Marijuana legalization

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Pot becomes legal in Washington on Thursday. But state officials have not even begun to write the complicated rules for who can grow it, process it and sell. That year-long process begins Wednesday.

By the end of this week, adult possession of up to one ounce of usable marijuana will no longer be a crime in Washington. But Initiative 502 -- approved by voters in November -- does much more than decriminalize possession. It requires the state to license and regulate marijuana producers, processors and retailers.

dblackadder / Flickr

In just a few days, smoking marijuana won’t be much different from drinking a glass of wine, as far as state law is concerned. But in what may be the place most associated with pot-smoking – the dorm room – it will still be banned.

Flickr

OLYMPIA, Wash. – State officials tasked with developing a legal marijuana industry in Washington state have a problem: There's no similar system anywhere in the world that they can look to for guidance.

Young voters helped pass laws legalizing marijuana in Washington and Colorado, but many still won't be allowed to light up.

Most universities have codes of conduct banning marijuana use, and they get millions of dollars in funding from the federal government, which still considers pot illegal.

With the money comes a requirement for a drug-free campus, and the threat of expulsion for students using pot in the dorms.

"Everything we've seen is that nothing changes for us," said Darin Watkins, a spokesman for Washington State University in Pullman.

Lauren Paulsen / Flickr

The United Nations drug watchdog agency wants U.S. officials to challenge new marijuana legalization laws in Washington and Colorado. U.N. Narcotics Control Board head Raymond Yans says the approvals send "a wrong message to the rest of the nation and abroad."

At the same time, a group of retired cops, judges and prosecutors is asking U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to support the new laws making it legal for adults 21 and over to possess small amounts of marijuana.

The Justice Department has a big decision to make.

Parts of new laws in Colorado and Washington that legalize small amounts of recreational marijuana will take effect early next month. The Obama administration needs to choose whether it will sue to stop the legislation or let those states go their own way — even though the drug remains illegal under federal law.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, says the message he got from voters is unambiguous.

Now that Washington voters have put the State Liquor Control Board in charge of coming up with the rules and process for licensing the growing and selling of marijuana, we're wondering what the agency's new name should be.

medcannaman / Flickr

Now that marijuana’s about to be legal, you might be wondering more about the details, how this will actually play out across Washington state.

KPLU reporters have created a special audio report by expanding our original series of stories, which takes you on a wide-ranging tour of how legalized marijuana will impact society, from routine traffic stops to intimate family discussions, from pot farms to public consumption.

Four fuzzy images are coming into focus:

Voters in Washington and Colorado just approved measures legalizing marijuana for recreational use. But businesses that want to sell marijuana in those states will face a problem: No bank wants to do business with them.

I called several banks in Washington. I called a local credit union, a tiny bank in the San Juan islands. Everybody said basically the same thing. Even if selling marijuana is legal under state law, it's still illegal under federal law. And banks and credit unions worry that this could get them in trouble.

Reps. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and Barney Frank (D-Mass.) are asking the White House to respect the voters of Colorado and Washington, who decided that recreational marijuana use should be legal.

In a letter sent to President Obama, they wrote:

Update: Feds haven't made up their minds about legal pot

Nov 13, 2012
Kathleen Ann / Flickr

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire says the federal government still hasn't decided whether to take action to block new laws legalizing marijuana in her state and Colorado.

Gregoire met Tuesday with Deputy Attorney General James Cole in Washington, D.C. Gregoire told Cole she would prefer to know "sooner rather than later," because Washington is in the process of getting ready to decriminalize pot, which is still illegal under federal law.

The Associated Press

Okay, on Dec. 6 we can legally have pot in our pockets. But there are still at least four things to consider when contemplating your first legal marijuana possession – not counting how or if the federal laws will be enforced.

Now that voters have legalized recreational marijuana in Washington state, the question is whether the federal government will sue to block it. One legal expert says he expects a court challenge.

Washington’s initiative 502 doesn’t just legalize possession of small quantities of marijuana. It sets up a system for licensing cultivation and sale of the drug and then imposes a tax system. Sam Kamin is a professor of law at the University of Denver. He says he thinks the federal government will determine that Washington’s law is going too far and will challenge it in court.

Kathleen Ann / Flickr

Washington joined Colorado in voting to become the first states to legalize and tax the sale of marijuana for recreational use, but people shouldn't expect to be able to buy a bag of legitimate weed any time soon.

Nor should they expect the law to go into effect with out a fight with federal law agencies, said Sam Kamin, professor of law at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.

“My gut feeling is that the federal government won’t currently tolerate the commercial recreational sale of marijuana, that is they will not allow it to be regulated like alcohol. That just seems a bridge too far,” he said.

Complete I-502 story.

Same-sex marriage backers say they've won

Washington United for Marriage has declared victory in the same-sex marriage referendum.

“This is a clear win,” the group's campaign manager Zach Silk said in a press release.

Rusty Blazenhof / Flickr

Washington voters have approved the recreational use of marijuana. Many questions remain about how this will work, since it’s still a federal crime to use pot. But the state agency that will regulate the industry is getting into gear.

The law making it legal to possess up to an ounce of pot takes effect one month after Election Day, on Dec. 6. And the state liquor board has a year after that to write the rules that will oversee marijuana production and sales.

Paul Evans / Flickr

First came marijuana as medicine. Now comes legal pot for the people.

Colorado and Washington have become the first states to allow pot for recreational use.

Those who have argued for decades that legalizing and taxing weed would be better than a costly, failed U.S. drug war now have their chance to prove it.

