By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
CHEHALIS – Well sure, Initiative 502 has passed but don’t think you can walk down the street and light up a bowl without getting arrested.
For starters, the new law regarding marijuana won’t take effect for 30 days, according to Centralia Police Chief Bob Berg.
And rules have to be written, Chehalis Police Chief Glenn Schaffer said.
“The questions are going to be confusing for people and the police,” Schaffer said yesterday. “We’ve been talking about it from a law enforcement perspective all day.”
The police chiefs of the two largest cities in Lewis County indicate they will be getting guidance from their legal advisors and / or other state and federal authorities.
Sheriff Steve Mansfield is looking to the county prosecutor and a communication from the Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington for answers.
Its article disseminated yesterday indicates that as of Dec. 6, it will be legal under state law for individuals 21 or older to possess as much as one ounce of marijuana.
But it will be more than a year before licenses are issued to growers, distributors and retailers, according to the Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington.
However, the sheriff says: “It is business as usual for us until all this gets finalized.”
The decisions about felony charges, and for misdemeanor crimes when the arrests come from the sheriff’s office and the state patrol in Lewis County are made by the elected prosecutor.
Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer yesterday morning met with the prosecutor in Thurston County on the topic and is studying the issue.
“We’re going though our analysis, figuring out the impact on us,” Meyer said.
There are still more questions than answers.
Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, and Meyer isn’t certain the feds won’t play a role in how or whether the changes unfold.
“I suspect the federal government will step in and maybe issue an injunction,” he said.
The former defense attorney even hinted some police agencies may choose to continue to view marijuana as illegal.
“The way Arizona as a state enforced federal statutes in the immigration issue,” he said.
Mansfield said he’s disappointed, but as the elected sheriff, he serves the people.
“Lewis County said they don’t want this, but it’s statewide,” he said, referring to the preliminary ballot tallies.
Only 44 percent of Lewis County voters favored the measure, while 55 percent of voters throughout Washington said yes to I-502.
“If the law says this is what we’ll do, this is what we’ll do,” Mansfield said.
For further information:
• Chief Schaffer shared a summary to legislators that shed some light for him. Read it here
• “What’s next for pot use in Washington? It’s a bit hazy” from The Olympian on Wednesday November 7, 2012, here
• “Pot legal Dec. 6, ‘jury is out on what happens’ after that” by The Seattle Times on Wednesday November 7, 2012 at 9:14 p.m. and November 8, 2012 at 3:52 p.m., here
• “Inquiries about pot production, sale flood two state agencies” from The Olympian on Thursday November 8, 2012, here