Marijuana: John Hickenlooper stresses urgency in Amendment 64 call to Eric Holder

After the passage of Amendment 64, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, Governor John Hickenlooper released a statement advising folks who voted for the proposal to wait before they break out the Cheetos and Goldfish. But he recognizes that the question of federal intervention over the measure is no joke -- hence, his call Friday to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on the subject. Here's what Hick's office is sharing about the chat.

According to gubernatorial spokesman Eric Brown, Hickenlooper was joined on the conference call by Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, who'd previously encouraged the feds to provide guidance about the amendment with alacrity.

The connection was made at just past 3 p.m. Denver time on Friday and lasted about eleven minutes, Brown says. As for details, he released the following statement:
Governor John Hickenlooper and Attorney General John Suthers talked to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder by phone [Friday]. They emphasized the need for the federal government to articulate what its position will be related to Amendment 64. Everyone shared a sense of urgency and agreed to continue talking about the issue.
The use of the phrase "sense of urgency" implies that the Justice Department won't wait around for months before weighing in on the act -- and the sooner Holder and company share their thoughts, the less likely it will be that they'll begin by seeking an injunction.

Why not?

Continue to read more about John Hickenlooper and Amendment 64. The only section of the amendment that would take effect immediately upon Hickenlooper's signature, expected to be affixed within thirty days after the election is certified (see clarification below), would be the elimination of criminal penalties against adults 21 and over for the use and possession of one ounce or less of marijuana for any purpose, including recreational ones. And according to DU professor Sam Kamin, a national expert on marijuana law, Colorado is within its rights to make such a change, even if the penalties no longer jibe with those at the federal level.

Establishing a retail system for the sale of marijuana for recreational use is an entirely different matter, however -- and since action on that score is targeted for late 2013 or early 2014, the filing of an injunction would likely need to wait until the Colorado legislature acted. But a threat could be made much sooner. With that in mind, Kamin expects the Justice Department to release a statement telling Colorado officials that if they put such rules and regs in place, U.S. officials will file suit at that point or begin making arrests based on the violation of federal drug laws.

In an effort to circumvent such a showdown, Democratic reps Diana DeGette, Ed Perlmutter and Jared Polis are reportedly drafting legislation that would exempt Colorado from the feds' marijuana policy -- a development that would get yet another branch of government involved in the issue.

All of which underscores the urgency cited in Brown's statement. The next move is Holder's -- and presumably, we won't have to wait long before he makes it.

Clarification: The original version of this post stated that Governor Hickenlooper is expected to sign Amendment 64 within thirty days after the election. However, Hickenlooper spokesman Eric Brown e-mailed after publication to let us know the thirty-day clock doesn't actually start ticking until the election is officially certified on December 6. Thus, the signature is expected on or before January 5.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Amendment 64: Feds will threaten lawsuit or arrests to stop implementation, predicts DU prof."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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