Colorado kicked off 2014 with the first recreational marijuana shops in the world opening their doors and round-the-block lines of people eager to make pot purchases. There was a fair amount of uncertainty entering this new era.
Now we’re six months in. What have we learned? Well, there’s still a lot to ask about: Edibles and other marijuana-infused products, pot tax spending and growing your own, to name a few.
Here are 100 answers to commonly asked questions.
Some of the questions were submitted by readers to our weekly Cannabist Q&A column. Got a question of your own? If you can’t find the answer here, send us an email:
• BUYING MARIJUANA
Weed for sale: the basics ||| Shopping etiquette, store policies
Pot products: Edibles, topicals, hash, seeds
Partaking dos and don’ts ||| Workplace weed ||| Landlords and rentals
What tourists want to know
Transporting marijuana: On the road ||| Airports ||| Mailing weed (don’t do it)
• RULES, REGULATIONS AND TAXES
Possession rules and growing your own ||| Packaging
Tax rates, where the money is going
Medical marijuana ||| Research and clinical trials
The feds ||| Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division
Six Months In:
A special report from The Cannabist
Weed for sale
Question: So, marijuana became legal in Colorado on Jan. 1, 2014, right?
Answer: Marijuana has actually been legal in Colorado. Since the voter-approved Amendment 64 went into effect on Dec. 10, 2012, it has been legal for anyone 21 and over to use marijuana or possess up to an ounce of marijuana for any purpose — even if it is just, as Rolling Stone magazine has put it, “for getting high purposes.” Marijuana possession and use by people under 21 who aren’t medical-marijuana patients remains against the law.
Q: What happened Jan. 1, then?
A: New Year’s Day was the first day that marijuana could be sold to anyone over 21 at specially licensed stores. Though marijuana use, possession and sales remain illegal under federal law, nowhere else in the world has pot sales this legal, not even Amsterdam.
Q: So, where can I buy weed?
A: We here at The Cannabist and The Denver Post have created an interactive map that charts out the state’s medical dispensaries and recreational shops.
Q: How does it work?
A: Basically, you walk into a store, show your ID and make your purchase. It’s a lot like a liquor store.
Q: Where are the stores located?
A: The state has approved licenses for stores from Telluride to Alma to Garden City. But the vast majority of recreational marijuana stores, at least initially, are in Denver. Lots of other big cities — like Colorado Springs — have banned the stores. There were others that took a while to get moving on recreational marijuana, like Boulder (shops opened mid February), Fort Collins (mid June) and Aurora (sales set to begin in October).
Q: Are there limited store hours?
A: Yes. Under state law, stores can’t open before 8 a.m. and they can’t stay open later than midnight. Cities, though, can set more restrictive store hours. In Denver, recreational marijuana shops can’t be open past 7 p.m.
I’m 64 with a “square” background and new to using cannabis. I actually have a legitimate medical use for it, but find I enjoy the high for its own sake. :))) I am a little confused about indica vs. sativa, as opposed to high-THC/low-CBD vs. low-THC/high-CBD. I initially thought the sativa strains were high-THC/low-CBD, with the reverse applying to indica. That, apparently, is pretty simplistic. I’ve done some online research, found conflicting answers, and would like to hear your thoughts on the subject. –Old Guy In Stanton
Hey, Old Guy!
Who knew cannabis could be so complicated? Sativas and indicas are the main types of cannabis plants. According to Nicole Smith, president of Mary’s Medicinals, a state-licensed marijuana infused product (MIP) company, sativas provide a more cerebral, uplifting and euphoric effect. Indica strains have associated feelings of deep relaxation, appetite stimulation and a heavy feeling in the body.
THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) are types of cannabinoids, the active chemical compounds in cannabis. According to Denver-based physician Dr. Alan Shackelford, medical researchers have found 108 different known physiologically active compounds in botanical cannabis. That means THC and CBD aren’t the only cannabinoids. Smith points out that in addition to THC and CBD, the most studied cannabinoids are CBN (cannabinol), CBG (cannabigerol), CBC (cannabichromene), CBL (cannabicyclol), CBV (cannabivarin) and THCV (tetrahydrocannabivarin).
Whether the strain is sativa or indica (or a hybrid of the two), most cannabis has been bred for high ratios of THC. With recent increased interest in high-CBD cannabis, the medical marijuana market is adapting, and more plants are being bred for a higher ratio of CBD.
Q: Are there limits to how much I can buy?
A: People with a Colorado ID can buy up to an ounce of marijuana at a time. People with an out-of-state ID can buy up to a quarter ounce.
Q: Was there enough pot to go around for recreational customers on Jan. 1?
A: Some stores’ inventories ran low. Commercial growing for recreational stores wasn’t legal until Jan. 1, either. So all the marijuana sold to recreational customers on New Year’s Day came out of a one-time transfer from the stores’ medical-marijuana supply. That had business owners worried they’d be short. While shelves of marijuana edibles were wiped clean in the early days and some shops limited purchase amounts, there was enough weed to go around.
I visited Colorado from out of state in February and wanted to share my story. The first dispensary I visited was out of “recreational” pot. Plenty of “medicinal” strains on hand but none available for the recreational user. Carry on to store No. 2. This store had one sativa and one indica strain for recreational sale and that was it. I could look at and smell all the medical strains but was not allowed to purchase any, even though I was willing to pay the going rate including the taxes. Is this common practice or am I forced to go to other sources to obtain my top notch buds? –Disillusioned Old Fart
Oh, dear, this was not the delightful marijuana legalization buying experience you were hoping for. Buds, buds everywhere, but none to buy. How frustrating. You obviously had a bad trip, but please cut some slack. I can explain.
Obviously there are growing pains as marijuana center owners and managers balance inventory with demand while the early crops of plants for the recreational market are being harvested and cured. Not all stores are handling this challenging time with grace, and unfortunately customers are feeling personally slighted and leaving disappointed. It is crucial to call ahead to verify information and inventory before going to a center. I hope your next visit to a legal marijuana center is more customer friendly. I’m sure it will be, can’t get much worse, right? Read more
Shopping etiquette, store policies
Q: Can I make multiple purchases on the same day?
A: Yes. The only cap on how much you can buy is the legal possession limit: No one who is not a medical-marijuana patient can possess more than an ounce of marijuana at a time. But that’s up to the customer to abide by. There’s nothing in the state’s rules for recreational marijuana stores that requires them to track customer purchases.
Q: So I can go store-to-store-to-store buying up marijuana?
A: Yep. If you’re doing that with the hope of accumulating a lot of pot that you can sell in the black market, it’s known as “smurfing.” It’s illegal, and it’s something that law enforcement officials are super worried about.
I’m from out of state and a few Saturdays from now, I’ll be travelling through Denver on my way to Colorado ski country for a few weeks. I’m aware of the restrictions on out-of-state purchases. What other things should I be prepared for at the dispensary? I want to be a welcome and well-behaved guest, so any tips you can give me are appreciated.
Sounds like you have a fun trip planned. I like how you’ve researched the basic rules of use, and found an appealing marijuana center to visit when you get here. You are well on your way to being a well-behaved tourist!
One of the best parts of your trip will be your first shopping experience in a marijuana center. It’s a feast for the senses! The smell, the selection, the names of the varieties, the range of edibles and concentrate products, the people … it’s an eye-opening and sometimes overwhelming experience.
Enjoy the experience and have fun. Tell your budtender it’s your first time at a center and ask for a full explanation of the menu. Smell every single aromatic sample, even if you don’t follow everything the budtender is saying at the time or can’t tell the difference anymore. Select a few appealing strains and products to enjoy at your leisure.
You might even feel and act like a kid in a candy store. It’s a phenomenon for some first-time customers to be in wide-eyed wonder inside a legal marijuana center. On my Facebook wall, my friends bantered around possible names for this phenomenon, like “pot shock,” “weedphoria,” “cannabliss,” or “ganja giddy.” Whatever it’s called, if you find yourself in this state of amazement, know this is a normal reaction to a new and unique situation.
Q: Is there any kind of list of marijuana customers that will be given to the government?
A: No. Amendment 64, which is a constitutional measure, specifically forbids it. The measure states: “The department shall not require a consumer to provide a retail marijuana store with personal information other than government-issued identification to determine the consumer’s age, and a retail marijuana store shall not be required to acquire and record personal information about consumers other than information typically acquired in a financial transaction conducted at a retail liquor store.”
