Lawmakers in Colorado voted Wednesday night to approve a historic, first-ever regulatory framework for the production, taxation and sales of marijuana.
Four bills awaiting the governor’s signature Thursday morning — SB 283, HB 1317, HB 1318 and HB 1325 — will convert the state’s medical marijuana regulatory agency into a body governing all marijuana sales and establish legal limits for driving while under the influence of marijuana. Voters will also be given the chance to approve a series of taxes on marijuana in November, starting at 10 percent sales tax at retail and 15 percent excise tax at wholesale, with additional local taxes to be set by each municipality.
The regulatory system is the first-ever in American history and a landmark achievement of drug reform activists who’ve fought, many for decades, to see this day. “The adoption of these bills is a truly historic milestone and brings Colorado one step closer to establishing the world’s first legal, regulated, and taxed marijuana market for adults,” Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in an advisory.
The first retail stores will open after January 1, under these provisions. The maximum retail purchase amount will be one ounce for Colorado residents, while non-residents may purchase up to one-fourth of an ounce.
Only medical marijuana proprietors may apply for licenses to sell marijuana for all adult consensual use initially, although any Colorado resident who has lived in the state for more than two years may apply after the program has been up and running for nine months.
“Facilitating the shift from the failed policy of prohibition to a more sensible system of regulation has been a huge undertaking, and we applaud the many task force members, legislators, and others who have helped effect this change,” Tvert added. “We are confident that this legislation will allow state and local officials to implement a comprehensive, robust, and sufficiently funded regulatory system that will effectively control marijuana in Colorado.”
An estimate by the Colorado Center on Law and Policy produced ahead of last November’s elections said the state stands to gain approximately $32 million from sales and excise taxes in the first year, while local municipalities could see as much as $14.5 million in new revenues.
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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