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U.S. Justice Department Could Sue If Amendment 64 Passes

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

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DENVER (CBS4) – If it passes, Amendment 64 could have the U.S Justice Department suing the state of Colorado.

Amendment 64 would legalize the use and sale of small amounts of marijuana, but it would still be a federal crime. Now the Justice Department says it’ll be watching the Colorado vote closely.

The Justice Department’s stance came out of an in-depth look into Colorado’s marijuana industry. On Sunday, “60 Minutes” will air a lengthy investigation into Colorado’s marijuana industry. For drug enforcement agencies, marijuana has not been listed as a high priority, but the Attorney General’s Office indicates that it may become a legal one of theirs.

“60 Minutes” spent months looking at Colorado’s marijuana business. What won’t make air is an outtake from an interview with Deputy Attorney General James Cole, who leaves the door open to pursue the state in court should the amendment pass.

“I think our posture is the same as it’s always been. That we’re going to take a look at whether or not there are dangers to the community from the sale of marijuana and we’re going to go after those dangers,” Cole said.

“Marijuana prohibition has completely failed in all of its goals,” Betty Aldworth with the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol said.

Aldworth says they’re undeterred by the possibility the Justice Department might sue the state with their potential win.

“We are not in any way obligated to continue the failed policies and we anticipate that the federal government will respect our state’s right to do so,” Aldworth said.

Opponents say Amendment 64 will tie Colorado into an expensive legal battle, similar to the one Arizona faced with their immigration bill, which was largely overturned by the Supreme Court.

“This confirms what we’ve been saying all along,” Laura Chapin with No on 64 said. “It puts Colorado in direct violation with federal law.”

The campaign to legalize wants marijuana regulated like alcohol. But unlike prohibition, which ended in a federal amendment, Amendment 64 asks the state to go it alone and run against federal laws.

Critics say the sentiment from the “60 Minutes” interview is proof Amendment 64 will eventually fail and could be expensive for the state.

“We can’t afford this right now. We have so many other things that are budget priorities for Colorado,” Chapin said.

The most recent polling shows Amendment 64 with 47 percent support. That’s compared to 38 percent who openly oppose it. The amendment is heavily compared to a California effort to legalize pot in 2010. That effort led three months before the election, but was soundly defeated on Election Day.

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