Five Things Arizonans Should Know About Colorado Marijuana Stores Opening Wednesday
On Wednesday, Colorado will make U.S. history when the country's first retail marijuana stores open to all adults 21 and over.
Colorado is connected to Arizona at the famed Four Corners Monument. If you already like its wonderful vistas, mountain fun, hiking, or hunting, you now have another good reason to visit Arizona's neighbor.
Here are five things Arizonans should know if they plan to indulge while there:
5. Who can buy and use marijuana in Colorado?
You, Mr. or Ms. Arizonan, if you're 21 or older. Thanks to 2012's historic, voter-approved law, and the Obama administration's blessing of it, customers with out-of-state IDs can buy up to a quarter-ounce of pot at the new stores.
And that's per transaction, says Rachel Gillette, a lawyer and executive director of Colorado NORML. In other words, an Arizonan could buy a quarter-ounce at each of the three Telluride stores in the same day.
Food and drink items containing marijuana will be available, too. The limit on them depends on how much weed or concentrate is in the product. That is, if a quarter-ounce was used to create a small bottle of tincture, the out-of-state customer would be at his or her limit after buying one bottle. Until a visit to the next store.
Prices: Medical-marijuana has been relatively cheap in Colorado, with an eighth of quality bud going for as little as $20. Experts say you can expect to pay more, possibly a lot more, at the retail stores in the near future because of huge demand.
4.) Dozens, if not hundreds, of marijuana shops will open in Colorado over the next couple of years.
But on Wednesday, just 34 retail shops will open in various towns, according to a list put together by Colorado's National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
Not all Colorado towns wanted the retail outlets, and some have moratoriums on the shops or are still drafting rules concerning them. That means, for the time being, no retail shops will be open just over the state line off State Route 160 or in towns closest to the border, like Cortez or Durango.
The nearest retail marijuana shops to Arizona appear to be in Telluride, about an eight-hour drive from Phoenix. Three retail stores are expected to open in the ski town.
The Denver Post also put out a list of stores planning to open as soon as Wednesday, but it's Denver-centric and has only 24 stores on it.
One place in Denver where legal marijuana should not be: The airport.
Image: David Benbennick via Wikipedia
3). Using legal marijuana in Colorado as a tourist could still get you in trouble.
Take the time to acquaint yourself with the law and the specific rules of the hotel or other lodging where you plan to use.
One place you can't even carry marijuana: The Denver International Airport, where officials will enforce a total ban starting this week.
Of particular concern to the establishment in Colorado, which wasn't fully on-board with the voter-approved law, is the problem of clouds of smoke possibly causing health problems for others and maybe offending someone. If you think you can simply whip out that joint while in the ski-lift line, think again.
Denver recently passed an ordinance that allows legal marijuana to be used anywhere on private residential property, including in a front yard or on a porch. But that same rule may not apply at every condo in every ski town.
We kept hearing that Breckenridge was a marijuana-friendly town while making calls on this subject this morning. We know that's partially true because the ski town, two hours from Denver, passed its own town ordinance a couple of years ago that made it legal for residents to possess an ounce or less of weed. And Breckenridge, population 4,500, will have three retail shops open — like Telluride — from day one of the retail program on January 1.
But town leaders, worried that too much open marijuana use could scare away other tourists, aren't really encouraging it. The town's police department wants visitors to know that the only legal place they can smoke marijuana would be in "private locations providing it is not prohibited by the property owner."
No sneaking off into an alley. If you get caught smoking outside, you can be subject to a $100 mail-in fine, the site says.
"It's a very interesting time in our history," says Kim Dykstra, Town of Breckenridge spokeswoman. "We're learning as we go."
Amendment 64 made possession of marijuana legal in Colorado before the shops could be set up, but so far it's "been no big deal," she says.
That is, people aren't getting wasted in the streets, smoking up in front of church ladies, or generally creating a bad name for marijuana users since the law passed.
Dykstra's heard of some hotels or other lodgings telling guests that pot smoke, just like cigarette smoke, isn't allowed in rooms. Others are less concerned she says.
One thing seems certain: The prospect of numerous legal marijuana users in Breckenridge hasn't slowed tourism. It's possible that the law could have resulted in the slightly higher rate of lodging occupancy and other measures of tourism that are predicted for 2014, she says. However, the quality of the snow typically is the overriding factor for any winter tourist to the ski town, and the snow is good this year, making it difficult to determine whether marijuana is responsible for the uptick, she says.
NORML offers a "Doobie-Dos" (and don'ts) that offers helpful hints, like being sure to bring cash and a photo ID if you plan to buy.
2). You may want to get up there now if you want to make history by being among the first to buy legal Colorado marijuana.
"We're expecting some long lines," says Jay Griffin, general manager of Dank Colorado in Denver, which expects to open on Wednesday.
All Dank customers, whether Colorado residents or not, will be limited to a quarter-ounce of pot just to make sure there's enough for everyone. Even then, Griffin says he's not sure if the supply will hold.
NORML's Gillette says she spoke with one Denver retailer who says he definitely expects to sell everything he has on hand, possibly the first day.
"It's just impossible to keep up with what the pot demand is going to be," she says.
Gillette puts the numbers in perspective: About 700 medical-marijuana shops in Colorado supply about 120,000 patients. The number of retail customers might be five or even 10 times the number of patients after Wednesday, yet customers will be served initially by only 34 stores.
Sounds like there will be a lot of empty shelves while new marijuana plants are grown.
1). Don't bring legal Colorado marijuana back to Arizona.
However, that rule may or may not apply to legal Arizona medical-marijuana users.
The Arizona Department of Public Safety tells us this morning that M-Day, as it might be called, isn't on the agency's radar. DPS officers apparently won't be hunting specifically for happy-go-lucky stoners driving back from Telluride with small amounts of marijuana — but state troopers always look for drug smugglers, in general, and they might have drug-sniffing dogs.
Without a medical-use authorization, possession of any amount of marijuana in Arizona is still a felony. Prosecutors can charge the case as a misdemeanor, but you'll probably be taken to jail after the traffic stop.
Navajo Nation police did not return a call for comment.
Arizona medicinal-marijuana users can legally possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana at a time, and there's no restriction on where it comes from. In other words, it seems like medical-card holders ought to be able to come back to Arizona with some of that legal Colorado weed still in their pockets.
But you know we're not lawyers, right? So don't come crying to us if you still end up in trouble.
After all, pot's still against federal law, and crossing state lines with something that's illegal under federal law could be charged by the feds. We just read a court case this morning about a couple of guys target-shooting in the Coronado National Forest who got stopped by a ranger and searched by a drug-sniffing dog. After a half-smoked joint was found, its owner was taken to jail, where he served several days before a conviction in federal court and a sentence of time served.
There's also the question of how you'd get the marijuana back to Arizona. If you take a bud or two through the airport, you might get popped by a body scanner. And if you drive back to Arizona after using marijuana legally in Colorado, you still are subject to a possible marijuana-DUI just for having THC or its metabolites in your blood.
Colorado will make history on Wednesday, and no one can blame you for being curious.
Just take care not to foul up your personal history with a marijuana faux-pas.
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