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. It was a beautiful, historic day here in Washington. Thank you NORML and the reform community! The world of peace and freedom that we’ve always dreamed of is now in site thanks to you!

  2. Yeah its great that it’s legal to own and possess marijuana… but how are we supposed to legally obtain it? Frank, people smoke and drive in every state. Haha. Supposedly, law enforcement are developing a field test so they can bust drivers that are too high… with penalties comparable to DUI. I think it’s great that Washington passed I-502 and I can’t wait until I can buy it downtown. Blaze up Washington!

  3. Can you nominate an organization for the Nobel Peace Prize? Perhaps NORML’s 42 years of leadership against the war on marijuana could be recognized in this way.

  4. Obama’s attorneys are weighing how to stop this outbreak of liberty. Anonymous leaks say one option would be for them to make an example of someone with a few joints, baiting them to claim that its legal in that state. Then they could get a federal judge to rule that federal law trumps state law. Then local police would be ordered to continue with Prohibition.

    However, the federal government didn’t make marijuana illegal thru a Constitutional Ammendment. They pulled a trick, inventing a “scheduled” drug category that’s illegal, then they put marijuana in that category. Federal law doesnt say that marijuana is illegal; it says that Schedule I drugs are illegal. Likewise, the Washington state law doesn’t say that Schedule I drugs are legal; it says that marijuana is legal.

    Therefore, no federal laws are being trampled. Therefore, no judge should be able to rule that any federal law could trump this state law.

    I HOPE A LAWYER WHO LOVES LIBERTY SEES THIS.

  5. If enough states legalize marijuana, then theoretically the federal law still banning it would be lifted, just like alcohol prohibition. In what states and when will legalization be on the ballot next?

  6. Folks in Seattle – please stop flaunting this new law by smoking outside, in public. I could not believe my eyes when I saw this on the news, where a group was gathering to smoke-up under the needle.

    This is precisely the type of irresponsible, typical “pothead” behavior that could trigger the Federal Government to step in and take action. My god, people….

    Responsible cannabis use made incredible strides in Washington and Colorado. I wish I lived there but I don’t – but please stop acting like rebelious little kids – smoke in private as the law allows, and show the world what responsible cannabis use looks like, not this Cheech & Chong stuff.

  7. Let them withhold their federal grants. The states that legalize weed won’t need it because of the revenue and savings they’ll reap from lower traffic incidents, lower health care costs, and lower costs to the courts and correctional systems, not to mention the tax revenues and job creation that will come of this new market.

    It just puts the feds in an awkward position between the states and NATO

  8. Dear Washington and Colorado, stop the public smoking, use your head morons, do not f this up, the nation is watching. The less you wave this around the more likely you will keep this new law.

  9. We are all waiting for the Feds to act. Will they raid dispensaries? Banking rules are Fed nd they can use that. The only hope i that there is more money in legalization than the war. This could happen.

  10. CLARK COUNTY JAIL- A PRIVATE JAIL In WA STATE must release all the VETS and Disabled that hold cards and were arrested anyway as GOV GREGOIRE signed a bill that each county can decide. Since a PRIVATE JAIL INSTITUTION can say FED LAW is what they follow, they have arrested many and held them in contaminated cells. Most all the dealer snitches have been part of the corruption as well. LET THEM GO FREE NOW. People PLEASE stay out of WA state it is still full of corruption and will arrest. Lets just watch…

  11. Obviously, the laws related to legality in both Washington and Colorado are not perfect. But I am so so happy that the first baby steps have finally been taken!!!

    Now, they can work on improving the laws and the situation where it is okay to have it but there is no legal way to obtain it…

    As for the rest of the country, we can all start working to restore our own liberties the big bad Feds took away from us (unlawfully in my honest opinion) so many years ago.

  12. @ARYP420: As far as Washington is concerned there isn’t a field test. (my apologies if you were only speaking to other states)

    If someone drives badly or is impaired in some way as to cause an accident, they can be arrested, then the cops can have a medical professional test the person’s blood, but they can’t field test for pot.

    And I thought this was apropos npr.org “Pot’s Legal In Washington State, But Don’t Drive High”

    “Surprisingly, the advice from the Washington State Patrol is a mellower. Spokesman Bob Calkins says pot users should keep in mind that troopers won’t be pulling people over for random blood tests.

