The Redmond Police Department has stopped arresting adults over the age of 21 for misdemeanor marijuana possession and says it intends to follow the state's new de-criminalization law.
After Dec. 6, adults over age 21 will be able to carry up to 1 ounce of marijuana for personal use, in accordance to the provisions of I-502.
Since the passage of I-502 on Nov. 6, Redmond officers have already stopped arresting people over age 21 who are found with less than an ounce, according to department spokesman Jim Bove.
"Until (Dec. 6), we aren’t making arrests, but we are confiscating marijuana since it’s illegal," Bove wrote in an email. "We forward the case to our city prosecutor to review it and determine if they want to move forward with it."
King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg has already begun dismissing cases involving defendants who are 21 years or older and charged with marijuana possession of 1 ounce or less. The King County Sheriff's Office has also directed its deputies not to arrest people who fall into this category.
Beyond Dec. 6, municipalities across the state are waiting for further information and direction. The state Liquor Control Board has said it would take up to a full year to fully implement the rules for marijuana sales and taxation.
In Redmond, Bove said police officials are still working to develop new protocol.
"Until the new law goes into effect, things are changing regularly and daily," he said in an email. "We are still 'weeding' (pun intended) through the information, contacting attorneys and city and county prosecutors, and it will continue to evolve as we move forward."
The DUI provision
One of the more controversial aspects of I-502 that drew opposition from pro-legalization groups centered around the qualifications around when someone would be cited and arrested for driving under the influence of marijuana. A standard of 5 ng/mL of active THC in the bloodstream was set to determine whether someone might be under the influence.
Sensible Washington, one pro-legalization group that opposed I-502, warns that the 'per se' qualification means law enforcement will base guilt on blood level of THC and not impairment and could potentially "ensnare" innocent people—particularly medical marijuana patients. The rationale is that THC can linger in the blood stream hours after consumption when an individual no longer exhibits signs of impairment.
Countering that concern is New Approach Washington, responsible for the I-502 campaign, who in a fact sheet points out there is already a 'per se' provision as it relates to alcohol offenses. "Having a breath/blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 is 'per se' (in and of itself) DUI, even if you are an experienced drinker and feel you can drive safely at 0.08 BAC."
The fact sheet also details the difference between active THC and the inactive carboxy-THC: levels of the former drop significantly a few hours after consumption; carboxy-THC, which has been used in the past to convict marijuana users, is not to be considered in determining THC concentration for purposes of the per se limit.