22° F
Coeur d'Alene
18° F

What happens now marijuana is legal

Published On: Nov 07 2012 07:33:12 PM CST   Updated On: Nov 07 2012 09:00:49 PM CST
Smoking marijuana
SPOKANE, Wash. -

Washington residents have voted to legalize the sale and possession of marijuana for people over the age of 21. So now what happens?

The proposal, approved by more than a 10-percent margin and gives state officials a little more than a year to license farmers and retail stores to distribute pot to the public.

The initiative calls for marijuana to be sold at specially licensed stores similar to the privately owned businesses now selling alcohol. And, just like liquor, the marijuana will be heavily taxed by the state.

Beginning early next month it will be legal for people who are 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana. You'll eventually be able buy it by the gram at select stores that can only sell marijuana or paraphernalia. The state liquor control board will regulate both the production and retail sales of the marijuana.

Under the new law, it will still be illegal for people under the age of 21 to possess marijuana and illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana and drug dealers can still be arrested for selling dope on the street.

Licensed stores can only use a small sign to advertise their product and the state will collect a 25-percent tax on each purchase.

Proponents of Initiative 502 claimed people arrested on marijuana possession charges were clogging up our jails and prisons, however Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said last year only six of those people ever spent a night behind bars.

"What happens when the rest of the nation figures out, oh you can go to the State of Washington and smoke dope? What kind of problems is that going to cause to come across the border," Knezovich asked.

This all may be academic, as there is a possibility the federal government will try to block Washington from getting into the marijuana sales business. A spokesman for the US Attorney here in Eastern Washington said Wednesday morning that "the Department of Justice's enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act remains unchanged."

US Attorney Mike Ormsby shut down medical marijuana dispensaries here in Spokane and could do the same thing with state stores under the Controlled Substances Act, however state officials say the voters have now spoken and they'll be moving forward on the legalization of marijuana.