A major triumph and push forward for the Cannabis movement in Washington State, Initiative 502 was officially passed in 2012, giving residents legal rights to purchase and use marijuana for medical and recreational purposes. Washington joins Colorado as the first states in the United States to legalize and regulate the sale, use, and distribution of marijuana.
However, heavy regulations by the Washington State Liquor Control Board including 25% taxes, licensing fees and stringent rules regarding where marijuana can be consumed and cultivated took more than a year to establish (with more to come). More importantly, federal laws that make possession and selling of marijuana a crime are still a real concern for sellers and users in Washington State as there is still the real threat of incurring federal charges for growing, distributing and using marijuana.
Proponents of the law collected the required 241,153 signatures in the summer of 2011 in order to present it to the legislature, and many public officials and mainstream media outlets expressed strong support for i502. However, there are still battles to face. While supporters have long touted the use of marijuana as effective treatment for diseases like cancer, PTSD, multiple sclerosis and chronic pain disorders, there are still opponents that insist the negative effects of marijuana addiction outweigh the benefits. Yet, many experts agree that it is less severe than heroine, cocaine, and even alcohol addiction.
Important rules that Washington State Marijuana users and sellers should know include:
Employers may still require drug testing as a condition of employment
Consuming marijuana or marijuana infused products in public is against the law
You may be able to legally obtain and consume marijuana, but operating a vehicle under the influence of more than 5 ng/mL of blood could result in arrest. Some medical marijuana supporters believe this could lead to an increase in DUI convictions for legitimate users.
Buying, selling, or consuming marijuana near schools, public parks, daycare facilities, libraries, and generally any place children would be is a violation of i502. Cultivating and or consuming marijuana should be at least 1000 feet away from any place children (anyone under 21 years of age) frequent.
In general, i502 is a major step in the right direction for advocates of medical marijuana, however in practice, the high taxes and stringent rules for using it still make it a long road ahead before it can be called a true victory. The future of Washington State and i502 hang in the balance as federal elections are on the horizon and opponents push for tighter regulation of marijuana. The battle is not over, but for those who use marijuana to ease the symptoms of a debilitating disease, it is definitely a step in the right direction.