Tag Archives: legalized

First gay marriage license in King County, Wash. Video.

Jane Abbott Lighty and Pete-e Petersen received the first same-sex marriage license in King County, Wash., at 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 6. They’ve been together 35 years.

On the Web…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=TRjBZRJtWO4

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Hundreds of same-sex couples across Washington state started picking up marriage licenses Thursday as a voter-approved law legalizing gay marriage took effect.

King County, the state’s largest, opened the doors to its auditor’s office in Seattle just after midnight to start distributing licenses. But hundreds of people had lined up hours earlier, snaking around the building on a chilly December night. The county said it issued 489 marriage licenses Thursday, mostly to same-sex couples, breaking a previous daily record of 212. On average, King County issues 75 to 100 marriage licenses a day.

The mood in Seattle was festive in the overnight waiting line.

“We waited a long time. We’ve been together 35 years, never thinking we’d get a legal marriage. Now I feel so joyous I can’t hardly stand it,” said 85-year-old Pete-e Petersen, who with her partner, 77-year-old Jane Abbott Lighty, were the first to get a license.

After meeting 35 years ago on a blind date in Sacramento, Lighty and Petersen plan to get married Sunday. The couple has been out buying shoes and clothes for the wedding.

Washington state now joins several other states that allow gay and lesbian couples to wed. Gov. Chris Gregoire and Secretary of State Sam Reed certified the election results of Referendum 74 on Wednesday afternoon, and the law took effect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday.

Because the state has a three-day waiting period, the earliest that weddings can take place is Sunday. Same-sex couples who previously were married in another state that allows gay marriage, like Massachusetts, will not have to get remarried in Washington state. Their marriages became valid here Thursday, when the law took effect.

Couples in Maryland also started picking up marriage licenses Thursday, though their licenses won’t take effect until Jan. 1.

“I really imagined my life as being just with a partner and never having a wife, so to have this day come about and to be a part of it, it means everything to me,” said Kim Hinken, who was the first person to get a marriage license in Anne Arundel County, Md.’s Circuit Court. The 52-year-old Edgewater resident said she has waited nearly 10 years to become legally married to Adrianne Eathorne.

Maine’s law takes effect Dec. 29. There’s no waiting period in Maine, and people can start marrying just after midnight.

Seattle smokers celebrate with public pot party

The crowds of happy people lighting joints under Seattle’s Space Needle early Thursday morning with nary a police officer in sight bespoke the new reality: Marijuana is legal under Washington state law.

Hundreds gathered at Seattle Center for a New Year’s Eve-style countdown to 12 a.m., 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 gathered 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!” shouted Hempfest volunteer Darby Hageman. “It’s all becoming real now!”

Washington and Colorado became the first states 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 Jan. 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 sweeping change for Washington, Gov. 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.

The mood was festive in Seattle as dozens of gay and lesbian couples got in line to pick up marriage licenses at the King County auditor’s office early Thursday.

King County and Thurston County announced they would open their auditors’ offices shortly after midnight Wednesday to accommodate those who wanted to be among the first to get their licenses.

Kelly Middleton and her partner Amanda Dollente got in line at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Hours later, as the line grew, volunteers distributed roses and a group of men and women serenaded the waiting line to the tune of “Going to the Chapel.”

Because the state has a three-day waiting period, the earliest that weddings can take place is Sunday.

In dealing with marijuana, the Seattle Police Department told its 1,300 officers on Wednesday, just before legalization took hold, that until further notice they shall not issue citations for public marijuana use.

Officers will be advising people not to smoke in public, police spokesman Jonah Spangenthal-Lee wrote on the SPD Blotter. “The police department believes that, under state law, you may responsibly get baked, order some pizzas and enjoy a `Lord of the Rings’ marathon in the privacy of your own home, if you want to.”

He offered a catchy new directive referring to the film “The Big Lebowski,” popular with many marijuana fans: “The Dude abides, and says `take it inside!'”

“This is a big day because all our lives we’ve been living under the iron curtain of prohibition,” said Hempfest director Vivian McPeak. “The whole world sees that prohibition just took a body blow.”

Washington’s new law decriminalizes possession of up to an ounce for those over 21, but for now selling marijuana remains illegal. I-502 gives the state a year to come up with a system of state-licensed growers, processors and retail stores, with the marijuana taxed 25 percent at each stage. Analysts have estimated that a legal pot market could bring Washington hundreds of millions of dollars a year in new tax revenue for schools, health care and basic government functions.

But marijuana remains illegal under federal law. That means federal agents can still arrest people for it, and it’s banned from federal properties, including military bases and national parks.

