It's Official: Pot Now Legal in Washington

But big questions remain about distribution, federal laws

By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 6, 2012 6:27 AM CST | Updated Dec 6, 2012 7:53 AM CST

(Newser) – As of 12:01 this morning, it's 4:20 all the time in Washington state. Kind of. Initiative I-502 has gone into effect, decriminalizing possession of marijuana, but many questions remain about how the new law will take effect, reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “We’re in uncharted water here," says a city attorney. Indeed. Though possession of up to an ounce is now OK under state law, the US Attorney's office has made it clear that pot is still illegal under federal law. "Neither states nor the executive branch can nullify a statute passed by Congress," said the US Attorney’s Office in Seattle, according to the Washington Post.

But the feds have been silent about what action they intend to take about the new pot laws, if any. Growing and distribution remain illegal in the state, and will be for at least a year as Washington creates a licensing system. The AP reports that "nary a police officer [was] in sight" as crowds counted down to midnight under Seattle's Space Needle and sparked up en masse. Though it remains illegal to smoke pot in public, the lack of clarity around the law has led the Seattle PD to instruct its force to issue only a verbal warning to offenders for now. And a police rep posted this very amusing announcement to the SPD Blotter:

  • "The police department believes that, under state law, you may responsibly get baked, order some pizzas, and enjoy a Lord of the Rings marathon in the privacy of your own home, if you want to. ... The Dude abides, and says 'take it inside!'"

A person holds a freshly rolled marijuana joint, just after midnight this morning at the Space Needle in Seattle.   (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Gary Parrish smokes marijuana in a glass pipe, just after midnight this morning at the Space Needle in Seattle.   (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Mike Momany smokes marijuana, just after midnight this morning at the Space Needle in Seattle.   (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
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