Seattle Police Give Smokers a Guide to Washington’s New Marijuana Law

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Richard T. Nowitz/Corbis

Seattle, that leading citadel of progressive-mindedness in the Pacific northwest, gave us Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Sir Mix-a-Lot and what is now the Oklahoma City Thunder. Now it’s leading the nation again by informing its residents of their rights when it comes to marijuana use.

Initiative 502, which passed on Nov. 6, allows people in the state of Washington over 21 years of age to possess up to an ounce of weed for personal use. It’s one of the first laws in the country to legalize marijuana for recreational use, and therefore it appears that a certain amount of confusion exists as to what one can or can’t do with the ganja one might have on hand beginning Dec. 6.

(MORE: Two U.S. States Become First to Legalize Marijuana)

Well whether residents prefer it in grandma’s homemade cookies or a tye-dyed glass water bong that an aging hippie threw in at a yard sale because he now uses a vaporizer, the Seattle Police Department want citizens to know the new rules. They’ve produced a webpage to clear the air, called, amazingly, Marijwhatnow? A Guide to Legal Marijuana Use In Seattle. It is an easy to read — but also really funny — comprehensive look at the new relationship between Seattleites and Mary Jane.

(MORE: Viewpoint — Marijuana, Market Forces and Why Colorado’s New Pot Law Could Actually Be a Black-Market Boon)

Some of the questions and answers:

Will police officers be able to smoke marijuana?

As of right now, no. This is still a very complicated issue.

and also:

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.

and this one is important, too:

SPD seized a bunch of my marijuana before I-502 passed. Can I have it back?


(MORE: From Mexico to Moscow, the World Turns On to U.S. Marijuana Legalization)

The Seattle PD wisely advises that the plant is still classified by the federal government as a Schedule I narcotic; thus it’s probably not a good idea to carry a spliff into a federal courthouse, for example. But they also say that open smoking of marijuana won’t normally warrant an arrest, although it’ll probably get its user a ticket. Most importantly, DWS (driving while stoned) merits much the same treatment as DUI and if an officer thinks a driver is operating a vehicle after having used pot, her or she can be taken to a precinct for a blood test.

(MORE: Marijuana in Colorado: Ready for Business, Complete with Regulations)

But once the new law takes effect, according to Marijwhatnow?, police will no longer make arrests for possession, nor will they assist in any federal investigation into crimes that are not against state law. Colorado, which passed its own ballot measure, Amendment 64, will essentially be doing the same — although no one there has published a helpful guide yet.