After Washington voters legalized cannabis last fall, the Seattle Police Department relaxed new-hire policies related to pot. Instead of the old rule mandating rookie cops be toke-free for at least three years, the new rule reduced that timeframe so recruits need only abstain from pot for one year. According to the SPD, this was done to help find officers "who resemble the people we protect."
But with 74 percent of Seattle voters supporting Initiative 502, it is clear that the people the SPD protects love pot. So why can't our cops smoke a spliff after work?
Assistant Chief Jim Pugel is the person tasked with overseeing post-legalization changes in SPD employment policy. In a phone interview, he explains that disqualifying stoners from the force serves to "see if the person can follow rules set by society." (Even though pot is legal in Washington State, federal rules say it's still illegal.) Despite the SPD's promise to "reevaluate other marijuana-related hiring policies over the next year," Pugel says no plan is currently under consideration to further relax the department's pot ban. He says the mayor, chief, and city council can change that policy.
Mayoral spokesperson Aaron Pickus calls the recently relaxed pot rules "a sign of the police department working to uphold the expectations of the city they're policing." He says changing that policy is primarily in the purview of the police chief. In other words, the mayor's office and the SPD brass seem content passing the buck back and forth.
And so, hoping to build support for such a change, I started an online petition at LetCopsUsePot.com. Among the reasons to let cops use pot: Seattle could otherwise lose out on cannabis users who would be excellent, qualified officers, and—quite seriously—pot after work could make for mellower cops.
To build campaign awareness, I designed a simple "Let Cops Use Pot" poster. Making an in-kind contribution, the folks at Poster Giant agreed to cover the city with 200 such prints. Entertained by the idea, an anonymous pothead contributed postage to infiltrate city hall with campaign postcards.
If our cops are to resemble us, they should be allowed to smoke pot, too. If you agree, join the campaign at LetCopsUsePot.com.