Sunday, January 26, 2014

Legalized Marijuana

This post might seem 3 weeks late – but I promise, there’s a reason for it.  We’ll talk about the timing relevance later.

On January 1, 2014, the weed fairy (with the help of state legislature) brought Colorado the gift of legal pot.  The streets were alive with the patchouli smelling masses – thrilled to spend 2 or 3 times the street market value for legalized marijuana.  There were literally thousands of people in line at numerous dispensaries. 

Local black market drug dealers were on suicide watch.

You know how every year we hear about black Friday shoppers fighting, trampling, or even killing other people in the shopping frenzy?  That didn’t happen in Colorado.  As reported by the Denver Post:  Denver City Councilman Charlie Brown said he was "pleasantly surprised" by the large, mellow crowd he encountered during a visit to Medicine Man dispensary in Denver, where lines wrapped around the building and into a parking lot.

"It's kind of a relief, frankly," he said. "This could have gone a lot of different ways. So far, so good."
"What I love about it," Denver Councilman Albus Brooks said, "is the peacefulness of the crowd ... and the diversity."

No shit.  Government officials were stunned and relieved that stoners were calm and pleasant.  Shock and Awe.

In other news, the President made headlines this past week (now we’re getting to the relevance on the timing of this post) saying that marijuana was a “bad idea, waste of time and not very healthy” but “less dangerous than alcohol.”  And then some people got angry because they genuinely didn’t know that.  REALLY?

If you don’t know anything about marijuana, stop entering the debate on whether it should be legalized.

Ask any police officer* and they will tell you exactly what President Obama said.  Marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol.  How are there still people who don’t accept that statement as fact?  Are there really still people who don’t understand that nobody has ever died from a marijuana overdose – meanwhile, the CDC estimates that about 88,000 people per year die of excessive alcohol consumption? 

While you’re talking to that police officer, ask the officer how many domestic violence runs they’ve been on that started with marijuana consumption and how many involve alcohol abuse.  I bet they tell you that 9 times out of 10 the subject was hammered drunk and that last 1 time, he was just an asshole.  But 0 times out of 10 are because someone smoked a joint.

Ok I’m done ranting about the “danger” factor.

Let’s get back to Colorado and a little closer back to the subject of today.

Over 20%!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  TWENTY.  That’s the sales tax on marijuana in states that have legalized.

At the ceremonial first purchase in Colorado on January 1, the first customer was 32-year-old Sean Azzariti, an Iraq war veteran who campaigned for marijuana legalization and said he uses cannabis to alleviate symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Under a canopy of cameras, Azzariti bought an eighth of an ounce of the marijuana strain Bubba Kush and a package of marijuana-infused candy truffles.

"We did it!" a beaming Azzariti said at the end of the purchase.

The cost was $59.74, including $10.46 in tax. At the bottom of the receipt was the message "Thank you for your purchase!"

What you should take away from the Sean Aszzariti story is that his receipt evidences OVER TEN DOLLARS in tax on a $49.00 purchase.  These hippies (I mean, suffering Iraqi war veterans) are beaming and standing in line to pay over 20% in sales tax on marijuana.  Maybe that’s how, in only 3 short weeks, the tax revenue on marijuana in Colorado is already enough to pay all of the yearly salaries for the governor and his staff.  A non-partisan tax commission in Colorado estimates that the state will bring in an additional $70 million this year on marijuana.

Let’s talk about some of the specifics of legalization.  More precisely, I would call the legislative move “State Decriminalization for Personal Use.”  Because none of this makes marijuana “legal” under federal law.  And it ain't 100% legal at the state level, either.

It is legal to purchase and possess up to one ounce of marijuana in Colorado.  It's also legal to cultivate up to 6 plants (up to 3 can be mature).  And if you are an out of state resident you can purchase a quarter of an ounce.  However, the possession of an abundance of pot is still criminal conduct.  Smoking out in the open, in public, is also illegal.  

Basically, if you possess an ounce or less there is no penalty.  If you possess over an ounce, it is considered a petty offense carrying up to 15 days in jail and a $100 fine.  2-6 ounces is serious legal trouble carrying a penalty of up to a year in jail and $1000 fine.  6-12 ounces can get you up to 18 months in jail and a $10,000 fine.  Anything over 12 ounces is a felony.

Trafficking is still very much illegal.  In Colorado trafficking of any amount is a felony, and the possession of 8 ounces or more is considered possession with the intent to distribute.

A key difference between the Kentucky and Colorado trafficking laws is that in Colorado, if you GIVE someone less than an ounce of marijuana for “no remuneration,” it isn’t considered a crime.  In Kentucky, it doesn’t matter if you receive compensation.  The “transfer” of marijuana makes it trafficking.

By the way, if you are a Kentucky resident you CAN go to Colorado and purchase marijuana, assuming you are old enough.  However, it should go without saying that if you take that legal purchase into another state that criminalizes marijuana possession – your legal weed just became illegal.  So you can’t legally bring it back into Kentucky.

For more questions on marijuana possession and trafficking, call Greg Simms at Murphy & Powell, PLC. 502.618.4949.  My door is always open.




**with the exception of officers that work on marijuana eradication teams – after all, their jobs depend on stomping out marijuana.

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