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MARIJUANA: THE LEGAL REALITY - FAQs Part I

How Much Marijuana is Legal to Posses (Age 21+)?

One Ounce (28.3 grams) or less of Marijuana.

Is the Possession, Use, or Sale of Marijuana and Related Paraphernalia Still Illegal?

No, the possession, use, and sale of marijuana are no longer Illegal. However, the sale of drug paraphernalia is illegal when sold for drug usage other than marijuana.

What if I am in Possession of Marijuana Over the Legal Limit?

Possession between 28.3 grams and 40 grams is a misdemeanor crime. Possession over 40 grams is a Class C Felony.

What if I am Under 21 Years of Age?

No person under 21 may have possession of marijuana. Possession under 21 is a crime.

What if a person under 21 Possesses drug paraphernalia (for marijuana use)?

The Washington State Amendments (RCW 69.50.412 and RCW 69.50.4121 do not prohibit persons under 21 from the possession of marijuana paraphernalia. However, the persons under 21 cannot possess any amount of marijuana.

Is the Manufacture and Distribution of Marijuana a Crime?

Yes, it is still a felony crime. However, the Liquor and Control board have developed specific regulations to regulate and license producers, processors, and retailers. To distribute and manufacture, a person must have a valid license issued by the Washington State Liquor and Control Board.

Is the Legal Amount Different for Patients or Providers in Possession of Marijuana?

Yes. Under Washington’s code (RCW 69.15A.040), a patient or licensed provider may possess up to 15 cannabis plants and up to 24 ounces of usable marijuana. This includes marijuana product that could reasonably be produced with 24 ounces or less of usable marijuana.

If a person has a combination of usable marijuana and cannabis product, the amount combined cannot exceed 24 grams of usable cannabis.

However, if the person is both a user of medical marijuana and a distributor for another patient, the person may possess no more than twice the amounts above.

What if an Officer Catches Me Smoking in a Public Park?

It is unlawful t open a package with marijuana in the general public. A person in violation is guilty of a class 3 civil infraction under chapter RCW. 7.80 et. Seq.

What if I am Smoking in My Parked Car When an Officer Observes Me?

If an Offer observes a person using marijuana from a lawful area, and the vehicle is on a public roadway, the officer may issue an infraction from consumption of marijuana in public. A person sitting in a car that is parked in a public area does not have a reasonable expectation to
privacy.

What if an Officer Observes Me Smoking Marijuana While Operating a Vehicle?

The officer is allowed to stop you based on a reasonable suspicion that you, as the driver may be impaired from marijuana use. However, the officer will have to be able to articulate specific facts to the reasonable suspicion that you were smoking marijuana. Even if your driving was not impaired, an officer can still cite you for public consumption of marijuana.

What if an Officer Stops a Car and Smells the Marijuana, is there Probable Cause to Seek a Warrant to Search the Car?

No. However, if there are other articulable facts, the officer can use those in conjunction with the odor to search the car for an illegal amount of marijuana.

What if an Officer Stops a Car and Smells the Marijuana, is there Probable Cause to Arrest a Driver?

Not if the driver lacks signs of impairment. The driver as to display other indicators of marijuana impairment such as, erratic driving.

What if an Officer Stops a Car, Smells Marijuana, Observes Signs of Impairment and the Driver Refuses Field Sobriety Tests or a Blood Draw?

The officer can arrest the driver on probable cause for a criminal offense. The officer can get a warrant for your blood draw.


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MARIJUANA: THE LEGAL REALITY - FAQs Part II

What if an Officer Stops a Person Under the Age of 21 and Smells Marijuana? Is the Odor of Marijuana Sufficient Probable Cause Arrest the Minor?

No, the officer must have specific and articulable facts that tend to prove the driver consumed marijuana.

Officers will look for indicators such as a visible bong, baggie or marijuana, marijuana debris on the lips or tongue or physical signs of bloodshot eyes or muscle tremors.

What if an Officer Stops a Vehicle, the Driver and Passengers are all Under the Age of 21, and the Officer Smells Marijuana? May the Officer Arrest the Occupants for Marijuana Possession?

No, absent other facts that connect the driver or passengers to individual marijuana use or possession.

When officers do not have anything to independently connect each individual to illegal activity, no probable cause exists and an arrest or search of the person is invalid.

However, an officer may use other investigatory tools such as questioning the vehicle's occupants regarding marijuana use.

What Impact will the THC Blood Concentration Per Se Limits of 5.00 ng/ml and Zero Tolerance Limits for Persons Under 21 Years Old Have on Driving Under the Influence?

None. The per se THC limits and zero tolerance for minors are additional means for prosecutors to charge impaired drivers under Washington law.

These limits do not alter the probable cause standard to arrest an individual for impaired driving.

Will the Implied Consent Warnings Change to Inform Drivers that if they Submit to the Blood Test and have a THC Blood Concentration of 5.00ng/ml or Over, their License May be Suspended?

Yes, the impaired driving section will distribute new implied consent warnings for blood as a part of the DUI Arrest Report packet.

If an Officer Discovers the Legal Amount of Marijuana During a Vehicle Impound Inventory, What happens to the Marijuana?

If the amount is within the legal limits and there were no persons under the age of 21 in the vehicle, the officer should leave the marijuana in the vehicle.

If the persons were under the are of 21, then the officer should take the marijuana for safekeeping.

What if an Officer Discovers a Legal Amount During a Search Incident to the Arrest of a person?

If the amount is within the legal limits and all persons are over 21 in the vehicle, the officer should ask for the driver’s consent to leave the marijuana in the vehicle.

If the driver consents, then the officer should document the driver’s consent and leave the marijuana in the vehicle. If the driver does not consent to leaving the marijuana in the car, the officer will take for safekeeping.

If anyone in the car is under the age of 21, the officer will take the marijuana for safekeeping.

What if an Officer Cannot determine Whether the Marijuana is Under the Legal Amount?

The officer can seize the marijuana pursuant to constitutional standards.

Since there is an Affirmative Deense of Consumption of Marijuana within Two Hours After Driving, are there any Precautions Officers Take When Transporting a Driver to a BAC Room or Hospital?

Yes. Officers will not allow the driver to consume liquids within the driver’s possession. If the suspect requests a drink of water, the officer will provide the water.

If an Officer Responds to a Collision Scene Involving a Driver Under the Age of 2, and the Officer Smells Marijuana, May the Officer Read Implied Consent Warnings and Arrest the Driver for a Violation of RCW 46.61.503?

No. Violations of RCW 46.61.503 are not excepted from RCW 10.31.100’s requirement that the misdemeanor violation occurred in the officer’s presence.

The above was excerpted from a police training manual.


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