Now that we have approved marijuana legalization, it is important to understand what that means to smokers, what exactly is legal and what is not, and any potential pitfalls under the this new and groundbreaking law.
Legalization of cannabis is unprecedented in the US, so along with Colorado, we are leaders in sorting out the practical implementations of legal, recreational use. Changes and responses are happening very quickly. Already, prosecutors are dropping marijuana possession cases, even for people who were arrested while it was illegal.
There will also be bumps along the way, and likely conflicts and court battles with the Feds or other institutions not ready for this change. But we will work through them, and be a model for the nation.
This is what we know now:
- As of December 6th, everyone in Washington who is 21 and older will be able to possess up to an ounce of direct [smokable] marijuana, 16 ounces of marijuana “infused solids”, and up to 72 ounces of any kind of liquid based marijuana infused product.
- No one will be allowed to home grow unless they are a medical patient.
- Retail stores will be allowed to sell marijuana. The Washington State liquor control board, department of health, and department of agriculture will have until December 1, 2013 to make a system of rules with which to regulate the production, processing, and distribution of marijuana. These stores will have to be licensed, stand alone (meaning that they will only sell marijuana), and will not be legally allowed to operate within 1,000 feet of a park or a school.
- Washington’s Medical use of Cannabis act will remain completely untouched under 502.
- It will still be illegal to smoke marijuana in public. However, smoking marijuana in public is only going to be punishable by a fine akin to that of a traffic violation, a civil citation.
- Under the new initiative, it will be every bit as illegal to drive while high as it was before it passed. It also sets a “per se” standard of intoxication for driving at 5 ng/ml in the bloodstream, meaning that if that evidence is proven, that is sufficient to establish guilt of DUI.
- The main difference is that 502 makes a distinction between active THC in the system (i.e. actively high) and carboxy THC (i.e. the stuff that stays in your system for weeks); the 5 nanogram limit only applies to being actively high.
- In order to get pulled over in the first place, officers need to have sufficient reason to believe that the driver was impaired to begin with. Ensuing breath and blood tests will have to be done by medical professionals.
- While it is still illegal on a federal level, proponents of the state law and state officials intend to collaborate and cooperate with federal officials to make sure that the law is implemented fairly. When Alison Holcomb, the head of New Approach Washington (the organization that passed the initiative) made her victory speech on election night, she said it was “the beginning of the end of marijuana prohibition”; she NEVER said it was the definitive end.
Some tips for drivers:
- If/when you get high, wait at least four hours after your last hit before driving (make that six if you used medibles).
- They cannot charge you with anything unless you first show signs of impaired driving or other traffic violations, like speeding. So, drive safely.
Thanks to ACLU WA, where we got most of these tips.