Washington Initiative 502 Is Pot Really Legal Now

WA Marijuana DUI Spokane WASince initiative 502 passed, making recreational use of marijuana legal, I have had several client make statements to the effect of “Well, pot is legal now, so I wasn’t doing anything wrong”.  Unfortunately, this may not actually be true.

Here are some things you may not know about Initiative 502 and Washington’s legalization of marijuana*…

First, you must be at least 21 years old in order to take advantage of the legal recreational use of marijuana in Washington State.  If you are under 21, you could face criminal prosecution if caught.  If a retailer is caught selling to someone under the age of 21, they can be facing monetary fines and suspension or even lose their license to sell marijuana.

Second, although recreational marijuana use in Washington is legal within certain parameters, the Federal Government still treats it as an illegal drug.  This can impact your ability to use marijuana.

For example, say your employer has random drug testing or an anti-drug policy.  Most employers have taken the stance (and Courts have agreed), that even though marijuana use is legal to do on your own time, you can still face disciplinary action or be fired for testing positive on a random test, bringing marijuana to work, or being under the influence of it while working.

What is the justification?  If employers are held to federal employment rules and/or receive federal funding, then they will not jeopardize that by tolerating recreational marijuana use.  Again, the federal government still treats marijuana as an illegal drug, even though Washington State does not.

The same goes for courts.  A court can restrict, in certain circumstances, a person from using any alcohol, non-prescribed drugs and marijuana.  This includes the use of marijuana for medical reasons.

Next, marijuana and firearms do not mix.  Initiative 502 allows for possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana.  Other forms of marijuana have different allowable levels.  If you also have a firearm or ammunition, you could face federal prosecution under 18 U.S.C 922, which prohibits possession of any firearm or ammunition for individuals who are “unlawful users” or addicted to any controlled substance.  Since federal law sees marijuana as an unlawful drug, you could be facing up to 10 years in prison.  Do not put yourself in this position.

Finally, recreational marijuana use can result in a DUI.  Washington State DUI law has now been modified to include what is an acceptable level of active THC for those driving in the state.  Anything over 5 nana gams (ng) of active THC, even if you do not feel affected, can result in an arrest for and conviction of DUI.

Be responsible when taking advantage of Washington State’s legalization of recreational marijuana use.  Do not have firearms around, do not take it across state lines, do not drive after use, do not bring it to work and make sure you know your employer’s policy on use.

*This is not an exhaustive list and only shows a few examples of situations where possession and/or use of marijuana may not be legal in Washington.  Possession and use of marijuana, according to federal law, is still illegal.

Criminal Defense and DUI Attorneys Spokane WA

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