Posted: November 15, 2012
With possession of small amounts of pot about to be decriminalized in Washington State, Seattle's finest went to the Web to explain what's going to happen. Bilbo and Gandalf from Lord of the Rings help set the cool mood.
We love when police departments put some personality and pizzazz into their public statements.
So the Seattle Police Department's blog post headlined "Marijwhatnow? A Guide to Legal Marijuana Use In Seattle," definitely got our attention.
Written to help explain what happens now that Washington State voters have approved Initiative 502, which decriminalizes possession of small amounts of marijuana (effective on Dec. 6), the post has a bit of attitude. Some of the Q&As:
"Can I legally carry around an ounce of marijuana?
"According to the recently passed initiative, beginning December 6th, adults over the age of 21 will be able to carry up to an ounce of marijuana for personal use. Please note that the initiative says it "is unlawful to open a package containing marijuana...in view of the general public," so there's that. Also, you probably shouldn't bring pot with you to the federal courthouse (or any other federal property).
"What happens if I get pulled over and I'm sober, but an officer or his K9 buddy smells the ounce of Super Skunk I've got in my trunk?
"Under state law, officers have to develop probable cause to search a closed or locked container. Each case stands on its own, but the smell of pot alone will not be reason to search a vehicle. If officers have information that you're trafficking, producing or delivering marijuana in violation of state law, they can get a warrant to search your vehicle.
"SPD seized a bunch of my marijuana before I-502 passed. Can I have it back?
There's also this note:
"This post has been updated since its initial publication to include more legalese and fewer references to narcotics dogs which, as it turns out, are still a confusing, complicated issue still under review."
The funniest part of the post, though, may be the video clip from Lord of the Rings that's embedded there. It's the scene where Bilbo and Gandalf lean back with their pipes and Bilbo declares that they're smoking "Old Toby. The finest weed in the South farthing."
According to The Associated Press, the post's author — Jonah Spangenthal-Lee — is "a former journalist who wrote for The Stranger, a weekly alternative newspaper," before being hired by the police department earlier this year.
"I just try to write posts I'd want to read," Spangenthal-Lee said to the AP, via email. "I knew we were probably going to be inundated with questions about 502, so I figured I'd try to get answers to the kinds of questions Seattle residents (and reporters) might ask, and put them out there."
Some Two-Way readers may recall our earlier posts about the witty reports from the police department in Madison Wis.:
Update at 2 p.m. ET. He's Just "Trying To Write To Our Readers":
Spangenthal-Lee just spoke with NPR's Audie Cornish in a conversation that's set to be on today's All Things Considered.
That question and curt "no" answer about whether you can get back pot seized before the law was passed seems to have been the most popular Q&A in the post, he said. Readers find it "pretty amusing," said Spangenthal-Lee.
As for the tone of the post and including the clip of Bilbo and Gandalf, Spangenthal-Lee said he was just "trying to write to our readers. ... We want the police department to be accessible. ... There's no reason it needs to be anything other than fun or informative."
Much more from their conversation will be on the show later. Click here to find an NPR station that broadcasts or streams All Things Considered. Later, we'll add the as-broadcast version of the interview to the top of this post.
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