Colorado sure likes being the first to do things. It was one of the first two states to legalize recreational cannabis; it was the second to legalize recreational use of psychedelics; the first to legalize medical use of MDMA contingent on a federal approval; and now, Colorado is at it again in allowing online weed sales. Read on for the low-down.
Colorado allows online cannabis sales
On August 7th, Colorado added to its list of drug firsts (and close seconds) by officially instituting online weed sales in the state. The bill to authorize this move, HB23-1279 passed congress on May 2nd. It was signed by Governor Jared Polis in the beginning of June. The bill edits wording that bans online sales of weed, while adding some aspects of a regulatory system to deal with these sales. As per the regular adult-use market, this applies to those 21 and above.
There is one glitch in the matrix, however. Buyers must still go into a dispensary to pick up their product. The online sales in this context, therefore, aren’t wholly different from other states, where its already possible to order from dispensaries, and then go in and pick up. Perhaps the only difference, is the actual purchase. Weed is a generally cash business, as credit card companies and banks are stuck in a legal conundrum in which working with cannabis companies means breaking federal law; regardless of state legalities. In this case, the actual transaction is now possible online.
According to Sen. Kevin Van Winkle in May, as per Marijuana Moment, “What the bill mainly aims to do, from my perspective, is reduce cash in the marijuana space, which is something that is exceedingly important to do because when there is a tremendous amount of cash in any industry, it can lead to some troubling outcomes—specifically things like robbery. It sets them up for tremendous amount of potential theft, and other things.”
Though it all sounds good, it does bring up the question of exactly how, when federal banking policy remains the same. Several states allow online ordering and delivery, but they mostly require cash payments, or even checks (remember those?) I see several reports on the new Colorado move to allow online weed sales, and I see the law that passed; but none of it explains how. The bill says “Licensed retail marijuana store may accept payment online for the sale of retail marijuana and retail marijuana products.” This is great, but does that mean credit cards, debit cards, bank transfers only…all of the above?
Stipulations of buying weed online in Colorado
This is a law implemented to help dispensaries from their burden of being all-cash businesses; and to help buyers who do not want to handle cash. It lessens the issue of having a lot of cash on hand; especially in light of the lack of real banking or good large-scale insurance options for cannabis businesses. If a dispensary does get jacked by law enforcement for any reason (or any other thief), this means less on hand to get stolen.
In order to make this happen, dispensaries in the state must fulfill a specific process; which is the same general thing as for in-person sales. The person’s name and age must be verified at the time of the online purchase. When the customer goes in for pick-up, they must have their information verified again to ensure it matches what was entered online.
As far as any warnings related to cannabis, or a specific product, and all educational material; this is to be provided digitally by the store upon purchase online. At that time, the customer must acknowledge that they received all the informational material. This information is generally posted by a dispensary in its physical premises, or given to the customer at the time of purchase in a dispensary.
Colorado 1sts (and 2nds)
Colorado is definitely one of the more progressive states when it comes to drug reform. It was one of the early states to pass a medical marijuana legalization in 2000, with voted in ballot measure Amendment 20. It was first (technically tied with Washington) to legalize recreational cannabis in 2012. It did so via Amendment 64 during the November elections.
When psychedelics became a thing, Colorado once again became one of the first states to do something about it. In fall of 2022, Colorado put a ballot in front of voters, this time to legalize certain entheogenic plants as a part of a natural medicine program; which offers treatment services, and which decriminalizes personal possession and use of the plants in question. This bill is more expansive than Oregon’s (the first state to make such a legalization). It goes well beyond magic mushrooms to include mescaline (specifically not from the Peyote plant), ibogaine, and DMT.
Beyond this, Colorado made another legalization last year, and was the very first state to do so. Though the legalization is reliant upon a federal approval for a drug, or a full-scale legalization measure; Colorado legalized MDMA for medical purposes. This goes into effect immediately upon federal passage. Not only is this useful in what it offers medically; but the process to pass the bill was quite interesting as well. Mainly because it literally flew through congress in a matter of a couple months, with practically no edits.
And now, Colorado is among the first to allow online sales, even if its not a completely out-of-store experience. It sets the groundwork for an industry which uses credit/debit cards and bank transfers; and isn’t reliant solely on cash. Missouri also began the process of dealing with banking issues; however its new policy falls short of overall useful legal changes, and comes with some unsettling requirements; like fingerprinting anyone in the industry, down to volunteers.
Why its good that Colorado will allow online weed sales
If you didn’t know anything about the cannabis industry, it might sound silly to get excited over Colorado allowing online weed sales that still necessitate a trip to the dispensary. The reason its an improvement is because of all the banking roadblocks in the US when it comes to any cannabis plant-touching industry. ‘Plant-touching’ involves businesses directly working with the plant (like cultivators and dispensaries); but isn’t limited in how far it can go, sometimes affecting people indirectly. Like a person renting a property to a business involved in cannabis.
The US government hasn’t officially changed its stance on weed. Even with a sweeping pardon late last year by Biden; people still get arrested for ‘crimes’ as small as possession of personal use amounts. This matters because all banks, insurance institutions, and credit agencies are under some amount of federal regulation, and this means it breaks federal laws for them to work for companies that the federal government sees as illegal; like cannabis companies.
You’ve probably noticed by now that in America, if you want to have yourself a little dispensary visit, you must pull out cash at an ATM. And most have an ATM inside to make this a smoother situation. You’ve probably noticed that none gave you the ability to pay by credit or debit card. That’s because they fundamentally can’t. There are a few exceptions here and there, particularly with debit cards and third party paying options; but this is very much here and there.
Is it disrespectful and passive-aggressive for the federal government to still put up so many obstacles in an industry that is legal by state law? Let’s remember it used to go after sick patients and steal medicine from dispensaries. One of the reasons for dispensaries to not have cash on hand is because the federal government still takes every chance it can to raid them, under whatever pretense it has. Blocking banking access is way less ‘ugly’ than messing with the sick; but contextually the same thing.
Luckily, with legal industries popping up in more and more states, this attitude is getting harder to back-up, as is prohibition in general. Right now, there is banking legislation making its way through federal congress which would allow banking freely in legal states. The legislation also made appearances in the past, and hasn’t passed yet. But as the industry grows, it becomes only a matter of when, and not if.
So, it’s not nothing that Colorado took the first step of simply allowing the sales to take place online. This is different from the ability to order for delivery, which Colorado already allowed. This new law includes paying via the internet; and in passing it, automatically means some kind of agreements with banks and/or credit agencies. It might not be as good as not having to set foot in the dispensary; but it’s a step up in an industry that’s had federal push-back at every level.
And by the way, if you’re reading this and thinking that there are plenty of cannabis options online; the reality is that anything you can buy online right now (as in, put down your credit card digits for), is usually a black market product. I’m certainly not saying this is bad; but it speaks to the functionality of what is essentially, a totally different market.
Colorado is setting the pace again, this time by opening online sales for weed products. Sure, there are some kinks in the system; but it does put us that much closer to using the internet, to purchase legal weed.
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