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Friday, July 26, 2013

City Attorney Presses City Council to Create Pot Citation

Posted by on Fri, Jul 26, 2013 at 5:17 PM

Today, Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes encouraged the city council's Housing, Human Services, Health, and Culture Committee to pass a bill that would create a city ticket for smoking pot in public—an act that is already against state law, which SPD can already enforce.

"I think it's very important that I, as an elected official, stand behind the police department and give them some direction," Holmes told council members, explaining why there should be a city ticket in addition to the citation possible under state law. "We recognize that the voters also passed [I-502] for regulation," he said. "In order for 502 to work, people have to play by the rules." Opponents of the city ticket have pointed out that historically, police enforce drug laws disproportionately against people of color; so far, SPD hasn't been issuing citations at all under state law, but that would likely change with a city citation. Council Member Nick Licata says he'll make sure there's a component of whatever ordinance they end up voting on that "requires collection of data on the tickets given out by SPD... to make sure there's not any discriminatory element."

Holmes also mentioned something that hasn't come up much in the debate over this ticket so far: "If SPD writes and enforces tickets under RCW [state law], the City of Seattle doesn’t get any of those funds." So is this really all about money? I snagged him after the meeting to ask.

Money is "a factor," he said, but "not the main factor for me." Mainly, strict enforcement of I-502 is "about preserving the victory" (Holmes was a sponsor of the initiative). "If the Feds don't see enforcement going on, it's going to give then an excuse to come in and undo 502." (In the past, Holmes has made essentially the opposite claim, at least when it comes to possession, saying that part of the state law is "simply not preemptable".) It's also about supporting the police force, he says, during a time when they "feel like they're under a microscope on a good day."

SPD spokesman Sergeant Sean Whitcomb, who also attended the meeting, echoed Holmes. "It's very beneficial for us to have clear direction from our elected officials," he said. At the same time, he says "we believe the city council will incorporate the spirit of I-75 into this"—that's the initiative requiring most pot enforcement to be the lowest police priority. "This isn't a push to enforcement." He told council that Police Chief Jim Pugel has been clear that when it comes to enforcement, "our number-one goal is to educate the public," mainly by using verbal warnings if someone's smoking out in the open. "We feel that having a uniformed police officer... tell them to stop the behavior will get compliance." And as for racially disparate enforcement? He tells me they've already reached out to the UW, so SPD can turn over data on ticketing to people who can "examine whether or not any tickets that are issued are written in a way that is disproportionate."


Comments (24) RSS

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@23 -- I appreciate your sentiment, but surely you appreciate the some public places are inappropriate for smoking or vaporizing anything:

public pool
bus stop

If the police and the city attorney begin abusing these tickets or creating a new revenue stream, we elect another city attorney or we pass another initiative.

This is what cooperation looks like. I'm sorry its not perfect.
Posted by six shooter on July 28, 2013 at 2:01 PM · Report this
Clara T 23
Just as a point of clarification vaporizing smells like pot - it's not some sort of scentless magic. If the point of the law is just to redirect a revenue stream to the city then fine - too much of our blue money flows to the red hypocrites already. Personally I think people are flaming pussies about public outdoor smoking - end of the fucking world if you have to walk past a joint being passed ...
Posted by Clara T on July 28, 2013 at 7:51 AM · Report this
Hernandez 22
@16 As a former tobacco smoker who is so, so glad to be rid of that filthy habit, I think that the existing smoking ban is sufficient to protect people from a public health standpoint. Is it annoying to get a whiff of smoke in an outdoor public space? Yes, but annoyance shouldn't be the basis of our laws.

Personally, I think the rules that apply to the smoking ban (keep it away from open windows or air intakes, generally not okay to smoke inside) should guide rules for pot smoking as well.

