Here in the mile high city, there a perceptible buzz in the air (pun always intended), because recreational marijuana goes on sale January 1st and with the clock counting down, it seems all eyes are on Colorado.
While the country is awash in rumors about the upcoming changes, I have sifted through the state legislation, news segments and stoner blogs to give you a realistic view of what “going recreational” will really mean.
Currently, the only way to legally purchase marijuana is with a medical registry card. Costs include a doctor’s visit and consultation, application fee and certified mailing cost. Doctor’s visits average about $75 depending on the doctor and location. Currently the application fee is $35. (The fee was lowered from $110 on June 1, 2007, and was again lowered from $90 on January 1, 2012.) The first hearing for an additional reduction in fee cost will take place on December 17th, 2013. Certified mailing typically ranges from $3-$6.
This means medical marijuana cards total just over $100 before any marijuana purchases are made and cards need to be renewed annually.
While many current patients are excited about the prospect of avoiding the doctor, we now know there will be a hefty tax associated with recreational marijuana. Colorado passed Proposition AA on November 5th of this year, creating a 15 percent excise tax on the wholesale price and an initial 10 percent sales tax on the retail price. Some cities have added a local tax; Boulder for example is imposing a 5 percent excise tax and a 3.5 percent sales tax on top of the newly created recreational tax. Medical marijuana, by comparison, is only subject to state and local tax. Denver is currently 7.62 percent.
To put it another way – for an eighth of marijuana, selling in Denver at $30 recreational, the tax rate will be nearly 29 percent, or $8.59. If you purchase an eighth a month at $30 you will spend on average $103 annually in recreational tax, virtually the same cost as a registry card application or renewal.
As New Year looms nearer, many are concerned about the availability of recreational marijuana. At current standing, only 12 stores in Colorado will be open to the public on January 1st, 2014.
For those planning to purchase on New Year’s Day, this means standing in line potentially for hours in record cold temperatures and an almost certain shortage of products—made no easier by the influx of tourists and dispensary tours on charter buses; recreational customers should expect longer lines and shortages for at least the next year.
While the ups and downs are apparent, whether or not to go recreational is a decision each consumer should make on their own. Additionally, we should remember that this is a time for celebration, a true mark that cannabis prohibition is coming to an end. The entire country is watching as Colorado takes the first steps in a completely unique time in our history – it is a time to be safe, respectful and joyous.
Tell us below, will you head to Colorado to celebrate the new year?