New marijuana topic for the city: Public-consumption policies

Lots of discussion of, and deliberation on, policies regarding our state’s legalization of marijuana in recent months – but here’s the first time we’ve seen this come up: An agenda just landed in the inbox for a special meeting of the City Council’s Housing, Human Services, Health, and Culture Committee this Friday at 2 pm. City Attorney Pete Holmes is scheduled to lead a 20-minute briefing titled “City Policies on Public Consumption of Marijuana.” We’re checking with the City Attorney’s Office for a preview; we’re wondering, though – what do YOU think those policies should be?

ADDED 1:19 PM: City Attorney’s Office spokesperson Kimberly Mills says this is related to a request for an ordinance to be drafted, and sends along a statement from Holmes:

“As you know, Section 21 of I-502 makes it a class 3 civil infraction — punishable by a relatively small fine, but no jail time or criminal record — to open or consume marijuana in view of the general public. It’s within SPD’s discretion to decide how to issue infractions, whether for jaywalking, speeding, or smoking marijuana on the sidewalk. Pete supports a measured system of warnings to encourage voluntary compliance with Section 21 before issuing citations.

Unlike criminal prosecutions, the City Attorney’s Office only becomes involved with infraction citations if they’re challenged in court, and Pete has promised that we will represent the City if I-502 infractions are issued and challenged (as we do with most other infractions). As Pete has already promised with all infractions, we will monitor for evidence of racially disproportionate application–as plainly occurred under the prior, wrong-headed policy of criminalized marijuana prohibition. This is why Pete further advocated in his letter to the Liquor Control Board for renters (and tourists) who might not have a private home where they can use marijuana without violating a rental agreement, suggesting options for legal nonresidential use including private smoking clubs and other models.

Under I-75, we distinguish I-502 infractions from criminal prosecutions for personal marijuana possession primarily because Seattle’s voters overwhelmingly supported I-502–which created the “public use” infraction–long after voting for I-75. Civil infractions for public marijuana use weren’t contemplated when I-75 passed over nine years ago. There are also concerns about exposing the general public to second hand marijuana smoke, distinct from I-75’s concerns about using criminal law enforcement tools (arrest, prosecution, jail sentences, and criminal records) to target personal marijuana use.

Pete supports a proposed city ordinance mirroring the language of Section 21 of I-502 to keep the revenue from any infractions issued under this provision in Seattle, thus offsetting some of the local costs we’ll incur implementing I-502. This is a common practice with other types of infractions, which often have parallel provisions under both state and city law. More importantly, Pete believes that as an elected official, he should back our SPD officers with a clear statement that ALL provisions of I-502 are to be enforced in Seattle, as we turn away from the ineffective, costly–and racist–past that was our War on Marijuana.

Washington voters changed the world in last November’s vote to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana for adult recreational use. They deserve faithful implementation of all parts of I-502, ensuring that marijuana is both legal and regulated. We have already ended arrest and prosecution for possession, but before the first license to produce, process, and sell marijuana has been issued, we must remember that the world — not to mention the Federal Government — is also watching to see if we’re serious about both legalizing AND regulating marijuana.”

53 Replies to "New marijuana topic for the city: Public-consumption policies"

  • Ray July 23, 2013 (12:00 pm)

    Hopefully they keep it illegal for public consumption.

    It is bad enough that I have to be exposed to neighbors smoking it outside in their yard and the smoke blowing into my house.

  • Jhames July 23, 2013 (12:03 pm)

    Somewhat anecdotal but still earnest: I witnessed a driver at a stoplight have to blow into a breathalyzer in order to continue driving. How would law enforcement know when someone is an offender of driving under the influence of marijuana, and is there the marijuana version of a breathalyzer?

  • rocky raccoon July 23, 2013 (12:05 pm)

    I’m not sure it matters. Whatever the policy is, there will be little to no enforcement.

