"We made an industry out of cigarettes, we made an industry out of alcohol and now we're creating an industry out of marijuana – frankly, it's surreal sometimes," says task force member Mary Beth Susman, president of the Denver City Council. "We're making rules about an activity that is illegal according to the federal government, and sometimes we're making rules that in the normal course of events would be illegal themselves in order to stay under the radar of the federal government."
So far, the Obama administration has kept its hands off the emerging experiments in Colorado (and Washington State, where voters also approved a ballot initiative that legalized pot), though it could be waiting until the Legislature formalizes new pot laws. That's expected by May 8.
Last November, 55 percent of Colorado voters approved adult use of marijuana, meaning that the state would regulate the cultivation and sale of marijuana while allowing legal possession of up to 1 ounce per person. As caveats, the referendum allows towns and municipalities to opt out of retail marijuana sales and extends criminal and civil liability to smokers who drive high. The law also allows the state to collect hefty new taxes from license production and retail sales that will go toward state education funds.
Nationally, a slim majority of Americans now support legalization of adult use of marijuana, up from 10 percent in 1971. Some 100 million Americans have tried the drug at least once, 25 million have smoked in the past year, and 14 million are regular users, according to surveys by the US Department of Health and Human Services.