But Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Attorney General John Suthers deserve praise for their handling of Amendment 64, the controversial measure legalizing marijuana in the state. Colorado voters approved the ballot measure overwhelmingly Nov. 6, with the measure passing 55 percent to 45 percent.
Although both opposed 64, Democrat Hickenlooper and Republican Suthers moved quickly to implement the will of the Colorado electorate. The pair has conferred with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to determine how the federal government will react to legalization at the state level.
Despite Colorado’s vote — and a similar passage in Washington state — marijuana remains illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act, and Hickenlooper and Suthers want to determine how the feds will respond.
“Specifically, we need to know whether the federal government will take legal action to block implementation or whether it will seek to prosecute grow and retail operations,” the two wrote to Holder.
Meanwhile, various members of Colorado’s congressional delegation, including Rep. Jared Polis, have urged support for legislation exempting states from the federal marijuana prohibition, if they have passed laws legalizing the drug for recreational or medicinal use.
Hickenlooper and Suthers deserve kudos for seeking to clear a murky legal situation. Colorado voters tossed the state into a quandary when they legalized a substance that remains illegal federally. Knowing how federal law-enforcement officials will react is essential for state and local officials to establish a regulatory environment for marijuana.
A lawsuit by the feds would answer whether a state can trump federal law. Residents need to know whether they will be arrested if selling or using marijuana.
At this point, what’s needed most is clarity.