With voters firmly passing Initiative 502 this week, and the coming decriminalization of pot on Dec. 6, Seattle weed smokers probably have questions about what it all means. Questions like: "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?" or "SPD seized a bunch of my marijuana before I-502 passed. Can I have it back?" are surely high on everyone's list.
And, thankfully, SPD and Jonah Spangenthal-Lee have provided the answers.
In a fairly amazing post to the SPD "Blotter" blog this morning, Spangenthal-Lee breaks down the situation (and even includes a Lord of the Rings clip) in hopes of informing the red-eyed masses about how cops in Seattle will respond to I-502 once legalization becomes the official law of the land.
It's great. You should absolutely check it out, even if there's not a bong in your closet.
Below you'll find some of the key points.
SPD notes that the situation poses challenges, but says cops will do everything they can to carry out the will of the voters:
Marijuana legalization creates some challenges for the Seattle Police Department, but SPD is already working to respond to these issues head on, by doing things like reviewing SPD's hiring practices for police officers to address now-legal marijuana usage by prospective officers, as well as current employees.
While I-502 has decriminalized marijuana possession in Washington, the new state law is in direct conflict with federal law, which classifies marijuana as a Schedule I narcotic. All Seattle Police officers have taken an oath to uphold not only state law, but federal law as well. However, SPD officers will follow state law, and will no longer make arrests for marijuana possession as defined under I-502.
Before answering the questions on everyone's mind, Spangenthal-Lee offers the obligatory asterisk.
Here's a practical guide for what the Seattle Police Department believes I-502 means for you, beginning December 6th, based on the department's current understanding of the initiative Please keep in mind that this is all subject to review and revision by the state attorney general, and King County Prosecutor's office.
And now, on to the purely awesome question and answer period:
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, 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.
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, and can only use a narcotics dog if they have a warrant. 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?
And finally ...
Will SPD assist federal law enforcement in investigations of marijuana users or marijuana-related businesses, which are legal, at the state level, under I-502?
No. Officers and detectives will not participate in an investigation of anything that's allowed by state law.
Do yourself a favor and read the whole thing here.