  • Stephen M July 23, 2013 (12:08 pm)

    Seems to me the policy should be similar to that of public consumption of alcohol, namely as a class 3 civil infraction punishable by no more than a $500.00 fine or no more than 2 months in prison (which seems harsh) for a first offense.

    Both (public consumption of alcohol or marijuana) are inappropriate and illegal uses of an otherwise legal intoxicant. While it is a public nuisance it isn’t a huge deal – we’ve got bigger fish to fry than some stoners imbibing in a park or on the corner.

  • J July 23, 2013 (12:13 pm)

    I agree with Ray about the smoke. I’m less concerned about public consumption if it isn’t in the air. If people want to eat it or drink it in public, then I think rules similar to alcohol consumption would be appropriate.

    But tobacco smoke is even worse.

  • Wendell July 23, 2013 (12:14 pm)

    “and is there the marijuana version of a breathalyzer?”

    Yes. It’s called the West Seattle Car-Flip.

    Personally, I can’t wait to walk the gantlet from A Terrible Beauty to the Brewery. No need to buy smokes or weed anymore.

  • PG July 23, 2013 (12:22 pm)

    I hope they enforce some sort of restrictions on smoking in the parks. There has already been a big increase in the amount of marijuana smoke in the air in the public parks. I’m not philosophically opposed to pot smoking – it just stinks!

  • Olly July 23, 2013 (12:25 pm)

    Are you guys serious? Is Seattle not supposed to be a liberal city? Stephen said it right – there are bigger fish to fry. Why waste time on something so minor…and something that might help people with anxiety, depression, etc.? And if your neighbor’s smoke bothers you, Ray, then man up and tell them face to face instead of b*tching about it on here. Otherwise suck it up and close your windows – problem solved.

  • Ex-Westwood Resident July 23, 2013 (12:34 pm)

    I’ll tell you one thing…

    I see a person “light-up” in a bar or restuarant or inside ANY public building, park or stadium I’m pulling out a cigarette and lighting up.

    It should be as IT WAS PRESENTED in the initiative.


  • M July 23, 2013 (1:26 pm)

    It is still illegal under federal law

  • DTK July 23, 2013 (1:27 pm)

    These comments reveal that a great number of you need to visit the nearest dispensary and light(en) up.

  • let them swim July 23, 2013 (1:40 pm)

    @ Ray, any chance of telling us where you live-Someone might want to get some of that second hand smoke!lol.

  • anonyme July 23, 2013 (2:08 pm)

    NO SMOKING POT IN PUBLIC. It’s already the law – please enforce it!! At the very least, I should have the right NOT to get high until and unless I choose to do so.

  • Olly July 23, 2013 (2:22 pm)

    @anonyme You are not going to “get high” unless you’re in close proximity, like in-the-car-with-them close proximity… Chillll.

  • linda July 23, 2013 (2:37 pm)

    As someone who is still subject to random drug testing based on the federal rules as a condition of my employment, I agree with the “no smoking pot in public” stance. I do NOT want to breathe your second hand smoke and lose my job because I tested positive for a substance I’m not using. Keep it in your house or whatever private smoking club model they develop. Keep it out of the parks and out of public spaces period. And I’ll be speaking in person to any of my neighbors who opt to smoke pot outside, at a minimum they can give me a warning so I can go inside if they really need to be out in their yard for this activity.
    Because the potential cost to me is so high (loss of my job), I can’t support the proposed measured system of warnings to encourage voluntary compliance. I’d prefer to see enforcement in the form of citations immediately.

  • SmokeyPete July 23, 2013 (2:43 pm)

    I don’t foresee any change in people’s behavior, I think most people who have any desire to smoke in the park or wherever already do. I also think the vast majority of smokers will continue to prefer to keep it at home like I do. But the law does need tone clarified, if only to figure out how this new aspect of out tourism industry will work.

  • Thistle July 23, 2013 (2:57 pm)

    I am pretty much with Stephen and Ex-Westwood. I voted yes because the initiative had in place provisions barring public consumption (brownies aside as really, I am not going to walk up to someone and question the ingredients of their baked goods ;-).

