First US states legalise recreational cannabis but federal laws still ban it

 

Colorado and Washington have become the first US states to legalise the possession and sale of marijuana for recreational use.

The legalisation will set the stage for a possible showdown with newly re-elected President Barack Obama as the states’ initiative is in defiance of the US Department for Justice’s federal laws which consider marijuana an illegal narcotic.

Supporters of Colorado’s constitutional amendment were the first to declare victory after returns showed 53 per cent voted in favour.

And supporters of Washington State’s legalisation initiative declared victory after the Seattle Times and other media projected a win for marijuana proponents.

But another ballot measure to remove criminal penalties was defeated in Oregon, where significantly less money was devoted to campaigning.

Mason Tvert, co-director of the Colorado pro-legalization campaign said: “Colorado will no longer have laws that steer people toward using alcohol, and adults will be free to use marijuana instead if that is what they prefer. And we will be better off as a society because of it.”

The Drug Policy Alliance, a national advocacy group that backed the initiatives, said the outcome in Washington and Colorado reflected growing national support for liberalised marijuana laws.

Citing a Gallup poll last year, the DPA said a 50 per cent of Americans favoured making marijuana legal, versus 46 per cent opposed and 4 per cent undecided.

Colorado and Washington have already legalised marijuana for medical purposes, but full legalisation is sure to put them in further conflict with the federal government.

The US Department of Justice initially reacted Colorado’s declaration by saying its enforcement policies remain unchanged, adding: ”We are reviewing the ballot initiative and have no additional comment at this time.“

In addition to Colorado and Washington’s full legalisation, measures to legalise marijuana for medical use are thought to have passed three states, including Massachusetts.

Seventeen other states, plus the District of Columbia, have already legalised medical marijuana use.

Under the measures in Colorado and Washington, personal possession of up to an ounce of marijuana would be legal for anyone over 21 years of age.

Cannabis could also legally be sold and taxed at state-licensed shops in a system based on that used for alcohol consumption.

In Colorado the cultivation of up to six marijuana plants will also be legal, although ‘grow-your-own’ will still be illegal in Washington state.

Oregon's failed initiative would have gone a step further and also legalised the cultivation of unlimited amounts of marijuana for personal recreational use.

Tvert said provisions legalising simple possession in Colorado would take effect after 30 days, once the election results are certified.

Colorado's amendment also mandates establishing rules for sales and excise tax collections once the state legislature reconvenes in January.

In a statement, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper said: ”The voters have spoken and we have to respect their will…This will be a complicated process, but we intend to follow through.“

He added: ”Federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug, so don't break out the Cheetos or gold fish too quickly.“

Critics say the social harms of legalizing marijuana - from anticipated declines in economic productivity to a rise in traffic and workplace accidents – outweigh any benefits.

The pro-movement, however, points to potential tax revenues and argue that marijuana prohibition has accomplished little.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea