On Tuesday, hundreds of Washington State residents descended upon the Seattle Space Needle in a gathering that resembled a New Year's Eve celebration, complete with cheering and a countdown to midnight.
The moment midnight arrived, the crowd began lighting pipe, joints and bongs full of marijuana in unison.
The cause of the celebration was Washington's Initiative 502. The initiative went into effect at midnight on Wednesday, making it legal for adults 21-years-old or over to be in possession of one ounce or less of marijuana. It also legalized the possession of up to 16 ounces of solid cannabis-infused goods such as brownies or cookies, and up to 72 ounces of marijuana in a liquid form. Appearing on the November 6th, 2012 statewide ballot, the measure won approval by an 11 percent margin.
Although the new law prohibits smoking the drug in public, revelers were determined to celebrate. The Seattle Police Department sent a department wide email on Tuesday stating:
“Until further notice, officers shall not take any enforcement action—other than to issue a verbal warning—for a violation of I-502.”
Jonah Spangenthal-Lee, a police spokesman said:
"The police department believes that, under state law, you may responsibly get baked, order some pizzas and enjoy a 'Lord of the Rings' marathon in the privacy of your own home, if you want to."
Possession, selling, growing and transporting marijuana is illegal under federal law however. If an individual is caught with pot in federal buildings, national parks, military bases or other federally owned land, federal agents can still make an arrest according to the Wall Street Journal.
The U.S. Department of Justice has not stated whether they plan to try and block or repeal the Washington law, but the U.S. attorney's office in Seattle did issue a statement on Wednesday saying states cannot institute a law that nullifies a statute passed by the United States Congress.
Despite the fact that there may be legal challenges ahead, those that gathered in Seattle, and other parts of Washington as well, did not let it overshadow the festivities. Vivian McPeak, director of Hempfest, told the Washington Post:
“This is a big day because all our lives we've been living under the iron curtain of prohibition. The whole world sees that prohibition just took a body blow.”