10 things to know about nation’s first recreational marijuana shops in Colorado

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DENVER — Colorado will begin allowing recreational marijuana sales on January 1 to anyone age 21 or over.

Residents will be able to buy marijuana like alcohol — except the cannabis purchase is limited to an ounce, which is substantial enough to cost about $200 or more.

It’s a big moment: Colorado will become the first state in the nation to open recreational pot stores and become the first place in the world where marijuana will be regulated from seed to sale. Pot, by the way, is the third most popular recreational drug in America, after alcohol and tobacco, according to the marijuana reform group NORML.

Here are 10 things to know about what will be a closely watched landmark law.

How can this be?

Voters wanted this. And the law is now in the Colorado constitution after 65% of voters said yes to legalizing recreational marijuana.

Colorado wasn’t the only state to OK this in November 2012. Voters in Washington also said yes, but that state won’t open marijuana retail outlets until later in 2014.


There are the usual “legalize it” arguments about how pot is less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco and how legalization would save taxpayers $10 billion yearly on enforcing the prohibition.

Then there’s the reality we all know: There will be a tax bonanza to public treasuries.

Retail weed will have a 25% state tax — plus the usual state sales tax of 2.9% — making recreational pot one of the most heavily taxed consumer products in Colorado. Some communities are adding even more taxes to the product.

The additional revenue will initially amount to $67 million a year, with $27.5 million of it designated to build schools, state tax officials say.

So why bother with separate medical marijuana?

Because buyers of medical pot won’t face the additional taxes.

Medicinal weed in Colorado still requires a physician’s recommendation, and the dispensaries will be separate outlets from the recreational pot retailers.

How much recreational weed can I buy?

If you are 21 or older, you can buy up to an ounce at a licensed store, as long as you have a Colorado ID. People from outside Colorado can buy a quarter ounce.

Only a handful of stores, however, are expected to open on January 1, and Denver will be home to many of them, according to the Denver Post and the weekly Denver Westword. In fact, there are concerns that supplies will be sold out on the first day, with so few stores having passed the lengthy licensing process so far. About 160 retailers are still seeking licenses statewide.

Users can also share an ounce of cannabis with a friend as long as no money is exchanged.

Where can I light up?

You won’t be allowed to smoke pot in public and, in fact, can’t even smoke in the pot shop or other establishments governed by the state’s Clean Indoor Air Act.

That leaves the smoking to private properties, with the owner’s permission.

Communities and counties can still choose not to allow recreational marijuana stores in their local jurisdictions, and a good many towns have, such as Colorado Springs and Greeley.

Meanwhile, ski resorts are concerned about scofflaws lighting up while on the slopes, with smoke intruding on family settings.

Can I grow my own?

Yes, you can grow up to six plants in your home, but the pot patch must be enclosed and locked.

Can the underage get busted for pot?

Yes, it’s illegal to possess and use marijuana if you’re under 21, but the city of Denver this month decriminalized pot for people between ages 18 and 21. The city would keep the fines — but remove the jail time — for being caught with an ounce or less. The potential jail time had been up to a year.

Youths under age 18 could be sent to a juvenile assessment center, instead of jail. The measure ensures kids “don’t have to live into adulthood with mistakes they might have made when they were 19,” Councilman Albus Brooks said in a Denver Post article.

What about DUI?

A motorist in Colorado can be ticketed for impaired driving if his or her blood shows more than 5 nanograms of active THC, the active constituent of marijuana, NORML says on its website.

Some users will fall below that level three hours after consuming pot, but “some people will still be well above 5 ng,” NORML says. “Do recognize that the effects of alcohol and marijuana together may be more than the sum of their parts.”

Some analysts describe impairment as a guessing game, depending on the person.

“Is Colorado’s marijuana DUI rule flawless? Far from it. But as the state’s policymakers have come to realize, the world’s first legal pot rules aren’t going to be perfect. They just have to be good enough. Good enough to keep the feds away, good enough to keep marijuana stakeholders happy, good enough to keep Coloradans from worrying they’ve made a horrible mistake,” University of Denver law professor Sam Kamin and writer Joel Warner wrote in Slate this month.