I went to buy recreational weed at Evergreen Apothecary. They wanted to record my name and personal info in their computer. I objected and was asked to leave by a very grumpy security dude. WTF???
I thought it was illegal for them to predicate a cash sale on adding my name to a computer database.
You are correct, age verification from a government-issued ID card is the only proof you need to make a legal purchase of recreational cannabis. Amendment 64 actually forbids acquiring personal consumer information. It sounds like the center was carrying over some of its data-collection habits necessary for medical marijuana purchases.
I inquired on your behalf, and manager Tim Cullen explained Evergreen Apothecary’s sales policy. “Customer data (name and phone number) is required if they wish to pay in a way other than cash. Otherwise it is not. This data is used to contact them if they dispute a credit card charge, not to track sales.”
Knowing this, definitely take cash and give them another try, or find another recreational store with customer service more to your liking.
Q: Is there anything that will show I bought weed at one of the stores?
A: You’ll be on camera. The state’s rules for marijuana stores require the shops to have a security camera pointed at the cash register so that it can record “the customer(s) and employee(s) facial features with sufficient clarity to determine identity.” Stores must also have security cameras recording the entrances and exits.
Q: Could recreational marijuana cause prices to drop?
A: Researchers have suggested that large-scale marijuana legalization would cause prices of pot to plummet. They’ve not dropped yet. But, with all the rules stores must comply with in Colorado plus the uncertain demand for store-bought marijuana, it’s not clear what will happen to prices long-term in the state’s new marijuana market.
Q: Are recreational marijuana stores taking credit cards?
A: Many shops take credit and debit cards, but it’s best to check with the shops. But, in general, legal marijuana shares this in common with black-market marijuana: It’s a cash business. Federal banking regulations mean that marijuana stores commonly don’t have access to banking services. There are a possible solutions on the horizon, but, for now, expect to pay for green buds with greenbacks.
Other pot products: Edibles, topicals, hash, seeds
I’m trying to decide whether to spend my $50 on edibles or plant. I would rather have edibles if the cost is comparable, but I can’t find any info on the Web. I’m disabled, so someone else is picking it up for me. –Teach A Person To Fish
Go ahead and buy edibles if you’re inclined to try them. Edibles can have a bigger stoney effect compared to smoking, so it feels like more bang for the buck. Edibles can last a while because it is best to eat in smaller increments.
First, request an edible that will be easy to divide into smaller portions, like scored chocolate bars or big brownies. Recreational edibles can have a maximum dosage up to 100 mg THC. Eat recommended 5 to 10 mg portions every hour until you’ve reached the desired level of bliss.
On the chance you decide to buy flowers with your $50, look for a 50/50 hybrid variety. A hybrid variety with an even balance of sativa and indica is a good starting point for enjoying today’s cannabis. Read more
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I am a 67-year-old marijuana virgin living in Colorado. I experience chronic severe arthritis pain and would like to explore the possibilities presented by medical marijuana. I would like to address the pain while limiting the “getting high” aspects of use. I would appreciate your advice to include what to consider along with where to and how to purchase the marijuana. –Old Marijuana Virgin
Hey, Marijuana Virgin!
Respected Denver medical marijuana doctor Dr. Alan Shackelford says, “Topically applied marijuana extracts have been found to be extremely effective for the treatment of pain, and do not exert any psychoactivity whatsoever.” Medical marijuana lotions, salves and topicals are a good place to start for finding relief from chronic severe pain without getting the “high” feeling.
First, talk to a trusted healthcare professional or your doctor about your needs for your arthritis pain management and get a recommendation to use medical marijuana. Once you have a state-issued medical marijuana patient registry card, you are able to purchase topical products made by licensed marijuana-infused product (MIP) manufacturers in Colorado.
Next, do some online research. The Cannabist’s dispensary and recreational shop map is helpful place to find a few medical marijuana centers in your part of town. Call around to several centers and ask about the available topicals on the menu and you’ll get a better sense of what is available and which place you’d like to visit. Before going to a center, ask for a recommended time to visit, so you won’t feel rushed through the experience. I hope you feel better soon!
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I’ve read a lot about marijuana-infused topicals, most recently in The Cannabist’s piece on THC-infused massages being offered by Colorado massage therapists. But if you use these once — or regularly, even — will they ever show up on a drug test?
–Aching Adult on Adams St.
I can’t wait for my next cannabis-infused massage! Cannabis topicals are effective for pain relief and do not produce a high, according to Denver physician Dr. Alan Shackelford, who says, “Topically applied marijuana extracts have been found to be extremely effective for the treatment of pain, and do not exert any psychoactivity whatsoever.”
I asked James Kennedy, owner of Apothecanna, a licensed marijuana-infused product manufacturer that makes topicals, for the scoop on drug testing. Kennedy says in the case of most topicals the answer is no, one time or even regular use would not show up on a drug test. Lotions and salves do not enter the bloodstream, and therefore do not show up on standard drug tests. Kennedy says “standard” because there are some drug tests that are more in-depth — like if you were applying for a job with the FBI.
Apothecanna has run its own investigative drug tests with individuals who do not use cannabis. After a week of using Apothecanna products, the testers took drug tests, nothing showed up on the results, Kennedy says. I hope this is the reassurance you need to book a cannabis-infused massage!
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What gives with the lack of European style hash in Colorado? After much research, I have found only a few shops that sell ice-water processed bubble hash. The ice-water process results in a mellow tasting substance which is very similar to Red Lebanese. If we can make this, we can also make Nepalese Temple Ball, Black Pakistani, Red Afghani, Turkish, Moroccan, Jamaican finger and El Primo! We have in our state the potential to make some of the finest high grade smokables in the world. Out there is a fortune, waiting to be had! –C. Baudelaire
Hey, C. Baudelaire!
Nice enthusiasm for traditional hash!
Adam Dunn, host of “The Adam Dunn Show” on iCannabis Radio, compares the two styles: “The main difference between Colorado hash and European-style hash is a traditional hash is hand rubbed or dry sieved. Dry-sieved hash is lower in THC than water hash and solvent-extracted hash that is available here in Colorado.”
Colorado hash has developed differently than the European market. Selecta Nikka T owns the Colorado-licensed water hash company Essential Extracts. His prize-winning product has won first place for non-solvent hash at the Denver High Times Cannabis Cup for three consecutive years. Nikka T says: “We have more regulation, which in turn gave way to more control and sterile lab environments to improve upon processes and variable changes. Real ‘import’ hash doesn’t make it to Colorado because it is illegal to bring it across borders. Shops can’t buy from outside sources, and we have higher quality extractions being made in state. There are very few European hash makers in Colorado.”
Modern hash is made by separating the plant’s THC trichomes with water and ice or by using solvents to extract the trichomes. Hash production methods commonly include heat to decarboxylate the plant matter, whether trim or buds or whole plant, to maximize the THC potency. “Colorado is really at the beginning of the concentrate road with many new developed methods of extraction,” Dunn says. Hash is generally classified as bubble, shatter, budder, wax, sap, or resin. “We are seeing a myriad of different textures, flavors and styles of hash,” waxes Dunn.
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I’m an avid gardener. It’s seed planting time! Why are seeds so hard to find? –Gardening Gertie in Uptown
Yes, cannabis seeds are hard to find in Colorado. I found a couple reasons to explain. My go-to seed guru, Scott Reach, is owner of Rare Dankness, a Colorado seed company that won High Times “Strongest Strain on Earth” title for OG Ghost Train Haze in 2012. Reach says it’s hard to find seed in Colorado due to the state marijuana enforcement regulation that all cannabis seeds must be produced in state. Foreign seeds banks are not set up under Colorado marijuana industry regulations and therefore not legal in Colorado.
Northern Lights Cannabis Company owner, Mitch Woolhiser, highlights another regulatory issue that limits seed availability. “Seeds are a bit of a strange issue. It is legal to sell and produce them but centers are prohibited from selling them wholesale. So we can produce seeds in our grow and sell them in our store but we cannot sell them to other dispensaries, by rule of the (Marijuana Enforcement Division). Most centers, including Northern Lights, don’t produce and sell because it is a very specialized skill and it takes a lot of time and resources to select superior genetics.
“It makes more sense to devote resources in the grow to producing bud when you are limited by space and plant count.”
Rare Dankness seeds are available at RiverRock. I found Reserva Privada seeds for sale at Euflora, the new recreational marijuana center on the 16th Street Mall. After taxes, a package of seven seeds cost $91.
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Partaking dos and don’ts
Q: Can I smoke up at the store?
