As goes the political process of our nation, lawmakers do not typically get it right on the first try. Washington’s marijuana initiative was by no means the first attempt at legalization, nor was it the most competent, but the people of Washington were the first population audacious enough to vote it through. The uneducated voter pulled his weight in the recent passage, and as a result we now have a law that very few understand, on a level of ambiguity that we have not seen since Arizona’s immigration laws. In due time, however, those who need to understand the law will. I can only hope they learn by way of word rather than experience. It is not the fundamentals of this law that are flawed, but the way in which we attempt to achieve them. Thanks to the beauty of democracy, there will be opportunities to improve, and eventually this law will be altered in a way that will settle the opposition. Until then, our only option is to learn what we are working with.
Initiative 502 begins stating that it has the intention to “stop treating adult marijuana use as a crime and try a new approach.” It suggests that doing this will allow law enforcement to focus on property and violent crimes, generate tax revenue and take marijuana out of the hands of illegal drug organizations. The initiative delegates the taxation and regulation of marijuana to the State Liquor Control Board. This is where the gray area begins, as the liquor control board is still discussing the best approach to regulation while also desperately trying to find a way to add marijuana to its name.
As of now, for those 21 and older, possessing up to an ounce of marijuana is no longer punishable by law in the state of Washington. However, there is no legal way to obtain it. Growing marijuana is still illegal and the state has yet to hand out any producers’ licenses. The Marijuana Eradication Program, a sector of the Washington State Patrol that has confiscated hundreds of thousands of marijuana plants, is still active despite the new laws. Federal funding for this program, which reached around $1.5 million last year, is likely to cease with the passage of the initiative.
Employers still maintain the right to determine their own drug policies. So if you were under the impression that you could spark up a spliff during your lunch break and spend the rest of the workday alternating between the snack machine and funny You-Tube videos, I-502 won’t debilitate your boss from firing you.
In the eyes of the Federal government, marijuana is still illegal. The Feds won’t likely make the trip to Seattle to arrest a guy taking a bong rip in a dark alley, but once any legal grow operations arise or the legal industry starts to have a financial significance, a battle between the Washingtons will be inevitable.
Yes, marijuana is still illegal on a national level, but the biggest issue with this law is that law enforcement is pushed into a position where they must pretend to be ignorant to the idea that anyone possessing marijuana had to break the law to get it. Eventually, the Liquojuana control board may come up with a policy that will sneak under the federal radar making marijuana legally obtainable. Until then, kick back, relax and enjoy your legal ounce of illegally acquired weed.