On eve of legalization, clouds still hang over pot law

Dec 5, 2012

At the stroke of midnight, adult marijuana users will no longer be lawbreakers in Washington. But lots of legal questions remain about how marijuana commerce will work, where it’s legal to use and how the federal government will respond.

Two pieces of Initiative 502, the ballot measure legalizing pot, are taking effect Dec. 6: allowing possession of up to an ounce, and a legal blood limit for driving. But selling marijuana is and will remain illegal: Only the state-regulated stores will be able to do that, and those are at least a year away. So adults 21 and over can have it, but there’s no legal way to get it. Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said it may be a little messy, but that’s to be expected.

“We’re in uncharted territory here. And we are trying to substitute a legal, licensed system for what is nearly a wholly illegal system, and that is going to take time. What I think we’re doing under 502 tomorrow starting at midnight is at least we’re not doing any more harm, said Holmes.

Another open question is just where people will be allowed to use marijuana. The law bans use in view of the public. But what about an enclosed space behind a restaurant? How about a so-called “private” club that’s really just a bar with a cover charge?

Holmes says people are sure to test the limits, and the particulars will all get worked out by the cops, courts and lawmakers. The testing appears to be starting right away: a group is already planning a celebratory “smoke-in” on Thursday at Seattle Center’s International Fountain.