In the uncertain weeks after Colorado’s vote to legalize small amounts of marijuana for recreational use, are pending criminal possession cases still valid? The answer in hundreds of minor drug cases depends less on the law than on location, says the New York Times. Hundreds of misdemeanor marijuana cases are already being dropped in Colorado and in Washington State, which approved a similar measure. Police departments have stopped charging adults 21 years and older for small-scale possession that will be legally sanctioned once the laws take effect in the coming weeks.
Prosecutors in more conservative areas of Colorado have vowed to press ahead with existing marijuana cases and are still citing people for possession. At the same time, several towns from the Denver suburbs to the Western mountains are voting to block new, state-licensed retail marijuana shops from opening in their communities. “This thing is evolving so quickly that I don’t know what’s going to happen next,” said Daniel Oates, police chief in Aurora. Regulators in Washington State also are scratching their heads. They are looking for guidance on how to set up a system of licenses for production, manufacturing, distribution and sales — all by a deadline of Dec. 1, 2013. They say that Colorado, for better or worse, is ahead of most states in regulating marijuana, first for medical use and now recreationally. In northern Colorado’s Weld County, District Attorney Ken Buck continues pursuing marijuana possession cases, mostly as a way to press users into getting treatment. Right now, 119 people face charges of possessing two ounces or less of marijuana, though many are facing other charges.