And the factor that no law will solve is whether or not people want to act like assholes. Getting shitfaced drunk in a park, puffing a blunt on a crowded sidewalk, smoking a cigarette right below someone's open window...there are always going to be jerkoffs who do shit like that.
Posted by Hernandez on July 27, 2013 at 11:35 AM · Report this
SchmuckyTheCat 21
@3, you chose to live there, you figure it out.
Posted by SchmuckyTheCat on July 27, 2013 at 11:08 AM · Report this
oh yes, let's fear the stupid feds and their laws and live in terror. look. if there are parts of seattle where people are smoking pot, so what? do you think the feds are going to suddenly bust into 24 pot dispensaries, and put people in jail for ten years each? if they did that, their whole drug war bullshit stance would fall apart as we'd all see it's stupid. even more than we see now.

they're afraid to enforce their laws today, when under fed law every single medical mj operations is one gigantic criminal conspiracy.

we're winning, and you want to stop pushing out of fear of backlash? what? btw what year do you think we will get a gop president? 2016? that's three years out. and then Hillary will crush ted cruz or marco Rubio. stop toadying up to the man, know when we have the advantage. as far as smoke in your face, you get smoke in your face from bus fumes, BBQ operations, damn, I don't like the smell of dog shit either but it's all over the place till they pick it up, grow up, it's a city, there will be 95% of seattle where you need nor fear a contact high.
Posted by stop fearmongerism on July 27, 2013 at 9:43 AM · Report this
It seems pretty straight forward to me. We've legalized personal use of marijuana, but the state law prohibits smoking in public (just as drinking alcohol in public (on the streets, sidewalks, parks is illegal)). While folks might wish they could indulge where ever they see fit, it would create a backlash that could lead to more aggressive federal action (particularly if we get a GOP President in the near future). The folks who drafted this realize that. It amusing that folks just got a huge step forward and they want to bitch that its not as far as they wish.

Meanwhile if the City is going to be preventing this back lash to keep this law in place and the feds out - its only sensible some of the fines go to the City to pay for it.

Posted by retrogrouch on July 27, 2013 at 8:53 AM · Report this
too much regulation of nonessential things. too many govt. officers -- police, sgts. reviewing police, judges, bailiffs -- administering silly rules.

let people smoke in public. if someone's smoke bothers you if it's wafting in the window, sue them. or let's give them a ticket for trespass or malicious mischief IF the smoke is ENTERING your property. otherwise if you're on the street, how about this if you don't like something:

step away and let people be.

same with booze. why should it be illegal to drink on the street?

why do we need elavorate license costing $4000 for a café to set up tables on a street and allow drinking?

you think kids don't see drinking all over? like AT HOME?

regulate the harmful conduct not the drinking or smoking per se.

@17 I doubt this problem is encountered often enough to justify creating a whole new set of laws, reguations, tickets that will be selectively imposed, judges making a living off managing fine reduction programs and holding hearings on your latest payment of the fine under a plan etc. as you could have just STEPPED BACK five steps and allowed nature to do its thing which is it dissipates smoke. and how dare you put asthmatic kids on a public street where there are CAR FUMES ALL OVER, right?
Posted by it's obvious to a yat on July 27, 2013 at 8:35 AM · Report this
@14 Yes. This is a problem. The smoking of marijuana and other substances on the street is hurting poor people. Kids especially.

I, personally, have been walking down the street with a bunch of kids when we accidentally walked into the cloud of someone who was smoking and walking about 10 yards ahead of us. The kids all covered their faces. They. Could. Not. Breathe.

Why not? Well, aside from the sheer gross factor, asthma is a big problem in poor communities! So, we all risked our lives crossing the busy street without a crosswalk just so we could both breathe and walk at the same time. Is it really asking too much to keep the air just a little cleaner for asthmatic kids?

Keep it at home and seal up your windows. No one wants to inhale your junk.
Posted by stating the obvious on July 27, 2013 at 8:24 AM · Report this
Do it, Holmes! And do it for all of smoking. All of it. No smoking of any kind in public places. Make it happen.
Posted by stating the obvious on July 27, 2013 at 8:12 AM · Report this
@3: "Smoking" is banned in those residences. There are many smokeless ways to ingest marijuana.
Posted by tiktok on July 27, 2013 at 7:54 AM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 14
Stop this. Just stop hurting poor people. They won't be able to pay this and you'll add fees and make it more impossible to pay. Then you'll send them to collections and make their lives miserable. And black people will be hurt the most. So stop this. It isn't even a problem.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on July 27, 2013 at 4:02 AM · Report this 13
@12 Here's a good overview of the latest draft rules revision:

