CANNABIS COLORADO: Radical Recreational

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by Suzanne Rouge

Over $1,000,000 was generated in the first three days of sales of recreational cannabis in Colorado and $5,000,000 in the first week.

That is a big number, especially when you consider that there were only a few dozen recreational dispensaries operational in the state on January 1st. Although there were many entrepreneurs at the ready, few made it to the starting gate. Only three marijuana testing facilities were registered, and only 348 out of 817 applications were granted a retail marijuana license. Out of 322 applicants 178 marijuana cultivation facilities were up and running and only 31 product manufacturing facilities were ready to roll out their goods. Denver, Pueblo County, Aspen, Breckenridge and Boulder were geared up to go on day one, while seventy municipalities, including; Colorado Springs, Fort Collins and Grand Junction were left out of the race by ordinances banning recreational dispensaries.


Excessive taxes and a bogged-down application process may impact supply and demand, and that may undermine the benefits of making cannabis legal. Licensing fees can range from $2,750 to $14,000 depending on the type and size of business. Owners must also spend $250 per employee for state background checks. Estimates of a $600 million dollar industry with $67 million expected in taxes may not meet the mark because of inefficiency in registration. A special 15 percent excise tax was imposed on recreational cannabis designated to build schools as well as a 10 percent sales tax to bolster marijuana-related law enforcement efforts. (These taxes do not apply to medical marijuana dispensaries.)

The novelty of visiting a recreational facility will wear off in time, and higher prices at the retail stores may cause the underground to lower prices and thereby exacerbate the problems legalization is designed to solve. For the 58 percent of Americans who believe that marijuana should be legalized, buying it in a safe and sanctioned environment may be worth the extra expense.


People, no doubt, will exercise caution and wait out this year to see if progressive change has indeed arrived. We have been programmed to associate smoking pot with shame, fear, guilt and doubt, creating an internal paranoia that will dissipate as this grass roots movement takes hold. There are some reassurances for those who are apprehensive. In August 2013, Deputy Attorney General, James Cole issued a three-page memorandum affirming that the U.S. Justice Department will allow Colorado and Washington to move forward with state-wide efforts to license and regulate the adult marijuana market. His testimony before the U.S. Senate stated, “We will not…seek to preempt state ballot initiatives.” The DEA is actively investigating any operations that are not conducting business under strict regulations, thus breaking up the underground market and guiding customers to legal facilities.


Although the 2013 Congress failed to pass HR 499: The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, it was the most viewed legislation on the website and popular interest is a powerful force. It is just a matter of time before national prohibition falls.


Any Colorado citizen 21 yrs and older may possess up to one ounce of marijuana. Adult tourists are limited to a quarter of an ounce.

• Public consumption applies to any place other than inside a private residence and is subject to a $999 fine. (Smoking in your backyard or car is not considered private.)

• Home growing of up to six plants (no more than 3 mature) in an enclosed, locked space is allowed.

• Adults are allowed to give away their marijuana to people over 21 yrs, but they are not allowed to sell or trade it.

• DIA is a drug free zone and even if a visitor leaves their marijuana in the car they could receive a fine up to $999.

• A motorist can be ticketed for impaired driving if their blood shows more than 5 nanograms of active THC.