Light Up, Colorado: Marijuana Goes Legal
Bill Hudson | 11/7/12

"Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning marijuana, and, in connection therewith, providing for the regulation of marijuana; permitting a person twenty-one years of age or older to consume or possess limited amounts of marijuana; providing for the licensing of cultivation facilities, product manufacturing facilities, testing facilities, and retail stores; permitting local governments to regulate or prohibit such facilities; requiring the general assembly to enact an excise tax to be levied upon wholesale sales of marijuana; requiring that the first $40 million in revenue raised annually by such tax be credited to the public school capital construction assistance fund; and requiring the general assembly to enact legislation governing the cultivation, processing, and sale of industrial hemp?"

The short answer is "Yes".

The Associated Press is reporting this morning, Wednesday, November 7, that Colorado voters have approved a constitutional amendment, Amendment 64 — although as of 4am I have not found a final tally.  The Denver Post has posted an article stating that, with 66 percent of the voters counted, Amendment 64 was winning, with 53.3 percent voting in favor and 46.7 percent opposed.

The vote is historic in America, according to Beau Kilmer, co-director of the Rand Drug Policy Research Center, as quoted in the Denver Post:

"This is really groundbreaking... No modern jurisdiction has ever removed the prohibition on the production and possession of marijuana for recreational purposes... Since no one has done this before, there are a lot of uncertainties."

According to preliminary election results posted on the Archuleta County website, Amendment 64 was approved by 55.6 percent of local voters — with a total of 3534 voting "Yes" and 2822 voting "No".  You can click here to view all the preliminary results from Archuleta County.

State criminal penalties for possessing the herb won't disappear until the election is certified, which could take up to two months.

The amendment allows for a commerical marijuana industry to develop in Colorado — separate from the current medical marijuana industry that was approved by Colorado voters back in 2000 — but the measure doesn't spell out exactly how that industry will be regulated, except to specify the Department of Revenue as the regulating agency. Proponents envision something similar to the state's system governing medical marijuana, which involves security requirements, the monitoring of plants as they are grown and shipped, and auditors who perform site checks.

The first recreational stores could open in January 2014, and would be separate from existing medical marijuana dispensaries. Local governments could ban marijuana sales, and employers could still bar employees from using it.

The measure also allows farmers to grow hemp, a commercially versatile non-drug strain of cannabis sativa. Hemp is valuable in tens of thousands of commercial products, including paper, rope, construction material and clothing, in which hemp is stronger and longer-lasting than cotton. It also is a useful source of biofuels from the oils found in the seeds and in medical products.

One unresolved question is how the federal government will respond to this new law. When state and federal laws conflict, federal law takes precedence. Federal authorities could sue in an attempt to block the measure in Colorado — and in Washington state, where a similar measure appears to have been approved by voters.

The Colorado measure states that adults older than 21 can possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana, or six marijuana plants, for personal use. It specifically prohibits using the drug “openly or publicly.”

Taxes on marijuana sales will need to be developed by the state legislature, and then must be approved by the voters. The measure directs state lawmakers to place an excise tax of up to 15 percent on marijuana sales, with the first $40 million each year devoted to school construction

Legalization backers argued that marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol and should be regulated and taxed. Opponents countered that legalizing the herb would increase its use and make it easier for youths to obtain it.


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