Marijuana is legal!

Ngaio Bealum is a Sacramento comedian, activist and marijuana expert. Email him questions at ask420@

So weed is legal in Colorado and Washington? Should I start packing my things right now? Which state has the better policies?

—Recreational User

Great day in the morning! Hallelujah! This is a huge moment for cannabis users, noncannabis users, taxpayers, those incarcerated for nonviolent cannabis offenses and people all over the United States. Everyone light one up in celebration of the democratic process.

However, to paraphrase Mr. Wolf from Pulp Fiction: Let’s not start smoking each other’s joints just yet. There is still much to be done.

First, the bad news: Marijuana is still illegal under federal law. Colorado and Washington say it will take about a year to get the framework in place for retail cannabis businesses. There is no telling what the feds will do when the first pot shops start to open. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency is already threatening to sue the states in order to prevent them from even getting that far. And if Colorado and Washington do manage to get stores open, look for the DEA to try and go all hard-core batshit crazy on anyone. Expect threatening letters, arrests and property-forfeiture actions.

And be careful of the backlash. Both states won with about 55 percent of the vote. That means that 45 percent of the people in those states are still opposed to legal pot. And lots of pot smokers are less than discreet with their usage. The squares are gonna be ticked off. There will be lots of NIMBYism and city councils trying to ban shops in their towns and neighborhoods. The battle has been won, but the war is not over.

Good news: The police in these states can no longer arrest you for having up to 1 ounce of marijuana on your person. And in Colorado, you can grow up to six plants and give someone up to an ounce from your harvest, as long as you don’t charge them money for it (wink, wink; nudge, nudge). Also, the feds can’t arrest us all. They don’t have the resources. We really can “overgrow the government.” Some people will go to jail, and that sucks, but for every club closed, two more will take its place.

There are also signals from the White House that President Barack “Choom Gang” Obama would like to make changes in the “war on some drugs.” Most activists see drug-law reform as a second-term issue. I would look for Obama to make a few changes in drug policy, similar to the way Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger decriminalized pot possession right before he left office.

More good news: Massachusetts passed a law allowing medical-cannabis shops. And, although Oregon’s Measure 80 lost, it didn’t lose by much, and the Oregon activists only spent about $100,000 on their campaign, compared to the millions of dollars spent in Colorado and Washington.

Weed got more votes than Obama did in Colorado. Things like this send messages to politicians that it may be more advantageous to be for cannabis than against. It also fires up activists in other states. Already. California is gearing up to put another initiative on the ballot, and you can expect a few other states as well.

My advice is stay in Cali. Keep fighting for full cannabis legalization here. Visit Colorado and Washington. Maybe we should start organizing travel packages for canna-tourists. And in two to five years, we will be able to open a bud-and-breakfast inn right here in the Golden State.