Smokers Celebrate as Washington State Legalizes Marijuana

C. Nash smokes marijuana, Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012, just after midnight at the Space Needle in Seattle. Possession of marijuana became legal in Washington state at midnight, and several hundred people gathered at the Space Needle to smoke and celebrate the occasion, even though the new law does prohibit public use of marijuana.
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"The department's responsibility to enforce the Controlled Substances Act remains unchanged," said a statement issued Wednesday by the Seattle U.S. attorney's office. "Neither states nor the executive branch can nullify a statute passed by Congress" — a non-issue, since the measures passed in Washington and Colorado don't "nullify" federal law, which federal agents remain free to enforce.

The legal question is whether the establishment of a regulated marijuana market would "frustrate the purpose" of the federal pot prohibition, and many constitutional law scholars say it very likely would.

That leaves the political question of whether the administration wants to try to block the regulatory system, even though it would remain legal to possess up to an ounce of marijuana.

[READ: Marijuana, Real or Fake, Can Lead to Unusual Gastro Problem]

Alison Holcomb is the drug policy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington and served as the campaign manager for New Approach Washington, which led the legalization drive. She said the voters clearly showed they're done with marijuana prohibition.

"New Approach Washington sponsors and the ACLU look forward to working with state and federal officials and to ensure the law is fully and fairly implemented," she said.

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Johnson can be reached at https://twitter.com/GeneAPseattle

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