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Washington State, Colorado Vote Yes to Legalizing Marijuana

Wednesday, 7 Nov 2012 | 1:58 PM ET

There was a lot of history made on election night.

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The re-election of Barack Obama is a big deal. Legalizing marijuana for recreational use might not carry the gravitas, but it's a story with implications all across the country.
(Read More: What Obama Plans for a Second Term)

Legalizing pot for commercial sale was on the ballot in Washington State, Colorado and in Oregon. It failed in Oregon, but passed in the other two states.
(Read More: Selling Pot Legally?)

What does that mean?

On paper, here's a breakdown of what's in store for these two states.

In Colorado, if you are 21 or older, you can possess up to an ounce of marijuana. That includes out-of-state residents — as long as they don't take it with them.

Also, people aren't allowed to smoke it in public.

Colorado hopes that taxation and regulation will result in $40 million a year going to the public school system.

But it must be noted: Local governments can still ban it, and businesses do not have to allow employees to smoke.

The major difference between Colorado and Washington is that the latter will not allow anyone to grow pot commercially, whereas you can grow up to six plants in Colorado.
(Read More: Massachusetts Voters Approve Medicinal Marijuana)

However, there is one major wrinkle: Marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

What does that mean?

The Feds have not been consistent with states that have medical marijuana laws. For example, there have been tremendous crackdowns in California but Colorado has been quiet.

If the Federal Government decides to enforce its laws, then they could literally arrest anyone at anytime.

The problem in Washington and in Colorado is that no one knows what will happen.

And it prompted, perhaps, the funniest public statement of election night. This from the Governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper:

"This will be a complicated process, but we intend to follow through. That said, federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug so don't break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly."


-By CNBC's Brian Shactman
@bshactman