By Bob Young
The Seattle Times
SEATTLE — They're calling it "Operation Orange Fingers." Really.
Seattle police will hand out bags of Doritos at Hempfest on Saturday.
Police department spokesman Sgt. Sean Whitcomb confirmed the unusual duty, saying he and other officers will distribute one-ounce bags of nacho-cheese chips with educational information affixed to them about the state's new legal pot law.
The bags also will contain a label with a link to the department's "Marijwhatnow" FAQ, which explains that, yes, adults are now allowed to possess up to an ounce of weed, and that, no, you can't get back the pot that cops might have seized before voters legalized recreational weed in last November's election.
"A lot of people still have questions about the nuances of the law and 2013 is a year very much in transition for people who enjoy pot," Whitcomb said.
Police are having some fun with the assignment.
"Please ignore maliciously false reports that we're giving out Bugles at @seattlehempfest. We would never, ever do that," the department tweeted Wednesday.
Operation Orange Fingers will be funded by the private Seattle Police Foundation, Whitcomb said.
The department expects to give out just 1,000 bags of chips, Whitcomb said. That's likely to lead to some "Dude, where's my Doritos?" queries from the 250,000 folks expected to attend the three-day, pro-pot event this weekend at Myrtle Edwards Park on the Seattle waterfront near Belltown.
The idea is not to cure the munchies, Whitcomb said, but "to pique their curiosity and get them to go to our FAQ."
Kidding aside, Whitcomb said police will enforce aspects of the new law at Hempfest. He said they would bust minors for consuming in public, which is a misdemeanor. And he said they would bust people dealing pot, which is a felony.
Under the new law, only state-licensed stores can sell pot.
Because it's still illegal to consume pot in public, Whitcomb said, officers will give warnings to adults they encounter getting high at Hempfest.
That's not to say people should expect a "task force of undercover officers to infiltrate Hempfest," he said.
But minors "can expect enforcement," he said, because "it's a big deal."
Some officers don't even want to wade into Hempfest, Whitcomb said, because they're concerned about breathing in secondhand smoke and testing positive for pot.
Despite the state law, Seattle officers can't use pot off-duty because marijuana use remains a federal violation and cops take an oath to uphold federal law, he said.
But officers would respond to any emergency, need or request for services, he said.
Whitcomb will speak about the department's pot policies from Hempfest's main stage Saturday at 2:50 p.m.
"The much-coveted 4:20 spot had gone to someone else," he said.
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Copyright 2013 The Seattle Times