What's in Colorado's New Marijuana Laws


Jacob Sullum

Yesterday the Colorado General Assembly gave final approval to legislation aimed at implementing Amendment 64, the marijuana legalization initiative enacted by that state's voters last November. H.B. 1317 establishes a framework for regulating the state-licensed pot stores that are supposed to start opening next year, while H.B. 1318 imposes a 15 percent excise tax and a 10 percent special sales tax on marijuana. The Colorado Department of Revenue now has until July 1 to write detailed regulations, while the new taxes must be approved by voters this fall before they can take effect.

The final version of H.B. 1317 includes a ban on the distribution of marijuana by collectives organized as nonprofit corporations, a provision aimed at operations like MJ Proper, a 501(c)(3) organization that delivers marijuana buds and marijuana-infused beer to its members. Under Amendment 64, people would still be free to grow up to six plants and transfer up to an ounce at a time "without remuneration." On its face, the new provision would not stop home growers from pooling their resources and their six-plant quotas; they just could not distribute marijuana through "a sole proprietorship, corporation, or other business enterprise" without obtaining a state license.

Other major provisions of H.B. 1317 that I have noted before include:

  • Marijuana stores must obtain local as well as state approval.
  • Owners of marijuana stores must be Colorado residents.
  • Current medical marijuana centers get a three-month head start in the licensing process.
  • Marijuana stores must grow at least 70 percent of what they sell until October 1, 2014.
  • Marijuana stores may not engage in "mass-market campaigns that have a high likelihood of reaching minors."
  • Marijuana-oriented magazines must be kept behind the counter in stores that are open to people younger than 21.
  • Marijuana products must be sold in tamper-resistant packages listing THC content.
  • Pot stores may not sell snacks, drinks, alcohol, or tobacco.
  • On-site consumption of marijuana will not be permitted.
  • Visitors from other states may buy no more than a quarter of an ounce at a time.

This week the Colorado legislature also approved a separate bill, H.B. 1325, that allows convictions for driving under the infuence of a drug (DUID) based on nothing more than a THC blood level of five nanograms per milliliter, a standard that exposes many regular smokers to legal hazards even when they are not impaired.

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  1. This week the Colorado legislature also approved a separate bill .. that exposes many regular smokers to legal hazards even when they are not impaired.

    Of course.

    And Eric Holder is still ruminating ….

    1. Moose? Cow? Antelope?

  2. Lesson no one needed: Never underestimate the Government’s ability to fuck up a good idea.

    1. I think we have to look at it realistically.

      Liquor stores require conditional use permits. You can’t put a liquor store in a community pretty much anywhere in the U.S. without getting city government approval; and t’s probably unreasonable to expect recreational marijuana retailers to get preferential treatment as compared to liquor stores.

      The bit about impaired driving is a problem, but if someone had predicted recreational marijuana would be legal in any state just five years ago, I’d have thought they were being ridiculously optimistic. And these regulations are a lot easier to live with than people getting busted for small amounts of bud on them.

      Oh, and I presume they haven’t gotten rid of probable cause. The cops still can’t pull you over and take you in for a blood test just for no reason.

      I mean…they can, but evidence obtained that way shouldn’t stand up in court if you fight it.

      1. It’s nice and all, but the bullshit regulations that they are passing now are going to persist forever through legal and bureaucratic inertia. I grew up in PA and I have seen this sort of absurdity in person. I think in the end the first states to legalise pot are going to end up being the most restrictive about it when all is said and done.

        1. I think in the end the first states to legalise pot are going to end up being the most restrictive about it when all is said and done.

          California has had de facto legalization for a long time. Sure there’s some risk for dispensaries if they get too big or stick out in some other way. But, in practice, the combination of MMJ combined with a very liberal approach to doctors’ recommendations has allowed maximum access to cannabis.

      2. The snacks and drinks provision proves that this law is substantially punitive and arbitrary.

        I don’t know the Colorado constitution very well, but the snacks and drinks stuff probably ought to be thrown out by a court for lacking a rational basis (e.g., for infringing on economic liberty). I know it’s a pipe dream. But so was recreational legalization a few years ago.

      3. The real problem I see are with the 1/4 oz requirement for out-of-staters. That’s basically a bill of attainder right there.

  3. Note to self: Open a snack store next to pot dispensary. As close to one stop shopping as they’re gonna get, it would seem.

    1. That’s good thinking!

      Start a chain of stores next to the marijuana retailers and call them all “Munchies”.

  4. With this ridiculous 5 nanogram thing we would have been better off with keeping it illegal. Fuck.

    1. Um…no, the idea that keeping it illegal would be better is ridiculous.

      Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

      Incremental improvement would be better than nothing–but legalizing recreational use isn’t an incremental improvement. It’s a giant leap ahead.

      1. I would normally agree with you. However this absurd standard essentially means that anyone who smokes at all during a given week is guilty of DUI every time they get behind the wheel. Smokers will be exposed to more practical liability then they were before. Now… The rest of it, bungling and wacky as it is does constitute a big improvement. That one little stickler takes a massive dump in the punch bowl.

        1. However this absurd standard essentially means that anyone who smokes at all during a given week is guilty of DUI every time they get behind the wheel.

          That’s not true. It basically means that you’ve got to wait a few hours after smoking before getting behind the wheel.

          Though I’m still not sure what the big deal is about driving stoned. I mean, the worst that will happen is the person will drive really slow and forget where they’re going.

          1. A few hours? No sir. Standard drug tests require at least 50 ng/ml to test positive. That stays in your system about a week if you don’t smoke regularly, 2 or 3 weeks if you do (obviously varies wildly based on metabolism and how much water you’ve been drinking). This is one tenth that cutoff level. That’s craaazy

            1. There are two tests that we’re talking about here.

              The driving test is for active THC in the blood stream.

