As the clock struck midnight on Thursday crowds of people lit up joints under Seattle’s Space Needle. Police officers were in sight of the tokers just moments after it became legal to smoke marijuana in Washington state.
Just because it’s legal to smoke, (but not legal to do it under the Space Needle,) doesn’t mean someone like do-gooder Dave Ross will be joining in any time soon.
Legally, what you can and can’t do
Even though the cops won’t arrest you anymore for possession of an ounce or less of pure pot, or 72 ounces or less of marijuana-infused cooking oil, unless you’re a medical marijuana patient, there’s no legal way right now to get that stuff.
If you’re caught buying it, selling it, or growing it, you still can get arrested. According to the city attorney, if the police see you passing a joint to a friend, it’s still illegal.
Which means rule-bound people like Dave Ross won’t be adding “Everybody Must Get Stoned” to the iPod anytime soon.
In fact, based on Ross’ analysis, until the state completes its year-long rule-making process, the only way to legally get marijuana would be if a drug smuggling plane loses its cargo over Dave’s house. Or if he invited a medical marijuana patient to dinner, and inhaled his second hand smoke. But he could not touch his brownies. Dave would have to cook his own, using the perfectly legal 72 ounces of marijuana-infused oil that also happened to land in his yard.
“That’s the problem with medical marijuana now. For instance, even with an authorized provider under state law, they’re still illegal under federal law,” Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes told Dave after I-502 passed.
‘Potrepreneurs’ are preparing their business ideas
While not all of the rules are made, that isn’t stopping Mary White. Linda Thomas called her a pioneer, similar to those who first crossed the threshold when the prohibition of alcohol ended in Washington in 1932.
“A little bit is good. It’s like a little bit of chocolate, or a little bit of foie gras, or a little bit of whatever. I think a little bit is okay,” White told Thomas. “And so now, we’re going to make butter.”
White teaches cooking classes and hosts a podcast. Her business, The Pantry Raid, is evolving as our state law changes.
She anticipates a demand for cannabis cooking classes.
“The benefit of cooking with it is that you have much more control over how much you’re ingesting. You’re not inhaling a bunch of hot smoke which is really tough on the lungs, and you don’t need very much of it. A little goes a long way, and it lasts a long time,” she said.
People who’ve never smoked pot, are suddenly curious about cannabis and its potential benefits. Others are becoming ‘potrepreneurs’ as they develop marijuana-based businesses.
The Green Rush
Rachel Belle’s friend Ron is already an entrepreneur in the marijuana game and has been planning his move to Washington since I-502 passed in November. Ron doesn’t think he’ll be the only one. He calls it “The Green Rush.”
“Our country was built on that. People have been moving all over this country for generations for economic gain. This is nothing new to Americans at all.”
Ron currently runs a marijuana cooperative in San Diego, and earns about $50,000 a year, but when he moves to Seattle in early 2013, he will close up shop and focus all of his attention on building a business in Washington.
“I understand that it’s going to take a while for the laws to kind of catch up to what we’re doing. But I think the important thing, and I know I’m not the only one thinking this, is to get (to Washington) ASAP and get in on the ground floor.”
He’s currently looking for a good lawyer to navigate the barely established law. But his first major accomplishment was securing an investor to pay for, “Rent on a location, equipment, nutrients, electricity bills, everything that you would need to start up. What a lot of us coming in from out of town are going to be bringing to the table is the knowledge and the know-how. It’s an industry that’s been huge here in California forever. You’ve got families that have been into it for generations. So a lot of that knowledge is going to be brought up.”
But once legal stores pop up, like those White and Ron will set up, there is growing concern the pot addiction rate is going to skyrocket.
Reporter Josh Kerns talked to MG, who tried smoking pot for the first time as a 14-year-old.
“Before the next year had ended I’m smoking pot on a daily basis. I’m getting high on the way to school. I’m getting high on free periods. From that moment on, from just around when I turned 15, I was addicted,” said MG.
It would lead him to decades of dependency. No matter how hard he tried, MG couldn’t stop. For the now 50-something Snoqualmie Valley dad and thousands of others, marijuana is as addictive as alcohol or other drugs.
Although it’s been argued for years pot isn’t habit forming, experts say a number of studies have proven it is both psychologically and physically addictive.
Uncle Sam’s lawyers have yet to specifically respond to the new pot laws in Washington and Colorado. You won’t see those businesses pop up overnight either. As for the smokers under the Space Needle: lighting up could still get them in trouble with the feds. But in Seattle, the police department told its 1,300 officers on Wednesday, just before legalization took hold, that until further notice they should not issue citations for public marijuana use.
The Associated Press, Dave Ross, Linda Thomas, Rachel Belle, Josh Kerns and the MyNorthwest.com staff contributed to this report.