Washington state residents yesterday started celebrating — on sidewalks, in parks, outside bars and on their own comfy couches — a new marijuana law that is among the most liberal in the world, reports the Seattle Times. The festivities culminated with a big, hazy party last night at Seattle Center, 79 years and a day after the 21st Amendment, repealing alcohol prohibition, was ratified. Unlike that repeal, Washington’s new law starts with a messy conflict with the federal ban on marijuana, sure to grow messier once the state begins licensing marijuana grow farms and retail stores next year. Until then, this will be “the year of the magical ounce,” as one activist called it. Adults 21 and over can have that much for recreational use, but until the marijuana stores open, there’s nowhere to legally buy it. Nor is there any legal place to use it, except behind closed doors.
Seattle police will not write tickets for public use of marijuana, which is now equivalent to public drinking. Police will “give you a generous grace period to help you adjust to this brave, new, and maybe kinda stoned world we live in,” according to a post on the department’s blog. The state has begun a yearlong process to set rules for the first-of-its-kind, regulated, for-profit recreational-marijuana market. The state estimates Washington’s market alone at $1 billion a year, with 363,000 customers consuming 187,000 pounds of marijuana, all of which must be grown in the state. Says Jamen Shively, a former Microsoft corporate strategy manager who now sells a gourmet-marijuana retail brand, Diego Pellicer, “This is the first moment in U.S. history — and maybe the world’s history — when we know a $50 (billion) to $100 billion market is going to materialize overnight, for which there does not exist a single brand.”