How soon until Colorado opens recreational marijuana dispensaries?

Ngaio looks at the legalization timeline

Ngaio Bealum is a Sacramento comedian, activist and marijuana expert. Email him questions at

When is Colorado gonna have legal pot stores?

—Irma the Impatient

Hold your horses. While it is true that Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill legalizing and regulating recreational-cannabis stores, none are expected to open until at least January 2014. Medical-cannabis clubs have first dibs on applying for recreational-weed club permits. They can start applying this October. Cities and counties can still decide whether or not to ban clubs, so Colorado may end up with “dry” counties and “green” counties.

There are still a few problems: The new law bans the display of cannabis magazines in stores. You heard me: Cannabis-themed magazines now have to be kept in the back, like porn magazines. High Times magazine and a few other cannacentric publications have already mounted a court challenge.

The new law also contains a troublesome DUI provision that mandates an automatic conviction for having 5 millileters of THC in the bloodstream. Weed isn’t like booze. THC can stay in your bloodstream for weeks after you’ve used marijuana. In fact, there are other states, like Arizona and Utah, that also have “de facto DUI” laws on the books.

There is also a looming problem with the Internal Revenue Service and banking. As it is now, medical-cannabis clubs aren’t allowed to take credit cards or have bank accounts, because selling marijuana is illegal under federal law. The IRS also uses a law left over from the 1980s to keep legitimate cannabis clubs from deducting normal business expenses, like paying employees or the cost of medicine.

We will see what happens. The Department of Justice has yet to make a move. It may be because Attorney General Eric Holder has bigger problems right now, what with snooping on reporters, or they could just be biding their time before attempting a crackdown. Plus, Washington state’s regulations are proceeding smoothly, and other states like Oregon and Rhode Island are looking at passing tax-and-regulate legislation. The DOJ and the Drug Enforcement Administration are in a sticky spot.

All in all, though: This is awesome! It’s about time.

High! I try to talk to some of my “square” friends and relatives about cannabis legalization, but it always ends in a big argument. Are there ways to keep this from happening?


Right? It happens all the time. You patiently explain how cannabis legalization would cut court costs, alleviate prison overcrowding, help the economy by providing jobs and tax revenue, help sick people get well, and all that other good stuff, and people still want to call you names and troll you on your Facebook page. Gah!

The first thing to do is to stay calm. Don’t let them kill your buzz. Plus, staying calm while another person is ranting is hella fun in a healthy, passive-aggressive kind of way. Be patient. Most people will not suddenly change their minds and be all, “OMG! You are so right! How could I have been so misguided?” It takes time. They will come around, slowly but surely.