Sorting out Washington's new marijuana law - KPTV - FOX 12

Sorting out Washington's new marijuana law

Posted: Updated: Dec 6, 2012 07:06 AM
VANCOUVER, WA (KPTV) -

Marijuana use is now legal in Washington state, but there a number of caches that come with the new state law.

Initiative 502 went into effect at midnight, after election results were certified by Gov. Chris Gregoire and Secretary of State Sam Reed Wednesday.

Anyone in Washington who is 21 years or older can have up to one ounce of marijuana for personal use in a private place, such as a home.

The Clark County Prosecutor's Office announced it will eventually dismiss 60 local marijuana cases that are now not considered a crime.

Marijuana users still can't grow it or sell it, or drive under the influence of it. The state now has one year to come up with a system to manufacture, distribute and sell the plant.

Washington State Patrol troopers said the new law does not change the way they investigate impaired driving cases.

Troopers said impaired drivers are always arrested, regardless of the drug involved. That can include illegal drugs, marijuana or even prescription medication.

The THC level in a suspect's blood will not be known for days or weeks after a roadside traffic stop, but Washington State Patrol representatives said that will be an issue for prosecutors and defense attorneys, not troopers.

Vancouver police said that while possessing an ounce or less of marijuana is legal, growing it and selling it are not. Police said people who don't have a medical marijuana license will still be obtaining marijuana illegally until the state comes up with a licensing system to manufacture, distribute and sell pot.

Boost in business

Smoke shops in Vancouver, which sell pipes to smoke marijuana, reported an increase in customers ahead of the law taking effect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday. The owner of Smokin' J's said the new law is bringing in new customers.

"You get more people coming in looking around asking some questions," said Jay Fratt. "That's the one benefit I've seen is maybe it is a little less taboo. People are stepping in a store that maybe they wouldn't have before. It's not so risqué."

Fratt said some customers remain confused about the new law.

"There's a lot of confusion. A lot of people think, 'Oh, we're just going to start growing.' And they come in expecting, 'Hey, do you sell this?' And we need to explain it to them, no this is the way the law is written," Fratt said.

Another smoke shop, Mary Jane's House of Glass, stayed open until 1 a.m. to celebrate the law.

Portland police reaction

Portland police said possession of less than an ounce of marijuana has been considered a low law enforcement priority for 35 years in Portland and that is not changing because of Washington's new law.

However, Portland police echoed some of the sentiments of Washington troopers, saying the pursuit of anyone who drives impaired will continue to be a high priority.

The threshold for a DUII involving alcohol is a blood alcohol content of .08. Local police said that does not apply for marijuana and other drugs.

Instead, the threshold for a DUII involving drug use is "impaired to a perceptible degree."

However, police said under Oregon law, possession of less than an ounce of marijuana is classified as a violation and not a criminal offense that would land a suspect in jail.

Portland police also outlined a few frequently asked questions regarding Washington's new law and its effect on Oregon.

Officers said if you live in Oregon and want to go to Washington to smoke pot, you should have a designated driver, take public transit or plan to stay the night across the border.

Cyclists can still get a DUII while riding a bicycle.

If you are not operating a vehicle or a bike, you cannot be cited for consumption of marijuana in Portland, according to police.

Federal review continues

Federal authorities also weighed in on the new law Wednesday. The Department of Justice said a state cannot nullify a statue passed by Congress.

Marijuana is still considered a controlled substance and growing, selling or possessing any amount of marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

Federal authorities said it violates federal law to bring any amount of marijuana onto federal property, including federal buildings, national parks and forests, military installations and courthouses.

The Department of Justice said it is continuing to review the legalization initiatives passed in both Washington and Colorado.

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