Colorado and Washington Legalized Marijuana Tuesday, What Happens Now?

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director November 8, 2012

    Tuesday night, the states of Colorado and Washington sent a loud and clear message to the federal government that they no longer wish to enforce the futile prohibition on cannabis. The symbolic impact of these victories are immediate, but what are the practical effects on the ground now that these two initiatives have been approved?


    In Washington State, regulations for the marijuana retail outlets are going to start being drafted by the Washington State Liquor Control Board. This process is expected to last about a year. The immediate impact of passing I-502 is on the state laws regarding possession. Starting on December 6th, Section 20 of the initiative will take effect. This section effectively states that any person over the age of 21 is legally allowed to possess up to 1oz of dried marijuana, 16oz of marijuana solids (edibles), and 72oz of cannabis infused liquids (think oils and lotions). It is also no longer a crime to possess marijuana paraphernalia.

    Law enforcement representatives in the state have already released some statements on this matter. Sergeant Sean Whitcomb, from the Seattle Police Department, said, “For us, the law has changed, and people can expect no enforcement for possession.”

    “What you can expect,” Sgt. Whitcomb clarified, “is no enforcement on possession, that is a reasonable expectation.”


    The vote in Colorado is awaiting final certification, a process that is expected to take about a month. After this approval, it will immediately become legal in Colorado for adults over the age of 21 to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and for them to grow up to 6 plants in a secure indoor space.

    The state is required to adopt a legal framework for retail sales by July of 2013, the first marijuana retail outlets could potentially open as early as the start of 2014.

    Colorado’s law enforcement seems just as keen as Washington’s, for the time being, to honor the will of the people. “We’re not federal agents,” stated Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith, who opposed Amendment 64 during the campaign.

    “We can arrest people if they’re wanted on warrants on federal crimes, but unless we’re involved in a specific case … where (a deputy is) cross-commissioned as a federal agent,” he said, “we don’t directly enforce federal law.”

    While he ended his statement with a patronizing jab, Colorado Governor Hickenlooper seems willing to abide by the desire of his state’s citizens on this issue. “The voters have spoken and we have to respect their will,” Hickenlooper said Tuesday night.

    “This will be a complicated process, but we intend to follow through. That said,” he ended, “Federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug, so don’t break out the Cheetos or gold fish too quickly.”

    These protections in both states, when certified and placed into effect, will apply to anyone physically in the state, no residency required. Public consumption would remain a violation in both states, but a civil, not criminal, one.

    As always, NORML will keep you posted as these laws become certified and come into effect and will be tracking the process of implementing retail outlets every step of the way.

    219 responses to “Colorado and Washington Legalized Marijuana Tuesday, What Happens Now?”

    1. Just one more brownie says:

      Is it illegal in these states to smoke cannabis in public? If so, this conversion process should be smooth.

    2. The Capt says:

      Wish this vote would come up here in NJ but the Governor said “not on his watch”. Congrats to CO and WA…. way to go !!

    3. 4USFreedom says:

      Ok, so NOW at this pivotal, wonderful moment of US history- it’s time for all to begin fighting just as hard for the OTHER parallel cause that goes along side by side with marijuana- prostitution- yes- prostitution- let’s fight to free the poor women and their customers whom have been harassed and jailed for decades for doing a completely consensual and victimless activity- seeking the companionship of a woman. For those who don’t think that this is a real and prevalent issue- check the internet ads for escorts- it’s a permanent and REAL part of American society- so lets all begin the fight starting RIGHT NOW and make sure that the US government understands that we citizens have had enough of being subjugated and thrown in jail, getting fined, and having a life-altering arrest record for life, just for spending a little time with whom we choose to spend our OWN time with!!

    4. […] CO and WA Legalized Marijuana Tuesday, What Happens Now … Erik Altieri, NORML Communications Director “Tuesday night, the states of Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana, but what are the practical effects now?NORML Blog, Marijuana Law Reform” […]

    5. Alex says:

      I used to be 100% for Hickenlooper, but his comments and unwillingness to protect his state from the feds is childish. Yes, you didn’t support it, but 55% of your state DID. It’s time to get on board and make sure this is done right.

    6. Steve says:

      I was wondering where the state stands on drug testing for jobs. Since THC stays in your system for up to two weeks how can we leagally use it and still have a job after manditory drug testing? Can we claim descrimination if an employer refuses to hire us because we came up positive?

    7. NYBoy says:


      I am a responsible adult. I work in the court system and i do NOT smoke pot. But the thought of sitting in a cafe in Colorado getting a second hand high and getting one with nature and God plus meeting cool and laid back people is very appealing then the rat race AND STRESS here in the city and the alcohol that is destroying my body.

      Where are the lounges and hotels like in Amsterdam. I await their opening. And here I come….

    8. FRANK says:

      How wonderful this is to repeal and de-criminalizer Pot.
      Now law enforcement can go get a real job and arrest true criminals, like serial killers.
      Thank God the day may come when I will not see 3 cops and 3 cars search a vehicle for a pipe screen. I hope Federal changes and let the will of the people prevail.

    9. Ll says:

      After having been raised on Richard M. Nixon’s false propaganda, I was certain the world would end the very moment this plant was returned to legal status.

      Regarding Obama’s reaction, the man is unpredictable. Most of you haven’t realized just how insane the man is yet, but he is. Google “compensatory narcisscist” if you doubt me.

      In any case, the fact that Obama persecuted you heavily before means nothing now. He could either double down on the persecution or else reverse course entirely. Ether way, you’ll know soon.

    10. NYBoy says:

      JETBLUE $214 ROUND TRIP FROM NYC (4 hrs flight)

      I await the first cafe to open up and i I am there baby.

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