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November 7, 2012

Voters call for experimenting with pot in the state laboratories of Colorado and Washington

I thought it would be remarkable and remarkably important if voters in just one state through the ballot initiative process had legalized marijuana.  But, as reported in this NBC News piece headlined "Colorado, Washington approve recreational marijuana use," it appears voters in two states are ready to experiment with ending pot prohibition. Here are the basics:

Voters in Colorado and Washington on Tuesday approved measures allowing adults to use marijuana for any purpose, NBC News projected, marking an historic turning point in the slow-growing acceptance of marijuana usage.

In Massachusetts, voters also approved an initiative allowing people to use marijuana for medicinal purposes, NBC News projected. In Arkansas, a similar initiative failed, according to NBC News projections....

The laws legalizing marijuana for recreational or other purposes could face federal challenges, because marijuana possession is still a federal crime. But so far, the Justice Department has declined to discuss how it might react if the laws pass....

Opponent Kevin Sabet, a former senior advisor to the Obama administration and an assistant professor at the University of Florida’s college of medicine, said he was expecting legal challenges at the state and federal level. “This is just the beginning of the legalization conversation, so my advice to people who want to toke up legally or think that they can buy marijuana at a store tomorrow is that we’re a very long way from (that),” Sabet said.

Proponents of the legislation also said they expected some legal wrangling. “It sets up a clear and obvious challenge with the federal government,” said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of NORML, which has fought for years to legalize cannabis.

But proponents also were celebrating what they saw as a turning point in a long-running battle to make marijuana more available to the general public. “We are reaching a real tipping point with cannabis law reform,” said Steve DeAngelo, a longtime advocate for legalizing marijuana and the director of the nation’s largest medical cannbabis dispensary, Harborside Health Center in Oakland, Calif.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper acknowledged legal challenges but said the state would work to resolve the conflict between federal and state laws. "It's probably going to pass, but it's still illegal on a federal basis. If we can't make it legal here because of federal laws, we certainly want to decriminialize it,” he told NBC’s Brian Williams.

This lengthy Huffington Post article discusses these developments and the intricacies of the legal process going forward in Colorado.   This piece also includes this amusing reaction to the Colorado outcome:

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a vocal opponent to the measure, reacted to the passage of A64 in a statement late Tuesday night: "The voters have spoken and we have to respect their will. 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 gold fish too quickly."

November 7, 2012 at 12:47 AM | Permalink

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Comments

"...don’t break out the Cheetos or gold fish too quickly.'

You just gotta love Colorado.

Posted by: C | Nov 7, 2012 9:30:57 AM

That is a somewhat amusing headline. It sounds like some sort of drug testing deal. That's good news and hopefully it will have some real long term effects to end marijuana prohibition. Perhaps, you can provide a summary when the results of final of all the pot referenda here, including the medicinal marijuana ones.

Posted by: Joe | Nov 7, 2012 9:52:20 AM

"Proponents of the legislation also said they expected some legal wrangling. 'It sets up a clear and obvious challenge with the federal government,' said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of NORML, which has fought for years to legalize cannabis."

Anyone want to take a guess about who wins when there is "legal wrangling" between state and federal law?

Wasn't there some "legal wrangling" about the Emancipation Proclamation?

"Legal wrangling." I love it.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 7, 2012 10:08:10 AM

As a practical matter, marijuana laws in Colorado and Washington will be like alcohol during prohibition--nothing will happen if you use it (feds just have bigger fish to fry), but manufacture or sale could still be problematic (esp. if it's a big field).

Posted by: Res ipsa | Nov 7, 2012 11:21:57 AM

Res ipsa --

Correct. Personal use of pot is already de facto legal, certainly in the more liberal jurisdictions. The amount of actual pot smoking that gets done after last night is going to be about the same -- maybe slightly more -- than was done before last night.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 7, 2012 11:34:11 AM

So, personal use will be somewhat a crapshoot since manufacture and sale will continue to be a black market & the feds still will when it is helpful for them (such as to obtain probable cause) target the personal user. This will (like in NY, to a large scale) be likely to be done unequally.

The "de facto legal" personal use of pot is a reality in many places but in practice it still is not so easy for certain people to obtain and use the stuff as compared to just going to the store and buying smokes or a drink. You can be kicked out of various housing, for one thing, if marijuana smoke is apparent. OTOH, smoking cigarettes won't get you in trouble most places in that respect.

Posted by: Joe | Nov 7, 2012 12:11:12 PM

Joe --

"The "de facto legal" personal use of pot is a reality in many places but in practice it still is not so easy for certain people to obtain and use the stuff..."

All the better. They will be the healthier for it.

"You can be kicked out of various housing, for one thing, if marijuana smoke is apparent."

And you can be kicked out of a public pool for smoking anything -- or for running, or making loud noises, or a whole bunch of stuff. So what? When you use public property, you have to abide by rules you can ignore when you're on your own private property. This is neither new nor any realistic person's version of a threat to liberty.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 7, 2012 12:43:09 PM

This is fantastic news! What a wonderful step by the people toward greater liberty for all!!

Cheers to Colorado and Washington.

Posted by: No Drug War | Nov 7, 2012 12:56:58 PM

A state law being championed against federal intrusion by people who despise, openly ridicule, and have every interest in undermining it ... what could go wrong?

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Nov 7, 2012 1:07:51 PM

Loud noises generally are not treated the same as illegal pot smoking. In practice, be it more healthy or not, various of the things listed is practicably not something one can really freely do. If we want to look past what is legal to what is de facto allowed, as long as it is criminalized, personal use of marijuana will be not something a person can freely do vis-a-vis legal things.

I'm not voicing some general concern about the "liberty" of housing rules here. As to health, cigarettes probably net is more [note qualifier] unhealthy for most people.

Posted by: Joe | Nov 7, 2012 2:41:57 PM

"In practice, be it more healthy or not, various of the things listed is practicably not something one can really freely do."

This is a bit garbled. Basically, unlike loud noises, smoking marijuana is more likely to get you quickly removed.

Posted by: Joe | Nov 7, 2012 2:48:43 PM

Joe --

"Loud noises generally are not treated the same as illegal pot smoking."

You're correct, but not in the way you think. Making loud noises on public property is MORE likely to get you booted because, by definition, they are more noticeable and irritating. If, for example, you're constantly yelling around the pool area, people are surely going to notice and somebody's going ask the superintendent to kick you out. If, however, you're off in some quiet corner puffing a joint, the chances of getting noticed, and certainly of annoying other pool users to the point that they'd want to roust you, is less.

I have to confess that I did not understand your post after that first sentence.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 7, 2012 3:29:20 PM

Right on!

Let's hope the feds stay away. Those dudes suck.

Posted by: Kind Green Bud | Nov 7, 2012 6:58:20 PM

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