    “Regardless of whether this person has been a regular user of marijuana, may have a routine THC level in his blood of this point or that point, if he’s driving OK, he’s probably not going to come to our attention,” Calkins says. “And if he’s driving badly, he probably is going to come to our attention.””

    [Paul Armentano responds: In practice, a suspect would be subject to a FST evaluation and a DRE exam prior to any arrest or blood draw.]

  13. You know, some people say the definition of insanity is trying the same thing tons of times expecting different results. Kind of like how the US government keeps trying to win this unwinnable war against our own citizens. Our side, the good side is WINNING! If you can’t beat “US”, join US. We CAN and WILL win. If you don’t like it, better not say shit. We want Pot legal! And we want it in a LITTLE bit…

  14. Thanks for clarifying, Mr. Armentano. (Except…don’t you mean a DRE expert? lol a DRE exam would be grossly unconstitutional..yeah I know, it’s the way you had it written.)

    Of course you’re correct, I just don’t want my fellow Washingtonians that smoke to confuse the standard field test with a new pot-specific standardized field test-that as far as I know does not exist in WA state-or confuse that with a possible blood draw, which would follow an arrest.

    I just wanted to make sure fellow smokers clearly understood what to expect. Personally, I don’t think Washington state will see dollar one from recreational sales because big pharma owns Congress. Sorry to say. Of course, I didn’t think legalization would happen either.

  15. There will be allot of obstacles in legalizing marijuana. Of course, people will have to get used to it as marijuana has been demonized more than alcohol. That change may take time for some people. Also calling marijuana a drug or treating marijuana as a drug is a misconception to a point. Alcohol is also a drug. Most substances that are refined or distilled are usually referred to as drugs. Marijuana is processed buy only drying it unless it is made into a concentrate like hash or hemp oil. It is most often just the dried plant’s flower that is smoked. Also calling some people that use marijuana drug users is unfair as compared to people that use alcohol. People that use alcohol are usually called drinkers not drug users. So what’s going to happen in the courts when it comes to distinguishing the difference between usage and impairment? The courts still haven’t distinguished the difference between usage and impairment. Part of this reason is due to the fact of the Federal Government’s refusal to recognize the new marijuana laws in Colorado and Washington. And of course the courts are following suit. This is an important detail. Knowing the difference between usage and impairment will determine how the courts can prosecute employees and/or employers for employment drug policies. There will be allot of misunderstandings in the courts until this point is recognized. There are some savvy lawyers standing on the sidelines just waiting to cash in and take advantage of these very law suits for urine drug tests when they appear. Allot of insurance companies and businesses may be sued due for discrimination and false claims of impairment on the job when an accident occurs. This is the exact same reason that police must take a blood sample when someone is convicted of a D.U.I. as the evidence must show actual impairment which can only be proven with a blood sample. That blood sample must prove the legal alcohol/blood level for legal conviction of a D.U.I. crime. Allot of people are ignorant to this and are falsely charged. There are allot of businesses and insurance companies that adhere to the current drug screenings procedures that only show usage. The current urine, saliva and hair tests only test for metabolites. The human body metabolizes the active ingredient THC into and inactive metabolite. When THC is metabolized it is neutralized and rendered inactive and stored in the fat cells of the human body and then is slowly processed out of the body. It is the active THC in the blood that causes impairment. Employment drug screenings will have to change to testing for the active ingredient THC in the blood instead of the current urine, saliva and hair tests to prove impairment on the job. And if an employer claims that they are an Equal Opportunity Employer then there may be a conflict to their claim. Soon employers and insurance companies may face charges because they will be in violation of invading someone’s privacy and discriminating against someone personal life style. There are current employment laws in place that may cause conflict with an employers claim to be fair now that marijuana has been legalized in Washington and Colorado. So even though legalization has begun, prohibition will still remain as long as the current pre-employment drug screenings procedures continue and the courts haven’t yet recognized the difference between usage and impairment. Even if marijuana wasn’t legalized there still remains a conflict between usage and impairment on the job. There is still allot of work for people to do if they want to protect there rights and don’t want their privacy invaded due to the fact that they may be using marijuana or any other substance on their own time that an employer doesn’t agree with. Remember, with legalization comes responsibility. You have the responsibility to know the law or lose rights. Protect your rights!!! For more detailed information about employment drug screening, visit aclu.org and type into the search window urinalysis. There you will find information about your rights as and employee and the real facts about employment drug screenings that exist today.

