City Desk

Five Things Washington (and Seattle) Learned From Legalizing Pot

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1. Your city won’t implode—at least, ours didn’t. Before Washington state and Colorado legalized pot last fall, Seattle voters back in 2003 made pot possession crimes the city’s “lowest priority.” Arrests fell significantly. Prosecutors had warned us, of course, that kids would get hooked, stoners would flood treatment centers, and pot-related crimes would rise (pot-induced Cheeto raids?). But a city study found none of those things happened. Instead, cops had slightly more time for other work. By demonstrating that these laws function as intended—in our Washington and perhaps in yours—jurisdictions may be paving the way toward a new national pot policy.

2. Nonetheless, brace yourself for hyperventilating rhetoric during the debate. Folks on both sides, cops and stoners, will squabble, but at least they agree on one thing: donuts.

3. Some lefty leaders will act like pot is radioactive. They may not flinch at scandals involving a dozen drunk hookers, but they’ll scorn legalization because they “don’t want to send a bad message to children.” Then, after pot is legal, they’ll laud legalization as a progressive victory and ask you to give them money.

4. People will also stop going to jail for pot—seems obvious but still unbelievable when it happens—and, naturally, your city will sometimes smell like pot, even more than it already does. On Friday nights, Seattle streets smell like a Jefferson Airplane concert.

5. But watch out, potheads. Decriminalizing pot possession is only half the issue; growing and selling pot will remain a sticky, felonious wicket. Plus, all pot offenses remain illegal on federal property—in the state of Washington, we’ve seen people busted in national parks—and D.C. has, um, lots of federal property. So you can still get busted carrying that joint across the National Mall. Or in Dupont Circle, for that matter.

Photo via Flickr user Once upon a time, Creative Commons license

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