Pot legalization passes in Colorado
Colorado voters dragged the state into a new era in November when they voted to enshrine the right to possess and grow marijuana into the Colorado Constitution.
Mesa County ran counter to Colorado trends, with 53 percent rejecting Amendment 64. Most Colorado voters, 55 percent, voted for the measure, which allows adults to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and to cultivate as many as six plants.
In the week following the passage of Amendment 64, the Grand Junction Police Department announced that in light of the results of the election, its officers no longer would issue tickets for possession of an ounce or less of marijuana. Palisade and Fruita police soon followed with similar declarations.
Mesa County District Attorney Pete Hautzinger, however, said prosecutions of such cases that predated the law would continue.
Amendment 64 left it up to local governments to decide whether to allow marijuana sales businesses to spring up, a prospect that can’t take shape until 2014 at the earliest. Grand Junction and Mesa County had moved already to ban medical-marijuana businesses. Only Palisade has an operating business selling medical marijuana.
Even though voters spoke clearly on the subject of legalizing marijuana in small amounts, there was an element of suspense that remained because federal law still prohibits the sale, possession and use of marijuana.
Marijuana’s listing as a Class I controlled substance was unaffected by the vote in Colorado and the passage of a similar measure in Washington.
Amendment 64 went into effect in Colorado on Dec. 10, setting the stage for conflict between state and federal law.
The tension between the constitutional amendment and federal law was significant enough that several chambers of commerce and other organizations, including Club 20 and the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, wrote to the U.S. Department of Justice, asking Attorney General Eric Holder to say whether he intended to enforce federal law, even for small amounts of marijuana.
Holder never responded, but President Barack Obama seemed to answer the question in early December, when he said in a television interview that enforcing federal law in the cases of small amounts was not a federal priority.
Colorado has a 24-member task force considering how to set up pot rules that met on Dec. 17.