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Colorado and Washington Legalize It

Activists tell The Fix that they're not afraid of the feds blocking the legal, recreational use of marijuana.


High spirits in Colorado last night
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By Bryan Le


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Voters in Washington and Colorado made history last night by voting for their states to become the first to regulate marijuana like alcohol. Washingtonians did so more decisively, as was predicted, passing I-502 with flying colors, with 55% for and 45% against. But Colorado's Amendment 64, which had faced a tighter battle, got through fairly comfortably too, with 53.3% for and 46.7% opposed. Now anyone over 21 will be entitled by those states' laws to possess an ounce of pot without fear of arrest—Coloradans will also be able grow up to six plants for personal use. Somewhat overshadowed by these groundbreaking results, Massachusetts also become the 18th state to permit medical marijuana, approving its own measure by a resounding 63-37% margin.

While many see these votes as cause for celebration, obstacles still lie ahead: “The voters have spoken and we have to respect their will,” said Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper last night. “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.” The US Justice Department has meanwhile released a curt statement, noting that federal marijuana laws “remain unchanged.” But decriminalization activists say they aren't fazed by the feds. After all, the Prohibition era—a parallel advocates often draw upon—saw the beginnings of its end at the state level; Montana stopped enforcing Prohibition seven years before the federal government did the same. And Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes asserts that the feds “have no plans, except to talk.”

Betty Aldworth, of Colorado's Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, thinks it's only logical that the federal government will leave pot smokers in Colorado and Washington alone. Coloradans in particular have little to fear, because if local police stop enforcing marijuana laws, no one else will either: “The DEA here in Colorado and officers of the federal government have said on multiple occasions that they have neither the time nor the resources to invest in pursuing individuals for marijuana,” she tells The Fix. And she expects the state's efforts to set up an adult marijuana retail system will also go unhindered. “The government has allowed Colorado to develop medical marijuana centers here,” she tells us. “And we anticipate the federal government will be interested in moving marijuana off the streets—the only way to do that is to move it behind the counter.” 

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