What you need to know about buying recreational marijuana in Colorado

Kelsey Fowler
Visitors and residents over 21 will be able to purchase marijuana Jan. 1, and Colorado has been pushing to promote regulation rules, such as no smoking in public.
File Photo / Summit Daily News |

Here’s a rundown of the doobies and don’ts for retail pot purchases.

Who can purchase recreational marijuana?

Anyone 21 and older, with a valid government ID, is allowed to purchase, smoke and possess marijuana in Colorado. Much like in a liquor store, individuals will need to show an ID in order to make purchases. You can share with a friend, as long as you aren’t getting paid in the process.

Coloradans 18 and older can get a medical marijuana card. Medical marijuana was legalized in 2000 in Colorado, and the annual registration fee will now be reduced to $15.

Where can people purchase marijuana?

Licensed retail shops will be able to sell marijuana starting Jan. 1. The shops were previously medical marijuana dispensaries, and may or may not choose to continue to sell medical products in addition to retail products. The earliest brand-new retail shops can open is Oct. 1, 2014. Shops have hours mandated by the state, much like liquor stores, so no purchases can be made before 8 a.m.

Currently, Colorado has issued licenses to 136 shops. Most of the approved locations are in Denver, but four shops in Summit County will be open for business Jan. 1, as well: Alpenglow Botanicals, Bioenergetic Healing Center, Breckenridge Cannabis Club and High Country Healing.

How much can individuals buy?

In a single transaction, Colorado residents can purchase up to 1 ounce, while out-of-state visitors will be able to purchase 1/4 ounce. All adults 21 and older will be able to possess up to 1 ounce on their person.

Researchers have concluded the average joint has slightly less than a half gram of marijuana. An ounce is slightly more than 28 grams, so 1 ounce will equal approximately 60 joints.

How much will it cost?

In the medical-marijuana market, ounces run from $150 to close to $300. But the more common purchase amount is an eighth of an ounce, which costs around $25 to $45 for medical marijuana. Stores will set their own prices for retail product, but customers will have to pay high state and local taxes for the pot — 25 percent for the state, on top of a 5 percent excise tax in Summit County and other retail sales taxes. Most stores will only accept cash, which presents a security concern as well. Federal banking regulations mean that marijuana stores commonly don’t have access to banking services. People can make multiple purchases in the same day, as long as they do not exceed the 1 ounce limit.

Where can people legally smoke or consume marijuana?

The only place it’s 100 percent OK to consume marijuana is in a private residence, with permission from the owner. Most ski slopes are on federal land, where marijuana use and possession is still illegal. Same with national parks, national forests and national monuments. Hotels and resorts can institute their own smoking policies. Under Colorado’s Clean Indoor Air Act, pot smoking isn’t allowed anywhere that cigarette smoking is also banned. Consumption is specifically banned in any state-licensed marijuana facility.

How will marijuana sales be monitored?

Turns out, Colorado’s seed-to-sale marijuana inventory tracking system won’t track every plant Jan. 1. But businesses are required to record their process through the tracking system, which is meant to ensure the product does not get outside the state. Businesses are subject to audits or inspections by the state Marijuana Enforcement Division as well. The pot must have a label that lists its potency and any nonorganic pesticides or fungicides used in its cultivation.

What can people grow?

Adults can grow up to six plants in their own home, three of which can be flowering at once, and in a locked, contained space. It is legal to keep the resulting harvest of the plants at home, even if the amount exceeds 1 ounce. Individuals can only transport 1 ounce or less. However, landlords are also allowed to create policies for their private properties.

Where do shops get their marijuana?

Until October 2014, retail marijuana stores must grow at least 70 percent of the product they sell. So, marijuana being sold to customers on New Year’s Day will be coming from a onetime transfer from the stores’ medical marijuana supply.

What about safety concerns?

Many shops must be located at least 1,000 feet away from schools, and the state has mandated any marijuana products must be sold in child-proof packaging. Certain marketing has also been banned, in hopes of limiting exposure to children. Sharing or giving marijuana to minors is a crime, which carries similar penalties as providing alcohol to minors.

Can employers still fire people from jobs for smoking marijuana?

Yes, employers still can fire workers for using it, on or off duty. State law gives employers total authority to impose any drug regulations they wish.

Are people allowed to drive?

A state law creates a preset limit for drivers, similar to alcohol. Drivers with a reading of 5 nanograms of active THC in their systems will be considered impaired and will be cited. It is illegal to smoke or eat marijuana in a moving vehicle, but it may be carried as long as it is in a closed container.

Will people be able to take marijuana out of Colorado?

Definitely not. Every city and county in Colorado has its own marijuana regulations, so even transporting from place to place in state can be tricky. It is still illegal to transport marijuana across state lines, even if it was purchased legally in Colorado. Denver International Airport recently announced it will be against the law to take marijuana into the airport, as well.

What will happen to people in jail for marijuana-related crimes?

New marijuana laws will have little to no impact on people currently serving sentences. But in 2012, the state did announce it would close some current investigations into marijuana-related crimes.

How much money is the state making?

Business licenses cost anywhere from $2,750 to $14,000, plus local fees. In November, voters passed a 15 percent excise tax and 10 percent sales tax on recreational marijuana. That 25 percent state tax is expected to generate $70 million every year. The first $40 million will go toward school construction, and the rest will be used to regulate the marijuana business and put together educational campaigns.

Will anyone know who is purchasing marijuana?

Amendment 64 prohibits a list of marijuana purchasers, but customers will be on camera. The state’s rules require shops have a security cameras pointed at the cash register, the entrances and the exits.

To read more stories about recreational marijuana in Summit County go to:

This article includes reporting from The Denver Post.

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