Comparative Legal Analysis


Comparison of Marijuana Laws/Regulations: Colorado, Washington and Uruguay


  • This analysis is part of the Legislation on Drugs in the Americas Project and is ongoing and subject to change.
  • Colorado and Washington’s regulations are to be in force before the end of the year with licenses issued starting January 2014 for Colorado and July 2014 for Washington.
  • Uruguay’s law is not yet in force.
Colorado Washington Uruguay

Level of law

State constitution, laws and regulations (conflict with federal law)

State law and regulations (conflict with federal law)

National law

Regulatory Body

Colorado Department of Revenue (CDR)

Washington state Liquor Control Board (LCB)

Instituto de Regulación y Control de Cannabis (IRCCA)

Definition of (retail) marijuana

All parts of plant, seed, resin  extracted from any part of the plant, and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the plant, its seeds, or its resin, including marijuana concentrate, that is cultivated, manufactured, distributed, or sold by a licensed Retail Marijuana Establishment.  Does not include industrial hemp.

All parts of the plant with a THC concentration greater than 0.3% on a dry weight basis; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of the plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the plant, its seeds or resin.

Defined in the law as flowering tops with or without fruit of the female cannabis plant, except for the seeds and the leaves separated from the stem, including its oils, extracts, potential pharmaceutical preparations, resins and the like whose natural THC content is greater than or equal to 1% of its volume. Regulations limit cannabis to the flowering tops with or without fruit of the female cannabis plant, except for the seeds and the leaves separated from the stem. Marijuana cannot be pressed.

Definition of retail marijuana(-infused) product

Concentrated Retail Marijuana and Retail Marijuana Product that are  comprised of Retail Marijuana and other ingredients and are intended for use or consumption, such as, but not limited to, edible product, ointments, and tinctures.

Products that contain marijuana or marijuana extracts and are intended for human use. The term "marijuana-infused products" does not include useable marijuana.

Not defined separately from cannabis. Regulations do not include infusions, oils, extractions or other products.

Personal possession quantity

28.5 grams

28.5 grams

40 grams

Penalties for unauthorized personal possession

Drug petty offense, up to $100 fine.

Misdemeanor, up to $1000 fine or up to 90 days incarceration in jail


At home cultivation for personal consumption and immediate sharing

6 plants, only 3 in flower

None allowed

A single person can have one at-home cultivation of up to 6 in flower plants and up to 480 grams annual harvest, with no more than one at-home cultivation per household regardless of number of residents

Minimum age




Retail Transaction limitation

28.5 grams of marijuana or its equivalent in Retail Marijuana Product to CO residents. Up to a quarter of that amount for out of state residents.

28.5 grams usable marijuana, 453.5 grams marijuana-infused product in solid form, 7 grams of marijuana-infused extract for inhalation, and 2.13 liters of marijuana-infused product in liquid form

40 grams/month dispersed in up to 10 grams per week

Defined serving size for infused products

10 mg of THC per single serving

Maximum of 100 mg of THC in multiple-serving edible retail product.

10 mg of THC per single serving

100 mg of THC per product

A single unit of marijuana-infused extract for inhalation cannot exceed one gram 

Not specified

Restrictions on marijuana-infused products Not specified Prior approval of product, label and packaging from LCB.

Marijuana-infused products that are designed to be especially appealing to children are prohibited

Marijuana-infused products must be homogenized, scored to indicate individual serving sizes.

Additional restrictions on what types of foods items may be infused with marijuana.
Not specified
Potency limits Not specified Not specified IRCCA can determine the percentage of THC by the use of approved technical analysts.

Residency requirements

Some for consumption (non-state residents can purchase ¼ amount of residents).

Yes for licenses (minimum 2 years)

None for consumption.

Yes for licenses (minimum 3 months)

Yes. Adult citizens and permanent residents inscribed in control registries can produce, distribute or acquire cannabis.

Users’ Registry for non-medical use



Yes, the Cannabis Registry will be used to control for all methods of production and acquisition.

Public Consumption

No “open and public” consumption. Smoke-free zones included.

Drug petty offense of $100 fine and 24 hours community service.

Unlawful to use marijuana in view of general public.

$50 civil fine

Cannabis use will conform to similar tobacco smoke-free laws, established public spaces are protected by Ley Nº 18.256 Sanctions related to smoking in public apply.

Consumption during the workday at place of work is prohibited.

Drugged Driving Standard

New 5ng THC / mL blood per se DUID

New 5ng THC / mL blood per se DUID

Any THC detectable in the body will deem a motorist impaired to drive.  Sanctions apply in conformity with established laws (Ley Nº 18.191)

Hash Oil/Marijuana Concentrate

Defined as retail marijuana. Local governments may ban use of flammable gases or solvents in home processing.

Defined as retail marijuana but must be infused in other products. Home processing is not allowed.

Defined in the law as psychoactive cannabis. Regulations do not include these derivatives or products.

Outdoor cultivation




Commercial Cultivation

Licensed Marijuana Cultivation Facilities

Licensed Marijuana producer

Licensed and regulated by future IRCCA guidelines.

Commercial Processing

Licensed Marijuana Cultivation Facilities and licensed  Retail Marijuana Products Manufacturing Facility

Licensed Marijuana processor for cannabis sales to retailers

Can be licensed and regulated by IRCCA

Commercial Retail Outlets

Licensed Retail Marijuana Store

Licensed retailer

Licensed Pharmacies


Yes, seed to sale.

