In a move that has been compared to the liquor privatization of the 1990’s in the state of Washington, the state of Colorado has voted to take the next step in the legalization of weed by increasing the personal possession quantity of marijuana to two ounces, and by amending the state constitution to make the possession of 5 grams or less of marijuana legal. This amendment will also legalize the possession of paraphernalia.
Colorado’s state legislature recently took a bold step toward a more sane approach to cannabis regulation, doubling the legal possession quantity for adults 21 and over. The new amount, which went into effect immediately, is a whopping two ounces. In addition, the state legislature has approved a bill that would allow dispensaries to sell one ounce or less of marijuana to recreational users as well. (Up until now, medical patients could legally purchase up to two ounces at a time.)
On the 20th. In May, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed a law that increases the amount of cannabis adults can legally possess in the state from one ounce to two ounces, effective immediately. The legislation also streamlines the process for expunging prior cannabis convictions and extends the right to expunge convictions to other cannabis-related offenses. Governor Polis Colorado voters were the first to legalize cannabis use for adults. In 2012, they passed Amendment 64, which made possession of up to an ounce of cannabis legal for adults 21 and older under the state’s constitution. Possession of one to two ounces of cannabis remains illegal, whereas Colorado’s previous legislation made possession of up to two ounces a felony. HB21-1090, filed by Assemblyman Alex Valdez and Senator Julie Gonazales, provides for the elimination of the criminal possession of up to two ounces of cannabis, increasing the legal possession limit from one ounce to two ounces for adults 21 and older. Also, possession of any amount of cannabis remains illegal for those under 21.
Act reduces arrests and administrative burdens
Aligning the statutory possession limit with the historical classification of the least serious drug possession offense is also intended to reduce the administrative burden of closing files on prior drug possession offenses. In addition, HB21-1090 adds possession of cannabis to the list of offenses for which prior convictions may be sealed without notice to the prosecuting attorney. This will make the process less time-consuming and expensive, and improve access to sealed documents for people with financial difficulties, who are also most at risk of being convicted of possession offences. The bill also extends the right to de-register to those convicted of a Class 3 felony for growing marijuana.
Broad coalition of support
VS Strategies played a leading role in lobbying for HB21-1090, and the bill was supported by a broad coalition of advocates, organizations and businesses, including the ACLU of Colorado, the Black, Brown and Red Badge Coalition, the Colorado Cannabis Manufacturer’s Association, Kind Colorado, Native Roots and Terrapin Care Station. US Strategies partner Mason Tvert, one of the leading proponents of Amendment 64 and co-leader of the 2012 initiative campaign, said Amendment 64 was developed at a time when no jurisdiction in the world had yet legalized cannabis for non-medical use. Many voters are still questioning whether ownership of an ounce should be allowed, let alone an ounce or two. We knew that at some point there would be a desire to increase the property line, so Amendment 64 was specifically designed to allow for that. These reforms are just the latest sign that a majority of Coloradans and their elected officials are satisfied with the state’s decision to end prohibition and regulate cannabis for adult use. We commend our legislators and the Governor for their continued leadership on cannabis policy issues. Jordan Wellington, partner at VS Strategies, who played a key role in developing and lobbying for HB21-1090, said: Even though cannabis is now legal for adults in Colorado, the side effects of past convictions still haunt many people. This bill removes a number of structural barriers to the effective closure of prior cannabis convictions. If the process is less time-consuming and costly, it will be more accessible to those who may be affected by cannabis prohibition laws. It also promotes a more effective and efficient allocation of Colorado’s limited judicial resources.