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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

So Where Do I Smoke All This Legal Pot Again?

Posted by on Tue, Jul 8, 2014 at 8:23 AM

You can dance in the street, but you cant smoke in the street. So where are you supposed to go?
  • Malcolm Smith
  • You can't smoke in the street. So where are you supposed to go?

Legal, recreational retail pot sales have begun in Washington. Which leaves everyone with a very pressing, immediate question: Just where are we supposed to smoke this stuff?

The simple answer: in private.

Washington's Initiative 502 created the legal framework for a retail market, creating licenses that allow people to grow, process, and sell marijuana, and allowing people over 21 to buy and consume it. But it also said you can't consume pot (smoke it, eat it, vape it) in public and created no such licenses for bars, cafes, coffeeshops, or clubs that would let the public consume pot on their premises. People think of Amsterdam, where there have long been "coffeeshops" that sell pot and allow you to sit there and smoke it—it's not legal, but the government looks the other way. But here in Washington? "The law states you can’t consume within view of the general public," says Washington State Liquor Control Board spokesman Mikhail Carpenter. "There's no provision in the law for consumption in public. That's in the law, that's not something we can change."

A pot cafe in the middle of Amsterdam.

Carpenter adds that to clarify even further, the WSLCB "passed a rule that said if you hold a liquor license, you cannot allow the consumption of marijuana on your property." Why? Says Carpenter: "If you hold a liquor license, by virtue of holding a liquor license you are a public place, which means you can't allow consumption." You also can't consume marijuana in the stores that sell it, or walk down the street smoking it (public) or smoke it in a park (also public).

However: If you don't have a liquor license, and you don't sell marijuana, the WSLCB doesn't have jurisdiction over your activity. In that case, says Carpenter, "if you want to establish a private club for the consumption of marijuana, that's between you, your local authority, and of course the Clean Indoor Air Act." (That's the state law that bans smoking in most indoor places.) The only way to change the state laws about public consumption and create public spaces for pot-smoking, like Amsterdam-style coffeeshops, would be through the state legislature.

City Attorney Pete Holmes has a question: Where are the tourists supposed to smoke it? Where are renters supposed to smoke it?
  • Kelly O
  • City Attorney Pete Holmes has a question: Where are the tourists supposed to smoke it? Where are renters supposed to smoke it?

On a local level, cities could potentially create licenses for private clubs, skirting the public-place rule and addressing what Seattle city attorney Pete Holmes has identified as a real problem: Where the hell are pot tourists supposed to smoke? And what about people who rent non-smoking apartments? In a letter to the WSLCB last June, Holmes said clearly, "For renters and tourists, allowing marijuana use in certain types of establishments other than private residents may be the only mechanism to enjoy marijuana. This is both a race & social justice and an economic development issue." Because: If you don't own property, you basically can't smoke pot anywhere. Damn right, Pete. In that letter, he specifically asked the WSLCB to study and create rules for private clubs. But as Carpenter says, that may be outside their jurisdiction, and something for cities to look into themselves.

Holmes's spokeswoman, Kimberly Mills, says he hasn't yet "drafted a formal plan," but he's "working in tandem with City Councilman [Nick] Licata" to create one this year. "Meanwhile," Mills reminds us, "Pete requested and the Council adopted a $27 ticket for smoking marijuana in public, consistent with the $27 ticket for drinking in public."

If you smoke here, its a $27 fine.
  • Jason Klaasen
  • If you smoke here, it's a $27 fine.

So for now, tourists and renters, Seattle says to you: Smoke in a smoke-friendly hotel or at your friend's house—or gamble with your chances and smoke on the street or a park, and potentially face a $27 fine.

How might it look in the future, when our slow-moving city or state finally realize they've put people in a weird catch-22? For that, we can turn to Colorado.

Cheryl and David Fanelli opened up the first legal, government-sanctioned pot cafe in the United States on April 20 of this year, in Nederland, Colorado. It's called Club Ned, and the Fanellis fought for 15 months for the right to open it, following a narrow private-club exception to Colorado's public-smoking law. Requiring patrons to become dues-paying members, having three or fewer employees, and not making more than 49 percent of their income in food and drink sales means Club Ned is following all the rules—though they did have to get state law changed to allow them to follow rules that were written for tobacco.

