SEATTLE, Wash. — With marijuana possession becoming legal in Washington state at midnight Thursday, the Seattle Police Department has given its officers some guidance on what to do about public use of pot, which is still banned.
The department told officers in an email that they should only issue verbal warnings in cases of public marijuana use "until further notice" as the revised codes don't give clear direction on how to deal with the provisions of I-502 prohibiting public use of marijuana. They said it could take several weeks before things are clarified.
Andre Edwards smokes marijuana, Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012, just after midnight at the Space Needle in Seattle. Possession of marijuana became legal in Washington state at midnight, and several hundred people gathered at the Space Needle to smoke and celebrate the occasion.
Police spokesman Jonah Spangenthal-Lee wrote on the SPD Blotter that officers will be advising people to take their weed inside.
In the blog post that is getting much attention in Seattle media and Facebook for its stoner references, Spangenthal-Lee said, "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."
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, the Associated Press reported.
Hundreds gathered at Seattle Center for a New Year's Eve-style countdown to 12 a.m., when the legalization measure passed by voters last month took effect, according to the Associated Press. When the clock struck, they cheered and sparked up in unison.
A few dozen people gathered on a sidewalk outside the north Seattle headquarters of the annual Hempfest celebration and did the same, offering joints to reporters and blowing smoke into television news cameras.
The full notice that the department sent to its officers Wednesday giving guidance on how to handle the new law said:
"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.”
• 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."
In the blog post aimed at the general public, Spangenthal-Lee wrote, "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."