Colorado, Washington legalize pot for adult recreational use

Conflicts with federal ban on recreational use still complicate decision

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Even so, opponents predicted that the first state to legalize recreational marijuana would face enormous drawbacks, attracting drug cartels from Mexico and morphing into a North American drug distribution hub.

In Colorado, Gov. John Hickenlooper and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, both Democrats, had campaigned against Amendment 64, even though the Colorado Democratic Party essentially endorsed legalization. Republican lawmakers, led by Attorney General John Suthers and Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, also opposed the measure.

The most prominent Republican exception was former Rep. Tom Tancredo, who argued that the drug war against marijuana was an expensive failure. Advocates also insisted that regulating marijuana would take it out from under the control of the cartels and drug dealers.

During the campaign, proponents highlighted the prospect of using marijuana as a cash crop that would bring in badly needed tax dollars for underfunded programs such as K-12 education.

Marijuana advocates have been working for years to convince one state to approve legalization. In 2006, Colorado defeated a marijuana-decriminalization measure, Amendment 44, by a margin of 60 percent to 40 percent. California rejected Proposition 19, which also would have legalized marijuana for adults, by a margin of 54 percent to 46 percent in 2010.

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