More Coloradoans used their vote in November’s election to legalize marijuana than were cast to reelect the President of the United States. Amendment 64 received 1,291,771 votes in favor and President Obama received 1,238,490 votes from Colorado citizens – according to Politico.com.
In the language of Amendment 64:
In the interest of the efficient use of law enforcement resources, enhancing revenues for public purposes, and individual freedom, the people of the state of Colorado find and declare that the use of marijuana should be legal for persons twenty-one years of age or older and taxed in a manner similar to alcohol.
What is unique about this bill is the extent to which it transcends political party lines, and brings together constituencies for practical purposes, which are many times on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to political positions. Fiscal progressives like the idea of legalizing marijuana if it will raise revenue in the state to put toward public schools and community projects. Libertarians support legalization of marijuana on the grounds that it promotes individual liberty. However, what likely pushed support beyond the tipping point of passage is that legalizing marijuana is compatible with fiscal conservatism by means of millions of projected dollars in savings for the criminal justice system by allowing resources to be allocated away from pursuing and punishing marijuana users and toward more productive endeavors, like minimizing violent crimes.
This analysis is supported by a budgetary study done by the Colorado Center on Law & Policy that concluded Amendment 64 “could generate as much as a total of $60 million in savings and revenue” as well as create several hundred new jobs, mostly in the construction sector. Broken down new revenue and savings will come from the following areas:
- $12 million dollars of annual savings in criminal justice costs
- $24 million in excise tax revenue
- $8.7 million in state sales tax revenue
- $14.5 million in local tax revenue
So, weed is legal, but what exactly does that mean for you and me as we move forward?
Under the new law the following activities will be lawful under the Colorado Constitution, after the bill takes full effect, for individuals twenty-one years or older:
- a. Possessing, using, and displaying, purchasing, or transporting marijuana accessories or one ounce or less of marijuana.
- b. Possessing, growing, processing, or transporting no more than six marijuana plants, with three or fewer being mature, flowering plants, and possession of the marijuana produced by the plants on the premises where the plants were grown, provided that the growing takes place in an enclosed, locked space, is not conducted openly or publically, and is not made available for sale.
- c. Transfers of one ounce or less of marijuana without remuneration [without payment] to a person who is twenty-one years of age or older.
- d. Consumption of marijuana, provided that nothing in this section shall permit consumption that is conducted openly or publically in a manner that endangers others.
- e. Assisting another person who is twenty-one years of age or older in any of the acts described in paragraphs a-d of this subsection.
And in regard to what is next for local law enforcement in light of the passage of Amendment 64, Pueblo Chief of Police Luis Velez tells PULP that for the moment there will be no change in the policy of handling marijuana infractions in Pueblo and that the “Chiefs [of police in Colorado] Association is still awaiting direction from the Attorney General to be handed down.” And although the final policies are not due to be in place until well into next year, Chief Velez further explained that some policies might begin to be enacted as early as this December or January of 2013.
One of the first regulations likely to be introduced, according to Chief Velez, will be one that sets a standard for measuring the legal limit of THC that can be in a driver’s system and policies for police officers who will have to handle a breadth of marijuana possession situations. For example, an Arizonan traveling through Colorado to Kansas in possession of marijuana might be charged federally, while a resident of Conejos County traveling to Summit County, with a legal amount of marijuana might not be penalized.
Colorado Attorney General John Suthers recently stated, “Despite my strongly-held belief that the legalization of marijuana on a state level is a very bad public policy, voters can be assured that the Attorney General’s Office will move forward in assisting the pertinent executive branch agencies to implement this new provision in the Colorado Constitution.”
Below are highlights from regulations that must be in place by July 13, 2013 under Amendment 64:
- Qualifications for licensure that are directly and demonstrably related to the operation of a marijuana establishment.
- Security requirements for marijuana establishments.
- Requirements to prevent the sale or diversion of marijuana and marijuana products to persons under the age of twenty-one.
- Labeling requirements for marijuana and marijuana products sold or distributed by a marijuana establishment.
- Health and safety regulations and standards for the manufacture of marijuana and the cultivation of marijuana.
- Restrictions on the advertising and display of marijuana and marijuana products.
- Civil penalties for the failure to comply with regulations made pursuant to this section.
In contrast to the similar law passed in Washington State, Initiative 502 legalizing marijuana for recreational use, Colorado’s strategy for regulating cannabis is left vague and focuses more on what regulations and restrictions cannot be put in place than outlining what regulations will be implemented for individuals and organizations.
Also of significance:
In order to ensure that individual privacy is protected, individuals shall not be required to provide a retail marijuana store with personal information other than government-issued identification to determine the consumer’s age, and a retail marijuana store shall not be required to acquire and record personal information about consumers other than information typically in a financial transaction conducted at a retail liquor store.
There shall be enacted an excise tax to be levied upon marijuana sold or otherwise transferred by a marijuana cultivation facility to a marijuana product manufacturing facility or to a retail marijuana store at a rate not to exceed fifteen percent prior to January 1, 2017 and at a rate to be determined by the general assembly thereafter, and shall direct the department to establish procedures for the collection of all taxes levied. Provided, the first forty million dollars in revenue raised annually from any such excise tax shall be credited to the Public School Capital Construction Assistance Fund, or any fund dedicated to a similar purpose. Provided further, no such excise tax shall be levied upon marijuana intended for sale at medical marijuana centers.
While Amendment 64 sets a new precedent for the expansion of civil liberties, the following is a list of things you still cannot do in Colorado:
Drive under the influence of marijuana or while impaired by marijuana.
Transfer marijuana with or without remuneration to a person under the age of twenty-one or to allow a person under the age of twenty-one to purchase, possess, use, transport, grow, or consume marijuana.
[Nothing in the bill prohibits] Persons, employers, schools, hospitals, detention facilities, corporations or any other entity who occupies, owns or controls a property from prohibiting or otherwise regulating the possession, consumption, use, display, transfer, distribution, sale, transportation, or growing of marijuana on or in that property.
Finally, medical marijuana will be unaffected and under the language of the bill:
This amendment will not limit any privileges or rights of a medical marijuana patient, primary caregiver, or licensed entity as provided in section 14 of this article and the Colorado Medical Marijuana Code.
So what becomes clear is that the democratic will of state has spoken clearly in favor of Marijuana; and Colorado will now begin the long road of putting in place just regulations of cannabis and policies to protect the liberty of consumers.