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Hickenlooper To Create Marijuana Task Force To Iron Out Laws For Legal Weed In Colorado

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A man smokes marijuana during at a demonstration in favor of legalizing marijuana. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
A man smokes marijuana during at a demonstration in favor of legalizing marijuana. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper will create a marijuana task force to help iron out the new laws and policy regarding legal marijuana in the state.

The governor's spokesman, Eric Brown, described that, upon creation, the task force will work "to identify the policy, legal and procedural issues that need to be resolved related to Amendment 64," The Denver Post reports.

Hickenlooper posted this to his Facebook page Wednesday morning:

We are working to create a task force to identify the policy, legal and procedural issues that need to be resolved related to Amendment 64. The task force will be charged with offering suggestions for legislative and executive actions that need to be taken for the effective and efficient implementation of the amendment. The task force will include lawmakers, state agency representatives, stakeholders, marijuana advocates and others. We expect to have more details about the task force ready to announce soon.

According to The Associated Press, the task force will include members of the marijuana advocacy community, state lawmakers and other state agencies that would likely be affected by the legalization of marijuana for recreational use in the state. Although the state agencies were not explicitly named, most likely that includes members of law enforcement and the substance abuse treatment communities.

It has already been three weeks since the passage of historic measures in Colorado and Washington which legalized the recreational use of marijuana. On Dec. 6, Washington's Initiative 502 -- which legalized marijuana for recreational use for adults 21 and over in that state -- will become law. On that same date in Colorado, Secretary of State Scott Gessler's office will certify the November vote totals from each Colorado county. Then 30 days from that date, Hickenlooper will sign off and Amendment 64 becomes law.

A64 will allow adults 21 and older to purchase up to one ounce of marijuana from specialty marijuana dispensaries and grow up to six marijuana plants in their homes. Possession is limited to up to an ounce for personal use, but selling marijuana without a license, purchasing marijuana from a party who is not licensed as well as public use of marijuana will remain illegal.

And although A64 has not yet officially become law, some local prosecutors are already reacting to the passage of the amendment by dropping marijuana possession cases. Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey as well as Boulder County DA Stan Garnett announced that their offices would drop possession prosecutions for adults for less than an ounce of marijuana as well as for possession of marijuana paraphernalia.

The federal government's enforcement intent on marijuana law remains unclear. Attorney General Eric Holder, who was a vocal opponent of California's legalization initiative in 2010 saying he would "vigorously enforce" federal marijuana prohibition, remained silent on the issue during the election cycle and has continued to remain silent now that the measures have passed in Colorado and Washington.

Hickenlooper, who has been a vocal opponent of Amendment 64 but has said that he intends to respect the wishes of the voters, did have a phone call with Holder to discuss Colorado's legalizing of marijuana and how the feds might respond, but the results of that call did not offer any insight into the Department of Justice's stance on the marijuana measures in Colorado and Washington, according to The Associated Press.

Colorado U.S. Reps Diana DeGette, Jared Polis, Mike Coffman and Ed Perlmutter have already introduced legislation that would exempt any state that passes its own laws governing marijuana and/or medical marijuana from federal laws banning the sale, possession and use of small amounts of pot by adults called the Respect States' and Citizens' Rights Act, The Colorado Independent reported.

If the Obama administration does decide to crackdown on legalized marijuana in Colorado -- where more people voted for marijuana legalization than for the president's reelection -- the administration could face some serious political fallout with much of the same population of the Centennial State that handed him Colorado on election night.

However many proponents of legalization say they don't foresee federal agents interfering in states that have legalized cannabis, NBC News reported, citing the federal government's silence on the issue this election cycle.

There is also the July report from GQ which stated that President Obama wants to "pivot" on the war on drugs during his second term. Marc Ambinder writes:

Don't expect miracles. There is very little the president can do by himself. And pot-smokers shouldn't expect the president to come out in favor of legalizing marijuana. But from his days as a state senator in Illinois, Obama has considered the Drug War to be a failure, a conflict that has exacerbated the problem of drug abuse, devastated entire communities, changed policing practices for the worse, and has led to a generation of young children, disproportionately black and minority, to grow up in dislocated homes, or in none at all.

Optimism about a second-term Obama administration that turns its stance around on marijuana might be difficult for some pot business owners who have seen the DOJ aggressively crack down on medical marijuana dispensaries in states like California and Colorado where hundreds of pot shops have been shuttered just since the beginning of 2012.

The passage of these measures in Colorado and Washington -- as well as similar legalization measures that are expected to be announced in Rhode Island and Maine -- may not signal a full-blown end to the decades-long drug war, but perhaps a truce is near. Neil Franklin, on a recent teleconference before the Thanksgiving holiday that was aimed at pressuring Obama and Holder to respect states' rights on pot said he was cautiously optimistic about Obama's reaction to states legalizing marijuana. "During his first term, President Obama really disappointed those of us who hoped he might follow through on his campaign pledges to respect state medical marijuana laws," said Franklin, in a statement about the letter delivered to Holder on Tuesday. "Still, I'm hopeful that in his second term he'll realize the political opportunity that exists to do the right thing."

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