Cannabis Is Now Legal In Washington State

History was made in Washington on Election night when 55 percent of voters decided in favor of Initiative 502. And at 12am this morning, history was made once again.

Today, for the first time in 89 years (Washington lawmakers initially outlawed cannabis in 1923, 14 years ahead of the enactment of federal prohibition.), an adult may possess up to one ounce cannabis (and/or up to 16 ounces of marijuana-infused product in solid form, and 72 ounces of marijuana-infused product in liquid form) for their own personal use in private — and they may do so without being in violation of state law.

To be clear: This is not decriminalization — a policy change that amends criminal penalties for minor marijuana offenses, but that continues to define cannabis as illegal contraband under the law and subjects its consumers to civil penalties. Today in Washington, cannabis — when possessed in private by an adult in specific quantities — is a legal commodity. (By contrast, public consumption of cannabis is a civil violation. Existing penalties regarding home cultivation for non-patients remain unchanged. Rules regarding the regulated sale of cannabis to adults are to be codified later next year.)

Nevertheless, the immediate statutory changes effective today provide unprecedented legal protections for adult cannabis consumers. Rather than presuming cannabis to be illicit, and that those who possess it are engaged in illegal activity, the enactment of I-502 mandates law enforcement and prosecutors to presume that cannabis is in fact legal, and that those who possess it in personal use quantities are engaged in legal activity, unless the state can show that there are extenuating circumstances proving otherwise. Moreover, since up to one ounce of cannabis will no longer be classified as an illicit commodity under state law, police will have no legal authority to seize it from lawful adults. Finally, police will arguably no longer be permitted to legally engage in ‘fishing expeditions’ when they encounter cannabis in ‘plain view’ –- such as in someone’s home or in their car. Since marijuana is no longer defined as contraband, state police will no longer have sufficient cause to engage in a further search of the area because, legally, no criminal activity has taken place.

Yes indeed, the dominoes are falling and more will fall imminently. (Colorado’s legalization measure will take effect in early January.) And there is very little that the federal government — which on the eve of legalization said only that it is ‘reviewing’ the new law — can do to stop it. States are not mandated to criminalize marijuana or arrest adult cannabis consumers and the Federal government cannot compel prosecutors in Colorado or Washington to do otherwise.

Like alcohol prohibition before it, the criminalization of cannabis is a failed federal policy that delegates the burden of enforcement to the state and local police. How did America’s ‘Nobel Experiment’ with alcohol prohibition come to an end? When a sufficient number of states enacted legislation repealing the state’s alcohol laws prohibition effectively discontinued. With state police and prosecutors no longer enforcing the Federal government’s unpopular law, politicians eventually had no choice but to abandon the policy altogether.

History now repeats itself.

116 thoughts

  1. Congrats to my Washington state friends, the NORML crew and Mr.Arementano!!!

    I’ve been following NORML and their efforts since early 2009, and I spread the word through my own limited avenues.

    I am curious what is being done to get voices heard in legislation and WA works to create rules and regulations for marijuana sales come December 2013.

    I hope that they are getting critical feedback so that WA can be a role model for other states in the years to come. I worry that prices and taxes will be unrealistic. I think most would pay 5-10 dollars more to buy it legally, but any more than that may be dysfunctional. If I can help in any way!

  2. most of the numbers in other states where marijuana was not legalized is because everyone is scared to vote for due to going to jail and losing there jobs but maybe now that people see its all good maybe we will get more results. also ga. everyone needs to step up

  3. most of the numbers in other states where marijuana was not legalized is because everyone is scared to vote for due to going to jail and losing there jobs but maybe now that people see its all good maybe we will get more results. when will georgia finally get our chance in the sun

  4. I am going to be visiting Washington in July, 2013. Do I have to have a Washington medical card and Washington ID? I guess I don’t really understand if it is now available to anyone over 21 or if it like California 215 where you have to have a card. Would a CA med card work in WA? Any anwers would be much appreciated. Thanks!

  5. Students enrolled in People Power and the Media class at Columbia College Chicago were given the opportunity to research a topic and to share their opinion in the public domain via blog and podcast. The topic selected was the controversial medical marijuana dispensaries in California and the clash between state and federal drug laws.
    This is their blog:
    The investigation of business owner, Matthew Davies, began in September of 2011 after a routine traffic stop where Davies was pulled over for speeding. From there, Davies told the officer he was responding to an alarm at his medical marijuana warehouse. This was just one incident in the chain of events that led up to Davies’ arrest even though he was allegedly following the California state law for his medical marijuana dispensary. He is now facing a minimum of ten years in prison after being indicted by the Federal Government. This situation is very unfortunate for something that is so unclear. California exercised the state’s reserved power to not punish medical marijuana users and distributers when recommended by a doctor, so they are not in any violation with the Federal Controlled Substance Act.
    The Federal Controlled Substance Act deemed marijuana, as a drug with “no currently accepted medical use,” however, there is research available proving otherwise. The University of California, San Francisco, conducted studies in December of 2011 where inhaling cannabis reduces pain significantly and can reduce the medical side effects including nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite from heavy medication such as morphine and oxycodone.

    It’s also understood that the Federal Government has the right to overrule any state law that contradicts Federal law due to the “Supremacy law,” which is Article VI, Clause 2, of the United States Constitution. However, the mere fact that the Federal Government’s stance on the use and distribution of medical marijuana being far different than the state of California’s stance needs to be addressed, ASAP.
    In the early days of the Obama Administration, Attorney General, Eric H. Holder Jr., announced that medical marijuana users and caregivers would not be targeted, according to a Washington Post article in 2009. California voters approved the sale of medicinal marijuana according to the Compassionate Use Act of 1996. What makes this unclear is that Federal law should not be able to “trump” state law – it is a separate jurisdiction. According to the New York Times, the Federal Government could sue the states on the grounds that any effort to regulate marijuana is pre-empted by Federal law, but such a severe response could raise complications for the Obama Administration.

    It is sensible for the Federal Government to get involved if and when medical marijuana dispensaries are operating illegally. If the Federal Government sees the distribution of selling medical marijuana illegal, they need to address the businesses doing it illegally rather than raiding the dispensaries of professional doctors and managers. It is undeniable that time and money would have been better spent if the Government shut down the dispensaries throughout California that were selling marijuana illegally to minors and non-patients. With that said, Matthew Davies was the operator of a legally owned dispensary and is therefore being unlawfully prosecuted. Our call to action is that the Federal Government needs to find an equal balance with state laws in order to prevent innocent people from being wrongly accused.
    Margaret, Emily, Jessica, Ramon, Kyra, Ashleigh, Bridget, and Molly, members of the People Power in the Media course taught by Hope Daniels, Associate Professor/Teaching Fellow, School of Media Arts, Columbia College Chicago.

  6. Washington residents busted for pot in addition to other DUI..might find it interesting that those pot charges are being dropped also. I had a couple grams on me when I got popped for dui. At sentencing on the dui the judge dropped the pot charge.. funny thing is I hadnt had any weed for months..came into some that night..and before I could do anything with it I got a citation for it..but lawyer said dont sweat it. This was in Clark County..

  7. Weed should be legal just like tobacco. You may grow all you want for personal use but for sales you will be taxed. This idea of only being allowed to have 3 mature plants is wrong. One person can smoke more than three plants worth of pot in a season. You should be allowed to grow as much as you want for personal use.

  8. Washington residents aren’t allowed to grow marijuana for recreational use without a growers license, (good luck getting one of those) It’s easier to just go around it and get your medical recommendation and be allowed to have 15 mature plants and up to 24 ounces of usable cannabis. Stay green my friends

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