The Spokane Marijuana Issue
Three years after the legalization of the use of marijuana in Washington in 2013, many cities and towns are still struggling with the issue. Spokane is no exception. While states like Oregon, which legalized the possession and cultivation of marijuana by adults 21 years and older in July 2015, seem to celebrate the plant (marijuana is making an appearance at the Oregon State Fair agricultural competition), Washington is taking it a bit slower. Homegrown cultivation of marijuana for personal use is still a felony in Washington and there are still many restrictions on marijuana in the Washington state drug laws. The only exception is for authorized medical marijuana.
In addition, some cities are considering ballot measures to restrict the presence of marijuana in public places. The city council in Spokane recently considered placement of a ballot measure aimed at keeping pot shops out of Downtown Spokane. The measure would impose a ban on marijuana being sold in the downtown area.
The Ballot Issue
The Spokane City Council has sent a proposal to the City’s hearing examiner for legal advice on whether or not the Council can place an ordinance on a November ballot that would ban the sale of marijuana in Downtown Spokane. The Council is not suggesting that marijuana sales be banned from downtown, but rather it is investigating the legality of putting the issue on the ballot in order for voters to decide for themselves.
What This Means for You
The Council will have to consider putting the ordinance on the ballot if the hearing examiner gives the OK. If it passes, the citizens of Spokane will then decide through the ballot box whether to keep marijuana shops out of the downtown area.
If the issue does not make it to the ballot, opponents who are serious about banning the sale of marijuana in Downtown Spokane may need to begin collecting signatures for a petition that will place the issue on the ballot.
Options for Those Who Are Caught
In Washington, it is legal to possess, for recreational use, up to one ounce of marijuana. This only applies to people over the age of 21. It is illegal for those under 21 to possess marijuana in any amount unless authorized by a medical marijuana card. Though recreational use is legal for some, it is not legal for any individual to grow marijuana plants, even for their own use. It is still illegal to consume marijuana in public places and doing so can result in a civil penalty of up to $100. Possessing more than an ounce of marijuana is a criminal act that can result in fines and jail time.
Additionally, possessing more than 40 grams of marijuana is considered a felony and can be punishable by incarceration of up to five years and a fine up to $10,000, and subsequent offenses can carry double those penalties. In between, possession of between 1 ounce and 40 grams of marijuana is considered a misdemeanor and is punishable by up to 90 days of incarceration.
If you have been accused of violating these laws, there are alternative sentences available, one of which is rehabilitation for drug addiction. Drug Court is a pre-sentencing option that gives you the opportunity to enter into drug treatment instead of jail. If all the requirements and expectations of the program are met, you could possibly have your case dismissed.
Another option is DOSA. The Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative (DOSA) is a post-sentencing program that may help reduce your sentence. With DOSA, you may be able to spend the last half of your sentence under community supervision and in outpatient treatment, as long as you follow the rules of the program.
Possible Repercussions If Marijuana Sales Are Allowed Downtown
Opponents of the sale of marijuana in the downtown area are concerned about maintaining the family-oriented atmosphere of Downtown Spokane. They feel that marijuana does not belong in the busy downtown area, where families and kids might easily be exposed to it. They express concern about the effects of young people witnessing others smoking a joint right out in the streets of downtown.
Another concern of opponents of the sale of marijuana downtown is that marijuana use would lead to more crime in Downtown Spokane. Regardless, supporters of the proposal have stated that their problem is only with the sale of marijuana downtown, not with marijuana use in general.
In any case, the proposal is under review and voters may not get the chance to express their own opinion through the ballot box until 2017.