January 1 - At 8 a.m. MT on Wednesday, approximately three-dozen state-licensed marijuana retail stores in Colorado began legally selling marijuana to adults 21 years of age and older. The state is the first jurisdiction in the world to establish a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol. Colorado made marijuana legal for adults in November 2012 when 55% of voters approved a statewide ballot initiative known as Amendment 64.
“The era of marijuana prohibition is officially over in Colorado,” said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), the largest financial backer of the campaign in support of Amendment 64. “The state is demonstrating to the rest of the nation and the entire world that regulating marijuana works.
“It’s only a matter of time before lawmakers and voters in more states adopt similar laws regulating marijuana like alcohol,” Kampia said. “The dominoes are falling.”
MPP is now planning to work with local and national allies to pass voter initiatives in seven states and bills in six state legislatures to end marijuana prohibition and replace it with systems in which marijuana is regulated and taxed like alcohol. The organization is currently supporting a petition drive led by Alaska activists to place an initiative on the August 2014 ballot, and it will work to pass initiatives in Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, and Nevada in the November 2016 election. It also plans to actively lobby and engage in grassroots organizing efforts to pass bills in the Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont state legislatures.
“As a nation, we look back at alcohol prohibition and ask how we could have been so foolish,” Kampia said. “Marijuana prohibition has been just as big a failure, and we’ll soon be kicking ourselves for putting up with it for so long.
“Marijuana is a less harmful substance than alcohol, and like alcohol, it is a popular fixture in American culture that isn’t going away anytime soon,” Kampia said. “Colorado is taking the most realistic and sensible approach to controlling it the world has ever seen.”
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper issued executive orders on December 10, 2012 that formalized Amendment 64 as part of the state constitution — officially legalizing the possession and home-growing of limited amounts of marijuana for adults 21 and older — and started the Amendment 64 Implementation Task Force to provide legislators and regulators with recommendations for establishing a regulated marijuana market for adults. The two-month task force process culminated at the end of February 2013 and was followed by an additional two-month legislative process. In May 2013, the Colorado Legislature passed HB 1317 and SB 283, which created the framework for regulations governing marijuana retail sales, cultivation, and product manufacturing; HB 1318, which enacted a 15% excise tax on wholesale sales of non-medical marijuana and a 10% special sales tax on retail sales of non-medical marijuana (in addition to standard state and local sales taxes); and SB 241, which initiated the development of a regulatory framework for industrial hemp. State voters approved the new taxes — and voters in some localities approved additional local taxes — on November 5, 2013. State officials estimate the taxes will generate approximately $70 million annually in the first year.