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OPNET outlines new marijuana enforcement procedures

Source: Clallam County Sheriff's Office/OPNET 

Earlier this month, voters in Washington State voted in favor of initiative 502, which will legalize the possession of certain amounts of marijuana. On Friday, Nov. 30, the OPNET governing  board, composed of the Police Chiefs from Port Angeles and Sequim, as well as the  Sheriff’s from Clallam and Jefferson Counties, and the Clallam County Prosecutor met  and discussed some of the procedures we can expect to implement in the coming days. Beginning December 6, 2012, persons 21 years and older will be able to legally possess  up to 1 ounce of processed marijuana, 16 ounces of marijuana infused product (solid  form) or 72 ounces of marijuana infused liquid product.  Use of these marijuana products  will no longer be a crime or an infraction, provided it is not displayed in public.  Use or  display of marijuana in public will be an infraction for which the violator should expect a  citation or “notice of infraction.” This could result in a penalty of $103, but no arrest or  jail time. The laws for those under 21 years old, and the laws that exceed the one-ounce rule  remain the same, that is, possession under 40 grams of processed marijuana will be  treated as a gross misdemeanor crime and over that amount as a class C felony.  Manufacturing (growing) or delivering marijuana continues to be a criminal act at this  time.  

The Washington State Liquor Control Board has until Dec. 1, 2013 to work on requirements pertaining to the licensing and regulation of producers, processors and retailers.The new laws do not affect the Washington State Medical Marijuana Statute that has  been in place for some time in any way. DUI (driving under the influence) and Physical Control laws have language added that sets the level of THC, the chemical in marijuana that affects a person, at 5 nanograms or more per milliliter of blood. This is similar to the .08 blood alcohol level we refer to in drunken driving cases.   

A person’s THC level however, cannot be obtained with a  breathalyzer like alcohol can.  Only a blood test can identify the accurate amount of THC  in a person’s system.  As a result, the laws that pertain to an officer’s ability to draw an  impaired driver’s blood, called the Implied Consent Law, have been altered to allow for  blood tests if marijuana is suspected. Drivers under 21 years of age will have a zero tolerance level of THC for DUI/Physical Control violations. Additionally, there will be situations where an officer or a deputy has arrested someone in legal possession of marijuana when that person is taken into custody. While legal to possess, marijuana is deemed “derivative contraband” and as such, cannot be allowed in the jail. So, if the arrested person is to be booked into jail, the marijuana will be entered  into the department’s property room by the arresting officer. The officer or deputy will send a notice to the property room officer to destroy the marijuana. State and Federal law continue to make it illegal for anyone to deliver marijuana and the law enforcement officers and property room personnel will not participate in a violation of these laws.

The Port Angeles Police Department has created an excellent series of FAQ’s that  provides additional information in respect to the impact of I-502. Here is the link to  download those Q and A’s: http://www.cityofpa.us/policedept.htm The policies and procedures relating to the new Marijuana laws may differ from each  agency. However, we are working together, so that the enforcement of this new series of  laws is consistent throughout the North Olympic Peninsula.

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