Washington and Colorado legalized marijuana Tuesday, making the two states' pot policies more liberal than Amsterdam and making history in the process.
"These two states are the only places on the face of the Earth that have actually put the imprimatur of the state on legalization of cannabis," says Allen St. Pierre, the executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
Elsewhere, marijuana law is either decriminalized, ignored, or convoluted. But Washington and Colorado have now completely legalized the possession and use of marijuana for all adults and all purposes.
It should be noted, however, that the two states' laws will contradict federal law, which still considers marijuana an illegal drug. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who opposed his state's initiative, was quick to point this out after it passed.
"The voters have spoken and we have to respect their will. This will be a complicated process, but we intend to follow through. That said, federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug, so don't break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly," Hickenlooper said.
But as long as the states take proper roles in enforcing their new laws, unlike California, their resident stoners have no need to worry, says St. Pierre.
"(California) hasn't set up a regulatory scheme. They have no regulation and compliance structures. That's why the federal government has gone in there in last year and shut down dispensaries," St. Pierre says.
Here's a breakdown of what exactly those policies are and what they mean for the cannabis-inclined residents on the frontier of the legalization movement:
Colorado has long been at the forefront of marijuana reform, but on Tuesday, the state may have taken the final step. About 55 percent of the voters voted "Yes" on Amendment 64, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol initiative, which amends the state constitution to allow anyone over 21 years of age to use, possess, and grow marijuana for personal purposes. The law takes effect once the election is certified, which should take about two months. The specifics:
How much? Adults will be able to purchase up to an ounce of cannabis from specially-regulated retail stores.
Where? Adults will be able to use it anywhere, except in public spaces, like on the street, in public parks, or outside personal property. They'll also be able to grow up to six marijuana plants of their own. Only three of these plants can be budding at once, and the plants must be grown on private property.
What about driving? Driving while high will be illegal, and could result in a DUI. As with alcohol, a driver would have to show probable cause to be pulled over, and if a person is found with 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood in their system (determined via blood test), they can be charged. That THC level is essentially the equivalent of having smoked or ingested marijuana within the last 2 hours.
Who will regulate it? The growth and sale of marijuana will be regulated "from seed to sale" by the state's Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division, which will track seeds using radio frequency ID tags and ensure the product is up to snuff.
Will it be taxed? The initiative instructs the state legislature to tax wholesale ganja at 15 percent. It will also be subject to the states' 2.9 percent sales tax.
How much will weed cost? The wholesale price is estimated to be about $62 per ounce and $1,000 per pound. The retail price, once state and local taxes are considered, is estimated to be about $137 per ounce (the maximum amount that can be purchased at a time) through 2016.
Where will the revenue go? According to a paper written by Pat Oglesby at the Center For New Revenue, The first $40 million of tax receipts each year will go toward public schools. But tax revenue will only be a fraction of the total revenue generated. There will be an estimated $12 million in savings from reduced criminal costs, and local governments will raise $14 million yearly from sales.
Washington state's new law is similar to Colorado's, only with more taxes. The state is already a leader in vice taxes—its liquor and tobacco taxes are the nation's highest and fifth-highest, respectively—and this trend will now apply to pot. Initiative 502, which also passed with 55 percent of the vote, would tax weed three times: when a grower sells product to a processor, when a processor sells to a retailer, and when a retailer sells to a customer. The result will be higher costs, higher revenue, and slightly fewer tokers than Colorado. The specifics:
How much? Adults will be able to purchase up to an ounce of cannabis from specially-regulated retail stores. These stores won't open until 2014, but until then, adults can possess and toke legally.
Where? Adults will be able to chronically use anywhere but in public spaces, similar to Colorado's stipulations. Violation of this results in fine, but no arrest. Unlike Colorado, only state-licensed farmers will be permitted to grow pot plants.
What about driving? As in Colorado, driving while high will be illegal, resulting in a DUI. The 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood limit applies, determined via blood or breath test by a medical professional.
Who will regulate it? The growth and sale of marijuana will be regulated by the state's liquor control board, its department of health and its department of agriculture.
Will it be taxed? The initiative levies a 25 percent tax on producers, processors, and retailers, plus the standard sales tax at purchase.
How much will weed cost? An estimated $467 per ounce retail, more than twice that of Colorado.
Where will the revenue go? According to the Center for New Revenue, The law would raise $564 million in taxes in 2015 alone, $214 of which would go to the State Health Plan, $198 million to the general treasury, and $43 million to marijuana education and public health programs.
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Seth Cline is a reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow him on Twitter or reach him at email@example.com.