Ethan Nadelmann, Drug Policy Alliance: “Washington State and Colorado made history on Election Day by becoming not just the first two states in the country — but the first political jurisdictions anywhere in the world — to approve the legal regulation of marijuana”
Adult Possession of Marijuana Becomes Legal In Washington State
Blaze a doob or spark a bowl at midnight, Washingtonians! Just don’t drive afterwards. Maybe for a couple days…?
Starting Thursday, December 6, people 21 and over will be able to legally possess up to one ounce of marijuana in the state of Washington. On Election Day last month, 55 percent of voters in both Washington State and Colorado voted to make marijuana legal, making those states the first two to approve legally regulating marijuana like alcohol.
The Washington State Liquor Control Board has until December 2013 to implement rules for the regulated market.
There were more than 241,000 arrests for marijuana possession in Washington state over the past 25 years, at a cost to the state of over $300 million. In 2010 alone, there were 11,000 arrests for marijuana possession.
A single arrest for possession costs from $1,000 to $2,000 and creates a permanent criminal record that can severely limit an individual’s ability to obtain housing, schooling, employment, and credit.
“Washington State and Colorado made history on Election Day by becoming not just the first two states in the country – but the first political jurisdictions anywhere in the world – to approve the legal regulation of marijuana,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “The only way federal marijuana prohibition is going to end is by voters and legislators in other states doing just what folks in those two states just did.”
No private home cultivation of marijuana is allowed under I-502; cannabis consumers are supposed to buy their legal weed from state-licensed stores, a few of which will be located around Washington. The state estimates legal state-licensed cannabis will cost about $12 a gram.
Public use will remain illegal under I-502; smoking in public can and will get you busted. Passing a joint, under the language of the measure, can get you busted for “distribution,” so you may wanna make sure you trust someone before puff-puff-passing.
Ironically, with all the excitement surrounding marijuana legalization — with Washington state the first political jurisdiction on the planet to do so — there’s no legal way to buy any of the damned stuff.
No state-licensed outlets will be open before, at the earliest, December 2013. In the meantime, many black-market pot dealers — the only source for those “legal” ounces until then — have big smiles on their faces.
Washington state’s medical marijuana system is based on patient collectives and will remain a completely separate from the state-licensed marijuana stores. Debates continue to rage on the exact effect the implementation of I-502 will have on legal patient collectives in the state. Medical marijuana was legalized by Washington state voters in 1998, and an extensive network of patient collectives became increasingly above-ground after President Barack Obama said prosecutions of those in compliance with state medical marijuana laws would not be a priority of his administration.
Even as activists anticipate and applaud the end of adult marijuana possession arrests for under an ounce, many in the community are apprehensive about the possible fallout from the DUI-D (driving under the influence of drugs) provision in I-502, which institutes a per se blood THC limit of five nanograms per milliliter (5 ng/ml).
Whereas under the old law, drivers could choose to defend themselves in court, forcing the state to prove they were actually impaired, under 502 test results of 5 ng/ml or above will automatically result in a DUI conviction. The concern, particularly among patients in the medical marijuana community, is that (a) No scientific correlation has been shown between driving impairment and 5 ng/ml; and (b) many patients who must medicate heavily never drop below 5 ng/ml, even when they wake up, unimpaired, in the morning.