Counting The Days Till Marijuana’s Legal

Nov 17, 2012

Stoner humor just got a lot more com­pli­cated. Back in the days when Cheech and Chong were more risqué than wrin­kled, it wafted along as one of those cul­tural sub­gen­res, with its own nudge-and-wink punch lines. If you got it and laughed, you impli­cated your­self — and laughed again. The police mostly kept their faces straight. But now the prospect of legal­ized mar­i­juana in small amounts for per­sonal use — approved by vot­ers in Wash­ing­ton State and Col­orado on Elec­tion Day — is cre­at­ing a buzz of impro­vi­sa­tion, from local law enforce­ment agen­cies up through state gov­ern­ment. Devis­ing from scratch a sys­tem for legal sales and inform­ing the pub­lic about the law are both tasks, state and local offi­cials say, that require the turn­ing over of a new leaf. And the Seat­tle Police Depart­ment — through blog posts writ­ten by Jonah Spangenthal-Lee, 29, a for­mer crime reporter for a Seat­tle alter­na­tive weekly called The Stranger — is lead­ing the charge. Bilbo Bag­gins from “The Lord of the Rings” lends a hand too, shown in a film clip on the police blog rel­ish­ing a smok­able prod­uct of uncer­tain prove­nance called Old Toby, which Bilbo says, with a bliss­ful sigh, is “the finest weed in the South Far­thing.” The goal: offi­cial com­mu­ni­ca­tions in lan­guage that the hip, young, urban and quite pos­si­bly stoned audi­ence that Mr. Spangenthal-Lee wrote for at The Stranger might actu­ally want to read. Wor­ried about what hap­pens if the police pull you over after Dec. 6, when the law, I-502, takes effect, and you are sober but they smell that bag of Super Skunk in your trunk? Mr. Spangenthal-Lee’s “Mar­i­jwhat­now” post has the answer. “The smell of pot alone will not be rea­son to search,” he writes. Another ques­tion: “Decem­ber 6th seems like a really long ways away. What hap­pens if I get caught with mar­i­juana before then?” Answer: “Hold your breath.” Ques­tion: “SPD seized a bunch of my mar­i­juana before I-502 passed. Can I have it back?” Answer: “No.” “There’s no hand­book for any of this,” Mr. Spangenthal-Lee said in an inter­view. Mean­while, the “Mar­i­jwhat­now” post has gone closer to viral than per­haps any offi­cial police com­mu­ni­ca­tion in his­tory, with 26,000 Face­book “likes” and more than 218,000 page views as of Fri­day. Whether full legal­iza­tion will actu­ally occur as envi­sioned by the law — up to an ounce is allowed for use by an adult — is hazy. Pos­ses­sion remains a fed­eral crime, but Gov. Chris­tine Gre­goire, after meet­ing with Jus­tice Depart­ment offi­cials last week, said fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors gave her no clear indi­ca­tion of what they would do either before or after Dec. 6. “We are fol­low­ing the will of the vot­ers and mov­ing ahead with imple­men­ta­tion,” Ms. Gre­goire said in a state­ment. “Imple­men­ta­tion” presents some high hur­dles. The law allows only one year for the state to cre­ate a sys­tem of licenses for grow­ers, proces­sors and sell­ers, and to resolve equally con­fus­ing issues like the potency lev­els of the var­i­ous prod­ucts and the prices. Teams began meet­ing right after the elec­tion at the Wash­ing­ton State Liquor Con­trol Board, which has been assigned to cre­ate and admin­is­ter a mar­ket­place. Mr. Spangenthal-Lee, who has been writ­ing for the Seat­tle Police Department’s crime blog, SPD Blot­ter, since March, said he tried to imag­ine all the ques­tions peo­ple would ask about the new law and then fol­low his own nose as a news­man in get­ting the answers. Will, for exam­ple, police offi­cers be allowed to smoke mar­i­juana? “As of right now, no,” he wrote. “Mar­i­juana legal­iza­tion cre­ates some chal­lenges for the Seat­tle Police Depart­ment,” the post said, “but SPD is already work­ing to respond to these issues head on.” A ver­sion of this arti­cle appeared in print on Novem­ber 18, 2012, on page A20 of the New York edi­tion with the head­line: Count­ing the Days Till Marijuana’s Legal. Source: New York Times (NY) Author: Kirk John­son Pub­lished: Novem­ber 18, 2012 Copy­right: 2012 The New York Times Com­pany Con­tact: letters@​nytimes.​com Web­site: http://​www​.nytimes​.com/

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