Two years ago, voters in the Golden State rejected a measure that would have legalized marijuana under state law. However, last night in Colorado and in Washington state, the people voted to legalize it.
But what does this really mean? The fact is that for more than a decade, the federal government has cracked down on some aspects of medical marijuana in California, and still lists pot as a Schedule One drug.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who opposed the measure, said, "The voters have spoken and we have to respect their will. This is a complicated process, but we intend to follow through. That said, federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug, so don't break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly."
Legalizing marijuana did fail in Oregon.
Old fashioned medical marijuana also passed last night in Massachusetts, now making all of New England — with the exception of New Hampshire — a medical marijuana zone. Medical marijuana is now the law of the land in 18 states, along with the District of Columbia.
Medical marijuana continues to be resisted in the South. Last night, voters in Arkansas rejected the measure.
Going back to the two states that passed legalizing weed, how will this all work out?
An article in Portland's The Oregonian quotes Jonathan Caulkins — a professor at Carnegie Mellon University who has written about marijuana policy — as saying nobody knows what the Obama administration will do.
"I guarantee you," he said, "there is no way to know" how the administration will react.
A Denver Post editorial says that the state of Colorado must now lead the way on ending the federal prohibition on pot.
But what should the feds do about the grow facilities that will no doubt crop up? How will production and distribution be monitored, if at all?
That's probably a question for state lawmakers.
One thing we do know from the state's experience with medical marijuana is that lawmakers are capable of coming together and crafting regulations for the industry — regardless of their views on pot.
Amendment 64 requires them to refer a measure to voters to see about taxing marijuana. While we would prefer that initiatives not direct the legislature to take specific action, taxing marijuana is a logical step and we hope that is part of the package now that pot is legal in Colorado.
The next step in the fight remains to end the federal prohibition on pot. Colorado is now leading that charge.
Meanwhile, back in the Sunshine State, the efforts to try to get medical marijuana seem no closer to fruition. If you're interested in where that movement is going, visit the PUFMM (People United For Medical Marijuana) website.