At midnight last night, two things became legal in Washington State: same-sex marriage and the recreational use of marijuana.
Voters in Washington and Colorado last month made those the first states to decriminalize and regulate the recreational use of marijuana.
Washington’s law takes effect on Thursday and allows adults over 21 to have up to an ounce of pot – but it bans public use of marijuana, which is punishable by a $100 fine, just like drinking in public. Colorado’s law is set to take effect by Jan. 5
The crowd at the base of the Space Needle in Seattle began counting down as midnight approached. It wasn’t New Year’s Day they were anticipating, but the moment that marijuana would become legal in Washington state.
As midnight hit, smokers hit their pipes and joints to celebrate.
Carrying a sign, “marijuana is safer than alcohol,” Jared Allaway, 30, described the night as “iconic”, reports the Reuters.
“Seattle’s always been friendly to cannabis,” Allaway said. “Hopefully this will spread to eastern Washington. You get outside of Seattle, it’s a different world.”
“This is a big day because all our lives, we’ve been living under the iron curtain of prohibition,” said Hempfest director Vivian McPeak. “The whole world sees that prohibition just took a body blow.”
Seattle police spokesman Sgt Sean Whitcomb said he doesn’t expect officers to write many tickets to the celebrants. Thanks to a 2003 law, marijuana enforcement remains the department’s lowest priority.
The law permits cannabis to be legally sold and taxed at state-licensed stores in a system to be modeled after those in many states for alcohol sales. The state Liquor Control Board, along with agriculture and public health officials, have until next December to set up such a system.
The Telegraph writes, however, with cannabis still illegal under United States law, through the Controlled Substances Act, Washington could face a crackdown by federal agents from the FBI and Drug Enforcement Agency.
The drug remains banned from federal property in the state, including military bases and national parks.
Washington’s stance comes in the wake of an already escalating conflict between the federal government and states over the burgeoning medical cannabis industry.
According to the Huffington Post, in another sweeping change for Washington, Gov. Chris Gregoire on Wednesday signed into law a measure that legalizes same-sex marriage. The state joins several others that allow gay and lesbian couples to wed.
The mood was festive in Seattle as dozens of gay and lesbian couples got in line to pick up marriage licenses at the King County auditor’s office early Thursday.
The offices in King County, the state’s largest and home to Seattle, and Thurston County, home to the state capital of Olympia, opened the earliest they could, at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, to start issuing marriage licenses.
Jane Lighty and Pete-e Petersen, 85 and 77, respectively, got the first licence from the county.
Volunteers distributed roses and a group of men and women serenaded the waiting line to the tune of “Chapel of Love.”
Because the state has a three-day waiting period, the earliest that weddings can take place is Sunday.