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Published: Thursday, 12/6/2012

Washington state legalizes marijuana: Questions and answers

ASSOCIATED PRESS
C. Nash smokes marijuana in a glass pipe just after midnight at the Space Needle in Seattle. Possession of marijuana became legal in Washington state at midnight, and several hundred people gathered at the Space Needle to smoke and celebrate the occasion, even though the new law does prohibit public use of marijuana. C. Nash smokes marijuana in a glass pipe just after midnight at the Space Needle in Seattle. Possession of marijuana became legal in Washington state at midnight, and several hundred people gathered at the Space Needle to smoke and celebrate the occasion, even though the new law does prohibit public use of marijuana.
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SEATTLE — Marijuana became legal under Washington state law Thursday. So, bong hits and funny brownies for everybody?

Not quite. Pot legalization in the Evergreen State has raised many questions, some that likely won't be answered for a while. Here's a quick primer:

WHO CAN USE MARIJUANA?

Adults over the age of 21 can possess up to an ounce.

WHERE CAN PEOPLE BUY IT?

You can have it, but for now it remains illegal to sell pot. Initiative 502, the measure state voters approved last month, gives the state a year to come up with a system of state-licensed growers, processors and retail stores.

CAN PEOPLE LIGHT UP IN PUBLIC, SAY, UNDER THE SEATTLE SPACE NEEDLE?

Technically, no. The new state law forbids smoking in public. People who do face a fine, as do people who openly drink alcohol in public. However, that didn't stop people from smoking joints under the Space Needle on Thursday, when the new law took effect. For now, Seattle police say they won't be writing tickets to those folks. They generally ignored small marijuana use even before Thursday, arguing they had bigger crimes to fight.

WILL POT BE TAXED?

Yes, under Washington's new law, analysts figure a legal pot market could reap hundreds of millions of dollars a year in new taxes for schools, health care and other things.

WHAT IS THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT GOING TO DO?

That's the question state officials want answered in Washington and Colorado, where marijuana becomes legal next month. So far, the Justice Department has reiterated that marijuana remains illegal under federal law, but Uncle Sam's lawyers have yet to specifically respond to the new pot laws in those two states. So, lighting up could still technically get you in trouble with the feds.



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