Source: Agencies | 2012-12-8 | NEWSPAPER EDITION
THE crowds of happy people lighting joints under Seattle's Space Needle with nary a police officer in sight bespoke the new reality: Marijuana is legal under Washington state law.
Hundreds gathered on Thursday at Seattle Center for a New Year's Eve-style countdown to 12am, when the legalization measure passed by voters last month took effect. When the clock struck, they cheered and sparked up in unison.
A few dozen people stood on a sidewalk outside the north Seattle headquarters of the annual Hempfest celebration and did the same, offering joints to reporters and blowing smoke into television news cameras.
"I feel like a kid in a candy store!" Hempfest volunteer Darby Hageman shouted. "It's all becoming real now!"
Washington and Colorado became the first states in the US to vote to decriminalize and regulate the possession of an ounce or less of marijuana by adults over 21. Both measures call for setting up state licensing schemes for pot growers, processors and retail stores. Colorado's law is set to take effect by January 5.
Technically, Washington's new marijuana law still forbids smoking pot in public, which remains punishable by a fine, like drinking in public. But pot fans wanted a party, and Seattle police weren't about to write them any tickets.
In another change for Washington, Governor Chris Gregoire on Wednesday signed into law a measure that legalizes same-sex marriage. The state joins several others that allow gay and lesbian couples to wed.