Editorial: Adjustment needed to new norms of marijuana
Setting a new norm for public marijuana consumption requires better civic behavior, state legislation and — the actions of one rogue cop set aside — enforcement of the law.
Seattle Times Editorial
THE one-man protest against legal marijuana waged by Seattle Police Officer Randy Jokela made a joke of a serious new law.
The veteran cop wrote 80 percent of the city’s public marijuana consumption citations over the last six months, according to new city data. He showed contempt for the law, voters and his bosses in scribbling ad hominem commentaries on infractions, including ones he apparently wrote based on a coin flip. Regrettable behavior, indeed.
Also regrettable is the flagrant disregard of the law by too many marijuana enthusiasts. While Initiative 502 legalizes recreational marijuana, it bans marijuana smoking in public. Full stop. The law does not entitle consumers to shove their marijuana smoke down the breathing passages of people who are simply walking down a sidewalk or wandering in a park.
Washington is still adapting to the new era of legal marijuana, with tweaks needed to business regulations, drug-free workplace rules and tax policy. There also needs to be a tweak of the unwritten code of good civic behavior.
The police should play a role in setting the new norm. By Seattle city code and practice, marijuana enforcement is the lowest police priority. A city ordinance governing public consumption, passed last year, requires officers to give a warning before issuing a $27 public-use ticket. But if that warning is given and ignored, officers should pull out their infraction book and write the ticket.
Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, a sponsor of Initiative 502, said he was concerned that the tickets were written in a racially and geographically disproportionate manner. But he defended the need to police public consumption.
“This isn’t about fining people; it’s about getting people to stop smoking marijuana in public, especially in crowded areas and places where families and children congregate,” he said in a statement.
The state Legislature also has a role in setting the new norm. The state is badly in need of a venue — such as a marijuana bar — for tourists to consume.
The state indoor-smoking law is an obstacle, but the Legislature, focused on raising revenue for education, can find a creative way to create and regulate semiprivate spaces for marijuana use.
Officer Jokela’s misconduct shouldn’t set the standard for enforcement. But it should start a conversation about the new norms for public marijuana consumption.
Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Jonathan Martin, Erik Smith, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).