DENVER (AP) - Marijuana for recreational use became legal in Colorado
Monday, when the governor took a purposely low-key procedural step of
declaring the voter-approved change part of the state constitution.
Colorado became the second state after Washington
to allow pot use without a doctor's recommendation. Both states prohibit
public use of the drug, and commercial sales in Colorado and Washington
won't be permitted until after regulations are written next year.
Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, opposed the
measure but had no veto power over the voter-approved amendment to the
Hickenlooper tweeted his declaration Monday and
sent an executive order to reporters by email after the fact. He told
reporters he didn't want to make a big deal about the proclamation, a
decision that prevented a countdown to legalization as seen in
Washington, where the law's supporters gathered to smoke in public to
Fewer than two dozen people publicly marked
Colorado's legalization day. A small group puffed away at 4:20 p.m. on
the steps of the state Capitol, with no arrests and no police officers
"It smells like freedom," said a smiling, puffing Timothy Tipton, a longtime marijuana activist.
Colorado law gave Hickenlooper until Jan. 5 to
declare marijuana legal. He told reporters Monday he saw no reason to
wait and didn't see any point in letting marijuana become legal without
"If the voters go out and pass something and they
put it in the state constitution, by a significant margin, far be it
from myself or any governor to overrule. I mean, this is why it's a
democracy, right?" Hickenlooper said.
Adults over 21 in Colorado may now possess up to an
ounce of marijuana, or six plants. Public use and sale of the drug
Colorado and Washington officials both have asked
the U.S. Department of Justice for guidance on the laws that conflict
with federal drug law. So far the federal government has offered little
guidance beyond stating that marijuana remains illegal and that the
Controlled Substances Act will be enforced. Of special concern for state
regulators is how to protect state employees who violate federal drug
law by complying with state marijuana laws.
The U.S. Attorney's Office issued a statement Monday shortly after Hickenlooper's announcement restating its position.
Hickenlooper also announced a state task force
Monday to help craft the marijuana regulations. The 24-member task force
includes law enforcement, agriculture officials and marijuana
The governor admonished the task force not to ponder whether marijuana should be legal.
"I don't think we benefit anyone by going back and turning over the same soil. Our job is to move forward," he said.
Hickenlooper told the task force to "work 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
Colorado's marijuana measure, Amendment 64, was
approved with 55 percent of the vote last month. One of the authors of
Colorado's pot amendment, Mason Tvert, called the declaration "truly
"We are certain that this will be a successful
endeavor and Colorado will become a model for other states to follow,"
Tvert said in a statement.
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