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Making Pot a Priority

City Prosecutor Wants to Start Issuing Tickets for Smoking Pot in Public

Making Pot a Priority
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When voters legalized pot possession last fall, they also made it a civil infraction to use pot in plain view (just like drinking beer on the sidewalk). But Seattle police decided to give verbal warnings instead of issuing tickets—even though they could have fined violators.

As Fourth of July events approached this year, police warned they might issue a ticket under state law—if violators ignored warnings—as a "last resort for compliance," Sergeant Sean Whitcomb explains. Still, they didn't, and they haven't issued a single pot ticket under state law.

But now City Attorney Pete Holmes, a sponsor of the legalization initiative, is drafting an ordinance that would create a citation for pot smoking in public under city law. If the city council approves it as part of a larger ordinance to make Seattle's code reflect statewide pot rules, Sergeant Whitcomb says he can "almost guarantee" that cops will start issuing tickets, and interim police chief Jim Pugel, who says warnings will still be issued first, adds, "There could be some tickets."

That's not inherently problematic on paper—people shouldn't be a nuisance with their weed smoking, and tickets are a breeze compared to tossing potheads in jail—but adding the city penalty raises questions about who will be cited.

"I can understand why backers of Initiative 502 want to show they are serious about treating marijuana like alcohol, including not permitting obvious public use," explains Lisa Daugaard, a member of the city's Community Police Commission and deputy director of the Defender Association, a public defense firm. "However, a citation strategy seems to contradict Seattle's choice to make enforcement of pot prohibition the lowest enforcement priority with I-75," a city measure passed by voters a decade ago. (Full disclosure: I ran the I-75 campaign.) Daugaard adds, "Every look at race and marijuana enforcement has shown that it is disproportionately black people who become the focus of such enforcement, even though white people are obviously the overwhelming majority of users."

Holmes's office is vague about the need to create a city ticket but writes, "The world—not to mention the federal government—is also watching to see if we're serious about both legalizing AND regulating marijuana." They add that a municipal ticket would allow Seattle to collect revenues instead of the county or the state (providing further confirmation that Holmes expects tickets to be handed out).

Bruce Harrell, chair of the city council's public safety committee, says he supports the council adopting language in the new law that says marijuana remains the city's lowest enforcement priority and tracking the racial impacts of enforcement. "The council can give the officers some policy guidance on this," he says.

If the council does create a ticket, Pugel says that while he serves his term as interim chief, tickets will "only be used as a last resort after someone has refused to put it away. It takes time and money to write a citation. Let's focus on the things that make the city safer.

"I hope you don't feel that the SPD is beating down the door to get this done," Pugel adds. recommended

 

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1
Sent to Pete Holmes, City Attorney, City of Seattle
http://www.seattle.gov/law/contact.htm

We need to decriminalize drugs, not renew attacks on marijuana users. This is clearly demonstrated by the results of now decades long programs running over several states in Europe (Netherlands, Portugal).

And even if you don't want to let clear data on the results of decriminalization on harm-reduction sway you, just consider what our failed "War on Drugs" has cost us. Drug use is still as prevalent as ever, even though we've locked up millions. And along with those locked up goes 50k a year, per head, plus lost productivity, and the hopes and dreams that a free human being can bestow upon society.

If the goal is to discourage unwanted behavior in downtown and Pioneer Square, go after public urination and defecation, aggressive pan-handling, and the actual behaviors that are a crime to society and to others. Develop legislation to humanely deal with the mentally insane, removing them from the streets when they are clearly dysfunctional and are unable to care for themselves. They deserve a better life than to be left on the street, unwashed, undernourished, covered in their own excrement, yelling and screaming at the world.

I've worked in Pioneer Square for years, and I'm in complete agreement that something needs to be done, but not marijuana.

THINK.

Show you're worthy of your position, and the responsibility we've given you. Come up with solutions that really address the problems.
Posted by juliank on July 24, 2013 at 10:12 AM · Report this
2
Sent to Pete Holmes, City Attorney, City of Seattle
http://www.seattle.gov/law/contact.htm

We need to decriminalize drugs, not renew attacks on marijuana users. This is clearly demonstrated by the results of now decades long programs running over several states in Europe (Netherlands, Portugal).

And even if you don't want to let clear data on the results of decriminalization on harm-reduction sway you, just consider what our failed "War on Drugs" has cost us. Drug use is still as prevalent as ever, even though we've locked up millions. And along with those locked up goes 50k a year, per head, plus lost productivity, and the hopes and dreams that a free human being can bestow upon society.

If the goal is to discourage unwanted behavior in downtown and Pioneer Square, go after public urination and defecation, aggressive pan-handling, and the actual behaviors that are a crime to society and to others. Develop legislation to humanely deal with the mentally insane, removing them from the streets when they are clearly dysfunctional and are unable to care for themselves. They deserve a better life than to be left on the street, unwashed, undernourished, covered in their own excrement, yelling and screaming at the world.

I've worked in Pioneer Square for years, and I'm in complete agreement that something needs to be done, but not marijuana.

THINK.

