Colorado passes regulations regarding the recreational use of marijuana

Last November, Colorado voters approved a ballot measure that legalized the recreational use of marijuana. Ever since the measure was passed, lawmakers have had the task of coming up with regulations that would implement the voters' wishes while protecting the public and restricting minors' access to marijuana. Gov. John Hickenlooper recently signed the regulations into law, paving the way for the first marijuana stores to open in early 2014.

Provisions of the regulations

The regulations signed require sellers of marijuana to be licensed and comply with several restrictions. First of all, sellers of marijuana are permitted to sell food or drink items that are infused with the drug. However, the regulations aim to prevent Amsterdam-style cafes by requiring sellers to sell infused foods or drinks for consumption off-site.

Secondly, the regulations aim to promote the safety of the public by requiring sellers to list the potency of each type of marijuana strain that they offer for sale. Adult residents of Colorado who are 21 or older may purchase up to an ounce of marijuana. Visitors to the Centennial State may purchase up to one-fourth of an ounce in a single transaction, but may carry up to a full ounce. In addition, sellers must package their products in opaque childproof containers that carry a warning label about the drug's deleterious effects to health.

Finally, the new regulations included several tax provisions. Sellers of marijuana are now allowed to claim deductions that are related to their businesses on their taxes. Additionally, voters will be asked to approve a 15-percent excise tax and 10 percent sales tax on marijuana sales this fall.

Legal ramifications

Although marijuana use for recreational purposes has been legalized in Colorado, this does not mean that all criminal charges related to its use have disappeared.

In May, the Colorado Legislature passed a law criminalizing driving under the influence of marijuana. Under the law, drivers who have five nanograms or more of THC (the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) in their blood are legally considered to be legally impaired (although this may be rebutted in court). The criminal penalties for driving while impaired by THC are the same as the penalties for DUI.

In addition, the cultivation, possession, sale or transportation of marijuana remains illegal under federal law, so it is still possible to face federal drug charges. It remains to be seen how federal law enforcement is going to react to the recently passed regulatory framework.

If you are accused of driving while impaired by THC or federal drug charges, the penalties can be quite severe. An experienced criminal defense attorney can ensure that your rights are protected throughout the process.