Marijuana, under new management come Dec. 6

November 17, 2012 

The answer is no.

When Initiative 502 goes into effect Dec. 6, it will not be legal to smoke marijuana in the park. You won’t be able to light a joint in a bar or a restaurant or outside the school. You won’t be allowed to smoke and drive or drive while smoking marijuana.

The law will change. What was once illegal will not be, but real-world societal norms that govern and restrict marijuana use won’t be so much different.

This is in response to a reader question asking for clarification on what the rules will be, once possession of small amounts of marijuana becomes legal, under state law at least. Most answers are in the initiative, and like any new law subject to future clarification.

If you are interested, or worry about such things, know that it won’t be legal to smoke marijuana in any place where smoking tobacco is prohibited. This means just about every enclosed place outside your home. No restaurants, bars, concerts, clubs, hotel lobbies, restrooms, elevators, businesses, etc.

In addition, from Sec. 21 of the initiative: “It is unlawful to open a package containing marijuana, usable marijuana, or a marijuana-infused product, or consume marijuana, usable marijuana, or a marijuana infused product, in view of the general public.”

So forget the park or the parking lot or walking down the street or the old smoking area outside the office. Says the initiative: A person who violates this section is guilty of a class 3 civil infraction under chapter 7.80 RCW.” That sounds like a traffic ticket equivalency. If you are under 21, forget it. Possession or use is against the law.

The Seattle Police Department set up a blog by Jonah Spangenthal-Lee, formerly of The Stranger, called Marijwhatnow? to answer these and other questions. The gist is, if you are 21 or older, you will be able to possess an ounce or less of marijuana legally. You will be able to use it legally, but not in public.

You will not be able to buy it legally until sometime in the future, when the State Liquor Control Board follows the terms of the initiative and devises rules for licensing marijuana retailers, whoever they may be. They have until December 2013 to write the rules.

You won’t be able to grow it yourself, unless the yet-to-be-written rules allow you to become a licensed “marijuana producer.” You can’t buy, sell or otherwise engage in the marijuana trade without a license.

Employers who do drug testing and prohibit marijuana use can still do that. Those driving under the influence of marijuana will be subject to severe penalties.

The future legal marijuana trade will involve three licenses. There will be “marijuana producers” who may grow marijuana for wholesale. There will be a for “marijuana processors,” who package “usable marijuana and marijuana-infused products for sale a the wholesale level to marijuana retailers.” There will be another license for “marijuana retailers” who will sell all this to the public. A producer or processor can’t have a financial interest in a retailer.

Most of the rules governing these three entities are being written, but there can be no licensed retailer “within 1,000 feet of the perimeter of the grounds of any elementary or secondary school, playground, recreation center or facility, child care center, public park, public transit center, or library, or any game arcade admission to which is not restricted to persons aged 21 years or older.”

Advertising will be likewise restricted. Transit agencies won’t be able to sell marijuana ads on their buses, and that’s a relief.

All this depends on the coming resolution of conflicts with federal law. Future marijuana retailers or processors or producers will be state licensed but criminals by federal statute. Gov. Chris Gregoire met with federal attorneys to discuss the process. The word is, nobody is quite sure how this is going to work, but the voters of Washington have spoken.

Tracy Warner is a columnist for The Wenatchee World. Email him at warner@wenatcheeworld.com.

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