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Since legalization has taken effect in Washington state, there has been a drop-off in arrests related to cannabis. However, under the new state law that has made adult recreational cannabis use legal, it is still illegal to use cannabis in public.
That means that people who spark one up in a park or on the sidewalk while waiting for a movie might be penalized by police officers in the form of a civil infraction ticket. The City of Seattle is going to be tracking enforcement of the new law and requires a report from the local law enforcement department twice a year regarding their work with cannabis and marijuana.
Instead of finding substantial abuses on the part of the public since cannabis legalization took effect, the first report this year instead indicates a law enforcement officer may have been the one bending and abusing the new law.
Of the 83 tickets issues for public marijuana use in the first six months of 2014, 66 of them were all written by the safe officer, who has been identified by the Seattle Times as Randy Jokela. Jokela has been with the Seattle Police Department since 1990 and is apparently having a rough time accepting the recent law change in the state.
Some of the tickets Jokela issued were sent with notes to the City Attorney, Peter Holmes, who publicly supported the legalization measure. Jokela also performed a coin toss in at least one case to see who of the parties present would receive the citation for public marijuana use (see the image of citation to the left). While it is obvious that an officer dedicated to bicycle patrol would likely notice public cannabis use at a higher rate than officers in vehicles, the percentage of tickets written by Jokela makes it clear that he is intentionally targeting cannabis and marijuana users.
According to the report by the police department, Jokela refers to the voter-approved legalization law as “silly” in one of the hand-written notes he added to a cannabis ticket and sent needlessly to the City Attorney. It is also worth noting that 37% of public use citations were issued to black Americans, despite the fact that they represent only 8% of the population of Seattle. The officer has been removed from patrol duty while the department investigates his behavior.
For more Ladybud coverage of Washington cannabis legalization, click here!
Photo Credit: Rob Boudon under (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr