A look back: The timeline of the marijuana legalization movement in Colorado

Jessica Smith
Summit Daily News


Colorado becomes one of 10 states to decriminalize marijuana, based on a federal commission report from 1972 from the Nixon administration. The report, known as The National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse, or the Shafer Commission, recommended that Congress lessen penalties for marijuana use and possession and use other methods to discourage heavy use. The Colorado law made possessing less than 1 ounce a petty offence, with a $100 fine, with harsher consequences for possessing more than an ounce, intent to distribute and cultivation.

(National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws)


Colorado legalizes medical marijuana. Amendment 20, known as the Medical Use of Marijuana Act, passes with 54 percent support from voters. The law allows marijuana use “for persons suffering from debilitating medical conditions.” These conditions include cancer, glaucoma and treatment for conditions such as seizures, severe pain, etc. Patients can possess no more than 2 ounces and no more than six plants. Smoking in public was not allowed.

(0-4-287, Article XVII, Section 14, Ballotpedia)


The 2006 general election offers Amendment 44, a statewide measure for legalizing marijuana. It fails, with 58 percent of voters against it, although in Breckenridge it is approved by more than 70 percent of voters. The amendment would have allowed people 21 and older to legally possess as much as 1 ounce of marijuana. Public consumption would not have been allowed under Amendment 44.

(Colorado Ballot Analysis, Final Draft. Colorado General Assembly; Ballotpedia, Summit Daily News)

November 2009

Voters in the town of Breckenridge vote yes by 73 percent to decriminalize marijuana. Similar to the failed Amendment 44, people 21 years and older are allowed to possess 1 ounce or less of marijuana.

(Summit Daily News, The Denver Post)Jan. 1,


Breckenridge’s marijuana measure goes into effect. Smoking in public is not allowed. Decriminalization means that possession of 1 ounce or less was considered a misdemeanor and punishable by a fine of $100 plus court costs.

(Summit Daily News)

November 2012

Amendment 64 passes statewide on Nov. 6, 2012, by about 55 percent, making Colorado one of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana. The state of Washington also passes a recreational marijuana law called Initiative 502, similar to Amendment 64. The amendment states that anyone 21 years and older, possessing a valid government ID, may purchase, smoke and possess marijuana. State residents may buy up to 1 ounce in a single transaction.

(Colorado Department of Revenue: Permanent Rules Related to the Colorado Retail Marijuana Code, p. 36, 48, sections C and D;

May 28, 2013

Gov. John Hickenlooper signs several bills designed to regulate recreational marijuana, including limits on blood levels while driving (5 nanograms of active THC per milliliter), limits on how much an out-of-state resident can buy in a single purchase (1/4 ounce) and setting up voter referendums for taxation (calling for 15 percent excise tax and an additional 10 percent sales tax) of non-medical marijuana.

(Reuters; Colorado House Bill 13-1325;

September 2013

On Sept. 9, 2013, the Colorado Department of Revenue adopts final regulations for recreational marijuana businesses with the Colorado Retail Marijuana Code (HB 13-1317). This includes issues such as licensing fees, inventory tracking, security requirements, waste disposal, packaging and advertising, among others. The regulations become effective Oct. 15, 2013.

(The Denver Post; Colorado Department of Revenue, Marijuana Enforcement Division,

November 2013

Proposition AA, which proposed a tax on recreational marijuana sales, is passed by the voters. The 25 percent tax consists of a 10 percent sales tax on top of a 15 percent excise tax on statewide recreational marijuana sales. That 25 percent state tax is expected to generate $70 million every year. The first $40 million will go toward school construction, and the rest will be used to regulate the marijuana industry and put together educational campaigns. In Summit County, there is also a local 5 percent excise tax on top of the 25 percent state tax.

(; Proposition AA; Summit Daily News; The Denver Post)

Jan. 1, 2014

Businesses open their doors to begin selling recreational marijuana for the first time. Lines stretch out the door at many businesses, with waits of up to 20 minutes and more. Recreational marijuana businesses in Frisco and Silverthorne estimate between 200 and 500 customers on the first day, referred to as “Green Wednesday.” The Breckenridge Cannabis Club estimates it has nearly 1,500 customers on opening day.

(Summit Daily News, The Denver Post)

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