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Colorado governor gives pot smokers an early gift: legality

December 11, 2012|By Matt Pearce

Now pot-smokers can light up in Colorado too.

A proclamation from Gov. John Hickenlooper on Monday made Colorado the second state -- after Washington on Thursday -- to legalize possession, home growth and personal use of marijuana.

Hickenlooper certified a November voter referendum that enshrined marijuana in the state constitution. It passed with 55% of the vote.

The governor -- who opposed Amendment 64  along with Colorado's attorney general and Denver's mayor -- had earlier cautioned  smokers not to "break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly." But he had no power to veto the amendment and decided to get legalization over with.

Without his proclamation, the measure would have taken effect 30 days after the final tally of votes.

“Voters were loud and clear on election day,” Hickenlooper said in a statement. “We will begin working immediately with the General Assembly and state agencies to implement Amendment 64.”

Hickenlooper tweeted his declaration and sent an executive order to reporters by email after the fact. He told reporters he didn't want to make a big deal about the proclamation to avoid a countdown to legality, the Associated Press reported. 

 The sale of marijuana remains illegal in Colorado for now. Hickenlooper's proclamation also established a 24-member committee including legislators, health officials and advocates who will decide how to implement the regulatory framework that will eventually license sales in the state.

Mason Tvert, one of the architects behind marijuana advocates' success in Colorado, lauded the governor for moving quickly on approving the law rather than waiting until the last moment.

"We applaud Gov. Hickenlooper for issuing this declaration in a timely fashion, so that adult possession arrests end across the state immediately," Tvert said in a statement Monday. 

Hickenlooper acknowledged that the state faces a significant amount of uncertainty in implementing the law  because all marijuana sale and possession remains illegal under federal law. Much of what happens next will depend on whether the U.S. Department of Justice decides to continue prosecuting marijuana offenses in Colorado or to legally attack the law some other way.

“As we move forward now with implementation of Amendment 64, we will try to maintain as much flexibility as possible to accommodate the federal government’s position on the amendment,” Hickenlooper said, instructing committee members to accept voters' choice as the rule of law rather than debate the merits of legalization.

The committee will report back with its findings by the end of February.

A quick scan of tweets from Colorado revealed some confusion and pleasant surprise among residents:  "So is weed finally actually legal in Colorado?" "Wait, weed wasn't legal already in Colorado?" "Weed is officially legal in Colorado now."

Yes, Coloradoans, it's true. But you still can't feed pot brownies to your classmates.

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