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Gazette Premium Content Hickenlooper asks again for federal pot response

KRISTEN WYATT Updated: November 14, 2012 at 12:00 am

DENVER — Colorado officials asked again Wednesday for a federal response to the state's recent marijuana legalization vote.

Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper said in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder that Colorado needs a response "as soon as possible" about how the Justice Department will respond to Colorado's marijuana vote. Republican state Attorney General John Suthers also signed the letter.

Hickenlooper and Suthers reminded the Justice Department that while federal officials have maintained their right to enforce the Controlled Substances Act, the administration has also turned a blind eye to many medical marijuana users and sellers.

"We need to know whether we can expect any different posture regarding marijuana grown and distributed for recreational use," Hickenlooper and Suthers wrote. "Specifically, we need to know whether the federal government will take legal action to block implementation" of the marijuana measure, "or whether it will seek to prosecute grow and retail operations."

Voters in Colorado and Washington state voted last week to allow adults to possess small amounts of marijuana without a doctor's recommendation. So far, the Justice Department has said federal law stands, but that the measures are under review.

Hickenlooper and Colorado Attorney General John Suthers also talked to Holder by telephone last week, with no signal whether the Justice Department would sue to block the marijuana measure.

On Tuesday, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire met with Deputy Attorney General James Cole in Washington, D.C. Gregoire reported that the federal government still hasn't decided whether to take action to block new laws legalizing marijuana.

In the Colorado letter, Hickenlooper and Suthers reminded the Justice Department of confusing signals about state employees who implement marijuana regulations.

U.S. attorneys in several states have cautioned that state employees implementing medical marijuana laws are subject to federal prosecution, but no charges have been brought. Colorado has an entire enforcement division within the state Department of Revenue overseeing the marijuana industry.

"We find no clear guidance on these issues," Hickenlooper and Suthers wrote.

A spokesman for Hickenlooper said there was no immediate response from the Justice Department..

Prosecutors in both states are already starting to act. At least three prosecutors in Washington state announced plans last week to drop criminal cases against adults facing possession in charges for small amounts of marijuana. And in Colorado on Wednesday, Boulder County became the first in Colorado to drop similar adult possession cases.

Boulder police Chief Mark Beckner told the Daily Camera newspaper his department would stop issuing tickets or making arrests for possession of marijuana less than an ounce and paraphernalia.

"We had already told our officers it was a waste of time to issue summonses for those offenses anyway, given the passage" of the marijuana measure, Beckner said.

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Find Kristen Wyatt on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/APkristenwyatt

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