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Nation/World

November 10, 2012

Colo., Wash. await federal response to pot measure

DENVER — Should marijuana be treated like alcohol? Or should it remain in the same legal category as heroin and the most dangerous drugs? Votes this week by Colorado and Washington to allow adult marijuana possession have prompted what could be a turning point in the nation’s conflicted and confusing war on drugs.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was to talk yesterday by phone with Colorado’s governor, who wants to know whether the federal government would sue to block the marijuana measures. Both states are holding off on plans to regulate and tax the drug while waiting to see whether the U.S. Justice Department would assert federal authority over drug law.

The Obama administration has largely turned a blind eye to the 17 states that currently flout federal drug law by allowing people with certain medical conditions to use pot, something banned under federal law.

“In a situation like this, where our law is at loggerheads with federal law, my primary job is to listen first,” Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said Wednesday.

Hickenlooper opposed the ballot measure and has downplayed the likelihood of a commercial marijuana market materializing in Colorado.

“Based on federal law, if it’s still illegal under federal law, I can’t imagine that 7-Eleven is ever going to sell it,” he said.

In Washington state, a spokesman for Gov. Chris Gregoire said this week that Gregoire would respect the will of the people.

“We are entering uncharted waters and many questions lie ahead as we work to implement this law,” said spokesman Cory Curtis. “Because marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, we are unsure how the federal government will proceed.”

Meanwhile, marijuana activists are waiting for a Washington, D.C., federal appeals court to decide whether marijuana should be reclassified from its current status as a dangerous drug with no accepted medical use.

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