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The Evergreen

Seattle Times coverage of pot policy, culture and lifestyle.

June 27, 2014 at 12:45 PM

Where you can consume pot legally in Washington

Darwin Bison-Manning, right, smokes a cannabis joint on the beach front during the 22nd annual Hempfest in Seattle, on Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013. Under the law, smoking in the general view of the public is not allowed. (Photo by Marcus Yam / The Seattle Times)

Darwin Bison-Manning, right, smokes marijuana on the beach during the 22nd annual Hempfest event in Seattle, on Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013. Under the law, smoking in the general view of the public is not allowed. (Photo by Marcus Yam / The Seattle Times)

Imagine yourself lounging on Alki beach, joint in hand, relaxing to the rhythmic advance and retreat of the waves. Now unimagine that, because public consumption isn’t allowed and it’ll cost you a $27 fine.

Can I consume in the park?

No. That would be “in view of the general public.”

Can I consume in the street?

Nope. Public.

Can I consume at the bus stop?

No. What are you not getting here?

But I see people smoking in public all the time?

That doesn’t mean it’s legal.

Can I consume in the privacy of my own home?

Yes! As long as you’re in possession of no more than an ounce of usable pot, you can legally smoke to your soul’s content.

But… I live in an apartment complex. What about me?

Landlords can ban smoking on their properties (including cigarettes), so you’ll want to check on that.

What’s less clear is if landlords are able to ban consumption by other means. Edibles, tinctures lotions and even vaporizers are likely allowed under state law. Federal law, of course, is another story, and landlords could rely on that to disallow consumption. But how would they know? And would that hold up in the courts? That’s not clear.

Your best bet: Ask your landlord, be respectful of your neighbors and don’t toke it up with wide-open windows.

So if I can’t smoke in my apartment and I can’t smoke in public, what am I to do?

Good question, and something that Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes aims to address. In a letter to the Liquor Control Board, Holmes called for the LCB to study “private use clubs or similar accommodations.

Holmes’ Deputy Chief of Staff, John Schochet, said the City Attorney will be proposing a solution later this year that would allow people to consume edibles and vaporize pot at marijuana cafes open to the public.

“It’s a problem we recognize, and it’s something we’re working on to solve that problem,” Schochet said. “If you don’t give people a legal place to use marijuana, they’re going to do it on the sidewalk.”

What about a friend’s house?

If your friend consents, and you’re not in view of the general public, that’s legal!

What about your patio?

Sure, so long as you can’t be seen by the public. If you’re in your backyard and your neighbors can’t see it or smell it, you shouldn’t have a problem. “If it brings a large amount of smoke into your neighbor’s yard and it bothers them, it’s probably actionable,” Schochet said.

What about hotels?

Just like cigarette smoking, whether you’re able to light it up inside a hotel depends on where you’re staying. Seattle mandates that 75 percent of its lodging rooms be smoke-free.

Are edibles treated any differently?

“You can’t use them in public,” Schochet said. “Are you likely to be noticed? No. But they’re legally treated the same under the law.” Edibles will, however, circumvent a landlord’s no-smoking rule.

If I go on a camping trip, am I allowed to partake?

Some would argue there’s no better time to contemplate the complexities of the universe than with a bowl underneath a bowl full of stars. However, clashing state and federal laws makes that a complicated endeavor. Because National Forest rules are enforced by the feds, you could get busted for possession, which is punishable with up to a year in prison.

“Members of the public are also advised to remember that it remains against federal law to bring any amount of marijuana onto federal property, including all federal buildings, national parks and forests, military installations, and courthouses,” said the Justice Department in a memo.

State parks are public parks, so you wouldn’t be allowed to fire up a bowl outside. But what if you’re inside the confines of a tent or RV in a state park? “If you’re doing it within the confines of your own tent or RV, then you can (partake),” said Toni Droscher, a spokeswoman for the state parks commission. “You can’t in a state-park-owned yurt or cabin or platform tent.”

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