Show you're worthy of your position, and the responsibility we've given you. Come up with solutions that really address the problems.
Posted by juliank on July 24, 2013 at 10:14 AM · Report this
3
Here's Pete's position, unvarnished:

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.

Kimberly Mills, Communications Director
More...
Posted by Kimberly Mills on July 24, 2013 at 10:19 AM · Report this
4
For a liberal city, there seem to be a lot of nanny-state crypto-conservatives popping out of the woodwork lately.
Posted by BookEmDano on July 24, 2013 at 11:56 AM · Report this
chimsquared 5
@4: Nanny-state crypto-conservatives = Seattle "progressives."
Posted by chimsquared on July 24, 2013 at 1:33 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 6
Smoking anything within 25 feet of a bar, cafe, restaurant or music venue that is not open air - fine away!

Otherwise, No!
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on July 24, 2013 at 1:36 PM · Report this
7
Will: add "bus stop" to that list.
Posted by Bus Rider on July 24, 2013 at 1:40 PM · Report this
Max Solomon 8
lessee here. smoking ordinance prohibits smoking anything inside bars and restaurants, you can't smoke weed it in public, lots of apartment buildings are non-smoking. whats the plan here? set up corrals in empty lots 1000' from schools?

or just, if you don't have a single family house, fuck you?
Posted by Max Solomon on July 24, 2013 at 1:40 PM · Report this
9
How many tickets do they give for smoking cigs in public?
Posted by David Tatelman on July 24, 2013 at 1:41 PM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 10
So Hempfest would be raided?
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://www.you-read-it-here-first.com on July 24, 2013 at 1:46 PM · Report this
Sir Vic 11
This is the very essence of a Jim Crow law. If you give cops the "discretion", they will cite black/brown people and not white people.
Posted by Sir Vic on July 24, 2013 at 1:52 PM · Report this
SPG 12
meh, You know what the rules are and if you want to break them, then you run the risk of a ticket.
I know I'm not supposed to have an open container on the street, but if I'm having a beer at my house and then want to say hi to my neighbor I'll run that risk on the sidewalk. Most cops would probably ignore me, or warn me, but if I was piss drunk smashing bottles and ignoring them, then yeah...write a fucking ticket. Either way, it's still breaking a known law.
If you want to be able to smoke up and drink up on the sidewalk, then fight for that law to be changed. In the meantime there's not much to cry about if you choose to break the known laws and get a ticket.
Posted by SPG on July 24, 2013 at 1:58 PM · Report this
ScienceNerd 13
I'm with 12 on this one. I love the weed. I also like to live within the confines of the rules given me, whether or not I actually find any value in them. I am a social animal and live in a society that has chosen how they want the society to be. Luckily, this society is a democratic society where I am free to share my opinion on laws and hope to change them if I wanted. But until they change, I knowingly put myself at risk for punishment when I don't follow them. Smoke your weed where ever you please, but don't cry when you get a ticket.
Posted by ScienceNerd http://stanichium.tumblr.com/ on July 24, 2013 at 2:10 PM · Report this
e.strange 14
@12 "Most cops would probably ignore me, or warn me"

You must be white.
Posted by e.strange http://wtfontbook.blogspot.com/ on July 24, 2013 at 2:13 PM · Report this
15
@14 spot on

"In plain sight" would seem to prohibit smoking on your own porch if it is within view of the sidewalk. Or your own apartment balcony, or even in your living room if the curtains are open. Is this the correct interpretation?

I could imagine plenty of room for "discretion" if the question is "how clearly can you see X?" which could be quite subjective. How thick *are* those hedges?
Posted by wxPDX on July 24, 2013 at 2:38 PM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 16
We don't need it. It's not a problem. This is making a problem where none exists and will be used to harass people. There are bigger problems, far bigger problems to concentrate on. And stop manufacturing criminals!
Posted by Pope Peabrain on July 24, 2013 at 2:40 PM · Report this
17
Maybe it's because blacks are more likely to flaunt laws? Crimes stats certainly bear that out.
Posted by Naive white liberals on July 24, 2013 at 3:17 PM · Report this
sirkowski 18
Seems like an acceptable compromise of a civilized society.
Posted by sirkowski http://www.missdynamite.com on July 24, 2013 at 3:41 PM · Report this
19
@17: moron. Using criminal justice system data to justify criminal justice system data? Hah, what could go wrong with that?

I won't go into different types of crime, but for drug use it's clear: blacks are no more likely to use illicit drugs than whites (and for certain drugs, such as marijuana, methamphetamine, and psychedelics, whites are far more likely than any other group to use them). Yet blacks are far more likely to be arrested, charged, prosecuted, and convicted than any other group.
Posted by gnossos on July 24, 2013 at 3:44 PM · Report this
20
What about (portable) vaporizers? Nothing quite like walking the dog late at night, vape in hand.
Posted by seagrrl on July 24, 2013 at 4:04 PM · Report this
21
@#10....Hempfest is no more "legal" today than it was last November. Myrtle Edwards Park is an outdoor city park,and a federal park in some places. Outdoor smoking has never been legal, and I guarantee Hempfest is NOT going to be raided just because they've decided to start issuing citations. Now does this mean you should be blowing smoke in the cops face? No. As a general rule (and from what I took from this article) don't be a dick, and you'll probably be ok. Now if you want to be the asshat that tells the cop "it's legal now, you have no power to stop me!!!" go right ahead, I'll sit by and watch while they write you the ticket.

