Colo. OKs recreational pot; feds could spoil party

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers is responding to Colorado voters approving Amendment 64, raising questions regarding federal law enforcement and distribution of proposed tax revenues.


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Colorado's top prosecutor said Wednesday he sees two big issues with the approval of Amendment 64. Tuesday's vote legalizes the sale and possession of small amounts of marijuana in Colorado for people older than 21.

“Despite my strongly held belief that the ‘legalization’ of marijuana on a state level is very bad public policy, voters can be assured that the Attorney General’s Office will move forward in assisting the pertinent executive branch agencies to implement this new provision in the Colorado Constitution," said Attorney General John Suthers in a written statement released Wednesday.

Suthers points out to voters what he calls "two caveats" about the measure.

The first highlights Amendment 64's conflict with federal law which still considers marijuana illegal. Suthers said Wednesday federal agencies will have the freedom to enforce their marijuana laws in Colorado despite the passage of Amendment 64.

Suthers also asked outside law enforcement agencies to make clear how they plan to handle that enforcement.

"Accordingly," Suthers wrote, "I call upon the United States Department of Justice to make known its intentions regarding prosecution of activities sanctioned by Amendment 64 (particularly large wholesale grow operations) as soon as possible in order to assist state regulators and the citizens of Colorado in making decisions about the implementation of Amendment 64."

Suthers went on to explore distribution of taxes raised by the sale of marijuana in Colorado. Proponents of Amendment 64 maintained a 15% surtax would raise $40 million annually for Colorado schools.

"In fact Amendment 64 did not comply with required language under the Taxpayers Bill of Rights and no such tax will be imposed," Suthers wrote.

In his statement, Suthers suggests state lawmakers will now have to decide to present such a tax and allow Colorado voters to decide if they would support it.

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