Dear cannabis-using and cannabis-curious college students of 2015: You have now matriculated in one of the most weed-friendly cities in the United States. That could be a godsend or a problem for you in the years to come, but we'll get to that in a moment. For now, congratulations.
Washington State legalized recreational marijuana (for people 21 and older) in 2013. But our pot friendliness dates back much further than that: A decade earlier, Seattle voted to make low-level marijuana possession the "lowest law-enforcement priority" in the city. Three decades before that, in 1968, a "citizens' committee on crime" organized by the state attorney general recommended liberalizing pot laws (as well as abortion laws). Seattle is also home to Hempfest, one of the biggest pro-legalization events in the country. You get the idea.
However! That does not mean you can light up a joint and blow smoke in a police officer's face. Our legalization law (known as Initiative 502) was written conservatively so it would look as nonthreatening as possible, both to voters and to the Feds. What this means to you: You're not allowed to smoke in public, grow your own, or possess cannabis if you're under 21.
But American college students have never had any trouble getting their hands on cannabis, so if you're going to break the rules and use it anyway, here are some tips:
• When it comes to edibles, take things very, very slowly—even if you think you know what you're doing. Eat a quarter of the recommended dose and wait at least two hours before taking any more. This is serious advice. Over the past year, a few deaths in Colorado (at least two suicides and one murder) have been attributed to people eating way too much pot too quickly and becoming fatally disoriented.
• Do not drive while stoned. Please.
• Even though you live in a pot-friendly city, and even if you're 21 years old, you're technically not allowed to possess weed on campus if your school receives funding from the US government—which it almost certainly does. (You can thank the federal Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act for that.) This contradiction is your 101 course in the current kaleidoscopic tension between states that are legalizing marijuana and the prohibition of marijuana at the federal level. We live in dynamic times.
• When it comes to other drugs—methamphetamine, opiates, kratom, cocaine—feel free to google The Stranger's coverage of those subjects. If you find yourself sliding down a bad slope toward full-blown addiction, consider three places to start getting better: (1) your doctor, (2) your campus addiction services, or (3) your local needle exchange. A needle exchange might sound counterintuitive at first, since that name suggests harder drugs, but they're typically staffed by people who are well connected to a vast network of resources. Plus, they're nonjudgmental as a rule, and some of them have firsthand experience with the scary place you're in right now.
• Last, but perhaps most important, consider not using cannabis while you're in school. The jury is still out on the short- and long-term effects of cannabis on the brain, and you've got the rest of your life to float through a somniferous daze. Enjoy clarity while you still can.