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Colorado becomes second US state to legalize pot

12 december 2012, 15:53
0
©REUTERS/Albeiro Lopera
©REUTERS/Albeiro Lopera
Colorado became the second US state to legalize marijuana for recreational use Monday, as its governor signed a voter-backed proposal into law, AFP reports.

But justice officials warned that smoking pot for fun remains against federal law, reflecting the clouds around the the issue of legalizing the drug, favored by a growing number of Americans.

Days after Washington state's pot smokers celebrated the first such law, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed an order legalizing personal use, possession and limited home-growing of marijuana for adults aged at least 21.

Colorado voters backed Amendment 64 legalizing marijuana use on November 6, in one of many state referendums held on the same day as the White House election that saw President Barack Obama secure a second term.

Hickenlooper -- who on referendum day quipped that pot smokers should not "break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly" -- had 30 days from the election date to sign it into law.

"Voters were loud and clear on Election Day," the governor said. "We will begin working immediately with the (state) General Assembly and state agencies to implement Amendment 64."

But he also warned: "It is still illegal under state law to buy or sell marijuana in any quantity and to consume marijuana in public or in a way that endangers others."

Federal US law still bans marijuana for recreational use, clouding the issue for the two western states that have legalized it. Pot use for medicinal purposes is already legal in about 20 US states.

A growing number of Americans favor legalizing cannabis. A Quinnipiac University poll last week said 51 percent favored legalization, with 44 percent against.

Hickenlooper, acknowledging the legal gray areas, announced the creation of a task force on implementing Amendment 64.

"The task force will consider and resolve a number of policy, legal and procedural issues, involving various interests and stakeholders, to implement the new constitutional amendment," his office said in a statement.

"All stakeholders share an interest in creating efficient and effective regulations that provide for the responsible development of the new marijuana laws."

US Attorney for Colorado John Walsh meanwhile underlined the risk of federal legal action -- in both his state and Washington -- shortly after Hickenlooper's announcement.

"The Department of Justice is reviewing the legalization initiatives recently passed in Colorado and Washington state," he said in a statement.

"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."

He noted that marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance considered to have a high potential for abuse.

"Regardless of any changes in state law... growing, selling or possessing any amount of marijuana remains illegal under federal law," said Walsh.

"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."

Washington's neighbor Oregon also held a referendum on legalizing recreational marijuana on November 6, but its residents rejected the proposal by 55 percent to 45 percent.

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