MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
And I'm Audie Cornish. After voters in Washington State approved a ballot initiative legalizing recreational marijuana use, Seattle police knew there would be a lot of questions, like marija-what now? Well, actually, that came to be the title of their public information guide on what legalization will mean for citizens. "Marijwhatnow? A Guide To Legal Marijuana Use In Seattle" was written by Jonah Spangenthal-Lee.
He's a former writer for the alternative weekly The Stranger in Seattle and he's now a blogger for the Seattle police department. He wrote the guide. Welcome, Jonah.
JONAH SPANGENTHAL-LEE: Thanks for having me.
CORNISH: So you've written this in a Q&A form and it seems like you had a pretty good time doing it. One of the questions was, for instance, can I smoke pot outside my home, like at a park, magic show or the Bite of Seattle, which I don't know what that is, but - so what's the answer?
SPANGENTHAL-LEE: Well, the answer there is it's much like alcohol. You can consume it in the privacy of your own home, but if you open a container of it up in public, that's a no-no, something that could earn you a citation.
CORNISH: Another one of these questions, what happens if I get pulled over and I'm sober, but an officer or canine buddy smells the ounce of super skunk I've got in my trunk? Jonah, how'd you come up with that one? I know that's not the legal term.
SPANGENTHAL-LEE: Well, that's just - it's something I figured people would want to know. You know, obviously, the DUI issue that's going to come up with this is going to be complicated. But I guess the short answer to that question is officers need probable cause to search a car and while most of the time the smell of pot alone won't be reason to search a vehicle, if officers think you're trafficking drugs in violation of the law, you know, they can get a warrant to search your vehicle.
CORNISH: Is this the kind of question you've actually gotten from the public or from friends?
SPANGENTHAL-LEE: You know, I'd gotten questions about this from friends. You know, I was a reporter for years, so I had questions of my own about what this was going to mean for the department, so yeah, I just kind of - a mix of things I'd heard, questions I'd seen posted on, you know, Facebook or whatever, prior to the legislation passing.
CORNISH: What was one of the more popular questions?
SPANGENTHAL-LEE: People seem pretty fond of our response to whether or not, you know, marijuana seized prior to the passage of this initiative, whether than can be given back or requested. I mean, the answer at this point has been a flat no. People seem to think the kind of curt response to that is pretty amusing.
CORNISH: Now, your guide is very good and very funny, but this is still a pretty confusing legal situation. People in Washington State, as you write, can carry up to an ounce of marijuana for personal use, but growing it and selling it is illegal. I mean, so how would people get the marijuana they can now legally possess?
SPANGENTHAL-LEE: That's a great question and I think that that's still something that's being worked out. I'm not up on the latest 'cause that's at the state level, but yeah, I mean, I think it's less than a month till it becomes legal to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and I haven't heard much about what's going to happen after that.
CORNISH: Well, Jonah, thank you so much for speaking with me.
SPANGENTHAL-LEE: Yeah, thanks for having me.
CORNISH: That's Jonah Spangenthal-Lee. He wrote the Seattle police department's Q&A about the legalization of recreational marijuana use. It's called, "Marijwhatnow? A Guide To Legal Marijuana Use In Seattle." You can find the entire guide online by going to NPR's news blog "The Two-Way."