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. norml fan says:

      I can’t wait to hear some official statements from the doj/dea. Ill bet their phones are ringing off the hook!

    2. Does NORML plan to act on behalf of the citizens already in jail for Cannabis related offenses?

    3. Kiggabis says:

      For the first time in a long time I can say I’m proud to live in America.

      Washingtonian. I can’t wait for the 6th of December. I’m hoping they’ll soon allow home grows – as it is right now, by the time the 6th rolls around, there’s no way to legally OBTAIN MJ.

    4. John Q Public says:

      When are they going to realize that the nation is over the prohibition of cannabis. It now and has always been a dumb law and the people are speaking, more would speak if given the opportunity. I dont think that America should end up being a bunch of stoners but I dont think it is a bad thing to take a puff every now and again. The good sure out weighs the bad here. JQP out

    5. Anonymous says:

      wait a minute…colorado can you’ll only be able to possess an ounce, but can have up to six plants? i don’t understand that? wouldn’t that involve you having to “possess” more than an ounce?

    6. Miles says:


      If Coloradan’s are really smart, they’ll get rid of this guy since he is not on board with the people of his own state. In fact, he is not on board with the majority of the people in this country and, indeed, a large portion of this small world.

      That statement about cheetos and goldfish is extremely ignorant and condescending. Vote him out!

    7. Anonymous says:

      It stated an ounce of dry marijuana and 6 plants, so you can have both.

    8. kronos says:

      Congratulations Washington and Colorado, hopefully California will be next.

    9. Anony says:

      I have a question regarding the sales of Marijuana in those two States. (I am in California as a medical marijuana patient)

      Do you think the prices for marijuana will drop? Or will there be no change in the price?
      As of Nov 2012, an Ounce here in Northern California costs anywhere from 200 to 400 an ounce.

      I just want to know because I emailed Denverpost and Seattletimes but no response yet. I wonder if the prices will be significant or just a tad lower? Thanks~ ^_^