And what about the feds?

It’s always been a murky relationship between the feds and those states with laws authorizing medical — and now recreational — marijuana. Federal law says the drug’s possession, manufacture, and sale is illegal, punishable by up to life in prison, and its mass cultivation is a sensitive subject among growers, experts say.

But in August, the U.S. Justice Department said it won’t challenge Colorado or other states with laws legalizing recreational marijuana. Instead, federal officials will focus on serious trafficking and keeping the drug away from children.

Does this confuse you?

It should, one legal analyst says.

“They should be confused,” attorney Alan Dershowitz said. “The federal government still takes the position technically that you’re violating federal law if you’re complying with the state law. But the Obama administration, I believe, has recently has taken a turn on its approach to drug enforcement.”

Can I giggle?

Let the jokes and puns begin — stoned or not.

Even Colorado NORML is being cheeky about it, posting online a list of what’s allowable under the new recreational pot law.

It’s called “Doobie-DOs.”


  • jake

    my bigger question is how most jobs will handle it. many jobs are part of a national company. most places drug test and marijuana is the biggest thing they test for.

    • Luke Meter

      Employers will probably handle it about the same as an employee showing up for work drunk. That most likely means a lot of problems for potheads see as how from their average stoner comments on the internet, they feel that they’re not only entitled but it’s perfectly okay to be stoned 24/7.

      Oh well, being unemployed just means free money from the government and more time to be stoned, right?

      • reasonandlogic

        The problem, for those who don’t understand, is that an of age adult that smokes marijuana on a Friday night will still test positive on Monday, long after the psycotropic effects are gone. Thus, your “treat it as its alcohol” theory is flawed

      • reasonandlogic

        Ita funny how some dumb people dont like stoners but what they don’t realize, on account of their dumbness, is that even with the smoking, there is a possibility that the stoner might still be smarter than they are.

  • RoB

    Marijuana is much safer than alcohol, and believe me I should know this because I have done both. I use to be a pothead alcoholic which I have not done neither in 7 years. I say go for it because if you cannot get it at a store you can still get it on the streets so let the state tax it and help get this economy back on its feet.

    • Luke Meter

      So you’re saying that drug dealers on the streets are now going to be charging sales taxes too? The only thing you’ve pointed out is the workaround for stoners to avoid paying the tax.

    • Derek

      I’d rather go.to a store and buy an ounce for say “$200 or more” in store then paying $350 an ounce for my local dealer. I think every state should allow “recreational” use.

    • sherrie

      I’ll bet you think alcohol is ok ? Have you ever seen black out drunks ? They are all over, they look normal have good jobs , families even go to church ,then on Friday nights they drink to “relax” and then the next morning they have no idea what they did the night before ! My Dad used to wreck cars and blame it on me ,, I have seen it too many times . On the other hand I have never seen a stoner that did things that they could not remember, they sit in their easy chairs and enjoy a peaceful evening safely at home !

      • Franz

        To all you Cannabis naysayers, you need to open your eyes and minds. There are hundreds of thousands of productive, professional, well respected Americans toking on a regular basis. Smoking is not limited solely to your ignorant pothead stereotypes. Actually, if you don’t get it now, you will never get it. Poor, poor people. I feel sorry for you.

    • Franz

      Oh, Tina. Reading your mindless comment made me embarrassed for you. You are the typical, narrow minded square that keeps this country from moving forward. Grow up Tina. I will roll another one in the mean time.

    • reasonandlogic

      Oh Tina, Tina, Tina. Dont knock it till you try it sweetie. And be prepared for every other state to follow, it will likely happen in your lifetime

  • C

    I don’t this is right people on drugs do not act right lack of attention and this could lead to a injury on their job or death crazy to legalize a drug.

    • jayhein

      I know what you mean. Alcohol should not be legal. It kills people on the roads or slowly destroys their livers and brains. Its sad to see what happens to people who use the drug called alcohol. And what about the drug nicotine and the hundreds of thousands of people who suffer and die from lung cancer. Be sure to speak up against these drugs, the most commonly abused drugs in the US.

