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Washington Legalizes Recreational Marijuana Use

Legalized. (Photo: Cosmo Spacely)

Voters in Washington state joined Colorado on Tuesday in passing a measure that legalizes the recreational use and sale of marijuana.

MYNorthwest.com reports that Washington voters approved Initiative 502, which allows adults age 21 and older to purchase up to 1 ounce (28 grams) of marijuana from state-licensed retail stores. Growers and processors will also be licensed and regulated by the state government.

I-502 also establishes a standard blood test to determine if motorists are driving under the influence of marijuana.

Public use or display of marijuana is still prohibited.

Voters in Colorado approved a similar measure, a constitutional amendment that also allows adults to purchase up to an ounce of marijuana and grow up to six cannabis plants. The two states are the first in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana. In fact, their laws are even more progressive than those in countries like the Netherlands that are known for their drug leniency.

In Oregon, voters failed to pass Measure 80, a similar measure that would have legalized the recreational use of marijuana in that state.

I-502 will levy a 25 percent excise tax on each stage of marijuana production and sale, from growers to retailers, a move that is expected to raise nearly $2 billion in tax revenue over the next five years. Those proceeds will go toward education, health care, drug abuse prevention and treatment and basic government services.

Like Colorado, Washington now seems to be on a collision course with the federal government, which still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, meaning it has “a high potential for abuse” and “no currently accepted medical use.” Other Schedule I drugs include heroin, LSD and ecstasy. According to the government’s scheduling, marijuana is more dangerous than cocaine or methamphetamine.

President Barack Obama, who was reelected to his second term on Tuesday, broke a 2008 campaign promise to take a “hands-off” approach to states that legalized medicinal marijuana. Some Washington voters are now casting wary eyes towards Washington, DC in anticipation of how the federal government will respond to their bold move.

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