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Colorado, Washington Legalize Marijuana! [FEATURE]

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #758)

Colorado voters made history Tuesday night, passing a constitutional amendment to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana and becoming the first state in the US to break with marijuana prohibition. Hours later, voters in Washington state followed suit, passing a legalization initiative there, but a similar effort in Oregon came up short.

Brian Vicente, Rob Kampia, and Steve Fox listen to Mason Tvert in Denver as Amendment 64 passes.
Even though marijuana legalization didn't achieve a trifecta, two states have now decisively rejected marijuana prohibition, sending an electrifying message to the rest of the country and the world. Tuesday's election also saw a medical marijuana initiative pass in Massachusetts, a sentencing reform initiative pass in California, and a limited legalization initiative pass in Detroit. Medical marijuana initiatives failed in Arkansas and Montana. [Editor's Note: Look for Chronicle news briefs soon on the election results we have yet to publish stories on.]

"The victories in Colorado and Washington are of historic significance not just for Americans but for all countries debating the future of marijuana prohibition in their own countries," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "This is now a mainstream issue, with citizens more or less divided on the issue but increasingly inclined to favor responsible regulation of marijuana over costly and ineffective prohibitionist policies."

According to the Colorado secretary of state's office, Amendment 64 was leading comfortably with 55% of the vote, compared to 45% voting "no." But an early lead was enough for Amendment 64 supporters and foes alike to call the victory. Rising excitement at Casselman's, the downtown Denver bar where campaign supporters gathered, turned to gleeful pandemonium as Colorado media began calling the result little more than two hours after the polls closed.

"Colorado voters have decided to take a more sensible approach to how we deal with marijuana in this state," said Mason Tvert, director of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which had brought together state marijuana reform groups such as SAFER and Sensible Colorado with national reform organizations such as the Marijuana Policy Project, Drug Policy Action, and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition in a well-organized and well-funded winning campaign.

"Today, the people of Colorado have rejected the failed policy of marijuana prohibition," said Sensible Colorado's Brian Vicente. "Thanks to their votes, we will now reap the benefits of regulation. We will create new jobs, generation million of dollars in tax revenue, and allow law enforcement to focus on serious crimes. It would certainly be a travesty if the Obama administration used its power to impose marijuana prohibition upon a state whose people have declared, through the democratic process, that they want it to end."

"I'm so happy we not only did this, we did it right," said MPP's Steve Fox, who had worked closely with Tvert, Vicente, and Yes on 64 spokesperson Betty Aldworth to bring the effort to fruition. "Now, it is legal in the state constitution to possess and grow marijuana. It can't be repealed on a whim; it is permanent. Thirty days from now, any veteran -- any person -- in this state can use marijuana."

"Colorado is the starting point, the tipping point, but it's not the end point," vowed MPP executive director Rob Kampia, who promised to take the effort to more states in the future.

Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), a staunch opponent of Amendment 64, conceded its victory as well Tuesday night. "The voters have spoken and we have to respect their will," he said in a statement. "This will be a complicated process, but we intend to follow through. That said, federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug, so don't break out the Cheetos or goldfish too quickly."

According to the Washington secretary of state's office , as of 9:28pm Pacific time Tuesday, Initiative 502 was holding a comfortable lead of 55% to 45%. Sponsored by New Approach Washington, the initiative had excited opposition among segments of the pot-smoker and medical marijuana communities, but created a carefully crafted and financially well-backed campaign featuring a series of establishment endorsers.

Betty Aldsworth thanks the voters of Colorado.
I-502 legalizes the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by adults 21 and over, but does not allow for personal cultivation, except by or for medical marijuana patients. It will license marijuana cultivation and retail and wholesale sales, with restrictions on advertising. Regulation will be the remit of the state liquor control board, which will have to come up with rules by December 2013. The measure creates a 25% excise tax on marijuana sales, with 40% of revenues dedicated to the general fund and 60% dedicated to substance abuse prevention, research, and healthcare. It also creates a per se driving under the influence standard of 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood.

