Cannabis Is Now Legal In Washington State

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director December 6, 2012

    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 Responses to “Cannabis Is Now Legal In Washington State”

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    2. Alex P says:

      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

    3. Dacone710 says:

      Can I as a Washingtonian grow weed and if so what amount of plants am I allotted?

    4. salinas gonzalez says:

      How does one locate a distributor for recreational marijuana in or near Yakima Washington?

    5. frank NJ says:

      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.

    6. Jeff says:

      Washington residents busted for pot in addition to other charges..like 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..

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