DENVER (CBS4/AP) – Gov. John Hickenlooper on Monday signed the executive order that makes Amendment 64 part of the state constitution.
Hickenlooper held a news conference Monday afternoon to discuss the voter-approved marijuana legalization amendment, which makes it legal to possess and grow marijuana for adults.
Hickenlooper’s declaration, a procedural step, means that marijuana is effectively legal for recreational use in Colorado. The drug became legal in Washington state last week.
Hickenlooper, a Democrat, opposed the measure but had no veto power over the voter-approved amendment to the state constitution. He tweeted his declaration and announced it to reporters by email.
The Democratic governor said voters were “loud on clear” when they voted last month to make pot legal without a doctor’s recommendation. Adults over 21 may now possess up to an ounce of marijuana, or six plants.
The law gave Hickenlooper until Jan. 5 to declare marijuana legal. He told reporters Monday he saw no reason to wait and didn’t see any point in letting marijuana become legal without his proclamation.
“If the voters go out and pass something and they put it in the state constitution, by a significant margin, far be it from myself or any governor to overrule. I mean, this is why it’s a democracy, right?” Hickenlooper said.
Mason Tvert, an official proponent of Amendment 64 who served as co-director of the campaign in support of the measure, said it was a “historic day.”
“From this day forward, adults in Colorado will no longer be punished for the simple use and possession of marijuana. We applaud Gov. Hickenlooper for issuing this declaration in a timely fashion, so that adult possession arrests end across the state immediately,” he wrote in a prepared statement. “We look forward to working with the governor’s office and many other stakeholders on the implementation of Amendment 64. We are certain that this will be a successful endeavor and Colorado will become a model for other states to follow.”
Colorado and Washington officials both have asked the U.S. Department of Justice for guidance on the laws that conflict with federal drug law. Neither state will allow commercial sales for a year or more. So far the federal government has offered little guidance beyond stating that marijuana remains illegal and that the controlled Substances Act will be enforced.
Of special concern for state regulators is how to protect state employees who violate federal drug law by complying with state marijuana laws.
Hickenlooper announced a state task force Monday to help craft marijuana regulations. Task force members include law enforcement, agriculture officials and marijuana advocates. The governor admonished the task force not to ponder whether marijuana should be legal.
“I don’t think we benefit anyone by going back and turning over the same soil. Our job is to move forward,” he said.
Hickenlooper told the task force to “work to reconcile Colorado and federal laws such that the new laws and regulations do not subject Colorado state and local governments and state and local government employees to prosecution by the federal government.”
The following is a statement released Monday by the U.S. Attorney John Walsh:
“The Department of Justice is reviewing the legalization initiatives recently passed in Colorado and Washington state. The Department’s responsibility to enforce the Controlled Substances Act remains unchanged. Neither States nor the Executive branch can nullify a statute passed by Congress. In enacting the Controlled Substances Act, Congress determined that marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance. Regardless of any changes in state law, including the change that will go into effect on December 10th in Colorado, growing, selling or possessing any amount of marijuana remains illegal under federal law. Members of the public are also advised to remember that it remains against federal law to bring any amount of marijuana onto federal property, including all federal buildings, national parks and forests, military installations, and courthouses.”
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