WA and CO legalize recreational weed, MA okays medicinal use, but "don’t break out Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly"

Voters in Washington and Colorado chose to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, in addition to medicinal use, making them the first U.S. states to decriminalize the practice. Massachussetts voters said yes to medicinal marijuana, making it the 18th state (together with Washington, D.C.) to legalize medical use of pot.

What all of this means in practice will be interesting to watch. If the federal crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries in California are any indication, it's not as simple as "state's rights." Marijuana is still a schedule 1 narcotic, the most restrictive class of illegal drug, with no recognized medical use by federal guidelines. Things may get ugly.

From the SFGate's coverage:

Washington will allow those at least 21 years old to buy as much as one ounce (28 grams) of marijuana from a licensed retailer. Colorado’s measure allows possession of an ounce, and permits growing as many as six plants in private, secure areas. Oregon voters rejected a similar measure. “The voters have spoken and we have to respect their will,” Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper said in a statement. “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.”

Support for marijuana’s recreational use built on measures that allow it for medical purposes in one-third of U.S. states. Previous attempts to legalize pot through ballot measures failed in California, Alaska, Oregon, Colorado and Nevada since 1972, according to the Denver-based National Conference of State Legislatures.

Who knows, maybe one day we'll catch up with Israel, where some elderly Holocaust survivors toke up to deal with concentration camp PTSD.

An AP roundup by David Crary is here. Let the showdown begin. Right after we take a celebratory puff.


  1. Personally I think the current Federal government, particularly the left, wants it to get a bit ugly… 

    Then they can concede the battle to state’s rights. 

    Cause WTF is a right wing to do about that?

    1.  I’m wondering if the Federal District Attorney for each of those states will threaten to arrest the judge/official who certifies the result of the election.

        1. Isn’t it illegal for lower level officials to advocate breaking federal law? I’m pretty sure the feds threatened officials in Oakland with something similar if Oakland went through with a city-owned/run pot farm.

    2. Obama has racked up more dispensary busts than any president before him. Don’t make the mistake of thinking the left is pro pot.

  2. I think John Hickenlooper gives the best sound bites since Bob Kerrey (i.e. Santorum is Latin for asshole).

    1. Thank you.  I’m a former Washingtonian now living in Colorado.  It was a win-win for friends and family.  The lines of cars crossing the state borders filled with folks holding fists full of dollars and credit cards will be shortlived however, as one by one more states choose to decriminalize weed and set up storefronts to keep that revenue for their own coffers. 

      I also really relish the idea of no more grandmas and grandpas scurrying about trying to make a “connection”, to help relieve symptoms that come with various medical interventions and the physical challenges of old age.

      1. > I also really relish the idea of no more grandmas and grandpas scurrying about trying to make a “connection”

        It’s easy to read this ironically/sarcastically, but it’s more realistic than some might guess.  One of my senior-citizen family members with stage 4 melanoma had one of his kids buy him some pot on at least one occasion.

        1. I’m picking on that demographic because I bowl with the senior’s league once or twice a week.  I play as a sub to support some team minus a member for a week, months or an ‘extended’ absence.  Old bodies heal slowly; cancer is an occasional visitor. 

          I watched those spry oldsters this week and wondered how many of them would know how to go about procuring weed, when and if they needed it.  Getting old is hard and frequently undignified.  Senior citizens shouldn’t have to risk imprisonment just trying to get by… or anyone else for that matter in need to relief, temporarily or indeterminate.  Alot of those folks don’t have someone younger they can fall back on for support.

  3. In the context of drug policy reform, to decriminalize is to make something that was a criminal offense a civil infraction.  What we just died in Washington was *legalize* — to change something from unlawful to lawful — possession of limited amounts of cannabis and cannabis products by adults 21 years of age and older.

        1. Yah but if people discuss the issue here in the comments, at least there is some chance they won’t use the terms interchangeably if they see your post. 

  4. Most of Denver, Aurora, Colorado Springs, Seattle, Tacoma, and Spokane are still within the 100 mile boundary of an international airport.

