Marijuana Legalization Victories in Colorado and Washington Could be Short-lived

Though two states have voted to legalize marihuana it could become short-lived victory as the federal government will fight the bills.

Referendums legalizing recreational marijuana were passed in Colorado and Washington state, which means that the “light at the end of the tunnel” in the 50-year campaign is to make the drug legal nationwide. Photo: Dave Lobby/Flickr

British Columbia’s multibillion-dollar marijuana industry cheers the legalization of marijuana in two states – including its closest neighbour to the south.

“The outcome of these votes in Washington State and Colorado is going to be a significant factor for this industry here in British Columbia,” Werner Antweiler, a professor at the University of B.C.’s Sauder School of Business, said in an interview Wednesday.

Prof. Antweiler predicts that marijuana industry will score between $6-billion and $8-billion and that B.C. is responsible for about 60 per cent of Canada’s marijuana output, The Globe And Mail reports.

Colorado and Washington state legalized the possession and sale of marijuana for adult recreational use on Tuesday.

“This is a symbolic victory for (legalization) advocates, but it will be short-lived,” Kevin Sabet, a former adviser to the Obama administration’s drug czar, told reporters.

“They are facing an uphill battle with implementing this, in the face of … presidential opposition and in the face of federal enforcement opposition,” Sabet said.

“Yesterday’s elections have forever changed the playing field regarding cannabis prohibition laws in America (and probably in large parts of the world, too),” Allen St. Pierre, executive director of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, wrote in a celebratory blog Wednesday.

However, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said that it’s too soon to “break out the Cheetos,” as his state must still navigate federal laws before citizens can legally buy and sell cannabis, CNN informs.

The Drug Enforcement Administration issued a statement Wednesday morning which claims that the DEA’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,” the DEA statement said. “The Department of Justice is reviewing the ballot initiatives, and we have no additional comment at this time.”

Voters in Massachusetts also approved medical marijuana referendums, allowing doctors to prescribe the drug to patients suffering serious medical problems, which were carefully spelled out.

The U.S. Department of Justice, which claims that marijuana an illegal drug liable to being abused, said enforcement of the federal Controlled Substances Act “remains unchanged.”

“We are reviewing the ballot initiatives and have no additional comment at this time,” a government statement said.

Sabet said he expected the Obama administration would file a federal lawsuit seeking to block aspects of state-level legalization measures and that this “is going to be caught up in the courts for quite a while.”

Legalization is estimated to save U.S. taxpayers the $10 billion spent each year on enforcing marijuana prohibition, and eliminate the criminal cases against more than 750,000 people arrested per year for possession.

According to NORML, it is “far more than the total number of arrestees for all violent crimes combined, including murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault.”

“The voters have spoken and we have to respect their will,” Colorado Gov. Hickenlooper said in a written statement released by his office.

“This will be 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,” he said, referring to two snack food products.

Marijuana could be legal across Colorado within two months, a spokesman for the governor’s office reported today.

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