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Governors say legalizing marijuana is a step too far

A fully budded marijuana plant ready for trimming is seen at the Botanacare marijuana store ahead of their grand opening on New Year's day i
A fully budded marijuana plant ready for trimming is seen at the Botanacare marijuana store ahead of their grand opening on New Year's day i

By Aruna Viswanatha

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Washington and Colorado may have blazed the trail by legalizing marijuana, but not all U.S. states are rushing to follow their lead, governors from several states in the Midwest and the East Coast said on Sunday.

"I don't support the legalization of marijuana, and that's been my position for a long time and will continue to be," Indiana Governor Mike Pence, a Republican, said on CNN's "State of the Union".

The two western states became the first to legalize marijuana for recreational use through a ballot initiative in 2012.

Last month, Colorado became the first state to open retail outlets legally permitted to sell marijuana to adults for recreational purposes, in a system similar to what many states have long had in place for alcohol sales.

Washington state is expected to follow Colorado's lead.

But the drug's use is still illegal under federal law, and marijuana businesses have struggled to access the U.S. financial system since banks are reluctant to deal with them.

Earlier this month, the Obama administration issued new guidance aimed at encouraging banks to start doing business with state-licensed marijuana suppliers.

The move prompted speculation other states might also consider legalizing the business.

But several governors did not see any follow-the-leader effect on the legalization of marijuana for recreational use, as Washington and Colorado have done.

Connecticut, for example, does allow pot use for medical reasons and has lessened the punishment for possessing small amounts of the drug, but has not made it legal.

"I think that's about as far as we go," the state's Democratic governor, Dannel Malloy, said on the CNN program.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon also left the door open to some marijuana use for medical purposes, but ruled out any action beyond that.

"I think that folks are beginning to see, if there are things which the medical community can help on ... our legislature and our people might consider that," Nixon, a Democrat, said.

"To move beyond that is, at this point, I would say a bridge too far, but that bridge has not yet been built."

DEATH PENALTY

Many of the nation's governors are in Washington this week for a national conference of state executives, and appeared on various television programs on Sunday to discuss politics as well as economic and local issues.

The actions of Washington state proved a topic of conversation not just for its pot legalization, but also for its recent stance on the death penalty.

Earlier this month, Washington state Governor Jay Inslee, a Democrat, declared a moratorium on carrying out the death penalty in his Pacific Northwest state.

Some 18 U.S. states have already legally ended execution, and Maryland last year becoming the sixth state in six years to abolish capital punishment.

Governors including Indiana's Pence, Missouri's Nixon and Texas Republican Rick Perry said on CNN they also did not anticipate going down that path.

Missouri is scheduled to execute a death row inmate convicted of a 1989 rape and murder next week, but has had problems procuring the drugs since so few manufacturers make them.

"We're moving forward with that execution, and will continue to enforce the ultimate penalty," Nixon said.

(Reporting by Aruna Viswanatha; Editing by Sophie Hares)

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