Amendment 64 - CSPM

Amendment 64

When it comes to marijuana, Colorado has a long history of firsts. From being the first state to legalize recreational marijuana use through Amendment 64 in 2012, to the first federal conviction in 1937, Colorado has retained a unique history with marijuana that continues to evolve today. After the passage of Amendment 64, the City of Colorado Springs opted out of the sale of recreational marijuana within its jurisdiction. However, medical marijuana can be produced and sold to registered marijuana patients through licensed medical dispensaries.

– From the CSPM Curator of History

With the passage of Amendment 64 in 2012, Colorado, along with Washington, would become the first state to legalize marijuana for recreational use. However, within Colorado there are actually two laws that govern the use of marijuana: One for recreational use and one for medicinal use. In November 2000, 54% of Colorado voters approved Amendment 20, which modified the state constitution to allow the use of marijuana for “state approved patients with written medical consent.” When Colorado voters recognized the medicinal and economic benefits of decriminalization, this paved the way for a slew of state marijuana decriminalization laws in which Colorado has acted as a national model of interest.

Colorado first restricted marijuana use in 1917, however laws were not enforced until 1937 when the Marijuana Tax Act went into effect. Passed in 1937, the Marijuana Tax Act placed a heavy tax on the sale of marijuana (both industrial hemp and cannabis) in an effort to suppress the distribution of the substance. The Act was seen as heavy handed and was opposed by the American Medical Association (AMA) because a tax was placed on physicians prescribing marijuana and retail pharmacists who sold the popular drug for various medical ailments.

On October 1, 1937, the first day that the Marijuana Tax Act went into effect, Colorado saw its first marijuana related arrest. After police raided the Lexington Hotel in Denver they arrested a 58-year-old white farmer named Samuel Caldwell and a 26-year-old unemployed laborer named Moses Baca. The Federal Bureau of Narcotics and Denver City police had arrested Caldwell for dealing marijuana and Baca for possession. Colorado’s Samuel Caldwell would go into the history books as the first marijuana seller convicted under US federal law and was fined $1,000 along with a conviction of 4-years “hard labor” in Leavenworth Penitentiary.

Since the enactment of Amendment 64, Colorado adults aged 21 or older can cultivate up to 6 marijuana plants and legally possess up to one ounce while traveling. Medical patients prescribed marijuana by a physician cannot fill prescriptions at a pharmacy since marijuana is still classified federally as a schedule I drug. Patients must instead fill prescriptions from a recognized caregiver called a dispensary that offers consumers a range of marijuana options. According to state polls, Coloradans continue to support legalization of marijuana for recreational use and surveys have shown that from 2009 to 2015 the rates in which teenagers smoked marijuana has decreased in Colorado.

Generously Submitted by Alex Archuleta, Historian

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