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Colorado voters approve recreational use of marijuana

Last week Colorado voters approved Amendment 64, which would end the prohibition of marijuana and allow recreational use of the drug. According to the Denver Post, the projected win drew raucous cheers and quizzical looks on election night, along with a sense of uncertainty for what lies ahead.

Amendment 64 will allow people age 21 and older to purchase up to one ounce of the drug at specially regulated dispensaries. Possession of marijuana will be legal, but public use of the drug will not be. Adults will also be allowed to grow up to six marijuana plants in their homes.

There are several steps in the process before the law is fully implemented. Governor John Hickenlooper warned that people should not "break out the Cheetos or goldfish too quickly." The vote must first be certified by the Secretary of State, which could take two months. As such, criminal penalties for possession will not disappear until that time.

Also, questions about regulation and enforcement are still unanswered. The Department of Revenue may oversee dispensaries and craft regulations similar to those governing medicinal marijuana businesses. Further, local governments will be allowed to create ordinances banning marijuana sales in certain areas, and employers may be allowed to bar employees from using the drug.

More importantly, the state must also deal with the conflict with federal law. Currently marijuana is listed as a "Schedule I" drug under the Controlled Substances Act. Although a federal appeals court is considering a petition to the Drug Enforcement Agency regarding reclassification, it does not appear that federal law will be changing very soon.

As such, there may be a volley of legal challenges similar to those in Arizona in the coming year.

Source: DenverPost.com, Coloradans say yes to recreational use of marijuana, November 7, 2012

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