* Joins Washington in allowing recreational use
* Allows possession of up to an ounce, growing maximum six
* U.S. Attorney says still reviewing measures
By Dan Whitcomb
Dec 10 Pot smokers formally gained the right to
light up in Colorado on Monday as Governor John Hickenlooper
signed into effect a controversial ballot measure legalizing
marijuana for adult recreational use in what proponents hailed
as a "historic day."
Hickenlooper's signature, largely a formality, made Colorado
the second U.S. state after Washington to legalize recreational
pot use, and put it on a possible collision course with the
federal government - which calls marijuana an illegal drug.
"Voters were loud and clear on Election Day," Hickenlooper
said in a statement released by his office. "We will begin
working immediately with the General Assembly and state agencies
to implement Amendment 64."
The ballot measure, approved by a margin of 55 percent to 45
percent, amends Colorado's constitution to legalize the personal
use and possession of up to an ounce (28 grams) of pot by adults
21 and over. It also allows users to grow up to six plants at
Hickenlooper, a Democrat who had opposed the amendment but
said he would respect the will of voters, had been required by
law to issue the executive order, or "official declaration of
the vote," within 30 days of certification by Colorado's
secretary of state on Dec. 6.
His move, more than three weeks before the deadline, put the
amendment into immediate effect without the pre-planned hoopla
seen in Washington state last week when pot users organized a
downtown Seattle public weed fest to begin the moment marijuana
became legal there.
Eighteen U.S. states and the District of Columbia have
already removed criminal sanctions on the use of pot for medical
purposes, but Colorado and Washington were the first to allow it
for recreational use.
The moves by the two Western states came in defiance of
federal law, and experts have said that the victories by
pro-marijuana activists could be short-lived if they are fought
by the U.S. Department of Justice.
FEDS 'REVIEWING' LAW
Colorado law will ultimately permit cannabis to be
commercially grown and sold by state-licensed producers and
distributors, and to be taxed, in a system modeled after those
used in many states for alcohol sales.
For now, it remains illegal to buy or sell marijuana in any
quantity in Colorado. But the governor ordered creation of a
task force to recommend details of a sales-and-taxation plan for
the state legislature to pass in the near future.
"This is a truly historic day. From this day forward,
adults in Colorado will no longer be punished for the simple use
and possession of marijuana," Amendment 64 spokesman Mason Tvert
said in a written statement.
"We look forward to working with the governor's office and
many other stakeholders on the implementation of Amendment 64.
We are certain that this will be a successful endeavor and
Colorado will become a model for other states to follow," he
John Walsh, U.S. Attorney for Colorado, said in a statement
that the U.S. Department of Justice was reviewing the Colorado
and Washington measures, and that its "responsibility to enforce
the Controlled Substances Act" had not changed.
"Regardless of any changes in state law, including the
change that will go into effect on December 10th in Colorado,
growing, selling or possessing any amount of marijuana remains
illegal under federal law," Walsh said.
"Members of the public are also advised to remember that it
remains against federal law to bring any amount of marijuana
onto federal property, including all federal buildings, national
parks and forests, military installations, and courthouses."
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and