              The standard drug test is for metabolized THC.

              THC is active for a matter of hours before it is metabolized, and the metabolites can be detected for weeks.

              1. You are correct. I am being a bit hyperbolic. It still scares me though. The speed that it metabolizes out of the blood can vary pretty widely (as far as I understand) and it demonstratively has very little to do with actual intoxication. Really it will come down to the zeal with which a given cop feels like ruining your day.

              2. How do you test for “active” THC? Is CO going down the road of mandatory roadside blood draws every time someone swerves in their lane?

                1. I’ve been a fan of cannabis for 36 years now. I’ve never once had a cop look at me cross eyed, much less been investigated for suspicion of cannabis addled driving. Why in the world would I think it would start happening now?

                  People that I know getting busted for cannabis DUI? In those same 36 years a grand total of one rocket scientist who smoked a bowl in his parked car and then backed into the police cruiser driven by his arresting officer.

                  Why am I supposed to be worried again? Is it really that hard to not smoke pot when you’re out driving? Or at least to not drive your vehicle into police cars?

            2. Standard drug tests test for metabolites of THC. The DUI test tests for THC itself. You seem to be conflating the two. It was my understanding that it is more than a few hours after you smoke that you need to worry about it, especially if you smoke frequently. But not nearly as long as you’d need t wait to pass a regular drug test.

              1. Even though the standard is bullshit. Now that, that has been explained to me it’s not that bad.

          2. Driving slowly is dangerous, so, way to anti-make your point.

        2. “However this absurd standard essentially means that anyone who smokes at all during a given week is guilty of DUI every time they get behind the wheel.”

          I don’t like the rule, and I want to get rid of it, but if it’s necessary to go through a stage like this in order to get recreational use legal, then this is a stage we have to go through.

          We’ll keep fighting.

          In the meantime, like I said, probable cause hasn’t gone away. They can’t pull you over for no reason. And they can’t demand you take a blood test for no reason.

          If they do, it will not stand up in court. What we’re talking about here is someone failing a field sobriety test and then being taken in for a blood test. If you can pass a field sobriety test, you’re unlikely to have your blood drawn.

          Someone please tell me if I’m incorrect.

          1. “If you can pass a field sobriety test, you’re unlikely to have your blood drawn.”

            In my day, all the stoners learned how to sing their ABC’s backwards


          2. Well, given that being pulled over for “driving while black” is a pretty regular occurrence, and that cops are going to want to make up for their loss in terms of ways to fuck with people I am pretty worried that a thc blood tester will become standard practice. But yes. Overall, I’m being a bit cranky. This does constitute an overall improvement. Hopefully one of the first folks to be fucked with this arbitrary standard will have the cash and the will to take it to a higher court. That aint me unfortunately…

  5. Visitors from other states may buy no more than a quarter of an ounce at a time.

    Passports can’t be used as ID, then? How many stores will there be? Couldn’t I just go a few blocks and buy more?

    1. That’s probably a pretty good excuse to fend off the moochers and pinchers.

      1. I assume it’s being done as an anti-trafficking measure, but it’s nothing that can’t be avoided with a Craiglist ad or something.

        1. You might be able to go to the same store more than once a day, too.

          It’d be better without that regulation, but if that’s what’s necessary to make it palatable for the people of Colorado–to keep recreational use legal? Then we should consider that.

          I’d love to get rid of Social Security, but if we ever do, I suspect it will only be because the government will start requiring each of us to save money ourselves in low risk investments or low interest savings accounts.

          From a libertarian perspective, do I support the government requiring me to save my own money? Hell no! Would I support it if it means that instead of sending my social security taxes off to the government, I get to keep them myself?

          Yeah, I’d support that. …and then I’d work to get rid of the regulations that won’t let me spend my own money the way I want. I see this the same way. We lost a few little regulator battles–but we won the war. We’ll keep fighting on the little stuff, but we want this to go well in Colorado.

          We have another 48 states to go, and they’ll all be watching.

          1. Nice post Ken. I have always thought this way (especially about SS), but you stated it well.

  6. Assemblymen, the time has come. Execute Amendment 64.
    Yes, my Lord. Regulate him!

  7. Well, this went badly.

    Personally, I blame the cannabis reform community for believing that the hard work was done after they passed A64.

    The pro-gun advocates — especially from such anti-liberty environs as California and Illinois — would never have let this happen after getting so close to a better policy implementation. Chalk it up to rookie error.

  8. The advertising restrictions appear unconstitutional, as well as the out-of-state purchaser limit, since Amendment 64 does not allow anything other than ID showing age over 21 to be required. I suppose the store could just decline to sell over 1/4 oz. to anyone who presents ID other than a CO DL/ID.

    5ng DUI is just plain stupid.

    1. Well, the advertising limits have already been upheld with alcohol and tobacco advertising (well, the mass market minors part anyway).

  9. Visitors from other states may buy no more than a quarter of an ounce at a time.

    So, if you want 4 ounces, you go to the same store every hour or so, 16 times in a couple of days, or to 16 stores, or some combination of the above?

    1. You won’t be unhappy that 1/4s are $100 each but in State residents can buy an ounce for $250? (Price examples are PFTA numbers)

  10. Great article, Jacob. You and your readers – and every legislator – should read this book by retired Cincinnati Police Captain and former drug rehab counselor Howard Rahtz – Drugs, Crime & Violence: From Trafficking to Treatment. He’s been on both sides and lays it out loud and clear in this book. Legalize it, tax it and invest in drug treatment programs! 60% of the cartels’ cash cow is pot! Basic economics – less buyers, less addicts – NO BUSINESS!

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