Big Changes from Election Just Weeks Away from Coming to Life in Seattle

By Jean Williams,

The dust is still settling around the evergreen state after Election Day, 2012, which resulted in the passage of two historical initiatives and Democrats capturing several key seats, including governor and attorney general.

Known for its liberal and environmentally progressive nature, it didn’t come as a big surprise to some when Washington voters approved laws to legalize recreational marijuana and allow gay marriage.

Washington passed initiative 502 to legalize marijuana. What now?

The new law, which decriminalizes small quantities of pot for recreational use by people over 21 was passed with 55 percent of the votes.

Basic concepts of the law, which will be expanded as it develops, would allow licensed growers to wholesale marijuana to licensed retailers for sale to consumers. Retailers would process, label and sell marijuana and related paraphernalia and collect 25 percent taxes to be used for state revenues through the general fund.

Sales of marijuana would be heavily regulated, but the state has a year to hash out all the details.

Meanwhile, possessing marijuana is still illegal under federal law and the feds continue to mull over what actions they may take, if any, to block the law in Washington and a similar new law in Colorado.

On Monday, Washington’s Governor Christine Gregoire met with Deputy Attorney General James Cole in Washington, D.C. Gregoire pressed for a quick response on what action she could expect, due to the fact that several Washington counties are already releasing prisoners, who were incarcerated for pot possession, although initiative 502 doesn’t officially take effect until December 6.

“I told them, ‘make no mistake, that absent an injunction of some sort, it’s our intent to implement decriminalization’,” Gregoire told The Associated Press. “I don’t want to spend a lot of money implementing this if you are going to attempt to block it.”

Shortly after the new pot law was passed, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg released a statement saying that he planned to drop all cases involving possession of one ounce of marijuana or less.

As of Thursday, Lewis County officials were the only ones to announce they would not be releasing prisoners until the effective date of December 6.

Currently, 18 states, including Washington and the District of Columbia, allow medical marijuana.

Washington passed initiative 74, the first voter-approved law to legalize gay marriage. When will things change?

Last year, legislation to legalize same-sex marriage was passed by the state Congress and signed into law by Governor Gregoire. However, supporters of traditional marriage felt voters would not approve such a law and they gathered enough signatures to get it on the November 6 ballot, in hopes of getting it rejected. But voters agreed with state officials and approved measure 74 to allow same-sex marriage as the will of the state’s majority.

Washington is now the third state in the nation to have voter-approved gay marriage legislation, in addition to Maine and Maryland. Same-sex couples in Washington will be able to marry starting on December 6.

A few top highlights of Washington’s political winners:

Democratic Congressman Jay Inslee narrowly beat Republican Rob McKenna to take over as Washington’s governor after Christine Gregoire announced last year she would not seek re-election.

Republican Reagan Dunn lost the race to replace Rob McKenna in his attorney general seat to Democrat Bob Ferguson. Dunn and Ferguson both served on the King County Council.

Democrat Suzan DelBene won Jay Inslee’s Congressional seat over Republican candidate John Koster.

Popular Democratic senator Maria Cantwell easily won re-election, as did popular Republican Congressman Dave Reichert.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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