Marijuana users celebrate legalization in Washington state (+video)
Though the law does not allow pot smoking in public, that didn't stop users from gathering near Seattle's iconic Space Needle. Though it is now legal to possess marijuana in Washington under state law, possession remains a federal crime.
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Low-key cries of "Yeah!" and "Smoke some weed" and "Anybody got a bong?" rose after an Oregon radio personality, "Radical" Russ Belville, finished a 10-second countdown on a bullhorn.Skip to next paragraph
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Mike Momany, 61, wearing a black "Bad Pig" brand motorcycle jacket, said he was forming the Washington State Cannabis Tourism Association to promote pot tourism. Although he has smoked grass for 40 years, Momany said he had slowed his intake "because it makes me eat too much."
Another smoker, wearing sunglasses and calling himself "Professor Gizmo," 50, said: "Victory for hemp. If our forefathers could see us now."
No police were visible as the aroma of cannabis wafted through the air and Bob Marley music blared from loudspeakers. There were no immediate reports of any arrests.
Appeals to keep pot smoke indoors were expected to go unheeded again at a larger celebration by marijuana advocates planned for Thursday evening at the Space Needle.
Celebrations over pot legalization were later overshadowed by violence, as police said two masked men who tried to rob a large pot-growing operation in a residential garage were shot and killed outside of Tacoma.
The Seattle Police Department publicized its laid-back pot enforcement directive on its "SPD Blotter" website on Wednesday, but advised against flagrantly lighting up in public.
"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," the notice said.
While asserting that public pot use remained expressly prohibited, Seattle police said officers lacked clear enforcement authority and that it would take at least 30 days for legislation to be crafted enabling officers to cite violators.
In the meantime, in the spirit of the new law, "the department's going to give you a generous grace period to help you adjust to this brave, new and maybe kinda' stoned world we live in," the department's online message says.
Prosecutors in several counties said last month they were dismissing scores of misdemeanor marijuana possession cases in advance of the new law. But whether public or private, cannabis use violates federal law, which classifies marijuana as an illegal narcotic.
U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan in Seattle reiterated on Wednesday the U.S. Justice Department position that growing, selling or possessing any amount of marijuana remained a federal crime, regardless of any changes in state law.