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In 2012, Washington and Colorado voters made history when they approved measures to legalize recreational marijuana. Washington Initiative 502 “authorizes the state liquor board to regulate and tax marijuana for persons twenty-one years of age or older.”Since the vote in Washington, the Liquor Board has written a complex set of rules for the state’s new, legal recreational cannabis marketplace. The agency has also set limits on the amount of marijuana that can be grown. And the Board has begun to license growers, processors and retailers.For now, the Obama administration has signaled it will not interfere with Washington and Colorado’s legal pot experiment, unless there is evidence that legal pot is “leaking” to other states or children are getting access to the legal product. The feds are also watching to see if criminal organizations exploit the legal market.The first marijuana retail stores in Washington opened in July 2014.Recreational marijuana is also set to become legal in Oregon on July 1, 2015 after voters approved Measure 91 in November 2014.

Despite Legalization, Illegal Marijuana Grows Continue On Public Lands

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Voters have legalized recreational marijuana in Washington and Oregon, but police continue to find illegal marijuana grows on public lands.

In fact, Washington authorities report an uptick in plant seizures and arrests this year.

The hot summer months when marijuana eradication teams do much of their work seems a long time ago. But for Lt. Chris Sweet of the Washington State Patrol, one raid is still vivid in his mind. It happened on the Yakama Reservation in late July.

“There were actually several individuals inside the grow that were tending to the grow at the time,” Sweet recalled. “So we set up a takedown, we went in there, we arrested four suspects and two of the suspects were armed.”

In 2014, police in Washington seized nearly 50,000 outdoor marijuana plants. That’s up from last year, but nothing like 2009 when nearly 600,000 plants were seized.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."