Colorado Marijuana Law 101

Colorado voters recently approved an unprecedented ballot initiative to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana. The tricky part of implementing these state laws, however, is that many of them conflict with federal marijuana laws. While it remains to be seen how this will all play out, here’s what you should know about current marijuana regulations in Colorado:

What’s legal in Colorado?

Adults 21 and older can now possess up to one ounce of marijuana for personal use, which used to be a misdemeanor. You can also “gift” (non-commercial transaction) up to an ounce and grow up to three maturing marijuana plants at a time. It’s also expected that marijuana DUI standards will be set at 5 nanograms of THC, the marijuana psychoactive ingredient. Drivers with this level of THC in their blood would be considered too stoned (or high) to drive and could be ticketed just like a drunk driver. For those under 21, using, possessing and selling marijuana is still illegal.

How is that different from federal marijuana law?

Under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act (CSA), cultivating and distributing (both selling and “gifting”) are still felonies. Marijuana possession for personal use is considered a misdemeanor. However to use marijuana, one must possess the substance and “paraphernalia,” which according to federal law, is also illegal. Cultivating 100 or more marijuana plants carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years.

How is marijuana taxed in Colorado?

The state has put a 15-percent excise tax on unprocessed product and a 10 percent tax on the sale of marijuana. The precise “effective” tax rate may range from 15 to 25 percent. It varies based on unprocessed marijuana relative to the total retail price and unique local sales taxes.

Who oversees state marijuana regulation?

The newly created Marijuana Enforcement Division of the Department of Revenue will regulate the commercial market.

When do state laws take effect?

Regulations are due to go in effect July 1, 2013. Retail sales of marijuana start early 2014.