A: No. On-site consumption is prohibited at marijuana shops. You have to take your leaves (or buds) and leave.
Q: Can I just puff at a park somewhere?
A: Absolutely not. Public consumption is banned, banned, banned and probably prompts more anxiety from public officials than just about any other topic. Denver police have stepped up enforcement in the second half of 2013, though Denver won’t have officers on Jan. 1 specifically tasked with stopping public toking. Boulder has upped its citations, too.
Q: Ski slope?
A: Ski nope. Colorado’s winter resorts are not at all stoked at the possibility of stoned skiers. And, what’s more, most of the actual ski slopes are on federal land, where marijuana use and possession remains strictly verboten.
Q: So that means taking marijuana on a summer camping trip is probably out, too?
A: Yes. National parks, national forests, national monuments: All off-limits. Possession is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine.
Q: How about sparking a bowl on my back patio, front porch or balcony?
A: Different cities will regulate this differently. Denver, for a time, even considered banning marijuana use that could be smelled by a neighbor, as well as bans on backyard, front-porch and apartment-balcony marijuana use. The city backed off on all of those, but that doesn’t mean they’re OK everywhere.
Q: Wait, Denver tried to regulate pot smell?
A: Oh, it still does investigate complaints about skunk funk, but it has to be a very strong marijuana odor for the city to take action. And how is that odor measured, you ask? By the Nasal Ranger, of course.
I’m relatively new to marijuana. How much would you recommend I start with?
There are a couple questions to ask yourself first. Do you want to smoke the cannabis or ingest it another way? How do you feel about the smoking part? If you are OK with smoking, start with pre-rolled joints or pack a pipe with loose flowers or buds. Light it up and inhale. If you prefer to not smoke or want to experience a different high, or euphoria, eating a pot brownie or infused food is a traditional option. Start in small, 5-milligram increments and eat over several hours. Seriously, don’t eat too much at one time. Vaporizing from a portable stick pen vaporizer is another option. Most vape pens are designed for vaporizing hash oil concentrates. Vaping cannabis can feel ethereal — very different from smoking. But again, even though smoking pot hits you more quickly than eating pot, start slowly with one or two hits before inhaling more.
Landlords and rentals
Q: What about pot smoking in apartments?
A: Landlords can say no. What all of this is getting at is that the only place it’s clearly OK to consume is in a private residence where the owner is cool with it.
We just received a letter from our property managers saying “the possession, consumption, use, display, transfer, sale, transportation, or growing of marijuana on any Benedict Park Place will be a lease violation and may be subject to eviction.” How can they ban a legal product? I doubt they could do this with alcohol. A response would be appreciated. Thanks! –Peeved on Park Ave.
I asked marijuana attorney Sean McAllister for the scoop. Unfortunately, yes, it is legal for your landlord to ban cannabis use on their private property, even your swanky pad. Landlords can put conditions in leases, barring even lawful activities, from their property.
Debbie Ross, president of the Ross Management Group that oversees Benedict Park Place, cites Article 18 Section 16- 6(d) of Colorado constitution, which gives the company the authority to prohibit marijuana on their owned or controlled properties.
Check out your lease, there is probably a clause regarding unlawful activities. Since cannabis is still illegal federally to use, display, etc., that can fall under this clause. McAllister recommends finding another rental without this restriction by talking to your landlord up front about cannabis. I’d like to know when is your next house party?
Pot by plane or by mail?
Q: Can I send marijuana in the mail?
A: Mail = fail. The U.S. Postal Service not only doesn’t allow pot in the post, it has stepped up its efforts to find marijuana mail. People who send marijuana through the mail can face federal charges or asset-forfeiture cases.
Q: Can I take marijuana with me on a plane?
A: No. Taking marijuana out-of-state is totally illegal, even if you’re traveling to another legal-marijuana state. The Transportation Security Administration may not turn your bags inside out looking for marijuana, but they don’t approve of it either. And marijuana possession is banned at Denver International Airport — even if you’re just there to pick up a friend.
Is it ever legal to fly with marijuana, be it to another state or within Colorado — or to Washington state, where recreational weed is also legal?
–Mile High Mike
Hey, Mile High Mike!
No, it is never legal to fly with marijuana. That being said, people carry cannabis on airplanes all the time. In airport security screening, Transportation Security Administration agents do not search for marijuana. A TSA agent may find marijuana and turn it over to local authorities. If you are flying between Colorado and Washington, the local authorities might not care about your personal stash. (Note: It is not allowed in DIA — not even medical marijuana, something our editorial board disagrees with.) Once you arrive: Depending on other states’ medical marijuana state laws (and if you have a license), a few other medical states — including Arizona, Connecticut and Michigan — will recognize a patient’s right to possess marijuana.
I was wondering if it would be illegal, or would I get caught if I have edibles — in either carry-on or checked luggage — with me on a plane. And, would it be illegal, or would I get caught, if I sent brownies or something through UPS/FedEx? Thank you so much for your time, I look forward to your response. –Baba O’Riley
Hey, Baba O’Riley!
Yes, it is illegal to fly with cannabis. It is illegal to cross the state borders with cannabis. It is illegal to ship cannabis brownies via FedEx. Marijuana is banned at Denver International Airport, among others.
Would you get caught? Possibly. In airport screenings, TSA does not actively search for cannabis. If an agent finds cannabis in your carry-on or checked bag, they may report you to local law enforcement authorities. Which is why Colorado Springs Airport installed pot amnesty boxes to help forgetful travelers.
As for shipping cannabis, corporate FedEx spokeswoman Shea Leordeanu said the penalties for shipping marijuana, a controlled substance, are determined by federal statute. I asked Leordeanu if FedEx had a policy for searching packages originating from Colorado shipping centers with greater scrutiny to find packages containing cannabis. She clarified this is a security issue, and as a policy, FedEx does not discuss security procedures. So they may or may not be searching for your cannabis brownies.
Possession regs: limits on flowers, whole plants, home growing, gun ownership
Q: With all these caveats, I can legally possess an ounce of dried marijuana flowers. How much is that in practical terms?
A: It’s a lot. Researchers have calculated that the average joint has slightly less than a half gram of marijuana. (Yes, this is actually something that people with Ph.D.s did.) An ounce is slightly more than 28 grams. So one ounce will get you close to 60 joints. In alcohol terms, it’s a keg of pot.
Q: Can I grow my own marijuana at home?
A: You can. Colorado law allows people 21 and older to grow up to six plants, provided it’s done in an “enclosed, locked space.” Some cities have limited the number of plants that can be grown in a single house — Denver’s cap is 12 — and some cities have imposed other zoning or code restrictions on home-growing. Even without those hurdles, experts say that, just because it’s called weed, don’t expect marijuana to grow as easily as one at home. That difficulty is the main reason why the recreational marijuana stores are expected to be so popular.
I really enjoy your refreshing coverage of the sea of change that is Colorado grappling with the cannabis transition. I am a resident and have thankfully been able to grow my own. I seriously wish to be compliant, but we haven’t the means to grow year round, and must use the sun and such rain as we get on the dry side of the state at 7,000′ elevation. So, the short season and spring/summer window presses us to save all the product we can to use until the next harvest cycle in late autumn. Both of us are in our 70s, and have been afforded much relief for several problems by use of this wonderful plant. Assuming my wife and I keep at or below the maximum number of plants according by statute, how much of the produce of harvest are we legally allowed to keep on the premises, as long as it stays on the property? Thanks for any help in understanding this area of our current permissions.
Hey, Jean Giono!
Your area of current permissions are covered in Article 18, Section 16 subsection 3(b) of the Colorado Constitution. You are allowed to keep the harvest from the plants, as long as your cannabis stays on the property where it is grown and is not sold.
Here’s the full language of the section titled Personal use of marijuana:
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the following acts are not unlawful and shall not be an offense.
(b) Possessing, growing, processing, or transporting no more than six marijuana plants, with three or fewer being mature, flowering plants, and possession of the marijuana produced by the plants on the premises where the plants were grown, provided that the growing takes place in an enclosed, locked space, is not conducted openly or publicly, and is not made available for sale.
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For growing cannabis at home, is a yard with a privacy fence around it, all gates locked, considered an enclosed space? The plant would not be growing in open or public. What if the neighbors could see the plants from their second-story windows? –Grafting Girls on Gaylord St.
Hey, Gaylord Grafter!
