So far, that conversation has been pretty one-sided. Last month, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee talked to Attorney General Holder about marijuana legalization for 45 minutes. Afterward, Inslee called the meeting "very satisfying" and "a confidence builder," although he emphasized that Holder had made no commitments regarding the possibility of trying to block legalization through civil litigation, criminal prosecution, or forfeiture threats.
In the meantime, both Colorado and Washington have begun writing the rules for growing, processing and selling marijuana. The Washington State Liquor Control Board is holding hearings on its marijuana regulations, and in Colorado a task force appointed by Gov. John Hickenlooper is putting together recommendations, due at the end of this month, for state legislators.
It surely is not lost on Obama that marijuana legalization got more votes in Colorado, a swing state, than he did, and nearly as many as he did in reliably blue Washington. Any attempt to override the will of those voters would provoke a hostile response not just from people in Colorado and Washington, but from the large majority of Americans across the country who believe the federal government should mind its own business.
Wanda James, co-founder of Simply Pure, a Denver-based manufacturer of cannabis-infused food products that until now has served medical marijuana dispensaries, understands that getting into the recreational market could be risky. But she argues that trying to shut down that market would be risky for the president and his party.
"Three million people in America on election night voted to legalize marijuana," James says. "I can't imagine the U.S. government starting some arrest campaign on people who are compliant with their state laws. I just can't see the American government doing this when the will of the people is saying 'enough.'"