When state-licensed pot stores open in six months, Seattle will face a conundrum: how to deal with tourists who buy pot but have nowhere to legally smoke it. State law prohibits using marijuana in public. Folks also can't smoke inside the retail pot stores, meaning cannabis will have no tavern equivalent (like Amsterdam-style coffee shops).
Seattle also lacks pot-friendly hotel accommodations. Earlier this year, I tried to persuade NORML to hold its annual pot conference here, but the plan fell through because Seattle hotels aren't cool with pot smoking—even in designated smoking rooms.
City leaders have been discussing the cannabis consumption quandary since Initiative 502 passed, and they have issued permits to a very few events that explicitly applied for pot-smoking permission. Last May, Seattle's annual marijuana march received a permit for a weed tent at Westlake Park, and High Times magazine held a huge hash oil free-for-all in September with the city's blessing.
But that pot tolerance may not extend to indoor establishments. Last month, Seattle & King County Public Health fined six hookah bars for violating the state's indoor smoking ban. Those businesses claimed exemption as "private clubs," but health inspectors allege they were open to the public or had employees.
"The smoking ban is the biggest hurdle" to coffee shops, says Assistant City Attorney Matthew York. "We have to live within the dynamics of the Clean Air Act."
Last week, the state liquor board filed proposed rules to ban all cannabis consumption—including eating it—in private clubs that are licensed to serve alcohol to members. One such place exists in Seattle: the Mercury, a members-only club on Capitol Hill that serves liquor and lets folks smoke cigarettes. But on the first Monday of the month, tobacco is eschewed for cannabis. If the liquor board has its way, the club will be forced to stop.
So where can a law-abiding tourist get high in this marijuana mecca? I found an answer, at least for one day of the year.
On December 6, Seattle Center will be the venue for a first-anniversary celebration of legalized cannabis in America. Last year, Seattle stoners spontaneously convened on the Space Needle lawn to celebrate legal pot, and this year, the event is actually permitted by the city, with privacy fencing and a smoking area.
The I-502 Anniversary Celebration is Fri Dec 6, 3–11 pm, Seattle Center Next 50 Pavilion, 21+, ID required. Admission is free and possession is legal. More info at www.420.sc.