Colorado and Washington have become the first US states to legalize marijuana for recreational use, a watershed moment in the nation’s history that could have a major impact on existing MMJ businesses. Tough questions remain about how the two states will implement the new laws and regulate businesses that crop up as a result. It’s also unclear how the Obama administration will respond given that marijuana is still illegal federally.
But marijuana supporters are convinced this will benefit the entire cannabis community, including medical marijuana professionals.
“We are thrilled to end marijuana prohibition in Colorado and to have an opportunity to change the way we approach marijuana in this state,” Betty Aldworth, advocacy director for the legalization campaign in Colorado, said as cannabis supporters celebrated at a downtown Denver bar after TV stations called the election in favor of the measure. “Amendment 64 was carefully drafted to ensure MMJ will remain a successful system, and patients will see enormous benefits.”
Legalization could be a game-changer for cannabis businesses in both Colorado and Washington, one way or another. Supporters say legalization will create a rising tide that lifts all boats and generates a host of new business opportunities. Some professionals, however, fear that it will lead to increased federal scrutiny on MMJ businesses and end up battering the medical cannabis industry.
It remains to be seen how the two states handle and implement the new law, and legal issues will most certainly arise if stores selling marijuana for general use open.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper came out against the marijuana measure several weeks ago, but he seems ready and willing to move forward with legalization now.
“The voters have spoken and we have to respect their will,” Hickenlooper wrote on his Facebook page. “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 gold fish too quickly.”
Several states (including Colorado) have attempted to legalize marijuana in the past, with unsuccessful results. Now, however, two states have done so at the same time, which could send a message to the federal government that the nation is ready to reform marijuana laws.
Oregon also had a marijuana legalization initiative on the ballot, but the measure failed by a wide margin.
In other marijuana election news:
– Massachusetts has become the 18th state in the nation to legalize cannabis, as expected, giving medical marijuana a stronger foothold on the East Coast.
– A measure to legalize MMJ in Arkansas came up short, dashing hopes that medical cannabis will be able to crack the South.
– An initiative to keep tough new restrictions on the Montana MMJ industry passed, which could spell the end for most remaining cannabis businesses in the state.