Historic initiative legalizing pot passes; supporters celebrate, light up

Washington state Initiative 502, a measure legalizing marijuana for adults, passed Tuesday night.

More than 1,905,274 votes were counted by 11:30 p.m. The measure led by 55 percent (1,056,355 votes) to 45 percent (848,919 votes) with all counties reporting.

The law will take effect on Dec. 6, 30.

Six states had marijuana-related measures on the ballot Tuesday -- three to legalize recreational use; Washington's I-502, Colorado's Amendment 64 and Oregon's Measure 80. Colorado's amendment was poised to pass Tuesday evening. Oregon's measure was shot down.

Under Washington's I-502, anyone over the age of 21 would be able to purchase and possess up to an ounce of marijuana, and the state would regulate and tax the sale of pot.

Those wanting to grow and sell would apply to the state for a license. Estimates are that the new pot tax would raise nearly $500 million a year, much of which would be earmarked for drug prevention and education programs. 

More than $6 million was spent by supporters to pass the initiative.

In an interview earlier this year on “60 Minutes,” the Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole indicated that federal authorities could take aim at any state laws that legalize pot, saying, "We're going to take a look at whether or not there are dangers to the community from the sale of marijuana and we're going to go after those dangers."

Attorney General Eric Holder was blunter in 2010 when he threatened to "vigorously enforce" federal law if California legalized marijuana (that measure failed).

Opponents of I-502 said they believe the U.S. attorney in Seattle would seek a court injunction to stop the law in its tracks.

“This would be a disaster for patients and it would be a disaster for anyone under 21 years of age because of the per-se DUID law will entrap thousands," said opponent Steve Sarich. "It's going to cause you problems with getting a job. It's going to cause you problems getting a house or an apartment."

But that hasn't really happened with medical marijuana, and Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, a backer of 502, added that he believes the Feds will back off if voters make pot legal.

“I don’t think the federal government’s going to ignore a clear voter mandate from the state of Washington,” Holmes said.

Holmes went on to say that I-502 laid out a clear course for voters.

"I think that I-502 has laid out a sound course that Washington voters have very clearly responded to and it's going to be one that cannot be dismissed by federal authorities or really anyone else who is concerned about rational marijuana policy."

Wednesday, the Washington State Liquor Control Board issued a statement that it would move forward with implementing a framework to regulate recreational marijuana sales and use in the state. The board has until Dec. 1, 2013 to define those rules.

The board also said it will work with the Department of Justice in the coming weeks for "clarification" on what may happen once recreational pot use is legal in the state, given that it is illegal at the federal level.