The U.S. Justice Department has not said whether it will sue to try to block the regulatory schemes in Washington and Colorado from taking effect.

“The department’s responsibility to enforce the Controlled Substances Act remains unchanged,” said a statement issued Wednesday by the Seattle U.S. attorney’s office. “Neither states nor the executive branch can nullify a statute passed by Congress” – a non-issue, since the measures passed in Washington and Colorado don’t “nullify” federal law, which federal agents remain free to enforce.

The legal question is whether the establishment of a regulated marijuana market would “frustrate the purpose” of the federal pot prohibition, and many constitutional law scholars say it very likely would.

That leaves the political question of whether the administration wants to try to block the regulatory system, even though it would remain legal to possess up to an ounce of marijuana.

Alison Holcomb is the drug policy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington and served as the campaign manager for New Approach Washington, which led the legalization drive. She said the voters clearly showed they’re done with marijuana prohibition.

“New Approach Washington sponsors and the ACLU look forward to working with state and federal officials and to ensure the law is fully and fairly implemented,” she said.

Washington drafting same-sex marriage certificates

The Washington state Health Department will be changing marriage and divorce certificates in response to the same-sex marriage law that takes effect Dec. 6.

Words such as “bride,” “groom,” “husband” and “wife” will likely be gone. The department wants to use gender-neutral terms.

Spokesman Tim Church told KIRO-FM (http://is.gd/qO94io ) they could be replaced with something like “Spouse A” and “Spouse B.”

The forms will still include gender so the state can track the number of same-sex couples in the state.

The department is asking the public for suggestions. A public hearing on wording marriage certificates was held on Nov. 28 in Tumwater.

Seattle police produce a user’s guide to pot

When Washington state voters overwhelmingly legalized the recreational use of marijuana on Nov. 6, Seattle police knew they’d be getting a lot of questions.

And while many details surrounding the state’s Dec. 6 decriminalization of pot remain, the department didn’t shy away from answering what questions it could about Initiative 502, posting a funny, question-and-answer blog that has become a big web hit _ having been viewed more than 120,000 times and shared more than 15,000 times on Facebook since it was posted Friday.

The result was “Marijwhatnow? A Guide to Legal Marijuana Use In Seattle,” by Jonah Spangenthal-Lee, a former journalist who wrote for The Stranger, a weekly alternative newspaper. He was hired by the police department earlier this year.

Here, he and Sgt. Sean Whitcomb, a police spokesman, explain the thinking behind the blog, which included some of these memorable passages: 

Q: SPD seized a bunch of my marijuana before I-502 passed. Can I have it back? A: No.

“I just try to write posts I’d want to read,” Spangenthal-Lee said, via email. “I knew we were probably going to be inundated with questions about 502, so I figured I’d try to get answers to the kinds of questions Seattle residents (and reporters) might ask, and put them out there.” 

Q: What happens if I get pulled over and I’m sober, but an officer or his K9 buddy smells the ounce of Super Skunk I’ve got in my trunk? A: Under state law, officers have to develop probable cause to search a closed or locked container. Each case stands on its own, but the smell of pot alone will not be reason to search a vehicle.

Whitcomb noted that pot cases have not been a priority in Seattle for some time. “This is a city where marijuana possession has been the lowest (enforcement) priority. There’s a built-in expectation that Seattle is going to have something to say about it,” said Whitcomb, referring to the fact that voters in this liberal city directed police nearly a decade ago to treat adult pot use as its lowest enforcement priority.

Q: December 6th seems like a really long ways away. What happens if I get caught with marijuana before then?  A: Hold your breath. Your case will be processed under current state law. However, there is already a city ordinance making marijuana enforcement the lowest law enforcement priority.

Whitcomb said officials wanted people to realize that cops have a sense of humor, too. “I think this is an example of us really hitting the appropriate tone for our audience,” he said. He even came up with one of the most humorous parts of the blog, a clip from the film trilogy “Lord of the Rings,” showing Bilbo and the wizard Gandalf smoking what Bilbo calls “the finest weed.”

I-502 passed with 55 percent of the vote. Since then, prosecutors in the largest counties in the state have dropped cases involved misdemeanor possession of marijuana.

“There’s still more questions because it’s so new,” said Whitcomb, noting that “the state says it’s legal, the federal law says it’s not.”

And that looming specter of federal enforcement is noted on the blog post:

“…You probably shouldn’t bring pot with you to the federal courthouse (or any other federal property),” Seattle police warn.

On the Web…

Seattle marijuana guide: http://is.gd/mNm06d