On this date in history, Colorado became the first place in the U.S. in which recreational marijuana could be sold legally in small amounts in specially approved stores. Residents 21 and over were allowed to buy up to an ounce at a time, and grow up to six plants at home. Vendors and growers were required to pass criminal background checks. In January, 2014 alone, the state of Colorado took in some $3.5 million in marijuana related taxes and fees.
Colorado voters approved a measure in November 2012 making it legal for residents over 21 to buy small amounts of the stimulant. However, it still remained illegal on the federal level. But in August of 2013 the U.S. Department of Justice issued a guidance memo saying federal authorities should not pursue prosecution in Colorado and Washington state (where stores would open later in the year).
The D.O. J., in the memo, stated:
The Department’s guidance in this memorandum rests on its expectation that states and local governments that have enacted laws authorizing marijuana-related conduct will implement strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems that will address the threat those state laws could pose to public safety, public health, and other law enforcement interests.”
As of 2016, twenty-six states and the District of Columbia have laws legalizing marijuana in some form. Three other states will soon join them after recently passing measures permitting use of medical marijuana.
According to Governing Data, a source for statistics, graphics and public records covering state and local governments, after the elections of November 2016:
Seven states and the District of Columbia have adopted more expansive laws legalizing marijuana for recreational use. Most recently, California, Massachusetts and Nevada all passed measures in November legalizing recreational marijuana. California’s Prop. 64 measure allows adults 21 and older to now possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants in their homes. Other tax and licensing provisions of the law will not take effect until January 2018. In Nevada, adults will be able to legally possess up to one ounce of marijuana beginning Jan. 1. A similar ballot measure in Massachusetts allows for possession of pot starting on Dec. 15.”