Colorado has become the first state to legalize recreational marijuana use for adults. Voters in Colorado passed Amendment 64, a proposition that will allow adults 21-and-above to purchase up to one ounce of marijuana. Marijuana users will not be permitted to smoke or use marijuana in public.
"The voters have spoken and we have to respect their will," said Gov. John Hickenlooper, who was against the measure. "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 new law will allow marijuana to be sold, taxed and regulated by the state government. Although Colorado law will begin allowing the regulated use and sale of marijuana, the federal government and its agencies will not recognize the law. Colorado legislators must first enact rules to regulate the sale of marijuana before citizens can purchase it legally. It will likely take months, if not one year, for Colorado legislature to construct laws for the legal sale, taxation and distribution of weed.
Here's exactly what Amendment 64 said:
"An amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning marijuana, and, in connection therewith, providing for the regulation of marijuana; permitting a person twenty-one years of age or older to consume or possess limited amounts of marijuana; providing for the licensing of cultivation facilities, product manufacturing facilities, testing facilities, and retail stores; permitting local governments to regulate or prohibit such facilities; requiring the general assembly to enact an excise tax to be levied upon wholesale sales of marijuana; requiring that the first $40 million in revenue raised annually by such tax be credited to the public school capital construction assistance fund; and requiring the general assembly to enact legislation governing the cultivation, processing, and sale of industrial hemp."
Although Colorado will eventually begin taxing marijuana dispensaries, the Drug Enforcement Agency, a federal agency created to fight the drug war, will continue to disrupt and incarcerate individuals involved in marijuana sale and use. DEA spokesperson Paul Roach said that the DEA didn't have a position on the amendment in a Colorado Independent report. Roach said the DEA will continue to enforce federal drug laws and added, "We don't see that changing."
Historically the federal government and its agencies have strongly opposed the legalization of marijuana. "Let me clearly state that the Department of Justice strongly opposes Proposition 19. If passed, this legislation will greatly complicate federal drug enforcement efforts to the detriment of our citizens. Regardless of the passage of this or similar legislation, the Department of Justice will remain firmly committed to enforcing the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) in all states," said Attorney General Eric Holder in a letter to nine former directors of the DEA.
The DEA has not hesitated to strike down marijuana growing operations and dispensaries in states that have legalized medicinal use of marijuana. "...The Drug Enforcement Administration launched a coordinated crackdown on 71 medical marijuana dispensaries in and around Los Angeles, bringing the total number of California dispensaries closed this year to over 800," reports Mike Riggs of Reason.com. There are several other instances in which the federal government has interefered with state-regulated marijuana. In court, federal law takes precedence to state laws.
The initiative to legalize weed in Colorado does not specify details on tax to be levied or how marijuana dispensaries will be chosen. Here's a sample of what the law says:
"The General Assembly shall enact an excise tax to be levied upon marijuana sold or otherwise transferred by a marijuana cultivation facility to a marijuana product manufacturing facility or retail or to a retail marijuana store shall not be required to acquire and record personal information about consumers other than information typically acquired in a financial transaction conducted at a retail liquor store."
It's evident that lawmakers have taken the privacy of citizens into consideration. By allowing dispensaries to sell weed without logging additional personal data, it makes it less incriminating for citizens to purchase state-legal marijuana. The legislation continues saying that "each application for an annual license to operate a marijuana establishment shall be submitted to the department. The department shall: 1) begin accepting and processing applications on October 1, 2013...". The following suggests that Colorado lawmakers have given themselves plenty of time to determine the specifics of regulating and taxing marijuana.
Colorado may have legalized weed, but its citizens are likely to wait months before any specific information is available. For now, weed-smokers can bask in the glory of a big victory for the marijuana law reformation.