  16. BIG PHARMA’$ DOLLAR$ RULE.

    Obviously they are upset that the poeole want pot legal.So they contacted their puppet Obama and started pulling their strings.

    Cue the Theme from The Godfather………..

  17. I find it strange that – in an open forum where so many people trumpet their rights to smoke marijuana or whatever that they feel quite happy to rubbish my comment as I have the temerity to disagree with their point of view.
    Example “Millions of us have dreamed of making marijuana legal again for many many years.”
    Does she claim to actually know – factually – millions of peoples opinions – how many voted for this bill I`m sure it wasn`t millions.

  18. So, what kind of violation is possesion of a LITTLE more than an ounce, and what kind of violation is possession of a LOT more?

  19. Nick, it is not a definition, it is an example of insanity; there is more than one kind. I’m not sure, but they seem to be under the impression that if you smoke pot; you can’t be trusted, like you’re just a piece of shit that will steal as soon as no one is looking. And since that isn’t true, they wrote way too many laws saying it is.

    Pot does make people go crazy, but not the ones using it. Somehow, people watch others use pot and then they become unreasonable and want to lock us up. Something is completely backward and non-sane about the whole issue.

    All I can see and a very weak excuse for abuse by the police and courts; and that the constitutional framers were very well aware of these kinds of games and made sure the constitution does not permit such laws, thus avoiding these kinds of abuses.

    Now they are talking about how a treaty dis-allows for marijuana to be legalized. Wrong, wrong, wrong. The constitution is a bit more important than any treaties signed. All that needs done is the treaty be amended as people in those countries also want legal buds.

    This a complete non-sense non-issue as “only weirdos are worried about people smoking weed and a country different from their own.” And I’m not worried about the folks next to me smoking all day long. Flimsy and flakey statements that just get dumber ever time they open their mouths is all we’ve been hearing from the Feds for years.

    Basically they are saying, “yes marijuana is safe, but we are trying hard to make it dangerous. And if we’ve succeeded, it is your fault criminal.”

  20. Thank God, Washington has a back door with Canada, at least the can their buds from a place that isn’t run by narco-terrorists.

  21. @Meliora – I agree with you that the cannabis users in CO and WA need to be setting a good example so that the rest of the country can keep moving forward on this issue. Their will to celebrate this is totally understandable. I suspect that the vast majority of cannabis users simply did what they have already been doing for years which is consuming in private and not causing anyone any trouble. It is sad that the more responsible people doing it in private are not the people shown on the news. The news always goes after the more outrageous stories; not the benign ones…

  22. I gotta give a shout out to all those heads from back in the sixties who believed that Cannabis should be legalized & are still around on this monumentous day!!!! It took a generation of courage to Stand Up!!!! It took a generation of courage to save lives…

  23. Everyone please sign this petition and have the justice department stay out of Colorado and Washington! Politely ensure the justice department of the United States take no action against states who have legalized marijuana. http://wh.gov/NLGf

  24. I just signed the petition mentioned by Allday969. I know the Feds tend to ignore the will of the people but we all need to keep on trying while we have momentum!!!

    So, do your part and sign it!

  25. I’m glad that 2 states finally had the common sense to Illegalize Pot. Hopefully this is the beganing of the End for The War on Some Drugs…One thing I dislike about Norml Is it’s only Pot mentality basiclly selling other drug users down the river. in mamy ways without the black market BS Heroin is as safe in pot… Remeber we all fighting for the same goal, The freedom for adults to make adult choices.

    [Editor’s note: For those who are keen on legalizing drugs, which is NOT this organization’s mission, there are numerous organizations to join and support: drugpolicy.org, leap.cc, ssdp.org, DRCNet.org, etc…]

  26. The DEA annual budget was reported to be around 2.6 BILLION dollars. That’s the budget of only a single prohibition agency; there are over twenty of them

    For instance, National Institutes of Drug Abuse, NIDA, controls what subjects/drugs/medicines can be studied and federally funded (serious research). They have had the final say, and their institution’s mission states clearly their purpose is to only research only the harm caused by drugs, so that any beneficial effects encountered during study are not reported or ignored.

