Colorado and Washington, The Uphill Battle After Legalization

Over 20 million people in America have been arrested since 1965 for marijuana offenses. In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first states in history to repeal marijuana prohibition. This comes as a stark blow to the federal governments "War on Drugs." Especially seeing as Washington has officially dropped marijuana from it's D.A.R.E program, which teaches kids about the harms of drugs and alcohol.

“The passage of these measures strikes a significant blow to federal cannabis prohibition. Like alcohol prohibition before it, marijuana prohibition is a failed federal policy that delegates the burden of enforcement to the state and local police. Alcohol prohibition fell when a sufficient number of states enacted legislation repealing the state’s alcohol prohibition laws. With state police and prosecutors no longer engaging in the federal government’s bidding to enforce an unpopular law, the federal government had little choice but to abandon the policy altogether. Today, history begins to repeat itself.” -NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano

In Colorado, Amendment 64, allows for the legal possession of up to an ounce and the cultivation of up to six cannabis plants by anyone 21 and up. In Washington, I-502, regulates the production and sale of limited amounts of marijuana for adults. The measure also removes criminal penalties specific to the adult possession of up to an ounce of marijuana.

Cannabis, though now legal in these two states, and legal for medical use in multiple other states, is still federally illegal.  The fact that all the laws only allow for small possessions of marijuana and limited cultivation means that people are still set up to fall. If the medical marijuana industry in California has taught us anything, it's taught us that the federal government does not keep their promises to allow the states to operate according to their laws.
In 2009 The Obama administration's drug czar , Gil Kerlikowski said he wanted to remove the idea that the U.S. was fighting a war on drugs. Even Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement that came out with the release of new policy guidelines, "It will not be a priority to use federal resources to prosecute patients with serious illnesses or their caregivers who are complying with state laws on medical marijuana." and yet in 2011, 45 dispensaries operating legally in California were ordered to shut down.

"Under United States law, a dispensary's operations involving sales and distribution of marijuana are illegal and subject to criminal prosecution and civil enforcement actions, real and personal property involved in such operations are subject to seizure by and forfeiture to the United States ... regardless of the purported purpose of the dispensary." - Read the letters signed by U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy in San Diego. 

April of this year led to the federal raid of Oaksterdam.


Marijuana laws are not well defined. and federal law enforcement believes this creates an atmosphere of overly permissive use, and quasi-legalization. Coupled with a failed war on drugs, and usage laws that change constantly from area to area, Americans are given false promises to appease our needs for the short term, while the government does it's job, which is to enforce federal laws. Federal law still states that it's illegal to cultivate, possess, or distribute marijuana.

Only time will tell if the American people really have taken the right steps to repeal marijuana prohibition, or if this is still just a transparent veil, where open market marijuana distribution will lead to more arrests, heartbreak and turmoil, for the millions of Americans who turn to marijuana for their personal needs. Colorado, and Washington now face an extremely tough uphill battle of figuring out how to change the business of marijuana in America.

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