After his state became one of two where marijuana legalization was approved by voters last week, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper warned that "federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug, so don't break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly."
Hickenlooper's allusion to marijuana-induced munchies was amusing, but it had a sly, sinister subtext - namely, that the measure was brought about by nothing more than a ragtag army of stoners who just want the government to let them get high. Would Hickenlooper, a Democrat and Main Line native who opposed the initiative, have us believe that more than half of Colorado's electorate consists of inveterate potheads in the mold of Cheech and Chong?
In fact, the Rocky Mountain State isn't even a liberal outlier; it was one of this year's tightest presidential toss-ups, almost evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. And yet it joins Washington as one of the first two states to vote for initiatives legalizing marijuana without specifying medicinal purposes.
Seventeen other states, including New Jersey, have passed measures legalizing medical marijuana, bringing the total to more than a third of the Union.
Even voters who approved outright legalization were not contemplating a free-for-all. The measures that passed last week feature age and amount limits.
Washington's directs the state liquor control board to regulate and tax the drug. And the organization that spearheaded Colorado's is called the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol - something Hickenlooper, a former brewpub proprietor, should understand fairly well.
What we have here is not "reefer madness"; it's sane and sober democracy. That our interminable drug war is a costly, destructive failure is clear to most Americans - not to mention Mexicans - who are not directly employed in its continued prosecution. It's obvious even to many of those who are, as evidenced by the existence of the organization Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.
At least Attorney General Eric Holder did not reprise his ridiculous letter threatening the California electorate just before it rejected a legalization measure in 2010. But his Justice Department has cracked down on Californians selling marijuana under an earlier initiative allowing the drug for medical purposes.
And the department's head-in-the-sand approach continued with its response to the votes last week: "The Department of Justice's enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act remains unchanged."