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Begun, These Marijuana Wars Have

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 25: A budtender rolls a marijuana cigarette for a patient at Perennial Holistic Wellness Center medical marijuana dispensary, which opened in 2006, on July 25, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. The Los Angeles City Council has unanimously voted to ban storefront medical marijuana dispensaries and to order them to close or face legal action. The council also voted to instruct staff to draw up a separate ordinance for consideration in about three months that might allow dispensaries that existed before a 2007 moratorium on new dispensaries to continue to operate. It is estimated that Los Angeles has about one thousand such facilities. The ban does not prevent patients or cooperatives of two or three people to grow their own in small amounts. Californians voted to legalize medical cannabis use in 1996, clashing with federal drug laws. The state Supreme Court is expected to consider ruling on whether cities can regulate and ban dispensaries. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

The marijuana legalization initiative that seems to have passed today in Colorado (and a similar one that may well pass in Washington as well) is, I think, a bigger deal than people realize. Unlike jurisdictions that have “decriminalized” marijuana, this aims to create a genuine honest-to-God legal marijuana industry. It goes even beyond what the Netherlands has done, where small scale marijuana retailing is permitted but large-scale production and wholesaling is really existing in a gray area.

In principle, a true legal marijuana regime could be a totally revolutionary situation. Imagine amber waves of pot and big factories drying and packaging the joints just as in the heyday of the cigarette industry.

But before you buy land to start your marijuana farm, note that the drug is still illegal in the United States of America and that Colorado is one of the United States of America. Consequently, if you try to set up a large-scale pot business you’re liable to get busted by the DEA. So expect a lot of clashes around this and a sticky situation for the Obama administration.