Public marijuana, open pot container laws could come to Issaquah
June 17, 2014
By Peter Clark
Sure, marijuana is legal now, but not for everyone at all times.
The Issaquah City Council Services & Safety Committee took steps in giving the Issaquah Police Department tools to enforce restrictions to recreational marijuana use June 2. The drug still remains illegal in many circumstances.
“We’d be adopting the state law that says it’s illegal to consume marijuana in view of the general public,” City Associate Planner Jason Rogers said about possible council action.
The same state law regulates the age of consumption to 21 and older, as well as criminalizes driving under the influence of marijuana.
The council might even go a step farther than the state’s current law.
“One thing the administration is considering is an open container law for marijuana,” Rogers said. “We proposed to add it on in the ordinance, and the council is behind that.”
He explained that an open container law would work the same as with alcohol. Residents older than 21 would be able to visit a retail marijuana store and purchase pot, but an open container law would require the container stay sealed in a vehicle.
“If you break the seal, it’s not arrestable,” Rogers said. “It would just be a ticket.”
He said the Services & Safety Committee meeting allowed for continued discussion with how police would enforce safe, legal marijuana usage.
Police Cmdr. Stan Conrad said adopting the state law would help the enforcement of the newly legalized drug.
“Our interest was to have the portions of the state law adopted once the recreational marijuana is implemented in Issaquah,” he said.
Adoption of the state law would not greatly affect how the police department enforces recreational marijuana restrictions.
“It shouldn’t change it,” Conrad said about police practices. “Other than we will have the ability to cite people for that public consumption.”
A citation for public consumption of marijuana would be a civil infraction and carry a fine of about $100.
Conrad said adoption of the state law paved the way for continued discussion with how the police department enforces marijuana DUIs.
The state law defines illegal driving under the influence of marijuana as the driver having a THC concentration of 5.00 or higher in their blood. Even with that definition, testing for a marijuana DUI requires special members of law enforcement.
“The only way to test for it is through a certified drug recognition expert,” Conrad said. “We have one officer in the department trained.”
He said the Washington State Patrol also has a number of such experts on call should the need arise. He also said a blood test could be compelled in the instance of a vehicular homicide.
Above all, adoption of the state law would put Issaquah in parity with local and regional law enforcement and allow the city’s administration a clearer view on how to direct incoming recreational marijuana businesses.
“It definitely provides more clarity,” Rogers said about the possible adoption of state law. “It’s been good to get answers on how we would like to proceed.”
He expects the agenda bill to reach the full council for possible action during the July 7 regular meeting.