Earlier this month, voters in Washington voted in favor of Initiative 502, which will legalize the possession of certain amounts of marijuana.
Last week, the Olympic Peninsula Narcotics Enforcement Team (OPNET) governing board, composed of the police chiefs from Port Angeles and Sequim, as well as the sheriffs from Clallam and Jefferson counties, and the Clallam County prosecutor met and discussed some of the procedures that are expected to be implemented in the coming days.
Beginning Dec. 6, persons 21 years and older will be able to legally possess up to 1 ounce of processed marijuana, 16 ounces of marijuana-infused product (solid form) or 72 ounces of marijuana-infused liquid product.
Use of these marijuana products will no longer be a crime or an infraction, provided it is not displayed in public. Use or display of marijuana in public will be an infraction for which the violator should expect a citation or “notice of infraction.”
This could result in a penalty of $103 but no arrest or jail time. The laws for those under 21 years old and the laws that exceed the 1-ounce rule remain the same, that is, possession under 40 grams of processed marijuana will be treated as a gross misdemeanor crime and over that amount as a Class C felony.
Manufacturing (growing) or delivering marijuana continues to be a criminal act at this time. The Washington State Liquor Control Board has until Dec. 1, 2013, to work on requirements pertaining to the licensing and regulation of producers, processors and retailers.
The new laws do not affect the Washington state medical marijuana statute that has been in place for some time in any way.
DUI (driving under the influence) and physical control laws have language added that sets the level of THC, the chemical in marijuana that affects a person, at 5 nanograms or more per milliliter of blood. This is similar to the 0.08 blood alcohol level maximum in drunken driving cases.
A person’s THC level, however, cannot be obtained with a breathalyzer as alcohol level can. Only a blood test can identify the accurate amount of THC in a person’s system. As a result, the laws that pertain to an officer’s ability to draw an impaired driver’s blood, called the Implied Consent Law, have been altered to allow for blood tests if marijuana is suspected.
Drivers under 21 years of age will have a zero tolerance level of THC for DUI/physical control violations.
Additionally, there will be situations where an officer or a deputy has arrested someone in legal possession of marijuana when that person is taken into custody. While legal to possess, marijuana is deemed “derivative contraband” and as such, cannot be allowed in the jail.
So, if the arrested person is to be booked into jail, the marijuana will be entered into the department’s property room by the arresting officer. The officer or deputy will send a notice to the property room officer to destroy the marijuana.
State and federal law continue to make it illegal for anyone to deliver marijuana and the law enforcement officers and property room personnel will not participate in a violation of these laws.
The Port Angeles Police Department has created an excellent series of FAQs that provides additional information in respect to the impact of I-502. Here is the link to download those Q and A’s: www.cityofpa.us/policedept.htm.
The policies and procedures relating to the new marijuana laws may differ from agency to agency. However, law enforcement agencies are working together so that the enforcement of this new series of laws is consistent throughout the North Olympic Peninsula.