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
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
News
Details of the self-cleaning coating were published last night in the journal Science
science
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
News
i100
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: Administrator / Warehouse Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This fast-paced award winning company based in...

Recruitment Genius: General Manager

£50000 - £70000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This provider of global logisti...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Manager - £70,000 OTE

£35000 - £70000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Manager (Vice President...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketing Executive

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Marketing Executive i...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable