With 54 percent of voters statewide approving Amendment 64 in the Nov. 6 election, Colorado, voted to legalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana and to allow for the taxation of marijuana sales. Voters in Washington State adopted a similar law.
In conservative Montrose County, where a majority of voters opposed the amendment to the State’s constitution, the Commissioners stated in December that they are prepared to go to great lengths to keep the sale of marijuana for recreational purposes out of the county.
“From my perspective, I am not looking for a way to make this happen, I am looking for a way to not let this happen in this county,” Commissioner Gary Ellis said. “We don’t need this nonsense. I am not sure what voters in the state of Colorado were thinking, but if we can prevent it from happening here, that is my position.”
Because current zoning regulations don’t address the impacts of commercial marijuana facilities, and because the state had not approved any commercial sale regulations, the Montrose Commissioners adopted a resolution enacting a six-month temporary moratorium on the commercial growing or dispensing of marijuana.
Citing public health safety, economic well-being and the preservation of peace, the Montrose City Council also unanimously approved a city ordinance imposing a temporary moratorium on recreational marijuana retail dispensaries.
Even in liberal San Miguel County, Sheriff Bill Masters, a longtime vocal critic of the so-called War on Drugs, expressed own concerns about the passage of Amendment 64. “I’m not thrilled,” said Masters, who describes himself as believing “pretty strongly in state’s rights.
“I wish the state legislators had had the courage to sort these regulations out without the force of a Constitutional amendment,” Masters explained.
Two days after the election, Masters sent out a memo to his deputies anticipating possible problems as the state begins to implement policies regarding marijuana cultivation and sales for recreational use, even as those activities remain illegal under federal regulations. In that memo, Masters urged deputies to not report marijuana violations to federal authorities without his approval.
“I don’t think the feds would ever prosecute,” he said, “but it’s still illegal, under federal law, to distribute marijuana.”
Gov. John Hickenlooper signed an executive order that makes an “official declaration of the vote” related to Amendment 64 on Dec. 10. That declaration formalizes the amendment as part of the State Constitution and makes legal the personal use, possession and limited home-growing of marijuana under Colorado law for adults 21 years of age and older.
“Voters were loud and clear on Election Day,” Hickenlooper said. “We will begin working immediately with the General Assembly and state agencies to implement Amendment 64.”
The Colorado Legislature has until July 1, 2013 to produce guidelines on the commercial sale of recreational marijuana and how it all plays out will undoubtedly be in The Watch’s top ten stories next year.