A bill passed in March this year clarifies “enclosed”:
“Enclosed” means a permanent or semi-permanent area covered and surrounded on all sides. Temporary opening of windows or doors or the temporary removal of wall or ceiling panels does not convert the area into an unenclosed space.
So, to grow marijuana outside, it must be enclosed above and on the sides of the plants (think greenhouse), in addition to being locked away from children and pets. Marijuana attorney Sean McAllister says it’s safest not to grow outside at all. McAllister says the view from the sky is considered public. The views from your neighbor’s second-story windows or the aerial view from any overhead plane or helicopter is considered public — even a high privacy fence with a locking gate is not sufficient for growing marijuana outside.
So what happens if you don’t follow the home-grow laws? McAllister says that if marijuana is being grown openly and publicly, versus locked and enclosed, the law is not being followed and the grower forfeits the rights and protection of the constitutional marijuana laws.
Depending on where you live, McAllister says, prosecutors use discretion in charging tenants or landowners. In some jurisdictions across the state, no charges would be filed. In conservative counties, prosecution is more likely. Before you grow outside, check your local municipal regulations (Golden recently prohibited outdoor growing). Even then, the charge for growing 1-6 marijuana plants is a misdemeanor charge, according to McAllister.
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Map: Colorado recreational marijuana shops and medical dispensaries
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Thanks for providing a much-needed resource. Under the new rec laws, I can grow up to six plants and I can grow them on my property as long as it’s secure. I have two questions: Can I lease a secure space or property elsewhere to grow my rec plants? Can I hire someone else to grow and cultivate my plants for me? —Oliver Wendell Douglas from Green Acres
Hey, Mr. Douglas!
I’m glad you like The Cannabist; high five! Yes and yes are the quick answers. I ran your questions past marijuana attorney, Warren Edson. Warren says: “You can lease a secure space elsewhere to grow your six plants. However, you must meet local rules and regulations, including zoning requirements. Amendment 64 does allow you to pay someone else to ‘assist’ you in growing your plants.”
So, first check your local government websites for more information (here’s Denver’s) and make sure it’s OK to grow in the leased location.
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What about possessing both guns and marijuana at the same time? What about concealed carry permits? –Pistol-packing Pothead
There are differences on the state versus the federal level. According to marijuana attorney Sean McAllister: “Guns are only a problem under state law if you possess them with illegal drugs. Guns and illegal drugs can result in a five-year mandatory prison sentence. Guns and legal things do not create a problem under state law. So there is no issue under state law if you possess a legal amount of marijuana.” That legal amount is one ounce for anyone 21 and older (two ounces if you are a registered Colorado medical marijuana patient).
However, at the federal level where marijuana is not legal, McAllister says there are potential consequences. “The most common problem is if people admit on an Alcohol Tobacco Firearms (ATF) background check for purchasing a gun or getting a concealed-weapons permit that they use marijuana,” McAllister says. “They will likely be denied that license or gun purchase since the federal government considers it a drug of abuse.”
Since 2011, the ATF has prohibited medical marijuana patients from buying guns because marijuana is not federally legal. In Colorado marijuana centers, shop owners are allowed to have guns on premises.
What tourists want to know
Q: So where will the tourists consume marijuana?
A: Hotels have the ability to allow — or turn a blind eye to — guests’ consumption. But Denver, for instance, prohibits marijuana consumption outdoors in areas of non-residential private property that are visible from a public space. So certain hotel balconies in the city are off-limits. Furthermore, the city’s marijuana info website notes that pot smoking could only be allowed indoors in designated smoking rooms, and hotels can’t have more than a quarter of their rooms designated as such. Still, word-of-mouth has gotten around about some hotels that will allow marijuana use, and they are doing brisk business.
We’re coming to Colorado to celebrate legal pot, and we’ve heard of there are hotels that are friendly to our kind. Can you direct me to a couple of them?
–Vacationing from Vermont
Hey, Vacationing from Vermont!
Is it true Half Baked has surpassed Cherry Garcia as the number-one selling Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor?! I’m a fan of Late Night Snack, myself.
Enough about ice cream. For hotel options, please know the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act was recently amended to include marijuana smoke, so it’s not legal to smoke indoors. That being said, some hotels are simply not cracking down on indoor marijuana smoking by guests. The evidence of being in a smoker tolerant hotel will be smelled and not seen as you walk through the lobby or down the hallways.
To have peace of mind you are being appropriate during your visit, talk with the hotel when you book your room and tell them what you need. Ideally, you want a designated smoking room or a room with an outdoor balcony out of sight from public view. Not all hotels with balconies are smoker friendly, so it’s important to clarify the hotel policy before booking the room.
Whatever the tolerance for cannabis smoking at your hotel, be a good guest and resist the urge to hotbox your bathroom, hourly or daily, if you didn’t get a smoking room.
Ultimately, this smoking quandary shouldn’t put a damper on your visit. You can have smoke-free fun with edibles and vaporizers.
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Given that consumption in public in Denver is illegal, where can a tourist who’s in town freely consume? I’ve heard that some of the recreational stores have smoking facilities. Is this true, and can you recommend some? I’m flying into Denver, but I’m staying out in Broomfield in late July. Thanks!!! –Dagga Day Tripper
Hey, Dagga Day Tripper!
Yes, you are right, public consumption of marijuana is not allowed by Colorado law. The definition of “open and public” in Amendment 64 has been a hotly debated issue in Denver. Some interpret open and public to mean exactly that, open and public, making marijuana consumption legal in private spaces only. Others interpret the phrase to allow for open consumption in appropriate places. For example, open alcohol consumption is not legal, but open alcohol is allowed at street festivals with proper city licensing.
Six months into legalized recreational marijuana sales, the consumption options for tourists remain limited outside of private residences. Cannabis tour companies offer sightseeing tours with stops at recreational marijuana centers. Some tours are cannabis focused, with stops at centers, gardens, and cannabis culture landmarks. Other tours offer a stop for recreational purchases with typical city sightseeing activities. According to JJ Walker, CEO of My 420 Tours, cannabis tours utilize private limos or buses, which are exempt from Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act smoking restrictions. Marijuana consumption is done in the private vehicle between destinations. A few local tour companies are My 420 Tours, Rocky Mountain High Tours and Roots and Culture Cannabis Tours.
Private social lounges and members-only smoking clubs are popping up. They are never in conjunction with recreational marijuana shops, though, because consumption at licensed marijuana businesses is not allowed. Patrons purchase a daily or monthly membership, and bring cannabis to smoke or vape in a social setting.
Private smoking clubs, operating in a gray area of law, are tolerated by local governments to various degrees. iBake is a Denver head shop with a club for members to smoke marijuana or tobacco. Other clubs include Club Ned in Nederland, Maryjane’s in Denver, Three Kings Dab Supply in Wheat Ridge and Studio A64, The Lazy Lion and Speak Easy Vape Lounge in Colorado Springs. In downtown Boulder, Hot Box Lounge was open for six weeks before closing its doors. XO
On the road
Q: Is it OK to drive with marijuana in my car?
A: Yes, as long as you are transporting it and not consuming it. Driving stoned is absolutely against the law. In fact, Colorado this year made it easier to win convictions against stoned drivers. The state set a standard of how much THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana, that drivers can have in their system. If a driver tests above that, prosecutors can tell the jury it’s OK to assume that driver was stoned.
I am about to take an out-of-state road trip. What the heck is going on with our neighboring states with regard to stopping people with Colorado plates and searching for pot? I am hearing horror stories of families with their possessions spread out on the side of the road while cops search for illegally transported dope. With or without carrying under one ounce of pot, what are our rights, as Colorado citizens, when we enter neighboring states? I think it’s time our Governor Hick had some talks with neighboring governors to get them to lay off Colorado citizens unless they have a good legal reason to stop us because this sounds like we are being profiled. –Weary Traveler
Hey, Weary Traveler!
The police enforce laws within their geographical jurisdiction. So, legal Colorado cannabis becomes illegal when transported out of state. A recent police profiling lawsuit was brought by a Pagosa Springs man against Idaho State Police over an invasive roadside search caused by the po-po’s determination to find marijuana in his vehicle.
Police profiling is nothing new, so I asked defense attorney Lauren Davis for the scoop on the current situation. “Unfortunately, the rumors are true,” Davis said. “In my practice, I have heard of dozens of searches that appear to be illegal. However, an officer’s subjective reason for pulling you over, the fact you have a CO license plate, is irrelevant. If the officer witnesses any law violation, like failure to signal for a turn, they are legally entitled to pull you over.”
