Washington and Colorado say you can legally smoke marijuana for fun now, but here's the catch: You can't legally buy it.
Voters in those states passed initiatives last month to legalize recreational use of marijuana. As of last Thursday, it's legal under Washington law for anyone 21 and over to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana, 16 ounces of "solid marijuana-infused product" (in other words, a pound of pot brownies) or 72 ounces of "marijuana-infused liquid."
In Colorado, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed Amendment 64 to the state Constitution on Monday, legalizing not only recreational use but also home growing, unlike in Washington.
Entrepreneurs are already planning stores to get more buck for the bhang.
"Part of the mission of our company is to transform marijuana from a back-alley drug being sold by criminals into a premium product being enjoyed by responsible adults," said Jamen Shively, chief executive of Diego Pellicer Inc., a new company that hopes to open a chain of stores in Washington and Colorado as soon as the legal issues are cleared up.
The company is named for Shively's great-grandfather, who grew hemp in the Philippines. It eventually became the biggest hemp supplier in the world around the turn of the 20th century. ("It's a family business," said Alan Valdes, a veteran securities trader who recently joined the company as chairman.)
"We're creating the category of premium marijuana," said Shively, who worked as a corporate strategy manager for Microsoft Corp. from 2003 to 2009 before leaving for a specialty food startup. "If you are producing or intending to produce premium-grade product that's in line with our ethos, we're interested in talking to you."
But Diego Pellicer and its customers may be in for a long wait.
The federal government still insists that marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance and that buying and selling it for any purpose remains a federal crime. Federal authorities officially even frown on the pot that patients get at medical marijuana dispensaries, although their policy is to look the other way in those cases.
For recreational users, well, "you're a felon," said Mark A.R. Kleiman, editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. "Period. End of paragraph."
And so is your retailer.
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