Local News

Local law enforcement unsure how to enforce marijuana law

SPOKANE, Wash. - Marijuana will be legal in Washington in a week; eventually residents will be able to buy it in stores that can only sell marijuana and paraphernalia. Local law enforcement agencies, however, still don't have a clear picture on how to enforce this law.

The Spokane County Sheriff's Office is caught between state law, which legalizes marijuana, and federal law that still says it's illegal. The sheriff's office is waiting for guidance on what their authority will be when the rules change next week.

"Citizens of Washington State passed the law so we have to deal with the laws that we are governed by," Spokane County Sheriff's Deputy Craig Chamberlin said.

Marijuana and law enforcement

But the sticking point is figuring out which law to follow: State law or federal law.

"Right now there is a discrepancy between state law and federal law; until that is clarified which one is going to preside, what our authority is going to be, we have to wait until decision is made' Chamberlin said.

With changes looming in the coming weeks, deputies are concerned because there are a lot of unanswered questions.

"For instance in a bar or drinking establishment where they have a smoking section, is it going to be legal for folks to be out in the smoking section smoking marijuana," Chamberlin asked.

The sheriff's office will work closely with the Spokane County Prosecutor's Office to establish what they can and cannot do. Next week in fact the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys will meet to discuss the law and come up with a unified response on how to handle this. Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker is the president of the association.

While deputies are wondering what laws they should follow, newly elected Washington Governor Jay Inslee has an answer. .

"This is not a decision that will jeopardize national security, it is not a decision that will jeopardize national interstate commerce. It is a local neighborhood decision made in our neighborhoods. We've made it, so now we need the federal government to stand aside and let us move forward," the governor-elect said.

And if they don't, Inslee said, "well, hopefully that's not going to happen. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it."

Both the Washington State Patrol and the Spokane County Sheriff's Office says the new law doesn't change how they will crack down on DUIss. You don't even have to reach the legal limit for both marijuana and alcohol to get in trouble if your driving is still impaired.

When contacted for comment, the Spokane Police Department said they are still waiting on guidance and declined to comment on this story.