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Washington Can Legalize Pot on Nov. Ballot

By Andrew Chow, Esq. on February 01, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Voters in Washington state are set to decide on a proposal that would legalize marijuana possession for non-medical use and authorize its sale in state-run stores.

Initiative 502, which supporters call "a new approach to marijuana," qualified for November's statewide ballot Friday after a months-long petition drive, Reuters reports. If approved, I-502 would make Washington the first U.S. state to legalize both medical and non-medical pot.

The new pot law would come with limits, however. Here's what I-502, Washington's marijuana-legalization initiative, would actually do, according to the New Approach Washington campaign:

  • Allow adults 21 and over to legally possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana for any purpose -- medicinal or non-medicinal.
  • Allow adults 21 and over to legally possess up to 16 ounces (1 pound) of marijuana-infused solid products like cookies and brownies.
  • Allow adults 21 and over to legally possess up to 72 ounces (4.5 pounds) of marijuana-infused liquids like teas and lotions.
  • Require all marijuana sold in Washington to be produced in-state.
  • Require all marijuana to be sold at licensed state-run stores.

Washington's marijuana legalization initiative would also create a new threshold for marijuana-related DUIs. For adults 18 and over, the limit would be 5 ng/mL of blood concentration of THC, the main psychoactive element in marijuana. For drivers under 18, legal limit would be zero.

I-502's backers say the proposal will protect medical marijuana patients from being wrongly arrested or prosecuted under Washington's state laws. But because federal laws make no exception for marijuana, anyone who uses the drug -- with a prescription or without -- still risks facing federal charges.

Washington's marijuana legalization initiative isn't the first -- California voters rejected a similar legalization push in 2010. Meantime, pot-legalization advocates are also pushing for a ballot measure in Colorado this fall.

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