By contrast, Colorado's Amendment 64 allows adults 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of marijuana or six marijuana plants, three of which can be mature. It will create a system of state-licensed cultivation, manufacturing, and testing facilities and state-licensed retail stores. Local governments would have the option of regulating or prohibiting such facilities. The amendment also requires the state legislature to enact legislation governing industrial hemp cultivation, processing, and sale, and to create an excise tax on wholesale marijuana sales. The first $40 million of that annual revenue will be dedicated to building public schools.

"Marijuana policy reform remains an issue where the people lead and the politicians follow, but Washington state shows that many politicians are beginning to catch up," said Nadelmann, noting that the Obama administration had failed to denounce the initiatives. "That bodes well, both states' prospects of implementing their new laws without undue federal interference."

In Oregon, Measure 80, the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act (OCTA), didn't fare so well. As of 11:30pm Pacific time, it was losing 45% to 55%, with 69% of the vote counted.

It came late to the ballot compared to the efforts in Colorado and Washington, could not demonstrate majority support in polls, and, as a result, did not manage to attract substantial funding from outside donors, sealing its fate.

But despite the loss in Oregon, when it comes to passing groundbreaking marijuana legalization initiatives in the United States, two out of three ain't bad.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Uncle Bob (not verified)

There's still a long way to go.  Remember, the world will be watching what happens next VERY carefully.  God willing, they'll see nothing but positive things coming from these two states.  This is a step in the right direction, and soon the rest of the world will realize and ultimately accept that.

Wed, 11/07/2012 - 3:34am Permalink
unperson (not verified)

In reply to by Sam I am (not verified)

Not everyone who supports the end of this HYPOCRITICAL drug law is left wing or democrat. Please get that through your thick head. Then please tell my about Cuba, China, mother Russia and North Korea's liberal drug policies. Go USA!
Fri, 11/09/2012 - 11:41am Permalink
Nedmorlef (not verified)

In reply to by unperson (not verified)

There's many a republican that likes to toke. They are like the one good cop amongst the nine bad ones. They must hide.

Fri, 11/09/2012 - 12:04pm Permalink

A GREAT SIGN OF PROGRESS, here. The struggle is still uphill, but we've gained some important ground, The People are clearly ahead of the politicians on this, and, bit by bit, The People are going to have to lead the way.

And that's what we've seen start here.

(p.s. -- NICE TOUCH from Hickenlooper. "Don't break out the Cheetos," said the man with a mouth full of Sour Grapes.)  

Wed, 11/07/2012 - 4:29am Permalink
kickback (not verified)

Can you feel the mist from the big green tsunami ? Can you you see it coming ashore ? Voters in Colorado have driven a nail into the heart of " cannabis prohibition " . Pres. Obama should re-schedule cannabis with an executive order real soon . The " Cannabis Autumn " is too strong to fight against . What will the new Mexican President think about this ? What about South American governments ? On and on.....  .  Cannabis prohibition is now on life support . It will soon die . Godspeed .    

Wed, 11/07/2012 - 6:51am Permalink
disgusted (not verified)

Thank you, the intelligent and informed voters of Colorado and Washington!! Let's keep the ball rolling and end this travesty of illegal marijuana across the USA and the World.

"The government's line is that the use of marihuana leads to harder drugs. The fact is that the lack of marihuana leads to dangerous drugs."-Dr. David Smith, Haight Ashbury Free Clinic

Wed, 11/07/2012 - 7:10am Permalink
Legalization_Matters (not verified)

I woke up this morning and jumped up, grabbed my mac and got on the polls on the CNN website. Needless to say what i saw almost made me pass out i was so happy about this news. I look up to the voters in Colorado and Washington right now and can't wait to get out of college so i can move to one of these states or another and help the movement

Wed, 11/07/2012 - 10:59am Permalink
Dan Peterson (not verified)

Jah bless every person that worked to make this happen! Now lets protect states rights from neo-cons like Obama.

Wed, 11/07/2012 - 1:19pm Permalink
Anonymous12321 (not verified)

So my biggest question, now that Marijuana is legalized in these two states. Is that there is no excuse to prohibit hemp (the industrial product) farming is there? Is that legal now too?

