The law will take effect on Dec. 6, 30.
Six states had marijuana-related measures on the ballot Tuesday -- three to legalize recreational use; Washington's I-502, Colorado's Amendment 64 and Oregon's Measure 80. Colorado's amendment showed early leads Tuesday evening.
Under Washington's I-502, anyone over the age of 21 would be able to purchase and possess up to an ounce of marijuana, and the state would regulate and tax the sale of pot.
Those wanting to grow and sell would apply to the state for a license. Estimates are that the new pot tax would raise nearly $500 million a year, much of which would be earmarked for drug prevention and education programs.
In an interview earlier this year on “60 Minutes,” the Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole indicated that federal authorities could take aim at any state laws that legalize pot, saying, "We're going to take a look at whether or not there are dangers to the community from the sale of marijuana and we're going to go after those dangers."
Attorney General Eric Holder was blunter in 2010 when he threatened to "vigorously enforce" federal law if California legalized marijuana (that measure failed).
Opponents of I-502 said they believe the U.S. attorney in Seattle would seek a court injunction to stop the law in its tracks.
“It's a fantasy that the state is ever really going to have this, it's not going to be legal, it's not going to work, the federal government is going to pre-empt this thing in five minutes,” said Douglas Hiatt of the anti-502 group Sensible Washington.
But that hasn't really happened with medical marijuana, and Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, a backer of 502, added that he believes the Feds will back off if voters make pot legal.
“I don’t think the federal government’s going to ignore a clear voter mandate from the state of Washington,” Holmes said.
Only time will tell.
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Initiative 502 Passes: Washington State Legalizes Recreational Marijuana