Cheryl Fanelli says she immediately had the same concerns that Holmes has defined here in Seattle when she saw Colorado legalizing recreational pot without legalizing any public places to smoke it. "That’s what I told lawmakers here," she says. "We're asking people to drive thousands of miles to come buy legal pot, and then they're supposed to become criminals when they walk out the door? That's really not fair."

She sent around a petition in Nederland, a small town of around 1,300 people, to demonstrate that there was public support for her pot club. "And I got 300 signatures in a week," she laughs. "I had people that signed our petition who were against cannabis, but they signed my petition so I could open because they felt that yes, this is supposed to be treated like alcohol, it’s legal, there should be a place where people can smoke it." Has she had any problems so far? "There haven't been any problems," she says. "Cannabis people are the nicest people." Later, she amends that a tiny bit to say the only problems they've had have been with patrons who arrive already drunk, who are asked to leave. They have game nights, live music, potlucks. It's much more peaceful than a bar, Fanelli adds.

"Nobody was ready for this, but they should’ve been. It really was an oversight, as far as I'm concerned. You have people coming to legally buy this stuff, where are they going to smoke it? This is an obvious question that they're just ignoring." And Washington State is, idiotically, following in those footsteps. Maybe eventually entrepreneurs like the Fanellis will find ways to bend state law here, or Holmes and the city council can make some local legal room for licensed private-use clubs.

In the meantime, in Colorado, Fanelli says they're going to start selling Club Ned franchises.


Comments (25) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
Smoking is far from the only way to consume pot. Bake some brownies, folks.
Posted by Centrists Rule the World today on July 8, 2014 at 5:48 AM · Report this
NopeNope 2
Shit, I know people who consume on airplanes. I've never been fucked with for smoking pot on the street, either before or after it was legal. Roll a joint, exercise some basic discretion and I sincerely doubt you'll get a ticket in Seattle. I can't speak for the rest of the state though.
Posted by NopeNope on July 8, 2014 at 6:34 AM · Report this
Ride on Metro and enjoy the contact high- and it's free!!
The 5AM posting time for this article must be a Stranger record!
Posted by pat L on July 8, 2014 at 7:30 AM · Report this
Max Solomon 4
@2: you shouldn't have to "be discreet". people aren't discreet about smoking cigs, which are also a controlled substance.

but i fully expect 90% of users to ignore this an fire up anywhere, everywhere.

if our legislature ever fucking did anything they could fix this.
Posted by Max Solomon on July 8, 2014 at 7:31 AM · Report this
In tight budgetary times like these, it is important to save money by reducing government spending. I propose we begin by eradicating the WSLCB.
Posted by Pol Pot on July 8, 2014 at 8:17 AM · Report this
ilikefood 6
Anna- "our slow moving city or state.." ?

you do realize that we were one of the first 2 states in the country the legalize, right? and that Seattle made simple possession of marijuana a literally non-enforceable "crime" over 10 years ago?

we may be slow moving, but we are LIGHT FUCKING YEARS ahead of the rest of the country.
Posted by ilikefood on July 8, 2014 at 8:40 AM · Report this
AndyBlue 7
The prosecutors with quotas will always be a threat to cities and counties. "We train law enforcement in getting out to the public that it doesn’t matter what level you are doesn't matter your BAC level it doesn't matter your THC level if you are DUI, you will be prosecuted," said Norman.

READ THAT AGAIN>>> "it doesn’t matter what level you are doesn't matter your BAC level it doesn't matter your THC level if you are DUI, you will be prosecuted," said Miriam Norman of the prosecutors office in Seattle

See there is the problem. She doesn't care what level and is so eager to prosecute everyone regardless of phony BAC level they scientifically can't measure.

Seattle... a city that depends on prosecuting the citizens to support its budgets. They are also watching the vehicles of anyone that buys marijuana at these shops. Informants in plain cloths are also on the scene taking license plate numbers.