Wed, 11/07/2012 - 1:25pm Permalink
HighKush420(Twitter) (not verified)

This year was my first year voting for the presidency. I live in washington state and voted for Obama, voted yes on I-502 and voted yes on R-74. I am so proud to live in Washington State as it is very beautiful and I just may live here for the rest of my life, Seattle born and raised. The whole west coast is the fighting ground to legalize this harmless plant. I think if we all got the presidents attention he would hopefully listen and take in affect that these are the people who voted for him and he needs to stand for our rights.

Thu, 11/08/2012 - 3:06am Permalink
jway (not verified)

We can buy, possess and produce as much beer and wine as we want, so why can't we do the same with marijuana? Why only six plants, why only one ounce?? If the authorities don't suspect that prolific home brewers will try to sell their booze then why are they so PARANOID about home cannabis growers?

Thu, 11/08/2012 - 2:14pm Permalink
borden (not verified)

In reply to by jway (not verified)

Jway, the reason the initiative stopped short of the scenario you described is because the sponsors wanted it to pass. They presumably determined, perhaps through research, that an initiative allowing unlimited quantities would not pass. Oregon was a very open initiative, and it failed while the other two passed. Hopefully we will be able to gradually expand on things over time.

Fri, 11/09/2012 - 1:11am Permalink
sandorszabo (not verified)

When the Democratic party incorporated an anti-prohibition plank during their convention in 1932, they insured that the election would be as much a referendum on the issue as on Hoover's failings. The landslide insured its demise. A goal for 2016.
Thu, 11/08/2012 - 3:04pm Permalink
Long Time Advocate (not verified)

As someone who has followed the Drug War since the early 1980s I can say we are witnessing history.  We may not be there yet but we are getting close - and that would be making cannabis growing and use about as "political" as the truffle industry.  The media's coverage on Tuesday was, as usual, somewhere between non-existent and shameful but it really doesn't matter.  Common sense is slowing prevailing over the entrenched interests who benefit from Prohibition.

Thu, 11/08/2012 - 3:44pm Permalink
shane (not verified)

Industrial hemp is as important or more than Rec cannabis. Although ALL cannabis forms will create it's own economy , making obsolete carbon based fossil fuels, Timber/paper industry, as well as cotton and plastics made form oil. Hopefully Colorado will be farming Hemp within the year without guberment interference.


Surely everyone knows the benefits to come and innovations? Try using hemp diapers instead of the NASTY earth killing white plastic diapers.... as well as bio bags, shopping bags that bio degrade as well as bags made from fiber... Plastic should be illegal. Water bottles from hemp are already made, but pending manufacturing. The list goes on, but one of the biggest to come is building houses from Hemp. This Country could raise millions of jobs based on housing and what goes into it alone. Dupont currently has the monoploy on housing products, roofing, insulation, drywall, paint, sealants, flooring, you name it... hemp can make it... 


Let's put Dupont on the offense as well as Monsanto.

Thu, 11/08/2012 - 4:51pm Permalink
kickback (not verified)

Since Cannabis law does not distinguish between marijuana and hemp , considering them to be both one and the same , hemp is now legal at least in Colorado .

Thu, 11/08/2012 - 9:12pm Permalink
Uncle Bob (not verified)

Never forget what this is really all about, and that's reforming what can only be described as an atrocity.  MILLIONS of lives have been torn apart by the war on the drugs.  People who are NOT violent criminals, yet were sent to prisons, were stripped of their voting rights, lost employment, lost employment opportunities, lost financial aid, and that's not even counting the scores who have died abroad in places like South America and Mexico.. all fueled by a bogus policy.

It's no wonder the government doesn't want to admit it was wrong about drug prohibition, because it then means they are remembered in the history books as being responsible for all of that damage, all those families being torn apart and lives being destroyed, UNJUSTLY..

