Colo., Wash. await federal marijuana response

Associated Press Modified: November 9, 2012 at 1:16 pm •  Published: November 9, 2012
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DENVER (AP) — Two states that approved recreational use of marijuana are waiting to hear how the federal government intends respond to the measures.

The governor of Colorado said he planned to talk by phone with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder about the measures that contradict federal law banning the use of pot.

Seventeen states and Washington, D.C., already allow marijuana use by people with certain medical conditions. Still, federal drug law outlaws use of the drug in all circumstances.

Voters in Colorado and Washington pushed the limits even further when they approved ballot measures Tuesday allowing adults over 21 to possess small amounts of marijuana under state regulation and taxation.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has said Colorado will respect the will of voters but added that he was awaiting word from the U.S. Department of Justice on how to proceed.

"In a situation like this, where our law is at loggerheads with federal law, my primary job is to listen first," the governor said.

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.

Marijuana advocates hope the federal government maintains its current posture of mostly ignoring states that flout federal law by allowing medical use under certain circumstances.

The U.S. government has cracked down during the past two years on more than 500 marijuana dispensaries in several states, but no one has faced federal prosecution for personal use.