Get the straight dope on what's legal, what's not

State's marijuana legalization law goes into effect Thursday

By Paul Suarez, Columbian web producer

Published:

 

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With Initiative 502 taking effect Thursday, it's easy to know what's legal and what isn't when talking dope, right?

Wrong.

We compiled a few answers to questions that people may be asking.

What changes after Initiative 502 takes effect? What's legal and what isn't?

Initiative 502 makes the possession and private use of one ounce of marijuana legal for those 21 and older, said Sgt. Fred Neiman, spokesman for the Clark County Sheriff's Office. Having between 28 and 40 grams (28 grams is one ounce) of marijuana in your possession is still a misdemeanor that can be cited.

Nothing changes for anyone younger than 21 — it's still a misdemeanor to have less than 40 grams of marijuana.

It's a felony for anyone, regardless of age, to have more than 40 grams, Neiman said.

Where can I smoke or consume marijuana?

Initiative 502 makes it legal to use marijuana in private, not in a public place such as a park or on the street. It cannot be smoked in areas that already prohibit smoking. Those who use pot in public can be cited.

How can I get some weed?

Interestingly enough, it is legal for some people to possess a small amount of marijuana, but there is no legal way to buy it — yet. The Washington State Liquor Control Board has until Dec. 1, 2013, to set guidelines for the legal sale and distribution of marijuana. For now, production and distribution of marijuana (for non-medical use) is illegal, according to Seattle police.

Can I start a marijuana farm?

People cannot grow their own marijuana plants, sheriff's spokesman Neiman said.

Can I drive after smoking?

Anyone operating a car under the influence of marijuana will be arrested, according to Neiman. If police suspect someone is impaired a drug recognition expert will run the person through a series of tests. If probable cause is found, police will do a blood draw to determine if the person is impaired, Neiman said. The legal impairment level is 5.0 nanograms of THC. VPD spokeswoman Kim Kapp said smelling marijuana alone won't be enough evidence for police to get a blood draw.

Are there any changes to medical marijuana laws?

No.

What about the feds?

It's complicated. Federal law still prohibits use, possession and production of marijuana. The Department of Justice on Wednesday said it is reviewing the legalization initiatives passed in Washington and Colorado. DOJ says that states and the executive branch cannot overrule a statute passed by Congress — in this case the Controlled Substances Act — which lists marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance. DOJ also warned the public that it is illegal to bring any amount of marijuana onto federal property, including courthouses, national parks and forests and military installations.

Are there any exceptions?

On Wednesday Washington State University said it and other universities must maintain drug-free policies on campus or they could lose federally funded financial aid, grant programs and contracts. Possession of marijuana by employees or students will violate university policies and be subject to discipline.