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Moving Forward On I-502

Washington's Marijuana Legalization Grows Knowledge, Not Just Pot:
A Report on the State's Strategy to Assess Reform
A new assessment by the Brookings Institution's Center for Effective Public Management says: "While Colorado is justifiably garnering headlines with its ambitiously rapid (and, in many respects, impressive) legalization rollout, there is a case to be made that Washington is undertaking the more radical and far-reaching reform. It is, in effect, attempting not just to change the way the state regulates marijuana, but also to develop tools by which to judge reform and to show that those tools can be relevant amid the hurly-burly of partisan political debate."

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Marijuana FAQ

  1. Where can I buy marijuana in Seattle?
    A current list of the stores licensed by the Washington State Liquor Control Board is provided at the end of this FAQ.
  2. Should I buy marijuana at a medical dispensary or collective garden?
    No! You should only patronize I-502 retailers licensed by the state. All other dispensaries and collective gardens are neither licensed nor regulated. They have no quality control or labeling requirements or safety guidelines, so you cannot know with certainty what you are buying or how much THC is in it. Anyone distributing marijuana without an I-502 license is also committing a felony under both Washington and federal law. Unlicensed medical dispensaries may have an affirmative defense to criminal charges, but all are subject to arrest and criminal prosecution for distributing marijuana outside the I-502 system.
  3. Should I buy marijuana in a park or on the street?
    No! The person selling it to you is committing felony delivery. State law allows only I-502 licensed stores to sell marijuana. There is no state certification or guarantee that you are getting quality, untainted marijuana if you buy from anyone other than an I-502 licensed store.
  4. Where can I use marijuana?
    Marijuana can be used any place that is not in view of the general public. Streets, sidewalks, parks, and public places are all in the view of the general public
  5. Can I use marijuana in a park?
  6. Can I smoke the marijuana?
    If you choose to smoke marijuana, you must comply with the open use laws as well as the smoking laws for the State of Washington. These are two separate infractions and could total well over $200 in fines if combined. Do not smoke marijuana in view of the general public and do not smoke it inside a business or within 25 feet of the entrance to a business. Check with your hotel/motel for any rooms where smoking might be permitted.
  7. Can I take it home with me?
    Not if you live outside Washington State. Buy it here, enjoy it here.
  8. Can I take it on an airplane?
State-Licensed Stores Address
A Greener Today Recreational 10522 Lake City Way NE #C103-104
American Mary 321 NE 45th St
Cannabis City 2733 4TH Ave S
Dockside Cannabis 1728 4th Ave S
Ganja Goddess 3207 1ST Ave S Unit C
Grass 14343 15th Ave NE #A
Hashtag 3540 Stone Way N
Herbn Elements 11013 Lake City Wy NE
Herb's House 716 NW 65th St
HL South 1944 1st Ave S, #100
Mary's N Seattle 12230 Aurora Ave N #B
Ocean Greens 9724 Aurora Ave N
Oz 3831 Stone Way N
Ponder 2413 E Union St.
Pot Shop 1058 N. 39th St.
Seattle Cannabis Co. 3230 1st Ave S #B
Seattle Tonics 12059 Aurora Avenue N
Stash Pot Shop 4912 17th Ave NW #A
Uncle Ike's 2310 E Union St

