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Marijuana Legalization Already Having a Tangible Impact in Washington State

The recently approved initiative 502, which will legalize marijuana in Washington State, doesn’t even official go into effect until December 6th, but it is already starting to have a real impact in the state. Some local prosecutors have decided to drop hundreds of pending misdemeanor marijuana cases as a result. From the Seattle Times:

In King County, 175 cases are being dismissed involving people 21 and older and possession of one ounce or less. I-502 makes one ounce of marijuana legal on Dec. 6, but King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg decided to apply I-502 retroactively.

“Although the effective date of I-502 is not until December 6, there is no point in continuing to seek criminal penalties for conduct that will be legal next month,” Satterberg said in a statement. […]

Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said he was dismissing “about four dozen” pending cases where misdemeanor marijuana was the only offense. He said his staff was continuing to prosecute other cases where possession was secondary to a more serious charge, such as drunken driving.

The marijuana legalization measures that were approved in Colorado and Washington State this year effective do two distinct things. First, they will create a regulate system for the commercial product and sale of marijuana. Second, they make it legal for adults to own and use small amounts of marijuana.

The federal government can theoretically do several things to inhibit the commercial aspects from being implemented, but it can’t change the fact that personal possession for adults has been legalized. The federal government simply does have the resources to boast people for smoking a joint.

Even if the federal government aggressively tries prevent the states from setting up legal marijuana markets, the initiatives are still going to have a significant impact by eliminating thousand of arrests a year. That very important part of the new laws are safe from federal interference.


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Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at