It’s official: Colorado beat Washington to the punch, and the Centennial State has adopted the first system of state-regulated marijuana anywhere on Earth.
On Sept. 9, the Colorado Department of Revenue released a 136-page report outlining the official rules and regulations behind the new marijuana industry. More than nine months in the making, it covers everything from cultivation to product labeling.
Voters in Colorado and Washington opted to legalize weed for recreational use in two ballot initiatives last fall. Washington is still drafting the regulations for its industry.
The structures put in place by these two states could have a profound impact on the future of legal cannabis in the United States.
Impact of New Federal Policy
The federal government recently announced it won’t sue to stop Colorado, Washington or the 18 states with medical marijuana from enacting their policies. It also won’t prosecute pot providers who follow state law – as long as the states actively enforce regulations that meet certain priorities, such as keeping weed away from children.
If Colorado’s new industry stands up to federal scrutiny, it could serve as a model for additional states considering legalization, from California and Arizona to Nevada and Alaska. If the feds decide to shut Colorado down, other states – and Colorado – may be forced to start from scratch.
Colorado’s Rules for Legal Weed
Under the new rules, the application period for new licenses begins Oct. 1, but for the first nine months it’s only open to existing medical marijuana dispensaries in good standing. And that period will be longer in some areas, such as Denver, which is considering a two-year moratorium on new licenses.
Retail pot shops will be limited to selling only marijuana grown in their collectives during the first nine months of 2014. There are exceptions: Thirty percent of inventory can be purchased from other sources, and 30 percent can be sold to other dispensaries.
A tracking program will be used to follow cannabis from cultivation to sale. It’s called Marijuana Inventory Tracking Solution (MITS), and it traces the pot from the point at which it’s transferred from a cultivation facility to its point of sale.
Edibles must be limited to a dosage of 100 mg of active THC, a high cutoff point for many, but not for some regular users. Marijuana use is banned at pot shops. And weed must be sold in child-proof containers.
The rules also put the first limits on marijuana advertising, similar to those placed on tobacco. Marijuana shops cannot run ads on TV, radio or newspaper where minors are likely to see them unless “no more than 30 percent of the audience” is “reasonably expected to be under the age of 21.”
As was made clear by the ballot initiative in Colorado, state residents can buy and possess up to one ounce, or can grow up to six plants. Out-of-staters are limited to buying a quad at a time.
Colorado’s retail pot shops are expected to open in January.