While I was eating jalapeno poppers in a basement on SE 82nd with Oregon's Measure 80 crew last night, Washington's pot legalization campaign was actually declaring victory.
So now marijuana is legal in Washington state. But what will the practical effects of Initiative 502 be?
I spoke this morning with campaign director Alison Holcomb, who spelled out what will happen over the next year in Washington. Thirty days from now, it will be officially legal to possess marijuana in Washington if you're over 21. You can have up to one ounce of marijuana bud, one pound of marijuana "solids" (like brownies!), or 72 ounces of marijuana distilled in liquid. Twelve months from now, the state will have gone through a rule-making process to determine what the specific rules around growing, selling, and licensing marijuana distributors in the state should be. The process, a collaboration between the state's liquor control board and departments of health and agriculture, won't result in dispensaries until December 2013 at the earliest.
It's important to note that, under the measure, manufacture and delivery of marijuana is still a crime. So is growing your own at home, unless you're a medical marijuana cardholder. The laws around consumption of marijuana in public mirror the laws around consumption of liquor and cigarettes—you can't smoke pot in public if anyone can tell it's pot (so eating a pot brownie is okay) and you also can't smoke it indoors in places where you can't smoke cigarettes (so no lighting up in Vancouver bars).
Over the next year, it's possible that the feds could swoop in and start cracking down on marijuana use in the state, since its possession still remains a federal crime. But Holcomb is hopeful that won't happen. In 2010, Attorney General Eric Holder strongly discouraged California from passing pro-pot Proposition 16. This time around, he was silent on any state's measure. "What we're hoping for is that we'll have a productive conversation with the feds," says Holcomb.