DENVER -- Colorado gave a lonely reception to marijuana when it became the second state to legalize the drug. Just as state leaders planned.

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Monday quietly removed the final barrier to legalization by declaring that an amendment passed by voters in November was officially part of the state constitution. He announced the move on Twitter and email after the fact. In response, a handful of marijuana activists celebrated by toking up on the Capitol steps, but there were no crowds and little fanfare.

It was a different scene in Washington state, which last week became the first state to legalize marijuana. There, activists counted down to legalization outside Seattle landmarks such as the Space Needle. Colorado officials wanted no such revelry.

Hickenlooper, a Democrat who opposed the marijuana measure, said he purposely sought a low-key enactment.

Colorado law gave him until Jan. 5 to declare marijuana legal. He told reporters he saw no reason to wait and didn't see any point in letting marijuana become legal without his proclamation.

"I could have made a bigger deal out of it, you know, tried to make a hoopla out of it," Hickenlooper told reporters after the marijuana declaration.

"But if we are concerned about young people thinking that this ... is really in some way a tacit endorsement, that's it's OK to smoke pot – we're trying to mitigate that as much as possible," he said.

About two dozen marijuana activists gathered outside Hickenlooper's office on the Capitol steps to pass around joints and bongs after the announcement. Public consumption in both states remains illegal, but no police officers were in sight of the small celebration in Denver.

"It smells like freedom," said a smiling, puffing Timothy Tipton, a longtime marijuana activist.

When Colorado's marijuana measure passed last month with 55 percent of the vote, Hickenlooper cautioned pot smokers not to get too excited because the drug remains illegal under federal law. Colorado and Washington officials both reached out to federal authorities to see if they planned to sue to block the state pot measures. There's been no signal, with federal authorities simply repeating that the Controlled Substances Act remains intact.

Hickenlooper said there are still many questions to be answered about how federal authorities plan to respond to state marijuana legalization. Colorado's measure specifically directs lawmakers to regulate commercial sales of marijuana, something federal authorities have repeatedly said they won't allow.

The governor said he's not frustrated by the slow federal response.

"They're going as fast as they can," Hickenlooper said. "There's no black and white, right and wrong answer here."

Colorado's constitution now allows adults over 21 to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, and six plants. Hickenlooper has set up a task force of lawmakers, law enforcement, marijuana activists and agriculture officials to suggest how the drug should be regulated. The group has a February deadline for suggesting pot rules, which must be approved by the Legislature.

___

Loading Slideshow...
  • $13.7 Billion Saved On Prohibition Enforcement Costs

    The government would save an estimated $13.7 billion on prohibition enforcement costs and tax revenue by legalizing marijuana, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/17/economists-marijuana-legalization_n_1431840.html" target="_hplink">according to a paper endorsed by 300 economists</a>.

  • Marijuana Inmates Cost Prisons $1 Billion A Year

    Inmates incarcerated on marijuana-related charges cost U.S. prisons $1 billion annually, according to a 2007 study, <a href="http://www.alternet.org/rights/47815/" target="_hplink">AlterNet reports</a>.

  • Marijuana Prohibition Costs Taxpayers $41.8 Billion A Year

    Including lost tax revenues, a 2007 study found that enforcing the marijuana prohibition costs tax payers $41.8 billion annually, <a href="http://www.forbes.com/2007/09/29/marijuana-laws-work-biz-cx_qh_1001pot.html" target="_hplink">Forbes</a> reports.

  • California Marijuana Crop Worth $14 Billion A Year

    Marijuana growers account for <a href="http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1884956,00.html" target="_hplink">$14 billion a year in sales in California</a>, making it the state's most valuable cash crop, TIME reports.

  • Illegal Marijuana A $36 Billion A Year Industry

    It's estimated that <a href="http://madamenoire.com/106691/capitalizing-on-the-billion-dollar-marijuana-industry/" target="_hplink">illegal marijuana is a $36 billion industry</a> in the U.S., MadameNoire reports.

  • One-Third Of Americans Think Legalization Would Boost The Economy

    About one-third of Americans say they think <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/20/legalizing-pot-will-not-b_n_544526.html?" target="_hplink">legalizing marijuana would boost the economy</a>, according to a 2010 poll by Associated Press-CNBC.

  • Dispensary Ads Boost Newspapers' Revenue

    The <em>Sacramento News and Review</em> saw a big boost in ad revenue when it offered advertising space for more than 60 medical marijuana dispensaries, enabling the publication to hire three additional employees, <a href="http://www.news10.net/news/local/article/144285/2/Marijuana-ads-mean-big-money-for-weekly-newspaper" target="_hplink">according to News 10</a>.

  • Mendocino Zip Tie Program Raised $600,000

    Mendocino County, California's zip tie program aimed at regulating medical marijuana growing by charging permits for each plant raised <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/09/medical-marijuana-license-mendocino_n_1193198.html" target="_hplink">$600,000 in revenue in for the Sheriff's department</a> in 2011.

  • Oakland Raised More Than $1 Million In Marijuana Tax Revenue

    The city of Oakland, California raised $1.3 million in tax revenue from medical marijuana dispensaries in 2011, 3 percent of the city's total business tax revenue, according to <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/12/us/cities-turn-to-a-crop-for-cash-medical-marijuana.html?_r=1" target="_hplink"><em>The New York Times</em></a>.

  • Colorado Pulls In $5 Million From Pot Sales Tax

    In 2011, Colorado pulled in $5 milllion in sales taxes from medical marijuana businesses, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/12/us/cities-turn-to-a-crop-for-cash-medical-marijuana.html?_r=1" target="_hplink"><em>The New York Times</em></a> reports.

  • Legal Marijuana Could Be $100 Billion Industry

    Economist Stephen Easton estimated in 2010 that <a href="http://www.businessweek.com/debateroom/archives/2010/03/legalize_mariju.html" target="_hplink">legal marijuana could be a $45 to $100 billion industry</a>, <em>Bloomberg Businessweek</em> reports.

  • Each weGrow Center Creates 75 Jobs

    When hydroponic marijuana growing supply chain weGrow opens a new store it <a href="http://aznow.biz/small-biz/wegrow-phoenix-opens-cultivates-opportunities-arizona)" target="_hplink">creates an estimated 75 jobs</a> indirectly, according to AZBusiness Magazine.

  • Majority Of States Support Taxing Marijuana

    More than <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/20/legalizing-pot-will-not-b_n_544526.html?" target="_hplink">60 percent of states agree with taxing marijuana</a>, according to a poll by Associated Press-CNBC.

  • Marijuana Affects Workplace Motivation

    A Norwegian study 25 years in the making came to the shocking conclusion that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/24/marijuana-use-has-adverse-affect-workplace-motivation_n_1300278.html?" target="_hplink">frequent marijuana use lowers employees' motivation at work</a>.

  • More Than 1,000 Dispensaries In California

    There could be more than 1,000 medical marijuana dispensaries operating in California, <a href="http://www.pasadenaweekly.com/cms/story/detail/how_does_your_pot_grow/8070/" target="_hplink"><em>Pasadena Weekly</em></a> reported in 2009.

  • Denver Counts More Dispensaries Than Starbucks

    As of July 2011, the city of Denver <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/06/medical-marijuana-denver-starbucks_n_891796.html" target="_hplink">counted more medical marijuana dispensaries than Starbucks franchises</a>.