Colorado and Washington Communities Vary in Approach to Marijuana Laws

Across Colorado and Washington state, communities are taking varying approaches to newly approved laws that legalize small amounts of recreational use of marijuana for adults.

Police departments in many communities in Colorado have stopped charging adults 21 and older for possessing small amounts of marijuana, which will be soon be legal under the new law. In more conservative areas of the state, prosecutors say they will continue with existing marijuana cases, and are still citing people for possession, according to The New York Times.

Several towns are voting to ban new, state-licensed marijuana stores from opening. “This thing is evolving so quickly that I don’t know what’s going to happen next,” said Daniel J. Oates, the police chief in Aurora, near Denver.

In Washington state, which passed a similar law, regulators are also looking for guidance, the newspaper notes. Under the new law, they must set up a system of licenses for the production, manufacturing, distribution and sale of the drug by December 1, 2013.

“Colorado has a more regulated market, so they will be a good guide,” Brian E. Smith, a spokesman for the Washington State Liquor Control Board, told the newspaper.

Washington state officials will face many questions in 2013, when marijuana possession will be legal, but the system for regulating it will not be set up. For instance, the law mandates “adequate access” to licensed marijuana, but prohibits marijuana businesses within 1,000 feet of a school, childcare center, park or playground.

Officials in both states are also waiting for direction from the federal government, which treats the sale and growing of marijuana as a federal crime.

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