And just in general It amazes me how many people are getting upset about this. If you didn't like the idea of citations for smoking in public, why did you vote 502 in? this was not something they ever hid from us...unless you didn't read the bill
Posted by IndustrialHempForTheWin on July 24, 2013 at 6:05 PM · Report this
22
@ "fight for that law to be changed" - that's exactly the point of the argument you're trying to undermine - the city ordinance should be opposed, changes in use of police discretion should be opposed, the state law should be changed. The substance of your argument is moot, and I SMH when I see people like you trot it out and then bury the correct choice in a bottom paragraph, as though they think that will save the false dilemma.

All that's left is your claim that you will not sympathize with people prosecuted under a law you tacitly admit is wrong - that only impeaches your character.
Posted by LookielouE1707 on July 24, 2013 at 6:28 PM · Report this
23
@ 12, @ 13.

And open container laws should go away also.
Posted by LookielouE1707 on July 24, 2013 at 6:33 PM · Report this
Joe Szilagyi 24
Why did the Stranger ever support him again?

Pass this and we'll pass a counter-measure to both toss this nonsense and curb the power of the city attorney if need be. Hey Pete: you're OUR employee. Get in line.
Posted by Joe Szilagyi http://www.zombo.com on July 24, 2013 at 9:34 PM · Report this
Joe Szilagyi 25
I mean, for God's sake -- don't we have more pressing matters than to try to de facto re-legislate a state decision? This is a pointless exercise.
Posted by Joe Szilagyi http://www.zombo.com on July 24, 2013 at 9:36 PM · Report this
26
@ 24 Don't be so sure, people may be fine with pot being legal but can also see this as sensible, no smoking in public, just like no drinking in public.
Posted by Seattle14 on July 24, 2013 at 9:52 PM · Report this
27
And why all the outcry its a freaking ticket, not like they are being arrested.
Posted by Seattle14 on July 24, 2013 at 9:54 PM · Report this
28
Good. Stinks like hell. And I'd love to see this extended to smoking, in general. Down with smoking...all kinds!
Posted by stating the obvious on July 24, 2013 at 10:00 PM · Report this
sirkowski 29
@23 Go live in Russia.
Posted by sirkowski http://www.missdynamite.com on July 24, 2013 at 11:27 PM · Report this
30
@ 29 Are you kidding? People smoke like chimneys where ever they want and drink like fish in public in Russia. Major public health issues. As a matter of public health, smoking should be confined to designated areas in public places. As to open container laws, yes, its a bit too restrictive, but I would rather current laws than no laws at all regarding alcohol consumption in public.
Posted by Chaiwallah on July 25, 2013 at 11:56 AM · Report this
31
I am in favor of ticketing those who use marijuana out in public. Care should be taken to avoid bias, but this is a fairness issue. Just as pot smokers want the right to partake of marijuana, I wish to reserve the right NOT to partake of marijuana. I am an asthmatic, and marijuana smoke gives me terrible attacks. In addition, I do not choose to expose myself to the drug within the smoke or the carcinogens. Since the law has changed I cannot leave my apartment without going through clouds of the stuff. People smoke it in bus shelters (where it is illegal to smoke even cigarettes) and in parks and out at the Pride parade where I was hemmed in by people smoking and had to leave. Since many people will not choose to smoke far away from others as a matter of consideration, this must be a matter of legislation. I should be able to go outside without partaking of your cigarettes. I am also against forcing landlords to allow it--I shouldn't have to have it in my home. I know this is an unpopular stance to take in response to a paper that publishes recipes for marijuana, but I want people to know that not everyone is in favor of smoking everywhere all the time (and yes, if I sound angry, it's because I am. Tired of being smoked out of public)
Posted by Chris Saturday on July 25, 2013 at 12:57 PM · Report this
Texas10R 32
@28

Colonel, Take us to TrollCon 1
Posted by Texas10R on July 25, 2013 at 2:37 PM · Report this
33
I am all for reasonable restrictions on smoking pot in public, just like I am for smoking tobacco or drinking alcohol in public.

But "reasonable" means taking ALL the facts into consideration. Like:

There are thousands of venues in every city where people can legally consume alcohol - bars, restaurants, clubs, even churches.

There are no such venues for marijuana consumers. So, to enforce this restriction on them without allowing for these kinds of venues is obviously discrimination and persecution.

Also, smoking marijuana is just ONE way of consuming it. Vaporization does not produce smoke or any of the toxic substances created by smoke. I've never heard of anyone complaining about marijuana vapor. - What will be the regulations, if any, for those who vaporize marijuana?

These kinds of details are where the issue will rise or fall.
Posted by jontomas on July 26, 2013 at 12:41 PM · Report this

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