Quit Telling Me that Pot is Becoming Legal, Bro

Quit Telling Me That Pot Is Becoming Legal, Bro

On the dates November 6, 2012 and January 1, 2014, burnouts and hippies all across America celebrated en masse in what seemed to be a cultural and social victory of sorts.  Bowls were lit, joints were rolled, Ruffles were eaten, and tokers were on Cloud Nine before you could say Tommy Chong in a Volkswagen Minivan.  On the former date, Amendment 64 was passed in Colorado (by quite a bit in a popular referendum vote after already being approved in government), which detailed the “Use and Regulation of Cannabis.”  Let me repeat that…the use and REGULATION of cannabis.  Don’t tell me you thought that the government would pursue “legalization” without getting theirs and having what amounts to virtually totalitarian control over it.  In 2014, this legislation officially took effect.

Don’t get me wrong, here.  I’m all for legalization.  But I’m for actual legalization powered by the only legitimate reason it should be legal:  because it should be legal.  Like I said previously, don’t kid yourselves.  Marijuana is not “legal” in Colorado because the government felt that individual rights should be expanded.  They didn’t propose this legislation because marijuana, by most accounts, is no worse for you (in fact, it’s probably better) than alcohol.  No.  This legislation was proposed because government officials themselves could 1) benefit from taxing the hell out of it and 2) otherwise regulate the hell out of it.  While Washington (state) has enacted similar law, Colorado shall serve as the case study.  This article will not address medical marijuana usage, rather only the recreational side simply because it’s apples to oranges.

Before we delve into things, one fact must be stated:  the federal government still has the authority to persecute whomever they want, wherever they want, regarding anything to do with cannabis.  Why?  Because the federal government, like they do with most social issues, continues to waffle on the subject and get nothing done.  It’s what they do.  Sure, President Obama says he won’t involve himself in state “legalizations,” but all federal officials say a lot of things and surely pick and choose when they want to respect the 10th amendment.

First things first.  Is marijuana legal to smoke in Colorado?  Yeah….well, sort of.  The same ridiculously stupid restriction of 21 or older applies just as it does to alcohol.  I can be cliché and use the age-old adage that “one can die for this country, but can’t drink a beer (smoke a joint).”  It’s indeed cliché, but it’s also true.  You also can’t smoke it anywhere you can’t smoke cigarettes.  In fact, public consumption is BANNED.  Consumption anywhere considered to be “public property” is BANNED.  In Denver, you can only smoke it on your own private property if it’s not considered “open” or “public.”  So lock your doors, shut your windows, and put on some good old Grateful Dead, people.  Then you can toke up.

Is marijuana legal to purchase in Colorado?  Yeah….well, sort of.  Government-approved stores have maximum hours of 8am-12am.  You can only purchase a maximum of one ounce if you are a resident of Colorado, one-quarter of an ounce for out-of-staters, and transport across state lines is strictly forbidden.  The maximum amount of weed you can possess (or gift) is; you got it, one ounce.  Also, you’ll be happy to know that every purchase you make from the government-approved marijuana-selling facilities will be on camera.  This is due to the government making it mandatory for every approved-establishment to have a camera pointed directly at the cash register so the state of Colorado can record “the customer(s) and employee(s) facial features with sufficient clarity to determine identity.”  So yes, you can buy….what the government tells you is legal to buy and they will know about it.  Every single purchase.

You see what I’m getting at yet?  Still have the “yeah, but I can still roll a doobie, brah” mentality?  The government actually has MORE control of you now that it’s “legal.”  Don’t believe me?  Keep reading.

So, can you grow the sticky-icky?  Yeah….well, sort of.  Apparently there is a system called the Marijuana Inventory Tracking Solution or “MITS.”  The skinny on this $1.2 million dollar government invention is that every single commercially grown plant must have a radio-frequency tag that stays on the plant until it dies.  Not only that, there’s an army of “pot auditors” comprised of your usual bureaucrats who track the sale of every purchase.  There is now also a “Marijuana Enforcement Division” made up of 31-33 government employees who frequently visit stores, check our buddy “MITS,” and perform general monitoring/tracking.  If cannabis is now “legal,” then why is a brand new bureaucracy needed to further enforce restrictions?  More “freedom” = more government.  What a concept.  In addition, private growers are allowed to have only SIX plants and only as long as the facility is locked up and they themselves are the only ones who are in possession of any of the produce.  So no, you can’t grow some pot and smoke it with your friends.  You have to go to a government-approved store and purchase it in front of a camera if you want to do that……so let’s…

See what the government gets out of this.  A few of the many monstrous regulations have been outlined already.  So they obviously get more control, more bureaucracy.  The government grew as a result of this “legalization.”  Again, it’s what they do.  They wouldn’t dare “legalize” something without guaranteeing complete control and reaping the benefits from it, and they sure as hell won’t legalize it simply because it should be.  Naturally, Colorado has a pretty low state-mandated sales tax at 2.9%.  Don’t worry though, they’ve figured out a way to get theirs.  Marijuana “legalization!”  The passed legislation promptly enacted a 15% excise tax AND a 10% special sales tax (on top of the 2.9%) on all cannabis sales.  In Denver, taxes could be as much as 21.2%.  Of course, we’ve been told that all the revenue will go towards schools.  Well, that simply isn’t true.  The first $40 million of revenue will go towards new school construction (that won’t build many new schools) while the estimated $37 million leftover will go towards initiatives like a $5 million law enforcement and regulatory oversight of marijuana usage/purchase (the irony!).  After that….who knows?

Honestly, I could go on for days writing this article because although I’ve written quite a bit already, this only scrapes the surface of the regulatory burdens and greedy government that comes along with “marijuana legalization” in Colorado.  A little research will uncover so much more, and it’s only in its infant stages.  As stated at the beginning, at least the government called Amendment 64 what it is.  They didn’t give it a cute euphemism like they usually do.  It simply dealt with the “Use and Regulation of Cannabis.”  Unfortunately, I believe most voters in Colorado focused on the word “Cannabis” instead of the word “Regulation.”  It is not what most people think it is.  Future voters:  please read the legislation on which you will vote.  If more freedom inevitably equals more government, then it isn’t freedom at all.

Sources:

http://www.denverpost.com/marijuana/ci_24823785/colorado-marijuana-guide-64-answers-commonly-asked-questions

http://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_23949699/denver-city-council-makes-big-decisions-retail-pot

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drug_policy_of_Colorado

http://www.kmbc.com/news/colorado-marijuana-laws-come-with-restrictions-regulations/24437018

http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/Revenue/REVX/1178305433490

http://www.forbes.com/sites/kellyphillipserb/2014/03/11/its-no-toke-colorado-pulls-in-millions-in-marijuana-tax-revenue/

http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2014/01/03/what-to-know-about-pot-in-colorado/4302507/

Onyx Contributor:  Paz
photo credit:  Marc Piscotty
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