No sooner had the voters of Colorado and Washington passed measures to legalise marijuana than the predictions began: visions – both overexcited and apocalyptic – of busloads of stoned tourists turning the states into Rocky mountain or Pacific north-west versions of Amsterdam.
However such speculation may be premature. There are a few more hurdles before legally buying and selling marijuana in the US can become reality. But in the interests of answering the age-old question "Where can I legally buy a joint?", here's a summary of what the votes really mean for the law in Colorado and Washington.
Colorado amendment 64 passed on 6 November 2012, by 53.3% to 46.7%.
The amendment allows "personal use and regulation of marijuana" for adults 21 and older. It also has a section which will address the legal cultivation, manufacture and sale of the drug.
However, nothing will change until the vote is certified, which is scheduled to happen on 6 December.
After that, those 21 and above will be legally allowed to grow up to to six marijuana plants, as long as they are in a locked space. People in the same age bracket will be allowed to possess up to one ounce of marijuana, and to give up to one ounce of the drug as a gift to other people 21 years old or above. Smoking marijuana in public will be specifically banned.
The new measures do not just apply to people who live in Colorado – visitors are subject to the law too.
It will be longer before people in Colorado can legally buy and sell marijuana, however.
Amendment 64 has a section which will address the legal cultivation, manufacture and sale of cannabis, but the details have to be thrashed out in the state legislature.
The new law mandates that the state adopt a regulatory framework for allowing businesses to sell marijuana by July 2013, according to USA Today. This could include provisions for shops selling the drug and the opening of cannabis cafes like those in Amsterdam.
But even then, it will be January 2014 before the first state-approved marijuana stores actually open.
Before all that, there is the quite real possibility of an injunction by the federal government, overruling amendment 64. Federal laws rule marijuana illegal and in theory have power over state rules.
The Drug Enforcement Administration this week reiterated its stance that marijuana is an illegal drug and that possessing, using or selling it is a crime.
"The Drug Enforcement Administration's enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act remains unchanged," the DEA said in a press statement.
"In enacting the controlled substances act, Congress determined that marijuana is a schedule I control[ed] substance. The Department of Justice is reviewing the ballot initiatives and we have no additional comment at this time."
Washington's initiative measure No 502 passed on 6 November, by 55% to 45%.
Like in Colorado, the measure will come into effect on 6 December, but it will also take longer for some parts of the law to be implemented.
As of 6 December, it will be legal for people over 21 in Washington to possess up to an ounce of marijuana. Unlike in Colorado, however, people will not be allowed to grow their own marijuana plants, unless they are medically authorised to do so.
Like in Colorado there will be a significant wait before provisions are put in place allowing the legal sale and cultivation of marijuana.
Initiative measure 502 had an "implentation date" of 1 December 2013, by which date licensing and taxation portions of the initiative should be set out.
Only after that will individuals 21 or older be able to apply for a license to grow and sell marijuana. It will cost $250 to apply for the license, according to the measure, and an extra $1,000 a year to keep it.
"Licensed marijuana retailers could not sell any products other than marijuana and items used to store or use marijuana," 502 states.
The laws on smoking marijuana are already very relaxed in parts of Washington. Seattle's city attorney has a policy "of not filing charges for simple marijuana possession", according to the Seattle Post Intelligencer, while people attending the three day Hempfest in the city are generally allowed to smoke cannabis.
That said, the new laws outlined in Washington's measure 502, like Colorado's amendment 64, could be overruled at the federal level.
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