    Will we perhaps see an increase in federal vehicular inspection checkpoints, or maybe a bunch of no-knock warrants?

    1. The DEA already has nationwide jurisdiction, and raids pot clubs in california pretty frequently.  I’m doubt the federal government will feel compelled to involve other agencies in this issue…

  5. I’m all for the decriminalization of marijuana, but y’know… Well, this is petty, but I really hate the smell. It’s even more clingy on clothing.  Would marijuana smokers mind if we lumped them together with cigarette smokers in terms of those little non-smoking signs everywhere?  Anyway, kudos to progressive thinking in CO and WA!

    1.  I’m with you on the smell.  Wish people would be more considerate in my apartment complex and put a towel down when they smoke.

      Maybe when it’s legal, there’ll be pressure to breed a less stinky strain?

      1. Cannabis indica is the type with that skunk smell you dislike.  It’s a smaller plant than sativa, and grows well inside, while sativas are usually tall enough they do better outside.  So yeah, if it’s legal, you’ll get less stinky weed smoke, but there’ll be more of it :-)

    2. You could always ask them to exhale through a paper towel roll stuffed with fabric dryer sheets.

      Come to think of it, perhaps the smell is so clingy on clothing because marijuana smokers usually find it necessary to keep themselves shut in with the smoke so passers by won’t find out and call the police.

      edit: …or to discourage certain Bogarts from knocking on the door and asking if you “got any weed”.

      1. I lived in a 30-story apartment building where some residents would toke up daily in the fire tower on a middle floor.  Because they are designed with a negative pressure gradient so as not to fill with smoke, the result was that the part of the building served by that fire tower would completely fill with weed stench above their floor, including inside all the apartments.  To the extent that the smell of weed was what often woke me up on a Sunday morning (>10 floors up through 4 closed doors).

        Weed stench is really potent, hotboxing or no.

    3. I’m 110% for legalization, but as a former user of both substances, I couldn’t agree more. Potheads have no more right to pollute someone else’s air with their smoke, even if it’s not toxic like tobacco smoke.

    4. You’re right, that is petty. Also, I’m pretty sure those no-smoking signs don’t specifically say “No Smoking, unless its weed and then its perfectly ok”.

    5.  Meh.  I really have no problems with MJ, but I too hate the smell.  Why do people have to SMOKE it?  Why not just stick to ingestion? The stuff is supposed to give you the munchies.  If you are going to eat brownies anyways, just sprinkle the magic herbs and spices in the mix and spare your neighbors.

      1. It’s much easier to manage the dosage when smoking.  Eating it takes longer to feel the effects and you can’t adjust for potency like you can when you smoke it.  

      2.  Besides managed doses (which is a great point) the effects are much different depending whether it’s smoked or ingested.  That’s the intoxicating effects, I can’t speak to the medicinal ones.

        Eating it never did anything for me.

      3. For what it’s worth, vaporizing stinks a lot less than smoking. The first time I vaped I was pleasantly surprised how much more herbal it smelled and tasted. And what pot head worth his salt ain’t vaping these days?

        1. I like the taste better, but don’t get the same high from it. It’s still definitely a high, just…different. I wonder if some of the cannabinoids vaporize more readily than others. I know that I can still smoke “already vaped” plant matter and still feel effects from it.

      4. As stated above, its much more difficult to control the dosage and it produces very different results. 

        Additionally, in most of the world you can’t walk into the local grocery store and buy a block of nice pot butter to cook into a batch of brownies. For most people, you need to make the butter/oil that you’ll use to infuse your food. 

        If you think the smell of weed is strong when someone smokes a joint, you probably don’t want to live near someone that reduces down a couple of ounces of leaf and keif into a block of butter for 5-6 hours.

      5.  If you can be smelled, you’re exhaling smoke. If you’re exhaling smoke, you’re wasting the stuff.

        But yes, let’s write it into etiquette now: don’t force others to breathe your stuff. I can get behind that.

    6. As a cannabis smoker who *hates* the smell of cigarettes, I promise to respect any and all smoking rules in the same manner.

