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. Jeedi says:

      Dear Federal Government,

      Here is your chance to earn the respect of the people. We have been reasonable. We did what many prohibitionists have said before to reformers and changed the law. A majority of American citizens are behind this in our two states, and polls around the country. Please allow us this opportunity to set an example for the rest of the country; help us to show you a better way than a drug war that has killed and victimized more people than the drugs themselves could ever have.

      Please allow us to show the rest of the nation that we can drive the black market out of our neighborhoods with economics, not with drug waring violence. Please dear Feds allow us to show the rest of the country that marijuana use by children will go down. 1. It will go down because children will now see marijuana like alcohol or tobacco and can abstain in knowing that they can eventually have a right when they reach legal age. 2. Real drug education can now be taught in the schools so that children find it credible and trustworthy, so that they don’t think pot is the same thing as meth. 3. Since the black markets will be driven out by lower prices and availability of superior product in above ground establishments, any abuses can be better tracked when things are documented in the open from seed to sale. 4. CO and WA are ready to be a positive example and show that citizens will be responsible consumers, and not abuse our new precious rights.

      Please dear Feds show us some reasonableness in the wake of two states legalizing, new medical, and other marijuana reforms from Americans all over the country this election and allow us to move prudently and carefully toward a better way.

      Thank you,

    2. Mil Vet says:

      I would like to say congrats for Washington and Colorado on legislation.Now the main question is what do the people of america especially the ones from Colorado and Washington think about legislation on other states or better said,America in general.i have illnesses that its been proven marijuana helps.

    3. thomas holden says:

      Now that states are starting to legalize.maybe they start usein it for more that smoking purpose’s so much other stuff can come from this.hopefully Kentucky be next.

    4. The Capt says:

      Here in NJ our Gov is a X-DA and also GOP…. there is slim chance he will budge on this or even a slim chance he will get slim! Time will tell…huge step with CO and WA… Bravo!!

    5. Thank you to all who worked on this. It’s a huge step in a long struggle to normalize relations with a plant that has served us since our ancient ancestors climbed out of the ocean.

    6. Blister says:

      In the short-run, prices will definetly increase since demand is going through the roof…Cetarus Paribus In the long-run, however, I see prices moderating as people start growing their own…and suppliers meeting the demand. In general, until this becomes a national thing…demand will continue to out perform supply and we could see higher prices for awhile. How this affects the Black Market in other States is going to be interesting. Economists are going to write dissertations on these effects. Cool times.

    7. Jordan says:

      What does public consumption mean? Will coffee shops, like in Amsterdam, be allowed? I don’t think the tourists will come if there isn’t a cool place to consume their legal buds!

    8. Justin_Khase says:

      These fed a-holes don’t enforce weapons, cocaine, or immigration violations; so why enforce any mj statutes >

    9. Paul says:

      The most important thing we can do as a group is vote libertarian. The republicans and democraps election victories vary on small percentages. We libertarians are the 5% of the vote neither are getting, enough to throw it either way. They know we want marijuana decriminalized and legalized, even if they dont endorse it. Each of our votes are so important on both the national and state levels. Please continue to support your local city and state elections with libertarian votes and get out there and help make it happen. Every victory you guys get helps bring my state that much closer.
      Feel free to call your local radio talk shows and endorse your libertarian party and ask about a discussion of marijuana decriminalization. A lot of republicans listen to conservative talk radio programs so if theyre listeners think we will come back to theyre party and bring our 5% vote with us if we can just get past this damn marijuana thing settled…. then perhaps they will vote in our favor on whatever proposition or state ammendment we manage to get on the ballot. And realisticly most pot smokers tend to be conservative because we just want the government to leave us alone. So please vote libertarian and spread the word.

    10. james says:

      so Friday Hickenlooper is gonna talk to holder and this is how the conversation is gonna go
      Hickenlooper “ok i don’t want this crap in my state and i have to side with voters ,how do we stop this before it gets even worse ?”

      Holder “blah blah blah blah” <—-this guy has got to be the dumbest AG in recorded history O_O now i don't know what holder is gonna say but cause hes a fed he has to say no to anything that's illegal..But for sure Hickenlooper is gonna say pretty much what i said he would say.the way he talked about it was a dead give away ;/ You can not trust your government people maybe 150 years ago u could but today not a chance in hell

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