Colorado Is 'New Amsterdam:' State's Historic Marijuana Laws Compared To Netherlands' Long-Fabled Pot Laws

The state's new progressive marijuana laws signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper just last week, established Colorado as the world's first legal, regulated and taxed recreational marijuana market for adults -- just call Colorado "New Amsterdam."

These new laws in Colorado and Washington state are without historical precedent and the consequences will likely be closely-watched around the world. In an interview with The Huffington Post, the authors/researchers behind the book "Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs To Know" pointed out that the marijuana laws in Colorado are truly groundbreaking, comparing them to the long-fabled laws in Amsterdam:

A common error is to believe that the Netherlands has already legalized cannabis (the preferred term for marijuana in Europe). What has been de facto legalized is only the retail sale of 5 grams (about a sixth of an ounce) or less. Production and wholesale distribution is still illegal, and that prohibition is enforced, which is largely why the price of sinsemilla in the “coffee shops” isn’t much different than the price in American dispensaries.

Mason Tvert, communications director for Marijuana Policy Project and co-director of the Yes on Amendment 64 campaign in Colorado, recently broke down the differences between the marijuana laws in Colorado and Amsterdam.

How much pot can you legally buy in Colorado now? Amsterdam?

None yet in Colorado, unless you are a licensed medical marijuana patient, in which case you can purchase up to two ounces of marijuana. Adult-use marijuana retail stores are expected to begin opening in January 2014, at which point Colorado residents 21 and older will be able to purchase up to one ounce of marijuana and non-residents will be able to purchase up to one-quarter of an ounce. In Amsterdam, residents and non-residents 18 and older are able to purchase up to 5 grams of marijuana in designated coffee shops, although it is not actually legal; it is tolerated.

How many plants can you legally grow in Colorado now? Amsterdam?

In Colorado, adults 21 and older are able to grow up to six marijuana plants (of which up to three can be flowering) in an enclosed, locked space. It is illegal to cultivate any amount of marijuana in Amsterdam, although people caught growing five or fewer plants are often not prosecuted if they hand them over to authorities.

How much marijuana can you possess legally in Colorado now? Amsterdam?

Adults in Colorado who are 21 years of age and older are allowed to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and up to six marijuana plants, and they may possess the yield of those plants in the same place where it is grown. Possession of any amount of marijuana is technically illegal in Amsterdam, although individuals 18 and older who are found in possession of up to 5 grams are generally not prosecuted if they hand it over to police.

Can you smoke pot in your home legally in Colorado now? Amsterdam?

It is legal under Colorado law for adults 21 and older to consume marijuana in their homes. In Amsterdam, consuming marijuana in your home is not legal, but it is generally tolerated.

Can you smoke pot in public legally in Colorado now? Amsterdam?

Open and public use of marijuana is still illegal in Colorado. It is also illegal in Amsterdam.

Is hemp now legal to grow in Colorado? Amsterdam?

The Colorado legislature adopted legislation last month to initiate the development of a regulatory framework for the cultivation, distribution, and processing of hemp. Last year, the legislature approved a bill creating a privately funded pilot program to study whether growing industrial hemp is an effective way to clean polluted soil (a process known as phytoremediation). Industrial hemp cultivation is legal in the Netherlands.

How much pot can you give to an adult friend in Colorado now? Amsterdam?

In Colorado, adults 21 and older can legally give up to one ounce of marijuana to another adult 21 or older as long as it is for no remuneration. It is illegal for anyone in Amsterdam to give any amount of marijuana to another person, although it is generally tolerated if it is less than 5 grams and the individuals are both 18 or older.

Can dispensaries sell both medical marijuana and recreational marijuana in Colorado? Amsterdam?

Legislation adopted last month in Colorado permits medical and adult-use retail facilities to operate at the same locations with certain limitations as long as the local government also permits dual licensing. The Netherlands adopted a medical marijuana law in 2003 that allows people with certain medical conditions to obtain medical marijuana from pharmacies. Obviously these individuals are also able to purchase marijuana for medical uses from coffee shops, just as licensed patients in Colorado will be able to purchase marijuana for medical uses from adult-use stores.

Can you buy marijuana-infused food and other products in Colorado? Amsterdam?

Marijuana-infused products are currently sold legally to medical marijuana patients in Colorado medical marijuana dispensaries. They will also be sold in marijuana retail stores when they open next year. In Amsterdam, it is illegal to sell or purchase marijuana-infused products, but the sale of a limited variety of products – particularly baked goods – is generally tolerated.

Will there be marijuana cafes in Colorado, similar to those in Amsterdam?

It remains to be seen whether there will be legal marijuana cafes in Colorado. Much of it will depend upon the interpretation of the law and the specifics of any regulations created to govern it. If there are not initially cafes allowed in Colorado, there will be in the near future as attitudes continue to change and elected officials recognize the public demand for –- and benefits of –- such establishments. Legislation adopted last month in Colorado prohibits the smoking of marijuana in locations where tobacco smoking is prohibited under the state's Clean Indoor Air Act. It does not prohibit other forms of consumption, such as vaporizing or consuming infused products.

Cannabis coffee shops are technically illegal in Amsterdam, but they are tolerated.

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