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5-year anniversary of legal recreational pot in Washington state

5-year anniversary of legal recreational pot in Washington state was on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017. (KOMO News)

SEATTLE -- Saturday marks exactly five years that Washington state voters passed Initiative 502 and legalized marijuana.

In 2012, Washington state and Colorado were the first two states in the country to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

Dockside Cannabis in Seattle has been ringing up a lot of sales since it opened in late 2014.

Brian Connolly is one of the frequent customers that comes to Dockside Cannabis.

"I'm disabled. It gives me an opportunity to help my medical problems," Connolly said. "Plus, I've been smoking for 50-odd years."

I-502 decriminalized recreational marijuana after it was voted into law November 2012.

Co-founder of Dope Magazine, James Zachodni remembers the day marijuana was legalized.

"Everyone was so excited," Zachodni said.

I-502 made pot legal for adults ages 21 and over in Washington state. Supporters say the law created a licensed and regulated system of marijuana production and distribution.

Some say more needs to be done.

"There's still a stigma around it because (pot) is not treated the same as say, alcohol," Zachodni said. " Which I think is really important to us is to get the same regulations alcohol has, which will help de-stigmatize (pot). "

Oscar Velasco-Schmidt is the co-founder of Dockside Cannabis and a member of Cannabis Alliance. He said Washington state has seen almost $1 billion in tax revenue since legalization.

"The entire supply chain now is moving toward a direction where we are being regulated and taxed and seeing those economic benefits," Velasco-Schmidt said.

In total, consumers have purchased $2 billion to $3 billion in cannabis in the state of Washington since legalization.

A lot of that money is slated to go toward education, youth prevention and research.

Critics worry about drug use among youngsters and marijuana use leading to increased crime.

The King County Sheriff's Department released a statement Saturday in reference to those concerns.

"Drug use among teens over all is down. The retail marijuana shops do not cause significant amounts of increased crime," the Department said in the statement. "We aren't arresting for misdemeanor marijuana anymore, which takes a huge burden off the criminal justice system."

I-502 does not preempt the Federal law. Marijuana production, distribution, sale, possession and use can still be prosecuted under Federal law.

The DEA said in an email they will continue to investigate organized crime, including marijuana investigations that fall within the scope of the Cole Memorandum.

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