5 Regulations for Legal Marijuana in Colorado

The state is the first to establish regulations for legalized marijuana. But hanging over them is the possibility that the feds will take action.
by | May 10, 2013
 

With the passage of three bills this week, the last of their legislative session, the Colorado General Assembly has officially established a regulatory framework for legalized marijuana in the state. It was a first-of-its-kind effort by a state legislature, required after Colorado voters approved Amendment 64 last November. (Washington state, where voters approved a similar measure in November, is expected to complete its regulatory framework later this year.)

Under the amendment in Colorado, the state must begin licensing growers and retailers at the beginning of 2014 and have its regulations in place months before then. State lawmakers’ actions this week complete their end of the deal.

Hanging over the new legislation is the possibility that the federal government will step in and prevent Colorado from implementing Amendment 64 at all. Though President Barack Obama has said that prosecuting people acting in compliance with state law isn’t a top priority for his administration, the U.S. Justice Department has not yet issued an official position on the legalized marijuana laws passed by Colorado and Washington in 2012. Colorado lawmakers seemed conscious of the federal issue; they passed a joint resolution in April asking for federal guidance, but haven’t received a formal response.

So for now, it seems legalization will go forward. As Governing has previously reported, Colorado’s regulations will be based largely on its medical marijuana system, in place since 2009, though there were some new oddities recommended in March by a governor-appointed task force. After the legislature gave its final stamp of approval this week, we poured through the three approved bills and pulled out five of the most interesting features of the state’s new marijuana industry.

1. You can be prosecuted for driving while under the influence of marijuana.

Generally speaking, state DWI laws cover being under the influence of narcotics, but Colorado has now set a firm standard for when somebody driving high can be considered impaired under the law. Just like alcohol, where the legal limit in Colorado and many other states is 0.08 grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood.

The driving standard for cannabis consumption under Colorado law is now 5 nanograms of THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) per milliliter of blood, which can be determined through a legally obtained blood analysis. That rules also applies to related charges beyond DWI, such as vehicular assault or homicide.

This was the sixth time in three years that the state had tried to set a stoned driving standard.

2. You must get your marijuana product approved for sale.

In other words, it better be good stuff. The new state law requires the Colorado Department of Revenue, which will be responsible for regulating the industry through its Marijuana Enforcement Division, to create a testing and certification program. Approved growers and retailers must have their product checked for contaminants—like poisons and other toxins, molds and mildews, pesticides and bacteria like E. coli—before it is sold. There will also be a test to determine each product’s potency, and retailers must label their products accordingly.

If the test reveals any contaminants, the sample must be quarantined, documented and destroyed under the law.

3. Be careful how you advertise your now-legal marijuana.

The new state laws include a laundry list of prohibitions on how marijuana is advertised. Here’s a sampling:

  • Don’t make any health or medical claims.
  • Don’t utilize unsolicited pop-up ads on the Internet.
  • Don’t publish banner ads on mass-market websites.

4. What’s the serving size for your edible marijuana goods?

Smoking might be the most well-known way to consume cannabis, but it is not the only way. The Colorado system allows for a variety of delivery methods: pills, teas and edible goods like brownies or cookies. But in this case, “serving size” doesn’t mean the number of calories you’re ingesting, it means the amount of THC your body is absorbing. Just like alcoholic drinks usually denote what percentage of the liquid is alcohol.

The new law requires the Enforcement Division to establish a standard serving size, not to be more than 10 milliliters of THC, for edible products. That information must be appropriately displayed on the packaging. The law also sets a limit of 100 milliliters of THC for any sealed edible good.

5. For minors, marijuana is the same as alcohol.

Amendment 64 sets the legal age for possessing marijuana at 21, just like alcohol, and the new state laws mandate that state authorities treat the possession of the drug by a minor or selling the drug to a minor the same as they would with beer or liquor. Retailers are required to check a customer’s photo ID to be sure they’re of age, and minors caught with marijuana will be subject to the same penalties, such as attending a court-ordered program, as they would be if they were caught with alcohol.

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