All eyes were watching the election polls on November 4, 2014, and not just to keep an eye on how their state’s congressional race would pan out. America looked westward as Oregon and Alaska both asked voters to decide whether or not they would be the next states to legalize recreational marijuana. Medical marijuana was also on the ballot in Florida.
While Florida voters decided against legalizing medical marijuana, voters in Oregon and Alaska voted “yes”, fully legalizing marijuana in their respective states.
These weren’t the only areas that made strides with marijuana legalization. Cities across the country made policy changes concerning pot criminalization and usage. Washington, DC was the most notable, taking the leap and legalizing the possession of marijuana. (Note: Washington, DC did not legalize retail of marijuana.) In Michigan, five more cities voted to decriminalize marijuana possession and use. Michigan now has 14 cities decriminalizing marijuana. A few cities in Maine also passed pro-pot policies. While not completely decriminalizing, NYPD is also lessening charges for pot possession, only issuing minor fines for possession of 25 grams or less.
The recent policy changes and election brings the total of states with fully legalized marijuana to four (Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska), along with 19 legalizing medical marijuana. Fourteen states have decriminalized marijuana.
Marijuana decriminalization and legalization is no longer what many call a two-state experiment. With each election and each policy change it is rapidly becoming reality.
As Colorado marijuana business lawyers, we keep a close eye on news, updates, and statistics about marijuana law because even though Colorado has already fully legalized marijuana, American’s support and other state’s (or federal) policies, could still affect our own procedures, policies, and practices. While what is happening in Oregon, Alaska, and Washington, DC doesn’t initially affect our states directly, in the long run they definitely can. The laws are fundamentally similar to Colorado’s, but there are some discrepancies, and anyone involved in the marijuana industry may want to take note.
Oregon Marijuana Law
As states go, Oregon is pretty similar to Colorado and Washington in terms of population, geography, urban layout, and economy. Therefore, many of the regulations and policies have aligned with Colorado’s.
According to a local Portland, Oregon news source, KGW, legal consumption of marijuana will go into effect in Oregon on July 1, 2015. This means that anyone 21 and older can have 1-ounce on their person and four plants and 8 ounces in their respective home. Lawmakers have also set regulations for edible marijuana, allowing people to have 1-pound solid edible, 72 ounces liquid, and 1-ounce extract.
While possession will be legalized come July 2015, the sales aren’t likely to begin until January of 2016. According to the question and answer by KGW, Oregon Liquor Control Commission is deciphering the rules in terms of selling, producing, and processing the now legal substance. The Commission is traveling throughout the state to talk to citizens and gather opinions and ideas about the rules and regulations.
Just like in Colorado, individual cities and counties can set additional restrictions. Just like how Golden, Arvada, and other Colorado cities have opted out of Amendment 64 (the Colorado amendment legalizing marijuana), Oregon cities can do the same. Some of these restrictions could pertain to locations of marijuana businesses and operation hours. For example, some cities might set policies in terms of how far away a pot dispensary has to be from a park or school.
Alaskan Marijuana Law
Alaska voters legalized marijuana, like the voters in Oregon, Washington, and Colorado, but the similarities seem to stop there. Alaska is uncharted territory when it comes to marijuana law. It is the largest state, but it is has nearly the lowest population. While the state is comprised of large metropolitan areas, like Anchorage and Juneau, most of the vast state is rural. Lawmakers and regulators need to consider the climate, the geography, and the population, amongst other factors, when setting restrictions.
Many are speculating about how the marijuana law changes will work in these rural areas. Similar to Oregon, the Alcohol Beverage Control Board is in charge of creating regulations. It will be about a year before any policies take effect, but that hasn’t stopped legislators from taking action.
Less than a week after the votes came in legalizing marijuana in Alaska, legislators took action toward limiting the sales. The introduced bill would not allow the sale of marijuana to occur within 500 feet of school property.
Washington, DC Marijuana Law
Voters in the District of Columbia voted in favor of allowing people over the age of 21 to retain 2 ounces as well as grow as many as 3 pot plants. However, instead of taking effect in 90 days or a year, there is one more hoop to jump through–Congressional review.
According to the Baltimore Sun, though, the mayor elect of DC does not see this law taking flight due to the lack of taxes and other restrictions set in stone. Unlike Oregon, Alaska, Colorado, and Washington, the campaigners leading the DC pot policy initiatives did not put taxation specifics on the ballot. This ambiguity, amongst other factors, leads critics to believe that the law will not stand against Congress.
This is not the first time the federal government has been directly confronted with the recurring debate of marijuana law, and it certainly will not be the last. Despite the House’s July vote supporting bank business with the medical and recreational pot industry (where it is legal), marijuana businesses are still limited to running as mostly cash operations due to lack of complete federal support.
Employment and marijuana is also still up for debate due to the continuing Colorado lawsuit of Coats vs. Dish. Because marijuana is still federally illegal, companies are allowed to have their own policies on marijuana usage, and many have no-tolerance policies. The dispute is currently taking place in the Colorado Supreme Court.
As in all states with legalized marijuana, employment, money, and other factors in Colorado could be affected if the federal government starts taking action on marijuana law, whether their actions are prohibitory or inhibitory.
Public Opinion of Marijuana Law
While these election results are encouraging for marijuana advocates, the statistics show that public support of legalization has not changed much; it has actually plateaued. In general, the public’s opinions about marijuana aren’t necessarily changing as much as we thought they were. Even though last year’s Gallup poll results showed that a majority of adults in the United States are in support of legalizing marijuana (58 percent), that statistic has actually decreased, now falling to 51 percent. The support for marijuana legalization was around that same percentage in 2011 and 2012.
It is the public’s opinion, other state’s marijuana laws, and federal support that will continue to shape Colorado’s marijuana policies. This dynamic legality issue is bound to be a topic of discussion for decades to come. When keeping updated about marijuana law, the most important thing is to listen to credible information and ask your questions to the right people.
As marijuana business lawyers at Hunsaker | Emmi, P.C, we want to be that credible resource. Be sure to check out our website for more updates about Colorado marijuana law and how these policies could affect them.
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