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Nov 7, 2012 9:52 PM by Jacqui Heinrich, jheinrich@koaa.com

Amendment 64 leaves gaps in law

The language of Amendment 64 leaves questions unanswered as Colorado embarks on a legal journey no state has ever tackled.

Officials spoke in Denver Wednesday on what a state law directly opposing federal law would mean, but even they say there's a lot of grey area.

At this point, there's only one thing everyone seems to agree on: once Governor Hickenlooper signs Amendment 64 into law, personal possession of up to an ounce of marijuana will be considered legal for adults 21 years of age and older. Hickenlooper said in an interview, "You can't argue with the will of the voters. We are here in a democracy and the sentiment was pretty clear."

What's less clear is how the commercial pot industry will be regulated, and whether entrepreneurs would have legal standing to survive a federal crackdown.Colorado Attorney General John Suthers is calling on the feds to make their intentions clear. "We're pretty sure they're going to ignore small possession, but are they going to ignore these grow operations? If not, the legislature needs to know that and the citizens of Colorado who are thinking about getting into this business need to know," he said.

District Attorney Dan May says the whole thing presents a lot of problems. In an interview just after the amendment passed, May told News 5, "It's still against federal law. Part of this law makes things more confusing than it clears things up because you're still going to have all our other marijuana laws. We're going to have laws for patients, laws for possessors, laws for caretakers, another law for dispensaries, and now a new law-- this law's really about retail stores."

What that law leaves out: any limit on how much retail stores can grow or possess. May says that could be the tipping point for a federal intervention, judging from past experiences with medical marijuana. "They are stepping forward when you start getting large operations or you start selling outside your state or you have connections to crime," May said.

Amendment 64 also has no residency requirement, so selling to out-of-staters could end up making Colorado a tourist drug destination, something May says federal authorities wouldn't take lightly. Retail stores aren't slated to open until January 2014, but there's much work to be done before then.

Other questions that remain unanswered: will criminals serving time for marijuana possession be pardoned? Will drugged driving laws change? Can someone who gets fired for failing a drug test sue? Officials say those questions will be hashed out in the coming months as lawmakers try to wrangle this unprecedented change.

 

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