We don’t need no stinkin’ Tenth Amendment

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper is proving that Democrats do not really believe in the Tenth Amendment. His state recently voted to legalize recreational marijuana use. The governor was apparently unprepared for the reality of this vote, because now he is making calls to Attorney General Eric Holder trying to get clarification about how the Obama administration intends to handle the situation. Hickenlooper said that the voters have chosen to have marijuana regulated like alcohol, but also warned that it would be “hard to imagine the chaos that would result if state by state you had one state legalizing and one state not legalizing.”

Here’s a news flash for you Governor: It’s not your job to worry about the “state by state chaos.” Your state of Colorado has voted to legalize the use and possession of marijuana with certain limitations. End of story. It’s not up to you to try and petition the federal government for clarification about what goes on in your state. Marijuana possession is not a federal offense. The fed does not get involved for small quantities. Amendment 64—the legislation which Colorado voted in favor of—allows for “limited amounts,” which has been defined elsewhere as being “up to an ounce” of marijuana. This is well below what the federal government would consider to be “large amounts.”

To his credit, Hickenlooper is claiming to want clarification for those entrepreneurs who decide to get into the legal marijuana distribution business in Colorado. Will they be criminally prosecuted by the fed because, by necessity, they will have higher amounts on hand than the one ounce maximum allowed for individuals? This is a valid question, but it seems to me to be a cover for Hickenlooper’s real desire to get the fed’s “approval” of what his state has already approved. The voters voted in favor of a bill, which read:

Amendment 64 is an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning marijuana, and, in connection therewith, providing for the regulation of marijuana; permitting a person twenty-one years of age or older to consume or possess limited amounts of marijuana; providing for the licensing of cultivation facilities, product manufacturing facilities, testing facilities, and retail stores; permitting local governments to regulate or prohibit such facilities; requiring the general assembly to enact an excise tax to be levied upon wholesale sales of marijuana; requiring that the first $40 million in revenue raised annually by such tax be credited to the public school capital construction assistance fund; and requiring the general assembly to enact legislation governing the cultivation, processing, and sale of industrial hemp.

Nowhere in this legislation does it read: “contingent upon federal government approval.” The phrase “requiring the general assembly to enact legislation” could be retroactively understood to include this, but the vast majority of Colorado voters, based on the wording above, recognized that they were voting on a state law, not a federal one. Businesses deciding to get into the cultivation, distribution, and/or retail sales of recreational marijuana will certainly need to do their own homework about what is legal and what isn’t, but it is not the governor’s position to get federal approval for what his state has already approved.