DENVER, CO — Less than a week after Colorado’s successful Amendment 64, intended to establish a regulated cannabis industry, the marijuana legalization initiative has seemingly reached it’s first roadblock.
In an attempt to gauge possible federal response to marijuana legalization in Colorado, Governor John Hickenlooper spoke by phone Friday U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who’s medical marijuana crackdown has hurt the thriving medical marijuana community in Denver and other cities across the country.
The governor’s office provided few details on the call and didn’t indicate whether any agreements were reached. State Attorney General John Suthers also participated in the call, which took place a little after 3 p.m.
Hickenlooper opposed Amendment 64 and has downplayed the likelihood of a commercial marijuana market materializing in Colorado, and this could be a sign that the governor may be stalling the state’s implementation of the voter approved marijuana legalization law.
Meanwhile, in Washington state, a spokesman for Gov. Chris Gregoire said this week that Gregoire would respect the will of the people and begin the steps toward implementing I-502, while local prosecutors are already dismissing hundreds of misdemeanor marijuana possession cases.
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Co-director Brian Vicente released this statement Friday afternoon:
The people of Colorado have sent a strong and indisputable message that they want marijuana to be regulated in a manner similar to alcohol. With their vote on Amendment 64, they sent the message that marijuana prohibition has failed and it is time to take marijuana sales out of the hands of cartels and gangs and place them in regulated and state-licensed stores. Within weeks, it will be legal for every Colorado resident over the age of twenty-one to possess and, if necessary, grow marijuana. The people of Colorado did not vote for widespread home cultivation; they voted for a tightly regulated marijuana industry.
Governor Hickenlooper must use today’s call to ask the Attorney General what concerns the Department of Justice has about the implementation of Amendment 64. And the state of Colorado should do everything in its power to comply with those concerns, assuming they are rational and can be addressed in a manner consistent with the overall goal of regulating marijuana sales. There is a difference, however, between inquiring about the concerns of the federal government and seeking their direction or permission. The federal government will retain the right to arrest anyone they want for marijuana, if they believe that is an efficient and worthwhile use of their resources. But the state of Colorado is free to determine its own path on this issue. And the people of Colorado have established that path.
Governor Hickenlooper should not imitate Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, who held up the implementation of that state’s medical marijuana law, claiming that the state could not implement due to federal law. In fact, Gov. Brewer and her attorney general sought to compel the federal government to provide guidance through a lawsuit filed in federal court. That lawsuit was dismissed, with the federal government responding in court filings that the state of Arizona’s concerns were without basis. Implementation in Colorado, starting with sketching out plans for implementation, should begin today.
Under the direction of Attorney General Holder, medical marijuana states have seen their programs decimated as the DEA and other agencies continue to raid dispensaries, charging operators with federal drug trafficking charges and taking steps to seize the properties under federal forfeiture and seizure laws, despite the dispensaries’ compliance with state and local laws.
Medical marijuana states with laws that focus more on home cultivation and have limited, if any, dispensaries have largely escaped this War on Medical Marijuana thus far, indicating that the federal government is against any regulated market, but tolerant of at-home cultivation and personal use.
Since the historic vote to legalize marijuana in Colorado and Washington on Tuesday, U.S. Justice Department officials, who consider all marijuana possession and sales illegal under federal law, have said they will continue their enforcement efforts regardless of state law but have been vague on specifics.