This year's Super Bowl sees the Seattle Seahawks taking on the Denver Broncos, but that's not the only thing that the team's home states have in common. Colorado and Washington have each passed ballot initiatives legalizing recreational marijuana, and both states have begun to regulate the pot industry. But the real test will come this year as Washington and Colorado attempt to make legal weed more popular than the black market variety, while at the same time keeping the crop from leaking across state borders. In other words, there's more at stake between the two western states than just a football game.
So in advance of a competitive few months for Colorado and Washington, here's a breakdown of their respective weed laws:
Can You Smoke Openly?
Although some Washingtonians were celebrating by blazing in public after the ballot passed in 2012, that sort of display is still not technically allowed. Just like alcohol, you have to consume weed on private property. The city of Denver briefly considered banning smoking on front porches, backyards, and balconies, but that never made it through the City Council. That doesn't mean other counties won't put similar rules in place, however.
How Much Does it Cost?
For the moment, legal marijuana rates in both states are within the range of black market prices. A crowd-sourced index tracking the price of weed shows a wide range across counties, from $30-$60 per eighth of an ounce. The AP found one dispensary selling an eighth for as much as $70 on opening day of legal sales. Tack on a hefty 25 percent state tax to that figure, plus the standard sales tax and you see why some are complaining about premium prices. But so long as there's demand, business owners are unlikely to cut profits by dropping below the going rate. So those hopeful of finding a buyer's market in Washington and Colorado will likely have to wait a long time before supply and demand brings prices down closer to actual production value.
Can You Buy Easily?
Anyone over 21 can buy marijuana from a licensed retailer in Colorado, and will soon be able to in Washington. The federal government has said they will leave dispensaries alone so long as they follow some strict rules to keep a closed market and enforce DUI limits.
How Much Can You Buy?
Colorado residents can buy up to an ounce per visit, or up to two ounces if they carry a medical marijuana license. For out-of-staters, that figure drops down to a quarter of an ounce. The state Department of Revenue wants to make sure nothing is leaking across state borders, so if you buy it in state, you have to smoke it there too. In Washington, anyone over 21-years-old will be able to leave a store with up to an ounce of marijuana, sixteen ounces of marijuana-infused products, and 72 ounces of marijuana-infused liquid. People will be able to buy all that once legal dispensaries open their doors this spring.
Can You Sell?
If you want to get into the Colorado marijuana business, you've got to be more than a mom and pop hobbyist, according to the Marijuana Policy Project. For now, only approved medical marijuana dispensaries can apply to sell recreational marijuana, and if you want to get your hands on one of those coveted licenses, be prepared to put up to a five-figure hole in your pocket depending on the size of the outlet.
The barriers will be lower in Washington, where the fees are almost identical to the ones already in place for liquor licenses. The key difference is that you're not allowed to sell the marijuana you grow. Retailers will have to buy their stocks wholesale from producers and processors, keeping each link in the chain separate. So sellers who aren't looking to be America’s first marijuana tycoon can set their eyes on the Evergreen state.
Can You Grow?
If you're looking to be more of a casual grower, Colorado will welcome you warmly. Residents can grow up to six plants in their homes, which is important because there are already a number of counties that have banned marijuana retailers from opening. But in Washington, tighter measures will be in place. Home grows are illegal there and all recreational marijuana must be purchased from a state-licensed retailer.
So Which State is Greener?
Although both states are going to be working out the kinks for a while, by this time next year, the biggest difference between them — Colorado's rule that you have to produce 70 percent of the marijuana you sell — will have been lifted and retail licenses will be fair game. By then, there may be more players in the field than just these two states and that should gradually loosen everyone's dependence on illegal and unregulated marijuana sales in bordering states. So before you judge which state has the superior crop, you may want to consider history's long view: The final outcome will likely be akin to differing states' laws about liquor sales. Some states allow sales on sunday and others don't, but we still generally think of the product as being easily available.
Can You Smoke at the Super Bowl?
Of course not. It's in New Jersey.
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