In 2012, Washington voters took an unprecedented step: They approved a ballot measure that allowed recreational marijuana use. On the same day, Colorado residents approved a similar provision. Since that time, both states have established regulations for a newly opened market for legal marijuana sales.
Even though possession of marijuana will not necessarily result in criminal charges, there are laws producers and consumers must follow. First off, only adults 21 or older will be able to purchase and carry a limited amount of pot. At the same time, producers must also abide by very specific conditions or face the possibility of drug-related charges.
According to state regulations, the three stages of recreational marijuana production and sales must be separated. This means that the same business cannot be in charge of growing, processing or selling the product. Furthermore, out-of-state residents cannot provide funding for any of the businesses involved in production.
Of course, understanding these regulations will be necessary for people to avoid being charged for marijuana possession or cultivation. Unfortunately, as law enforcement and individuals adjust to the new laws, there may be some challenges and misunderstandings along the way.
While the state made preparations to legalize marijuana, there were questions about how federal law enforcement would react. At this point, the federal government has made the decision not to interfere with the state laws, but there are a few things to remember. Recreational marijuana possession and sales are still illegal on a federal level and in 48 states. This means that consuming or possessing marijuana on federal property in Washington state could yield drug charges.
Source: Time, "New Laws Chart Course for Marijuana Legalization," Eliza Gray, Oct. 19, 2013