On Colorado's northeast plains, advocates of secession from the state have managed to put the question before voters in 11 counties this November -- potentially bringing a split-the-state initiative to statewide vote by November 2014.
As Weld County Commissioner and leading secession proponent Sean Conway explained to reporters, an "advisory" vote at the county level would require local lawmakers to request that state legislators introduce a constitutional amendment allowing the northeastern counties to go their own way. That would require two-thirds approval by both houses. Failing that, proponents could put the measure to statewide vote by collecting 80,000 signatures. Finally, the initiative would have to be approved by the US Congress. So it is an arduous process -- but proponents are clearly dead serious
The proponents of secession cite Colorado's new gun-control legislation, measures protecting the rights of undocumented ("illegal") immigrants, a new law requiring electrical cooperatives to double the amount of renewable energy they use by 2020 -- and last year's historic cannabis legalization measure. The secession movement drives home the cultural and political divide between hippie and liberal parts of the state like Denver, Boulder and Aspen, and the conservative eastern plains. Names for the breakaway entity have been that have been facetiously floated include Uncolorado, Near Nebraska, Southern Wyoming and Coloraduh. New monikers for the crunchy areas of Rump Colorado include Potopia, Crackpotopia and Crankerado
A similar initiative is underway in California, where Siskiyou and Modoc counties in the far north have already voted to secede, reviving a plan called the "Jefferson Declaration" that nearly succeeded in carving the new state of Jefferson out of the remote California-Oregon borderlands in 1941. Both Siskiyou and Modoc are on the northern fringe of California's cannabis-growing heartland, the Emerald Triange—where the hippie-redneck division has been a source of cultural clash for two generations now. Modoc and Siskiyou are also among those counties where local law enforcement have proclaimed a "Constitutional Sheriffs" movement -- mostly in response to federal land-use policies in the National Forests, perceived as too restrictive on local logging and mining.
Plenty of cannabis is also being grown in those forests, of course. Trinity County is on board with the "Constitutional Sheriffs," and as much as they may oppose federal environmental regulations, authorities there are still cooperating in cannabis enforcement. On August 29, the Trinity County Multi-Agency Narcotics Task Force -- including agents of the North State Marijuana Investigation Team (NSMIT), Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Trinity County Narcotics Task Force -- carried out search warrants on 23 parcels in the town of Hayfork: the latest raids in ongoing anti-cannabis efforts.
Four states have been carved from the territory of others in the history of the United States: Kentucky (from Virginia in 1792), Maine (from Massachusetts in 1820), Vermont (contested by New York and New Hampshire until 1777) and West Virginia (from Virginia in 1863). At issue in the cases of Kentucky, Maine and Vermont was the desire of pioneers and backwoodsmen to be free of distant elites -- a principle that also animated the Jefferson initiative in 1941. In the case of West Virginia, of course, the issue was slavery. This time around, cannabis is emerging as a political dividing line. But in a strange irony, the conservative secessionists may be seeking closer cooperation with federal power where the weed is concerned, even as they rebel against federal oversight where control of timber, minerals and grazing lands is concerned.