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?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

Power of the geek Gods

Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

Perfect match

What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high