Yesterday, voters in Colorado and Washington passed historic amendments that will legalize the use of recreational marijuana. Many in California wonder: Is our state next? While initiatives to legalize marijuana in California certainly exist, there are some concerns, which are highlighted by the challenges faced in Colorado.
In Colorado, Amendment 64 passed with almost 55 percent of the vote. The amendment will allow anyone over 21 to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow up to six marijuana plants in their homes. Specific stores would be able to sell the marijuana as long as they followed a long list of regulations. The law would not, however, allow public use of marijuana.
While celebrations of the amendment's passing included marijuana parties, individuals are advised to hold off on buying and growing marijuana. Marijuana use and possession will remain illegal until the election results have been certified, perhaps a few months from now. Furthermore, the first marijuana stores will not open until January, 2014. Until that time, there will likely be multiple challenges to the amendment, including a potential challenge from the federal government.
Even though marijuana will be legal under Colorado law, it remains illegal under federal law. This means that if you "legally" possess marijuana in Colorado, you may still face federal charges for marijuana possession. We will have to see how this plays out, but for now, the Justice Department has said that it will not change its enforcement of drug laws because of the votes in Colorado and Washington.
"The department's enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act remains unchanged. In enacting the Controlled Substances Act, Congress determined that marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance. We are reviewing the ballot initiatives and have no additional comment at this time," Nanda Chitre, a Justice Department spokewoman, said today.
In the meantime, if you have been accused of a marijuana crime under California or federal law, an experienced criminal defense lawyer can help you determine how the various marijuana possession and sales laws affect you.
Source: CBS News, "Justice Department: Drug laws 'remain unchanged; following passage of marijuana initiatives," Alex Sundby, Nov. 7, 2012