Colorado, Washington Become First States to Legalize Recreational Marijuana

State ballot initiatives include same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization.

ByABC News
November 6, 2012, 11:49 AM

Nov. 7, 2012 — -- In a groundbreaking move, Colorado and Washington voters have passed referendums legalizing marijuana for recreational use. The drug is still banned under federal law.

Colorado's Proposition 64 to the state's constitution makes it legal for anyone over the age of 21 to possess marijuana and for businesses to sell it.

"The voters have spoken and we have to respect their will," Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said in a statement. "This will be a complicated process, but we intend to follow through. That said, federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug so don't break out the Cheetos or gold fish too quickly."

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Amendment 64 legalized marijuana for anyone over the age of 21 at certain retail stores. Proponents believed the bill could generate millions in revenue for the state government.

A similar measure on the ballot in Washington State legalizes small amounts of marijuana for people over 21.

Even though the issues have passed, they are likely to meet legal challenges very quickly.

In 2005, the Supreme Court struck down a California law that legalized medical marijuana in the state. The Court said Congress had the power to criminalize marijuana under the Commerce Clause.

A similar ballot issue to legalize marijuana in Oregon did not pass.

In Massachusetts, voters approved legislation to allow marijuana for medicinal reasons, joining 17 other states that allow it.

In addition to making a presidential pick, voters in states across the country voted on polarizing issues including same-sex marriage and physician- assisted suicide.

In another historical first, Maine became the first state to approve same-sex marriage by popular vote and Maryland voters also made the decision to allow same-sex marriage by referendum.

It was backed by Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, who is widely believed to be a potential presidential contender in 2016.

The outcome in Maine broke a 32-state streak, dating back to 1998, in which gay marriage had been rebuffed by every state that voted on it.

Minnesotans rejected a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. The vote doesn't allow same-sex weddings but it opens the door to possible legislation to allow it next year.

Dozens of state-wide ballot questions were posed to voters, and their implications could reverberate across state lines.

Additional reporting from ABC News' Terry Moran.