    I like the idea that if I am at a park and someone nearby decides to light one up, I have some authority to politely ask them to stop. They may give me the finger or they may be really great and put it out. At least we can have the conversation. We all have to live together as a community, we are not islands, and no one can convince me that the smell and noxious smoke from the smoking of any kind of plant life is appropriate in public spaces.

  • lookingforlogic July 23, 2013 (3:03 pm)

    It smells like a garbage can’s butt. I don’t care if you smoke it but stink up your own house.

  • Lil B is My Friend July 23, 2013 (3:26 pm)

    These comments reveal a pretty staggering amount of ignorance surrounding marijuana. You will not lose your job from secondhand pot smoke. Is that for real?

  • Wes C. Addle July 23, 2013 (3:43 pm)

    I agree with Lil B’. It’s crazy how deep “Reefer Madness” penetrated.
    @Ray, people smoke in their yard because it’s outside. The same reason cigarette smokers don’t smoke in their house. It’s not illegal to smoke a cigarette or have a beer in the yard so why would it be illegal to smoke cannabis there?

    I wonder what the law is going to do as far as vaporization in public? Since that is technically not smoking? It will be impossible to tell anyway. Portable cannabis vaporizers are the same ones that you use for nicotine. No one will be able to tell the difference.

  • Kayleigh July 23, 2013 (3:58 pm)

    Just like I can choose not to be around drunks in public (not go to bars, etc.), I should be able to choose not to be around people on drugs. I should not have to inhale pot smoke, just as I should not have to inhale cigarette smoke. Jeez, people. Show some respect for the people around you, especially kids. Pot is not harmless.

  • Joe Szilagyi July 23, 2013 (4:10 pm)

    @Wes under the law, as written from my understanding (this has come up in conversations all over) it’s essentially like alcohol. I can sit on my lawn, in a lawn chair, and drink beer all day. My understanding–I’m not a lawyer–is that you could do the same with pot.

  • Wes C. Addle July 23, 2013 (4:32 pm)

    That’s what I thought as well. Looks like some people not going to be a fan of this one ;)

  • Laura July 23, 2013 (5:11 pm)

    I should not have to inhale carbon monoxide or other harmful pollutants, so people should probably stop driving around me and running their big nasty factories in my city. amirite, guys?

  • Wes C. Addle July 23, 2013 (5:44 pm)

    I agree Laura! I inhale more pollutants walking through the junction than I would at a Snoop Lion concert! :)

    People need to be a little less NIMBY. You’re not going to get high when someone smokes pot by you, nor will you test positive for a drug test.

  • Kayleigh July 23, 2013 (5:54 pm)

    Apparently some pot smokers lose the ability to reason the difference between air pollution which is ambient/diffuse and direct contact with a drug. That’s why only sober and smart people should make laws, which unfortunately isn’t the case here.

  • Olly July 23, 2013 (6:25 pm)

    @Kayleigh Dear forum scientist extraordinaire – Please report back to us with your research and findings regarding indirect “drug contact” from marijuana. I would be very interested to see it. Being someone that isn’t smart, I’m unable to comprehend.

  • Laura July 23, 2013 (7:30 pm)

    At what point does the exhaust from cars become an ambient pollutant and at what point does the exhaled smoke from burned marijuana become an ambient pollutant? What about smoke from your neighbor’s chimney? Also, you’re not having direct contact with a drug when you pass by a pot smoker on the street – that’s why it’s called SECONDHAND smoke. As others have said, it is impossible to feel or exhibit any effect from marijuana (or test positive on a drug test) from simply passing by a person smoking it in an open area. That being said, a New Orleans-style free-for-all with smoking weed in the streets is obviously a bad idea, but the regulation need not be stringent in order to contain the problem (in my opinion!).

