Happy New Year in Colorado After Cannabis Goes on Sale

Cannabis on Sale in Colorado

Bringing in the new year, cannabis goes on sale in Colorado, bringing in a wave of consumers to a number of legal cannabis dispensaries across the state. Making history, Colorado is the first state to legally sell cannabis on the open market. Washington state, which also legalized the sale of cannabis, will begin selling the substance later in 2014.

The Denver Post posted a list of up to 30 cannabis stores that opened up New Year’s Day, with a total of 136 stores licensed to sell the federally illegal substance.

Store owners in Denver prepared for what is being dubbed as Green Wednesday, hiring extra security and stocking up on their product. Meanwhile other parts of the states, while on a much smaller scale, are preparing themselves to take part in the budding market. Other communities declined to bring the controversial substance to their residents.

The new law allows for the sale and production of cannabis in the same way alcohol is sold. Cannabis stores allow for the smoking of their product on private premises with the expressed consent of the store owner. Smoking cannabis, much like alcohol, is not allowed in public.

Even some hotels in Denver are allowing for up to a quarter of their rooms to be “cannabis friendly”.

Colorado residents are permitted to buy up to an ounce of the intoxicating plant, while out of state citizens are allowed up to a quarter of an ounce.

Colorado citizens won’t be able to buy their cannabis on their debit/credit cards due to U.S. banking laws. Cash only.

Lawmakers and state officials in Colorado are looking forward to the new found revenue in the form of taxes on cannabis, with the first $40 million going to the construction of local schools.

Still marked down as a schedule 1 drug, it is under the same legal prescription as drugs like LSD, Ecstacy, and Heroin. Amongst the drugs in the schedule 1 category, it is deemed as having no “currently accepted medical use” and a “high potential for abuse”.

Critics maintain that the federal law is outdated and does not take into account longer, more conclusive studies on marijuana’s benefits conducted in recent years.

Proponents of the new law, like Rachel Gilette of the Colorado branch of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, says the move addresses a remedy for the “failed drug war” and that in due time, “hope(s) other states will follow our lead”.

Observers say that while Colorado and Washington may be addressing the issue of black market sales of illicit drugs, there will still be an underground market for users who can’t buy within the confines of the state law. Much like alcohol, minors will find a way to get their hands on the product, and that is where off market drug dealers will fill in the void.

Still observers say that the legalization of marijuana will reduce the size and scope of the black market, taking the influence away from local street dealers and into the hands of licensed store owners.

Colorado and Washington will be amongst some of the few regions in the world where the sale of marijuana is officially legal.

The results of the new law remain to be seen, and while consumers are cannabis enthusiasts are praising the new law, federal law still dictates that the drug is punishable by incarceration and fines.

by John Amaruso
BBC News
Irish Times
Drug Enforcement Administration