People heading to Colorado to check out the recreational marijuana scene are in for a surprise. A timely announcement through an industry bulletin signed by Jim Burack, director of the state’s Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED), officially removed the quarter ounce limit for non-residents.
Adults who are unable to provide local residency identification can now buy up to an (one) ounce of pot- just like a Colorado resident. “Inconsistent purchasing regulations didn’t make sense for the industry because having two different purchasing limits turned every transaction into an algebra equation,” said Mark Slaugh, executive director of the Cannabis Business Alliance and CEO of iComply.
The Retail Marijuana Sunset Bill (HB 1261), signed by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, is where the update originated from. Page 7 Section 8 (12-43.4-402) of the bill amended the old guidelines that prevented cannabis retailers from selling more than a quarter ounce to tourists. Such limits were created in 2013 to discourage non-local consumers from taking weed home, possibly to states where the herb is illegal. Government officials who established the ruling previously concluded that visitors wouldn’t be able to finish an ounce of bud during their trip, which could promote cannabis diversion outside of Colorado.
“The regulation was enacted because Colorado wanted to be extra diligent about diversion. However, as other states, such as Oregon and Washington, came online without differing purchasing regulations, we were able to see that tourists were not causing the diversion problem. Diversion is actually a result of the black market,” said Slaugh.
Black Market Growers
After years of monitoring the legal marijuana industry, regulators uncovered that tourists bringing local weed home wasn’t a huge issue as formerly perceived. Instead, the group has grown increasingly worried about the number of unregistered cannabis cultivators in the area. Law enforcement representatives confirmed that several rogue, Colorado-based growers could be responsible for supplying weed to nearby states without legal marijuana laws.
The problem resulted in a series of arrests in the past couple of months, led by the North Metro Task Force- a law enforcement agency with multi-jurisdiction capabilities that specializes in drug-related cases. By law, adults over the age of 21 are allowed to cultivate up to six plants privately in Colorado, with a maximum of three that can be in the flowering stages.
The MED mentioned that most cannabis retailers in the state are vigilant about adhering to recreational guidelines for selling weed. To date, the department has never cited a store for selling over the regulated limit to out-of-town customers. However, many businesses did express how difficult it was to keep track of two purchasing limits. “It complicates everything,” said Mike Lord, director of business operations for LivWell, a chain of cannabis dispensaries with over 14 branches. Before the new purchasing guidelines, some stores took a hands-off, automated approach to capping the amount of bud consumers purchased through a POS (point-of-sale) system, like Flowhub.