To all my friends in California who are looking forward to buying marijuana after the new law takes effect on January 2, and to all my friends in Colorado and elsewhere who have been doing the same: You need to understand that buying marijuana is still a crime under federal law. Nothing that California, Colorado, or any other state does can change that fact. The media has been catastrophically inept in its reporting on this subject. If you are buying or using "legal" recreational weed in Colorado, you are committing a federal crime. If you buy or use "legal" recreational weed in California next week, you are committing a federal crime.
Even your ability to buy medical marijuana in the dozens of states that have "legalized" that practice is precarious. Medical marijuana is still a crime under federal law. Since December 2014, there has been a federal statute that prohibits the Department of Justice from spending funds to interfere with the implementation of state medical marijuana laws. That law was set to expire a few months ago, got a pair of short-term extensions, and will now expire on January 19 unless it is made a part of the spending bill (if we get a spending bill). And even under this legislation, the purchase of medical marijuana is still a federal crime, there is just a de facto prohibition on prosecution. The statute of limitations on the federal offense is five years.
Until and unless Congress changes the classification of marijuana as a Schedule One controlled substance under federal law, buying recreational marijuana means that you are putting yourself at the mercy of federal enforcement authorities. At the present moment, that means Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III -- who has made demonizing marijuana a career-long commitment -- and the unstable madman in the Oval Office who just proclaimed that he can unilaterally order the Department of Justice to do whatever he wants.
Perhaps it is unlikely that the federal government would shut down the cannabis industry altogether -- it is worth billions of dollars. But that is not the point. Authoritarian regimes wield criminal law to control political dissent, using charges (real or spurious) to imprison their opponents and extort compliance. We have not gotten to that point yet, but it is not difficult to imagine.
If your immigration status depends on not committing crimes, then for Heaven's sake stay away from "legal" marijuana, because it is not legal under federal law. If you are engaged in political protest or other forms of opposition to the current administration, then be aware that buying or possessing "legal" marijuana puts a tool in the hands of federal authorities to go after you. Simple possession of recreational marijuana carries a penalty of up to one year in jail under federal law and could mobilize federal forfeiture penalties that could take your car or even your home.
Sorry to be a buzz kill. But you need to understand, if you buy or possess "legal" marijuana in California, Colorado, or anywhere else, you are putting your safety and possibly the future course of your life in the hands of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the unstable madman in the Oval Office. That is a decision that requires very careful thought.