by Michael Zennie Daily Mail
Voters in Colorado and Washington state legalized the recreational use of marijuana last night, placing the drug nearly on par with alcohol and cigarettes for the first time in U.S. history.
For the first time, residents of both states will soon be able to walk into dispensaries and purchase up to an ounce of marijuana for personal use – no prescription required. Users only have to prove they are at least 21.
Fifteen other states and the District of Columbia have approved marijuana for medical use, but it requires a doctor’s prescription and certification that it will be used to treat a chronic health condition.
The ballot measures in the two western states defy the federal government, which still views marijuana as a controlled substance. It is unknown how the Obama Administration will handle the state laws – which are still superseded by the federal prohibition.
The Justice Department could potentially sue the states and block the laws entirely.
Federal officials have stayed silent on the issue during the election, though they have taken only small steps to crack down on state-sanctioned dispensaries and growers in places like California
‘Federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug, so don’t break out the Cheetos or gold fish too quickly,’ Colorado Gov John Hickenlooper, a Democrat who opposed legalization, warned supporters celebrating their victory.
Opponents say legalizing marijuana will result in more abuse of the drug by children, as well as increased numbers of impaired who get behind the wheel under the influence.
In Washington, Initiative 502 passed by a massive 10-pount margin, 55 percent to 45 percent. It allows adults over age 21 to buy up to an ounce of marijuana from heavily-taxed state-run drug dispensaries.
Supporters poured money into the campaign, raising more than $6million, some which is spent on TV ads.
Colorado’s Amendment 64 passed 53 to 47 percent. Colorado residents over age 21 will be able to purchase up an one ounce of the drug from heavily-regulated, privately-run retail stores. It’s also legal to grow up to six marijuana plants.
Voters in Oregon rejected a marijuana-legalization bill that was even more liberal than those proposed in Washington and Colorado. It trailed by 10 percentage points and was roundly rejected in most counties last night.
Massachusetts voters approved the medical use of marijuana last night, though voters in Arkansas rejected a similar measure.
‘Today the state of Washington looked at 70 years of marijuana prohibition and said it’s time for a new approach,’ said Alison Holcomb, manager of the campaign that won passage of Initiative 502 in Washington.