  6. Now that Obama’s in his second term and doesn’t have to worry about re-election, I’m hoping he’ll simply say “The voters have spoken. The DEA isn’t going to expend its resources on penalizing them.”

    1. I see Obama continuing to be in the second term, what he was in the first:  a player.  I don’t see him suddenly turning into a ‘boat-rocker’.  But we can dream…

    2. The last election he had the guts to tell us that the DEA wouldn’t be bothering medical marijuana.  And he kept that promise for at least the first week or two he was in office, and then it was all downhill after that.

      But maybe he’ll have the guts to give the remaining prisoners in Gitmo fair trials now.  Really!  This time for sure!

      1. I’m aware of his record, yes. That’s why I clarified that this being his second term, there’s less political pressure on him; he doesn’t need to cater to the Right the way he did early on in his first term in attempts to be bipartisan. Hopefully he can do what’s right.

  7. Bet my mom’s pissed she left Colorado now. ;-) 

    On a more serious note, will the people incarcerated in WA and CO for possession of under one ounce be released and have their records expunged (assuming these folks aren’t in federal facilities)?  That’s not mentioned in the SFGate articles.

    1. Might as well start the cashing in with a huge boon to taxpayers footing the bill of their incarceration!

      (cue the job creationists “What about all the prison guards and lawyers?”)

  8. The “Schedule I” nature affects sentencing guidelines, but Federal cannabis law is actually founded on a tax. Cannabis is lawful – but possession or trafficking of cannabis requires a Federal tax stamp, and that stamp is never sold. (It was sold in WWII, during a temporary crisis during which the Navy needed hemp rope.)

    So the Administration would have a workaround: it could sell tax stamps to dealers in states where dealing is lawful.

    Not that it will – there is still too big a segment of the American public that was thoroughly brainwashed by the Rockefeller drug policy. Instead, you’ll see more arrests made by FBI, CBP and ATF (because the local cops will lack the authority), and a tremendous amount of additional work for AUSA’s (because the local DA’s will lack the authority to prosecute).  I fully expect these states to have a regime where the “legal” dealers will be rounded up by the Feds, and spend more time behind bars awaiting trial in overloaded district courts than they would have had they been sentenced in their local jurisdictions. It may even be most expedient to enforce the law by, say, denying bail and then dismissing charges after six months. Eighth Amendment doesn’t actually guarantee that an offense is bailable, it provides only that bail (if offered) shall not be excessive.

  9. I did not know pot was schedule I. Right up there with heroin on the abuse potential/no medical uses/ harm scale, huh? That is one POWERFUL tobacco lobby.  

    With that said, I ADORE the Austin/NYC smoking bans. I hope all you tokers will try to stay courteous moving forward and stick to lollies and tinctures.  

    1. Always warms the cockles of my heart when banning is pursued in place of nuanced, freedom respecting, compromise.

    2.  As a former Austin pedicab operator, I used to see a lot of recreational marijuana-related stuff going down. Believe me, it’s happening right under your nose. Pun intended.

    3. And to cap it off, for relief of severe pain, the only thing that really works is opioid medication.  Of all the opioids, heroin is probably the safest. And the DEA has been conducting a war on medical pain relief for years now – prosecuting doctors who prescribe effective pain medication and pharmacists who dispense it. In the last sentence, I’m not talking about heroin – I’m talking about the opioids that are lawful to prescribe. The DEA thinks oncologists prescribe “too much,” and that patients who suffer from drug tolerance should just suck it up.

      1. Is it the only thing that really works… or just the only effective drug class available? So effective for the majority of patients in fact, no other drug development has been seriously undertaken to deal with pain?

        I’m highly allergic to opiates and opiate-like alternatives. There are a growing number of us who can not take these drugs and face a future where we may be in terrible pain and the only choice is being dosed with a drug that leaves us either trying to scratch our skins off or on the fast track to anaphylactic shock. Our doctors inevitably opt for the treatment that causes *them* the least grief, professionally speaking. Antihistamines are never quite up to the task of countering the combined misery of pain and various allergic reactions. I’m puzzled and concerned as to why the AMA has not put their collective foot up the pharma industry’s behind, to develop an safer alternative for the physical and professional relief of those many involved… pretty much EVERYONE at one point or another in their lives.

