SAN FRANCISCO Washington and Colorado voters legalized recreational use of marijuana, making them the first states to decriminalize the practice.
Washington will allow those at least 21 years old to buy as much as one ounce (28 grams) of marijuana from a licensed retailer. Colorado’s measure allows possession of an ounce, and permits growing as many as six plants in private, secure areas. Oregon voters rejected a similar measure.
“The voters have spoken and we have to respect their will,” Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said in a statement. “This will be a complicated process, but we intend to follow through. That said, federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug so don’t break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly.”
Support for marijuana’s recreational use built on measures that allow it for medical purposes in one-third of states. Previous attempts to legalize pot through ballot measures failed in California, Alaska, Oregon, Colorado and Nevada since 1972, according to the Denver-based National Conference of State Legislatures.
A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Colorado said federal law was not affected by the vote.
“The Department of Justice’s enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act remains unchanged,” said Jeff Dorschner in a statement. “We are reviewing the ballot initiative and have no additional comment at this time.”
Washington, Colorado and Oregon were among six states with marijuana on their ballots. In Massachusetts, residents approved a measure to allow medical use, while Arkansas voters rejected such a proposal.
Medical-marijuana use is already permitted in 17 states and the District of Columbia. In Montana, a proposal to restrict the use of medical marijuana was leading, 57 percent to 43 percent, with 65 percent of ballots counted, the Associated Press said.