Local News

Welcome to Washington, where you can smoke pot but can't buy it

SPOKANE, Wash. - While possession of marijuana is now legal in Washington, prosecuting drug crimes remains a top priority for local law enforcement for one obvious reason: Legally you can smoke it, but there is no legal way for you to actually purchase it.

Dealers, who will obviously have more customers, will still have drugs units from the police and sheriff's office looking for them. Pushing drugs is still a criminal enterprise and police are still planning plenty of busts.

"This isn't kind [of] a license to kill, to go out and do whatever you want when it comes to pot and other drugs. We're still going to enforce the law," Spokane Police Chief Frank Straub said.

That's because dealers still use violence to protect their turf and their inventory and will accept stolen property as a form of currency when selling to their customers.

pot enforcement

"People don't pay for drugs with money all the time. People pay for drugs with stolen items that come from your house. Your flat screen TVs, your iPads, your electronic devices," Spokane County Sheriff's Deputy Craig Chamberlin said.

Because the federal government still views marijuana as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, you can still get into trouble for possessing even small amounts of marijuana on federal property. For example, most local ski resorts operate in national forests. Smoke out there and if you get caught you're breaking the law. University campuses are also off-limits for smoking marijuana.

On Thursday, Fairchild Air Force Base advised its airmen that despite the passage of Initiative 502 there is still a service-wide ban on the use or possession of marijuana. The same message was sent out by the headquarters for the Washington Army National Guard Wednesday afternoon.

However, roadblocks aside, if you're over the age of 21, and ideally in the privacy of your own home, small amounts of marijuana is now legal for consumption.

"Yes, you can use it in your private residence, but if you're out in the park, if you're out walking down the street, you know that's illegal, that's basically using that controlled substance out in public just like alcohol, so it's no different than an open container of alcohol," Chamberlin said.

By this time next year, Washington State is required to have licensed stores up and running where you can legally purchase marijuana. The state also plans to issue licenses to farmers who will grow marijuana for those stores by the end of May.