Coloradans React to Justice Dept. OK'ing State-Legalized Marijuana

COLORADO: With the Justice Department announcing it will step aside, the future of retail marijuana in Colorado rests on how well it’s regulated.

The U.S. Attorney General’s Office announced in a memo Thursday it would allow states to legalize medical and recreational marijuana without interference. But states must support priorities that prevent access to children and deter other crimes such as out-of-state trafficking and impaired driving.

“It sounds similar to what I think should happen in Fort Collins,” City Councilman Ross Cunniff said.

Medical marijuana stores recently reopened in Fort Collins, but city officials plan to postpone any decisions about retail stores until March 2014. Meanwhile unincorporated Larimer County is expected to have its two medical-marijuana stores converted to retail stores — offering marijuana to all adults older than 21 — as early as January.

The federal government announced after the November 2012 election, when Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana, that it would look into the issue before deciding how to enforce federal laws — which maintain any and all marijuana is illegal and subject to criminal prosecution. Thursday’s announcement finally provided the OK for state-supported marijuana industries to operate with a measure of confidence.

“We praise the federal decision, and we believe it signals the beginning of the end of federal marijuana prohibition,” said Sean McAllister, Denver defense lawyer and spokesman for Colorado NORML. “Colorado will be a leader in the country and the world for how to responsibly regulate marijuana for all adults.”

He said the National Organization for Marijuana Legalization will continue to advocate for Congress to pass laws supporting legalized marijuana so the industry will no longer be subject to the whims of the executive branch.

The next priority is for Gov. John Hickenlooper to ensure the state succeeds at keeping it out of the hands of kids and keeping it out of the black market, he said.

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