Starting Wednesday, the nation’s reddest state will border its greenest.
Colorado not only decriminalized but flat-out legalized — starting Jan. 1 — recreational use of marijuana by a popular vote in November. Officials hope money that would have otherwise gone to violent cartels will support social programs — with the first $40 million of each year’s pot taxes pegged for public schools. The first 136 retail stores in Colorado are now licensed, and Utahns are invited to partake.
The Salt Lake Tribune does not endorse using a Schedule I controlled substance that violates federal law. But since nobody in Colorado is likely to stop you, here’s what you need to know before you toke.
Will there be retail stores close to Utah’s border?
Not just yet. Although there are medical marijuana dispensaries as close as Palisade, the local politics in western Colorado are very different from those on the Front Range when it comes to recreational pot. State law allows counties and cities to set their own policies, and nearby locales on Interstate 70 and Highways 40 and 491 are taking a wait-and-see approach.
But later in 2014, it’s possible that a western Colorado town could become for pot-seeking northern Utahns what Wendover, Nev., is for gamblers, what Malad City, Idaho, is for lotto hopefuls, and what Evanston, Wyo., is for keg partiers.
Jesse Loughman, owner of the Palisade medical marijuana dispensary Colorado Alternative Health Care, says there likely will be a municipal election in November 2014, and he’s hopeful that with support from hotels and eateries, a moratorium will be lifted.
"There’s no doubt we’d see people from Utah coming our way," he says.
A similar moratorium exists in southern Colorado’s Cortez, where Herbal Alternative owner Liana Smith regularly fields calls from would-be buyers in neighboring states.
"We’re a half hour away from Utah, New Mexico and Arizona," Smith says. "People in those states who want to enjoy marijuana recreationally are going to come here. ... People used to fly to Amsterdam because it was legal there."
So, on New Year’s Day I can buy pot in Colorado, right?
After 8 a.m., if you’re 21, yes. Technically. But many stores with state licenses still need approval from local authorities. And you’ll also have to pay in cash, because of federal limits on cards and checks (although The Associated Press recently reported that Colorado officials expect the U.S. Treasury Department to loosen regulations in 2014).
How much pot can a Utahn buy?
A Coloradan can buy up to 1 ounce, or 28 grams, while an out-of-stater can buy a quarter-ounce. But there’s no registry for buyers, so you could buy a quarter-ounce at multiple stores and then take another lap through town with a hat and some sunglasses. The purchase limits are also possession limits, so technically you’d be breaking the law, but the strict answer to the above question is, bluntly: a lot.
"It’s almost an impossible control," Loughman says. "Say you’re in Denver, there’s going to be blocks on South Broadway in Denver where there’s three recreational stores on the same block."
Where can I consume marijuana?
The more relevant question is "Where can I smoke marijuana?" but, for the record, there’s a large menu of edible products (usually baked goods) available at many retail stores.Next Page >
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