Tonight at midnight, Initiative 502 goes into effect, meaning it’s no longer a violation of state law to use and possess certain quantities of marijuana in Washington. Basically, you can have pot and use pot, but you’re only supposed to use it in the privacy of your own home.
And this is what the Seattle Police Department is telling its 1300+ officers tonight via email about public marijuana use (full email posted below):
“Until further notice, officers shall not take any enforcement action—other than to issue a verbal warning—for a violation of I-502.”
As we’ve told you here on the Blotter, if you’re over 21, then starting December 6th you can use marijuana, and possess marijuana—up to an ounce of marijuana buds, 16 ounces of solid marijuana-infused product, like cookies, or 72 ounces of infused liquid, like oil. But it also clearly states that you’re not supposed to use marijuana in public, and that selling it or giving it to anyone is still a felony (the state’s working on setting up a system to license growers and sellers, but it could take up to a year).
So why won’t SPD be citing people for openly using marijuana in public? Here’s where things get a bit complicated for your friendly neighborhood police department: the Seattle Police Department is in the business of law enforcement and, as of today, the Revised Code of Washington or Seattle Municipal Code don’t contain anything that gives officers clear direction on how to deal with the provisions of I-502 prohibiting public use of marijuana. What’s more, it could take at least another 30 days for the state or city to craft legislation which would give officers the ability to cite not-so-courteous people for lighting up in public.
In the meantime, in keeping with the spirit of I-502, the department’s going to give you a generous grace period to help you adjust to this brave, new, and maybe kinda stoned world we live in.
Does this mean you should flagrantly roll up a mega-spliff and light up in the middle of the street? No. If you’re smoking pot in public, officers will be giving helpful reminders to folks about the rules and regulations under I-502 (like not smoking pot in public). But 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.
Also, please remember it’s still not legal to drive stoned, use marijuana in a public place or anywhere else smoking a cigarette is prohibited.
* Here’s the full notice, which was sent to officers Wednesday evening:
Until further notice, officers shall not take any enforcement action—other than to issue a verbal warning—for a violation of I-502.
On November 6, 2012, Washington State voters approved Initiative 502 (I-502), decriminalizing the possession of marijuana in certain cases. This initiative is effective December 6th, 2012.
I-502 includes the following provisions:
· Sec. 20 (3): “The possession, by a person twenty-one years of age or older, of useable marijuana or marijuana-infused products in amounts that do not exceed those set forth in section 15(3) of this act is not a violation of this section, this chapter, or any other provision of Washington state law.”
o Sec.15 (3) lists the amounts that a person twenty-one years of age or older may possess:
Ø One ounce of usable marijuana
Ø Sixteen ounces of marijuana-infused product in solid form
Ø Seventy-two ounces of marijuana-infused product in liquid form
· Sec. 21: “It is unlawful to open a package containing marijuana, useable marijuana, or a marijuana-infused product, or consume marijuana, useable marijuana, or a marijuana-infused product, in view of the general public. A person who violates this section is guilty of a class 3 civil infraction under chapter 7.80 RCW.”
· Sec. 22 makes the use, delivery, and the possession or manufacture with intent to deliver drug paraphernalia illegal only for controlled substances other than marijuana.
As of today, there is no actual section in the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) or Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) that reflects the provisions of I-502; however the provisions of the initiative are expected to be codified in the RCW sometime in January. It is also possible that the Seattle City Council might enact sections of Seattle Municipal Code that mirror the RCW. If an SMC is adopted, a 30 day period must pass before it takes effect.
Officers are reminded that the medical marijuana laws remain unchanged, and that per SMC 12A.20.060, enforcement of marijuana offenses where it was intended for adult personal use remains the City’s lowest law enforcement priority.