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Does Initiative 502 Decriminalize Washington State possession law December 6th?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012 8:02 AM | Anonymous

I-502, decriminalizing state marijuana possession under 1 oz., was approved by Washington voters.  The text of the new law is here. Some are wondering what this means in the short term for law enforcement.  In other words, what happens December 6th?  The Seattle Police Department promptly published a Police Blotter outlining some thoughts on the issue:SPD Police Blotter

The Blotter isn't legal advice and it doesn't say who provided the legal analysis, but it gives us some idea for how the new law is going to be interpreted.   Of course, there will be disagreement with some of the conclusions. 

For example: Is it legal under state law to possess less than an ounce of marijuana after December 6?  The Blotter says yes, but the new law has multiple requirements suggesting that conclusion is wrong. 

Not all marijuana becomes legal on December 6. What becomes legal is marijuana from a "validly licensed marijuana retailer."  Those retailers won't exist until sometime in late 2013. 

Arguably, there is no "legal" marijuana anywhere in Washington until these legal outlets are established.   While the use of medical marijuana is also permitted, the use of medical marijuana is a defense against conviction--not arrest.  Medical marijuana laws mean an officer can investigate the fact that an illegal substance is suspected and it doesn't invalidate probable cause to arrest.     The intersection between R-502 and Medical Marijuana laws is confusing, but police authority to arrest based on marijuana posssession probably still remains in place after December 6, 2012.  

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