'Stay Informed' On I-502
Media please contact: Kimberly Mills (206) 684-8602
Moving Forward On I-502
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.
Unlike criminal prosecutions, the City Attorney's Office only becomes involved with infraction citations if they're challenged in court, and Pete has promised that we will represent the City if I-502 infractions are issued and challenged (as we do with most other infractions). As Pete has already promised with all infractions, we will monitor for evidence of racially disproportionate application--as plainly occurred under the prior, wrong-headed policy of criminalized marijuana prohibition. This is why Pete further advocated in his letter to the Liquor Control Board for renters (and tourists) who might not have a private home where they can use marijuana without violating a rental agreement, suggesting options for legal nonresidential use including private smoking clubs and other models.
Under I-75, we distinguish I-502 infractions from criminal prosecutions for personal marijuana possession primarily because Seattle's voters overwhelmingly supported I-502--which created the "public use" infraction--long after voting for I-75. Civil infractions for public marijuana use weren't contemplated when I-75 passed over nine years ago. There are also concerns about exposing the general public to second hand marijuana smoke, distinct from I-75's concerns about using criminal law enforcement tools (arrest, prosecution, jail sentences, and criminal records) to target personal marijuana use.
Pete supports a proposed city ordinance mirroring the language of Section 21 of I-502 to keep the revenue from any infractions issued under this provision in Seattle, thus offsetting some of the local costs we'll incur implementing I-502. This is a common practice with other types of infractions, which often have parallel provisions under both state and city law. More importantly, Pete believes that as an elected official, he should back our SPD officers with a clear statement that ALL provisions of I-502 are to be enforced in Seattle, as we turn away from the ineffective, costly--and racist--past that was our War on Marijuana.
Washington voters changed the world in last November's vote to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana for adult recreational use. They deserve faithful implementation of all parts of I-502, ensuring that marijuana is both legal and regulated. We have already ended arrest and prosecution for possession, but before the first license to produce, process, and sell marijuana has been issued, we must remember that the world--not to mention the Federal Government--is also watching to see if we're serious about both legalizing AND regulating marijuana.
City submits recommendations on draft I-502 rules
In June City Attorney Pete Holmes submitted specific recommendations to the Washington State Liquor Control Board's draft rules for implementing Initiative 502, which Holmes championed last year as a prime sponsor of New Approach Washington.
"As Washington's largest city, with the largest number of medical marijuana facilities and strong public opinion favoring legalization, Seattle looks forward to partnering with the Board to regulate this new industry," Holmes said in the letter on behalf of the City of Seattle.
Aside from supporting "the overall structure and content of the draft rules," Holmes agreed the board should consider applicants' prior marijuana growing and delivery convictions on an individual basis. "This approach supports I-502's primary goal of displacing illegal competitors," he said. "Moreover, it is well established that America's war on marijuana results in racially disproportionate arrests and convictions -- it is encouraging to see that the Board is working to undo some of the harm caused by those past discriminatory practices."
While agreeing with the board's plans in large part, Holmes suggested a variety of changes to the draft rules dealing with the 1,000-foot rule, marijuana products' availability to children, landlords of marijuana businesses, outdoor grows and waste disposal. More study is needed, he said, regarding medical marijuana, non-residential use and private clubs delivery.
Holmes also emphasized the City's need to "share in the State's revenue. Implementing and enforcing I-502 will be a costly venture for government at all levels, from business licensing and zoning to law enforcement and other public health and safety considerations."