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article image'Marijwhatnow?' Seattle cops publish guide to legal pot use

By Abigail Prendergast     Nov 15, 2012 in Lifestyle
Seattle - Since voting to pass I-502 thus readying Washington state for a Dec. 6 decriminalzation of pot, residents still have a lot of questions as to what their rights are. As such, Seattle Police have published a guide answering questions as much as they can.
In addition to Colorado, Washington state voters said a unanimous yes to decriminalizing marijuana for recreational purposes this past election day. In the emerald city, the police force had, of course, anticipated that they would face a barrage of questions regarding the actual legalization to come on December 6.
According to The Huffington Post, there are still quite a few details about the upcoming law reform in the state of Washington. Even so, Seattle police are answering as many questions as they can regarding Initiative 502 in a witty blog that has been viewed over 120,000 times and shared on Facebook at least 15,000 times since it was cast out onto the web on Friday.
This effort ultimately manifested into "Marijwhatnow? A Guide to Legal Marijuana Use In Seattle," by former journalist, Jonah Spangenthal-Lee, who was hired by the Seattle police department earlier this year.
Spangenthal-Lee, who used to write for the alternative news publication, The Stranger, sat down with police spokesman, Sgt. Sean Whitcomb to answer some questions regarding the state's marijuana decriminalization.
One of the questions asked was is if cannabis seized by Seattle Police before the passing of Initiative 502 was passed could and would be returned. The answer was a blunt "no."
"I just try to write posts I'd want to read," said Spangenthal-Lee in an e-mail. "I knew we were probably going to be inundated with questions about 502, so I figured I'd try to get answers to the kinds of questions Seattle residents (and reporters) might ask, and put them out there."
There were, of course, a few more well-thought-out, practical questions asked, such as:
"Q: 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?
"A: 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."
Whitcomb did point out that cases involving marijuana haven't exactly been at the top of the Seattle Police Department's totem pole for quite a while now.
"This is a city where marijuana possession has been the lowest (enforcement) priority. There's a built-in expectation that Seattle is going to have something to say about it," he said, noting voters' direction for police to keep adult pot users at as low of a priority as possible.
"Q: December 6th seems like a really long ways away. What happens if I get caught with marijuana before then?
"A: Hold your breath. Your case will be processed under current state law. However, there is already a city ordinance making marijuana enforcement the lowest law enforcement priority."
"I think this is an example of us really hitting the appropriate tone for our audience," said Whitcomb, making it clear that even police officers aren't always the stuck-up, humorless types the general public may think they are. He even contributed what has been touted as the funniest aspect of the blog: a Lord of the Rings clip where hobbit Bilbo Baggins is smoking "the finest weed," along with wizard, Gandolf.
Initiative 502 passed with the support of 55 percent of voters. Prosecuters in some of Washington state's largest counties have since dropped cases involving misdemeanor pot possession.
Whitcomb does, however, warn residents to not become too careless with their upcoming rights, saying, "the state says it's legal, the federal law says it's not."
The statement is also noted in the blog guide: "...You probably shouldn't bring pot with you to the federal courthouse (or any other federal property)."
Spangenthal-Lee's former employer, The Stranger, has its own guide to the state's new regulations. Including what to believe, what not to believe and what is yet to be established.
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