Pot smokers have formally gained the right to light up in
Colorado, after Governor John Hickenlooper signed into effect
a controversial ballot measure legalising marijuana for adult
Hickenlooper's signature, largely a formality, made Colorado
the second U.S. state after Washington to legalise
recreational pot use, and put it on a possible collision
course with the federal government - which calls marijuana an
"Voters were loud and clear on Election Day," Hickenlooper
said in a statement released by his office. "We will begin
working immediately with the General Assembly and state
agencies to implement Amendment 64."
The ballot measure, approved by a margin of 55 percent to 45
percent, amends Colorado's constitution to legalise the
personal use and possession of up to an ounce (28 grams) of
pot by adults 21 and over. It also allows users to grow up to
six plants at home.
Hickenlooper, a Democrat who had opposed the amendment but
said he would respect the will of voters, had been required
by law to issue the executive order, or "official declaration
of the vote," within 30 days of certification by Colorado's
secretary of state on December 6.
His move, more than three weeks before the deadline, put the
amendment into immediate effect without the pre-planned
hoopla seen in Washington state last week when pot users
organised a downtown Seattle public weed fest to begin the
moment marijuana became legal there.
Eighteen U.S. states and the District of Columbia have
already removed criminal sanctions on the use of pot for
medical purposes, but Colorado and Washington were the first
to allow it for recreational use.
The moves by the two Western states came in defiance of
federal law, and experts have said that the victories by
pro-marijuana activists could be short-lived if they are
fought by the U.S. Department of Justice.
FEDS 'REVIEWING' LAW
Colorado law will ultimately permit cannabis to be
commercially grown and sold by state-licensed producers and
distributors, and to be taxed, in a system modeled after
those used in many states for alcohol sales.
For now, it remains illegal to buy or sell marijuana in any
quantity in Colorado. But the governor ordered creation of a
task force to recommend details of a sales-and-taxation plan
for the state legislature to pass in the near future.
"This is a truly historic day. From this day forward, adults
in Colorado will no longer be punished for the simple use and
possession of marijuana," Amendment 64 spokesman Mason Tvert
said in a written statement.
"We look forward to working with the governor's office and
many other stakeholders on the implementation of Amendment
64. We are certain that this will be a successful endeavor
and Colorado will become a model for other states to follow,"
John Walsh, U.S. Attorney for Colorado, said in a statement
that the U.S. Department of Justice was reviewing the
Colorado and Washington measures, and that its
"responsibility to enforce the Controlled Substances Act" had
"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," Walsh said.
"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