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Legalization – Part 1: Law of the Land


DENVER, Colo. (WGGB) — Smoke it, eat it, even add powder form to your coffee – marijuana is legal in Denver and other Colorado communities supporting Amendment 64.

A similar campaign for a 2016 ballot initiative in Massachusetts is already underway, leaving the question of recreational marijuana up to voters.

In Colorado, it was an eight year battle that eventually was won by marijuana proponents.

“The voters had spoken so it was our job to implement the will of the voters and to do so actually on a relatively quick time frame,” Marijuana Policy Director for the City and Counter of Denver, Ashley Kilroy, said.

Between November 2012 and December 2013, the state legislator convened a task force to create regulations, while the county and City of Denver did the same. As a way to ease into the retail marijuana scene, the city decided to only allow already operating medical marijuana dispensaries to get the first retail licenses for the first two years.

“The individuals would apply at excise and license,” Kilroy said. “They then had to go through a public hearing process with neighbors to talk about whether or not these entities had been good actors as medical marijuana facilities.”

After a series of inspections, 102 dispensaries opened their doors in Denver on New Year’s Day.

“On day one we actually had a line out the door and around the building,” Elan Nelson of successful dispensary The Medicine Man said.

The dispensaries are all over the city, include next door to Leilani Hanrahan.

“I never really smelled anything until fairly lately when it is now retail but it doesn’t bother me in the least,” Hanrahan said.

“The feedback is all over the place,” Kilroy said. “There have been neighbors who have not like having the retail marijuana shops in their neighborhood. There are neighbors who don’t like the concentration of shops in their neighborhood.”

Stores can’t be within 1,000 feet of each other, schools, or other sensitive locations, the stores must close at 7PM, and are rigorously tracked and inspected by the city and state.

“Extremely well regulated, extremely stringent. We are held to a very, very high standard,” Nelson said. “I think it’s great. I think it’s great for legitimizing the industry.”

To buy the marijuana, everyone has to be 21. In-states residents can buy one ounce, while out of state residents can buy a quarter of an ounce.

Anyone can have up to one ounce on their person, as long as they are 21. To smoke, though, you must have the permission of a private property owner. It’s illegal to smoke in your car.

“Places like a restaurant, that is arguably private but public in nature, you would not be permitted to smoke somewhere like that,” Kilroy said.

Still, it’s popular. The regular sales tax plus a 3.5% special marijuana tax brought in a combined $600,000 to Denver in January alone.

“That tax revenue will still go into the general fund but the intent is to use the special tax, a portion of the special tax, for regulation, enforcement, and education,” Kilroy said.

Areas of concern that many across the city are still fine tuning.

Tuesday, ABC40 explores the legal drug purchasing process, what’s available, and how it’s grown.

Legalization Part 2: The Marijuana Store
Legalization Part 3: The Local Impact
Legalization Part 4: The Big Debate
Legalization Part 5: The Mass. Effect

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