Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Colorado legalizes cannabis: taxation, regulation

The Huffington Post:

The Rocky Mountain High just got a whole lot higher. On Tuesday night, Amendment 64 -- the measure seeking the legalization of marijuana for recreational use by adults -- was passed by Colorado voters, making Colorado the first state to end marijuana prohibition in the United States.

The passage of the state measure is without historical precedent and the consequences will likely be closely-watched around the world. In an interview with The Huffington Post, the authors/researchers behind the book "Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs To Know" pointed out that the measure in Colorado is truly groundbreaking, comparing it to the legalization that Amsterdam enjoys:
A common error is to believe that the Netherlands has already legalized cannabis (the preferred term for marijuana in Europe). What has been de facto legalized is only the retail sale of 5 grams (about a sixth of an ounce) or less. Production and wholesale distribution is still illegal, and that prohibition is enforced, which is largely why the price of sinsemilla in the “coffee shops” isn’t much different than the price in American dispensaries.
Although Colorado "legalized it," it will be several months, perhaps as long as a year, before Colorado adults 21-and-over can enjoy the legal sale of marijuana. However, the parts of the amendment related to individual behavior will go into effect as soon as Governor Hickenlooper certifies the results of the vote, a proclamation he is obligated to do within 30 days of the election, The Colorado Independent reported.

It's a huge victory for the Campaign To Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the pro-pot group behind Amendment 64. "Over the past eight years in Colorado, we have argued that it is irrational to punish adults for choosing to use a product that is far less harmful than alcohol," Mason Tvert, co-director of the campaign, said in a statement. "Today, the voters agreed. Colorado will no longer have laws that steer people toward using alcohol, and adults will be free to use marijuana instead if that is what they prefer. And we will be better off as a society because of it."

On the same night that Colorado passed Amendment 64, Washington state passed Initiative 502 which regulates and taxes sales of small amounts of marijuana for adults, The Associated Press reports. Oregon also had a marijuana measure on the ballot, but as of publishing and with 47 percent of precincts reporting, it looked as if it would not pass.

Under Amendment 64, marijuana is taxed and regulated similar to alcohol and tobacco. It gives state and local governments the ability to control and tax the sale of small amounts of marijuana to adults age 21 and older. According to the Associated Press, analysts project that that tax revenue could generate somewhere between $5 million and $22 million a year in the state. An economist whose study was funded by a pro-pot group projects as much as a $60 million boost by 2017.

"Today, the people of Colorado have rejected the failed policy of marijuana prohibition," Brian Vicente, also a co-director of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana, said in a statement. "Thanks to their votes, we will now reap the benefits of regulation. We will create new jobs, generation million of dollars in tax revenue, and allow law enforcement to focus on serious crimes. It would certainly be a travesty if the Obama administration used its power to impose marijuana prohibition upon a state whose people have declared, through the democratic process, that they want it to end."

In a report published Sunday by NBC News, President Obama's former senior drug policy advisor said that if the marijuana initiatives pass, a war will be incited between the federal government and the states that pass them. "Once these states actually try to implement these laws, we will see an effort by the feds to shut it down," Sabet said.

But proponents of the legislation say they don't foresee federal agents interfering in states that have legalized cannabis, citing the federal government's silence on the issue this election cycle.

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