicated process, but we intend to follow through. That said, federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug, so don’t break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly,” Hickenlooper said.
But as long as the states take proper roles in enforcing their new laws, unlike California, their resident stoners have no need to worry, says St. Pierre.
“(California) hasn’t set up a regulatory scheme. They have no regulation and compliance structures. That’s why the federal government has gone in there in last year and shut down dispensaries,” St. Pierre says.
Here’s a breakdown of what exactly those policies are and what they mean for the cannabis-inclined residents on the frontier of the legalization movement:
Colorado has long been at the forefront of marijuana reform, but on Tuesday, the state may have taken the final step. About 55 percent of the voters voted “Yes” on Amendment 64, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol initiative, which amends the state constitution to allow anyone over 21 years of age to use, possess, and grow marijuana for personal purposes. The law takes effect once the election is certified, which should take about two months. The specifics:
How much? Adults will be able to purchase up to an ounce of cannabis from specially-regulated retail stores.
Where? Adults will be able to use it anywhere, except in public spaces, like on the street, in public parks, or outside personal property. They’ll also be able to grow up to six marijuana plants of their own. Only three of these plants can be budding at once, and the plants must be grown on private property.
What about driving? Driving while high will be illegal, and could result in a DUI. As with alcohol, a driver would have to show probable cause to be pulled over, and if a person is found with 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood in their system (determined via blood test), they can be charged. That THC level is essentially the equivalent of having smoked or ingested marijuana within the last 2 hours.
Who will regulate it? The growth and sale of marijuana will be regulated “from seed to sale” by the state’s Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division, which will track seeds using radio frequency ID tags and ensure the product is up to snuff.
Will it be taxed? The initiative instructs the state legislature to tax wholesale ganja at 15 percent. It will also be subject to the states’ 2.9 percent sales tax.
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