Marijuana use becomes legal in Washington on Dec. 6, but Spokane Police aren’t saying how their enforcement will change, despite a push from the Spokane City Council to start the dialogue.
Police Chief Frank Straub said his department treats possession of small amounts of marijuana as an ancillary charge, but is waiting on what the federal government says about the new initiative before deciding on a new course of action.
“It’s going to be very difficult for the state and the city to act contrary to federal law enforcement,” Straub told the council’s public safety committee Monday afternoon.
A clear answer from the federal government may not arrive for some time, U.S. Attorney Mike Ormsby said late last week, adding that U.S. Department of Justice officials hope to meet with state officials in late December.
In addition, Ormsby said federal investigators only go after larger producers or traffickers of marijuana, which does not fall under new initiative.
Smaller instances of marijuana possession are no longer being prosecuted cases, Jack Driscoll, chief criminal deputy Spokane County prosecutor said in an earlier interview. His office would no longer prosecute cases where adults 21 and older were in possession of less than an ounce of marijuana.
Despite that confirmation, Straub said he wants to wait.
“We’re going to have to be careful because the last thing we want to do is end up with the Spokane Police Department… sued by the federal government,” Straub said.
During the committee meeting, Councilman Jon Snyder cited a document from the Seattle Police Department called “Marijwhatnow? A Guide to Legal Marijuana Use In Seattle” that garnered national attention.
One paragraph answered what would happen to previously seized marijuana: would it be returned to violators? “No,” the guide said.
Snyder described it as a “great little memo” to kick off how law enforcement agencies will handle the new era of I-502, but Straub said in response, “I think Seattle can say whatever they’re going to say.”