        Sorry – this subject really worries me.

        1. I’m puzzled and concerned as to why the AMA has not put their collective foot up the pharma industry’s behind

          That would be Stalinism or Maoism or something. The FDA isn’t designed to be pro-active.

    4. That’s right, pot is Schedule I, but Oxycontin (aka time release heroin which can be reverted to just heroin by crushing) is not. Also, alcohol is not Schedule I either, despite being harmful (probably more harmful than pot), frequently abused (again, more than  pot), and of no medical use (well, ok, you can sterilize your instruments with it).

      1. Alcohol has no medical use?
        1) You’ve pointed out you can sterilise your instruments, but that’s also true of wounds or after surgery. 

        2) Alcohol is also a pretty effective painkiller, but it obviously has its drawbacks in that regard and doesn’t get used for that purpose (by doctors at least) much any more.

        3) Alcohol is also a common ingredient in cough syrups, etc.

        4) Alcohol is an effective sedative which can help people sleep better, again this comes with its own problems, but hey so do sleeping tablets.

        Sorry to poop on your parade, but the “substance X has no benefits” argument really goads me.

    5. I find the obsession people have with cigarette (and now pot) smoke amusing, considering that they are surrounded by combustion engines spewing way more problematic (read smaller) stuff in the air and we inhale.

      I had to laugh loudly recently when I observed a mother getting all agitated over a guy sitting on a bench smoking a cigarette. Why was that so funny? Because she left the stroller right next to her SUV’s tailpipe where the engine was running, yet, she yelled at the guy for endangering her precious child with his evil evil cigarette smoke.

      1. I agree completely, and I’m even more incensed by the petrocarbons I’m forced to inhale on a daily basis. But by and large, our society is not ready to contemplate that question just yet.

        1.  This absurdity really came to a head for me when the Burning Man event chose “green” for its art theme. Sure, litter is considered a pollutant, and it’s supposedly a ‘leave no trace’ event. But noise and air pollution are simply not on the Man’s radar, and never will be.

          When advertising can be considered a form of sensory environment pollution, I’ll eat my hat.

      2. I don’t understand people who get upset when I squat and take a shit on their shoes. It’s not like there aren’t worse germs all around them anyway. I guess that people are just funny that way.

  10. “don’t break out Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly”

    Yes, yes… very funny.  Don’t choke on your peanuts while beating your wives, beer drinkers.

  11. Seriously, government, unless you have scientific medical training, don’t go around deciding what does and does not have medical uses. It just makes you look stupid.

  12. Speaking as a Washingtonian, I voted for this law to force us into a confrontation with the federal government. Because they’re obviously not going to change drug policy on their own.

    I lived in Oregon when we were the first state in the U.S. to pass a bill allowing physician-assisted suicide. We fought John Ashcroft and won. Attorney General Gonzales took it to the supreme court – and we won. They ruled that “the United States Attorney General could not enforce the federal Controlled Substances Act against physicians who prescribed drugs, in compliance with Oregon state law, for the assisted suicide of the terminally ill.”

    Legalizing medical marijuana hasn’t been enough to force a court case. Hopefully this will.

  13. Scientifically speaking, the substance in question is not a narcotic. 

    Narcotics are a completely different class of substance which are addictive.  The Feds merely need to make the law scientifically correct where the substance never should have been falsely deemed a narcotic.

    1. “Narcotic” is no longer used in health science. It’s in the archaic bin with “carminative” and “rubefacient”. Analgesic = painkiller, hypnotic = sleep aid, anxiolytic = anti-anxiety, etc.

  14. Now Oregon’s GOT to legalize it, unless they want to see Vancouver Washington becoming more hip than Portland. Also, think of all the money that’s going to be taken out of the pockets of honest, hardworking Oregon drug dealers and used to pay taxes in Washington.

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