What to do if this happens to you?
Davis advises being proactive in using your rights. “You do not have to answer any questions. The driver must provide his/her drivers’ license, (proof of) insurance and registration. Answer those basic questions and politely tell the officer you are invoking your right to remain silent and will not answer any other questions.”
Read more about your rights when pulled over by police.
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How is it legal for cops to draw your blood to check for DUID? Isn’t that a violation of privacy or something? –Skeptical on Syracuse Street
I looked to attorney Sean McAllister again for the skinny on driving and DUI-related testing. McAllister says: “Everyone who drives on Colorado roads expressly consents by law to a blood or breath test when there is probable cause to believe they are driving impaired, even to the slightest degree.”
Trooper Nate Reid of Colorado State Patrol gave some details on the procedure for a DUID blood draw. He said the police officer first must obtain probable cause for DUID. This includes a field sobriety test and possibly more tests if the officer has received additional training for spotting stoned drivers.
McAllister says, “I advise my clients to take a blood/breath test if the cop demands it, otherwise there is a high likelihood you will lose your license.”
The test takes about two weeks to be processed and if the results are positive for DUID, the driver’s license may be revoked. For marijuana DUID, McAllister says, “At this time, there is no direct driver’s license consequence of testing over the 5 (nanogram per milliliter) marijuana limit in blood. There may be some impact on your criminal case in court, but you won’t automatically lose your driver’s license with the Department of Motor Vehicles if you test positive over 5 nanograms of THC.”
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I was wondering if you could clear up a discussion among friends. If you have some legally purchased marijuana in your car, say in a container in the console, backpack, or glove box, could this be considered the same as having an open container of alcohol in the car and illegal, or a probable cause for a DUI testing? –Wagering in Wheat Ridge
Right now, according to Trooper Nate Reid of Colorado State Patrol, an open container of marijuana is not clearly defined in statute or case law. This means what is considered an open container is an issue of interpretation.
As you might know, state regulations require all recreational purchases to be placed in “exit packaging” — bags that are opaque, child resistant and resealable back to a child-resistant state. If the marijuana being transported is freshly purchased from a marijuana center, keep it sealed in the exit packaging until you get home and stash it in the trunk.
Since an open container is considered an interpretive issue, let’s at least understand the best and most appropriate ways to transport marijuana in a vehicle. Trooper Reid says law enforcement officers are concerned for the care of the other occupants of the vehicle, especially children and pets. Trooper Reid says kids or pets should not have access to marijuana while in the vehicle. If you have either type of passenger, he recommends transporting marijuana either in a glove box, console or other vehicle compartment that locks. If there are no kids or pets, stow marijuana in the trunk or rear of the vehicle away from the driver.
According to the state’s official marijuana website, it is illegal to have marijuana in the passenger area of a vehicle in an open container or a container with a broken seal, or if there is evidence marijuana has been consumed.
Marijuana in the vehicle is not considered probable cause for a DUID blood test, says Trooper Reid. First, a driver must be pulled over for an observed traffic infraction. Secondly, openly visible marijuana is not enough evidence for probable cause for DUID, an officer must have more evidence of impairment in order to charge the driver with a DUID.
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Of all DUI arrests since the first of the year, how many were directly because of marijuana? It would be interesting to see what percentage of those arrests were because of marijuana use and if that number is up or down, being the overall numbers were down from last year. Should that not be reported so the rest of the nation can see that DUIs didn’t go up to exorbitant numbers with legalized use? –Chicken Little’s Sensible Uncle
Hey, Sensible Uncle!
Let’s look at some early 2014 citation metrics, shall we?
It’s hard to say how this year compares to previous years because marijuana DUI/DUID citations were not tracked before recreational marijuana sales began. In 2013, Colorado State Patrol had 368 citations in January and 347 in February. Now, CSP collects data on DUID charges with marijuana only, marijuana and alcohol, and marijuana with other controlled substances.
In January 2014, marijuana citations comprised 14.7% of 416 total DUI/DUID citations. In February, marijuana citations were 9.4% of the total 341 DUI/DUID citations written by CSP.
Weed and the workplace
Q: Will my employer be OK with me using marijuana?
A: That’s really between you and your boss. Employers can pretty clearly fire people who show up to work baked. But Colorado case law around medical marijuana suggests they can also fire an employee for off-the-clock marijuana use, even if there’s no allegation that the employee was impaired on the job. Some businesses say they won’t mind if their workers get high on their own time, but as one lawyer put it, “Employers hold all the cards.”
After researching, I decided to relocate to Colorado. I read newspapers and viewed Youtube. I loved the weather, people and employment. Now I’m here and am a user of legal cannabis. I find I can’t get a job because of drug testing. I have 35+ years’ experience in casino work, but can’t get a job because of legal cannabis. I even tried U-Haul and they want to drug test. I’m confused. –Broke in Broomfield
Amendment 64 states an employer doesn’t need to accommodate marijuana use in the workplace. So, (employment law hasn’t changed much with Amendment 64. In fact, a workplace survey earlier this year revealed increased drug testing since Amendment 64 became law in 2012.
This may be confusing because the amendment removed the criminal penalties for marijuana possession and allowed recreational sales for adults. Legalization hasn’t fully addressed the related problems of marijuana prohibition, and employment drug testing is one of them.
In the Colorado courts, medical marijuana employment cases have clearly shown the legal precedence of federal law. The federal definition for marijuana trumps the state constitutional marijuana law. As it stands, the federal definition for marijuana lists it as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. Any law — including employment laws — that makes a reference to controlled substances or the federal schedule automatically refers to marijuana by this definition, even in sunny Colorado.
Q: What about contact high? Could I be fired for being around someone using marijuana?
A: Likely not, for the simple reason that contact highs are really difficult to come by. According to a psychopharmacologist — real word, look it up — at the University of Colorado, it would take “an absurd amount” of secondhand pot smoke to trigger a positive test. One study showed there needs to be 14 joints burning in a 10-by-10 room to get a positive test for contact high, which is beyond all but the hottest of hotboxes.
Will this affect your unemployment benefits if fired for testing positive for medical marijuana use (not on the job)?
Hey, Working Stiff!
Yes, it is very likely unemployment benefits would be affected — and possibly denied — if an employee is fired for testing positive for medical marijuana use. No language in the marijuana amendments 20 and 64 protects drug-tested employees for non-work medical or recreational marijuana consumption. This employment issue is being defined by case law and so far, medical marijuana in the state constitution is not persuasive enough to redefine matters.
The case that sets this precedence in Colorado is Beinor v. Industrial Claim Appeals Office. In 2010, Jason Beinor, who had a doctor recommendation for medical marijuana, lost his job for a hot UA and was fired under his employer’s zero-tolerance drug policy. He was denied unemployment benefits, took the matter to court and lost his case.
The court gave several reasons for this ruling. One, being a medical marijuana patient doesn’t make an employee exempt from following employment policies. Two, marijuana, is federally defined as a Schedule 1 controlled substance with no known medical use. Three, medical marijuana is not a prescribed drug, it is doctor recommended. So in this case, according to the company’s employment policy, when an employee tests positive for an unprescribed controlled substance, termination is immediate.
Check out the language in your employment contract. Read the clauses on employment drug testing so you know the policy that applies to you.
Job requirements for the industry
Q: What requirements are there for marijuana business owners?
A: They must be Colorado residents — meaning they have to have lived here for two years. If they have been convicted of a felony, they have to wait five years before applying to open a store. And if that felony was drug-related, they must wait 10 years.
Q: How do I just get a job in the marijuana industry?
A: Try, try and try again. Sometimes job listings are posted on Craigslist or a website like Cannajobs.com. Sometimes stores advertise open positions on their own websites. There are several marijuana trade schools in Colorado.
If you do get hired, you’ll need an occupational license from the state. And that involves a complicated lottery process that could require several trips to the Marijuana Enforcement Division’s office.
Paying for pot: tax rates, where the money is going
Q: And how much does it cost to buy recreational marijuana?
A: In the medical-marijuana market, ounces run from $150 to close to $300. But almost nobody buys full ounces. The more common purchase amount is an eighth of an ounce. Think of it like a 12-pack. Eighths run around $25 to $45 for medical marijuana. Recreational prices are often 50-100 percent more than medical prices, depending on the shop.
Q: Does that include tax?
