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”

    1. Today is my birthday…

      I could not have asked for a better gift than this…

      We can thank men and woman similar to Emile Zola for STANDING UP FOR OUR RIGHTS, and CRUSHING federal propaganda and dismissing it once and for all from our lives!

      I will leave you with a quote from Emile Zola himself, “If you shut up truth, and bury it underground, it will but grow.”

      Taken almost 90 years, but our hemp is free once again… Praise God!

    2. claygooding says:

      Even if the DEA could enforce possession laws in WA and arrested anyone for it,,the jury would be made up of citizens that voted the activity legal.

      And if they tried moving the trials to another state the US Attorney trying prosecuting the case will have to convince jurors that a vote by the majority of it’s citizens means nothing to federal law.

      While lawyers and law professors might believe the claims of federal law trumps state law but layman citizens still believe the people run this country and gaining a conviction would be harder than getting a hung jury or even nullification.

    3. Donald Kieffer says:

      Sixty years ago the federal governmnent sprayed all hemp & cannabis on the Spokane Indian reservation with defoliats. To this day we are not allowed to use this native plant for medicine. A plant that was used traditionally for medicine, as well as spiritual usage. This law has done nothing for indians who are un-willing to leave thier homes, even Wa state medical card holders like myself. Assimilation is still a joke, to us! We will never be equal, until we are treated equally! With that said, I am happy for the leap of faith that all Washington voters took! It is not a demon weed, it is medicinal plant, treat it with respect! And it will grow wild once again, if only off reservations!

    4. Howie says:

      One thing that lawmakers should know…is that pot is a satisfying herb..It’s powerful enough to make you feel good but when you don’t have any you are not going out to desperately seek more by robbing or killing. If the pot laws had been changed back in the 60s there would not be such an appetite for hard drugs..You can argue the point all you want but look at the statistics..the pot rich sections of the country have less hard drug use and violent crime. Back east the pot is crap and crack is the choice of youth.Stupid pull your heads out.

    5. Brian says:

      With the Fiscal Cliff… now is the time to really push the Feds on legalization, Regulation and Taxation as a way to save and gain money… instead of spending, spending, spending on the war against.

    6. Kelly says:

      Thank you all for your work. As a Washingtonian it feels great knowing that if a jerk with a badge (not to be confused with a good cop) smells my herb, my life won’t be upended. What a world!

      I remember the schools teaching me that smoking pot fried one’s brain like an egg. Ha! They brainwashed me well! About ten years ago, I saw the light and learned how insidious the lies were.

      Thank God for this.

      (oh, could someone at NORML please update the Washington state penalties section? It would be grand to see it updated.)

    7. mystiik says:

      thanks to this bad law untill the marijuana stores open dont get cought buying it selling it or sharing it with anyone becouse if you READ the law it is flat out illegal for everything except having it in your pocket.And to my norml director who on my last comment when i mentioned there isnt anywhere to buy it and he told me i didnt know what i was talking about how about you read the law before you open your mouth.

      [Paul Armentano responds: Annually, some 90 percent of all marijuana arrests are for possession only offenses. I-502’s immediately provisions seek to address and eliminate the majority of arrests presently associated with cannabis. This is a step forward. Regulations regarding state-sanctioned production and sales will be finalized in 2013.]

    8. Seth says:

      How are people in Washington and Colorado to purchase this legal marijuana? Are stores going to sell it or is that something that has not been determined yet?

    9. John says:

      From here in Toronto, Canada, I love you, Washington (and Colorado)! You and Colorado are leaders on the global stage! Thank you for making many people’s dreams a reality!

    10. AbracaDebra says:

      It’s great that this has happened, but it’s still illegal to grow it or sell it….so how are people supposed to acquire the marijuana that’s now legal for them to posses? I guess we will just have to continue breaking the law…..