Proposed Legal Pot Rules Filed
Posted by on July 27, 2013 at 1:04 AM · Report this
delirian 12
@11: Maybe I'm not up to date on the draft rules that were proposed that initially suggested banning all concentrates including hash oil. But if it is legal, then a vaporizer is the way to go. And as far as I know, it won't have a smell. So as long as there isn't a big cannabis leaf on the vaporizer, the cops won't be able to tell if it is an e-cigarette or a hash oil vaporizer, which effectively brown bags it.
Posted by delirian on July 27, 2013 at 12:13 AM · Report this
NaFun 11
@10 hash oil is not banned.

@3 eat it, use a vaporizer, etc. Also Pete Holmes is pushing the WSLCB to allow private smoking clubs for tourists and those in non-smoking apartments.

Posted by NaFun on July 26, 2013 at 11:36 PM · Report this
delirian 10
@3: Is there any type of handheld vaporizer (like an e-cigarette) that has legal ingredients? I know hash oil is banned, but are other ingredients (like hash waxes that are also used) off limits? It seems to me that the optimal method for 'smoking' pot would be with a vaporizer since it wouldn't give off carcinogenic chemicals when used. If the law forbids this then it is very shortsighted (like the maintaining of the 25' rule for e-cigarettes).
Posted by delirian on July 26, 2013 at 10:17 PM · Report this

Here's Seattle's transit budget for 2014:…

Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on July 26, 2013 at 9:15 PM · Report this
This is a good thing.

If the City of Seattle agrees to a set fine / ticket / citation for smoking in public, three things happen:

1. anyone afraid they might get caught by the police smoking in public will now know what will likely happen to them if they are. A known risk is always better than an unknown risk.

2. The line police officers will know what they're supposed to do when confronted with a group of people obnoxiously smoking who refuse to stop. They'll have clear direction. Without clear direction, each cop has to make that decision himself.

3. people cited for smoking in public can always argue i-75 before the magistrate. I suppose they might request a list of all other calls to 9-11 at the time of the citation. Sounds like a pretty easy ticket to get out of to me.
Posted by six shooter on July 26, 2013 at 8:06 PM · Report this
Uhhhh, there is a major disconnect in logic here. Back in the day, BEFORE I502, it was against STATE law to consume cannabis period, especially in public.. Right??? And the City of Seattle and residents saw fit to LIMIT the application of that law with "lowest priority" reasoning.. Right? So explain how there should be any change with regard to this particular new state law which has not changed the legal status of smoking in public?? It was lowest priority when it was first illegal, why should it become any more of an imperative now that it is still illegal? School me, I am just a dumb hillbilly immigrant to this wonderful city...;-D
Posted by pupuguru on July 26, 2013 at 7:57 PM · Report this
Lew Siffer 6
If drinking alcohol in public is illegal, why should marijuana be excluded? Personally I think all drugs should be legal, at the same time I can agree that it should be discreet. Is it necessary to blaze a huge blunt in public in Seattle streets, blowing your shit in everyone's face?
Posted by Lew Siffer on July 26, 2013 at 7:55 PM · Report this
Tacoma Traveler 5
I guess the city's broke and has to generate revenue. That could be why they're handing out more parking tickets too.
Posted by Tacoma Traveler on July 26, 2013 at 7:50 PM · Report this
Joe Szilagyi 4
The Stranger should dig into who is pressing Holmes on this.
Posted by Joe Szilagyi on July 26, 2013 at 7:05 PM · Report this
Max Solomon 3
Again, if you live in a non-smoking building, WHERE ARE YOU ALLOWED TO CONSUME A LEGAL INTOXICANT?
Posted by Max Solomon on July 26, 2013 at 6:30 PM · Report this
Pridge Wessea 2
I like Pete Holmes a lot and strongly disagree with him on this action. I sincerely hope this isn't his Tom Carr moment.
Posted by Pridge Wessea on July 26, 2013 at 6:16 PM · Report this
Weren't Holmes and McGinn guest speakers at Hempfest last year?

Are they going to give our 5000 tickets for pot?

Hey, Seattle's budget crisis is over!
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on July 26, 2013 at 5:49 PM · Report this

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