The Associated Press

Washington joined Colorado in voting to become the first states to legalize and tax the sale of marijuana for recreational use, but people shouldn't expect to be able to buy a bag of legitimate weed any time soon.

Nor should they expect the law to go into effect with out a fight with federal law agencies, said Sam Kamin, professor of law at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.

“My gut feeling is that the federal government won’t currently tolerate the commercial recreational sale of marijuana, that is they will not allow it to be regulated like alcohol. That just seems a bridge too far,” he said.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Washington voters have made their state the first in the nation to legalize recreational pot use, setting up a showdown with a federal government that backs the drug's prohibition.

Update: Colorado also passed a law making possession of up to an ounce legal. That state will also allow individuals to grow six marijuana plants. Oregon's pot legalization effort failed.

Voters in both Oregon and Washington are considering measures this November that would legalize marijuana for recreational use. If they pass, the laws would further widen the legal gap with neighboring Idaho, where police worry about spillover.

Idaho State Police Major Kevin Hudgens just learned about the two measures to the west of his state. He says they concern him.

“Common sense tells me that I’m sure we’d see some of our residents going over to Oregon and Washington to purchase marijuana. So, we would likely see an increase in that.”

Pedro Fp / Flickr

If Initiative 502 passes, walking around with a bag of marijuana (up to an ounce) will be legal just in time for the holidays … so take note, gift-givers (and be aware those of you who might think the law takes effect right away). 

Even though the elaborate state-regulated apparatus for growing, processing and selling marijuana would take more than a year to come online, simple possession would be legal starting December 6.

Marijuana legalization is back on the ballot this year. California voters defeated a legalization proposal in 2010, but now similar measures have cropped up in three more Western states. This time around, some of the most intense opposition is coming from the earlier pioneers of legalization — the medical marijuana industry.

Talking about drugs and alcohol with kids is awkward. And now that there is an initiative on November’s ballot that would make marijuana legal for people 21 and older, families might want to figure out what their boundaries will be.  So far, 17 year old Mary Kupper, a junior at Lakeside School, hasn’t gotten that memo yet from her parents Bill and Jane Kupper.

“In recent memory, they’ve never told me ‘don’t do marijuana’. I consider myself a pretty good kid. We’ve had more alcohol talks than pot talks." 

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Voters in Washington are likely to approve two ballot measures that have failed in the past. A new poll shows both charter schools and same-sex marriage are leading by healthy margins.

The KCTS 9 Washington Poll also shows a statistical tie in the Governor’s race between Democrat Jay Inslee and Republican Rob McKenna.  

Feds silent so far on marijuana ballot measures

Oct 15, 2012
Virginia Alvino / N3

Two years ago, US Attorney General Eric Holder opposed a California initiative to legalize marijuana. But this year, the Justice Department has been silent on similar measures before voters in Washington, Oregon and Colorado. Monday, a group of former federal drug officials urged the Obama administration to weigh in.

Former Drug Enforcement Administration chief Peter Bensinger says if voters approve the marijuana legalization measures, they’ll put their residents at odds with federal drug laws.

Connor Tarter / Flickr

Washington voters are weighing whether to become the first state to legalize marijuana. All this week in our series "If it’s legal: Five ways legal pot could affect your life," KPLU reporters have been imagining what the future could look like if it passes.Today, we look at how legal pot could change policing.

In Washington state, between 9,000 and 10,000 people are arrested each year for possession of marijuana. If voters approve Initiative 502, it will suddenly be legal to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, enough to fill about a quarter of a small plastic sandwich bag. 

How would legalization affect who goes to jail and how our communities are policed?

A new study looks at how many people have been arrested for marijuana possession in Washington state over the past 25 years, and it's a big number: 240,000.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Washington voters are weighing whether to become the first state to legalize marijuana. All this week in our series "If it’s legal: Five ways legal pot could affect your life," KPLU reporters have been imagining what the future could look like if it passes. Today, we check out the night-life scene, which could include a new version of BYOB – Bring Your Own Brownie. 

Say we fast-forward into the future. The legalization measure has just gone into effect. Where will people use marijuana? Will the guy you pass walking his dog be smoking a joint? Will you see people at a bar sharing their pot brownies?

The campaign to legalize and tax recreational marijuana sales for those over 21 in Washington is launching a new television ad campaign Thursday featuring former federal law enforcement officials.

Justin Steyer / KPLU

Even if you never smoke marijuana, Initiative-502 could make it much more a part of our society, like alcohol. In our series “If it’s legal: Five ways legal pot could affect your life,” we consider some ways things could change for all of us. Today, we look at what sort of advertising and public messages we might expect to see.

If you turn on the TV today, beer and wine are everywhere. A typical commercial for Corona Light, for example, features a guy whose life improves with girls, dancing, lively music, a great time – all thanks to a frosty beer.

This sort of commercial is what Denise Walker was imagining, when she started thinking about the possibility of marijuana advertising in the future.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

If Washington voters approve a ballot measure this fall legalizing marijuana, it would bring big changes – not just in the justice system, but in our communities. In our series “If it’s legal: Five ways legal pot could affect your life,” we consider some ways things could change for all of us, even people who never smoke pot. Today we look at the industry for making, selling and regulating marijuana products that will spring up … if it’s legal.

The closest thing to a legal marijuana store right now is a so-called medical marijuana dispensary. They’re all over Seattle. Tacoma has a few as well. And you can go see what kind of products they have.

You just ring the doorbell outside a forest green storefront and you’ll be greeted warmly. At least, that’s what happened to me one recent morning, at the Center for Palliative Care in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood. It’s called “the CPC” for short.

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