Marijuana possession now legal in Washington State, kind of

State and federal drug laws remain at odds

People light up under the lights of the Space Needle after the law legalizing the recreational use of marijuana went into effect in Seattle, Washington. (Cliff Despeaux/Reuters).

Marijuana possession for adult, recreational use became legal in Washington State Thursday, after a referendum that passed during last month’s presidential election with 56 per cent in support of legalization.

Dozens celebrated by lighting up near Seattle’s Space Needle after midnight, reports Reuters, in a move that was actually illegal because the new law stipulates that marijuana may only be used in a private residence. Lighting up in public can net a $100 fine.

The new state law, however, is in direct conflict with federal laws, so anyone in possession of marijuana could still be arrested by a federal agent. And, reports The Seattle Times, lawmakers have done little to clarify which one of the discordant laws will be applied in the state.

However, marijuana advocates hope that the federal government will allow the state law to take precedent over the federal law in what Richard Epstein, a professor at New York University School of Law, called the Drug Enforcement Agency’s own version of a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Colorado also voted to legalize marijuana in the last election. That law is expected to take effect in that state in 30 days. It will run into the same problem, where marijuana is legal under state laws and illegal under federal laws.

One thing is for certain, though, college campuses in Colorado have said that pot will remain illegal on campus, reports the Denver Post.