A: No, and get ready for the sticker shock when tax is added on. While medical marijuana purchases only get standard sales tax in most places, there are three kinds of taxes on recreational marijuana in Colorado. There’s a 15 percent special excise tax when pot moves from the grow room to the storefront. There’s a 10 percent special sales tax. And there’s the standard 2.9 percent state sales tax that applies to sales of all products. Cities, such as Denver, also have their own general and special sales taxes that apply to recreational marijuana. For a $30 eighth, state taxes will run about $6. Extra taxes in Denver will add on another $2.59. All together, that’s nearly 29 percent.
I’ve read about the taxes involved with the new recreational pot — 25 percent! Should I keep paying to renew my medical red card instead to avoid those hefty fines?
Hey, Uncle Sam!
The total tax per purchase depends on local tax rates. Fortunately, 15 percent of the total tax is an excise tax paid by the business on the wholesale level, so you won’t see this tax on your retail receipt.
What’s on the retail receipt is the 2.9 percent state sales tax that is applied to all goods, as well as a 10 percent retail marijuana state sales tax, plus any local sales taxes and local excise taxes.
To clarify, the tax is not a fine for an offense. The hefty tax is special to recreational marijuana and not a penalty, even though it may feel like it. Fortunately, the feel-good part is the first $40 million of the excise tax revenue goes to public school construction.
Since you already have a medical marijuana card, renew it. Beginning in February, the annual card fee is only $15, and patient purchases bypass the special recreational tax.
Q: What will happen with the tax revenue?
A: The first $40 million generated by the state excise tax will go toward school construction. The rest of the money is slated to be used to regulate the marijuana stores and put together educational campaigns around marijuana.
I was wanting to know some facts as to where the tax revenue is going. The retail and medical sales for this year, and how the revenue is impacting communities. –Tennyson St. Tax Type
Hey, Tennyson Tax Type!
Here’s a three-part answer: First, lawmakers only recently decided where the tax money is going. They also determined that the spending plan should be based only on collected medical marijuana taxes and fees. According to an Associated Press report, the total spending plan approved was $33 million, with most of the money slated for child drug-use prevention. Some of the funds will go for more school nurses and public education on responsible marijuana use.
Second, The Department of Revenue recently released revenue totals for marijuana sales and fees for the first three months of 2014. From January to March, the sales for recreational marijuana totaled approximately $47 million, about $14 million in both January and February and $19 million in March. Recreational marijuana taxes totaled $7.3 million. Add the medical marijuana taxes and licensing fees and that brings the total tax revenue to about $12.6 million.
Third, the revenue proceeds are primarily impacting children, schools and families with drug education and outreach. As part of the 2013 voter-approved tax measures, the first $40 million generated by the state excise tax will go toward school construction. Lawmakers are clearly concerned about the impact of legalization on children because so much of the revenue money is going toward prevention and education. An edibles-company colleague of mine jokes about her revenue budget idea to improve roads and infrastructure. She calls it “pot for potholes.”
Q: Will the federal government put the kibosh on Colorado’s marijuana industry?
A: It certainly has the option to, but all signs are that it won’t. President Barack Obama has previously said — to Barbara Walters, no less — that the feds won’t arrest individual marijuana users in Colorado and Washington, the two states that have legalized pot use for people over 21. An August Justice Department memo tells federal prosecutors not to make it a priority to block marijuana-legalization laws or shut down marijuana stores abiding by state laws and regulations, as long as those rules are robust.
Q: Robust like how?
A: The Department of Justice has identified eight things it’s most concerned about that it wants state marijuana regulatory schemes to address. If those concerns are dealt with, the DOJ says in the memo it’s open to the possibility that states with legalized marijuana could replace “an illicit marijuana trade that funds criminal enterprises with a tightly regulated market in which revenues are tracked and accounted for.”
The eight federal priorities are:
• Preventing marijuana distribution to minors;
• Preventing money from sales from going to criminal groups;
• Preventing the diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal to states where it is illegal;
• Preventing criminal groups from using state laws as cover for trafficking of other illegal drugs;
• Preventing violence and the use of illegal firearms;
• Preventing drugged driving and marijuana-related public health problems;
• Preventing the growing of marijuana on public lands;
• Preventing marijuana possession or use on federal property.
Colo. Marijuana Enforcement Division
Q: How many people are on the job for the state?
A: The state Marijuana Enforcement Division is budgeted for 25 criminal investigators and six to eight compliance investigators. Considering that there will likely be hundreds of recreational marijuana stores, state officials say investigators will use the data in MITS as part of a risk-based enforcement approach, rather than making consistent, frequent checks at all stores, grows and infused-products businesses.
Q: Stores, grows, infused products-makers? What’s with all these different business types?
A: Stores are easy to explain — they sell pot. Infused-products businesses are the folks who make marijuana brownies and the like, but also things such as marijuana-infused drinks, tinctures to be used under the tongue, lozenges, balms and any number of other products. There’s even marijuana-infused massage oil.
The grows — or cultivation facilities, in state officials’ terms — are what supply marijuana to the businesses. Unlike in the world of Doonesbury, people off the street can’t just sell weed to licensed stores.
The state also issues licenses to people wanting to open marijuana-testing labs, which check marijuana for molds and toxic chemicals and also measure potency.
Q: So all these cannabis businesses work independent of one another?
A: Not currently. Like the state’s medical-marijuana industry, the recreational marijuana industry will start out vertically integrated. That means stores and grows have to be part of the same business and stores must grow almost everything they sell. There can be stand-alone infused-products makers, but they can’t sell their products to the public independently. That must be done through a store, too.
Q: So how will Colorado regulate marijuana stores?
A: Hopefully more tightly than it has previously regulated medical-marijuana shops.
All people selling or commercially producing recreational marijuana need a license to do so. There are security specifications, limitations on where stores can advertise, prohibitions on who can work in the industry, packaging requirements, health-and-safety measures and dozens of other rules. There is also an ambitious seed-to-sale tracking system that will keep tabs on individual marijuana plants from the time they’re placed in soil to the time their products leave the store. The state rulebook for recreational marijuana stores stretches 136 pages long.
Q: Seed-to-sale tracking? How does that work?
It works like this: Every plant that a commercial grower sticks in dirt gets a radio-frequency tag that moves with the plant through its lifecycle. Once the marijuana is harvested, everything is weighed, then it’s weighed again after drying out and at other points during processing until it’s all packaged up to leave the grow. The packages shipped to the stores can’t weigh more than a pound and they get their own RFID tags. At the shop, store owners are required to weigh their inventory every day. All of this data is entered into MITS.
Stores are also required to have some type of point-of-sale tracking system to chart sales. In theory, every purchase in the point-of-sale system should have a corresponding drop in inventory in the marijuana-tracking system. It’s up to the state’s pot auditors to actually scour the books and make sure it all matches up.
The tracking system does have its limits, though, which is why officials say it is just an enforcement tool, not the whole regime.
Q: What are the packaging rules?
A: All pot leaving a recreational marijuana shop must be in an opaque, child-resistant package. All marijuana products also must have labels on them, detailing the potency, the types of chemicals used in cultivation and other information. And every label has to have the state’s official, incredibly dull-looking marijuana decal on it.
What kind of product warning labels are on marijuana products? –Concerned Citizen from Centennial
Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division requires warning labels for all marijuana products available at regulated medical and recreational licensed centers in Colorado. The verbiage for medical products is less stringent than recreational products.
Elyse Gordon-Holz, co-owner and chef at Better Baked, a marijuana-infused product (MIP) company, shared the required language used on the warning labels for her company’s line of manufactured medical edibles of sweet breads, mini-pies, cookies and candy. “WARNING: Strong. Keep out of reach of children. Do not operate a vehicle or heavy equipment after consumption. This product is infused with medical marijuana and was produced without regulatory oversight for health, safety or efficacy and there may be health risks associated with consumption of the product. Food processed on equipment that also processes nuts.”
In its plant form, marijuana purchases from licensed centers have required warnings too. Christie Lunsford, operations manager at 3D Cannabis Center shared the warning label applied to 3D’s packaging for recreational sales, which comply with the MED regulations (see R 1005). “This package is sealed in a child resistant container. This product is intended for use by adults 21 years and older. Keep out of reach of children. Do not drive a motor vehicle or operate heavy machinery while using marijuana. This product is unlawful outside the State of Colorado. There may be health risks associated with the consumption of this product. There may be additional health risks associated with the consumption of this product for women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning on becoming pregnant.”
