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Crowds gather in downtown Seattle to celebrate historic marijuana legalization in Washington state

Friday, December 14, 2012 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: Seattle, marijuana legalization, Washington state

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(NaturalNews) Washington state made more history on December 6 when it became the first American state to officially legalize the recreational use of marijuana. As reported by Reuters, Initiative 502 became law at the stroke of midnight that day, prompting hundreds of excited Washingtonians to gather at the downtown Seattle Center near the famous Space Needle the day before and into the evening to celebrate the countdown to the bill's enactment -- and they did so with none other than a little bit of marijuana spread all around.

Even though Initiative 502 technically prohibits the public use of recreational marijuana, the Seattle Police Department (SPD), which has long held a somewhat lax view on the issue, kept its distance from the downtown crowds and allowed them to enjoy their fun without obstruction. And everything went peacefully, according to reports, which is exactly what would be expect from a gathering in celebration of the relative end of government tyranny against a natural plant.

"Seattle has always been friendly to cannabis," said Jared Allaway, a 30-year-old supporter of marijuana legalization who carried around a sign throughout the day that stated, "Marijuana is safer than alcohol." "Hopefully this will spread to eastern Washington. You get outside of Seattle, it's a different world."

Many others also shared Jared's sentiments, as they spoke with one another about the importance of the legislation in paving the way for marijuana decriminalization everywhere.

"It's history," added Penny Simons, a 52-year-old medical marijuana patient who traveled from Renton, which is located about 12 miles southeast of Seattle, to attend one of the gatherings. "I've been thinking about the people across the country who are jailed for this. It's nice to see things change."

Marijuana will still be highly regulated, public users subject to citations

As the law pertains to the public use of recreational marijuana; however, the office of Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes -- Holmes has long been a strong supporter of marijuana decriminalization -- issued a warning that people caught using marijuana in public would still be subject to $100 fines. But SPD has also indicated that, at least for the time being, it will only issue verbal warnings to violators, further illustrating the department's lax approach to the marijuana issue.

When asked about the logistical details of how Initiative 502 will come into effect and what it will mean for users, Holmes pointed to the bill's one-year provision for the establishment of a state-regulated growing and distribution system as a viable timeline and framework for figuring it all out. He also clarified his position on what he believes the law was actually intended to accomplish.

"Initiative 502 was not drafted as a celebration of marijuana use, but rather as a recognition of the failure of marijuana policies," Holmes is quoted as saying by the Seattle Weekly. "It replaces a failed prohibition model with a framework that emphasizes regulation, control, research and education."

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