In 2012, Colorado voters approved Amendment 64, which legalized marijuana for recreational use. Now the Colorado Legislature is in the process of implementing this amendment to the state constitution. At the same time, marijuana use remains a violation of Federal law and those authorities are still weighing their options regarding this change in Colorado state law. Join Active Minds as we delve into the background of this unfolding story.

Key Lecture Points

  • In 2012, the electorate of Colorado approved Amendment 64 which legalizes recreational marijuana possession and sale in the state in contravention to Federal laws.  Colorado now faces the challenge of creating the most open marijuana market in the United States while protecting public health and safety, within the context of federal law that maintains that marijuana is illegal.
  • Under Amendment 64, anyone over the age of 21 can legally possess, use, purchase, transport and transfer one ounce or less of marijuana.  The new law also makes legal the growth of up to 6 marijuana plants, of which up to three can be flowering.  Less than an ounce of pot can be given to another person.
  • The provisions of the law were fully enacted on January 1, 2014 and recreational marijuana retail stores opened for the first time.  During the first year, marijuana sales in the state reached nearly $700 million.  Interestingly, medical marijuana sales remained higher at $386 million compared to $313 million in purely recreational marijuana sales.  Sales figures are expected to reach $1 billion in Colorado by 2016.
  • Tax revenues brought into the state coffers from marijuana sales totaled $63 million, while above initial annual expectations.  An additional $13 million was collected in license and other fees.
  • Some local governments have  enacted additional ordinances to ban retail marijuana shops within their jurisdictions (Lakewood, for example, by local referendum, 2014) or regulate their operations, such as the number to be allowed and the distance from schools.
  • Colorado has been at the national forefront in the matter of legalizing marijuana, and is the only state that amended its constitution on this matter.  Under Amendment 20, the 2000 popular referendum, the Colorado Constitution was amended to allow doctors the right to legally recommend the use of marijuana to alleviate pain stemming from a “debilitating medical condition.”
  • To date, 4 states (Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon) and the District of Columbia have enacted laws legalizing recreational marijuana use.  Additionally, 23 states (including the three recreational states) and the District of Columbia have legalized the use of “medical marijuana.”
  • Marijuana laws will be a major consideration during the 2016 elections.  As many as 19 states may consider legislation or introduce initatives considering marijuana legalization prior to or during the election.  Additionally, the debate on the federal government’s role in marijuana regulation will be a frequent discussion point among presidential candidates.  Topics will include changing the categorization of marijuana as a Schedule I drug, public health and safety issues regarding marijuana, and State’s Rights issues in determining cannabinoid policy.

Exploration Questions

  • What are the pros and cons of the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana?
  • What additional regulatory elements do you think should be included in any marijuana bills passed by the state legislature this session?

Reflective Questions

  • Do you remember when Prohibition ended? Do you see any similarities to that action and the legalization of marijuana?
  • How do you feel about the changing attitudes towards marijuana?

More to Explore

  • Sensible Colorado (a pro-medical marijuana advocacy group) Click here
  • Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana Click here
  • Medical marijuana pros and cons Click here

Books for Further Reading

  • Cervantes, Jorge. Marijuana Horticulture: The Indoor/Outdoor Medical Grower’s Bible (paperback). Van Patten Publishing. 2006. 512 pages. This book brings together contributions from the “who’s who” of cannabis cultivation.
    Click here to order
  • Lee, Martin A. Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana—Medical, Recreational and Scientific. Scribner, 2012. 528 pages. The author traces the social history of marijuana in the US, from an illicit subculture to today’s multi-million business.
    Click here to order
  • Campbell, Greg. Pot, Inc.: Inside Medical Marijuana, America’s Outlaw Industry. Sterling, 2012. 288 pages. The true story of a Colorado man’s venture into ganjaentrepreneurialism.
    Click here to order