Five years ago today on December 6, 2012, I-502 went into effect, legalizing recreational cannabis and forever changing the landscape of cannabis culture in our little corner of the country. It’s gone by in a blur—or a haze, maybe—with so much change that it’s difficult to keep track of it all. I decided to give it a shot.
We probably should start our trip down memory lane a month earlier, on November 6, 2012. Washington and Colorado both legalized recreational cannabis on this date, becoming the first two states to end a prohibition that had been on the books for 75 years. Washington saw an 81 percent voter turnout—the highest in the country—to pass the initiative, along with gay marriage. Perhaps we need to include cannabis and queer issues on the ballot more often. Folks partied all over the city, smoking in the streets, with one gathering getting high at the base of the Space Needle to the sounds of old school reggae tunes.
Even though our state had legalized recreational weed for ourselves, in 2013, we and Colorado were still waiting to see what the feds were going to do about it. In his first interview after I-502 passed, then-President Obama said there were “bigger fish to fry,” and by August of 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice decided not to sue Washington and Colorado. If Seattle recreational stoners needed any further confirmation, the Seattle Police Department passed out 1000 bags of Doritos at HempFest with stickers detailing the basics of I-502. Recreational weed was officially here to stay.
Our second full year of legal recreational weed was pretty mellow. Our first recreational pot shops opened, with lines stretching for blocks. The state started to track sales and reported almost $31 million in business that year. Trying to