The dirty prosecutors and police are out in force trying to find ways to detract from their own corruption. Be careful people.
Posted by AndyBlue on July 8, 2014 at 8:45 AM · Report this
JonnoN 8
Awwww @7 is sad he can't endanger others with impunity.
Posted by JonnoN on July 8, 2014 at 8:49 AM · Report this
ilikefood 9

when was the last time you heard of someone in and around downtown Seattle being arrested and prosecuted for bud possession?
have you ever walked in or out of the transit tunnel entrance next to Mcdonald's on 3rd and Pine? the dudes sell bud RIGHT NEXT TO THE FUCKING COPS!!!!
I am no defender of the Seattle Police- they are out of control in many, MANY ways, but I seriously doubt they are going to go on a bud-busting rampage to "detract from their own corruption". I find it hard to believe the SPD is that stupid.
But, they ARE the SPD, so you never know....
Posted by ilikefood on July 8, 2014 at 8:52 AM · Report this
sperifera 11
You can give up the schtick now, @7 - I-502 passed.
Posted by sperifera on July 8, 2014 at 8:58 AM · Report this
Eastpike 12
The law is virtually the same here as it is in Amsterdam. In fact, it's more legal here than it is there-- there's no licensed smoke dens or anything like that. As you point out, the police "look the other way".... Is that not exactly what we're going to do? The Dispensaries have smoke dens, the hookah bars are puffing away unimpeded. I don't really get the 'grass is greener' argument that is presented here.
Posted by Eastpike on July 8, 2014 at 9:08 AM · Report this
@2 ...If you're white.
Posted by cccCody on July 8, 2014 at 9:15 AM · Report this
Womyn2me 15
The backyard at our rental is the best place to smoke.
Posted by Womyn2me http://http:\\ on July 8, 2014 at 9:19 AM · Report this
This article is a joke. And yeah, #13 where's the article for "Where do I smoke weed if I'm black?" Because THAT ACTUALLY holds ground as a real question. Fuck tourists. They can eat a dick and die.
Posted by 2Old_Fred3 on July 8, 2014 at 9:24 AM · Report this
NaFun 17
Also and related: I75 is still law. That $27 ticket is the Seattle PD'S lowest enforcement priority.
Posted by NaFun on July 8, 2014 at 9:53 AM · Report this
Fred Casely 18
So Where Do I Smoke All This Legal Pot Again?
The same place you smoke the illegal stuff. Or are there no alleys left in Seattle?
Posted by Fred Casely on July 8, 2014 at 9:53 AM · Report this
People aren't allowed to smoke pot on the street? As often as I walk through a cloud of the stuff around Seattle, you sure coulda fooled me.
Posted by Jenkitty on July 8, 2014 at 10:20 AM · Report this

apologies for the all caps, but if you are on Federal property, like Olympic National Park, Federal Law applies. Pot possession in that case is a lot more than $27 fine.
Posted by AK Rob on July 8, 2014 at 10:21 AM · Report this
- Pete Holmes is pretty fucking cool.
- @1 It's consumption, not just smoking in public that is not allowed.
- The "I don't see why this is a problem, just do it in an alley" crowd seem to be missing the point of legalization.
Posted by tabski on July 8, 2014 at 10:25 AM · Report this
raku 23
I like Copenhagen's model better than Amsterdam's for Seattle. They tolerate marijuana use (and sales, usually) in a small car-free neighborhood full of parks and culture, Christiania.

I think part of Seattle Center would be perfect for this. It would be a lot better for tourists, since our pot shops are all in the middle of nowhere by design. And it would keep them away from the city and cars. Less second-hand smoke, fewer too-stoned clueless people wandering the streets and driving, less unrestrained capitalism involved.
Posted by raku on July 8, 2014 at 11:30 AM · Report this
keshmeshi 24

Uh, yes, you should be discreet. The better analogy is public drinking, and in this country, if you want to drink in public, you better obscure what's in that bottle.
Posted by keshmeshi on July 8, 2014 at 12:27 PM · Report this
This may have been intentional, because law enforcement doesn't want to give up a legal excuse to roust the homeless.
Posted by HappyHippie on July 8, 2014 at 1:41 PM · Report this
Max Solomon 26
@24: except the law leaves no options for legal use for anyone living in a smoke-free building. there are no bars or restaurants where use is allowed, as there is for alcohol. it's easy not to drink on the street.
Posted by Max Solomon on July 8, 2014 at 3:01 PM · Report this
@20: Federal law applies everywhere in the nation, not just on lands owned by the U.S. government. When Pete Holmes bought two bags of weed this afternoon at our city's first state-licensed cannabis retailer, he was committing federal civil disobedience.
Posted by Phil M on July 8, 2014 at 6:33 PM · Report this
Psst! Jsst take a look at the headline of the article right next to this one and you have your answer: "Outdoors! On Patios! On Rooftops! In Parks! God, This Is the Best Time to Live Here!"

Posted by RickFromTexas on July 9, 2014 at 12:20 PM · Report this

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