Next on the label is a listing of the non-organic pesticides, fungicides and herbicides used in the garden. Then the required warning continues: “The marijuana product contained within this package has not been tested for contaminants. The marijuana product contained within this package has not been tested for potency, consume with caution. Recommended dosage 1-2 inhalations, wait 10 minutes before additional inhalation may be needed.”
How to open up a pot shop
Q: I want to open my own marijuana store. Where do I start?
A: Unless you’re already in the Colorado marijuana business, you’ll need to bide your time for a bit. Until July, the only people who can apply to open a recreational marijuana store are those who are already licensed to run a medical-marijuana business. The earliest newcomers can open up shop is Oct. 1, 2014.
Q: And those newcomers will have to be vertically integrated businesses, too?
A: Nope. Starting in October, Colorado’s marijuana industry goes into a blender and the ties between growers and sellers can be chopped apart. Existing growers and sellers can decouple. New businesses can be stand-alone stores or wholesale growers. It will be a whole new model for the young industry — assuming the state legislature doesn’t change the plan in its 2014 session.
I have been checking the Colorado Recreational Marijuana License application. I was shocked to see that an applicant is required to sign what appears to be a power of attorney and investigation authorization form. This form requires you to give up your constitutional rights to privacy and any information of any kind. I would just like to know how this could be legal for them to require anyone to sign over their constitutional rights? I’m sure it is designed to keep the cartels out, but this is rigid and over the top!–Dubious Dan on Dover Street
Hey, Dubious Dan!
Signing away your constitutional rights? Hold on now, that sounds pretty severe. I ran this past attorney Rachel Gillette. She says first, no one signs away their constitutional rights in a marijuana license application. A marijuana business application is a privilege license, and privilege licenses often require background checks. Lawyers and teachers undergo background checks for professional licenses, and marijuana business owners have to do the same.
Gillette says the power of attorney is a tax information authorization form necessary for a complete background check for the marijuana license. It’s not as invasive as it seems, it’s OK to calm down now.
Q: Who are these owners of recreational marijuana stores?
A: Today, most of the major players in the medical-marijuana industry are people with serious business backgrounds, all the better to compete in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
Year One of recreational marijuana: Get an inside look at one of Colorado’s biggest pot retailers, Medicine Man — the ambitions of the family behind it and the evolution of their business amid changing state regulations
Q: How much does it cost to open a marijuana store?
A: The state charges an application fee of $5,000 ($500 if the applicant currently owns a licensed medical-marijuana business) and license fees from $3,750 to $14,000. But that just makes you legal. The total startup cost for a marijuana shop — including all the necessary growing equipment, decor upgrades, security systems and real estate — is in the hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars. Most business owners get the money from their personal savings, friends and family. But specialized marijuana investment groups are also playing a bigger role. Currently, all money invested in Colorado marijuana businesses must come from people living in the state.
Exactly how big are these pot businesses?
Q: Why do the license fees vary?
A: It’s based on how big your business is. The state has three tiers for both medical-marijuana dispensaries and recreational marijuana stores. On the medical side, the tiers are based on how many medical-marijuana patients are registered with the dispensary. The recreational tiers — at least initially — are built on plant counts. Type 1 stores, the smallest level, can grow up to 3,600 plants combined in its cultivation facilities. Type 2 shops can grow 6,000 plants. And Type 3 stores can grow a whopping 10,200 plants.
Q: Ten thousand plants? How much will that produce?
A: You’re walking down a rabbit hole, my friend. Debates over marijuana plant yields are epic. It depends on the growing method, the length of time, the fertilizers used, the lights used, the room conditions, the music you play to the plants, and just about every other variable you can imagine. Let’s just assume that standard indoor growing conditions will yield about 2 ounces per plant. That means 10,000 plants will get you a stupefying 1,250 pounds of sticky icky.
Q: If the feds decided to prosecute a store growing 10,000 plants, what would the punishment be?
A: Growing more than 1,000 marijuana plants is a minimum 10-year federal prison sentence and an individual fine of not more than $10 million. Trafficking 1,250 pounds — about 550 kilograms — comes with a five-year minimum prison sentence and up to a $5 million individual fine. So it’s little wonder why RiverRock dispensary owner Norton Arbelaez says pot shops have extra incentive to follow the state’s rules: “If you’re an irresponsible business owner in this business, you lose your freedom.”
Can I invest in cannabis companies?
–Rich Uncle Pennybags
Hey, Rich Uncle Pennybags!
Haha, very clever moniker! In all matters related to cannabis and business, consulting the law and a lawyer is the first step.
Established marijuana attorney Warren Edson advises, “If you are going to invest in a licensed marijuana business in Colorado you must fill out an Associated Person application with Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED), as well as abide by local licensing requirements. MED regulations require you to have at least 2 years Colorado residency as well as passing their background check. MED Rule R231 outlines the requirements. Ancillary businesses, such as packaging, security systems, real estate, HVAC and electrical service companies, do not have residency requirements or felony restrictions.”
That means, Mr. Pennybags, follow these rules and you won’t go to jail, and hopefully you’ll collect $200 salary as you pass Go!
Medical marijuana: Industry changes, current research
Q: What happens to the medical-marijuana industry now?
A: It’s still here. A number of places that allow medical-marijuana dispensaries — like Colorado Springs and Englewood — have banned recreational pot shops. Furthermore, the state still has a medical-marijuana registry of 112,000 people who are eligible to shop in medical dispensaries. That number may go down after recreational sales start, but it has actually increased since marijuana was legalized for everyone in the state.
Q: Why would anyone stay as a medical-marijuana patient?
A: If you’re buying marijuana regularly, there are some benefits. Medical-marijuana patients don’t pay the extra sales and excise taxes that are on recreational sales. And they can possess up to two ounces of marijuana — sometimes more, if their doctors recommend it, as well as higher plant limits — instead of the one ounce and six plants that regular adults get. Plus, there will still be a market for people under 21 to buy medical marijuana.
I’ve noticed a lot of new regulations for edibles recently. Most of the articles only refer to recreational stores. Do these new regulations — the 100mg per unit limit and testing for potency — have any effect on medical marijuana? –Edibles Enthusiast in Edgewater
Edible companies have been the focus of recent news stories because the potency testing requirement for all recreational edibles started on May 1. The potency testing regulations for the smokable flowers will begin on June 1.
Potency testing measures the amount or percentage of THC and a handful of other cannabinoids.
Colorado’s medical marijuana regulations remain separate from the recreational system. Marijuana-infused products (MIPs) that are designated for medical sales are under different regulations, so the limits you are reading about for recreational edibles do not apply.
I asked marijuana attorney Warren Edson for a quick confirmation. He says the 100 mg limit is only for recreational edibles and not for medical edibles. Not that it makes sense, quips Warren, but recreational products are required to test and medical products are not. People from out of state, Warren adds, cannot buy medical marijuana products, only recreational.
Q: Is it true some minors can legally use medical marijuana?
A: Yes. There are some extra requirements for kids under 18 to become registered patients, but Colorado now has 128 registered medical-marijuana patients under 18. The state has seen an influx of families moving here to seek treatment for children with severe seizure disorders, after a family of brothers developed a non-psychoactive marijuana extract that parents say greatly reduces their children’s seizures.
What’s the latest information on medical marijuana studies?–Motivated Marty on Monaco Parkway
Hey, Motivated Marty!
Here’s a brief rundown. For a comprehensive view of medical marijuana studies in California, check the University of California-San Diego Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research website. The purpose of the Center is “to coordinate rigorous scientific studies to assess the safety and efficacy of cannabis and cannabis compounds for treating medical conditions.”
On a federal level, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has recently requested a lot more marijuana for research in the U.S. With the recent research requests, the farm needs to supply 650,000 grams (1,430 pounds) of marijuana for 2014, up from the previous request of 21,000 grams.
In Colorado, a bill was signed into law last month that allots a bulk of the surplus from the state Medical Marijuana Registry, up to $10 million, for research grants to study medical marijuana. According to the bill, the grant money can be used for studies that could “add new debilitating medical conditions to Colorado’s medical marijuana law; and help physicians better understand the biochemical effects of prescribed medical marijuana” — for example, research on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or seizure treatments.
That’s a wrap on current medical marijuana studies.
Q: Are all the medical-marijuana dispensaries changing to recreational stores in places that allow them to?
A: No. There have actually been very few applications for a total conversion. Most stores are going recreational while keeping their medical sides, too. In Denver, if the stores agree only to sell to medical-marijuana patients over 21, it’s as simple as just keeping the books separate. Stores can also have an all-ages medical-marijuana side and a 21-and-over recreational marijuana side, so long as they build a wall between the two sides.
