On Thursday Washington State became the first state in America where it is legal to possess marijuana for adult recreational use, and hundreds of people celebrated shortly after midnight by lighting up and smoking joints together under Seattle’s iconic Space Needle.
“I feel like a kid in a candy store!” shouted Darby Hageman, according to The Associated Press.
In November voters in the states of Washington and Colorado approved legalizing small amounts of marijuana for recreational use by people over the age of 21.
The new law went into effect in Washington on Thursday and goes into effect in Colorado on January 5.
Some of the legal details are still murky: Washington residents still aren’t legally allowed to grow or sell marijuana, and they’re not allowed to smoke it in public.
It’s not clear how police are supposed to enforce the specifics of the law.
The Seattle Police Department told its police department in an email Wednesday night that until further notice, “officers shall not take any enforcement action – other than to issue a verbal warning.”
“Does this mean you should flagrantly roll up a mega-spliff and light up in the middle of the street? No,” wrote police spokesman Jonah Spangenthal-Lee on the police department website.
“If you’re smoking pot in public, officers will be giving helpful reminders to folks about the rules and regulations.”
But technically, marijuana is still against federal US law – which means people can still be arrested by federal agents, though whether that will actually happen remains to be seen.
“The Department of Justice is reviewing the legalization initiatives recently passed in Colorado and Washington State. The Department’s responsibility to enforce the Controlled Substances Act remains unchanged,” said Seattle US Attorney Jenny Durkan in a statement Wednesday.
“Regardless of any changes in state law… growing, selling or possessing any amount of marijuana remains illegal under federal law,” she added.
That warning did not stop the midnight celebrations in Seattle. There were no arrests reported.