Amendment 64

By: Andie Adams Email
By: Andie Adams Email

Amendment 64 proposes amending the Colorado Constitution to:

  • regulate the growth, manufacture, and sale of marijuana in a system of licensed establishments overseen by state and local governments

  • allow individuals who are 21 years old or older to possess, use, display, purchase, transport, and transfer—to individuals who are 21 years old or older—one ounce or less of marijuana

  • allow individuals who are 21 years old or older to possess, grow, process, and transport up to six marijuana plants, with certain restrictions

  • require the state legislature to enact an excise tax on marijuana sales, of which the first $40 million in revenue raised annually must be credited to a state fund used for constructing public schools. The excise tax must be approved by a separate statewide vote

  • require the state legislature to enact legislation concerning the growth, processing, and sale of industrial hemp


Currently, individuals who grow, transfer, manufacture, possess, or sell marijuana violate federal, state, and, in some cases, local laws.
However, state penalties for marijuana offenses are not as severe as penalties for many other drug-related offenses. Although the use of marijuana for medical purposes is not authorized under federal law, Colorado and several other states have enacted legislation allowing the use of medical marijuana. Right now, state regulation of medical marijuana establishments has generally been allowed to occur, although the federal government has ordered some businesses to close.

Amendment 64 states that its provisions are not intended to:

  • allow driving under the influence of or while impaired by marijuana

  • permit underage access to or use of marijuana

  • affect the ability of an employer to restrict the use or possession of marijuana by employees

  • prevent a school, hospital, or other property owner from prohibiting or otherwise regulating the use, possession, growth, manufacture, or sale of marijuana on the property

Arguments For

  1. Current state policies that criminalize marijuana fail to prevent its use and availability and have contributed to an underground market. By creating a framework for marijuana to be legal, taxed, and regulated under state law, Amendment 64 provides a new direction for the state.

  2. It is better for adults who choose to use marijuana to grow it themselves or purchase it from licensed businesses that are required to follow health and safety standards, rather than purchasing products of unknown origin from individuals involved in the underground market. A regulated market will provide a safer environment for adults who purchase marijuana and, by requiring age verification, will restrict underage access to marijuana. The measure will also add sales tax revenue and may add job opportunities to the state economy.

  3. The adoption of Amendment 64 will send a message to the federal government and other states that marijuana should be legal and regulated and that industrial hemp should be treated differently than marijuana. Adults should have the choice to use marijuana, just as they have that choice with other substances such as alcohol and tobacco. Further, because of its commercial applications in fuel, building materials, clothing, and food, industrial hemp should be allowed to be grown, processed and sold domestically.

Arguments Against

  1. Even if Amendment 64 is adopted, the possession, manufacture, and sale of marijuana remain illegal under current federal law, so the adoption of the measure may expose Colorado consumers, businesses, and governments to federal criminal charges and other risks. People who invest time and money to open marijuana establishments have no protections against federal seizure of their money and property. Because federal banking laws do not allow banks to accept the proceeds of, or loan money for, activities that are illegal under federal law, marijuana businesses will likely need to be cash-only businesses. In addition, enhanced federal scrutiny and competition from retail marijuana establishments could jeopardize the existing medical marijuana system.

  2. Marijuana impairs users' coordination and reasoning and can lead to addiction. Allowing state-regulated stores to sell marijuana will make it more accessible, which is likely to increase use and may give the impression that there are no health risks or negative consequences to marijuana use. Greater accessibility and acceptance of marijuana may increase the number of children and young adults who use the drug, which, due to their ongoing brain development, may be especially dangerous. Furthermore, because more people are likely to use marijuana, the number of those who drive while under the influence of or while impaired by the drug may increase.

  3. A ballot measure cannot direct any vote cast by a legislator. Amendment 64 asks voters to approve a regulatory structure for the sale of marijuana, but does not specify critical details about what the regulations will entail. Furthermore, because the provisions of Amendment 64 will be in the state constitution and not in the state statutes, where most other business regulations appear, there may be unintended consequences that cannot be easily remedied. For example, the state legislature cannot adjust the deadlines, fees, and other details regarding the implementation of the measure. In addition, by constitutionally permitting marijuana use, the measure, despite its stated intent, could create conflicts with existing employment, housing, and other laws and policies that ban the use of illegal drugs.


    Personal use of marijuana. Under the measure, individuals who are 21 years old or older (adults) may possess, use, display, purchase, and transport up to one ounce of marijuana. Adults may share up to one ounce of marijuana with other individuals who are at least 21 years old, but are not allowed to sell marijuana. The use of marijuana in public or in a manner that endangers others is prohibited.

    The measure allows adults to grow their own marijuana or to purchase marijuana from a licensed retail marijuana store with proof of age. Adults may possess up to six marijuana plants, of which three or fewer are mature, flowering plants, as well as the marijuana harvested from the plants, provided that the plants are kept in an enclosed and locked space and are not grown openly or publicly. The marijuana harvested must remain on the premises where the plants were grown. Adults are also permitted to possess, use, display, purchase, and transport marijuana accessories that are used for the growth, manufacture, and consumption of marijuana.

    Regulation by the state. Amendment 64 requires the Colorado Department of Revenue (DOR) to adopt regulations by July 1, 2013, concerning licensing and security requirements for marijuana establishments, the prevention of marijuana sales to underage individuals, labeling requirements for marijuana products, health and safety standards for marijuana manufacturing, advertising restrictions, and civil penalties for violations. The measure specifies that the regulations may not prohibit marijuana establishments or make the operation of such establishments unreasonably impracticable.

    Regulation by local governments. Local governments may enact regulations concerning the time, place, manner, and number of marijuana establishments in their community. In addition, local governments may prohibit the operation of marijuana establishments through an ordinance or a referred ballot measure; citizens may pursue such a prohibition through an initiated ballot measure. Even if marijuana establishments are prohibited by a local government, individuals in that community who are at least 21 years old may still possess, grow, and use marijuana as allowed by the measure.

    Types of licenses. Under Amendment 64, marijuana growth, processing, testing, and sales are authorized under four types of licenses: Marijuana Cultivation Facility, Marijuana Product Manufacturing Facility, Marijuana Testing Facility and Retail Marijuana Store.

    Taxes. Under the measure, marijuana is subject to existing state and local sales taxes and a new state excise tax to be set by the legislature. An excise tax is a tax on the use or consumption of certain products such as gasoline, alcohol, or cigarettes. The tax is generally collected at the wholesale level and passed on to consumers in the retail price. Marijuana cultivation facilities will pay the excise tax when selling marijuana to either marijuana product manufacturing facilities or to retail marijuana stores. Amendment 64 requires the legislature to enact the state excise tax; however, the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR) requires a separate statewide vote to approve the tax and any future tax

    Industrial hemp. The measure requires the state legislature to enact, by July 1, 2014, legislation concerning the growth, processing, and sale of industrial hemp, but does not specify what provisions must be included, or whether such activities should be authorized. The measure defines industrial hemp as the same plant as marijuana, but with a THC concentration of no more than three-tenths percent. THC is
    the primary psychoactive component of marijuana. Federal law currently prohibits the growth of industrial hemp, although it is legal to sell imported hemp and hemp products in the United States. Hemp seeds are sold as food, and hemp fibers are used to manufacture rope, clothing, and building materials.

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