I have a question and I can’t find the answer. I am not sure I want to know the answer, but here it is. When Amendment 64 passed, it clearly stated it will have nothing to do with Amendment 20, the medical marijuana amendment. I was allowed to grow my medical plants outside, but with the new growing rules for 64, I am not allowed to grow those plants outside. Am I still allowed to grow my medical plants outside? Also, since these amendments have nothing to do with each other, can I grow my six Amendment 20 plants and six Amendment 64 plants? Thank you for clearing this up. –Cannabis Cultivator
Hey, Cannabis Cultivator!
Interesting question! State law doesn’t prohibit outdoor grows. But you can’t grow just anywhere, either. As we have discussed previously, growing space must be “a permanent or semi-permanent area covered and surrounded on all sides,” according to HB 14-1122. According to marijuana lawyer Warren Edson, local county or city laws might prohibit or restrict outdoor grows. “If a town or city is incorporated then those rules dictate. If a town/city is not incorporated, then the county rules dictate,” clarifies Edson. For example, the city of Golden has banned outdoor growing, and in Denver, a maximum of 12 plants are allowed at a residence even if there are more than two adults living there, and the grow must be fully enclosed and locked, whether it is inside or outside.
As for plant count, according to Edson, Section 7(a) in Amendment 64 says nothing in the recreational amendment limits a medical marijuana patient. Amendment 64 allows up to six recreational marijuana plants. Your physician can recommend six or more medical plants under the Amendment 20 state law. The number of plants and strains is up to you and the physician. So, it is possible for an adult over 21 who is a medical patient to have 12 plants — six recreational and six medical — and be legally compliant with state laws. However, while the state laws do not limit privileges, a doctor may subjectively limit them. Edson states: “Please keep in mind that this is with the doctor’s recommendation. If the doctor thinks you can meet your medical needs with your six recreational plants, then you could be out of luck.”
Your question regarding the separation and similarities of the constitutional amendments bring up interesting legal differences between medical and recreational marijuana homegrows. Edson points out a few intricate discrepancies. You can give away rec weed but not medical. The medical law has a cap on the total weight limit you can possess at home from a home grow, while under the recreational law you can keep anything you grow at that site. Edson admits, “It gets complicated.”
I am a former Colorado resident who left for college. I went to Oregon and got a medical card here and want to know if Colorado dispensaries would honor my Oregon medical card when I come home for Spring Break. I wasn’t sure if there was any cooperation between states but thought it was worth checking here before I just walked into a dispensary at home and got kicked out. Thanks for your help! –Holistic Student
You are asking about reciprocity for medical marijuana cards. States with a reciprocity clause in their medical marijuana laws can legally recognize a card issued from another state. Colorado is not a reciprocity state, so your Oregon medical card would not be valid. But according to Marijuana Policy Project, you can use your Oregon card in Arizona, Delaware, Michigan, Maine, Rhode Island and starting in April, Nevada. Spring Break Michigan!
Predictions for the future
Q: How many people are expected to shop in Colorado recreational marijuana stores in 2014?
A: It’s really anybody’s guess. The state’s nonpartisan voter guide — in estimating the revenues from marijuana tax measures — projected nearly $400 million a year in recreational marijuana sales. Considering that medical marijuana stores, alone, did almost $330 million in sales in fiscal year 2013, that number might be low. Through April 2014, the most recent month tax figures were available, the state had $69,527,760 in recreational sales and $132,950,930 in medical marijuana sales.
Q: What big impacts has the first step of marijuana legalization had on Colorado?
A: For the most part, it’s too soon to tell. Comprehensive numbers on use, emergency room visits, treatment admissions, and stoned driving are not yet available for 2013. The data there is shows it’s a mixed bag: The number of prosecutions for all marijuana crimes, especially minor marijuana crimes, plummeted — including for people under 21. But citations for public use of marijuana rose.
Q: Will legal marijuana sales lead to more people using pot in Colorado?
A: It seems likely but how much of an increase is up for debate. Studies have shown that states with medical-marijuana laws are likely to have higher rates of marijuana use. But that doesn’t mean there is more use because of the laws. It could be that states with already elevated use rates are more receptive to liberalizing their marijuana laws. Furthermore, some of the country’s leading drug-policy thinkers have shown that — as America’s marijuana laws have softened in recent years — the number of people using marijuana has increased some but the amount that heavy marijuana users consume has increased much more. So it’s possible that legalization won’t lead to a large ripple of new people sparking up but will instead entrench marijuana more strongly in the lives of those who already use.
Q: Would increases in marijuana use rates be a big problem for Colorado?
A: In the sense that increased use could lead to increases in stoned driving, marijuana at schools and marijuana dependence, yes. Treatment professionals report that their case loads are skyrocketing with legalization. “Inside of our treatment program, it is very rare to see someone who comes to us who doesn’t have marijuana as an issue,” said Ben Cort with the Colorado Center for Dependency, Addiction and Rehabilitation.
But there are other factors to take into consideration when evaluating the overall impact of legalization. If using marijuana more frequently causes people to consume less alcohol — and, thus, reduces alcohol-related problems — it could be a net win for Colorado, according to researchers like Mark A.R. Kleiman. If marijuana and alcohol are used together, it could compound the problems of both. It’s something we’ll just have to wait to find out.
I recently heard that the universal blood supply in Colorado critically low. I wonder, does this have anything to do with the amount of marijuana users in the state of Colorado? I smoke marijuana and want to donate blood but I am not sure if I can qualify. How do I find out?
Hey, Stoner Donor!
The universal (Type O-negative) supply being low has nothing to do with cannabis consumers. Blood donations are always needed.
You’ll have to pass an extensive pre-screening process, but cannabis use is not a screening question. Social factors important to blood donations include where you’ve traveled, your health history, IV drug use and with whom you’ve had sex.
A nurse at Denver-based Bonfils Blood Center provided confirmation. The only marijuana-related requirement for a blood donation is don’t show up stoned.
In 2012, I attended a community blood drive organized by a Denver marijuana-infused product manufacturer. Ever since, I’ve been a regular blood donor myself. If you pass the screening and are able to donate, please do!
Q: Are schools seeing more problems with kids using marijuana?
A: In the 2012-13 school year, the state reported that 32 percent of the state’s expulsions were related to marijuana. But, because it’s the first time marijuana-specific numbers have been kept, it’s impossible to tell whether that amount is higher or lower than in previous years. And, because the numbers don’t reveal the precise infractions, it’s hard to gauge what kinds of problems schools are seeing. (Dropout numbers, for instance, are actually down.) But suspensions and expulsions for all drugs in Colorado schools have been rising, and education and law enforcement officials are increasingly concerned about marijuana at school.
Q: Do marijuana stores cause increases in crime?
A: It depends on what you consider an increase. Certainly there are more crimes being committed at marijuana stores compared to five years ago — if for no other reason than there are lots more stores. But police in Colorado have never demonstrated that marijuana businesses make their neighborhoods less safe. The slight increase in crime near medical-marijuana dispensaries in Denver in the first half of 2013 was in line with overall crime trends in the city. A three-year-old Denver police analysis showed that marijuana stores were robbed at a lower rate than banks.
Q: Is Colorado going to become a source state for black-market weed?
A: Some would say it already is. Law enforcement officials say marijuana is flying (and driving) out of Colorado like never before. In Oklahoma, officials say Colorado-grown pot has gained a special reputation for potency. And, because of the numerous legal ways there are to obtain marijuana in Colorado, law enforcement concerned about the problem say they have little hope of stopping the out-flow.
Q: State officials also worried that legal marijuana would hurt economic development efforts. Did it?
A: It doesn’t appear so. A state economic development official told a legislative committee in November that, “so far the information we get anecdotally is that it hasn’t impacted our ability to be competitive.” But, the official cautioned, he doesn’t know how many businesses didn’t even consider moving to Colorado because of the marijuana laws.
Q: When will we actually have answers to all of these questions?
A: Both marijuana advocates and skeptics agree it will be years. Colorado Attorney General John Suthers says it will be at least a couple of years before clear answers arrive. Allen St. Pierre, the head of the national pro-marijuana group NORML, predicts it could take up to a decade. So, sit back Colorado. Like it or not, this is a long, strange trip we’re all on together.
John Ingold: 303-954-1068, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/john_ingold
Susan Squibb: AsktheCannabist@gmail.com