Yes, seed to sale.

Yes, seed to sale combined with a registry.

Market Integration

Essentially required

Essentially prohibited

Probably prohibited, but not specified


15% excise tax from cultivation to processing or retail.

10% excise tax on sale in addition to any existing local or state sales tax.

25% excise tax at each stage of sales (producer to processor to retailer to customer)

Establishes VAT taxability of psychoactive cannabis. A rate of 0% tax for agricultural cannabis goods.


$2750 application producers and processors

$5000 application retailers

$2750 annual renewal for producers and processors

$3750 annual renewal for retailers

$250  application producers, processors and retailers

$1000 annual renewal for  producers, processors and retailers

Additional fees for background check and filing for local business license

Licensing fees are mentioned and will be set by IRCCA

Background investigations

Yes, criminal background check and financial information. Fingerprinting required.

Yes, criminal background check and financial information.  Fingerprinting required.

Some financial information is required by IRCCA and the National Anti-Laundering Secretary for licensed producers

Production and Distribution Limits

Establishments must grow at least 70 percent of the marijuana they sell and sell no more than 30 percent of what they grow to other outlets.

Producers, processors and retailers are limited to 3 licenses, no more  allowed to hold more than 33 percent of the allowed licenses in any county or city.

Maximum cultivation is 2 million sq feet statewide.

Maximum limit of retail licenses issued by LCB based on population. Currently at 334.

Not a fixed specific limit, but the IRCCA can limit the amount of producers and how much each can produce by license.

General Restrictions

Local municipalities can prohibit establishment of marijuana producers, processors and retailers. Also local ordinances can further regulate market.

Establishments cannot be located within 1000 feet of certain preexisting zones (schools, playgrounds, etc)

IRCCA can determine security conditions for cultivators as to avoid youth and non-authorized access.

Hours of operation

Cannot sell, serve, distribute, or initiate the transport between hours of 12-8AM Mon-Sun

Cannot sell marijuana or paraphernalia between hours of 12-8AM

Not specified

Packaging and labeling regulations

Yes: quantity, serving size, ingredients, potency

Yes:  quantity, serving size, ingredients, potency

Yes: package must preserve product for no less than six months and cannot exceed 10 grams per container.  IRCCA will determine further labeling and packaging restrictions.

Product warning labels of health effects



Not specified, but IRCCA can further regulate labeling.

Child-resistant packaging

Required for final sale of marijuana retail product.

Required for marijuana-infused products meant to be eaten, swallowed, or inhaled.

Not specified, but IRCCA can further regulate packaging

Quality control and contaminant testing



Yes, for retail cannabis

Advertising and Promotion

Permitted but restricted to avoid reaching minors under 21 for retail establishments. Signage permitted at place of business in compliance with local ordinances.

Restricted to no more than a sign for retailers at place of business. Prohibited for producers and processors.

All direct or indirect advertising is prohibited in listed mediums. Public events, tournaments or contests that promote cannabis consumption are not authorized.

Advertising Warnings

No misleading or safety claims can be made

Detailed and required

Not specified

Internet sales




Security systems

Required and detailed

Required and detailed

Required and will be established by IRCCA

Waste disposal



Not specified

Cannabis club

Not permitted

Not permitted

Permitted.  Regulated by IRCCA having between 15-45 members that can maintain up to 99 plants. Each member can receive no more than 480 grams a year. The Ministry of Education and Culture will approve club statutes as Civil Associations under existing law.

Medical Marijuana

Yes, continuing in existence with new laws and are tax exempt. Prorated fees when converting medical retailer to non-medical.

Yes, continuing in existence with new laws

Permitted with prescription. Further regulations are under consideration.

Tax and Fee Distribution

First $40M to Public School Capital Construction Assistance Fund; remainder to General Fund to later be distributed to local governments. The established Marijuana Cash Fund will be used to pay for enforcement of regulations.

Dedicated marijuana fund run by State Liquor Control Board. $125K to Healthy Use Survey; $50K to social and health reports; $5K to UW for web-based marijuana education; $1.5M to State Liquor Control Board; remainder: 15% to drug treatment; 10% for drug education; 1% to state university research; 50% to Washington Health Plan; 5% to community health care; 0.3% to building bridges program; remainder to General Fund.

Not specified

Sanctions and penalties for violations or noncompliance

Yes, tiered schedule that includes up to $100,000 fines and suspension and/or revocation of license

Yes, tiered schedule that includes up to $2,500 fine and suspension and/or cancellation of license

Yes, fines up to 2,000 adjustable units, seizure of property, suspension and or cancellation of license.

Prevention and Treatment

Yes, law mandates that state agency will establish educational materials  regarding appropriate retail marijuana use and prevention of marijuana use by those under 21.

Yes, taxes generated will go to treatment and prevention.

Yes, the national health and education systems are required to promote and avail treatment and prevention resources to address the problematic use of cannabis.

Monitoring and Evaluation

Yes, required by law for Department of Health to monitor health effects of law every two years starting in 2015.

Yes, required by law to independently by  Washington state institute for public policy to evaluate policies and impacts related to health, security, economic impacts, etc for years, starting in 2015 until 2032.

Yes, within Ministry of Public Health a specialized unit is required by law to independently evaluate policies on an annual basis.


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updated on 8/19/2014 1:15:13 PM