Colorado and Washington Vote to Approve Legalizing Marijuana for Recreational Use

By 11.07.12

HUGE, historic news out of Colorado and Washington on Tuesday, where voters passed Amendment 64 and Initiative 502, respectively, to become the first states to legalize the recreational use and possession of marijuana. 56 percent approved the Initiative in Washington and 53 percent approved the amendment in Colorado. In the case of both states, marijuana will be regulated as a controlled substance like alcohol, as opposed to a narcotic. Tax revenues will be accrued at the state and local level from the resulting sale. In Colorado, adults over the age of 21 will be allowed to grow up to six mature plants, carry up to one ounce and give one ounce as a gift to others. In Washington, use will be legalized along with one ounce possession for adults over 21. Personal growing of unlicensed cannabis will remain illegal except for medical cannabis.

As Tom Angell, a spokesperson for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, told the Huffington Post: “To put this into historical context, there is no historical context. It’s the first time any state has ever voted to legalize marijuana—and two of them did it.” 

There are still a lot of questions and, frankly, the issue of state legalization isn't quite as simple as it sounds. The Pandora's Box of statewide legalization, of course, is that marijuana use and possession remains a federal crime. States could possibly overturn the laws to comply with federal statutes. If the laws aren't overturned, enforcement becomes a major question here: Will the Feds actively go after pot dealers and distribution networks that try to cash in? How will in-state federal enforcement trickle down to the consumption/possession level? In Washington, where growing marijuana without medicinal reasons remains illegal, how will the plant be cultivated for legal, recreational use? Will the executive branch under Obama's second term crackdown like they have on state dispensaries in California? How will taxes work? Time will tell.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper echoed the sentiment, asking excited stoners to not “break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly.” Via Fox News:

“The voters have spoken and we have to respect their will,” Hickenlooper said. “This will be a complicated process, but we intend to follow through. That said, federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug, so don’t break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly.”

Still, it's a huge victory for pushing legalization initiatives into the mainstream. Here's a great pull-quote over at Toke of the Town

“The victories in Colorado and Washington are of historic significance not just for Americans but for all countries debating the future of marijuana prohibition in their own countries,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “This is now a mainstream issue, with citizens more or less divided on the issue but increasingly inclined to favor responsible regulation of marijuana over costly and ineffective prohibitionist policies.”

Legalization initiatives lost in Oregon. Massachusetts, however, voted by a wide margin to legalize medicinal marijuana. Medicinal marijuana use was overturned in Arkansas. 

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