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Pot becomes legal in Colorado tomorrow

Beginning January 1, 2014, Colorado will be the first state allowing the recreational sale of pot. According to a CNN report, under the new law Colorado, residents will be able to buy marijuana like alcohol, except the amount of cannabis is limited on an ounce and is likely to cost about $200 or more.

Voters approved new law in record numbers

  Although the sale of marijuana is still very controversial, Colorado became the first state to allow its use after 65% of Colorado voted yes. Washington has also legalized the recreational use of marijuana but will not have retail outlets until later this year. Proponents of the new law claim that pot is not as dangerous as smoking tobacco or drinking alcohol. They also believe legalizing it may save the state as much as $10 billion each year which it spends to enforce laws against its use. There is also another benefit: a 25% state tax, plus the usual state sales tax of 2.9%, will bring in millions of dollars for the state of Colorado. Experts estimate new tax dollars could be as high as $67 million a year with an estimated $27.5 million going to educational efforts in the state.

How does legalization affect medical marijuana?

  Medical marijuana users will still be able to marijuana with a physician's recommendation, which will allow them to avoid paying the additional taxes. They will, however, have to continue to purchase their product from medical dispensaries, which are separate from recreational pot retailers. Most of the recreational retailers will be located in Denver and will be open by January 1, allowing residents who are 21 years and older to purchase up to an ounce with a Colorado ID. Colorado officials, however, have only issued a few licenses and believe that supplies could be exhausted by the first day. Other retailers are in the process of completing what has been called a “lengthy licensing process.”

Can I smoke in public?

  In many cities throughout the state, smoking pot will be limited to private property. Officials also note that public places which are governed by the state's Clean Indoor Air Act will also be off limits. Other cities such as Colorado Springs and Greeley have also instituted stricter laws and will not allow recreational marijuana stores in their local jurisdictions.

Pot and driving under the influence

  Drivers who smoke pot and operate a motor vehicle can expect to be ticketed and charged with DUI if they drive with more than 5 nanograms of active THC in their blood. For many smokers this means they will be unable to drive up to three hours after consuming pot, although this will vary by person. Marijuana use remains illegal in other states and the federal government also has laws regulating its use. As of now the U.S. Justice Department has said it won't challenge Colorado or other states with laws legalizing recreational marijuana, but according to attorney Alan Dershowitz, "The federal government still takes the position technically that you're violating federal law if you're complying with the state law. But the Obama administration, I believe, has recently has taken a turn on its approach to drug enforcement."