    This is their intentional and guiding mission, their purpose as an agency, which makes any claim to be a science-based and pragmatic public service, is not worthwhile, intellectual dishonesty. They have blocked research into cannabis’ benefits and have suppressed any conclusions supporting the good that cannabis does for us humans and our best plant friend, cannabis, like our best animal friend, canis familiaris, domesticated dog.

  27. Great! De-fund the enforcement of cannabis prohibition. Keep running the economy into the ground until the feds are out of the way and cannabis is legalized. States may still prohibit it, but the feds are out of the way.

    Let people out of jail.
    Keep people out of jail.

    Free Marc Emery and the other political prisoners!

    Cannabis is illegal solely for political reasons at this point. The polls are in favor of legalization.

    Ybo Buruma, anything there? If he’s found a way to solve the Dutch back door problem legally within the confines of international treaties, you don’t need to kiss the butts of international prohibitionists. If the Dutch have a legal seed to sale system within the treaties that politicians have been saying prohibits cannabis because Ybo has found a way to structure things that makes the prohibitionist politicians moot, something never thought of or tried before, it’s something other countries that want to legalize can copy.

    What makes you think the investor class will be inclined to put enough money into the economy and trust the government if the federal government if still of the mind that it has money to waste on cannabis prohibition? Nothing says federal failure like two U.S. states legalizing. How does that make McKay, who prosecuted Marc Emery feel, to live in a state where it’s legal and to know that he was a federal prohibitionist puppet who did such an injustice to Marc?

    This needs to hit the mainstream media more. They need to sink their teeth into this until the feds get out. Pass that bill into law to prevent the feds from interfering in states’ cannabis taxation and regulation laws.

    People will celebrate it. Happy Channukah! Merry Christmas! It will be the feds present to the American people, to the world, to end their farce of cannabis prohibition. Save money, make money. What’s not to like? Nearly everyone will be happy.

  28. All of you saying ‘don’t blow it, people in Washington’ give it a rest.
    People are celebrating the end of prohibition. Do you really think that when all is said and done folks will be lighting up under the Space Needle? The general rule is if you couldn’t drink alcohol in a place you can’t light up either, but really people it’s been less than 48 hours. Give my friends and I a break.

  29. This is wonderful news! I’m on such dangerous drugs from the Veterans Healthcare System, which can be easily replaced by cannabis, with the same effects and none of the side-effects, so I’m overjoyed! I’ve been saving for months now to move, and am hoping to be benzodiapine-free very soon! Thank you, voters! Thank you for helping us all!

  30. Washington state needs to behave…Washington states ought to set the exemple…The Nation is watching you…This is a lot of crap as usual.Have you ever tried to make an omelet without breaking eggs? Washnigton just do your stuff…there is gonna be a rough ride for sure as to my knowledge all prohibitionists are still alive following the leagalization…and youll become richer of a new experience in the end and cannabis will happily grow in full sun.

  31. CONGRATULATIONS to NORML for all of your hard work making Washington and Colorado happen. The rumors I hear are that this administration will not actively interfere with Washington and Colorado citizens.

    I hear they plan to remind the public that it is illegal to possess pot on Federal property. Anyone who lives on or near a Federal park knows that as long as you aren’t toking up in the lobby of the FBI building the Feds don’t harass anyone with small amounts of marijuana.

    Congratulations to folks in Washington and Colorado for leading the way in ending the insanity that is the over criminalizing of smoking pot.

  32. Can only have an ounce? Poor baby, but whose to say the ounce fairy doesn’t leave an ounce on your doorstep every night?
    With that said and nothing more to say about the per se DUID issues et al, we are forced to turn to the only direction we are inextricably, unavoidably and absolutely headed, the future.
    Turns out MHP was headed for the future when we started out. We have always presented a social gathering model and we feel this aspect was the one thing that made being at our place preferable to the “Buy it and get out” feel of all the other places. We now have a hospitality based background ready made for the next generation of the cannabis industry, fun. The one we were headed for all along.

