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Joints fired up at Space Needle as Washington’s legalized marijuana law takes effect

spaceneedleSEATTLE — Residents fired up joints in a ‘smoke-out’ at Seattle’s iconic Space Needle and at other locations as recreational marijuana use became legal in Washington state at 12:01 a.m. Thursday.

Expecting celebratory pot smoking on the streets, the Seattle Police Department told its officers Wednesday night to only issue verbal warnings to those seen violating the new law’s provisions, one of which is not to smoke pot in public.

“Until further notice, officers shall not take any enforcement action — other than to issue a verbal warning — for a violation of I-502,” the marijuana legalization initiative, said the SPD email sent out to officers.

Voters in the Nov. 6 elections in Washington state and Colorado became the first in the nation to approve recreational use of marijuana. Washington’s law took effect 30 days after Election Day.

Seattle’s pot users celebrated early Thursday — and some of those who could not wait for the midnight hour lit up Wednesday night — in a smoke-out at the Space Needle. The event was organized by the local chapter of NORML, the organization that works to reform marijuana laws.

Yet even supporters of legalized pot admit there is still a lot of gray area in the new law, which makes it legal to possess up to one ounce of marijuana. But the catch is that it is illegal to sell, grow or give it away marijuana. It will be that way for the next year while the Washington state Liquor Control Board is putting together licensing rules for the legal growing, transporting and selling of pot.

Even after that happens, there will be no public smoking areas for pot users, such as there is for cigarette smokers. In fact, smoking pot in public places will still be illegal. And it will be illegal on federal property, including in national parks. Administrators of universities in Washington said it will be banned on campuses, too, just as alcohol is prohibited.

“We are in uncharted territory here,” Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said Wednesday. “We are trying to substitute a legal license system for what is nearly a wholly illegal system.”

King County prosecutor Dan Satterberg said because marijuana is still illegal on the federal level, he expects the Justice Department to file a lawsuit to stop the state from regulating the selling and taxing of pot in retail stores.

“It’s a little early for marijuana advocates to be doing the touchdown dance, because this play is going to be reviewed in the booth,” Satterberg said.

Holmes said he remains hopeful that federal authorities will respect the will of the voters.

If they do, supporters say the new law will not only keep thousands of people out of jail, it will raise a half-billion dollars a year in tax revenue.

U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan in Seattle issued the following statement Wednesday afternoon: “The Department of Justice is reviewing the legalization initiatives recently passed in Colorado and Washington state. The department’s responsibility to enforce the Controlled Substances Act remains unchanged. Neither states nor the Executive branch can nullify a statute passed by Congress.

In enacting the Controlled Substances Act, Congress determined that marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance. Regardless of any changes in state law, including the change that will go into effect on December 6th in Washington state, growing, selling or possessing any amount of marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

“Members of the public are also advised to remember that it remains against federal law to bring any amount of marijuana onto federal property, including all federal buildings, national parks and forests, military installations, and courthouses.”

The leader of the “no on I-502″ campaign, meanwhile, spoke about what he called the drawbacks of pot legalization. Watch the interview below.

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20 comments

  • chrislox

    if you come home and drink a few glasses of wine ,and go to bed
    When you wake up you will be sober .. but you will still have alcohol in your system so. should you be at risk for a dui if you are sober ? even if its in your system.. so stop trying to act like us driving the day or week after we medicate or smoke we are worse then you alcoholics and social drinkers .

  • mike

    Now that weed is legal, what about households with children? Contact highs are a real issue and the effects are not controllable as with alcohol. If it is not ingested you don't get drunk by the smell. if someone is "hotboxing" in a closed environment ie a car, bedroom, bathroom etc. with children, that child will be affected! I really don't want some pothead blowing smoke in my childs face, it may not be good for my children or the person doing it. This law scares me on many levels, but if lawmakers think it will make access to pot harder for kids, grow up and quit smoking it yourselves long enough to realize it is not going to work! Children WILL be going to school high, and probably in much higher numbers than they already do. The pitiful fines that will be introduced are laughable at best, $100 for a ticket, REALLY!! As for stopping drug dealers, good luck with that!! The local non federal parks will remain infested with illeagal activity, they will be able to have pot parties with no consequenses. If I am wrong on these issues please clear it up but I don't see a real positive outcome other than illegal activity related to pot will continue, other drugs not included.

    • Henry

      You are so hilariously uninformed that it's ridiculous. This preconceived notion that marijuana users are lazy evil stoners needs to stop.
      I am sure the VAST majority of marijuana users realize they shouldn't be hotboxing with their kids in the room, that's just plain stupid.
      Do you really think that all stoners have the desire to walk up to you and blow smoke in your kid's face? Why on Earth would anyone ever do that? I promise no one will do that, unless he's just a total jerk.
      "Contact Highs" are a myth. When the smoke is inhaled, nearly all THC is absorbed into the blood in about 3 seconds. A child will not get backed if a person is sitting next to them smoking a joint, blowing it into fresh air.
      I'm sorry, but your fear of this law is completely irrational. Marijuana poses zero danger to you if you're not using it. And if you say something about high drivers, need I remind you about the DUI system established by this law?
      "Pot parties"? Really? You think we call smoking "pot parties"? What?
      Even still, what has a person smoking in a park done to you? Do you think if a harmless pedestrian is smoking a joint in a park and sees you, he's going to automatically jump you and rob you?
      I reiterate, these stereotypes of potheads are hilariously inflated. Virtually everything from "Reefer Madness" is a complete lie; I honestly think that movie alone set the country back 50 years on marijuana know-how.

  • houx

    As a California I am happy that Washington State is doing this, now more potheads will leave California and go to Wasington. Thank you Washington State you gave us a wonderful Christmas gift. It will be fun watching your state get destroyed by all the loosers heading north.

    • mike

      Thank you Mike! and just to be clear I do not smoke or drink. I have come across a lot of parents who do not give a crap and it frustrates me tremendously.

  • dj

    Wow for the person who wants to watch wadhington get over run by losers ur an idiot i have a job paying 20 bucks an hour pay my taxes raise all four of my children and smoke pot so maybe ur the loser with nothing better to do with ur day than get on a website talking crap about people just enjoyin something.gt hat groes in the ground and as god said all plants and herbs should be used to better ma n kind idiot

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