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Washington Celebrates First Day of Legal Pot

Hundreds of stoners count down to a midnight smokeout. But legal pot is still a legal headache.

Image: 

Police left pot smokers alone as they got
higher than the Space Needle. Photo via

By Bryan Le

12/06/12

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Last night, hundreds of Washingtonians gathered under the Space Needle in Seattle to herald the moment recreational marijuana became legal, counting down New Year's-style to 12 am on December 6 before sparking up en masse. In a surreal scene, enthusiasts bluntly offered joints to reporters and blew smoke into news cameras. “I feel like a kid in a candy store!” said Hempfest volunteer Darby Hageman. “It's all becoming real now!” While the new law does prohibit public use, like with alcohol, the Seattle police department had standing orders to hold the citations and let the people party. But despite the festivities, state law still leaves pot in a legal limbo—it's ok to possess it, but growing or selling it remains technically a felony. “So I'm not sure where you're supposed to get it,” wonders King County prosecutor Dan Satterberg. “If you stumble across some on the street or it falls from the sky, then you can have it. Otherwise, you're part of a criminal chain of distribution.”

And that's before we get to the possibility of federal intervention, with the US Justice Department maintaining a poker face: “Regardless of any changes in state law, including the change that will go into effect on December 6 in Washington state, growing, selling or possessing any amount of marijuana remains illegal under federal law,” states the US Attorney's Office. “Members of the public are also advised to remember that it remains against federal law to bring any amount of marijuana onto federal property, including all federal buildings, national parks and forests, military installations and courthouses.” Washington's pot smokers hope the feds will soon clarify. “We don't want to go and spend serious resources only to have it stopped by the federal government,” says Washington State Liquor Control spokesman Brian Smith. “It would sure help Washington state if they weighed in and made clear their expectations.” Perhaps Washington lawmakers wish their lives were as simple as that of Snoop Lion. He marked the occasion by stating on a Wednesday night Reddit chat that he currently smokes 81 blunts a day—or one every 10-15 minutes—aided by his eligibility for medical marijuana in California.

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