Thursday, January 17, 2013

Washington and Colorado Voters Legalize Marijuana

President Obama was not the only big winner after November’s election—marijuana took center stage following its legalization in two states.  Voters in Washington and Colorado legalized marijuana for general use, becoming the first states in the U.S. to do so. These measures are in direct conflict with federal law, which continues to outlaw marijuana as a dangerous drug under the Controlled Substances Act.  The Obama administration has signaled that federal law enforcement officials will continue to pursue trafficking and other offenses throughout the U.S.

The Colorado measure, which passed with 55% of the vote, will let residents 21 years and older grow and possess up to one ounce of marijuana.  The state will also allow marijuana sales at special stores starting in 2014.  Washington's marijuana law calls for legislators to design from scratch a homegrown industry for cultivation, processing and retailing sales of marijuana within state boundaries to people 21 or older.  The state liquor-control board will oversee licensing and inspection.
Connecticut, by comparison, recently became the 17th state to legalize marijuana for medical or “palliative” use by patients with debilitating medical conditions.  The bulk of the law went into effect on October 1, 2012.  The Department of Consumer Protection will regulate the state-licensed distribution of marijuana, which includes; licensing of producers and dispensaries, registration of patients, and determination of qualifying medical conditions.  Marijuana is also “decriminalized” in Connecticut, meaning that if caught with a half-ounce or less of marijuana, you will receive a ticket, and your marijuana will be confiscated.  The first offense is a ticket for $150, with the amount of the fine increasing for each subsequent offense.