  33. On May 18 2011, I told this self righteous, shiny headed DEA agent, in the office of my dispensary MHP of Spokane “You’re going to lose this war, There’s a green tidal wave comin’ your way and there’s not a damn thing you can do to stop it”. All this while a cadre of “commandeered” local police agency personnel ransacked the rest of the store and terrorized our volunteers and members. On Dec. 6 that wave started rolling in. Our sentencing is currently set for Jan 25 next year.

  34. Let’s talk about price.

    If it is legal the price needs to go down substantially.

    Pot is not hard to grow, $280+ an ounce is black market price.

    And the prices those “dispensaries” are charging is, frankly, disgusting.

    Legalize = lower price.

    Don’t let the political shitbags keep this simple to grow plant at black market pricing through insane taxation.

    And I 100% agree, entitled juvenile potheads need to stay off the streets.

    If you keep giving the government the finger in public the government will turn around and stomp this law flat.

  35. To piggyback on what Wieland posted…who makes really good points on testing….I believe very strongly that if someone developed a test that indicated whether or not someone was intoxicated at that moment, at the time the test was taken, and to what degree, that would go along way towards the legalization of marijuana. I don’t want my doctor, my airline pilot, etc to be stoned while working, but if they smoked a joint a week ago who cares. I know there is someone out there smart enough to do that, and they would make a bunch of money.

  36. Until the government stops its insane Weed War, the prices will stay very high.

    The price is set by the market and the market is constantly being attacked so the price will continue to go up and up and most of this money just heading toward the government in the form of fines, stolen cash, stolen marijuana, “confiscated” cars and houses. Why is the price high? But it is funding a “jobs creation program” that feeds on arresting innocent people. How can it be cheap?

  37. If this were some sort of federal experiment and the people of Washington are under observation by govt agencies most concerned with “good intentions” and to guard the public safety, it might be appropriate to tell the people of WA to “be careful.”

    People have learned over 3 decades to be careful to the point of paranoia, it’s become ingrained. At least it has, for the prudent.

    The feds are not conducting a “test market” in WA to see how things might go, *the people of WA voted their will.*

    Regardless of any isolated cases of stupidity or misbehavior, those should (and will) be treated as the exception as they should be–NOT as some support for the prohibitionist side, who may hope something horrible will happen to prove their claims were right all along. Maybe, they hope, the first person in 10,000 years of use will consume cannabis and suddenly drop dead. Although that is a lethal cannabis overdose is physically impossible, they can hope.

    and to the above post, the last 3 decades of drug war has not changed anything besides oppressing the already-underprivileged and serving the needs of pharma, petro-chemical, health care, agrigultural special interests, at the expense of taxpayers and all others.

    the drug war and harsh penalties do not decrease demand at all, the result shifts over to supply side, and serves only to make the drugs more expensive. The organized crime and related violence gets worse, and at greater cost to tax payers, for what is a non-crime in the first place, and secondly, for a plant that grows wild at no cost.

    Use of a medicine with myriad uses, by affecting the profoundly important endo-cannabinoid system already found in each of us, and all mammals, animals all the way down to invertebrates, involved in appetite, mood, immunity, nerve protection, longevity, and numerous undiscovered body systems.

    The feds are not going to crack down on private citizens lighting up a joint discreetly in public (outdoors) because they’ll instantly appear as the bad guys they’ve always been. It’ll be clear the feds are bullying the people who voted differently from the federal law (CSA) and its arbitrary, nonsensical scheduling system.

    Only 2/3 of states have to vote on medical marijuana to trump federal law that attempts to prohibit its use. That’s 33 states. 18 states have done so thus far.

    The same goes legalization. There is no way it will end with just 2 states, CO and WA. It’ll hit a total of 33 states, by all indications. The sooner the better. The feds know this is inevitable. If they crack down hard in violation of states’ rights, immediately it will be more apparent that their desperation is climbing.

    They can’t stop the inevitable

  38. REALLY… We can’t even pull out a joint in Ga. without fear of being locked up and fined. other states have the privaledge of how they want to price what they are allowed to sale. All that runs through my mind is please make it legal in Ga. so that some of us can move on with our lives…

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