A lot has changed since Colorado voted to legalize the recreational use of cannabis in 2014, but whether the changes have been good or bad depends on who you ask, and what evidence they choose to show you. The resulting confusion has led to many people misunderstanding the state of the law. Colorado and federal laws continue to impose hefty penalties for many drug crimes. Even pot is legal only under certain circumstances. Many Colorado residents continue to face serious drug charges every day.
Perhaps the only thing everyone can agree on is that legal cannabis sales have brought in a lot of tax revenue for Colorado. Before 2014, proponents of drug law reform argued that legalization, combined with taxes on and regulation of cannabis growers and sellers, would be a boon for Colorado’s budget, while eliminating the crime associated with pot. In fact, a cannabis black market has continued to carry on in the state. According to some analysts, it’s bigger than ever.
Some black market growers operate legally, using loopholes under Colorado’s medical marijuana laws, but sell their product to dealers who operate in states where cannabis is not legal. Others work without regard to the law. In addition to requiring them to abide by tax laws, Colorado requires licensed pot growers and dealers to document everything they sell, and to follow a host of regulations and procedures.
Meanwhile, average residents are legally allowed only up to one ounce of pot at a time. Dispensaries have faced serious legal consequences when they have been found guilty of selling their customers more than an ounce a day.
And, of course, cannabis remains illegal under federal law. This means that federal agencies like the Drug Enforcement Administration could conceivably arrest people on pot-related charges even in states where marijuana is legal.
Put all this information together and it paints a confusing picture. And where there is confusion about what is legal and what is not, it’s easy for average people to end up on the wrong side of the law.