At midnight, Initiative 502, Washington state's equivalent of Amendment 64, went into effect -- and a huge throng gathered at the Space Needle to celebrate the occasion with public toking; see the video below. It's precisely the sort of event the Denver District Attorney is trying to prevent by warning that public consumption remains against the law -- a rule emphasized by a recent charge added to a minor case that would have otherwise been dismissed.
As we reported earlier this week, an attorney says his client was arrested in September on charges of possessing marijuana (less than a gram, the lawyer maintains) and paraphernalia (a pipe). Those are the sort of counts the Denver DA's office implied it would dismiss after Amendment 64's passage -- but rather than doing so in this case, a new allegation of public consumption was added after the others were dropped, keeping the case alive.
In explaining such moves in a general sense (the attorney declined to provide specifics about the case), Denver DA's office spokeswoman Lynn Kimbrough told us, "We really wanted to get the word out that public consumption is still against the law."
Does that mean Denver police will crack down on this offense once the Colorado law goes into effect, presumably on or before the first week of January? Well, officers tend to give a free pass to most folks at the annual 4/20 bash at Civic Center Park -- and the Seattle police took a similar approach last night, despite public consumption also being verboten there. Here's how it's explained in a hilarious press release put out by the city's department last night and shared by our sister paper, the Seattle Weekly:
Until further notice, officers shall not take any enforcement action -- other than to issue a verbal warning -- for a violation of I-502.
So why won't SPD be citing people for openly using marijuana in public? Here's where things get a bit complicated for your friendly neighborhood police department: the Seattle Police Department is in the business of law enforcement and, as of today, the Revised Code of Washington or Seattle Municipal Code don't contain anything that gives officers clear direction on how to deal with the provisions of I-502 prohibiting public use of marijuana. What's more, it could take at least another 30 days for the state or city to craft legislation which would give officers the ability to cite not-so-courteous people for lighting up in public.
In the meantime, in keeping with the spirit of I-502, the department's going to give you a generous grace period to help you adjust to this brave, new, and maybe kinda stoned world we live in.
The midnight December 6 enactment time is actually in the language of I-502 -- but there's no such equivalent in Amendment 64. That may explain why Governor John Hickenlooper is being cagey about when he'll actually sign A64. Presumably, he'd rather avoid scenes like those seen in the first video below.
As for the second clip, it features the principals at Washington's Diego Pellicer, described as a "premium marijuana company," marking the stroke of midnight by drinking champagne instead of blazing up.
No, we're not kidding. See for yourself here.
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More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana: Is Denver adding charges to keep minor pot cases alive after Amendment 64?"