What are the rules about buying, using pot in Washington state?

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJuly 6, 2014 

Recreational pot use

Bellingham resident Dustin Hughes smokes marijuana, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013 in Bellingham. "A lot of whether I go to the stores depends on the price," Hughes said. "I would feel like they need to stay competitive with current prices, but I would go check out the new stores for sure and probably buy some."

MATT MCDONALD — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

Two Bellingham stores are expected be among the first recreational marijuana retailers to open in Washington state next week.

Here are answers to some common questions as the next phase of Initiative 502 begins.

Answers were supplied by the Washington State Liquor Control Board, state law and Bellingham Police Lt. Bob Vander Yacht.

How old do I have to be in order to go into a store selling pot?

Like a bar, you have to be at least 21 years old to enter a store or to work in one.

How old do I have to be to buy pot?

Like alcohol, you have to be at least 21 years old.

Can I use pot in a retail store that sells marijuana?

No.

Can I use pot in public spaces like city parks or city sidewalks?

No.

Can I smoke/use pot on my property in plain view of the public?

"Yes," Vander Yacht said. "One thing that may become an issue to neighbors is the smoke and/or odor of burning marijuana. It is always appreciated by neighbors when people act in a neighborly manner, but it does not change the law."

How much pot can I legally have in my possession?

One ounce of marijuana. You also could have up to 16 ounces of marijuana-infused product in solid form (think candy bar) or 72 ounces of marijuana-infused product in liquid form, but not both of these at one time.

Once I buy my pot, do I have to worry about having the package in my car if I'm pulled over by police?

"Officers will not investigate, or have interest, in legally obtained marijuana within legal weight quantities," Vander Yacht said.

Can a passenger in a vehicle smoke/use pot?

No.

Can I take pot over the U.S.-Canada border?

No. Marijuana use is still illegal under federal law. And it's illegal to transport it into Canada. Pot also can't legally be taken across state lines. Keep it in Washington state if you don't want to be busted.

How stoned is too stoned to drive? In other words, what is the legal limit?

You are considered to be under the influence if you have a THC concentration of 5.00 or higher as shown by a blood test. You also could be arrested for driving under the influence if an officer believes you've been affected by marijuana use. Even if your THC level is under 5.00, you still could be arrested if you've used marijuana in combination with alcohol or another drug.

Learn more online by looking up RCW 46.61.502.

Will police be on the lookout for people smoking/using pot this week when the first retail marijuana stores are expected to open?

"No more effort will be put into this than normal," Vander Yacht said. "We have had a few instances of people smoking marijuana in public places and have dealt with it, just like we deal with people drinking alcohol in public places. The law is already in place. The only difference now will be that stores are open that sell this product."

Reach Kie Relyea at 360-715-2234 or kie.relyea@bellinghamherald.com .

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