Colorado governor legalizes marijuana nearly a month ahead of time

By Stephen C. Webster
Monday, December 10, 2012 15:54 EDT
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A marijuana plant at sunset. Photo: Shutterstock.com, all rights reserved.
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Marijuana wasn’t supposed to be legalized in Colorado until January 5, but Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) said Monday that he signed an executive order formalizing the ballot initiative into law.

“Voters were loud and clear on Election Day,” Hickenlooper said in a media advisory. “We will begin working immediately with the General Assembly and state agencies to implement Amendment 64.”

Even though marijuana is still illegal under federal law, numerous recent polls show a super-majority of American public wants the feds to take a hands-off approach with states that have decided to experiment with drug reform. The Obama administration hasn’t said yet what they’re going to do about this, if anything.

Legalization took effect in Washington on December 6.

“This is a truly historic day,” said Mason Tvert, communications director of the Marijuana Policy Project. “From this day forward, adults in Colorado will no longer be punished for the simple use and possession of marijuana. We applaud Gov. Hickenlooper for issuing this declaration in a timely fashion, so that adult possession arrests end across the state immediately.”

The order also tasks lawmakers with establishing a commission that will spend the next year identifying rules and regulations to govern marijuana retail sales to adults, along with identifying further legislative action that may be required.

“All stakeholders share an interest in creating efficient and effective regulations that provide for the responsible development of the new marijuana laws,” Hickenlooper’s order explains. “As such, there is a need to create a task force through which we can coordinate and create a regulatory structure that promotes the health and safety of the people of Colorado.”

One sticking point, however: the order stipulated that the task force will have to figure out how to “reconcile Colorado and federal laws such that the new laws and regulations do not subject Colorado state and local governments and state and local government employees to prosecution by the federal government.”

That would seem to rule out the possibility of Colorado setting up any kind of state-run monopoly on marijuana production, which lawmakers in Uruguay and, amazingly enough, Illinois, are seriously discussing.

“We look forward to working with the governor’s office and many other stakeholders on the implementation of Amendment 64,” Tvert added. “We are certain that this will be a successful endeavor and Colorado will become a model for other states to follow.”

Despite the initiative’s passage into formal law, little is clear about how the actual retail sales will emerge, what the tax rates will be and where it can be sold. The governor’s task force will hold its first meeting on December 17, and will be open to the public.

Photo: Shutterstock.com, all rights reserved.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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