Chronology of Marijuana in Washington State

Oct. 27, 1970
President Richard Nixon signed the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) into law. The CSA classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, meaning it has high potential for abuse and no medical value.
Washington passes the Uniform Controlled Substances Act, which mirrored the federal CSA and also classified marijuana as a Schedule I drug.
Dec. 20, 1979
In State v. Diana, Washington’s Division Three of the Court of Appeals first recognized medical necessity as a defense to marijuana possession
Seattle Hempfest, originally billed as the “Washington Hemp Expo,” hosted its first annual marijuana policy reform event. While the first event drew only 500 people, Hempfest now draws approximately a quarter million attendees.
July 24, 1997
In Seely v. State a terminally ill cancer patient who used marijuana to control the side effects of chemotherapy challenged the constitutionality of Washington’s Schedule I classification of marijuana. The Washington Supreme Court held that the Legislature had a rational basis for classifying marijuana as Schedule I, and the classification was constitutional. The court stated that “[t]he debate over the proper classification of marijuana belongs in the political arena.” Only Justice Richard Sanders dissented, stating “[f]rom the perspective of one writhing in nausea on the tiled floor of an oncological recovery room, the State’s justifications to withhold the blessings of relief are more sophomoric than substantive.”
Nov. 3, 1998
59% of Washington voters approved Initiative 692 (the Medical Use of Cannabis Act or MUCA). MUCA provided that medical use of marijuana by qualifying patients and their designated providers is an affirmative defense to possession of marijuana.
Sept. 16, 2003
58% of Seattle voters passed Initiative 75, which made arrest and prosecution of marijuana offenses the City’s lowest law enforcement priority.
Sept. 30, 2009
City Attorney candidate Pete Holmes announced that he would not prosecute simple marijuana possession cases if elected. After winning the election, Holmes fulfilled this promise.
April 21, 2011
Washington Legislature passed SB 5073, which would have amended MUCA to legalize medical marijuana and allow for the licensing of collective gardens. Gov. Chris Gregoire vetoed 36 of the bill’s 58 sections, leaving intact only the provisions that protected patients and their caregivers from civil and criminal sanctions.
June 9, 2011
Roe v. Teletech Customer Care Management—The Washington Supreme Court held that employers can fire medical marijuana patients for using marijuana, even when the use is off-site and does not impair work performance.
June 22, 2011
New Approach Washington filed Initiative 502 with the Legislature to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana. The campaign gathered enough signatures to send it to the Legislature for consideration during the 2012 session. The Legislature took no action so I-502 went before the voters in November 2012.
Nov. 6, 2012
56% of Washington voters approved I-502, which licensed and regulated the possession, production and distribution of marijuana for persons over 21.
Aug. 29, 2013
.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called Washington Gov. Jay Inslee to say the federal government would not sue to block implementation of I-502.
July 8, 2014
Recreational marijuana sales to the public began in Washington.
April 24, 2015
Gov. Jay Inslee signed two bills into law—SB 5052 and SB 5121. SB 5052, the Cannabis Patients Protection Act, integrated the unregulated medical marijuana system into the highly regulated framework created by I-502. SB 5121 established a marijuana research license that permits licensees to produce and possess marijuana for research.
May 26, 2015
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and City Attorney Holmes announced a proposal to incorporate Seattle’s medical marijuana stores into the I-502 framework, as required by SB 5052. The proposal creates a new regulatory business license that will allow for more effective oversight of the marijuana industry. The proposal also includes an enforcement resolution, which states that the city will use civil remedies to encourage compliance with the new framework, but if those fail, the city may impose criminal sanctions.

Education first, enforcement second

As you know, Section 21 of I-502 makes it a class 3 civil infraction--punishable by a relatively small fine, but no jail time or criminal record--to open or consume marijuana in view of the general public. It's within SPD's discretion to decide how to issue infractions, whether for jaywalking, speeding, or smoking marijuana on the sidewalk. Pete supports a measured system of warnings to encourage voluntary compliance with Section 21 before issuing citations.

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Ensuring Constitutional Policing

On a daily basis, assistant city attorneys in the Government Affairs, Torts and Employment sections advise the Mayor's Office, City Council and Seattle Police Department in the complex, years-long effort to bring the City into full compliance with the police reform consent decree supervised by U.S. District Judge James Robart. In addition to our attorneys, Police Chief Kathleen O'Toole is aided by the active oversight of federal Monitor Merrick Bobb, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Seattle Community Police Commission. New policies on use of force, crisis intervention, bias-free policing, and stops and detentions have been approved, and officers are being re-trained on constitutional policing standards.

Ensuring Affordability and Livability

The City Attorney sees the availability of affordable housing as essential to Seattle remaining the vibrant, livable City we all want it to be. Affordable housing means that lower- and middle-class families can enjoy the City's great public spaces and schools; it means that new immigrants and school teachers can mingle on the streets with Amazon techies and Boeing executives. But sustaining affordable housing and making sure that its availability keeps pace with the City's burgeoning growth presents many legal questions.

State statutes, federal and state constitutions and complex land use regulations must all be considered in planning the City's route to affordable housing. The City Attorney's Office has made it a priority to support the Council and the Mayor in finding legally viable ways to meet the City's affordable housing needs.