  • ted nakahara July 23, 2013 (8:48 pm)

    Why is it that cigarette smokers are to be 25′ away from any entrance or exit to a building to diffuse second hand smoke if it’s harmless? Why all the studies and commercials showing cancer from second hand smoke if second hand smoke is harmless?
    I know for a FACT that you can test positive from second hand marijuana smoke.
    Why have people stopped calling it marijuana and started calling it cannabis?
    I have a feeling the feds will put a quick stop to this nonsense.
    Hmmm….federal drug charges, federal prison time, or bake my brain with marijuana. And they say that drugs don’t rot your brain….

  • lala2mom July 23, 2013 (9:10 pm)

    OK, but I don’t think anyone can deny that weed STINKS (like a skunk), and that it is annoying to be enjoying a walk in Lincoln Park and get a big wiff. Yuk.

  • Olly July 23, 2013 (9:48 pm)

    @ted You’re confusing commercially produced “tobacco” (an endless list of toxic ingredients added by philip morris, etc.) with a natural substance that is free of additives. Can smoking pot cause cancer? I image smoking anything can – but I’d put money on the amount of risk between the two being astounding (in favor of pot). You “know for a FACT” walking passed people on the street who are smoking can make you test positive? LMAO, that’s cute…

  • NW mama July 24, 2013 (5:46 am)

    Agree w Ray. No pot in public!!!!

  • ted nakahara July 24, 2013 (6:12 am)

    @Olly 3 words for you…American Spirit cigarettes.
    Another 2 words for you. Contact high.

  • JustinHale July 24, 2013 (6:48 am)

    If a adult can sit in a beer garden and consume alcohol and smoke tobacco they should be allowed to consume MJ , PS.they already do.

  • Ex-Westwood Resident July 24, 2013 (7:57 am)

    A few weeks ago (iirc) ABC did a story in second hand MJ smoke.
    The set up was people in a car and there were three tests; 1-Light pot smoker, 2-Moderate smoker and 3-Heavy smoker.
    In the Limo was the smoker and two others, one being the reporter.
    The test was rather surprising. The non-pot smokers DID get high from second hand pot smoke and DID test positive for THC.
    So, YES you can be affected by second hand pot smoke, not only getting “high” but also testing positive for THC use.
    Pot smoking in public does pose a risk for non-pot smokers.
    The law should be as detailed in the initiative that was voted on.

  • let them swim July 24, 2013 (8:17 am)

    “in a car” — four sides,a roof and a floor.–
    confined area. Not very public. I’m sure you can find a better example or can you?

  • JustinHale July 24, 2013 (8:34 am)

    Just about the time I think we as a society are getting over the governments reefer madness BS I read comments such as ted naka wrote and I realize we have a long way to go before the ignorance ends.

  • The Original MB July 24, 2013 (9:13 am)

    Oh Lordy…obviously if you choose to sit in a car and hot box with people smoking pot, you will likely get a contact high. I’m fairly certain that’s not what we’re talking about. You will not get stoned by walking past someone smoking. Now, if you so choose to stand in front of said pot smoker and allow them to blow it all in your face, that’s a different story. What’s most likely going on here is people coming up with exaggerated excuses rather than just admitting you don’t like it and you think it’s gross and unhealthy so you don’t want others to be able to do it in your presence. I wish people would just be honest and say that rather than perpetuating fake fear. Oh, and you won’t get HIV from a toilet seat either. Sheesh!

  • Olly July 24, 2013 (9:49 am)

    @ted Three words for YOU…remove the stick. Contact high, really? How about reading what let-them-swim just wrote, which most of us here have been trying to make you understand. Small confined space, sure you’ll get a contact high. Passing by someone smoking in the street however…yeah, just like walking by people drinking in the street will make you drunk. Quit being a grumpy old man and let things be. Things change, roll with it. Or move somewhere remote – I vote for that one.

  • Olly July 24, 2013 (9:50 am)

    +1 for The-Original-MB. Well said.

  • Bird July 24, 2013 (11:44 am)

    Wow, what a discussion. Police are buried, they probably have more important things to deal with than kids or an adult smoking weed in the park, waterfront or sidewalk. If you do have a problem with someone, just ask politely and most likely, PROBLEM SOLVED.
    As a non-smoker of cigarettes, have you ever observed the 25′ rule from bars & restaurants? Police have more important duties….Tolerance, Tolerance.

