Recreational marijuana: How Colorado plans to regulate the pot market

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Colorado made history Tuesday when Governor John Hickenlooper signed six billsinto law that will govern the cultivation, sale, and taxation of recreational marijuana, creating the first legal framework in the U.S. for recreational marijuana use.

Last November, Coloradans voted to approve a constitutional amendment on recreational marijuana. The measure, Amendment 64, will allow Colorado adults–21 and older–to purchase up to one ounce of marijuana for recreational use from specialty marijuana dispensaries (which could open as soon as January) and to grow up to six marijuana plants–with only three flowering at a given time–in their homes.

Video surveillance of pot growing will become established by an agency that will oversee seed-to-sale tracking next year.

The measure also limits possession up to an ounce for personal use. And selling marijuana without a license, purchasing marijuana from a party who is not licensed as well as public use of marijuana will remain illegal.

For the first few months, Colorado’s marijuana industry be restricted to individuals and shops licensed to sell or produce medical marijuana. Licenses will be granted only to residents of two years, and investors will also need to meet the residency requirements.

The new regulations also establish a legal limit to how much marijuana an individual can have in his or her system while driving–comparable to blood-alcohol levels. Drivers would violate the law if their bloodstream contains more than 5 nanograms per milliliter of THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana.

Colorado’s new legislation also implements purchasing limits for out-of-state visitors and requirements for specialty licensed retail shops that can also sell pot-related items such as pipes and accessories. Visitors to Colorado will be able to purchase a quarter-ounce of marijuana in a single transaction, but will not be able to take it back to their home state.

The Denver Post reports that the first recreational marijuana stores to open around Jan. 1, 2014 would be able to sell only marijuana that they have grown themselves. The following October, that restriction would be lifted so stand-alone growers and retailers could open for business. According to the Associated Press, there may also be a new recreational pot sales tax of 10 per cent, in addition to local and statewide sales tax.

Colorado’s marijuana framework gives local and county districts the jurisdiction to ban retail pot sales if they choose, though home-growing will be allowed throughout the state.

Gov. Hickenlooper called the marijuana bills “common sense” legislation. “Recreational marijuana really is new territory,” Hickenlooper added at Tuesday’s signing.

Hickenlooper opposed the legalization of marijuana in the past. But Jack Finlaw, Hickenlooper’s chief legal counsel, noted on Tuesday that “the will of the voters needed to be implemented.”

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