JOINT RELEASE: Standing Together Against Public Use of Marijuana; Joining Forces to Protect Youth in Downtown Spokane

JOINT RELEASE: Standing Together Against Public Use of Marijuana; Joining Forces to Protect Youth in Downtown Spokane

Oct 18, 2016

Spokane Regional Health District, Spokane Police Department and Downtown Spokane Partnership unite to bring awareness to laws, health risks

For more information, contact Kim Papich, SRHD Public Information Officer (509) 324-1539 or kpapich@srhd.org

SPOKANE, Wash. – Oct. 18, 2016 – Four years after Washington state voters opted to legalize recreational marijuana, there is still opportunity to educate the public about the rules and regulations regarding use of the drug in public and other regulations.

This past summer, businesses in Spokane’s downtown core frequently observed public use of marijuana near their buildings and raised concerns about impacts to bystanders and worries about perpetuating a harmful norm for those under age 21.

Initiative 502 does not allow individuals to use marijuana in public, nor can those under age 21 possess the drug. The law made it legal for licensed producers, processors and retailers to operate. Businesses’ concerns about confusion over these laws prompted this response from Spokane Police Department (SPD), Downtown Spokane Partnership (DSP) and Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD).

In addition to increasing public awareness of the laws, SRHD launched a new youth marijuana prevention and education initiative. Its mass media component, titled Weed to Know, is aimed at preventing youth access by appealing to adult marijuana users and promoting responsible use. One of the campaigns messages is specific to the law that prevents public use of marijuana. SPD and DSP are helping to spread this, and other, messages downtown and city-wide including:      

  • Rules against supplying marijuana to minors      
  • Regulations specific to driving under the influence      
  • Recommendations for safe storage at home

Through community partnerships, campaign materials are being widely distributed, including among pot retailers, encouraging businesses to get involved by displaying posters and window clings and distributing information about the laws. Campaign funding comes from the Washington State Department of Health by way of a marijuana sales tax in retail stores.

Increased education is already paying off in the form of downtown businesses seeing less public use of marijuana. There is still an opportunity though to eliminate public use altogether.

In their continued commitment to eliminating public consumption and preventing youth access, SPD is now issuing citations when they see public consumption, a Class 3 Civil Infraction for those over 21, which can result in a fine of $103.

“Adults who model drug use in public risk influencing our youth to illegally try marijuana and decreasing perceptions of how harmful this drug can be to developing brains,” said Paige McGowan, SRHD Tobacco, Vaping Device and Marijuana Prevention program coordinator.

Said DSP Downtown Precinct Captain, Brad Arleth, “Our Downtown Precinct is proud to partner with Spokane Regional Health District and Downtown Spokane Partnership to engage in the important work of education regarding public consumption of marijuana and preventing youth marijuana use.”

Individuals 18 to 20 years old may be charged with a Misdemeanor of Possession of Marijuana, which has a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and/or a $1000 fine. Minors who are caught with marijuana can be charged with a Minor in Possession, resulting in fines, public service hours or loss of driver's license. Law enforcement are also engaged in efforts to address driving under the influence of marijuana.

More information about Washington’s marijuana laws can be found at: http://www.lcb.wa.gov/