  • Coldheart Craig July 24, 2013 (11:49 am)

    Contact highs are a myth. My sister is a federal employee and is regularly tested and spends quite a bit of time around my medical marijuana consuming parents. You would need to inhale an incredibly dense amount of secondhand smoke in a really short time to get high.

    I still think it should be done behind closed doors simply out of public taste.

  • scubafrog July 24, 2013 (5:02 pm)

    Why should one be able to consume alcoholic beverages in public view – but not smoke marijuana (now that it’s been legalized)? So… many… undereducated… neanderthals and troglodytes in this country. We have got to start spending more on education, these comments are making me cringe.

    In fact PETE HOLMES, now that it’s legal, when can we purchase it at stores? Most of you’re treating it as if it were (still) illegal.

  • Mary July 25, 2013 (6:17 am)

    Please NOT IN PUBLIC! I was really upset walking with my kids from the Lincoln Park wading pool to the parking lot and passing a couple people on a lawn blanket doing nothing else but inhaling something from a beaker and 3-ft. tube. It was anything but discreet (and me knowing so little about drugs I’m not even sure what they were doing). Is this legal? Am I supposed to report this to the police, 911, to the Parks employees, etc.? What happens when they get in their car to drive home under the influence? It could very much affect my family’s safety.

  • JustinHale July 25, 2013 (8:55 am)

    Yeah Mary,that sounds like a great idea,when you spot someone doing Something that you don’t understand immediately call out the cops,and how do you know they drove to the park?
    All you uptight people who are all worried about people smoking MerryWanna in public get over it,you cannot get high by smelling second hand smoke,no more than you can get cancer from smelling second hand tobacco smoke, and they say MJ smokers are paranoid.

  • Wes C. Addle July 25, 2013 (9:37 am)


    Sounds like you saw someone take what is called a Bong hit.

    Calling 911 is a waste as the fine is the same as a jaywalking ticket. Imagine if we called the cops for every jaywalker that we saw?

    Just to put it in perspective, 98% of the time you’re at a park and you see a red plastic SOLO cup, that person is probably getting drunk.

  • Olly July 25, 2013 (11:24 am)

    ↑ Getting drunk? Little extreme… There are people that drink a beer and stop there you know…

  • Wes C. Addle July 25, 2013 (12:28 pm)


    True. That was a little extreme. Just like bringing your bong to park.

  • M July 25, 2013 (12:48 pm)

    It’s illegal to drink in most parks as well (or I could assume) that goes for pot also. I really wouldn’t appreciate it if my kids saw either.

  • Olly July 25, 2013 (1:44 pm)

    @Wes You guys really aren’t getting it. I don’t smoke nor do I drink. But why stop others from enjoying something just because I don’t? We all do things that irritate others in some shape or form. You need to chill out. There isn’t a marijuana apocalypse coming… And cops have more important things to spend their time doing than enforcing something so trivial. Cry me a river, jeez.

  • Wes C. Addle July 25, 2013 (2:40 pm)


    What did I say to ruffle your feathers? I’ve actually agreed with you for the most part.

    I was merely pointing out that most red cups at parks are filled with cocktails, I’ve done it many times and I don’t get drunk. People will always do things that other people don’t like, such is life.

    The whole conversation is ridiculous really. We all have things we don’t like or things we don’t want to be around.

  • Olly July 25, 2013 (3:11 pm)

    My bad, Wes. I guess I’m on edge because of all the ill-conceived uber conservative comments being thrown around on here. I skimmed what you wrote and jumped to a conclusion because of your comment re solo cups equaling drunk people. Glad to have you on our side.

  • West Seattle July 25, 2013 (3:46 pm)

    The cops won’t enforce this petty offense, marijuana is the lowest priority for the police department

Sorry, comment time is over.