DENVER, Dec. 14 (UPI) -- Officials in Colorado and Washington state said they are hurrying to finalize plans for the legalization of recreational marijuana.
Starting in 2014, the pioneering states in the pot legalization effort will begin the practice of selling an ounce or less of the drug to adults 21 or older -- marking a swift end to the era of Just Say No, "Reefer Madness" and other long-held preconceptions about marijuana as a dangerous drug.
With legalization efforts already headed for voter referendums in several other states, the New York Times said state officials in the first two places to green-light smoking the green stuff feel pressure to get it right.
"We are floating in uncharted waters here," said Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock, where 149 businesses have applied to sell or grow retail marijuana.
In total, 1,700 people in Washington have applied for a license to sell, grow or process marijuana. The state will begin handing out those licenses in early 2014, though recreational marijuana sales likely won't begin in earnest until the spring, officials said.
Both states passed voter referendums in 2012 authorizing the use of recreational marijuana. Advocates said the state was missing out on tax revenue and normalizing sales rather than criminalizing them would make for fewer administrative costs related to low-level drug possession cases clogging local courts.
In both states, sales will be permitted only by licensed dealers and police will switch law enforcement priorities from charging people with marijuana possession to an increased focus on stopping illegal marijuana growing operations, the Times said.
More or less, officials will begin treating marijuana sales much like alcohol sales, drawing comparisons between the legalization effort and that of ending Prohibition a century ago.
Opponents have argued the legalization of marijuana will mean more children will use the drug, which drug addiction awareness advocates argue can lead to more serious drug use later in life.