SEATTLE (AP) – Legal marijuana possession becomes a reality in Washington state Thursday, and some people plan to celebrate the new law by breaking it.
Voters in Washington and Colorado last month made those the first states to decriminalize and regulate the recreational use of marijuana. Washington’s law takes effect Thursday and allows adults to have up to an ounce of pot — but it bans public use of marijuana, which is punishable by a fine, just like drinking in public.
Nevertheless, some people planned to gather at 12 a.m. Thursday to smoke up beneath Seattle’s Space Needle. Others planned to party outside Hempfest headquarters in Seattle.
Seattle Police spokesman Sgt. Sean Whitcomb doesn’t expect officers to write many tickets. Thanks to a 2003 law, marijuana enforcement remains the department’s lowest priority.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.
The Seattle Police Department has also created an FAQ regarding the new law. Below are questions posted on the SPD Blotter:
Can I legally carry around an ounce of marijuana?
According to the recently passed initiative, beginning December 6th, adults over the age of 21 will be able to carry up to an ounce of marijuana for personal use. Please note that the initiative says it “is unlawful to open a package containing marijuana…in view of the general public,” so there’s that. Also, you probably shouldn’t bring pot with you to the federal courthouse (or any other federal property).
Well, where can I legally buy pot, then?
The Washington State Liquor Control Board is working to establish guidelines for the sale and distribution of marijuana. The WSLCB has until December 1, 2013 to finalize those rules. In the meantime, production and distribution of non-medical marijuana remains illegal.
Does I-502 affect current medical marijuana laws?
No, medical marijuana laws in Washington remain the same as they were before I-502 passed.
Can I grow marijuana in my home and sell it to my friends, family, and co-workers?
Not right now. In the future, under state law, you may be able to get a license to grow or sell marijuana.
Can I smoke pot outside my home? Like at a park, magic show, or the Bite of Seattle?
Much like having an open container of alcohol in public, doing so could result in a civil infraction—like a ticket—but not arrest. You can certainly use marijuana in the privacy of your own home. Additionally, if smoking a cigarette isn’t allowed where you are (say, inside an apartment building or flammable chemical factory), smoking marijuana isn’t allowed there either.
Will police officers be able to smoke marijuana?
As of right now, no. This is still a very complicated issue.
If I apply for a job at the Seattle Police Department, will past (or current) marijuana use be held against me?
The current standard for applicants is that they have not used marijuana in the previous three years. In light of I-502, the department will consult with the City Attorney and the State Attorney General to see if and how that standard may be revised.
What happens if I get pulled over and an officer thinks I’ve been smoking pot?
If an officer believes you’re driving under the influence of anything, they will conduct a field sobriety test and may consult with a drug recognition expert. If officers establish probable cause, they will bring you to a precinct and ask your permission to draw your blood for testing. If officers have reason to believe you’re under the influence of something, they can get a warrant for a blood draw from a judge. If you’re in a serious accident, then a blood draw will be mandatory.
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?
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. If officers have information that you’re trafficking, producing or delivering marijuana in violation of state law, they can get a warrant to search your vehicle.
SPD seized a bunch of my marijuana before I-502 passed. Can I have it back?
Will SPD assist federal law enforcement in investigations of marijuana users or marijuana-related businesses, that are allowed under I-502?
No. Officers and detectives will not participate in an investigation of anything that’s not prohibited by state law.
I’m under 21. What happens if I get caught smoking pot?
It’s a violation of state law. It may referred to prosecutors, just like if you were a minor in possession of alcohol.