State to craft brand new system for legal use of marijuana
Many marijuana users across Washington are celebrating today, after the state becomes one of the first two in the country to legalize the recreational use of the drug.
But there are still a lot of questions to be answered before Initiative 502 goes into effect.
One of the first things the Washington State Liquor Control Board plans to do is reach out to the federal government, because marijuana is still illegal under federal law.
The U.S. Justice Department is reviewing Initiative 502, but for now, the agency says its enforcement of drug laws remains the same.
Still, many consider this a big victory.
Kennewick's Chris Muller has been smoking marijuana for more than 20 years, and says he's looking forward to buying it legally.
"I think it's outstanding. I think it's kind of like prohibition back in the day, when alcohol was illegal and what not. I've been an off and on pot smoker for years and I don't really consider it much of a crime" said Muller.
Last night, voters across Washington state approved Initiative 502, 55% to 45%.
The initiative makes it legal for anyone 21 and older to buy marijuana.
"I think that it will lower the crime rate, and I think that it could potentially increase sales in a year for smoke shops" said Jon Woods, Da Kind Shop in Kennewick.
Brian Smith, a spokesperson from the liquor control board, says the state will oversee marijuana sales, so local businesses can apply for a license to sell.
But it will take time.
The board has until December 1st of next year to create the guidelines for the initiative to go into effect.
"We expect it will take the full year to be able to craft those rules. There's no precedent for this anywhere in the world" said Smith.
And not everybody is excited about the option to buy marijuana.
"I certainly voted against it because I don't believe in it" said Mike Nolan, Pasco resident.
"It could cause some problems, yes" said Lauren Buck, Richland resident.
Tim Adams, the owner of Hippies in Kennewick, says he doesn't plan to sell the drug.
"Too much of a risk. I wouldn't want to do that just of the simple fact that the danger factor of the criminal activities around these areas" said Adams.
Whatever happens, Muller says today he's celebrating, hoping this groundbreaking decision will go into effect as soon as possible.
"It's nice to know that eventually, I can just walk into a store and get it and not have to deal with the seedy element that distributes marijuana now, because it's not gonna be classified with other drugs" said Muller.
The justice department can block the measure, which state leaders say is a concern.
If the state and the federal governments can come to an agreement on the legal sale of marijuana, the state believes it could bring in up to $2 billion of tax revenue in five years.
The majority of voters in Benton, Franklin, Yakima, Walla Walla and Kittitas counties rejected Initiative 502.
To stay up to date with the state's progress on this issue, click here.