Today's the day you'll cite when you tell your kids where you were when Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a "declaration [that] formalizes the amendment as part of the state Constitution and makes legal the personal use, possession and limited home-growing of marijuana under Colorado law for adults 21 years of age and older."
"Voters were loud and clear on Election Day," the governor wrote on his Facebook page. "We will begin working immediately with the General Assembly and state agencies to implement Amendment 64."
So, hey, voters in Colorado (and Washington) finally did themselves what no majority of legislators has had the political courage to attempt: ending prohibition of marijuana. It's a hell of a thing, says Mason Tvert, co-director of the amendment-backing Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol.
"This is a truly historic day," Tvert says in a separate release. "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."
Now we can all back to doing what medical-marijuana business folk have been doing the past years: waiting to see when (or if) the federal hammer will fall. As the New York Times reported on Thursday, there are a variety of possibilities:
One option is for federal prosecutors to bring some cases against low-level marijuana users of the sort they until now have rarely bothered with, waiting for a defendant to make a motion to dismiss the case because the drug is now legal in that state. ...
A more aggressive option is for the Justice Department to file lawsuits against the states to prevent them from setting up systems to regulate and tax marijuana, as the initiatives contemplated. ...
Another potential avenue would be to cut off federal grants to the states unless their legislatures restored antimarijuana laws, said Gregory Katsas, who led the civil division of the Justice Department during the George W. Bush administration.
In a separate statement issued today, the U.S. Attorney's office for the state of Colorado essentially restated its previous position: "The Department of Justice is reviewing the legalization initiatives recently passed in Colorado and Washington state. The Department's responsibility to enforce the Controlled Substances Act remains unchanged. Neither States nor the Executive branch can nullify a statute passed by Congress. In enacting the Controlled Substances Act, Congress determined that marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance.
"Regardless of any changes in state law, including the change that will go into effect on December 10th in Colorado, growing, selling or possessing any amount of marijuana remains illegal under federal law. Members of the public are also advised to remember that it remains against federal law to bring any amount of marijuana onto federal property, including all federal buildings, national parks and forests, military installations, and courthouses.”
Ultimately, President Obama's in an unenviable position, the Times reports.
“It’s a sticky wicket for Obama,” said Bruce Buchanan, a political science professor at the University of Texas at Austin, saying any aggressive move on such a high-profile question would be seen as “a slap in the face to his base right after they’ve just handed him a chance to realize his presidential dreams.”