  • Allison Jade Temple

    If anyone can see this

    “The additional revenue will initially amount to $67 million a year, with $27.5 million of it designated to build schools, state tax officials say.”

    and still say this is dumb, not moral or wrong. Ok, heres the deal you personally pay that extra money to the community they will receive in taxes and also foot the bill for the failed drug war….

    when will people learn! Probation does not work! It didn’t work with alcohol and its not working with drugs!

  • greek777

    It’s about time, now lets do all the usa, why it is your body and if you want to do that or this then do it!!! You are not hurting any one!!! Legalize all stuff!!!!!

  • Vince

    Well, legalization of MJ will certainly solve our over population problems! Hullincinary chaos, how really inspiring! Anybody for freeway or mountain road ‘bumper cars.” With the Obamacare fraud going into effect on Jan 1, this legalized pot deal is no big deal….unless you get hurt when you’re high and need a doctor. Of course you’ll need one that isn’t smoking a joint…

    • James Malenfant

      Oh great! A Tpublican comes into the discussion to harsh everyone’s mellow. Did you notice he didn’t miss an opportunity to bash the Affordable Care Act. If anyone needs some mellow, it is the Tpublicans. Thanks for sharing!

    • Crankie Wesson

      Vince, your ignorance is showing. It will be in my children’s lifetime that your breed of people dies out. With the advent of the Internet, people have become more and more accepting of differing values, cultures, and lifestyles. Some, like you, are still entrenched in their old, uneducated beliefs. I guess you still insist that the world is flat?

  • Maybell

    Shame on them. Don’t they realize there are more important things to do than smoke pot? Things like grunting, for instance. The country would be much better off if people just decided to grunt more.

  • Jack

    I don’t want to come off as some sanctimonious douche, but as an ex-pot-head I believe that back in the day they were right to ban pot. The argument that alcohol and pot are synonymous is a dangerous fallacy. Alcohol flushes out of your system within a few hours, while marijuana continues to affect you for much longer. Worse yet, your body becomes acclimated to it so that it requires more and more to achieve the same level of euphoria. It’s a loser’s drug and you can look at the on-going moral and economic degeneration of Amsterdam to prove the point. This won’t end well.

  • Franz

    To all you Cannabis naysayers, you need to open your eyes and minds. There are hundreds of thousands of productive, professional, well respected Americans toking on a regular basis. Smoking is not limited solely to your ignorant pothead stereotypes. Actually, if you don’t get it now, you will never get it. Poor, poor people. I feel sorry for you.

  • reasonandlogic

    The much more pressing and relevant question, which NOBODY has mentioned, is what the government plans to do with their windfall. I know they said they were planning on using 20 million anually to pay for schools. Great. What about the other 40 million? Is that 40 million just going to disappear in the coffers somewhere. If it were up to me I would have all marijuana tax revenue in a sperate account drawing its own interest, and whenever it was used to build a park, for instance, a sign would be put up that says “Marijuana tax revenue built this park”. Its frustrating to me that the government would spend YEARS suppressing the marijuanna trade, only to do a complete about face and then stand to profit of of something that people are still in jail for. This is a competely NEW stream of revenue, by the taxpayers, for the taxpayers. Lets make sure it doesn’t fall victim ti government waste and incompetency

  • Chris delehoy

    If someone wants to smoke, let them smoke,if someone wants to drink, let them drink, who are we to decide what people can and can not put into THERE OWN bodies. The best thing to do is to educate them on the effects and consequences of the action. Weed vs alcohol is a stupid argument because they are nothing alike. They are both bad for you and both effect people differently. Instead of putting people down for there choices why not instead educate them on what they could be doing to themselves. I’m tired of seeing stupidity.

  • G

    How many times have you woke up hung over on marijuana? How many hours have you spent in front of the toilet the next day because you smoked to much? Point is, alcohol and marijuana each have their own pros and cons. How Colorado handles this will ultimately determine how the rest of the US follows. If you ask me, this is long over due, as possessing marijuana only leads to a slap on the wrist from the police (small quantities). This is just another way for the government to get deeper in the tax payers pockets.

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