Fri, 11/09/2012 - 2:26am Permalink
Jim1 (not verified)

 Well it's about time the government started listening to the people , but truly I think they see how much money has been slipping thru there fingers , at 25% tax it won't take long for other states to see what a gold mine is here , then that opens a whole new can of worms . Watch and see if the taxes (and price) doesn't climb 5 times the rate of everything else . The government will be treating it just like tobacco and it will wind up that the government gets 75% of all the money and the people that did all the work and sold it get to split 25% ,,,, bet I'm right .... but still it's a good victory  for the people

Fri, 11/09/2012 - 11:37am Permalink
Giordano (not verified)

The victories in Colorado and Washington are a critical-mass setback for the barbarians at the gate, those who would use any excuse, not just marijuana prohibition, if it achieved the ultimate goal of oppressing and discriminating against people they don’t like for racial, political or other reasons. 

The marijuana battle has opened up the body politic to reveal the cancer at its core.  Prohibition threatens what little freedom is left in the United States and elsewhere.  It even threatens the freedom of Americans who don’t use illicit drugs, but who risk loss of 4th Amendment protections when confronted by the compulsive and sometimes pathological zeal of cops looking to make an easy drug bust.

First they come for you marijuana, then they come for your books, your pension, and your social security.  There is no limit to how far down the jackals want to push the proletariat.  Legalizing marijuana removes one of their most effective tools for doing so.


Fri, 11/09/2012 - 1:30pm Permalink
Mark Mitcham (not verified)

Another important positive aspect to this: it takes away the racist cops' favorite free-pass.

You know how they do: just say "black man with marijuana" and start beating/shooting!


Now, that kind of racial crime by cops, while by no means over, is not quite as easy as it

once was, I would think.


Sure, it's good for state taxes, yadayadayada, fine.  But this is really about justice.



Colorado, I love ya!  Meet ya later in Stonerville!

Fri, 11/09/2012 - 5:28pm Permalink
Uncle Bob (not verified)

Still nothing else from the DOJ/DEA or any other officials?  I mean based on the first quick response we all have to assume they're going to take a hostile stance against this, but the delay is drawing things out a bit.  Was expecting something by now..

Fri, 11/09/2012 - 7:48pm Permalink
the virgin terry (not verified)

i'm cautiously optimistic that this may be a momentous tipping point, but along with others i still fear federal resistance, retrenchment, and a resurgence of this utterly crazy and cruel war. still, it's great to have renewed hope. celebrate!

Fri, 11/09/2012 - 11:50pm Permalink
Annapurna1 (not verified)

at the rate of 2 states every 42 will take 588 years before 30 states (60 votes in the senate) have followed in CO and WAs footsteps...only when they have the 60 senate votes will it be possible to end the war...

OTOH..18 states now have some form of legalization..leaving only 12 more to 42 years per 18 will take 28 years to get to 30 states / 60 senators if your only looking for detente rather than a complete end to the war...

of course all this assumes that ..a) senators follow their states' mandates and not ALECs.. and b) that no right-wing dictatorship seizes power in the meantime...

so as (CO gov) hickenlooper said ..dont break out the cheetos yet...find a way to preserve them until the 27th century...


Sun, 11/11/2012 - 11:30pm Permalink
Mrs. cadena (not verified)

I truly believe this is a step in the right direction, and soon the rest of the world will realize and ultimately accept that, just because this allows world to  minimize drug dealers and violence, good.

Mon, 11/12/2012 - 3:40pm Permalink
Patent lawyer (not verified)

Actually the laws in colorado and washington are better then the ones in the netherlands. In the netherlands commercial growing of marijuana is still illegal and large scale growers are busted all the time. What is tolerated is selling it, hence why the coffeeshops flourish. The license system envisioned in the laws passed by these 2 states would actually be the furthest anyone has ever gone with legalizing marijuana in recent history. 

Tue, 11/13/2012 - 7:30pm Permalink
Patent lawyer (not verified)

In reply to by Patent lawyer (not verified)

Forgot to mention. That one reason the netherlands didn't ever fully legalize marijuana is because of UN conventions and pressure from other EU nations and probably the US. Thats why they took the middle ground gray area approach tolerating sale while maintining that production is illegal. It allowed them to have a system that worked for society (minimize crime and harm etc) while not messing with UN treaties too much. 

CO and WA totally overran those treaties. Which is why this is a big deal. If US ignores UN treaties so will the rest of the world. 

Tue, 11/13/2012 - 7:33pm Permalink

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